IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 27th, 2012
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Cops turned a blind eye to tell-tale signs of tension
- Ruling BPF legislator arrested for Assam violence
- 20% of banned hate sites put up by Hindu groups
- Raj Thackeray shows his Hindutva colours as he demands resignation of top officials over Mumbai violence
- Babri case: SC to hear CBI plea against Advani
- Gomtipur riot: HC upholds order for separate trials
- Stabbing victim bleeds to death at Indore police station
- Geetika Sharma suicide case: Have police messed up probe?
- BJP finds itself isolated as Parliament deadlock continues
- Police Inspector arrested for raping Dalit girl
Opinions & Editorials
- The 50-50 Shot: Gogoi’s Hindu card gamble is biting back – with the Bodos – By S.N.M. Abdi
- Hate begets hate – By Harsh Mander
- Sowing the whirlwind in India – By Aijaz Zaka Syed
- Imagining a new national politics – By Yogendra Yadav
- UPA’s Tunnel Vision – By M.J. Akbar
- ‘Unclean’ and outcast – By Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed
In a country where religious intolerance and communal hatred dominate the news nowadays, here is something that goes to show that all is not rotten and ugly. Muslim residents of Joshimath in Uttarakhandoffered Eid namaaz (prayers) on Monday in a gurdwara (Sikh temple), after being invited in by its head priest, according to the local media. There is no mosque or idgah in Joshimath, a town perched above the Alakhnanda deep in the Garhwal Himalayas. Usually its 800-odd Muslim residents offer namaaz at the town’s Gandhi Maidan, a public ground.
On Monday, however, Gandhi maidan had turned into slush. It had been raining heavily for several days and Eid, the festival day too dawned in a downpour. The Muslim community was struggling with the problem when the head of the local gurdwara sent a heart warming message to them- The Muslims could use the main hall of the gurdwara for offering namaaz. So, at 9:30am, the congregation of Muslims in bright new clothes trooped down to the gurdwara and offered the ritual prayers in the big hall. After the ceremony, they embraced the Sikh community members waiting outside the hall. Some Hindus from the town were present too and offered greetings to the other two communities.
Sardar Buta Singh, Prabandhak of the gurdwara, later told media persons that he had extended the invitation to the Muslims to help them in their crisis. Maulvi Asif was quoted by media as saying that by solving their problem, the gurdwara committee had presented an example of humanity and respect towards all religions. He said that the Muslim community was thankful to the committee. Joshimath is located about 250 kilometers from Rishikesh on National Highway 58. It is close to two important pilgrimage centers – Badrinath of the Hindus and Hemkunt Sahib of the Sikhs.
- Muslims offer Eid prayers at gurdwara in U’khand town (Aug 23, 2012, Indian Express)
Formation of a non-Bodo organisation and the police’s failure to anticipate the consequences of some “minor incidents” in May fuelled the ethnic tension between Bodos and Muslims that spread across the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts, feels a section of the police and a large number of residents of Kokrajhar. In an incident, which was initially thought to be a “minor one”, the signboard of an Idgah at Bedlangmari in Kolkajhar was allegedly removed by some “unknown persons”. An FIR was lodged by one Mohammed Rafique Islam at Kokrajhar police station on May 26. The Bodos were under suspicion in connection with the incident.
“The police ignored the complaint compelling Muslims to call a bandh in Kokrajhar on May 29. The incident had hurt the religious sentiment of Muslims who had been offering prayers at the Idgah for the last 17 years. When we demanded action against those involved, we were told to shift the Idgah. We called a bandh. The Bodoland Territorial Council tried to foil the bandh. Shops were opened forcefully,” said Moniuddin, local leader of All Assam Minority Students Union.
BTC executive body member and leader of Bodo People’s Front Derhasar Basumatari said the Idgah was located on government land which was against a Supreme Court verdict. According to FIR lodged at Kokrajhar police station, two incidents of attacks on police party took place at Boruapara and Narabari on May 29. In both the cases, FIRs were lodged by two police officers. But no one was arrested as the police thought that action might trigger violence and hurt religious sentiment.
“Since the police did not take action against those who hurt the sentiment of Muslims, protest brewed and spread to other places. That was the beginning. At Bedlangmari, a man was fired at on June 10. In that case too the police did not take action. The minority community was losing faith in police,” Moniuddin said.
- 2 die in fresh Assam violence (Aug 23, 2012, Asian Age)
- Fresh violence erupts in Assam, 5 killed; curfew imposed (Aug 25, 2012, Times of India)
- Fearing more attacks, villagers not ready to leave Kokrajhar camps (Aug 22, 2012, Indian Express)
- Assam: Riot victims now fight diseases, hunger (Aug 23, 2012, IBN)
An MLA of the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), which is an ally of the ruling Congress in Assam, was arrested in the early hours today for his alleged involvement in the recent violence in the state. Mr Pradeep Brahma, alias Gara, who represents Kokrajhar (West) constituency, was arrested in his house at Dotoma near Kokrajhar town around 1 a.m. as seven cases had already been registered against him in several police stations.
The BPF is the ruling party of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) whose chief is Mr Hagrama Mohilary. Following the arrest and yesterday’s violence in neighbouring Dhubri district in which two persons were killed, indefinite curfew was clamped on Kokrajhar.
Army staged flag march even as Mr Brahma’s supporters started picketing on the railway track and National Highway 31. More than 80 persons have lost their lives and four lakh people have been rendered homeless in the violence in lower Assam districts of Korajhar, Dhubri and Chirang.
- MLA arrested for Assam violence, bandh hit life (Aug 23, 2012, Deccan Herald)
- Assam violence: CBI to probe cases against arrested Bodo MLA (Aug 25, 2012, Times of India)
- Assam riots: CBI likely to probe 7 more cases against MLA Pradeep Brahma (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
- Protests in Kokrajhar as Bodo MLA held for riots (Aug 24, 2012, Times of India)
The clamour over Pakistan fanning communal passions in India through social networking sites has missed a crucial detail. Around 20% of the web pages – blocked by government agencies – were uploaded by right-wing Hindu fundamentalists seeking to polarize the country on communal lines. In these posts doctored images or videos showing alleged atrocities against tribal Bodos by Muslims have been tagged with provocative captions and point to extremist Hindu groups trying to fish in troubled waters to target minorities and fan tensions. Sources in agencies involved in scanning internet and blocking inflammatory web pages say several posts had pictures or videos of Tibetans self-immolations in protest against Chinese occupation. These posts were, however, captioned as atrocities against “Assamese Hindus” by “illegal” migrant Muslims. “Several images had been cropped in a way to obliterate the background that could have revealed the actual context of the pictures,” said an official.
Agencies have also found clues indicating a large number of SMSs that spread panic among the northeast Indians living across the country were also generated by fringe Hindu groups. The panic led to a mass exodus of people from the north-east from several cities, including Pune, Bangalore and Chennai. “Everyone is trying to ride the Assam conflict bandwagon for their own parochial and political gains. Right-wing Hindu groups have played a major role in spreading panic among the north-easterners,” said the official. Their portrayal of all Bodos as Hindus is also inaccurate as some are Christians. Sources said days before the exodus from Bangalore began, rabid SMSs about killing of four persons from the north-east and a fatwa being issued against people from the region started doing the rounds. These messages are suspected to have been spread by right-wing groups too.
A recent input from Bangalore about three women planning to bomb a train turned out to be a red herring. Later, the input was traced to an activist of Bajrang Dal. Videos allegedly showing unfurling of a Pakistani flag on August 15 in Hyderabad were uploaded questioning the integrity and patriotism of Muslims in the Indian city. The video was found to be that of Pakistan’s Hyderabad. Another right-wing group, inspired by Dara Singh, the killer of Australian missionary Graham Steins, called the Assam conflict a handiwork of Christian missionaries who have allegedly armed Bodos.
