IAMC Weekly News Roundup - April 28th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 28th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

‘Gujarat Muslims forced to change names, undergo purification, to live in Hindu localities’ (Apr 26, 2014, Daily Bhaskar)

Praveen Togadia kicked off a hornet’s nest when he commented that Muslims living in Hindu-dominated locality should be evicted. His comments came as a rude shock and left the political parties seeking cover. Even, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was forced to issue a statement and disapproved of “petty statements by those claiming to be BJP’s well-wishers”.

It appears that incident of discrimination against members of Muslim community are not restricted to Praveen Togadia’s comment. A report published in prominent British newspaper, Independent, cites an example of Gujarat’s Bhavnagar, where members of the minority community were discriminated upon by member of majority community.

Ali Asgar Zaveri, a scrap dealer, has been unable to acquire his property – in a Hindu dominated area – because of his religion. “For the last few months, residents of the Krishna Nagar neighbourhood have been sitting outside Mr Zaveri’s property, chanting Hindu prayers and banging metal plates in protest,” the article quoted. Though Togadia was reprimanded by the Election Commission and the top brass of his party, his statement seems to have worked its magic.

The Krishna Nagar neighbourhood, where Zaveri brought his home, has been particularly tense. The people are reluctant to let new Muslim dwellers in their locality, the article quoted. One Muslim dweller in Krishna Nagar was forced to change his name and underwent a ‘purification ritual’ in order to remain in the neighbourhood after buying their house. However, some people revealed that eating habits as one of the reasons behind not alloting homes to Muslims in Hindu dominated areas.

“They claimed most Hindus in Gujarat were strictly vegetarian and the residents would be “upset” by the eating habits of non-vegetarian neighbours. Several said they feared the arrival of Mr Zaveri would lead to more Muslims and that the neighbourhood would stop being Hindu. One man claimed Muslims were not clean,” the report added.



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‘Clinching evidence’ to arrest Modi in Ishrat case, Sibal says (Apr 28, 2014, Times of India)

Union minister Kapil Sibal raked up alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan on Monday to hit out at Narendra Modi saying the BJP’s PM nominee and Amit Shah were being “shielded” despite existence of “clinching” evidence to arrest them. “I want to ask who is shielding Modi and Shah when, according lawyers like us, there is clinching evidence to arrest them in the case of fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others,” Sibal told reporters here. The hard-hitting attack by Sibal came on the last day of campaigning for the single-phase polls in Gujarat to be held on April 30.

Joining Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other leaders in attacking Modi’s development model, Sibal said, “… Many models are being talked about in the country now, but this is an encounter model of Gujarat.” Elaborating about “clinching evidence” Sibal said, “There are call records of talk between accused police officer DG Vanzara and the then minister of state for home Amit Shah at the time of encounter and before the encounter that took place on June 15, 2004. “There are statements of police officers under CrPC 164 pointing fingers at them,” the minister said.

Quoting from resignation letter of Vanzara, Sibal said, “Vanzara has said that ‘being field officers, they have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government’.” “Clearly, all this could not have happened without Modi’s knowledge,” he alleged. “All the pieces have now fallen into place. The highest authority in the state, from the evidence as disclosed, now needs to answer. Courts need to stand up for human rights and deal swiftly against those who, through fake encounters, eliminated people,” Sibal said. Responding to a query that whether the CBI which works under the Central government is protecting Modi and Shah from arrest, Sibal said, “CBI is not working under the Central government”.

CBI, investigating the alleged fake encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others, has not included any political leaders in chargesheets filed by it but has charged police and IB officers for murder and criminal conspiracy among other things. When asked if any top Congress leader in Central government is “soft” on Modi and Shah and is instrumental in keeping them out of the CBI chargesheet, Sibal replied in the negative. On the snooping controversy, Sibal said his government will appoint a judge to probe the incident before May 16. When his attention is drawn to reports in media that some retired judges have declined to head the commission appointed by Centre to conduct inquiry into alleged snooping of a woman architect in Gujarat, Sibal said,”I do not believe in newspaper reports … Why should I believe in newspaper reports?

On the issue of land dealings of Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra which the BJP has alleged to be dubious, Sibal said, “They are levelling these allegations for the last two years … Let them conduct inquiry into the issue”. Interestingly, Sibal had earlier said Narendra Modi was a “potential accused” in the Tulsiram Prajapati murder case and sought interrogation by CBI. The BJP had rubbished his allegations then.



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Election Commission directs FIR against Pravin Togadia for ‘hate speech’ (Apr 22, 2014, Times of India)

The Election Commission has directed the district administration of Bhavnagar to file an FIR against VHP leader Pravin Togadia for a hate speech on Saturday when he called for the forcible eviction of a Muslim family from a Hindu-dominated locality.

On Monday evening, Gujarat’s chief electoral officer Anita Karwal said, “We have inquired about the Bhavnagar incident and have directed the district administration to file an FIR in the matter.”

