IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 18th, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Wrote on Modi as a citizen of India, Jaitley twists facts: Katju
- Zakia Jafri told to challenge SIT report by April 15
- Saffron terror exposed? Sunil Joshi was mastermind behind all blasts between 2006 and 2008
- MNS chief Raj Thackeray in trouble over Muslim remarks
- Cops opened fire in excess at Dhule: Report
- 6 cops suspended for custodial death
- It’s unfortunate Muslims have to prove their patriotism: Kunhi
- Need for total political change: Ex-solicitor general
- Police officer beats girl with belt in Maharashtra
- ‘One million post cards campaign’ launched to press for inclusion of Dalit Christians & Muslims in SC
Opinions & Editorials
- All the perfumes of Arabia – By Markandey Katju
- Talk Hindutva, Sell Narcotics? Curbing Freedom of Press: The Karnataka Way – By Subhash Gatade
- Ayodhya: In Electoral Battle Again – By Ram Puniyani
- My Name Is Khan And, Pain of A celebrity Being An Indian Muslim – By Ram Puniyani
- The Blade Runners – By Toral Varia Deshpande
- Kalahandi bauxite: Tale of two hills and tribal identity – By By Aroonim Bhuyan
‘Inter-faith dialogue only way out for communal harmony and social stability’ (Feb 11, 2013, Twocircles.net)
The felicitation ceremony of a programme organized by the Students Islamic Organization (SIO) today ended at Vidyarthi Bhavan Churchgate with high fervor to promote inter-faith dialogue among the multi religious people of India. Speaking at this occasion SIO State Secretary Anwar Shaikh said, “All religions must come forward to promote inter-faith understanding”. He added, “Unfortunately today Islam is the most misunderstood religion in the world, as well as in India. The stereotyping of Islam as violent and intolerant has created many tensions globally. The Muslims and non-Muslims who co-existed as peaceful neighbors throughout centuries are today skeptical about each other.
The recent criminalization and communalization of politics, the rampant stereotyping and propaganda has created huge gaps in the hearts of Muslims and Non-Muslims. Islam which literally means peace has been equated with terrorism. The end result is that today majority of naive common citizens of India have developed the wrong image of Islam.” SIO Mumbai launched a month long campaign “Connecting hearts Upholding Humanity” wherein series of Islamic knowledge tests were conducted across different locations in Mumbai on January 6 in order to give a very basic understanding Islamic faith and remove misconceptions.
Rohit S. Yadav, a student from a Rajiv Gandhi College has topped this examination and Yadav Pooja Inder of RJ College and Vidya Khapre of Yashwant Rao University secured second and third position respectively. Expressing his views Rohit said, “This was a great opportunity for me to learn about the great religion of Islam and also clear my misconceptions.” He stressed that those who got this opportunity should also educate others regarding this.
Vidya Khapre said, “It’s the need of the hour for us to live together and understand each other.”
Prizes were also given to the 100 top students out of more than 600 students who registered for the test. It was a great spectacle to see how the students belonging to multiple faiths came forward and took part in this inter-faith collusion. Renowned social activist from Ahmednagar Dr Rafiq Parnerkar was the chief guest for this occasion. In his presidential speech he stressed the urgent need to stabilize communal harmony and appreciated SIO’s initiative for promoting interfaith dialogue.
Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju on Monday defended his recent attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying he wrote the article on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader as a citizen of India. Speaking to IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Katju said, “I am not only the chairman of press council, but also a citizen of India… My article on Narendra Modi was on the basis of being a citizen of India, not as a chairman of Press Council of India.”
The former Supreme Court judge further said he found it to be his duty to tell people about the reality of Modi’s leadership in Gujarat, terming his development plank as “false propaganda”. “I wrote an article on Narendra Modi as there is a campaign in favour of him…it is my duty to tell people of India that real test of development is whether standard of living is going up or not,” said the PCI chief.
When asked if he, being a retired Supreme Court judge, should speak on issues that are political in nature, Katju said, “There is a great deal of difference between a Supreme Court judge and press council chief…I have the right to speak on something of extreme importance.”
