In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- SC has not given clean chit to Modi: Cong
- Will a trial court in Gujarat ever prosecute Modi?
- Modi faces two contempt petitions for letter to PM
- Court issues notice to Modi on ‘targeted’ IAS officer’s plea
- Don’t exclude saffron terror from Delhi blast probe: Civil group
- Maharashtra govt asked to name Abhinav Bharat as terrorist group
- CPI(M) for Communal Violence Bill sans caste factor
- ‘Advani’s will be a yatra of embarrassment’
- Cops under scanner as Shehla’s phone was in use after her death
- Minorities feel they are being targeted: PM
Opinions & Editorials
- India’s Apex Court Leaves Gujarat Riot Case to Trial Court – By Vibhuti Agarwal
- Saffron Terror: Splinter or Symptom? – By Juli Gittinger
- They Strike Again – Editorial
- Why not start Yatra against corruption from Bellary, Mr Advani? – By Soroor Ahmed
- The sacred and the profane. All rolled into one – By shish Khetan & Sai Manish
- The Communal Character Of Anna Hazare’s Movement – By Bhanwar Meghwanshi
IAMC Condemns Blast Outside Delhi High Court
Thursday, September 08, 2011
The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has condemned the bomb blast outside the Delhi High Court on September 7, 2011, that has claimed the lives of 11 people and injured 74, as an act of terror meant to advance divisive and sectarian agendas.
IAMC has expressed its profound condolences to the families of the victims, and called upon people of all faiths to come together in this difficult hour, and defeat the intent of the killers by reaffirming their commitment to a pluralist, secular India. IAMC has also called upon law enforcement agencies not to exclude any possibility in investigating this heinous crime.
According to a statement by the National Security Director, Gen. Rajen Medhekar, the bomb was made from ammonium nitrate, a substance that is easily available in the market. The timing of the blasts is also suspicious, coming as it does, on the heels of new efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan. These facts point to the likely involvement of extremist organizations that have committed similar terror attacks in the past with the goal of stoking communal tensions.
“Repeated terror attacks on innocent civilians are clearly an indication of poor security arrangements on the part of the government”, said Mr. Shaheen Khateeb, President, IAMC. “This barbaric act is also an attack on the secular foundations of Indian society and is representative of the dangerous sectarian visions espoused by the extreme elements in our society”, added Mr. Khateeb.
Investigations of such terror attacks in the past, have found them to be the handiwork of either local extremist organizations or cross border terrorists. However, knee-jerk reactions from law enforcement agencies consistently targeted poor, innocent individuals that did not have the wherewithal for proper legal representation. IAMC has therefore called upon the media and people of all faiths to exercise restraint and withhold judgment until a full scale investigation is allowed to run its course.
Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation.
For more information please visit our new website at http://www.iamc.com.
Police probe deadly blast outside Delhi High Court
At least 11 killed, dozens hurt in blast at Delhi High Court
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SC has not given clean chit to Modi: Cong (Sep 12, 2011, Indian Express)
Congress today said it was wrong to say that the Supreme Court has given a clean chit to Narendra Modi in the Gulbarga society riots case even as BJP welcomed the order, saying hate campaigners against the Gujarat Chief Minister will not win. “It is wrong to say that the Supreme Court has given a clean chit to Modi. The Supreme Court has referred the matter to the lower court for hearing and after a decision by the lower court, the doors of the higher courts are still open for aggrieved persons,” Congress spokesperson Rashid Alvi said.
“Modi’s actions during the Gujarat riots are known to all. Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had himself criticised his functioning during the post-Godhra riots. His record as Chief Minister of the state is a blot,” he said. However, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said the party was happy with the order. “We are happy with the Supreme Court ruling. We can understand the desperation and unhappiness of Modi-baiters. After this verdict, the hate campaign against Modi has lost. It can never win,” he said, adding the Supreme Court has upheld the “due process of law”. “Justice says one cannot manufacture evidence. Now the SIT will present its case to the lower court which will hear the case,” Javadekar said.
- Verdict a huge step forward: Setalvad (Sep 12, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Will cooperate with trial court in Guj riots cases: SIT chief (Sep 12, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- My family was slaughtered,Modi should be punished (Sep 12, 2011, Siasat)
- Gulbarg Society massacre: A ready reckoner (Sep 12, 2011, IBN)
Will a trial court in Gujarat ever prosecute Modi? (Sep 12, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Given the way the judiciary in Gujarat has handled the riot cases in last nine years, one can hardly believe that a trial court in the state will be able to prosecute BJP chief minister Narendra Modi. The Supreme Court, which itself once had transferred some riot cases involving saffron foot soldiers to Maharashtra, has on Monday sent back Zakia’s case against CM to Gujarat for trial. The development has left little hope for Zakia and other victims to get justice and this is clearly evident from the reactions of BJP and Modi himself on the apex court verdict. Even though the court has directed a trial court to proceed on the case, BJP and Modi have taken it as a victory. From their joyful reaction one can infer that they are least bothered about a local trial court taking up the case.
Reacting on the verdict, BJP on Monday said the Supreme Court directive to a trial court to hear a case against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the killing of former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri during the 2002 riots was a “victory” for the chief minister. Not just that, the party sees it as a clean chit and that’s why it said Modi will now play a bigger role in national politics. “It is not just a relief for Modi, but a victory for Modi,” BJP spokesperson Balbir K. Punj told reporters adding Modi will play a bigger role in the national politics. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, on the other hand, has thanked God after the Supreme Court verdict. “God is great,” Modi tweeted on the microblogging site Twitter, IANS reported.
Zakia’s husband the late Member of Parliament, Ahsan Jaffri was burnt alive along with 37 others in 2002 in Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad. Zakia had approached the Supreme Court three years back after her all efforts to prosecute Modi and 62 others in the state failed – her FIR was not registered by police and then her case was dismissed by the Gujarat High Court. On June 8, 2006, Zakia Jafri sought to register a first information report (FIR) against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 62 others, including cabinet ministers, senior bureaucrats and policemen, under section 154 of the Code of Criminal Procedure for their role in the Gulberg Society massacre case. The Gujarat police failed to register the FIR though cognizable offences had been made out therein.
Therefore, on March 1, 2007 Zakia and Citizens for Justice and Peace jointly filed a writ petition in the Gujarat High Court asking the court to issue orders so that the FIR may be registered. Moreover, given the state complicity at the highest level, they had demanded that the entire investigation is handed over to an independent agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). On November 1, 2007, the Gujarat High Court dismissed their Special Criminal Application forcing the complainants to approach the Supreme Court. They filed Special Leave Petition in the Supreme Court against the high court judgment. On April 27, 2009, the apex court asked the special investigation team (SIT) headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation director R.K. Raghvan to look into the complaint of Zakia Jafri alleging involvement of 63 people, including the chief minister, for their inaction during the Gulberg Society carnage.