Earlier in the day, Togadia denied having made such a speech and threatened to sue publications, such as TOI, that had carried reports of his hate speech. He was supported by Ram Madhav of RSS who tweeted, “Pravinbhai had not said anything that was attributed to him. It was a fabricated news. No swayamsevak (RSS volunteer) thinks on those lines.”



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Police complicity a trend in targeted communal violence: Wajahat Habibullah (Apr 21, 2014, Twocircles.net)

The former Chairman of the National Commission for Minorities, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, today expressed his concern on incidents of “targeted communal violence” in the country in which the police force had reportedly played a dubious role. Delivering the fourth K. P. Singh Memorial Lecture on “India’s Emergence as a Nation: Its Triumphs and Tragedies” at the Aligarh Muslim University today, Habibullah made a scathing attack on the partiality of the police force saying, “Disturbingly, all cases of communal violence investigated by the National Commission for Minorities followed a trend of police complicity, wherein the police had colluded not only with the dominant community but also with aggressive groups to perpetrate violence”.

Elaborating the short comings in the justice delivery system, which presently prevails as far as victims of communal riots are concerned, Habibullah, who is also a former Secretary to the Government of India, said, “Existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) have proved inadequate in addressing targeted violence in the country”. Habibullah said that in the year 1986, the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi had himself taken the initiative in investigating the role of the police in the communal violence in Hashimpura in district Meerut, following the custodial death of 40 Muslim youth. He pointed out that despite the then Prime Minister’s intervention, “this case still lingers in the session courts and all accused policemen continued in regular service and many of them retired with honours”.

Habibullah regretted that the country lost an opportunity of containing such targeted violence when the “Communal and Targeted Violence Prevention Bill” was torpedoed in the last session of the Parliament. Habibullah said, “The most remarkable of the proposed legislation was that it held public servants accountable for their negligence or willful failure in controlling riots. This bill would have also given the right to the victims to be heard during the procedure of trial and made more victim friendly including the provision of victim protection”. Expressing his dismay over the manner in which this important piece of legislation was shot down by certain vested interest, Habibullah said, “The Draft Bill which failed to get approval of the Parliament, was attacked by right-wing groups for being ‘anti-Hindu’, though Hindu minorities too, were covered under the bill in states where they form a minority population”.

Habibullah lamented, “The government and civil society at large overlooked the need to address the discrimination, exclusionary practices and insecurities faced by the Muslim community on a daily basis. The Muslim community is clueless with how to deal with an open and certain discrimination”. Referring to the economic plight of the Muslims, despite the advent of a number of poverty alleviation programmes meant for their economic emancipation, Habibullah said, “Compared to the SCs and STs and other social and religious groups, while urban poverty in 2011 was the highest among Muslims, rural poverty among Muslims was also higher than that of other religious groups and of other Backward castes (OBCs). Besides, as will be evident from statistics, the rate of decline in poverty has also been the slowest in the Muslim community even when compared to the SCs and STs”.

Referring to a recent official report on urban literacy, Habibullah said, “If we compare the rate of increases in literacy among Muslims with other social and religious groups including the SCs, it is once again the lowest”. Quoting from the Justice Ranganath Mishra Report on Religious and Linguistic Minorities, Habibullah said, “The condition of Muslims in general are lower than Hindu OBCs who have the benefit of reservation and recent attempts by the central government to introduce 4.5 reservation to Muslim OBCs within the OBC quota have met with resistance”. Quoting again from the Ranganathan Mishra Committee Report, Habibullah said, “Muslims have been denied of equal participation in the development process”. …



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ANF official accused of killing Muslim youth a gallantry award winner (Apr 24, 2014, Indian Express)

A young constable of the Anti-Naxal Force (ANF) of the Karnataka police, which is at the centre of a controversy for opening fire on a Muslim youth, had received the President’s gallantry medal in 2013. The ANF constable Nave-en G Naik, who opened fire from his AK-47 assault rifle killing Mohammed Kabeer (23), was conferred the award for his role in a 2012 forest encounter with Naxals.

Naik, a fellow constable B D Pradeep and a deputy-commandant of the ANF A H Sha-nkar were involved in a gunbattle with Naxals on September 4, 2012 at the Baginamale-Cheru reserve forest near Subramanya in the Western Ghats. While a CID inquiry has been ordered into the firing that lead to the death of Mohammed Kabeer, no case has been brought against the constable who is widely believed to have pulled the trigger.

Despite pressure from civil rights groups for a CBI inquiry and filing of a case against the police personnel, the state Home minister K J George ordered a CID prob suggesting that any other action could demoralize the ANF personnel. Sources said that one of the primary mistakes leading up to the firing incident was the deployment of fully armed and trained anf personnel in routine police checks.

The incident has taken a communal turn with right wing groups like the Hindu Jagaran Vedike and the VHP questioning the Rs 10 lakh compensation granted by the state government to the family of the victim Mohammed Kabeer. Meanwhile, expressing solidarity with the family of the victim the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike and other Muslim groups are set to take out a protest march against the ANF killing from Mangalore to Sringeri on Thursday.



