IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 22nd, 2014 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 22nd, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Guj singer Farida Mir junks VHP’s ‘ghar wapsi’ claim (Dec 23, 2014, Times of India)

The VHP on Monday controversially announced that the family members of prominent Gujarati folk singer Farida Mir had returned to the Hindu fold. A shocked Farida told TOI that her sister, Abida, had gone to a VHP function to merely perform and was taken aback when the announcement regarding her and her family’s conversion to Hinduism was made by VHP functionaries.

At the function, a VHP functionary, Bakul Khakhi, told reporters, “The Mir family was Hindu and somehow they became Muslims some years ago. It is their ghar wapsi.” … “We’re seeing a terrible time. My elder sister Abida, who lives in Surendranagar, was invited as an artist to perform. The VHP announcement is a blatant lie. My sister and her in-laws were not told by the organizers that such an announcement would be made,” Farida said.

“Our family members are under stress due to this lie. Although I am a Muslim, I have great respect and regards for Hinduism. For me, Navratri is upasana (meditation). I am a president of a group that protects cows,” said the popular Bhajan and Garba singer.…



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2002 riots case: End trial in three months, says SC (Dec 17, 2014, Hindustan Times)

The Supreme court gave three months for completion of the trial in a Ahmedabad court concerning the killing of three British nationals by a mob during post Godhra riots of 2002 in Gujarat. “We have perused the letter dated November 11 written by the trial judge. In the said letter, he has sought further time to complete the trial. …

The apex court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) had probed the nine riots cases including the killing of three British nationals during post-Godhra riots in the state. On February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident, Imran Dawood, his uncles Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammad Aswat were attacked by a mob in Prantij town of Sabarkantha district in Gujarat. Saeed, Shakeel, Aswat and their car driver Yusuf Piraghar (a local) were burnt alive, while Imran managed to save himself with the help of police. He recorded his testimony from the UK in April 2010 through video conferencing.

The apex court had, on October 26, 2010, asked the lower court to go ahead with the trial in all nine riots cases, probed by the SIT, with a direction that it would not pronounce its judgement. Later, the court has said it would consider lifting the order staying the pronouncement of judgement by the trial court in the case relating to the killing of three British nationals.



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Prevent recurrence of another Gujarat or Muzaffarnagar: AMU students to Home Minister (Dec 14, 2014, India Tomorrow)

The Students Union of Aligarh Muslim University has written to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, seeking ban on Ghar Wapsi events planned by Sangh Parivar affiliates to convert Muslims and Christians into Hinduism as such events are “in total violation of the Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution.” “The entire nation is shocked by the forced conversions of Muslims into Hinduism in Uttar Pradesh’s Agra district and the continuous efforts by RSS and its affiliate organizations to set the communal tensions on fire in the name of “Ghar Wapsi”. These conversions are forced and an exploitation of the financial weakness of certain sections of the society and are highly condemnable. The plans of the said organizations to have similar events at Aligarh and Lucknow, are a serious concern and a threat to the peace and security of the nation,” said AMUSU in its letter to Singh. … The students body urged the Home Minister to prevent recurrence of riots like ones happened in Gujarat in 2002 and in Muzaffarnagar in 2013. “We request the concerned authorities to establish law and order and prevent any incidents that could pave ways for another Gujarat and Muzaffarnagar. Students at Aligarh Muslim University are seriously concerned about these conversions and hence request your authority to take urgent action in this case by banning these events in the public interest,” Abdullah Azzam, President, AMUSU wrote in his letter to the Home Minister, a copy of which was also sent to the Uttar Pradesh chief minister and District Magistrates of Lucknow and Aligarh.