Katju further dismissed that he just attacked the BJP, saying he had often criticised the Congress governments as well. Accusing senior BJP leader Arun Jailey on twisting facts, Katju said “Arun Jaitley has the habit of twisting facts, he should leave politics, he is not cut out for politics, has failed every test of a responsible politician.”
- ‘Markandey Katju’s article criticising Narendra Modi outstanding’ (Feb 18, 2013, Indian Express)
- ‘Support justice Katju to defeat Communal forces’: Muslim Groups (Feb 18, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Arun Jaitley twists facts, not fit to be in politics: Katju (Feb 18, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Cong, BJP spar over Katju (Feb 18, 2013, The Hindu)
A Gujarat court on Monday ordered Zakia Jafri, wife of ex-Congress MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed during the 2002 post-Godhra riots, to challenge the SIT closure report giving clean chit to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others by April 15. Metropolitan magistrate BJ Ganatra directed Zakia to file her protest petition in eight weeks, against the closure report filed by Special Investigation Team (SIT) on February 8, 2012, which probed her complaint against Modi and others for their alleged role in the riots.
Zakia, through her advocate SM Vora, verified before the court that she has been supplied with all the relevant material in connection with the SIT probe in her complaint against Modi and others. On February 13, a week after the Supreme Court order, SIT had given the copies of three reports, including the preliminary report prepared by AK Malhotra, member SIT and two reports of Himanshu Shukla who was the investigating officer.
Meanwhile, Zakia, in a written reply, through her lawyer, to the application of SIT, has taken strong exception to the ‘hostile’ and ‘adversarial’ attitude of the SIT in the case before the court and blamed the agency for the ‘delay’. “We would like to state categorically that the delay of one whole year (since the filing of closure report) was entirely on account of SIT’s adversarial and hostile attitude towards my client, the complainant and their refusal to give the complete documents,” states her reply.
Following the Metropolitan court’s refusal to direct SIT to give her material, including Malhotra’s report, Zakia challenged it before the Supreme Court which on February 7, 2012, which granted her prayer and ordered SIT to furnish her all relevant materials. “We clarify that the petitioner (Jafri) is entitled to entire inquiry report placed in sealed envelope before this court on May 12, 2010,” a Supreme Court bench comprising justices P Sathasivam, Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai had said. Zakia, whose husband along with 68 others were killed by a mob on February 28, 2002, had filed complaint against Modi and 58 others in 2006.
- Top cop counters Gujarat govt’s ‘mala fide intention’ charge (Feb 14, 2013, Indian Express)
- Police firing, clashes claim 20 lives (Feb 14, 2013, The Hindu)
- Post-poll clash: Chhota Udepur observes bandh (Feb 14, 2013, Indian Express)
- Modi as PM would sully India’s image: Azmi (Feb 15, 2013, Hindustan Times)
Saffron terror exposed? Sunil Joshi was mastermind behind all blasts between 2006 and 2008 (Feb 13, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
The Malwa region in Madhya Pradesh has emerged as the new hub of terror. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has claimed that eight bomb blasts, between 2006 and 2008, are connected with the death of Sunil Joshi, ABP News claims. NIA said that Rajendra Chaudhary, the killer of Sunil Joshi who hatched the conspiracy, has confessed to his crime of terror activities between 2006 and 2008. It is pertinent to note here that over 200 people had lost their lives in eight bomb blast between 2006 and 2008 that were targeted at a particular community.
According to NIA, Sunil Joshi was murdered due to internal differences. The NIA further maintains that Sunil Joshi had hatched the entire plot along with Ramji Kalsanshagra and Sandeep Dange. The NIA said the conspiracy was hatched from 2001 and a meeting was called in Ajmer on 26 October 2005 to discuss terror plots. After this meeting, a training camp was set up on Bagli Hills near Devas on January 4, 2006 where training was given on how to make and detonate the bombs.
The NIA claims that Rajendra Chaudhry has confessed that he killed Sunil Joshi who was the mastermind of eight explosions in the Malwa region. According to NIA lawyer Subhash Bhattacharya, “The video recording of the statement of the accused has been completed and the entire conspiracy behind the plot will be revealed soon.”
According to the agency, Sunil Joshi is connected with nearly all the blasts in the past, from Malegaon blast to Samjhauta Express blast, to Mecca Masjid blasts in Hyderabad and Ajmer Sharif blasts. The NIA is making arrests of accused from villages in Malwa villages. However, the RSS and BJP ministers are opposed to NIA’s action.