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Sting operation reveals Delhi Police let 1984 anti-Sikh rioters run free (Apr 22, 2014, Daily Mail)

A sting operation that purportedly showed the Delhi Police’s failure to act against those involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and its complicity with the government at the Centre has kicked up a political storm. The investigation conducted by Cobrapost – Chapter 84 purportedly showed former officers of the Delhi Police admitting to their failure in taking action as a force against the culprits. Some officers even claimed that top brass of the police colluded with the Congress government to teach Sikhs a “lesson”.

The news portal recorded the conversations of Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, the then Station House Officer (SHO) of Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO of Delhi Cantonment; S.N. Bhaskar, SHO of Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO of Srinivaspuri and Jaipal Singh, SHO of Mehrauli. These officers were in-charges of police stations in areas where maximum violence was reported after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. The news portal claimed that S.C. Tandon – former police commissioner – conveniently parried all questions while Gautam Kaul, then additional commissioner of police, straightaway rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting.

The portal said the recorded conversations of these ex-officers revealed that warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs went unheard by senior officers, and only two per cent of messages about arson and rioting that bombarded police control rooms were recorded. It further claimed that police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers, while others did not act for fear of punishment of being transferred.

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Tandon denied such charges. “There was no political pressure on me not to act. There was no such instruction passed on to me. If individuals got instructions at their own level, I cannot comment, but no officer approached me to complain that he was under political pressure,” he told Mail Today. Cobrapost claimed that some police officers dumped bodies of victims to minimise riot-related crimes and messages were broadcast directing police not to take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of “Indira Gandhi zindabad”.

“We decided to go and hear from the policemen under whose watch the incidents of rioting, arson and murders happened,” said Anirudh Behl, Cobrapost editor. The portal claimed Amrik Singh Bhullar, who was then the SHO in Patel Nagar, had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them of instigating and even leading frenzied mobs. At least three officers interviewed by Cobrapost were “unanimous in condemning the dubious role of S.C. Tandon in not providing leadership to the force”.



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Complaints registered against Ramdev for his ‘honeymoon’ remark against Dalits (Apr 28, 2014, Hindustan Times)

Three separate complaints were registered against yoga guru Ramdev in Nagpur and Ahmedabad under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for “insulting” the Dalit community through his controversial “honeymoon” remark against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Ramdev, a supporter of Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi, made the remark in Lucknow on April 25 and has drawn flak from all quarters since then.

“Had he (Rahul) married a Dalit girl, who knows, he might have become the PM. Sonia says first become the PM and then bring a foreigner as bride. He goes to Dalit houses to have picnics and honeymoon,” he had said. The city Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president, Ajay Patil, lodged a complaint at the Sadar police station in Nagpur on Sunday and submitted a video recording to substantiate the evidences that hurt the sentiments of Dalits in the country.

“We have requested the police station-in-charge to lodge an FIR on the basis of the VCD against the yoga guru immediately. If the police fail to take an appropriate action against Baba Ramdev, the NCP would launch an agitation in the city soon,” said Patil. Akhil Bharatiya Dhamma Sena, an organisation of neo-Buddhists, burnt an effigy of Ramdev on Sunday evening at the busy Variety Square in protest against his remarks on Dalits.

Bhim Sena, a Dalit organisation, too lodged a police complaint against Ramdev at Panchpaoli police station, a pre-dominantly Dalit area in north Nagpur. “We have booked an FIR against Baba Ramdev. Now, we are investigating the matter and would refer it to Lucknow for necessary action as it’s comes under the jurisdiction Lucknow Police,” said Dilip Khobragade, the police station in-charge of Panchpaoli.

“If the police fail to take an action against Baba Ramdev within a week, the Dalit organisations in Nagpur would ensure the closure of all medical stores which sell the medicines of Baba Ramdev,” warned Sanghapal Meshram, a senior Dalit leader. Nagpur has a seizable Dalit population and Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, along with half a million of his followers on October 14, 1956. An NGO in Ahmedabad also lodged an FIR against the yoga guru for “insulting” the Dalit community and demanded action against him. …



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Teachers force Muslim, lower caste students to clean toilets in India: Report (Apr 22, 2014, Times of India)

Some Indian teachers force children from lower castes and minority religions to clean toilets and sit separately from their classmates as part of “persistent” discrimination in classrooms, a rights group said on Tuesday. Human Rights Watch said pupils from marginalised communities often dropped out of school and started working as labourers rather than face continued humiliation at the hands of teachers and principals.

The 77-page study on schools was compiled through interviews with more than 160 teachers, principals, parents and students in four states which have large populations of low-caste poor, indigenous tribals and Muslims. “India’s immense project to educate all its children risks falling victim to deeply rooted discrimination by teachers and other school staff against the poor and marginalised,” said the report’s author Jayshree Bajoria.