“Several right-wing groups are trying to increase their influence in the north-east. Some mainstream groups too have been trying to woo tribals across the nation and so have openly pledged support to Bodo struggle. They see the present conflict as the best situation to make inroads in the north-east. The attempt is also at polarizing the entire nation as Indians versus immigrant Muslims to gain political ground,” said the official. Several Hindu groups have also come forward to help fleeing north-easterners. RSS and certain other Hindu outfits arranged for food and other services for north-easterners fleeing Bangalore. They even exhorted them to not to flee as the group would protect them.
- Govt cracks down on Twitter (Aug 24, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Twitter removes 6 accounts resembling PMO (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
- Fake PM accounts removed from Twitter (Aug 25, 2012, Central Chronicle)
- Milind Deora’s Twitter account ‘suspended’? (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
Raj Thackeray shows his Hindutva colours as he demands resignation of top officials over Mumbai violence (Aug 23, 2012, India Today)
Till now Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray had been speaking against the influx of north Indians into the state. On Tuesday, his speech had a Hindutva tilt even though many said it was only marginal. Raj started his speech by slamming home minister RR Patil and Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik for not being able to control the violence during a protest rally at the Azad Maidan organised by the Raza Academy to highlight the killing of Muslims in Burma and Assam. “The police had prior information that the Raza Academy rally was going to turn violent, yet they allowed it to happen. While here I have told them that my rally would be peaceful and yet they are sending me notices and refusing to give me permission,” said Raj.
He then went on to his pet issues of how those who were involved in the violence were not from the state but belonged elsewhere. But this time there was a change in the narrative. Instead of targeting states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, Raj also brought in the Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims into it. Displaying a Bangladeshi passport which he claimed was left at the scene of the August 11 riots by a rioter, Raj said, “This is a single entry passport, they come into the country and throw the passport away. Countless such people come into the state and make different parts of the state their den.” He further questioned why after the demolition of Babri Masjid, Mumbai was engulfed by riots. “Riots only erupted in Mumbai and not in any other state, why? You can’t call it a coincidence that after the recent August 11 riot, a similar riot erupted in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. What is the connection between these two places,” asked Raj.
The only connection, according to him, was that Bihar and UP were being infiltrated by Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims who are using these states to enter into Maharashtra. “It is these people’s mohallas (localities) and addas (meeting points) that is going to create problems for you in the future,” he added. He clarified that he was not changing his agenda and turning towards Hindutva. “Just because the August 11 protest was organized by Muslims, a few in the media have interpreted my rally today as being towards Hindutva. I only know one religion and that is Maharashtra dharma, I don’t understand any other religion,” said Raj. He further warned in his speech that no one should ever cross the ‘boundary line’ of beating up the police. “We have not crossed the line and we will never cross it. However, if anyone ever crosses the line and touches a cop again then I am telling you, don’t care what religion he belongs to, just beat him up,” he said adding that he won’t tolerate the police being manhandled in the state.
“You have mentally harassed the police so much, that tomorrow the cops will simply put their hands up and say that they won’t interfere in anything. Where will the common people go then?” Raj said. Sources said that Raj has tilted only slightly towards Hindutva and not completely because unlike the Shiv Sena a huge section of his support base comprises Muslims and he would not want to alienate them. Which is why in his speech though he brought out the issue of Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslims, he said that he was not veering towards Hindutva and said, “My only religion is Maharashtra (state)”.
Earlier in the day, there was high drama as Raj began his ‘morcha’ from Mumbai’s Girgaum Chowpatty to Azad Maidan, with close to a lakh people joining him from Girgaum. The crowds swelled to such an extent that even before Raj could begin his walk towards Azad Maidan in CST, the police had to request him to get into a car and drive till Azad Maidan as they were finding it difficult to control the huge crowd which virtually brought Mumbai to a halt. Raj drove in his vehicle till Marine lines and from there he walked till Azad Maidan along with his supporters.The police were apprehensive about the rally as two of the spots from where Raj and his supporters went were near minority dominated areas.
- After Raj’s rally, Sena returns to Hindutva agenda (Aug 23, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- FIR against MNS for Chowpatty-Azad Maidan march (Aug 22, 2012, IBN)
- Raj Thackeray challenged by SP’s Abu Asim Azmi, says find Bangladeshis, get Rs 2 crore (Aug 22, 2012, Indian Express)
- Politics over Mumbai violence claims police chief (Aug 23, 2012, Hindustan Times)
The Supreme Court on Friday said it will hold hearing in December on the CBI’s plea challenging the Allahabad high court verdict discharging BJP leader LK Advani, Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray and 19 others in the Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy case. A bench of Justice HL Dattu and Justice CK Prasad directed the listing of the matter in December’s first week.The apex court March 4, 2011, had issued notice to Advani, Bal Thackeray and the others on a petition by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) which challenged their discharge in the Babri Masjid demolition conspiracy case.
Advani and 20 others were discharged by the Allahabad high court on May 20, 2010, of the charge that they conspired to demolish the 16th century Babri Masjid by radical Hindu activists on Dec 6, 1992, triggering widespread communal violence. Besides Advani and Thackeray, other accused include Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders MM Joshi, Vinay Katiyar and Uma Bharti, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Vishnu Hari Dalmiya, Sadhvi Ritambrara, and Mahant Avaidyanath, and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kalyan Singh. The CBI, in its appeal, has said that the reasons recorded by the trial court discharging Advani and other were fallacious.
It said both the trial court and the high court decided that there were two categories of accused, and 21 people (Advani and others) belonged to the category of instigators and distinct from those who actually executed the act of demolition. “An artificial distinction was made by the trial court attempting to assign a role in respect of each of the accused persons and to see which offences were made out,” said the appeal. “The trial court erroneously came to the conclusion that 21 persons were not entitled to be tried in the crime case No. 197/1992 (actual act of demolition) but should be tried under crime case No.198/92 (instigation).”
This “classification is entirely unjustified and is unattainable” the CBI said and contended that all the “offences (instigation and actual act of demolition), form part of the same transaction.” The CBI had initially filed composite charge sheet against 49 people and asked the Uttar Pradesh government to ensure that their trial took place by the same court. However, the special court separated the 21 BJP, Shiv Sena and VHP leaders and directed their trial in Rae Bareli whereas the remaining 28 were to be tried in Lucknow.
The appeal said that the high court verdict discharging Advani and others of the offence of criminal conspiracy “is inconsistent with the previous judgment rendered by the Allahabad high court on Feb 12, 2001.” The Lucknow bench of Allahabad high court by the 2001 order had held that the trial court committed no illegality in taking “cognizance of joint consolidated charge sheet” and “all the offences were committed in the course of the same transaction to accomplish the conspiracy”. The CBI had moved the apex court Feb 18, 2011, nearly nine months after the high court verdict.
- BJP leaders held on way to strife-hit Bareilly in UP (Aug 25, 2012, Yahoo)
- Mail appeared after bid to disrupt COVA’s event (Aug 20, 2012, The Hindu)
- Tagore-Gandhi debate? Not in MP – BJP culture cell in Bhopal threatens police case on ‘anti-national’ play (Aug 20, 2012, The Telegraph)
- Saffron outfits have taken over Mangalore: Siddaramaiah (Aug 14, 2012, Times of India)
The Gujarat High Court has upheld the decision of the Ahmedabad City Civil and Sessions Court on a 2002 riots case reported from Gomtipur area of Ahmedabad to conduct separate trials for Hindu and Muslim accused. An accused had challenged the Sessions Court order at the HC and a single judge bench recently upheld the order while citing a precedence set by the Supreme Court.
According to details, two persons were killed in the rioting at Gomtipur on March 30, 2002. Later, the local police had arrested 44 persons, including 13 Hindus and 31 Muslims. Former BJP MLA from Shaherkotda Jitu Vaghela is also among the accused. Police had submitted a single chargesheet in the case. However, the concerned additional public prosecutor (APP) had, at the relevant time, moved an application to separate the trials of Hindu and Muslim accused in the interest of justice.