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Charge sheet has proof against Amit Shah: CBI (Dec 16, 2014, Hindustan Times)

The CBI on Monday opposed the discharge plea filed by the BJP president Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Shaikh fake encounter case, saying it had evidence of his involvement. Its counsel told the special CBI court that there was evidence on record in the charge sheet and statements from witnesses.…

Complainant Rubabuddin Sheikh’s lawyer, Anubha Rastogi, stated in the court that she thought that CBI will continue its arguments for a longer period – it took around 30 minutes – and therefore had not prepared her arguments. She will now make her arguments on Tuesday. The special judge said every party will be given a fair hearing. …

According to the CBI’s charge sheet, subsequent to the murder of Hamid Lala, Sohrabuddin and Prajapati continued their criminal activities in Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat. However, Sohrabuddin remained elusive. It was, therefore, that the accused, Amit Shah, who was then Gujarat home minister along with police officers, DG Vanzara, S Pandiyan Rajkumar, Dinesh Man and others allegedly entered into a conspiracy to abduct and murder Sohrabuddin.…



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Now, Hindu Mahasabha seeks space for installing Mahatma Gandhi killer Nathuram Godse’s busts across India from Narendra Modi govt (Dec 19, 2014, Financial Express)

Days after Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Sakshi Maharaj termed Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin a “patriot,” Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha today triggered a fresh controversy by asking the PM Narendra Modi government to provide space for installing busts of Nathuram Godse at different locations in the country.

Hindu Mahasabha national president Chandra Prasad Kaushik has also sought a debate on the entire issue and said that the reasons given in the Court by Godse for killing Gandhi should be made public. … He claimed the opinion that Godse was a murderer, was not of the entire nation. …

Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi, apostle of non-violence, by shooting in his chest three times at point-blank range on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj had said, “Godse was an aggrieved person. He may have done something by mistake but was not an anti-national. He was a patriot.” However, after his remark triggered a row, the Unnao MP retracted saying, “I do not consider him a rashtra bhakta (patriot). I might have said something by mistake.”



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Row over Indologist’s anti-Islam remarks (Dec 21, 2014, Indian Express)

Belgian Indologist Dr Koenraad Elst’s anti-Islam remarks created a flutter at a Goa conclave Saturday, prompting at least one foreign delegate to walk out while another lodged a complaint with organiser India Foundation whose directors include Union Minister Suresh Prabhu and Shaurya Doval, son of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. … Addressing the session on ‘Religion – Tolerance and Terror’ at the India Ideas Conclave 2014, Elst said: “On the whole, you should make it uncool to be Muslims. That will help them. You do not forcefully need to convert them. Through this, they will themselves outgrow Islam.”

Referring to the row over the ‘ghar wapsi’ campaign, Elst said: “The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is coming under criticism for the one thing that they are doing very well which is ghar wapsi. We need to liberate Muslims from Islam. Every Muslim is an abductee and must be brought back.” Those present at the session included spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Ram Madhav of the BJP and several party MPs including former Mumbai police commissioner Satyapal Singh. …

Before he walked out, former Jordanian prime minister Abdelsalam al-Majali told the gathering: “I am appalled at what I heard from the platform about insulting Islam and insulting the Prophet. One can criticize this, that and the other but don’t insult. To try to destroy the whole faith is wrong. We came here to understand each other and try to be peaceful. It is very said to be at such a conference to hear insults on a religion which is followed by over one billion people.” Ihsanoglu too protested: “We are hearing a speech of hatred. You cannot use your freedom of speech to hurt others. I was very happy being here until I heard this speech of hatred.” Gunnar Stalsett, Bishop Emeritus of Oslo, and others questioned the “demonization” of an entire faith. …



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IAMC writes to Maharashtra CM over threat to Jamiat leader Maulana Gulzar Azmi (Dec 21, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Indian American Muslim Council, an organization of non-resident Indians that is dedicated to “safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos,” has written to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis regarding threats to well-known Muslim activist and Jamiat leader Maulana Gulzar Azmi.

Social activist and Jamiat Ulama-e-Hind Legal Cell secretary Gulzar A. Azmi has lodged a complaint with the Mumbai police alleging death threats from the mafia. Along with mafia Ravi Pujari, he also named Bharatiya Janata Party Mumbai president Ashish Shelar who had recently accused him of allegedly harbouring links with the mafia and terrorists in the complaint. …

Noting that the state of Maharashtra, like our nation, is home to people of diverse faiths and ideological inclinations, IAMC President wrote, “We need leadership that will hold the people together and not allow divisiveness to snatch away from us, what we have collectively worked to achieve since Independence.” The letter tersely reminded the CM that many in his party have made inflammatory statements against minorities and urged him to hold accountable the MLAs in his party who are “engaging in such incendiary tactics”.