“Instead of encouraging children from at-risk communities who are often the first in their families to ever step inside a classroom, teachers often neglect or even mistreat them,” she said. Children from Muslim communities were among those often made to sit at the back of classrooms or in separate rooms. They were called derogatory names, were denied leadership roles and were served food last, the report said.

The report comes as a mammoth general election is underway which is likely to vault Narendra Modi and BJP to power after a decade of Congress party rule. Some children said they were segregated and neglected because they were considered dirty, while Muslim students said they were called “mullahs”, a term for an Islamic cleric, instead of by their names. India’s Parliament passed landmark legislation in 2009 that guarantees state schooling for children aged six to 14 and enrolments have reached more than 90 percent nationally.

But HRW said the law does not contain punishments for those who discriminate in the classroom. Most education authorities have failed to establish proper mechanisms to monitor and track children, who were at risk of dropping out, and acting to ensure they were able to remain in school, the report said.



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Godman rapes 17-year-old girl promising miracle (Apr 27, 2014, Times of India)

A Class XII girl, aged around 17, was allegedly raped twice by a godman at his Bhiwsenkhori residence on Friday by promising to conjure special divine power that would make her maternal uncle and aunt accept her boyfriend. Gittikhadan police had to rescue the godman from public wrath after the incident came to light. The police arrested godman Somraj Gavai, along with his accomplice Sarika Borkar, and also seized aphrodisiac medicine and other paraphernalia for black magic rituals from Gavai’s place. On Saturday, the court remanded Gavai in police custody till April 28 and sent Sarika to magisterial custody.

It’s learnt that Neeta (name changed) was brought to city from Amravati around a month ago by her maternal uncle after her affair with a fellow villager. Neeta’s family opposed her choice and decided to send her to Nagpur for a change of mind. Neeta’s uncle had taken her to Gavai’s place to make her forget her boyfriend. Police said Gavai has been practicing occult at Bhiwsenkhori for the last four years with his visitors comprising local residents from weak economic background. He has been staying there along with Sarika whom he would introduce as his informally adopted daughter. Gavai claimed to possess spiritual healing powers. Sarika told the police she had been staying with Gavai after he cured her migraine problem.

Police said Gavai wanted Neeta’s uncle to leave her at his place for some hours as invoking the special power to prepare medicine would take time. Once Neeta’s uncle left, Sarika started convincing the survivor that Gavai would ensure that destiny changes for her. Sarika told Neeta that Gavai’s miracle medicine would make her uncle and aunt support her decision and get her united with her boyfriend. All Neeta had to do for getting the medicine was to stay back at their place and wait till it was readied by morning, Sarika told her. Sarika also urged Neeta to follow whatever Gavai asked her to do.

Gavai later started making his moves beginning with disrobing himself and Neeta before entering into physical relation with her. Sarika is learnt to have waited in bathroom when Gavai raped Neeta. It was when Gavai repeated the act, Neeta wanted to return home. Gavai escorted Neeta to her uncle’s place. Later, Neeta revealed her ordeal before her aunt who immediately raised an alarm in the neighbourhood. Local residents rushed to Gavai’s place and started venting their ire. Gittikhadan police team, under sub-inspector Pravin Patil, rescued Gavai and brought him to the police station.

Senior inspector of Gittikhadan police station stated that Gavai has been booked for rape and under relevant sections of Protection of Children Against Sexual Abuse Act 2012 and Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and Other Inhuman, Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act, 2013.



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Modi government didn’t utilize Rs 3,689 crore for dalit uplift (Apr 26, 2014, Times of India)

At a rally in Muzaffarpur in March, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had stood beside dalit leader Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, and declared that the coming decade would be a “decade of dalits” and weaker sections of the country. Back in Gujarat however, over the last decade nearly Rs 3,689 crore of funds for targeted programmes to uplift dalits and economically and socially backward classes, went unutilized, according to dalit group Navsarjan.

Interestingly, Modi, who heads the high-powered committee for scheduled castes and backward communities, chaired its meetings only twice in the last decade. This information was brought forth in an RTI application by Navsarjan on Friday. At a press meeting, Navsarjan member Kirit Rathod said: “Modi headed the high-powered committee that overlooks fund allocations under the schedule caste sub-plan. He chaired the review meeting twice, once in August 2003, when the committee was formed and in June 2004 – over the last decade,” says Rathod.

The reply also revealed that from 2007 to 2014, the government spent less, because of delays in releasing funds from the state government, than what was fixed for the year. “If in 2007 it was to spend Rs 1,097 crore, it spent Rs 554.16 crore. In 2013, if it was to spend Rs 4,095 crore, the amount spent was Rs 2,850 crore,” says Rathod. “This could have been avoided had the CM taken interest in reviewing the scheduled caste sub-plan fund allocations,” adds Rathod. Rathod’s application also revealed that most of the sub-plan allocation was made under major schemes and budgets like the Narmada canal system, roads and buildings, rural development, labour and employment department among others.