Now today on September 12, 2011, the Supreme Court has directed a trial court to hear the petition by Zakia Jafri against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The court said the magistrate, before deciding on the complaint by Zakia Jafri, will issue her a notice and afford her an opportunity to be heard. The court also asked SIT headed by Raghvan to file its status report before the concerned magistrate. The amicus curiae (friend of the court) Raju Ramachandran report, which differed with the findings of the SIT, is also to be referred to the magistrate. In the petition, Zakia had alleged deliberate inaction on part of the Gujarat chief minister, his cabinet colleagues and some high-ranking state officials. In the 2002 incident, 37 people, including the former Congress MP Jafri, were killed. The rampaging mob targeted members of Muslim community in the Ahmedabad neighbourhood and set it afire.…
- Supreme Court order will lead to more charges against Narendra Modi: CPI-M (Sep 12, 2011, DNA India)
- How Zakia Jafri’s complaint reached apex court (Sep 12, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- It is a victory for victims, not Narendra Modi: Teesta Setalvad on Supreme Court’s verdict (Sep 12, 2011, DNA India)
- Zakia Jafri refuses to lose hope, believes justice will be done (Sep 12, 2011, Times of India)
Modi faces two contempt petitions for letter to PM (Sep 6, 2011, Indian Express)
Two separate petitions seeking criminal proceedings against Chief Minister Narendra Modi for contempt of court were filed on Monday in the Gujarat High Court over his recent letter to the Prime Minister in which he had called for intervention in the matter of the state’s Lokayukta’s appointment. The petitions were filed by Bhikha Jethava, the father of slain RTI activist Amit Jethava, and Rajesh Mankad, an advocate at the HC.
Jethava’s petition, which has also sought to press contempt charges against Advocate General Kamal Trivedi, argues that Modi writing a letter to the PM over Lokayukta’s appointment and making it public amounted to “interference” in the judicial proceedings as the matter was sub judice.
Jethava, in his latest petition, said his earlier plea seeking direction to the state government to appoint a Lokayukta is already pending before the division bench of Justice Akil Kureshi and Sonia Gokani. His lawyer said that during the last hearing on the petitions, the government had sought to put certain documents like the correspondence between the offices of the Governor and the CM over the issue of appointment of Lokayukta on record.
The court had granted the permission while asking it to put it on record in a sealed cover. Yagnik said the court had observed that the correspondence should not be made public. The division bench has kept the plea for hearing on Wednesday. The other petition moved by Mankad has demanded criminal contempt proceedings against Modi. Mankad has argued that Modi writing a letter to PM on a sub judice matter amounts to “interfering and obstructing with the due course of the judicial proceedings”.
- Why did Modi prefer Justice (retd) J R Vora for Lokayukta post? (Sep 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Nanavati Commission to question ex-Guj minister on Sep 23 (Sep 5, 2011, Indian Express)
- Ex-minister fails to appear before Gujarat riots panel (Sep 5, 2011, New Kerala)
- Gujarat Cong leaders meet President, accuse BJP of misleading Parliament (Sep 6, 2011, The Hindu)
Court issues notice to Modi on ‘targeted’ IAS officer’s plea (Sep 9, 2011, The Hindu)
The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Gujarat government and the Central Bureau of Investigation on a petition by IAS officer Pradeep N. Sharma, who complained he was being targeted and sought a CBI probe into five cases pending against him and transfer of the trial outside the State. The notice is returnable in two weeks. The court already issued notice in May on transfer of four first information reports. The present petition was filed as subsequently one more FIR was registered against Mr. Sharma.
The petitioner said he was being victimised as he is the younger brother of Kuldip Sharma, seniormost IPS officer in Gujarat and Additional Director-General of Police. He said Mr. Kuldip Sharma himself was targeted by the government as he did not abide by the illegal instructions of Mr. Modi and the then Minister of State (Home), Amit Shah. The Chief Minister downgraded the ACRs with the mala fide intention of denying him promotion. At least three outstanding ACRs were required in the last 10 years for one to qualify for the next promotion.
The petitioner said all the cases had been registered at the behest of the Chief Minister to falsely implicate and persecute him and to deprive him of his personal life and liberty. The cases were being investigated by the State machinery at the behest of Mr. Modi, who had a personal agenda to ensure that he remained incarcerated. The petitioner said Mr. Modi had a misplaced apprehension that he was the recipient of a VCD, alleged to be existing, involving the Chief Minister. A Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and R.M. Lodha issued the notice after hearing senior counsel Colin Gonsalves and counsel Sunil Fernandes, appearing for Mr. Pradeep Sharma.
- IPS officer Rahul Sharma challenges charge sheet (Sep 11, 2011, DNA India)
- Pandya’s widow puts encounter cops in dock (Sep 10, 2011, Indian Express)
- Was Haren Pandya actually killed in his car? (Sep 4, 2011, DNA India)
- Ishrat killing: HC seeks final SIT report by Oct 5 (Sep 10, 2011, Indian Express)
Don’t exclude saffron terror from Delhi blast probe: Civil group (Sep 10, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Civil Liberties Monitoring Committee of Hyderabad has demanded free and fair probe into the Delhi High Court blast for which all the terror groups – including the Hindutva terror groups found involved in various terror balsts in the country – should be kept in view. CLMC has strongly condemned the blast and offered condolence and solidarity with the victim families. The group has demanded “free and fair investigation which is necessary by keeping in view all the terror groups working in various parts of India and also keeping in mind other blasts that occurred in the country for which one particular community was always suspected and then after investigation real culprits were also exposed,” CLMC General Secretary Lateef Mohd Khan said.
Khan said various mails for one blast is just to confuse probe agencies. “The media houses received mails from Bangladesh based terror organization named HuJI. Later this responsibility was claimed by IM, still these types of emails were coming from the so-called organizations and it seems that the real terror groups want to confuse the investigative agencies and blame one particular community,” he said. “Here it is important to note that there are so many Hindutva terror groups active in the country among which RSS, Sanathan Santha & Abhinav Bharat have been proved that they are involved in the blasts that took place all over the country. It is also fact that there are other Hindu organization that are running training camps for manufacturing explosives and target the public places to create panic and terror,” Khan further said.
Khan said that the blast allegedly for terror convict Afzal Guru has gone against him and this shows that the blast has actually been executed to hasten the execution of Guru. “In reality these blasts are part of the greater conspiracy that has many angles among which one important angle is that this blast is said to be taken place on the name of Afzal Guru not to hang him. In contrary this blast has gone against him. The operation of this blast took place to pressurize the government to hang Afzal Guru which is also the demand of all the Hindutva organizations that is why we can say that this may be the handiwork of those who are demanding the hang of Afzal Guru,” Khan said in a press statement.
He said there is a need for an unbiased probe and apprehended that as intelligence agencies are clueless in Delhi HC blast case they may round up convenient suspects. “We need unbiased investigation without any preconceived notions about guilt of one party or the other. Intelligence agencies and police are totally clueless and therefore vulnerable to seeking easy way out of their dilemma by proceeding along the so called normal route of rounding up convenient suspects for mollifying the Muslim community from various places as usual,” Khan said.
CLMC said it “believes that free and fair policing, honest intelligence is necessary to prevent the people from such terror attacks. Therefore, the investigative agencies should not come under any pressure, should not get confused by the claims and follow the fair procedure of investigation so that the real culprits are exposed and punished. Then only such incidents can be prevented from taking place in future. It should be noted that during the investigation the human and civil rights should be safeguarded and the whole investigation should take place as per the rule of law.”