The APP had contended that since the two groups had separately formed unlawful assembly and had conflicting common object, they cannot be tried jointly. The trial court had allowed the application and ordered to separate the trials under the provisions of Section 218 of the Criminal Procedure Code. The order was challenged by an accused at the HC.
- Cong builds house of dreams on Narendra Modi’s turf (Aug 21, 2012, Times of India)
- Vaghela uses the BJP’s own tactics to attack Modi in Gujarat (Aug 25, 2012, India Today)
- To sell or not to, Gulbarg Society now a divided house (Aug 27, 2012, Times of India)
- Where is Democracy (Aug 16, 2012, Youtube)
A victim of stabbing bled to his death in Indore on Tuesday allegedly because the police insisted on completing formalities instead of rushing the teenager to a hospital for treatment. The state government on Wednesday asked IG (Indore) for a report within 24 hours stating that the allegation was serious and required immediate attention.
Ravi Dangi (19) and his friend Ankit Agrawal were stabbed by four youths in Anandnagar. Relatives and friends took them in an auto-rickshaw to Rajendranagar Police Station where, television footage showed, cops passed by Ravi, severely bleeding having been stabbed five times. While a friend held Ravi, police allegedly got busy with paperwork, recording statements for the next half-an-hour.
Ravi was then taken to the district hospital in an ambulance and later to M Y Hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Indore police, however, claimed that there was only a few minutes delay. Home Minister Umashankar Gupta said action, if any, would be taken only after a probe report is submitted.
- 4 constables arrested for throwing man out of running train (Aug 26, 2012, Times of India)
- Cops caught on camera accepting money from ruling SP MLA Vijay Mishra (Aug 22, 2012, Indian Express)
- June encounter killed 12 civilians (Aug 23, 2012, Deccan Chronicle)
- Eve-teasing shocker: As callous cops watch, stabbed youth bleeds to death in Indore (Aug 22, 2012, Indian Express)
The investigation into former MDLR airhostess Geetika Sharma’s suicide appears to have hit a dead end as the police seems to have botched up the case again. It drew the court’s ire for failing to keep details of the victim’s post mortem report confidential. The worst fears in the Geetika Sharma suicide case have come true. After struggling to arrest former Haryana minister Gopal Goyal Kanda amidst fears of losing evidence, the police appears to be messing up post his arrest too.
After failing to secure Aruna Chadha’s custody for confrontation, the court has now ticked off the force further for not ensuring confidentiality of the post mortem report. A defensive police hastily went public saying they had enough evidence and have added charges of criminal conspiracy and I-T Act. Special Commissioner of Police, Law and Order Dharmendra Kumar said, “The electronic media has been used to defame and cheat them. This is the evidence we have so far.”
Delhi Police haven’t had any success in this case. Aruna herself joined the investigation and in spite of their best efforts Kanda remained absconded for 13 days before surrendering. On Tuesday, too, police failed to follow the basic laws of judiciary and didn’t attach necessary papers in its plea for Aruna’s custody.
Mistakes like these have plagued the investigation from one and allowed Kanda to surrender on his own term. But Delhi Police claims that it was the pressure created by them that forced Kanda to join investigation. So far Gopal Kanda has remained evasive in the custodial questioning. In spite of a brave face put up by Delhi Police it is going to be an uphill task from here on to indict Kanda and his associate Aruna Chaddha for abetting Geetika’s suicide.
- Gopal Kanda’s funda: 60 hostesses for 3 aircraft (Aug 25, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- ‘Geetika Sharma could be a victim of false promises, threats by Kanda’ (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
- Geetika Sharma suicide: Kanda to be questioned again, Chada to be produced in court (Aug 21, 2012, IBN)
- CID: Qateel Siddiqui’s murder in jail was planned (Aug 23, 2012, DNA India)
Stalling Parliament for the second consecutive day, BJP today escalated its confrontation with the government but appeared isolated with ally JD-U expressing reservations over its strategy and Trinamool Congress rejecting its invitation to target the Prime Minister. Persisting with its demand that nothing less than Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation would satisfy them, the BJP disrupted proceedings in both the Houses.
Later, the party raised the level of confrontation with the Government by its members walking out of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on 2G scam when its demand for summoning the Prime Minister and Finance Minister P Chidambaram and key PMO officials. However, BJP’s strategy of disrupting Parliament did not find favour with JD-U whose leader Sharad Yadav, who is also NDA convenor, said discussions should take place in the two Houses on the coal block allocation issue. At the same time, the JD-U said it was with BJP for the sake of NDA discipline and unity but that would be at the most for another two days.
In an attempt to assess the mood other parties, Yadav talked to leaders of CPI-CPM, TDP, SP and BSP who favoured debate instead of disruption. On its part, BJP went on the offensive on its demand for Prime Minister’s resignation on the ground that former Telecom Minister A Raja and Dayanidhi Maran had to quit. “As A Raja had to go for 2G scam, and Dayanidhi Maran had to resign for his role in Aircel-Maxis deal, similarly the then Coal Minister Manmohan Singh has to go,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said. As the stalemate continued, Congress mounted attack both on BJP and the CAG accusing the government auditor of “crossing the limits” and the Opposition party of playing the police, prosecutor and the judge at the same time.
Trashing the BJP’s demand, party spokesperson Rashid Alvi said, “There is no question of the Prime Minister resigning… Prime Minister’s image is very clean… nobody turns an accused or delinquent only by BJP’s allegations”. Talking separately, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal spoke in similar vein. He said that the BJP was “running away” from Parliament as it knows that a debate would see the treasury benches ripping apart the Opposition charges.
- BJP should talk, not disrupt Parliament, says Congress (Aug 22, 2012, The Telegraph)
- Sonia asks Cong MPs to expose BJP’s ‘obstructionist’ tactics (Aug 23, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- TMC wants debate; rejects demand for PM’s resignation (Aug 22, 2012, Rediff)
- Entire week washed out in Parliament (Aug 24, 2012, Hindustan Times)
A police station in-charge and four others including a woman were arrested today in connection with alleged rape of a 19-year-old Dalit girl. Cheechli Police Station In-charge Sandeep Ayache and others were arrested today, Narsinghpur Superintendent of Police G G Pandey told reporters. Inspector Ayache had been suspended yesterday, following the rape complaint.
The victim was allegedly lured by a woman called Parvatibai, who promised her a job and introduced her to Ayache on May 7 this year. The police officer allegedly raped her, while Parvatibai threatened her of dire consequences if she revealed the incident. Next day, she was taken to a crusher owner at Barman by Omprakash and Amzad. The owner, Arun Jain and his associate, allegedly raped her.
The Inspector raped her again when she was in Jain’s captivity. After escaping from there, she lodged complaint with the police yesterday. Police then arrested Ayache, Parvatibai, Omprakash, Arun Jain and Amzad. Further probe is on.