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Opinions and Editorials

Mamata Banerjee calls Narendra Modi ‘butcher of Gujarat’; here are 9 mythbusters on 2002 post-Godhra riots – By Shehzad Poonawalla (Apr 29, 2014, DNA India)

For those who have developed “selective and motivated” amnesia about the truths of 2002 riots in Gujarat and are suddenly buying into the myths being perpetrated by Narendra Modi’s PR machinery, here are a few myth-busters to refresh your memory and perhaps your conscience. Myth no 1: Post-Godhra violence was brought under control within 2-3 days by Narendra Modi’s government. Truth: “The violence in the state, which was initially claimed to have been brought under control in seventy two hours, persisted in varying degree for over two months, the toll in death and destruction rising with the passage of time.” Source: Final Order of the National human Rights Commission chaired by the very respected Justice JS Verma, …

Myth no 2: Gujarat Police acted fairly by taking action against rioters from every side. Truth: “We women thought of going to police and telling the police as in the presence of police, the houses of Muslims were burnt, but the police told us ‘to go inside, it is doom’s day for Muslims”. Source: PW219 testimony which was admitted as part of Naroda Patya judgment that led to conviction of Mayaben Kodnani, Narendra Modi’s cabinet minister who led murderous mobs during 2002 riots. …

Myth no 3: No conspiracy by the Gujarat government; post-Godhra violence was a spontaneous reaction. Truth: “A key state minister is reported to have taken over a police control room in Ahmedabad on the first day of the carnage, issuing directions not to rescue Muslims in danger of being killed.” “Voter lists were also reportedly used to identify and target Muslim community members”. Source: Report of Human Rights Watch, April 2002, Vol. 14, No. 3(C). …

Myth no 4: Modi allowed a fair prosecution of those accused in rioting and hence even his cabinet colleague Mayaben Kodnani was convicted. Truth: “The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected.” “Law and justice become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice. Public order as well as public interest become martyrs and monuments.”

“From the facts stated above, it appears that accused wants to frustrate the prosecution by unjustified means and it appears that by one way or the other the Addl. Sessions Judge as well as the APP (Shri Raghuvir Pandya, the public prosecutor in this case at the time was a member of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and contested elections from Ward 20, Vadodara in the 1996 Corporation Elections on a BJP ticket!) have not taken any interest in discharge of their duties.” Source: Supreme Court in Zahira Habibulla H Sheikh And Anr vs State Of Gujarat And Ors on 12 April, 2004 CASE NO.: Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004. …



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A sinister design – Editorial (Apr 23, 2014, The Hindu)

By asking Hindus not to allow Muslims to buy property in ‘Hindu localities’, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia was seeking to undermine the basic constitutional values of the nation. This was no ordinary ‘hate speech’ made in the rough and tumble of elections. Mr. Togadia’s intent was far more sinister than swinging the election mood in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party. It certainly appeared to have a more long-term objective: to create a feeling of insecurity among India’s Muslims, push them into ghettos, and encourage Hindus to engage in violent action against them. Article 14 of the Constitution guarantees equality before law within the territory of India, and Article 15 prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

Article 19(e) protects the rights of a citizen to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India. The VHP firebrand’s call to his Hindu audience was thus an incitement to violence and illegal actions, an invitation to encroach on properties bought by Muslims from Hindus. By asking his supporters to pressure the state to invoke – actually misuse – the Disturbed Areas Act to prevent Muslims from moving into so-called Hindu localities, Mr. Togadia was not displaying an ignorance of the country’s laws: he was actually setting a majoritarian agenda for the government.

That Mr. Togadia’s speech would not serve the immediate goals of the BJP was evident soon enough. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the mentor of both the BJP and the VHP, after first denying Mr. Togadia made such remarks, came out expressing disapproval of any discrimination on the basis of religion or caste. Coming as it did after party candidate Giriraj Singh’s speech that said the critics of the prime ministerial aspirant Narendra Modi had no place in India, but belonged in Pakistan, the BJP was expected to make an unambiguous statement condemning Mr. Togadia’s brand of politics. Mr. Modi tweeted that he disapproved of any irresponsible statement from those claiming to be the BJP’s well-wishers, but he was reluctant to go any further.

At the heart of the controversy is not the question of any deviation of the BJP’s campaign from the issues of development and good governance, as Mr. Modi sees it, but fears over the fringe elements of the Sangh Parivar exerting an excessive influence over a party seen as the front-runner in the race to form the next government. Distancing himself from Mr. Togadia can only be the first step: Mr. Modi needs to reassure voters that his is not a divisive, sectarian agenda, and that if he were to head the next government he would act in the interests of all sections of the country – and not serve merely as the prime minister of the Hindu majority.