- HC blast: No big leads, homegrown terror NIA focus (Sep 11, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Who is behind Delhi blast? Police, NIA hunt for clues (Sep 9, 2011, IBN)
- Police suspect involvement of new outfit in Delhi blast (Sep 11, 2011, The Hindu)
- Several blast cases still remain unsolved (Sep 8, 2011, The Hindu)
Maharashtra govt asked to name Abhinav Bharat as terrorist group (Sep 7, 2011, Times of India)
The Maharashtra government has been suggested by the state police to include right-wing groups Sanatan Sanstha and Abhinav Bharat under the category of banned terrorist organisations, the Rajya Sabha was informed on Wednesday. The names of both the groups came up during the investigations of the Goa and the Malegaon blasts case. “In the Goa blast case, the name of Sanatan Sanstha has come up and in Malegaon case of 2008, the name of Abhinav Bharat has come up during investigations. In the bomb blast case of Malegaon 2006, as per the investigation conducted by ATS Mumbai and the CBI, Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) activists were involved …
“The matter is still under investigation,” minister of state for home affairs Jitendra Singh said in a written reply. He said that Maharashtra Police recommended the state government to include both the groups in the Schedule of Terrorist Organisations under Section 35 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, (UAPA) 1967. SIMI is included as a terrorist organisation under the UAPA. The minister said that name of “no specific organisation has been confirmed as yet in the investigations into the Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Ajmer dargah blasts cases.
“However, among the accused persons in these cases viz. late Sunil Joshi and Swami Aseemanad, Devendra Gupta and Lokesh Sharma, who have been arrested and chargesheeted, were reportedly earlier involved in the activities of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).” “This was revealed during the course of investigation and also from the confessional statements of Swami Aseemanand,” Singh said.
- Why Hindu terror convicts called sevaks by media? (Sep 3, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Sheikh murder: Special squad to hunt down absconders (Sep 6, 2011, Times of India)
- No action yet against officials in Forbesganj firing: Lalu (Sep 4, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- State to withdraw Nandigram case from Supreme Court (Sep 9, 2011, Times of India)
CPI(M) for Communal Violence Bill sans caste factor (Sep 10, 2011, Indian Express)
On Saturday, CPI(M) demanded that the proposed Communal Violence Bill should stick to its purpose and not include “other conflict interest” like caste factor. “We want to ensure two things – first, it should be confined to communal violence. We cannot have all sorts of other conflict interest coming in like caste etc,” CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury said after the National Integration Council (NIC) meeting.
“Secondly, the principles of federal system and rights of state governments cannot be anyway encroached upon or diluted. Keeping that in mind the draft should be made,” he said. Stressing upon the need of the Bill, he said, “The bill like this concerning communal violence and the rehabilitation of victims is something that is required. That is something in the Common Minimum Programme of UPA-1, which we had endorsed, and on that basis a draft was prepared and referred to the Standing Committee.”
Referring to problems in the old draft, he said, “There were certain problems, and we gave a note of dissent on that basis. It was returned to the cabinet after that nothing seems to have happened.” “Now, a new draft is being drafted and the fact is that there is an old bill… What happened to that?” he asked. The draft of the new Bill is being opposed by the BJP, BJD and TMC also.
- Support for Communal Violence Bill (Sep 12, 2011, The Hindu)
- Provisions of NAC-drafted Communal Violence Bill (Sep 10, 2011, Times of India)
- Major rift emerges over communal violence Bill (Sep 11, 2011, The Tribune)
- Moily allays fears on Communal Violence Bill (Sep 11, 2011, Times of India)
‘Advani’s will be a yatra of embarrassment’ (Sep 10, 2011, The Hindu)
Union Minister for Corporate Affairs M. Veerappa Moily on Friday took a dig at the proposed yatra against corruption by Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani, and said it would become a yatra of “embarrassment.” Speaking to journalists, Mr. Moily said the programme was proposed at a time when memories of the communal clashes that followed Mr. Advani’s earlier Rath Yatra were still haunting people. Mr. Advani had no moral right to undertake another yatra, he added. The Minister said the United Progressive Alliance government at the Centre had taken all possible measures to curb corruption in public life. Because of its steps, many people, who were allegedly involved in corruption, were facing court cases and were in jail. The Central Bureau of Investigation had taken effective steps to curb corruption, he said.
Replying to questions on the Land acquisition Bill, which now has been referred to a standing committee, Mr. Moily said the Bill sought to replace the 125-year-old Land Acquisition Act and was aimed at providing a better deal to farmers. Consent of 80 per cent of farmers for the acquisition and compensation at four times the market value for the land were some of the salient features, the Minister maintained. Though the Bill, when it became an Act of Parliament, would not be binding on the State governments, they might be forced to adopt the Act because of its novel features. Responding to Karnataka Minister for Major Industries Murugesh Nirani’s opposition, Mr. Moily said he should study the Bill before making comments.
Earlier, inaugurating the new zonal office of the Corporation Bank here, Mr. Moily said banks should work in such a way that the facilities should reach even the last man in society. Mr. Moily commended the Corporation Bank, and said it had achieved the feat of rendering yeoman service to the general public. Chairman Ramanath Pradeep said the Bank had plans to open 200 new branches this financial year and 25 of them would be in rural areas. Malleswaram MLA C.N. Ashwath Narayana and State Planning Board Deputy Chairperson Ramachandra Gowda participated in the function.
- With eye on elections Advani plans yatra (Sep 9, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Single investigative agency required: Kiran Bedi (Sep 10, 2011, IBN)
- Reddys’ arrest a lesson to those occupying high offices: Moily (Sep 5, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Don’t elect MPs who oppose Jan Lokpal Bill: Anna Hazare (Sep 10, 2011, IBN)
Cops under scanner as Shehla’s phone was in use after her death (Sep 7, 2011, Indian Express)
While the alleged murder of event manager-turned-RTI activist Shehla Masood continues to be shrouded in mystery, the role of Madhya Pradesh Police has come under the scanner with the revelation that her phone was in use hours after the death. Shehla’s mobile had been seized from the car where her body was found on August 16 but calls were made from it even when it was supposed to be in the police custody.
A senior police officer claimed that it was possible that calls were made to know the identity of persons in whose names numbers were stored in the handset. “In any case the details are stored in the service provider’s server, so the calls can’t be kept a secret,” the officer claimed, downplaying the revelation as “irrelevant” to the main investigation. A CBI officer refused to talk about the case, saying it would hamper investigations.
Investigations by the police have drawn criticism because the CBI exposed within hours of taking over the case that the car, an important piece of evidence itself, had not been searched thoroughly. After the initial forensic analysis, the car had been kept at Koh-e-fiza Police Station. The CBI officials while recreating the scene of crime found a gold pendant lying beneath the driver’s seat. A file was also found in the car though it was not clear what documents it contained.
Ironically, the police cited the recovery of these objects as “a proof” that they had not tampered with the vehicle and it was kept in a sealed condition. The CBI on Tuesday searched the M P Nagar office of Shehla’s event management firm, Miracles. Meanwhile, Bollywood and TV actor Kunika Lal, who claimed to be an RTI activist, met Shehla’s family and the CBI and sought an impartial probe. Lal said she had never met or heard of Shehla but was concerned because RTI activists were being targeted across the country.
- Shehla Masood case: evidence tampered with? (Sep 6, 2011, IBN)
- CBI reconstructs crime scene in Shehla Masood murder case (Sep 6, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- CBI searches Shehla Masood’s office (Sep 6, 2011, Rediff)
- ‘Why was Team Anna silent on RTI activist’s murder?’ (Sep 11, 2011, Hindustan Times)
Minorities feel they are being targeted: PM (Sep 10, 2011, Times of India)
The minority communities often feel they are being unfairly targeted in the “aftermath of unfortunate incidents”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday said, inaugurating the National Integration Council meet, which is to debate the communal violence bill. Singh said while the law should be allowed to take its own course, the investigating agencies should be free of biases and prejudices of any kind. “It is a matter of great satisfaction that in recent years, relations among various communities have by and large remained harmonious,” the prime minister observed.