- Sarpanch kills 10-year-old girl with hot tongs (Aug 25, 2012, Times of India)
- ‘Pallavi Purkayasta’s murder shows women are not safe in India’ (Aug 22, 2012, Indian Express)
- Woman working as bar singer gangraped by landlord, friends (Aug 21, 2012, Express India)
- Nashik: Teenager gangraped in moving car (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
Opinions and Editorials
The 50-50 Shot: Gogoi’s Hindu card gamble is biting back – with the Bodos – By S.N.M. Abdi (Sep 3, 2012, Outlook)
First things first: thrice as many Muslims have been killed in Assam in July-August than Hindu Bodos whose cause the BJP is so passionately advocating nationally. Some 56 Muslims lost their lives, compared to 17 on the Bodo side. Rampaging Bodos also mistook two Bengali Hindus for members of the minority community and shot them, but these two murders are still a state secret. The official death toll, 84, includes the nine unidentified bodies rotting in the police morgues. Chief minister Tarun Gogoi, speaking to Outlook, refused to divulge the exact number of dead Muslims and Bodos; he mumbled endlessly in the pin-drop silence of his study about how the publication of community-wise casualty figures would hurt national interests and hamper the return of normalcy in the Bodo Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD), where the savagery started in late July, forcing lakhs of people from both communities to flee their homes. “The burning question today is: will the Bodo terrorists again get away with murder as they have always done in the past, or will they be made to pay for their heinous crimes against humanity?” asks Devabrata Sharma, leading civil rights campaigner and professor of English at Jorhat College. Political analyst Noni Gopal Mahanta believes that Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, who rushed to the bleeding state, besides despatching P. Chidambaram and Sushil Shinde, might compel Gogoi to crack down this time on the Bodos, at least to assuage Muslim sentiments across India ahead of general elections. “There is so much at stake that I even foresee Gogoi losing his job if he doesn’t deliver,” says Mahanta.
Classified Special Branch figures accessed by Outlook reveal that whether their targets are Muslims or Adivasis, the Bodos have invariably inflicted more casualties than they have suffered. The reason is quite simple-the AK-47s Bodo militias were supposed to surrender after signing the 2003 peace accord but didn’t. An Assam government official disclosed that extremist groups like the Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) have as many as 350-400 automatic weapons in their arsenal in the four districts comprising BTAD-Kokrajhar, Chirang, Udalguri and Baksa. As killings spiralled in recent weeks, the Union home ministry had directed the Assam government to immediately launch a deweaponisation programme. But the administration is still dragging its feet. To be sure, the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF)-the political party launched after the peace accord-is a coalition partner in Gogoi’s government. But the BPF, like the BLT and NDFB, also enjoys the full backing of the BJP in its blatantly communal campaign against so-called Bangladeshi ‘infiltrators’. The nexus between BPF lawmakers – some are now in the dock for the anti-Muslim pogrom – and BJP leaders ranging from Guwahati MP Bijoya Chakraborty to L.K. Advani and Nitin Gadkari is an undeniable reality. On August 7, BPF MPs S.K. Bwiswmuthiary and Biswajit Daimary, Bodoland Territorial Council deputy chairman Kampa Borgoyari and All Bodo Students Union president Pramod Bodo shared the stage with Gadkari and retired Lt Gen S.K. Sinha during a seminar on ‘Bodo Hindus-Refugees in their own land: Bangladeshi Muslim infiltrators-the new kingmakers in an Indian state’, organised by the Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation in Delhi. C.K. Das, retired chief secretary of Assam and now a BJP full-timer, is known to liaise with the BPF leadership on behalf of the Sangh parivar.
Gogoi parried questions about the BPF’s cosy relationship with the BJP while sharing power with the Congress. “I have nothing to say at present because all political parties have agreed upon a ceasefire for the sake of peace. But being the CM, I am certainly not in the dark about what’s going on in Assam or Delhi,” he said. In the 2011 assembly elections, Gogoi easily got the better of both Hindutva parties-the BJP and AGP-by pandering to Hindu voters. Realising that the Muslims had deserted the Congress for the Ajmal Badruddin-led aiduf, Gogoi pulled out all the stops to court the Hindu constituency with stunning results. “Gogoi projected himself as the saviour of Assamese Hindus. His rhetoric put even the VHP and Bajrang Dal in the shade. Naturally, he stole the BJP-AGP’s thunder,” says Rashid Chowdhury, prominent high court lawyer and the brains behind the Citizens’ Rights Preservation Committee (CRPC). The Congress won an absolute majority, bagging 78 seats in a house of 126. “It suits Gogoi politically to pile pressure on the BPF to part company with the BJP…which poses a challenge to the Congress anyway,” adds Chowdhury. “But the BPF, which has its own extremist-supremacist agenda, might not comply; let’s not forget that the BPF is irresistibly drawn to the BJP.” The Bodos chose the terror path way back in 1987 with the slogan, ‘Divide Assam 50-50’, leaving behind a grisly trail of death and destruction. The first tripartite peace treaty between the Bodos, the Centre and state government was signed in 1993; the Congress ruled in both Delhi and Dispur then but the pact collapsed in no time under the weight of its own contradictions. So another accord was signed in 2003 when the BJP was in power at the Centre and Gogoi ruled the state. It had L.K. Advani’s blessings but was destined to be disastrous because the BTAD, covering some 8,795 sq km area, was handed on a platter to the Bodos who comprise merely 20 per cent of the population. And in the newly-created self-governing body called Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), 30 out of 46 seats were reserved for Bodos!
Devabrata, who is the chief advisor of the leftist United Revolutionary Movement Council of Assam (URMCA), says, “Nothing could be more undemocratic and discriminatory (than the creation of the BTAD-BTC). Democracy is all about majority rule. BTAD-BTC is just the reverse of that principle. How can 20 per cent rule over 80 per cent? Because the Bodos do not enjoy numerical majority, they are resorting to ethnic cleansing, targeting Muslims, Adivasis, Rajbanshis and even Assamese caste Hindus. The Bodos have become a law unto themselves. We stand for the dissolution of BTAD and BTC to stop the rape of democracy. Bodos comprise a little over six per cent of the state’s population but are demanding 50 per cent of Assam for the Bodoland of their dreams. Muslims comprise over 30 per cent of Assam’s population. Yet they have so far displayed exemplary patience despite grave provocations. What will happen if Muslims and other victimised communities unite and retaliate?” Sharma’s depiction of Bodo belligerence is borne out by Anjali Daimari’s response to Outlook’s poser about the ways and means to restore the peace. Daimary, convenor of the Bodo National Conference, an umbrella organisation of 25 Bodo outfits, replied: “Obviously there is no place for illegal migrants in BTAD. What’s even more crucial and non-negotiable is that all non-Bodos living in BTAD should be mentally prepared to meekly accept the leadership of the Bodos.” Asked to elaborate, she added: “There is simply no room in BTAD for bodies like the Anabodo Suraksha Samity, or Non-Bodos Protection Committee. Who are these Mahantas and Kalitas running the Samity? Assamese Hindus, Muslims, Bengalis, Rajbanshis, Adivasis, Nepalis or Saranias residing in BTAD must curb their egos for their own good. That’s it.” Clearly, the Bodos are a very confident lot today, having grown from strength to strength since 2003. They have reaped huge dividends from their investments in both the national parties. Besides running the BTC, they have extracted tangible and intangible benefits as partners in two successive Congress-led coalition governments in Assam since 2006. In 2006, out of the 10 BPF MLAs three were made ministers by Gogoi (whose regime was a bit shaky at that stage because the Congress had only 53 seats in the 126-strong legislative assembly). But in 2011 the Congress tally shot up to 78 seats. Now there are 12 BPF MLAs, but only one, Chandan Brahmo, is a minister. Significantly, the BPF has leveraged its political clout to send an MP to the Rajya Sabha (Biswajit Daimary), instal a Bodo judge in the Gauhati High Court (P.K. Mushary), a Bodo chairman in the Assam Public Service Commission (Gita Basumatary), a Bodo governor in the Shillong Raj Bhawan (Ranjit Sekhar Mooshary) and even a Bodo election commissioner (H.S. Brahma).