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Hindu Man Arrested For Temple Desecration Incidents in Muzaffarnagar (Dec 22, 2014, NDTV)

Police in Muzaffarnagar today arrested a Hindu man, Deshraj Singh, for temple desecration incidents at Parsauli village in communally sensitive Budhana. Parsauli had remained tense last week after a few temple desecration incidents came to light. In one instance on the 15th of December, animal skin was found outside a newly constructed temple, while on the night of 20th an idol went missing from another temple.

Following the incidents BJP leaders including Union Minister Sanjeev Baliyan had visited the village. “There was a string of two or three incidents. A person had placed heads and other parts of buffaloes at two temples. The idols had also been stolen. An attempt had also been made to place an idol at a different spot. Following our efforts, we have arrested Deshraj Singh, who has confessed to committing these acts,” said HN Singh, SSP, Muzaffarnagar.

“We are in the process of ascertaining in what state he had committed these acts. We cannot yet say for certain why he had committed these acts. We have also sent a team to his house in Delhi. Because of this incident, there was tension in the village. Communal tension also prevailed in nearby villages,” he added. Police said that Deshraj also revealed he stole some items from a mosque earlier as well.…



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CBI forcing me to take Mamata’s name: Mitra (Dec 17, 2014, The Hindu)

West Bengal Transport and Sports Minister Madan Mitra, whose custody with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was extended till December 19 by a city court on Tuesday, claimed inside the court room that the agency was pressuring him to take Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s name in connection with the Saradha scam. …

During the court proceedings, Mr. Mitra alleged that the CBI officials are trying to “forcefully record” his voice sample. “They [CBI officials] are trying to kill me mentally. They are forcing me to take Mamata’s name.”

Mr. Mitra’s counsel Ashok Mukherjee said there was no evidence to corroborate the CBI’s allegation of Mr. Mitra’s involvement in the case. CBI’s counsel Partha Sarathi Dutta opposed the Minister’s bail plea on the ground that some “electronic data” collected by the central agency in connection with the scam is yet to be verified.



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Priests detained for raping cousin for six years (Nov 25, 2014, Times of India)

Two siblings were detained by the city police on Monday for allegedly raping their cousin for six years in MG Road area. The matter came to light when the 23-year-old victim, a BE student, narrated her ordeal to her mother on Sunday night. Subsequently, the victim and her mother reported the matter at MG Road police station. Later, a case of rape and criminal intimidation was lodged against the two siblings, Vikas, 24 and Sonu, 25.

Both the siblings are priests at a city temple and also do part-time private jobs. Subsequently, the duo was detained by MG Road police on Monday for questioning and arrested later, said MG Road police station in charge Manoj Ratnakar.

The girl, who is a resident of city’s Aerodrome area, alleged that she was raped by her two cousins at their house in Peer Gali locality in MG Road area between 2001 and 2006. The duo even threatened to kill her if she ever told about the matter to anyone. Owing to the repeated threats by the siblings, the girl remained mum for years.…



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Opinions and Editorials

Christian enclave in India fears violence as Hindus press for conversions – By Annie Gowen (Dec 18, 2014, Washington Post)

The trouble started a few months ago, when Hindu nationalists swept into a small village where several families had converted to Christianity more than a decade earlier. They held a fire purification ceremony with the villagers, tore a cross off the local church and put up a poster of the god Shiva. The space was now a temple, they declared.

Then right-wing Hindu groups announced a Christmas Day ceremony where they planned to welcome hundreds of Christians and Muslims into Hinduism. A fundraising flier solicited donations for volunteers to undergo conversion – about $3,200 for each Christian and about $8,000 for each Muslim.