“Members of this council have played an active role in ensuring that people respond with maturity to developments that may otherwise flare up communal tempers.” “Nevertheless, we need to maintain a continuous vigil in this regard. We also need to recognise that members of the minority communities often have a perception of being unfairly targeted by law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of unfortunate incidents,” he said. His remarks come in the wake of recent investigations by security agencies into the role of Hindutva groups in bomb attacks like the Ajmer Sharief Dargah and the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid, both in 2007. Earlier, the investigating agencies had suspected the role extremist groups from the minority community for the attacks.
“While law must take its own course, we need to ensure that our investigating agencies are free from biases and prejudices of any kind. The media also has to play an increasingly important and constructive role in promoting peace and harmony in our society,” he added. The communal violence bill seeks to hold state governments and functionaries responsible for any targeted attacks on minority communities and for stricter punishments against perpetrators of violence against any particular minority or downtrodden communities.
- SIO demands sacking of Jamia professor for hateful speech in class (Sep 9, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Mosque row: Muslim families threaten to leave village (Sep 11, 2011, Times of India)
- Muslim need better educational infrastructure, says AIMPLB general secretary (Sep 11, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Centre let down anti-Sikh riots victims: Badal (Sep 10, 2011, The Hindu)
Opinions and Editorials
India’s Apex Court Leaves Gujarat Riot Case to Trial Court – By Vibhuti Agarwal (Sep 12, 2011, Wall Street Journal)
India’s Supreme Court on Monday extricated itself from one of the country’s most controversial cases, leaving it to a lower court to determine whether the chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, did enough to stop a wave of communal violence that swept his state in 2002. The court has been investigating what role Mr. Modi played during deadly riots that broke out in February 2002 after a mob torched a train carrying Hindu pilgrims. The resulting spiral of violence left more than 1,000 people dead, mostly Muslims. The apex court’s review has been based on a complaint by Zakia Jafri, whose husband, a former Congress Party lawmaker, was among those killed when rioters attacked a residential complex in the city of Ahmedabad.
The Gujarat riots have cast a shadow over the political career of Mr. Modi, a leading member of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Though he has been re-elected twice and has won plaudits for the state’s rapid growth and industrial development, allegations that Mr. Modi looked the other way as a massacre ensued in his state have stunted his ability to pursue national office, according to political analysts. Mr. Modi has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Jay Narayan Vyas, a spokesman for the Gujarat government said there was “no evidence against Mr. Modi of criminal conspiracy” in the riots.
The Supreme Court in India has great powers to monitor and influence investigations, so its intervention in the Gujarat case was closely watched. In 2008, the court set up a special investigative team headed by the former head of the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe what Mr. Modi was doing and telling subordinates as the riots were unfolding. After examining the report submitted by that team and another separate report submitted by a senior lawyer – neither of which were made public – the Supreme Court issued its order on Monday. The court didn’t state any conclusion about Mr. Modi’s role in the riots; instead it directed a trial court in Ahmedabad to proceed with the case.
The petitioner, Ms. Jafri, said she was disappointed with the court’s order. “The real culprits, who were behind the riots, are still roaming free,” she told reporters. “I have got no justice from the Supreme Court. What can I expect from the trial court?” Backers of Mr. Modi interpreted the order as a major victory. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said, “We stand vindicated. There is no evidence against Narendra Modi. The due process of law has to be followed.” Balbir Punj, BJP leader in Gujarat said, “Once Mr. Modi’s name is cleared by the highest level of the judiciary, he will assume a much larger role at the national level.”
But Rashid Alvi, a spokesman for the rival Congress Party, which heads the coalition that controls the central government, said the Supreme Court’s order had “in no way given a clean chit” to Mr. Modi. “It will be difficult to wipe off the blot on Narendra Modi,” he said. “He was unable to the curb communal violence in Gujarat.” Social activist Teesta Setalvad, who has been helping riot victims pursue legal cases, said the order was “of due process and a step forward”. Ms. Setalvad said she will “re-double efforts” in the trial court. “We have full faith in the judicial system. We hope for the best.”
- Efforts to implicate Modi back to square one – By Manas Dasgupta (Sep 12, 2011, The Hindu)
- Still stuck in purgatory – Editorial (Sep 12, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Modi’s troubles – By Anupama Katakam (Sep 10, 2011, Frontline)
- Back in favour? – By Dilip Cherian (Sep 4, 2011, Deccan Chronicle)
Saffron Terror: Splinter or Symptom? – By Juli Gittinger (Sep 10, 2011,Economic & Political Weekly)
In the wake of Sangh parivar activist Aseemanand’s confession in January 2011, it seems that the notion of “Hindu terrorism” is not the logical fallacy that Hindu nationalists have claimed it to be. That is to say, while the conflation of “Hindu” with secular – in the Charles Taylor (2007, 2011) definition of secular as tolerant and diverse – has established a foothold in both political and academic rhetoric, it still does not limit the possibility of radicalism. As Jaffrelot and Maheshwari (2011) discussed in a recent article, the pervasive image of India as democratic, embracing the western-styled aspects of modernity and secularism, is in peril from the “growing ideology of majoritarianism”. The recent fallout from what now appears to be indisputable evidence of Hindu terrorist organisations, located within the collective of the Sangh parivar, has put groups such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) on the defensive. While these investigations will continue to unfold in months ahead, I would like to discuss the larger picture of current Hindu nationalism and the effects of this evidence coming to light. The question worth asking at this point is: Is “saffron terrorism” a splinter or a symptom? In other words, do groups such as the Bajrang Dal or Abhinav Bharat represent a small fringe band of extremists that can be dismissed as easily as the Ku Klux Klan in the US? Or are they evidence of a growing trend, a quickening pulse of the Sangh parivar that precedes a shift away from centrist and secular ideologies? It may be difficult to say with any accuracy, since even within single organisations there is often dissent regarding what Hindutva represents and how best to use it for the party’s platform (if at all). The only thing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the RSS, and other members of the Sangh parivar seem to agree on is that saffron terror is a myth, and to even suggest such a thing is patently anti-Indian.
As an organisation, the RSS seems to have a narrow spectrum of political ideologies, certainly not as superficially-moderate as the BJP, who have made great efforts to redefine Hindutva as “cultural nationalism”. For these efforts, the RSS has criticised the BJP of pedalling “soft Hindutva”. Even so, the RSS’ tendrils seem to extend from Right-wing to radical. There is an air of “the right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing” when it comes to violence such as the bombings at Malegaon, Mecca masjid, or of the blast in the Samjhauta Express – all three incidents which have produced forensic evidence linking the terrorist acts to Hindu groups, and not the Students Islamic Movement of India or the Lashkar-e-Toiba as originally thought. As Jaffrelot points out, the RSS frequently disavows the use of violence as an effective means of operating. This denial is made in spite of its long history of subversive acts for which it has been banned, starting with connections to Gandhi’s assassination (1948), during Emergency in India (1975), and the instigation of the Babri masjid destruction in 1992 (though in each case, they petitioned to be reinstated). Additionally, they have held tight to the Hindutva ideology, which describes a history of transgressions against the Hindus by Muslims. Despite the tendency to imbue Hinduism with romanticised qualities of benevolence, it should be no shock that there is such a thing as Hindu terrorism. As Juergensmeyer (2003) has made evident in repeated essays and volumes, no religion, no singular dogma, is immune to radicalism and subsequent violence. It could be argued that Hindu terrorism is not religious violence, but political (another reason I am partial to the non-religious label of saffron).