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Welcome to Bhavnagar, where Muslims are free to live – as long as they change their name – By Andrew Buncombe (Apr 25, 2014, The Independent)

The bungalow on Bhavnagar’s Sanatorium Road needs a lick of paint but its spacious plot and location in a quiet residential area would draw the eye of many a prospective buyer. It certainly caught the attention of Ali Asghar Zaveri, a Muslim scrap metal dealer, who completed the purchase at the beginning of the year and was preparing to move in. But the 30-year-old Mr Zaveri has not been able to occupy his property because many of his prospective Hindu neighbours do not want to live next to a Muslim.

For the last few months, residents of the Krishna Nagar neighbourhood have been sitting outside Mr Zaveri’s property, chanting Hindu prayers and banging metal plates in protest. This week, the issue earned national attention after the leader of an extremist Hindu organisation delivered a speech in which he allegedly urged the residents to occupy the property by force and not to fear the law. “Go with stones, tyres and tomatoes,” Pravin Togadia, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), reportedly said.

Delivered half-way through India’s election process, the speech by Mr Togadia was condemned by presumed front-runner Narendra Modi, leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Yet the dispute has drawn attention to the increasing polarisation – political, social and geographic – between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat, where Mr Modi is serving his fourth term as chief minister.

When The Independent visited Krishna Nagar, four police officers outside the bungalow claimed everything was peaceful. Yet the sense of calm was perhaps deceiving. A rare Muslim family living nearby said they had been in the area for 30 years and had not experienced any problems. Yet they said Hindu residents did not want new Muslim arrivals. The atmosphere had become tense since Mr Togadia gave his speech. “We have had no problems. But in this area there are many new Hindu residents. The new people don’t want any more Muslims to settle here,” said Nilufa Lakhani, who has three children.

Her husband, Khalid, said that Mr Zaveri had come and asked him about the neighbourhood and that he told him it was peaceful. He said he knew many cases in Bhavnagar where Muslims had faced similar problems and that the situation had worsened since the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in which the city had suffered badly. “Whenever you go to buy or rent, the people are dissenting. Their mind-set is that we are traitors,” he said. Nobody in Krishna Nagar admitted to having been involved in the protests. One man said to have been an organiser refused to comment and loudly admonished his neighbours for discussing the matter. …



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The facade slips, Hindutva it is – By Rana Ayyub (Apr 22, 2014, DNA India)

Last week, on a popular and animated television news debate, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi was asked a simple question on the criminal culpability of a party leader distributing highly provocative material in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar. Never one to give in to Arnab Goswami, Lekhi, who is contesting from a New Delhi seat, stunned everyone on the panel when she said the riots were not to be looked in isolation – the population of Muslims had increased from 5% in 1947, the year of Indian independence, to 18% today.

“Are you asking for a demographic cap?” fired Goswami. Another panelist, industrialist and BJP supporter Sunil Alagh who has started a twitter campaign “Chaiwala Hi Upaiwala Hai”, was visibly shocked at the statement and distanced himself from it. Everyone on the show, be it the news anchor or the panelists, were outraged. If at all Meenakshi Lekhi did feel embarrassed, she concealed it rather well. But there are good chances Lekhi may have seen her comment as only fair and rational considering how long she and many of her party colleagues have waited to express themselves more precisely. Lekhi was among the many BJP leaders and cadres who had received clear instructions from the RSS, the BJP’s ideological backbone, to champion the rise of soft Hindutva, a policy mastered by Narendra Modi in Gujarat, and when needed, put the traditional RSS aggression and intolerance on display.

The BJP is contesting the Lok Sabha elections, but it is the RSS that has been calling the shots. Be it extending covert support to Anna Hazare’s India Against Corruption movement or undermining the role of the erstwhile luminaries of the party like Sushma Swaraj, LK Advani, and Arun Jaitley, the RSS has emerged stronger than ever. Having been out of power for nearly a decade, this was a make-or-break year for the Sangh. The old guard that was keen on adopting a more understated approach towards Hindutva was told it was time to bring the aggression back. Finding itself unable to reinvent itself for a modern, more urban electorate for 2014, it was decided that the selling point of the campaign would be a more alluring idea – development. It didn’t matter if it was a façade, the D-word would go on to define the BJP, and by extension the Sangh’s politics for a new generation.

When Lekhi presented those figures, she was following the Sangh mandate. She is not the one to make a political faux pas on national television. Her comments on the news debate do not reflect her naïveté or overconfidence. If at all, the arguments were woven craftily enough so that the message was loud and clear to those it was intended for. The liberals may have questioned her on social media, but for Lekhi, it must have been time to move on to another day, another show. Pretty much like the senior leader from her party who has been unequivocal and brazen about the Sangh’s polarising politics in rally after rally in Muzaffarnagar. Sample this hate speech: “A man can live without food or sleep. He can live when he’s thirsty and hungry. But when he’s insulted, he can’t live. We must seek revenge for the insult heaped on us.”