The NIA has intensified its operation in Madhya Pradesh’s Malwa region. The NIA is probing the bomb blasts cases that happened in the last six years. The BJP has alleged that the arrests are part of a conspiracy to malign the RSS and Sangh Parivar given that Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had targeted BJP and RSS for terror camps in their training centres. Over half a dozen officials of the NIA are conducting raids and arresting people in Malwa region.
- Terrorist can be from any section of society, says Harish Rawat (Feb 15, 2013, Indian Express)
- Two yardsticks to deal with terror will divide India’s secular society: minister Harish Rawat (Feb 15, 2013, DNA India)
- Mumbai train blasts: Telecom companies demand R 34 lakh for call records (Feb 14, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
- ‘Youths implicated in false terror cases will be freed’ (Feb 14, 2013, IBN)
A court here on Monday directed Delhi Police to lodge an FIR against Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray for allegedly branding Muslims from north India as insurgents and threatening them to throw out of the state. The court said it was “primary and bounden duty of the police to register FIR and proceed with investigation” but the authorities have “failed to discharge” their primary duty. Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sameer Bajpai’s order came on a complaint by advocate Mithilesh Kumar Pandey who referred to a rally in Mumbai addressed by Thackeray, in which he allegedly blamed Muslims from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand for the August 11, 2012 violence during protests against the Assam riots.
“Considering the entire facts and circumstances, SHO, police station Dwarka is directed to immediately register and FIR upon the present complaint under relevant provisions,” the court said, while asking the compliance report by April 4. The lawyer in his complaint has said that the accused in his political rally had repeatedly targeted these immigrants and even declared them as “insurgents” and also threatened them to be thrown out of Maharashtra. He further told the court that by the hate speech, the accused has prompted, disharmony and feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different communities particularly belonging to northern India on grounds of place of birth, residence, language, caste and community etc and has also insulted the particular community.
He said that Thackeray in his speech had told that assaulters had come from UP, Bihar and Jharkhand and due to them violence was likely to further take place in Mumbai. Pandey also said that due to repeated such kind of speeches of accused, sentiments of the people have been hurt. The complainant informed the court that he has even requested the police to lodge a case against the accused, but it was declined on the ground that since all the incidents had taken place in Mumbai and there in also no connecting evidence so it cannot take action.
Allowing the plea, the court said that “the grounds taken by the police for non registration of the FIR are not tenable. “Registration of an FIR involves only the process of entering the substances of the information relating to the commission of the cognisable offence in a book kept by the officer in charge of the police station… “It is the duty of the officer in charge of the police station to register the FIR regarding the cognizable offence disclosed by the complainant because that police officer could take further steps contemplated…,” ACMM Bajpai said.
The judge in his five-page-order further said that lack of supporting material with regard to the allegations made in the complaint is no ground for non registration of the FIR. “The collecting of evidence is the part and parcel of investigation which can be done only after the registration of FIR. The complainant cannot be expected to collect the evidence and incriminating material in support of his allegation and hand over the same to the police,” the court said.
- Senior Congress leader Narayan Rane slams MNS chief for baseless allegations against Muslims (Feb 18, 2013, Times of India)
- Akbar freed after 39 days (Feb 17, 2013, The Hindu)
- Police pull down Sena threat poster (Feb 18, 2013, Times of India)
- SC notice to Centre to make IB, RAW accountable to Par (Feb 11, 2013, PTI)
The police operating during the Dhule riot, which broke out on January 6, had opened fire at the rioting mob in excess, key notes in an inquiry report submitted by the Maharashtra police to the state government has revealed. The report also revealed that the firing was primarily done to protect a few top local police officials. The police prepared the report after visiting the riot-affected areas in Dhule.
According to highly-placed sources in the Maharashtra police, the “excess firing” was done to save lives of top Dhule police officials – additional superintendent of police Akhilesh Kumar Singh and deputy superintendent of police Monica Raut – who had entered deep inside the zone of the ongoing riots, without adequate cover.