The recent massacre of Muslims has reopened the debate over the wisdom of signing peace accords with “agents of violence wearing a fig-leaf of ethno-nationalism”, to quote Ravindra Narayan Ravi, one of the Intelligence Bureau’s foremost experts on the Northeast. Ravi, who retired as special director in April, says, “The situation has worsened since 1993 when the state started appeasing radical ethno-nationalists for political gains and inaugurated as many as 21 ethnic-centric constitutional, statutory and administrative autonomous councils. Hiteswar Saikia (former CM) spawned seven. Gogoi has fathered 14. The BLT, responsible for much of the recent bloodshed, was supposed to have disarmed itself in 2003 but its core armed capability has remained intact with the tacit nod of the state. The government’s patronage of non-state agents of violence, alluring them with incentives for their smash-and-grab politics and the total collapse of the criminal justice system have created a criminogenic environment in Assam.” “The new councils have overnight created a large mass of disgruntled others who share the habitat but feel institutionally discriminated against by the state. Innumerable faultlines, hitherto latent or non-existent, emerged and unleashed centripetal forces of varying magnitude. Communities that peacefully existed for long are now gunning for each other. In the last two decades, Bodos, Muslims, Adivasis, Koch-Rajbanshis, Rabhas, Garos, Karbis, Dimasas, Nagas, Kukis, Hmars, Morans and Mishings have clashed frequently,” he adds. According to Ravi, “the Centre that underwrites Gogoi’s misadventures is a partner in his sins; the state government today is like a zombie with a Kalashnikov in one hand and wads of cash in the other-both generously supplied by the Centre!” Wajahat Habibullah, one of India’s most respected civil servants who now heads the National Commission for Minorities (NCM), has given the prime minister in writing that there is every danger of the Muslims in BTAD becoming militants in the future if their security is not ensured. The NCM report submitted after visiting Assam states that jehadi elements from the rest of the country might start sending lethal weapons to the troubled region if remedial action is not taken quickly. Devabrata, on the other hand, invoked Shakespeare. “The bard wrote that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The same can be said about Assam today.”
- Assam’s tragedy – By Harsh Mander (Aug 25, 2012, The Hindu)
- There We See Only The Stumps – By Kishalay Bhattacharjee (Sep 3, 2012, Outlook)
- The Assam tangle – By Samudra Gupta Kashyap (Aug 26, 2012, Indian Express)
- Achieving Just Peace In Bodoland – By Tanweer Fazal (Aug 26, 2012, Countercurrents)
The country is once again dangerously adrift in a stormy sea of competitive hate politics. The signs are both ominous and familiar – the systematic creation of hatred against people because of their ethnicity or religion; rumours and hate propaganda choking the internet; the public moral justification of violence against targeted communities on grounds of ‘larger’ alleged wrongs; and weak-kneed State action against people and organisations which preach hate and organise slaughter and arson. In what is probably the largest displacement of human populations by hate violence after Partition, four lakh Bengali Muslim and Bodo people are driven away from their homelands after attacks and the burning of their villages. They are living fearfully in cramped makeshift relief camps. In Mumbai, mobs protesting the Assam attacks and slaughter of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, run amuck, criminally set aflame public property and attack media and police personnel. Rumours of retaliatory attacks by Muslims against people from Northeast India in many southern cities have led to a panic exodus of migrant students and workers.
In district towns in which I have worked, I observed during the 1980s how dedicated communal organisations skilfully spread rumours, which manufacture hatred locally and provoke communal attacks. But hate propagandists are today equipped with sleek new vehicles of cyberspace and mobile phone technology, which they deploy to transport provocative falsehoods, rumours and emotive messages of hate across the country – and indeed across the world. These recast people of different ethnic or religious identities as the dangerous ‘other’, and foment suspicion, dread and loathing against them. Morphed pictures of bloody corpses near robed Buddhist monks in Myanmar, circulated through the internet and mobile phones, provoked protestors who gathered in Mumbai. Messages claiming that people from the North-east would be attacked in retaliation for the killings in Assam led to their panic exodus.
Even more hazardous is the creation of an alternative moral universe in which violent attacks on people of specified communities is accepted as defensible, even justified. The underlying ethical assumption is that it is acceptable to physically attack people who belong to a community which has committed a real or perceived wrong. The same rationale was meted out for the slaughter of Sikhs in 1984, ‘understandable’ anger against all Sikhs because two Sikh bodyguards murdered Indira Gandhi. Even today I hear people say that the carnage against Gujarati Muslims in 2002 was a natural outcome of spontaneous mass anger because Muslims allegedly burned the train and killed pilgrims in Godhra. The demolition of the Babri Masjid and the years of violence which accompanied it were explained by warranted anger because Muslims had demolished temples in medieval times. Whenever Christians are attacked, people immediately speak of missionary ‘conversions’, as though this in any way is cause for the killing of Christians.
In Assam, the violence of indigenous Assamese against the Bengali Muslim community is described by leaders of the BJP, All Assam Students Union and the Sangh organisations as righteous anger against ‘outsiders’. Economic refugees are emotively described as ‘infiltrators’ from Bangladesh, and although scholars estimate that only around 10% of the Bengali Muslims in Assam are illegal residents, by implication the attacks and ethnic cleansing of the entire community is rationalised. Likewise, radicalised Islamist leaders use persecution of Muslims to provoke and justify mindless violence of the kind witnessed in Mumbai. It is long overdue that the people of this vast diverse nation affirm that nothing – nothing – can justify the shedding of blood of even a single person, or sexual assault, or the burning of her properties, for no reason except that she belongs to the religious or ethnic community of a perceived wrong-doer. We cannot be selective in our espousal of non-violence, democracy and rule of law. If, for instance, we believe that there are illegal residents in Assam, the only legitimate demand is not mass violence and ethnic cleansing, but for due process of law to identify the illegal residents and if proved to return them to their homeland. This clouded moral universe is further blurred by compromised or weak-kneed political and administrative leadership, which fails to uphold the equal rights of all persons, regardless of their faith, caste or ethnic identity.
In Assam, the government entered into an accord with the Bodos for autonomy in Bodo-dominated areas. Bodo militants drove out Santhal descendants of tea plantation workers and Bengali Muslims in successive waves of attacks since 1993, and 1.75 lakh displaced people continue to live even today in refugee camps, for nearly two decades. The government did nothing to restore these displaced people to their homelands, and thereby incentivised ethnic cleansing. It is terrifying to consider the destinies of people now in fresh camps, if they, too, are not firmly assisted by a fair and caring state to return to their villages. But amid these storm clouds, hope still shines through. In a blog, Siddharthya Roy reports a meeting called by the Police Commissioner of Pune regarding the fear exodus of Northeastern people. He reports that the hall was full of Muslim people who unequivocally said ‘my home is open for them’. A maulvi mourned that 30 Assamese workers cleaned and repaired the old Masjid, left suddenly yesterday. “How am I to celebrate Eid without them?” The Mufti said, “If you receive an SMS that tells you to get angry about what’s happened in Assam, delete it. We will not fight battles in the name of Assam in Pune.” In Bangalore, Akbar Ali, convener of the Muslim Welfare Association appealed to people from the Northeast who were fleeing the city, “Those who feel unsafe in their homes are welcome to come to our homes and mosques to take shelter. We will protect you, but please do not leave the city. It is your city as much as ours.”
- How communal forces have eaten into Mumbai – By Rajdeep Sardesai (Aug 24, 2012, IBN)
- For an equal force – By Sujata Anandan (Aug 22, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Minorities vs. Minorities: The new right-wing game plan for 2014 – By Amaresh Misra (Aug 22, 2012, Times of India)
- Loops And Holes In The Narrative – By Uttam Sengupta (Sep 3, 2012, Outlook)
Insanity in individuals is something rare, suggested Nietzsche, but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it’s the rule. The world didn’t have to wait long to see the wisdom of the German philosopher in action in his own homeland. And shades of the same madness are seen in India these days. Indeed, this appears to be the season of mass hysteria. A strange, unprecedented panic has seized the great republic. As the New York Times memorably put it, like a fever, fear has spread across the country, from big cities like Bangalore to smaller places like Mysore, a contagion fueling a message: Run. Head home. Flee. And that is what thousands of economic migrants from the country’s lately troubled Northeast are doing in what is being termed as the biggest exodus since the 1947 Partition. Tens of thousands of workers quietly earning their bread in melting pots like Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai have been swarming railway stations and airports in their desperation to get out, totally baffling the authorities and just about everyone else. The collective panic was ostensibly sparked by some mysterious email and text messages warning of massive reprisals for the recent attacks on Assamese Muslims. The crisis acquired such epic proportions that several additional trains had to be pressed into service to deal with the rising sea of spooked humanity even as ministers and senior government officials went about reassuring and promising security. The administration has also banned the bulk email and text messages to check the 50-paise terror, as a newspaper put it, radiating fear and panic although it was a classic case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted.