Though reprimanded for his speech by the Election Commission, Amit Shah has planted that damning fear in the Hindu community of Muzaffarnagar which is yet to come to terms with last year’s riots. The BJP chose to be silent on the issue. As for Shah himself, he tweeted that the speech should be seen as a no ball. Shah was personally handed over the reins of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh by Narendra Modi, his mentor from Gujarat where he served him as the Minister of State and gained a notorious reputation for managing the CM’s dirty tricks department. He was exiled from Gujarat after the Supreme Court gave him bail in three fake encounters in the state where he was charged with conspiracy, abduction, murder and obfuscation in investigation. It came as a surprise to many that with a criminal background, Modi made him the man in charge of one of the most crucial states in the country. An RSS pracharak since his college days, Shah, in Gujarat, was widely seen as a man who could get anything done. He was the man who understood caste dynamics like no one else and could manipulate it with his crass politics. …



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While we were deceiving ourselves – By Dilip Simeon (Apr 25, 2014, Indian Express)

Shekhar Gupta’s article, ‘Secularism is dead!’ (National Interest, IE, April 19), is significant. The elephant in the drawing room is the refusal by many opinion-makers to address the violence and brutality that has rampaged through India for decades. They don’t see it – worse, they don’t think it a big deal. (The closest Gupta gets to it is his use of the word “spank” – a telling euphemism). Gupta addresses himself to those capable of heading to American campuses. But they aren’t the ones in the refugee camps of Muzaffarnagar, Jammu, Juhapura or Vatwa.

Gupta reminds us of India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and the great heart of Hinduism. But these great institutions/ traditions have been systematically undermined. Over the decades, we have been unable to uphold the minimal requirements of a civilised polity – the protection of life. The liberal Hinduism that is the bulwark of Indian secularism is under attack from those who are mobilising like never before to seize power for a Savarkar-ite programme. Why is this irrelevant to democratic concerns?

I’d like to know Gupta’s views on the RSS and its activities. And whether it is likely that any other leader could be cited as encouraging the terrorist violence referred to by Swami Aseemanand and be let-off so lightly. Why have the bulk of the mainstream media blacked out Manoj Mitta’s book on the post-Godhra investigations? There is indeed a link between the violence of the Congress and the RSS; a seamless thread between 1984, 2002 and 2008. Fascism’s hold on power arises primarily from intimidation, and is exhibited at the first moment that state organs tolerate or enable illegal activities of fanatical cadre or crowds. That’s why ideological links are more significant than organisational ones. The bane of political analysis today is the reduction of all matters to a partisan dimension. And the most blatant deceit has been the failure to notice that extremism has gone mainstream.

There will be talk of forgetting the past. (It’s ironical that those who ask us to forget 2002 never let us forget 1528.) And, as Gupta says, there are safeguards. But no one is arguing as if yesterday we had democracy and tomorrow we shall have fascism. Nevertheless, the polity will undergo a big change, and the RSS will accelerate its quotidian erosion of liberal-democratic values. Will the BJP discipline the man who says all critics of Modi should emigrate to Pakistan? Did not Modi use similar language about the defence minister and Arvind Kejriwal recently? Do not such utterances signify an assault on the mind? Does India deserve a prime minister upon whom no requirement of reasonable speech may be imposed? …



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Rashomon Revisited – By Uday Chandra (Apr 26, 2014, EPW))

In Akira Kurosawa’s film Rashomon (1950), the celebrated Japanese film-maker presents viewers with four contending narratives of the death of a samurai in a forest. The woodcutter, a key witness who reported the murder found the dead samurai, alleges that a brigand had killed him in a duel after raping his wife. The brigand admits in court to killing the samurai after a duel, but insists that he had only seduced, not raped the samurai’s wife. The wife claims that she had been raped by the brigand, but having fainted subsequently, she did not know how exactly her husband died. Finally, the deceased samurai appears to testify before the magistrate. He says that his wife had been raped by the brigand, after which she urged the brigand to kill her husband, but the brigand refused to comply. The samurai then claimed that he killed himself.

The precise truth of what actually happened is obscured by the overlapping, self-interested narratives of different actors. Did the samurai kill himself or was he murdered? Was the samurai’s wife raped? Did she want her husband killed? Kurosawa does not allow us as viewers to reach any definite conclusions. Social scientists and historians are often placed in the same position as Kurosawa’s viewers. We cannot always be sure of what really happened in a particular situation. All we have are contending narratives of self-interested actors, each of which reveals a small shard of reality even as it contradicts another. Anthropologists call it the “Rashomon effect” (Heider 1988).

We see a Rashomon effect at work after the recent gang rape of a Santal woman in the little-known town of Suri in Birbhum district of West Bengal. Initial news reports alleged that the woman had been gang-raped under orders from a local panchayat. The woman’s crime apparently lay in her romantic liaison with a non-adivasi man, of which Santal village elders and youth alike disapproved. Some “national” English-language dailies even went on to suggest that punishments such as rape were typically “tribal”. A reworked version of long-standing colonial arguments concerning barbarism versus civilisation thus seeps into the postcolonial present.