However, I think Juergensmeyer’s discussions are relevant here since religion enters the discussion through the portal of secularism; a secular nationalism can be viewed as “a suprareligion of its own” (Juergensmeyer 2009) attempting to be as compelling an idea as a sacred one. This contributes the popular concept of Hinduism as an inherently “secular religion”. Perhaps the question as to whether growing radicalism is a “splinter or symptom” points to a larger question of which forms of nationalism are struggling to dominate the Indian political arena. There seem to be two which are at the centre of these concerns: secular nationalism and religious nationalism. The first comes from a decade of conflating “Hindu” with “secular” – not only in the re-appropriations of Hindutva as cultural nationalism as the BJP has promulgated, but among academic scholarship as well. It is true that the move from post-Enlightenment definitions of secularism (that is, the “separation of church and state”) have fallen by the wayside, in favour of a model such as Taylor’s which relies on tolerance, diversity, and pluralism. Such models, however, have been found in Indian religiopolitical theory for some time. Scholars such as Rajeev Bhargava (1998) pointed out over a decade ago that the separation-of-church-and-state paradigm had no currency in India since there was no church in the singular orthodox sense and, therefore, secularism in India was its own particular model. This model, however, has now become the rule rather than the exception, as modern secularist discourses stress tolerance as a key facet with an urgency which rises in the wake of the 9/11 incidents.
Secular nationalism, therefore, has taken up V D Savarkar’s query, “Who is a Hindu?” and answered it with something resembling Jawaharlal Nehru’s universalistic ideas of India rather than Savarkar’s ethno-nationalist ideal. In other words, under this rubric, to be Hindu is to be pluralistic, tolerant, diverse, and non-aggressive. It therefore defines “Hindu” as opposite of the archetypal “Muslim” – imperialistic, theocratic, intolerant, and having a history of aggression against India – thus, the model of secular is constituted by what it is not. As such, it becomes an inviolable facet of Indianness, a mark of modernity and superiority, and thereby sacralised in its own way. As Juergensmeyer suggests, secular nationalism becomes as compelling as religious nationalism, and thus needs to be defended and protected. Religious nationalism, on the other hand, bears more resemblance to Savarkar’s ethno-nationalist model, although in positioning itself as anti-Muslim it unavoidably resonates as “religiously Hindu”. Religious nationalism in India tends to promote a narrow depiction of Hindu religious tradition, rallying around outwardly religious issues (such as the Ram Janmabhoomi movement) as a guise for anti-heterogeneity. Utilising discursive tactics similar to those found in fascist and Nazi propaganda, the RSS in particular has been successful in disseminating such ideas through nationalist literature or patriotic organisations such as their shakhas (youth training camps). I suggest that there are three reasons as to why saffron terror, such as that which occurred in Malegaon, would be the preferred strategy by religious nationalists. The first is the idea of defending the “nation” from the “other”. India has a history of being invaded and occupied by various peoples over the centuries, ending with the British raj; as an independent country, India is not yet a century old. Girded by this history of India as victims of repeated aggression, which Savarkar crystallised in his 1923 treatise Hindutva – Who Is a Hindu?, actions against the Muslims are rendered as justified. Therefore, “retaliatory” acts of violence are legitimated as merely a part of a long conversation of conflict that has been going on for centuries. This “defensive posture” is the primary reason as to why Hindu terrorism has increased; as Aseemanand stated in his confession, the modus operandi of his organisation was “bomb ka jawab bomb se dena chahiye (we will answer bombs with bombs)”. …
Weighing the two possibilities of “splinter” or “symptom” it is imperative to understand what or who is under attack. I would conclude that it is not the Muslim community that is under attack: the target of saffron terror is secular nationalism. The ideology of secular nationalism, with its inclusivity and pluralistic vision (which includes religious diversity and equality) is a serious threat to the project of homogeneity which is undertaken by the Sangh parivar. Therefore, the so-called “splinter groups” are not radical deviations from the right wing party line; they are the active and militant extensions of their larger parent organisations, acting fully within the doctrine laid out in RSS or Viswa Hindu Parishad propaganda. Their goal is to undermine any version of Hindu nationalism which may be inclusive. Declarations by Hindutva supporters which state that the words “Hindu” and “terrorism” are incompatible are ignoring the facts at hand and the broader statement that any ideology can be twisted into radicalism and violence, and legitimated through arguments of cultural vigilance. If secular nationalism and the reclaiming of Hindutva as “cultural nationalism” is to prevail, then Hindu nationalist groups must accept the reality that looms before them and denounce both speech and actions which fuel communal divisions and violence. Denying involvement in an act of Hindu terror shows disapproval of such actions; denying the existence of Hindu terror is to be complicit in a lie which states that terrorism is synonymous with Islam, and as such, should be dealt with equal voracity.
- Who killed Haren Pandya? – By Kingshuk Nag (Sep 12, 2011, Times of India)
- The riot solution – Editorial (Sep 12, 2011, Indian Express)
- Communal Violence Bill: Is it Really ‘Dangerous’? – By Ayush Prasad (Sep 11, 2011, Daijiworld.com)
They Strike Again – Editorial (Sep 8, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
The devastating blast at the Delhi High Court which claimed the lives of 12 persons and injured scores is a frightening reminder that terror groups within the country can strike at will. The capital, considered impenetrable when a Parliament session is on, is still struggling to cope with the shock. If the intention of the blast, which left a four-foot deep crater, was to shock and shake, it succeeded. The blast is particularly disturbing because it came within less than two months of a series of bomb explosions in Mumbai. The bomb was detonated on a Wednesday when judges hear public interest litigations and hence there was a larger-than-usual crowd at the entrance gate. The police are investigating an e-mail sent by the Islamic terror outfit, HuJI, but the hurried fashion in which it was written has given rise to doubt over the source. There is a mixture of grief and anger which was directed at all politicians who arrived at the scene, especially Mr Rahul Gandhi. So far the politicians have given us the usual speeches, condemning the blast, condoling the grieving families and promising not to be cowed down by such attacks. None of the speeches generated hope, but the silver lining is that the Opposition did not use the incident to score political points.
What is most shocking is that the blast comes four months after a low-intensity explosion was set off in the car park near the court. This should have alerted the police and the government to the fact that the Delhi High Court was a high-priority target. Adequate security measures should have been provided. One can hardly blame the common man for venting his or her anger at a moment like this, especially when news gets out that the Delhi police and PWD failed to install CCTV cameras at the venue. What’s unfolding now is a blame game between the two with the police pointing fingers at the PWD, and the PWD blaming the police for altering requirements half way through the tender process. It is silly bureaucratic issues like these that make us sitting ducks for terror attacks. Is there no way of fast-tracking a tender linked to security of a court?
Since the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai in 2008, the security apparatus has undergone a change. In 2009, the Union Home Minister, Mr P Chidambaram unveiled the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) which would network banks, railways and emigration to give intelligence agencies access to databases. The unit is expected to be completed by the end of this year. The National Counter Terrorism Centre, a new federal intelligence agency to deal with all aspects concerning terrorism was supposed to be in place by the end of 2010. The draft proposal is still pending with the PMO. The National Investigating Agency (NIA), a central unit for investigating terror cases is active and the Delhi blast will be its first big case. There are several other issues like registration of vessels operating in Indian waters, ID cards to fishermen, joint operation centres that are yet to fall in place.