According to the report, the superintendent of police Pradeep Deshpande, sustained injuries and therefore, it became necessary for the police to take evasive action against the rioters. Earlier, the police had rejected the allegations that the police had opened fire without warning. However, it has admitted that there was a delay in conducting the panchnama. Top police officials had also said that the sequence of police action – usage of water cannons, rubber bullet and lathicharge – could only be ascertained in the judicial inquiry.
However, activists, who visited Dhule, slammed the police report and questioned the observations made by the Maharashtra police. “Even after 15 days of riots, FIRs weren’t registered. The focus now would be on the judicial inquiry to establish a clear picture of what transpired on January 6. The police report has just attempted to record the preliminary details,” said Madhumita Ray from ActionAid. When contacted, inspector general of police (law and order), Deven Bharti said, “I am not aware of the details of the report as it was submitted by a higher official and it is confidential.”
- Dhule riots: SC issues notice to Maharashtra govt seeking independent probe (Feb 15, 2013, IBN)
- Communal tension in MP town over ASI-protected waqf property (Feb 14, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Assam violence: 2 killed in police firing at counting centre (Feb 15, 2013, Indian Express)
- NHRC notice to Assam on panchayat polls violence (Feb 15, 2013, Twocircles.net)
Six police personnel, including two inspectors were suspended on Thursday, in connection with the alleged custodial death of a 24-year-old youth two years ago. Dinesh (24) was arrested along with three others for kidnapping, raping and murdering 37-year-old software engineer Soundari, a resident of Arcot in Vellore, on January 28 in 2011.Inspectors Narasimhan of Arni taluk station and Balasubramanian of Arni Town station, special sub-inspector Sayeed Muneer of Arni Taluk station, head constable Sundaramurthy of Thellar police station, grade-I constables Velmuguran of Tiruvannamalai taluk station and Desinghu of Thellar police station were suspended on Thursday, in connection with the death of Dinesh during the investigation.
Speaking to Express, Superintendent of Police of Tiruvannamalai, J Mutharasi, said, “I have received an official communication from my immediate superior officer (DIG of Vellore Range M T Ganeshmoorthy) regarding the suspension of the six police personnel. As per the direction, I have issued the suspension orders that comes into effect from today (Thursday). The reason for their suspension was not mentioned in the official communication.”
The six police personnel were part of the special investigation team, constituted by the police department, to track down the murderers of the software engineer, sources in the department said. The six member special team had nabbed Dinesh, his friends Mohideen Khan (27) of Tambaram, Vadivel (28) of Aliyur in Vandavasi and Samath Basha (24) of S Kolathur on February 6 last year. Within few hours of the arrest, Dinesh died, allegedly due to cardiac arrest. “The outcome of the CB-CID investigation into the death had resulted in the suspension of the six police personnel,” a police officer said.
- Maharashtra records most custodial deaths in 10 years (Feb 15, 2013, Times of India)
- Gujarat encounters probe: Families depose before monitoring body (Feb 18, 2013, Indian Express)
- Arrested ex-cop once faced fake-encounter allegations (Feb 18, 2013, Times of India)
- Manipur policeman found guilty in fake encounter got medal on Republic Day (Feb 12, 2013, Indian Express)
Well-known writer and Central Sahitya Akademi award winner Bolwar Mahamad Kunhi on Friday highlighted the harsh realities of why Indian Muslims were drifting away from the mainstream because of persecution and suspicion. He was speaking at the Education Festival organised by the Bharat Gnan Vignan Samiti as part of the 11th anniversary celebrations of its publication Teacher here.
“Indian Muslims, besides praying five times a day, would have to prove their patriotism five times every day… It is unfortunate that just because a person is born Muslim he is expected to prove his love towards the country to others”, Mr. Kunhi said. The writer said all those who were born on this soil were patriots and nobody should have any doubts about the patriotism of others. Mr. Kunhi, who is known for his secular credentials, was shunned and boycotted earlier by Muslim clerics when he slammed certain practices followed by them.
He said that the situation in his home district Dakshina Kannada was extremely bad. “A man and a woman or a boy and girl cannot speak to each other in a public place… .those who defy this dictum are thrashed in public …. whether you are a brother and sister or a mother or a son or even a husband and wife, you should not exchange words in public…” Mr. Kunhi said one good development in the recent times was the educational empowerment of women in the community.