After a nationwide furor, organizers on Tuesday postponed the ceremony. But one of them, Rajeshwar Singh Solanki, said in an interview Thursday that his group will demonstrate against any church baptisms performed on the holiday. He said his group’s ultimate aim is to ensure that Islam and Christianity “cease to exist” in India.…



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Tactic of intimidation – By Kavita Krishnan (Dec 17, 2014, DNA India)

The BJP MP Adityanath has said that the Babri Masjid demolition was a show of Hindu unity, and a similar show of unity is needed to ensure the ‘Ghar wapsi’ (return home) of all Christians, Muslims and other minorities in India. This statement – by a ruling party MP – brutally exposes the ‘Ghar wapsi’ project as one of communal violence, not ‘conversion’. This statement brazenly celebrates the Babri Masjid demolition (officially condemned by the BJP leadership so as to avoid criminal prosecution). And by comparing it with the Babri Masjid demolition, Adityanath makes it clear that ‘Ghar wapsi’ is no benign invitation to embrace Hinduism – it is intended to demolish the dignified existence and rights of religious minorities in India.

The very premise of the term ‘Ghar wapsi’ is unconstitutional and communal. With ‘Ghar wapsi’, the VHP, blessed by the ruling BJP, is putting into practice the ‘Ramzada’ principle articulated by Modi minister Niranjan Jyoti. Niranjan Jyoti said that Muslims and Christians in India must accept Hindu origins and identity as ‘sons of Ram’ to prove that they accept India. Behind this statement is the pet dream of the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha – that India be turned into a Hindu nation, where non-Hindus will be treated as ‘foreigners’ and denied citizenship.…

Intimidation, coercion, threats as well as humiliation used to force people to change their religion should be prosecuted and punished under the provisions of laws against communal violence and the Prevention of Atrocities Act, as they may apply. These are the laws that must be invoked against the perpetrators of ‘Ghar wapsi’ in Agra and elsewhere.



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Narrowing India’s Horizons – Editorial (Dec 18, 2014, New York Times)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and the Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power in May, many hoped the new government would set aside the more troubling aspects of Hindu nationalism and unite the country around the work to be done to unleash India’s hobbled potential. Unfortunately, there are signs that the ideologues on the Hindu right believe the election victory was theirs as well and are pursuing their agenda on multiple fronts.

Mr. Modi, who has appointed to his cabinet several individuals who, like himself, have a long association with the Hindu militant organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, appears to condone these efforts – and even to believe some of the more fantastical assertions. On Oct. 25, he cited examples from Hindu mythology as proof that plastic surgery and genetic science existed in ancient India. …

Designating a single Hindu text as the official national sacred book is a divisive affront to the country’s secular democracy. Ancient India’s achievements in mathematics and science are impressive enough without recourse to fictional interpretations of Hindu mythology.



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The Republic of RSS – By Anand K. Sahay (Dec 22, 2014, Asian Age)

This may be Narendra Modi’s government, but India may be on its way to becoming Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s republic. The signs point that way. The government is either helpless, or is a silent accomplice silent because it still wishes to be seen as upholding the panoply of democracy.

Not doing so could be risky at this stage when the RSS, its progenitor, still enjoys only limited influence in the country, and is by no means ready for a takeover (although its firmans ring loud and menacing). That day could come if things go badly for India, strategically speaking. We are far from there, though. One reason is we are way too big for the RSS, or any totalitarian thought and also way too diverse, especially in the mainland of Hindu terrain that the RSS has been trying for 90 years to homogenise. …

We need look no farther than the conduct of government by Mr Modi and his relationship to Parliament. Mr Modi clearly looks down upon Parliament. He hardly ever sets foot in its chambers to engage on policy issues with the Opposition. He shuns discussions on matters agitating the public sphere even in his public appearances. Two-way interactions with the media where questions are asked are history. Mr Modi’s ministers have been frightened into submission. The bureaucracy reports to work on time, but is kept busy looking over its shoulder. We have arrived at the most graphic case of the leader at the top as the issuer of instruction and the great thriver on state propaganda the one leader syndrome at its most succinct.



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Saffronising education – By Devanik Saha (Dec 20, 2014, Asian Age)

Ever since the Bharatiya Janata Party’s poster woman, Smriti Irani, has been made the Union human resources development minister, she has been embroiled in controversies. Right from her claim to having a Yale degree to the recent “good governance day” issue, she has been on a political roller coaster. However, her decisions and policy announcements pertaining to what is called “saffronisation” of education are making it evidently clear that she is being used as a marionette to advance the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s agenda of promoting Hindu nationalism.