Since 2010, the nation has witnessed seven major blasts, of which six are still under investigation with no arrests being made. In the case of the German Bakery explosion, seven persons have been arrested and a chargesheet has been filed, but doubts persist over the quality of the probe. Bureaucratic hurdles, poor governance and politicians who forget a blast a fortnight after it has taken place, have conspired to make India a soft state. Until we introduce a regime that places security at the top of the agenda, depoliticize the police and other investigating arms, the government will fall short on its pledge to protect citizens and bring the culprits to book.
- Terror strikes Delhi – Editorial (Sep 8, 2011, Times of India)
- Rebuild India’s police forces – Editorial (Sep 9, 2011, The Hindu)
- Weaving a web of terror – By Subimal Bhattacharjee (Sep 8, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Dazed & Confused. Again – By Ashish Khetan (Sep 17, 2011, Tehelka)
Why not start Yatra against corruption from Bellary, Mr Advani? – By Soroor Ahmed (Sep 10, 2011, Twocircles.net)
No place other than Bellary would be best suited for the BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani to launch his Yatra against graft and for good governance as this hitherto little-known town of Karnataka now symbolizes the worst kind of corruption, fraud, dishonesty and loot of country’s wealth. As Mr Advani has chosen to launch his Yatra after the arrest of Reddy brothers, which followed the strong indictment of the outgoing B S Yeddyurappa government by the Lokayukta of Karnataka, Mr Justice (Retired) Santosh Hegde, it would be in the fitness of the thing that he launch his campaign from that place. As he symbolically chose to kick off his Ram Rath Yatra from Somnath on September 25, 1990 why not select this Karnataka town, which has now become synonym to a unique type of corruption introduced by the first BJP government in the south India.
Had Mr Advani decided to launch his campaign after the unearthing of Commonwealth Games Scam or 2G Spectrum Scam last year it would have been understood that he is sincerely against corruption. In the same way, had he made his announcement at the height of Anna Hazare’s fast in April or August or during the similar attempt made by Baba Ramdev in June last it would have been accepted that the BJP has commitment against corruption and really stands for good governance. But the party leadership chose to launch this campaign only after the chief minister of its most important south Indian state had to go, not because of any role by governor, but following a report submitted by none else but the Lokayukta Santosh Hegde, who only last year July publicly announced that he respects Lal Krishna Advani like his father. Advani’s disclosure about his proposed Yatra has come not only after the arrest of Reddy brothers but also two of its former MPs involved in the Cash-for-Vote scandal, which rocked the Indian Parliament during the trust motion on July 22, 2008.
It is thus clear that unlike the earlier Yatras in which the party had its one-point programme-to get the Babri Masjid demolished and Ram Mandir built in its place-this time the country-wide campaign will be defensive in nature. It would be a face saving exercise and the leadership would like to distract the attention of the people from several serious charges against the party. The BJP conceded three goals in quick succession very much against the run of the play. Till a few weeks back, the party was in somewhat aggressive mood and tried to capitalize on the atmosphere created by Anna Hazare. It started appearing that the BJP would finally outplay the Congress. But then, like a bombshell, came the report of the Lokayukta and subsequent drama, which forced the party to get rid of Yeddyurappa. All this happened at the height of the Anna’s movement-that is a few days before and after his 12-day fast. Then on the basis of that report came the arrest of Reddy brothers and others last week. As if that was not enough came the arrest of two other former MPs-Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora-in the Cash-for-Vote scandal. Mr Advani openly defended the two former MPs and called them whistle-blowers.
In the earlier two occasions the crusade against corruption has helped the BJP and erstwhile Jan Sangh. The party fully consolidated its position during the 1974 JP movement in Bihar and Navnirman movement in Gujarat. Thus gradually it emerged as the strongest of the five constituents of the Janata Party, which was formed in 1977. The conglomeration ruled the country for less than three years. The Janata Party disintegrated and in 1980 the Bharatiya Janata Party, instead of Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was formed. Similarly, the BJP fully capitalized the Bofors kickback issue for its own political end though it was V P Singh, who first raised the issue. Advani fully mixed the battle against corruption with the religious issue of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. This ultimately paved the way for its victory. It thus led a 24 parties alliance and ruled the country for six years. However, this time the crusade against corruption is not going to cut much ice. There is no Emergency in the country as in mid-1970s. Nor is there any scope to once again whip up the religious sentiment as in late 1980s and early 1990s.
Now the voters of the country have tested the ‘honesty’ of the party with a difference too. Several scams rocked the country during its six years rule between 1998 and 2004. The then national president of the BJP, Bangaru Laxman, was caught in camera accepting Rs one crore from a fictitious arms dealers. In the states, Karnataka has shown a new way to loot the country’s treasure. Octogenarian Advani finds his party in a very tight position. The second rung leadership of Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley are no match to the stature of Vajpayee and Advani while there is no dearth of partymen who want to keep Narendra Modi away. In that way Advani once again had to take up the responsibility of leading his team and playing another innings. Advani’s position is like Australian cricketer Bobby Simpson, who had to come out from retirement and lead his team after almost the premier players rebelled and joined World Series Cricket organized by Kerry Packer between 1977 and 1979. But that was just a stop-gap arrangement. Advani knows his role and is no doubt too old to captain the team, which is now packed with mediocre and equally corrupt political players.
- Advani rides again – Editorial (Sep 12, 2011, Times of India)
- Amar, Argal, Advani – By Shoma Chaudhury (Sep 17, 2011, Tehelka)
- Assets of Public Servants – Editorial (Sep 4, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
- http://www.navhindtimes.in/opinion/assets-public-servants Politics behind bars – Editorial (Sep 8, 2011, Asian Age)
The sacred and the profane. All rolled into one – By shish Khetan & Sai Manish (Sep 10, 2011, Tehelka)
The seven-year-old Sankararaman murder case has now been made even murkier by the emergence of a sensational CD that allegedly contains phone conversations between the judge conducting the murder trial and main accused Jayendra Saraswati, spiritual head of the Kanchi Math. Proceedings in the case were stayed for eight weeks by the Madras High Court on 25 August on the basis of this CD after a writ petition was filed by an advocate in the high court. The Madras HC has also directed the Registrar- Vigilance to launch an inquiry into the audio CD. TEHELKA has been in possession of the alleged recording, apart from other conversations, for the past two months,and has submitted a copy of the CD to a forensic lab for verification (see transcripts). At the time of going to press, lab results into the veracity of the tapes had not been received. TEHELKA also carried out a detailed ground investigation into the conduct of the prosecution and found evidence of unholy collusion between the accused and crucial witnesses who held the key to proving the holy seer’s guilt in court. If this could be any evidence of how the court proceedings have progressed, the victim’s wife, who was a crucial eyewitness and had identified the accused before the police, also turned hostile in the trial court.