This Eid day, when I tried to text my friends, I got the following message in typical officialese: “As per Govt direction, only 5 SMS per day is allowed, till 31-Aug. You have sent 5 SMS today. SMS service will resume tmrw. Regret the inconvenience.” It was indeed an ‘inconvenience’ but was apparently necessary to quell the “rumor-mongering by miscreants,” as the minister put it. Social media and the blessings of technology have clearly made the job of merchants of hatred a lot easier and exciting. No one knows what and who started it all. The most perplexed have been the people on whose behalf the madness was seemingly started. Nonetheless, the Muslims in Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai have responded to the crisis quickly, going out of their way to support and plead with the panicked lot to stay on. A befuddled government has been quick to blame social media and the ubiquitous foreign hand for the phenomenon. Websites based in Pakistan have been accused of fanning the firestorm by spreading the “morphed images” of violence in Myanmar as those of Assam. Maybe there’s some truth in there. There have been reports of some overzealous sympathizers posting on Facebook pictures of Asian tsunami victims as those from Myanmar. What happened in Assam is not the invention of a feverish imagination; it’s a reality that has been reported by India’s mainstream media. Right now at least 400,000 people, who fled the violence last month, are living in relief camps in appalling conditions even as there are reports of continuing violence. Even if some websites are responsible for those morphed images, what explains those text messages and emails? Who started those? Who’s sowing the seeds of hatred in the name of Muslims in Assam and elsewhere in the country and why?
Harsh Mander, a member of National Advisory Council known for his peace efforts in Gujarat, explains in his Hindustan Times piece: “The country is once again dangerously adrift in a stormy sea of competitive hate politics. The signs are both ominous and familiar-the systematic creation of hatred against people because of their ethnicity or religion; rumors and hate propaganda choking the internet; the public moral justification of violence against targeted communities on grounds of ‘larger’ alleged wrongs; and weak-kneed State action against people and organizations which preach hate and organize slaughter and arson. “In districts and towns in which I have worked, I observed during the 1980s how dedicated communal organizations skillfully spread rumors, which manufacture hatred locally and provoke communal attacks. Hate propagandists are today equipped with sleek new vehicles of cyberspace and mobile phone technology, which they deploy to transport provocative falsehoods, rumors and emotive messages of hate across the country. These recast people of different ethnic or religious identities as the dangerous ‘other’, and foment suspicion, dread and loathing against them. Even more hazardous is the creation of an alternative moral universe in which violent attacks on people of specified communities is accepted as defensible, even justified.” Mander isn’t alone in his conclusions. Hindustan Times and The Telegraph, two of the most respected, establishment papers, have warned of the Hindutva parties “fishing in Assam’s troubled waters” to fuel a communal divide across the country ahead of the crucial 2014 poll battle, supposed to be fought between the Congress’ Rahul Gandhi and Gujarat’s Modi. The threats to the Northeastern people are being portrayed as “anti-national” forces siding with the “foreigner,” says a HT report by Vikas Pathak (August 17).
In another report, Radhika Ramaseshan of The Telegraph says that the Hindutva groups are using the Assam violence and exodus of Northeasterners to try and rebuild its base. She says: “Repeating a familiar strategy, the RSS and VHP are overtly talking of a Hindu-Muslim divide in Assam while the BJP has confined itself to the more politically correct illegal immigrants issue, targeting the Congress for treating them as “vote banks. The collective objective is the same: driving a wedge between Hindus and Muslims and projecting the BJP as the sole “savior” of the former.” Painting all Bengali-speaking Muslims, living for generations in Assam, as Bangladeshi infiltrators and warning of the ‘coming Islamic invasion’, RSS-VHP-BJP rabble rousers are trying hard to raise a perfect storm of communal frenzy as they did in the 80s and 90s. The “Muslims are coming” is the new mantra of the Sangh and its allies. The massive show of strength and hate fest in Mumbai by Raj Thackeray, the nephew and inheritor of Bal Thackeray’s toxic legacy, this week would have made Hitler proud with his antics and rhetoric egging on the Hindus and Marathas against the “traitors and infiltrators.” No wonder social activist and Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Hameed, sees a grand design and agenda to “destroy the secular fabric (of the country) which has held us together for centuries.”
Coming days and weeks could be critical for India and for its minorities. The Muslims are bracing themselves for the coming storm after years of relative calm since the Gujarat pogrom a decade ago. A dispossessed and voiceless community languishing on the margins of society which cannot protect itself has been transformed into a ‘clear and present danger’ to the great republic and its 800 million Hindus. Knives are being sharpened once again in the shadows. It’s time to move in for the kill. A clueless, callous government quietly bleeding itself to death doesn’t help. It seems the end is nigh. In Yeats’ evocative words: Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world / The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere / The ceremony of innocence is drowned; / The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are full of passionate intensity
- Exodus 2012: Rout Cause – By Pushpa Iyengar, Madhavi Tata (Sep 3, 2012, Outlook)
- India’s Shame – Editorial (Sep 1, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Bodoland Politics & Myth of ‘Foreigner’ – By Archana Prasad (Aug 26, 2012, Peoples Democracy)
There is at last some clarity on the politics of the anti-corruption movements. Baba Ramdev’s dramatic call for Congress-hatao and the ‘political turn’ of the Anna movement have confirmed that a movement aimed at rooting out corruption cannot defer a direct encounter with party politics for very long. The manner in which both decisions were announced left something to be desired. The announcement by ‘Team Anna’ invited serious criticism that it was a hasty afterthought, a face-saving device or, worse, a sinister design. Baba Ramdev’s flip-flop and final dalliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party and other non-Congress forces irrespective of their own record on corruption were hardly expected to add to his credibility. Yet this clarity is to be welcomed, for it opens an unusual window of opportunity for people’s politics. Right from its beginnings last year, the anti-corruption movement comprised three tendencies. One section was staunchly opposed to all parties, all politicians and all forms of politics. More pronounced in the first phase of the movement, this anti-politics tendency had worrisome authoritarian overtones. The second tendency translated anti-corruption as anti-Congress and did not care if its actions ended up aligning with the opposition parties, especially the BJP. Eventually owned up by Baba Ramdev and briefly preferred by Team Anna last year, this tendency has evoked suspicion about the hidden hand of the sangh parivar in the anti-corruption movement.
The third tendency, which has finally prevailed within the Anna movement, though not without dissent, searched for its own, alternative form of politics. While this has generally been understood as forming a new political party, the impulse underlying this tendency awaits more careful elaboration. A formal separation of this third tendency from the politics of anti-politics and mere non-Congressism may appear to have weakened the popular upsurge and let the ruling class off the hook. Seen in a wider context, however, this development has opened up the possibility of new ideas, energies and allies for alternative politics of people’s movements. A political vacuum marks the people’s movement sector. Ever since its emergence in the 1980s, the movement sector – comprising farmers’ movements, Dalit movements, women’s movements, environmental movements and the movements for information and deepening of democracy – is one of the most vibrant spaces in the democratic arena. These movements are inherently political in that they seek to challenge the settled relations of power. They have quietly shifted the terms of political engagement and brought new issues to the foreground. Legislation and policies like the Right to Information, the Mahatma Gandhi Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Forest Act and the new Land Acquisition and Rehabilitations Act are a tribute to the power and creativity of these movements.