Within just weeks of her being sworn in as a minister, she reportedly formed a committee for studying the ancient Upanishads and Vedas, and choose the appropriate texts emphasising the Hindu contribution to science, mathematics and philosophy. Then, suddenly, one fine day, she took a decision to scrap German and make Sanskrit as a third language. …

Political parties and politicians need to realise that using education as a political tool to advance their ideologies will only take India backward. However, based on their past actions, RSS and other Hindu groups cannot be trusted much to keep politics out of education. But, Narendra Modi, the man who has promised to make India a global superpower, should take the onus and abstain from politicising education. Students who grow up believing that plastic surgery existed in ancient India and Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle originated from Vedas, will only become scientific illiterates. India is already far behind Western countries in research and technology innovations and such bizarre thoughts from the senior leaders of the country will only widen the gap and weaken India’s opportunity to emerge as a world leader.



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Why BJP MPs get away with explosive speeches – Jyoti Punwani (Dec 15, 2014, Rediff)

‘You have to decide whether you want a government of Ramzade or haramzadey.’ This was what Minister of State for Food Processing Niranajan Jyoti said while exhorting Delhi voters to make a choice in the assembly election. Trying to explain away her language, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the minister’s fellow members of Parliament to take two things into account: She is new to Parliament, and she is from a village.

It is difficult to understand the first part of his explanation. Jyoti… didn’t make the abusive remarks in Parliament. So is Modi trying to say that MPs should mind their language everywhere, whether in or out of Parliament? That is an admirable sentiment, but why didn’t he say the same when Yogi Adityanath, a five-time MP, told Parliament: ‘Anyone who rejects the view that Hinduism is a mark of national identity will have to pay a heavy price?’…

Ever since the Lok Sabha election, it has been election season. BJP leaders, ministers and MPs included, make religious and communal appeals to voters routinely. Parliament is not always in session when they do so. Even if it is, the Opposition may not think it worth its while to stall proceedings all the time. It will be up to ordinary citizens to complain to the Election Commission every time this happens.…



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Book Review

Kafkaland: Prejudice, Law and Counterterrorism in India

Author: Manisha Sethi
Reviewed by: Sharib Ali
Available at: Three Essays Collective, B-957 Palam Vihar, GURGAON (Haryana) 122 017 India, 2014; pp 228, Rs 350.. http://www.amazon.in/
Securing the Nation State as Terrorist (Dec 20, 2014, EPW)

In mid-2006, two Kashmiri tea traders staying at a hotel in Karol Bagh were abducted by the police. Two weeks later, the First Information Report lodged followed a familiar pattern: a secret informer tipped off Ravinder Tyagi, an officer of the Delhi Special Cell about a large cache of arms being brought into the city via Jaipur in a blue Tata Indica. Tyagi led a team, intercepted the vehicle on the national highway and after a heroic encounter, which included cross firing and hurling of bombs, arrested the people in the vehicle. The court noted the fake nature of the case while throwing it out. …

What Kafkaland: Prejudice, Law and Counterterrorism in India has to say is indeed odd and tragic. Sethi’s canvas is specific. It is not Kashmir, not the north-east, not “Naxal”. It is bomb blasts, attacks, conspiracies in “mainland” Indian cities and towns, which have together constituted the charge of “Islamist terrorism” – one of the fundamental signifiers post-2001. Meticulously examining more than 30 cases in their entirety including charge sheets, trials, media reports, conversations, etc, and the public discourse around them closely controlled by the “security analysts”, the “experts” and talk shows with police officers and politicians, as well as a close look at the military industrial complex, Sethi lays bare what Talal Asad calls “death dealing in liberal democratic times”.

In the first thorough account of India’s war on terror, Sethi shows how the Indian state, in its indigenous ways, has conducted its war on terror by killing, maiming and accusing its own people of waging a war against it. How the state has rewritten its laws to suit its needs. And how it has in an ultimate sovereign act raised itself above its laws and transformed the taking away of the fundamental right to life into “breathtakingly sterile officialese”, or the sheer domesticity of Ab Tak Chhappan where Nana Patekar’s wife asks him to wash the blood stains off his shirt while giving instructions for the perfect sambar preparation. …