The seemingly solid case built by the police is now on the verge of collapse. Even as the most recent allegations pertain to the Puducherry sessions court judge T Ramaswami, just a few months ago even the special public prosecutor, N Devadoss, was alleged to have deliberately subverted the course of justice by declaring witnesses hostile at will and weakening the case built by investigating officer (IO) SP Sakthivelu. Sakthivelu himself stated in his affidavit in the Madras HC that something was rotten with the public prosecutor: “After I retired in March 2006, to my shock, many of the witnesses were treated as hostile after being asked out-of-context questions. On enquiry, I came to know that the prosecution is in collusion with Jayendra Saraswati. At no point was my assistance sought.” Instead, malicious news reports were ‘planted’ in a section of the local media claiming he was evading court summons. Sakthivelu, while stating that the prosecution did not even seek his assistance, mentioned in his affidavit, “Till 14 March 2011 no summons were issued to me. But in the press it was reported that I was evading summons and the police was in a hurry to finish the case.” He then sought a writ of mandamus, a judicial remedy in which a higher court orders a subordinate court to do its statutory duty in case it is convinced that the lower court has failed to so.
Neutral observers believe that the prosecution seemed to have a clear political sanction from the ruling DMK regime since 2006 to distort the case in a way that it favours the Shankaracharya even though the party is ideologically anti-thetical to Brahmanical order. “The case was registered during the tenure of Jayalalithaa as chief minister. Only after the change of government was the case taken up for trial and official witnesses treated as hostile,” said Sakthivelu in his affidavit. Between 2006 and 2011, the entire case built by the police was torn to shreds as key witnesses one after another turned hostile. According to the prosecution, the motive of the murder was to prevent the exposure of sleaze, sex orgies, wife donation and corruption within the Math. The spiritual leader is so powerful that the first IO of this sensational case, C Prem Kumar, who filed the first chargesheet, listed the presiding deity of the temple where the murder happened as the only eyewitness. And in a bizarre moment in judicial history, a magistrate waited in court on a national holiday (Eid of 2005) to accept the chargesheet. TEHELKA spoke to various investigators who pored over their personal handwritten investigation notes to reconstruct the motive, the conspiracy and the modus operandi of the murder. In addition, TEHELKA accessed operative portions of the testimonies of the crucial witnesses. We even tried speaking to the Public Prosecutor but he refused to talk about the witnesses whom he had branded hostile in court.
Sankararaman, who was the manager at the Varadaraja Perumal temple in Kanchipuram, was found in a pool of blood, hacked to death with a sharp-edged weapon, in the temple office just before sunset on a cloudy day (3 September 2004) at 5.45 pm. Heavy rains after the murder washed away all footprints. At the house of Sankararaman, the police recovered several letters written by him to the pontiff and other incriminating documents and photographs of illegal activities within the Math. The police also learnt from questioning Sankararaman’s wife Padma and his daughter that some strangers had visited the house the previous day, just hours before the murder. Both of them retracted their versions before the court. Opposing the bail plea of the Shankaracharya before the Supreme Court in 2005, Sakthivelu gave details of the contents of the letters allegedly written by the murdered Sankararaman that could have been the motive for killing him. (The actual letters had been submitted to the sessions court). On 26 June 2003, the temple manager had written to the Math management alleging the seer’s relationships with various women.
“In the past, they had a sexual relationship with one A (names deleted) and B’s wife, which I had brought to the notice of all. Now I am going to present new revelations. You all know C, who is Jayendra’s keep… The whole town knows about their relationships. They used to have sex in the hut itself. In fact, they used to have sex in front of her husband, who did not mind. Subsequently, another interesting incident had taken place. At that time D was with his assistant, in the room next to Jayendra’s. The door was half open. He heard some noise, and saw unusual scenes. D was shocked. Jayendra shouted to switch off the lights but they didn’t bother.” Sankararaman’s letters also alleged that Raghu, Jayendra Saraswati’s brother, would get women married to innocent persons and then have illicit relations with them. In fact, a Tamil columnist named Anuradha Ramanan described how the seer had sex with another woman in her presence and then walked out to distribute prasadam to his devotees. The murdered man had also written under the pseudonym Somasekara Ganapadigal about various dubious property transactions, worried as he was about the Math getting a bad name as a result of the Shankar charaya hobnobbing with politicians and real estate interests.
- Illegal Mining: BJP’s Double Standards – By Inder Malhotra (Sep 9, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
- The Art of Living Illegally – By Imran Khan (Sep 10, 2011, Tehelka)
- How the CBI has helped the BJP – By T V R Shenoy (Sep 10, 2011, Rediff)
- ‘The beauty of corruption is that, it converts any act of being into something which is rentable’ – Prof Shiv Visvanathan with Nityanand Jayaraman and Ruchir Purohit (Sep 6, 2011, Tehelka)
The Communal Character Of Anna Hazare’s Movement – By Bhanwar Meghwanshi (Sep 5, 2011, Countercurrents)
It has now been confirmed that the Anna Hazare-led so-called ‘second freedom struggle’-as some sections of the media have mistakenly chosen to call it-has close links with the RSS. From conceptualizing this media-propelled movement to successfully organizing it, the RSS, it appears, played a key role in it. This being the case, it is imperative to analyse the specific communal character of this self-styled Gandhian movement against corruption. No movement can be properly understood without taking into account the forces behind it and their underlying objectives. Anna Hazare’s movement has been analysed from several perspectives by both its critics as well as supporters. Thus, it has been asked if the movement was truly a Gandhian one. Was it really politically impartial? Was it democratic? Was it orchestrated by the media? Was it funded by the corporate world? Was it an NGO stunt? Was it all-India in its scope? On all these points there has been heated debate. Yet, lamentably little has been said about whether or not this movement was truly based on the Constitutional principle of secularism and what, in particular, its position has been on the issue of Hindutva. The men behind Anna Hazare’s movement bluntly deny that their movement has any direct link with Hindutva forces. Some people have accepted this claim at face-value. Yet, the reality seems quite the opposite. It would be amply clear to a perceptive analyst that the movement was heavily based on the support and assistance of the RSS. Members of the so-called ‘Team Anna’ may or may not concede this but the RSS has itself officially acknowledged this fact. After all, ‘India Against Corruption’ has no cadre of its own-all it has are leaders. The massive crowds that poured out onto the streets to participate in the movement could not have been mobilized simply by ‘Team Anna’ and a handful of NGOs. Rather, this was, to very a large extent, the handiwork of Hindutva organizations.
It is now evident that not only did the RSS mobilize crowds in support of Anna Hazare’s movement but that it even prepared the movement’s very roadmap. The decision to launch a campaign against corruption was taken by the RSS at its All-India leaders meeting in Karnataka in March 2011, and it was only after that, in April and then in August, that Anna Hazare sat on a fast against corruption. It has recently come to light that both the father and uncle of one of the key men in ‘Team Anna’, the Marwari Arvind Kejriwal, have been office-bearers of the RSS and allied groups in Haryana. Kejriwal is not known to have openly condemned the Hindutva forces. On the contrary, he has consistently been soft on them. His close relations with top BJP leader LK Advani are well-known. And the manner in which he maintained close links with top BJP leaders in the course of the recent agitation, including Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj and Nitin Gadkari, raise several questions about the actual nature of the relationship between Kejriwal and the RSS. Is it that Kejriwal, the RSS and the BJP were seeking to work together to bring the present government down? Whatever be the case, it is obvious from all this that there is no truth at all in the assertion of key members of ‘Team Anna’ that their movement has no direct link with Hindutva forces. The fact of the matter is that Anna Hazare has for long been a favourite of the RSS. Interestingly, a top RSS leader, the late HV Seshadri, even wrote a book on Anna Hazare’s so-called ‘model village of Ralegan Shiddi, which he hailed as supposedly heralding the arrival of Ram Rajya! This was possibly the first book of its sort on Anna Hazare’s activism. Another leading RSS activist, BM Datte, organized a number of programmes in and around Pune in support of Hazare. According to top RSS ideologue Govindacharya, a number of RSS activists have toured Hazare’s village.