Yet these movements have not succeeded in posing a direct challenge to mainstream politics. Attempts to establish political parties representing the movements failed to cross the high threshold of viability in our electoral system. These include the Samata Sangathan and Karnataka Rajya Rayyata Sangha in the 1980s, the Samajwadi Janparishad and Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha in the 1990s, and the Loksatta Party, Women’s Political Front, Uttarakhand Jan Vahini and Sarvodaya Karnataka in the last decade. Attempts at forming a grand coalition of these movements in electoral politics did not work in the last two Lok Sabha elections. These efforts have involved some of the finest activists and thinkers of our time. There have been many creative organisational experiments and ideological innovations. Yet, they remained largely invisible: most educated and politically informed Indians may not have heard about these. Even the most powerful mass movements failed to translate their support in electoral terms. In order to give effect to their political agenda, these movements remained dependent on the very political establishment they critiqued and struggled against.
During this period, mainstream politics became more insulated from popular struggles and movements. Here’s the paradox though: ever since the sudden decline of the Congress in 1989, the third space has expanded while the third force has shrunk. The failure of the Janata Dal in the early 1990s and the collapse of the United Front experiment in the mid-1990s meant that much of the expanding political energy of the third space drifted towards the two poles represented by the United Progressive Alliance and the National Democratic Alliance. The Left used to be a natural home for popular struggles and movements, but its ideological dominance, moral authority and political presence have been severely eroded. The energy of the third space is in search of a national political vehicle of its own. This is where the anti-corruption movement offers something of a breakthrough. It is after more than three decades that a movement outside the organised party sector has registered a nationwide presence and visibility. More than the number of people that participated in highly visible protests in Delhi, what matters is that the Anna Hazare-led movement spawned smaller protests in a large number of towns and even villages. A fairly large proportion of citizens who did not participate in any protest heard about it and sympathised with it. The activists, supporters and sympathisers of the anti-corruption movement constitute a larger pool of potential support for alternative politics than generated by any other popular movement in recent times. After a very long time, a movement promises to cross the high threshold of viability required for creating a national political alternative.
At the same time, this is no more than a promise of a breakthrough. The support was not based on any grassroots mobilisation and was almost entirely triggered by extraordinary media coverage in August last year. Therefore the support base is very mixed and variable and could well be ephemeral. Besides, a good deal of the support for the anti-corruption movement may not translate into support for alternative politics. There are ideological issues here. A single issue like corruption could serve as the focal point of mobilisation of otherwise contrary forces in a movement. This was a smart choice: the more ‘classical’ radical issues do not permit cross-sectional mobilisation, nor do they resonate in popular consciousness. At the same time, corruption understood in a narrow way cannot be the centre-piece of an alternative politics. Minimally, an understanding of corruption needs to go beyond bribery of individual politicians and bureaucrats; corruption embedded into policies and perpetuated by the system needs to be addressed. There have been legitimate concerns about where this movement stands vis-à-vis bigger questions like communalism, caste-based injustice, crony capitalism and ecological destruction. Anna’s movement was wise to distance itself from communal and anti-Dalit positions, but it is to be seen if it can expand its ideological bandwidth to include larger issues raised by people’s movements in the last couple of decades. …
- New calculations – By Purnima S. Tripathi (Aug 25, 2012, Frontline)
- Walking the tightrope – By Soumitro Das (Aug 19, 2012, Hindustan Times)
- Talk to the hand – Editorial (Aug 21, 2012, Indian Express)
- A Political Alternative To Alternative Politics – By Prashant Bhushan (Sep 3, 2012, Outlook)
Light is too powerful a concept; it suggests hope. But Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did promise Indian Muslims some solace at the end of a long and silent tunnel. That will probably be recorded as his biggest political mistake. When you raise expectations of a fragile community and then shatter them without remorse, each shard develops a poison edge. Indian Muslims believe, with good reason, that it was their massive mobilisation in the 2004 General Elections that made Dr Manmohan Singh the most unexpected Prime Minister in India’s electoral history. Those whose eyebrow has already risen may want to note a significant truth about Indian politics. It is expected that non-Congress PMs will be unexpected, which makes every surprise very unsurprising. But when Congress deviates from its well-established ground rules, we have a story.
It took three degrees of surprise to catapult Dr Singh into his present chair: He had to overcome one probability, one certainty and one possibility. First, the probable winner of the 2004 General Elections, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, lost. Then, for reasons that still have not been made entirely transparent, his certain successor, Mrs Sonia Gandhi, stepped aside, leaving the Congress dazed and Opposition bemused. Finally, Mrs Gandhi discarded the claims of the senior-most Congress leader, Pranab Mukherjee, and pushed Dr Singh, who would have been content with the finance ministry, forward. That sort of dream triple wins you the lottery of a lifetime. Dr Singh sent a thank you note to Muslims soon enough. It was called the Sachar Commission. Justice Rajinder Sachar shocked the establishment with his honesty. First, he delivered his report very quickly. He did not linger in order to enjoy the various benefits that came with the appointment, as so many of his peers have done: There are instances that are shocking beyond belief. The Sachar Commission’s report was an exercise in depth as well as profound and discerning empathy with its subject. It quickly became embedded within the Muslim political consciousness as a defining document. The Left Front never recovered from its revelation that Narendra Modi’s Gujarat had a far higher percentage of Muslims in government employment than Marxist Bengal. Sachar etched a portrait of a community left in neglect by those political parties it had trusted.
The Muslim response was dual: It spurred a momentum that had already been building up, motivating a thrust towards education as the only means to reach out towards economic opportunity. Simultaneously, Muslims began to demand reservations in government jobs to compensate for the gap that had built. Self-help brought rewards. Education among Muslim girls, for instance, has multiplied at a geometrical pace. But the Congress Government which sired the Sachar Commission did nothing about its recommendations. Instead of job reservations, Muslims got the old and stale retinue of gimmicks. Come elections, and the promise of reservations went into the first paragraph of speeches. Once votes had been counted, this promise went into a dustbin.
The Muslim voter’s faith in Dr Singh did not wane easily; in fact it peaked in 2009. But a pinnacle, thanks to its height, offers clarity; illusions melt very quickly. When Congress continued to do nothing even after the substantial endorsement in 2009, Muslims began to slip away from the party, with devastating effect. The consequences of Congress’ demolition in UP are still playing out. Assam turned this slippage into a fall. The politics of Assam is not simple. Congress Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi wore his heart literally on his sleeve during visits to Muslim refugee camps when he chose to flaunt a Bodo scarf. Muslim reaction has also changed. Anger used to be diluted by fear, but fear has evaporated. SMS, and its more sinister cousin MMS, have eliminated the distance between Bodoland, Bangalore and Mumbai. Technology has also opened the market for mischief: Between the photoshop and visual cropping, murder on the Indus can be easily distorted into death on the Brahmaputra. Reality is harsh enough. Malice, exported by certain elements in Pakistan according to the home ministry, gives it a vicious twist.
For our Government, alas, the most volatile problem becomes an opportunity, not for a solution, but for another veil over misdeeds. Officials began to censor tweets critical of the Prime Minister, thereby managing to increase the intensity of criticism from all sides. Technology is community-neutral. The collapse of hope in Congress has driven various Muslim communities into disparate political camps. Mulayam Singh Yadav was a major beneficiary, but the next question is more worrisome: Where do UP Muslims go if the Yadavs also disappoint? In Assam and Kerala, they have banded around exclusivist flags, which is bound to inspire a reaction, sooner rather than later. Desegregation divides communities with rivulets of suspicion. Instead of controlling this drift towards danger, the UPA Government has disappeared into its own tunnel of silence.