Almost as soon as the initial reports trickled in, a coherent response took shape on social media, the blogosphere, and their real-life correlates. The response goes something like this: adivasi communities are inherently peace-loving and pro-women. Violence and rape are, according to these clicktivists, virtually unknown in adivasi life. Moreover, it is claimed that women occupy a centrality in adivasi lives and livelihoods. The implication is clear enough: either no rape had occurred at all or the rapists were non-adivasis or “outsiders” (dikus). Here, again, we may see an old colonial argument revived to defend a view of simple, pacifistic, gender-sensitive savages, from whom moderns estranged from their roots have much to learn.

Subsequently, a third narrative emerged. This focused on party politics and its impact on intra-community politics among the Santals of Subalpur village. A member of the legislative assembly affiliated to the Trinamool Congress (TMC) was believed to be one of the key signatories of the panchayat resolution ordering the rape of the concerned Santal woman if she refused to pay a hefty fine of Rs 25,000. According to this version of events, Santal men may have been prominent among the rapists, but the mastermind was the TMC representative, Ajoy Mondal, a non-adivasi. As such, the gang rape had indeed occurred, a combination of Santals and non-Santals were guilty of the crime, and the incident itself demonstrated the problems that arise when modern representative institutions are melded with “traditional” adivasi village norms. …



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Book Review

The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi & Godhra

Author: Manoj Mitta
Reviewed by: Nitya Ramakrishnan
Available at: Harper Collins Publishers, Noida, 2014; pp XVII + 262, Rs 599.. http://www.amazon.in/
Sins of Gujarat 2002 and Their Long Shadows (May 3, 2014, EPW)

This is a book on Godhra 2002 and thereafter. It is a chronicle of the toxic politics that began in Gujarat in February 2002 and shows no sign of ending as yet. Began afresh one should say, for Manoj Mitta reminds us that the origin was really Ayodhya, 1992. The destruction of the 16th century Babri masjid of Ayodhya in 1992 was a move to define the Hindu by alienating the Muslim as the enemy intruder, who would hereafter be subdued. The masjid was reduced to rubble without any great let or hindrance. Ten years on, by enabling the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to start its “Ram Mandir Nirman” at the same site, a stubbornly blind government set the stage for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002.

Mitta recalls lucidly the Vajpayee government’s prevarication on the VHP antics in Ayodhya, which then became the destination of kar sevaks. In large numbers kar sevaks of Gujarat boarded the Sabarmati Express to and from Ayodhya. On 27 February, on the way back from Ayodhya a coach of the Sabarmati Express caught fire at Godhra station. The Sabarmati Express fire is a charged issue, understood little and spoken of much. There is no credible accounting for the fire, other than that it started from within the train. The one question in every mind is, “Did the Muslims on purpose set fire to the train carrying kar sevaks?” A firm answer is not possible today. The scorching patterns and the passenger accounts suggest an unnoticed smouldering ember lying inside the train eventually erupting into a conflagration. The tragedy is that no rational, competent investigation was conducted into the issue. The Gujarat police relied on near amateurs, some of whom frankly admitted that they had no experience of such matters. An accidental fire in the melee is not ruled out. Nor is deliberate arson, though no genuine lead exists to explain the latter.

Chapter 1 of the book, “The Enormity of Godhra”, is about the fire in the train and the subsequent police investigation. Mitta painstakingly notes the sequence of the train’s entry into and exit from the platform in Godhra station. Importantly, he refers to the silence of the surviving passengers standing at the very spot in the train passage, which gives the lie to the police case that men armed with jerry cans of petrol entered coach S-6 and poured petrol to set the passage alight. He also relates how petrol vendors changed their stories a year on to suit the prosecution theory. He writes of the numerous unjust arrests in this politically fraught case amidst the rhetoric of “terror”. If the prosecution theory is a lie then what gives? The question cannot be answered unless the material and efficient cause of the fire is known. And, that as Mitta says, is “shrouded in mystery”.

Why is it shrouded in mystery? Were the leads followed up, obfuscated or simply missed? Strangely, Mitta does not deal with the absurdity of police theories in the face of zero clarity on the cause of the fire. Mitta poses the question of “whether the arson was a pre-meditated crime or the consequence of a spontaneous riot”. Arson is by definition a premeditated crime. Does he mean to ask whether it was arson or an accident during a spontaneous riot? This is in fact the fundamental issue. Unfortunately, it is not taken logically forward.

At times, Mitta seems to use the term “arson” as synonymous with “fire”. At other times he seems convinced that the fire was deliberately caused and so the toss up is only as to the moment of deliberation. Did it happen on the spot, or was it planned a day earlier? Who can disagree with Mitta when he says “no provocation could justify the mass killing”? Sadly, the ethical principle is of little help in assessing whether there was a deliberate killing and if so by whom. One cannot be quite sure what Mitta means to say, for he also suggests that the provocation offered by the kar sevaks to the Muslims could have led to a finding of “unlawful assembly driven by a common object”, which in turn could have led to a reduced punishment. …