For his part, Anna Hazare has never spoken against the Hindutva ideology. He is said to have had very close relations with the RSS till 1995, when he targeted two ministers of the then BJP-Shiv Sena ministry in Maharashtra, Mahadev Shivankar of the BJP and Shashikant Suthar of the Shiv Sena-for corruption, after which his relations with the RSS were somewhat shaken. But, despite this, the RSS consistently supported him for spending his life based in a temple and for seeking to revive India’s ‘ancient’ culture through village self-government. He has been praised as a great Indian leader in the RSS’s Hindi periodical Panchjanya, even featuring on its cover page. When the BJP recently failed in its attempt to topple the government, it suddenly remembered its favourite hero Anna Hazare, and, accordingly, so it seems, Hindutva forces decided to achieve their objective by creating this movement ostensibly against corruption. For this purpose, activists of the RSS’s students’ wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, floated an outfit called ‘Youth Against Corruption’. At the same time, Arvind Kejriwal, who was running an organization called Parivartan, got together with flag-bearers of ‘soft Hindutva’, men like Baba Ramdev, Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and other such religious leaders, and established a group that called itself ‘India Against Corruption’. It seems that both these organizations, with very similar-sounding names, were established in accordance with the RSS’s plan of unleashing a countrywide agitation ostensibly against corruption. Accordingly, the RSS instructed its volunteers, a huge number of people spread all across India, to wholeheartedly participate in this movement. This explains why the overall ethos of Anna Hazare’s agitation at Jantar Mantar was no different from that of the RSS shahkhas-the same image of Akhand Bharat being displayed in the form of ‘Bharat Mata’! The only difference was that she held the Indian tricolor in her hand instead of the Hindutva bhagwa-dhwaj. RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat’s call to the youth of India to join the people’s movement against corruption and the presence of top RSS leader Ram Madhav at Anna’s dais at Jantar Mantar raise the very real possibility that the entire movement was engineered and directed in accordance with the agenda of the RSS. When some people raised questions about this, the men behind the movement became alert and felt it imperative to be a little less indiscreet. And so, at Hazare’s dais at the Ram Leela Grounds instead of well-known Hindutva leaders Ram Madhav and Uma Bharti, another RSS activist, Kumar Vishwas, was present throughout the thirteen-day fast, and even handled the task of managing the dais.
Can ‘Team Anna’ deny that the RSS had sent the same Kumar Vishwas to manage the dais in the very same Ram Leela Grounds during the recent agitation led by Baba Ramdev? The Hindutva hand behind the movement does not stop here, though. Top VHP leader Ashok Singhal is on record as having thanked the volunteers of the RSS for making Anna’s movement a success. He revealed that members of the Dharamyatra Mahasangh, a unit of the VHP, ran food stalls at the Ram Leela Grounds, where some 20, 000 people were fed every day. In accordance with the RSS’s plans, vast numbers of people were mobilized to come out on the streets to support Anna Hazare. Top RSS leader Bhaiyyaji Joshi declared that RSS volunteers were fully active in Anna Hazare’s movement. The BJP youth leader Tejinder Pal took up the task of gherao-ing the residences of Congress MPs, while BJP MPs Anant Kumar, Gopinath Munde and Varun Gandhi made their appearance at the Ram Leela Grounds. One day before Anna went on his fast, MG Vaid, top RSS leader, issued a statement indicating that the RSS had given its full support to his movement. And that explains why and how RSS activists present at the Ram Leela Grounds as well as in other parts of India where Hazare supporters had gathered kept raising their favourite slogans of ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ and ‘Vande Mataram’, and in that same style and with the same sort of fervor as they are wont to in their shakhas. This is clear indication of the massive presence of RSS activists in the movement. That Hindutva forces strongly backed Anna’s movement and participated in it in a big way across the country, even in remote parts, is clearly evident. To cite just one instance, a social activist called Gopal Rathi, a member of the Samajwadi Jan Parishad, wrote to Prashant Bhushan, a key member of the so-called ‘Team Anna’, from a small town called Pipariya in Madhya Pradesh, saying that in his town BJP activists had donned Anna-caps and launched a motor-cycle rally to protest against Hazare’s arrest. On the occasion of Janamashtami, VHP activists, he wrote, organized a recitation of the Sundar Kand, a section of the Ramayana, in support of Hazare. Volunteers of other Hindutva outfits, he write, such as the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Durga Vahini, and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, also organized a number of programmes to express their solidarity with Anna Hazare.
But this sort of overwhelming support for Anna Hazare from Hindutva forces was not limited just to this little-known town of Pipariya. The fact is that the same story was repeated across the country, in virtually every village, locality and city, where activists of the RSS and its associated outfits proved to be the backbone of the agitation. For me the important question is not why the RSS participated in Anna Hazare’s movement. This was, after all, its own decision. As far as I am concerned, the key question is this: How did folks raising Gandhian slogans and who never tire hailing secularism become a part of an RSS-backed scheme? This is a very important question that must be asked and must also be answered. How did people like Medha Patkar, Swami Agnivesh, Prashant Bhushan and Sandeep Pandey, and many other such activists, who have all along opposed communalism and have themselves been targeted by communal forces, fall prey to this RSS conspiracy and get involved in an RSS-backed movement? Their stance has greatly troubled millions of Dalits, Adivasis and religious minorities of this country, who have not hesitated to express their distaste for Anna Hazare’s movement, not least because of its being so closely linked to Hindutva forces. Is it that these activists simply failed to understand the draconian nature of the Jan Lokpal that Anna Hazare and his Hindutva backers are demanding? Is it that they have failed to understand the nature of the forces at work behind the mob demonstrations that we recently witnessed? Is it that the secularism that they kept talking about earlier was a pretence? These are questions that they have to answer. It goes to the credit of a number of leaders, activists, and intellectuals from the Dalit and OBC communities to have pointed out not only how the Anna Hazare-led movement and many of its demands militate heavily against the oppressed castes but also how it is heavily communal, being closely allied to the Hindutva agenda. The noted writer Mudra Rakshas, for one, plainly declared, ‘The Jan Lokpal represents the agenda of the Indian Savarna middle-class, which, while claiming to be modern, continues to cling to the communalism of the RSS’. SK Panjam, editor of ‘Dalit Today’, believes that Hazare’s Jan Lokpal is a new tool of Savarna Hindu revivalism. For his part, Rajvir Yadav of the Arjak Sangh insists that it is an assault on the Indian Constitution by the forces of Savarna Hindu chauvinism. Many other ideologues from the oppressed castes opine that Anna Hazare’s movement has been propped up as part of a conspiracy on the part of Hindutva forces to stop the caste-based census and stall the passing of the proposed bill against communal violence. True to form, the dominant Indian media has deliberately ignored such voices, thus revealing, as Anna Hazare’s movement also does, its Savarna casteist and Hindu communal character.
- Anna’s social fascism – By Kancha Ilaiah (Sep 7, 2011, Asian Age)
- Anna’s Philosophy: Despotic and Naive – By Praful Bidwai (Sep 7, 2011, Nav Hind Times)
- Anna Hazare movement: a skeptic’s view – By Asghar Ali Engineer (Sep 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Anna Hazare And Hero Worship In India – By Prof. Surendra Rote (Sep 1, 2011, Countercurrents)