- ‘Muslims in India have reason to believe they are being persecuted’ – NC Asthana and Anjali Nirmal with Kunal Majumder (Sep 1, 2012, Tehelka)
- Reservations for Muslims in India – By P S Krishnan (Aug 18, 2012,Economic & Political Weekly)
- Forcing dress code on Muslims part of BJP poll plan? – By Imran Khan (Aug 25, 2012, Tehelka)
On the mud track leading to Dodda Gollarahatti, a village in Yeraballi panchayat in Hiriyur taluk of Chitradurga district in Karnataka, two women in their mid-thirties lounged listlessly outside a one-room structure built some 50 metres away from the rest of the village. With their unkempt hair and crumpled clothes, they presented a marked contrast to other women of the village who were consciously avoiding the duo as they walked down the track. A watchful passerby warned: “If you talk to these women or even if their shadow falls on you, you can enter our village only after taking a bath.” A small crowd had gathered near the temple looking curiously at our car, which had driven into the village of around 120 houses. On being asked about the women living outside the village, Nijalingappa, formerly vice-president of the gram panchayat, said: “It is their time of the month and they are not allowed inside the village for three to five days. During this time they cannot work, bathe, touch anyone or cook their own food.” Added a young man called Simpanna: “The Kadu Golla community believes that women are impure during their menstrual cycle. We cannot let them stay in the village and make it impure.” On our way out of the village, Yashodhamma and Sushilamma, who were then staying in the “menstruation house”, displayed the separate set of vessels women had to use when they stayed in the house. “I don’t like this practice, but what can I do? This is our tradition and we can stop it only on devaru’s (God’s) instructions. We will be punished by God if we don’t follow this.”
In Surappanahatti, a Kadu Golla settlement of around 200 houses, Jayamma crawled out of her hut, the size of a kennel, cradling a 20-day-old boy. Surappanahatti is around 20 kilometres from Dodda Gollarahatti and is in Dindavara panchayat in Hiriyur taluk. Jayamma’s hovel was in the middle of an agricultural field, while other hutments were some hundred metres away. “I have to stay here for another month, after which I have to bathe and visit the temple where my child will be named. Only then will I be allowed into my house,” said Jayamma. During this time, when she is considered unclean, she cannot be touched, and food is given to her by her family members who either leave it by the side of her hovel or spoon it into her plate to ensure that they do not get “polluted”. She had to stay in her hovel even though it was the monsoon season and ominous rain clouds hovered over the parched ragi fields. A few hours away from the dry and flat plains of Hiriyur is the green and undulating landscape of Arsikere taluk in Hassan district. Around 30 kilometres from Arsikere town are three Kadu Golla settlements, of which the largest is K. Gollarahatti. Shekar R., 26, the Youth Congress president of the area, said that more than 100 women had undergone hysterectomies at the age of 30 in the three settlements. J. D. Ugrappa, a teacher at the local school, added: “Sometimes women have gynaecological problems because of which they bleed for 15 days in a month. Our culture does not allow them to enter houses during this time. Rather than have men cooking the food and doing all household work for so many days every month, isn’t it better if the women get the ‘operation’ done once they have had children so that they can serve their husbands?”
There are many groups of the Golla or herding community in Karnataka, of which the main divisions are “Ooru Gollas” and “Kadu Gollas”. Myths about the community trace their origins to the Yadavas of north India. While Ooru Gollas are Gollas who have settled in towns, Kadu Gollas have, on the other hand, historically lived in self-contained hamlets called hattis on the margins of towns or larger villages or close to forests. A Kadu Golla hatti is distinct because of the thorny fence that surrounds it. Nomadic by nature, all Kadu Gollas were cow and goat herders in the past before some of them acquired small landholdings. While the educated among them have migrated to towns and cities, many members of the community still pride themselves as herders and continue their traditional profession. They are found mainly in Chitradurga and Tumkur districts while a significant number can be found in the neighbouring district of Hassan. Smaller settlements are scattered across the State and in parts of Andhra Pradesh. According to data from the 1990 Report of the Karnataka Third Backward Classes Commission, Gollas form 1.3 per cent of the population of the State. However, the report does not specify the percentage of Kadu Gollas. Informal estimates by the Backward Classes and Minorities Department are that there are 251 Kadu Golla settlements in Chitradurga district with a total population of around one lakh. There could be around three lakh Kadu Gollas across Karnataka if estimates derived from neighbouring districts are added. Kadu Gollas are extremely religious and worship a pantheon of gods including Krishna. Their self-enforced segregation has helped to keep their religious beliefs cocooned from outside influences.
“They believe that their life is controlled and guided by some sort of supernatural, spiritual and magical power,” says M. Gurulingaiah, professor of sociology at Kuvempu University, Karnataka, in Tribal Culture: Change and Mobility. “Religion may very well be said to constitute the whole life of Kadu Gollas. They believe in various deities, ghosts and spirits guiding every walk of their life.” The community practises a strict form of caste discrimination and does not allow outsiders to participate in their worship. In Dodda Gollarahatti, for example, if a member of a Schedule Caste enters the village temple, the entire temple needs to be cleansed. Brahmins are also absent in their rituals and wedding ceremonies. The social, economic and religious influence of other communities is limited on Kadu Gollas, especially in the rural settlements, as they live life in their own enclaves. One distinctive feature of Kadu Gollas is their unusual notions of purity because of which they consider a woman unclean when she has her monthly period or after she delivers a baby. While a woman who has her period has to live outside the village for three to five days every month, a woman who gives birth is not allowed to enter her house for two or three months. In this patriarchal and religious society, the routine biological process of menstruation acquires the dimensions of a “curse” that manifests itself in bleeding. This notion is so ingrained in Kadu Gollas that even educated professionals of the community accept it.
“When we go back to the hatti, we have to follow the rules regarding purity,” said H. Ajjaiah, a Kadu Golla and an assistant professor of sociology at the HPPC Government First Grade College in Challakere town, Chitradurga district. According to Ajjaiah and two of his Kadu Golla colleagues, R. Mahesh, associate professor of Kannada, and Mudalagiriyappa, lecturer in history, the reason why such practices continue is that Kadu Gollas were not educated. “There is a lot of difference in the situation in rural hattis and hattis closer to towns. For instance, such backward practices are not seen in Katappana hatti in Challakere town,” said Mahesh. The three teachers concurred in their view that education and interaction with other communities have made a huge difference in the lives of Kadu Gollas. “Education changes a lot of things but we need reservation if we have to transform. Unfortunately, even though our community has all the traits of a Scheduled Tribe, we are still treated as a Backward Tribe, denying us a bouquet of benefits,” added Mudalagiriyappa. In Karnataka, the Golla community is recognised as a “nomadic and semi-nomadic tribe”. After members of the community organised Statewide rallies in the early 1990s, the Karnataka government issued an order in September 1994 that classified them as Category-I (Most Backward Tribes) entitling them to 4 per cent reservation in education and government jobs. The hitch is that the backward Kadu Gollas have to share this thin slice of the pie with several more prosperous communities, including the Ooru Gollas. Hence, members of the community have been demanding that they be designated as a Scheduled Tribe. Studies like that of Gurulingaiah have also pointed out how Kadu Gollas fulfil all the criteria needed to qualify as a Scheduled Tribe. … This correspondent spoke to several Kadu Gollas, both men and women, across Chitradurga and Hassan, and there is a strong undercurrent of resentment against the practice among women and younger men. It is the elderly and the priests who strongly endorse this practice. When the general sentiment is towards reform, the state should come up with policy measures that encourage such change; it should identify reformers rather than devise ways to perpetuate irrational practices.
- Settled Alibis and Emerging Contradictions: Sex Selection, Dowry and Domestic Violence – By Kumkum Sangari (Aug 25, 2012, Economic & Political Weekly)
- New assertiveness – By Bhaskar Ghose (Aug 25, 2012, Frontline)
- And again, And again – By Kalpana Sharma (Aug 4, 2012, The Hindu)