“…an educated Muslim woman will ensure educational empowerment of her children and also fight against superstitious beliefs”, he said. Resident Editor of the The Hindu Parvathi Menon said that the failure of the political class of the region and successive governments in the State after reorganisation of the State in 1956 was the reason for the continued backwardness of the Hyderabad Karnataka region.
- India’s growth depends on progress of Muslims, marginalised populations (Feb 17, 2013, DNA India)
- Tipu Sultan university comes under sharp attack (Feb 18, 2013, Times of India)
- Cong Muslim leaders slam Mamata’s minority claims (Feb 12, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Madrasas to be linked to mainstream education system (Feb 12, 2013, Times of India)
There can be no peaceful transition in the Indian society without total political change, says former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam. “If it (political change) does not happen, we will not have a peaceful transition of society. Young people are restless,” he said at a seminar on ‘Society in Transition and Police Reforms’ here Saturday. “We are living in a society where criminality is a trade of police, government and political class,” he said.
Thirty-one percent of legislators had criminal background, with 20 percent charged with murder, rape, extortion, and cheating, he said. What is the assurance that people with such credentials do not defeat the administration of criminal justice system, Subramaniam asked. Advocating empowerment of the Comptroller and Auditor General to verify financial details furnished by politicians in election affidavits, Subramaniam said the Election Commission was not looking into this aspect.
He said the commission officials admitted not doing so when they appeared before the Justice J.S. Verma panel set up after the Delhi gang-rape case. Subramaniam was a member of the panel. He said the focus should be on women’s empowerment and tracing missing children. “Political equality of women entails political empowerment and requires amendments to the Representation of the People Act,” he said.
Referring to exploitation of women in shelter homes, Subramaniam referred to Apna Ghar in Rohtak district of Haryana from where women were being supplied for sexual exploitation. He said till date, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had not filed a charge sheet in the case. The blame also lay with the civil society, he said. “If there was a strong and vibrant society, it could have prevented the exploitation of women and missing children going untraced years after years.”
He said no party said yes to recommendations of the Verma committee to bring a bill for rights of women. He exhorted the civil society, saying: “We have a role to ensure in preventing any attempt to frustrate the recommendation of the committee on the women rights”. Human rights activist Maja Daruwala said reforms were not just for the sake of reforms but for the safety of women. Right from 1903, there is talk for reforming the police, but nothing has happened, she said. “If you don’t change the political system, you will never be able to change the police; and if you don’t change police, you can’t address the problem of safety of women, missing children and vulnerable sections.”
- SC notice to Centre on PIL to bring IB, RAW under statute (Feb 12, 2013, Indian Express)
- CBI claims exemption from disclosing corruption info under RTI (Feb 18, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- No I-T return: EC bars 2171 candidates from polls (Feb 17, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Report bomb on Cong: CAG to present report on chopper scam (Feb 16, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
In a most inhuman incident, a senior police officer in Maharashtra’s Ahmednagar district beat up an 18-year-old girl with a belt in a police station when she and her fiancé visited him to lodge an FIR about her abduction and dumping at a brothel from where she was rescued on January 5 this year.
The police alleged that the girl was beaten up because they suspected that the couple were trying to register a fake complaint. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), which took suo-motu cognisance of the incident based on a media report, has sent notices to the Maharashtra DGP and the Ahmednagar Superintendent of Police, calling for reports on the incident within four weeks.
The girl was allegedly kidnapped by four unidentified persons, including a woman, from Ahmednagar on January 3, dumped at a prostitution den in Dhule and beaten by brothel keepers till her rescue. The press report has also mentioned that the Ahmednagar police finally registered a case at the Tofkhana Police Station on January 10.
- Andhra teacher ‘harassed’ by cop may have killed self (Feb 15, 2013, Indian Express)
- Govt seeks action against 100 doctors for sex determination & foeticide (Feb 18, 2013, Times of India)
- Delhi unsafe for women, step in: Sheila writes to PM (Feb 18, 2013, Indian Express)
- Delhi: Women councillors allege molestation by male colleagues (Feb 18, 2013, IBN)
‘One million post cards campaign’ launched to press for inclusion of Dalit Christians & Muslims in SC (Feb 18, 2013, Twocircles.net)
A national one million post card campaign for the inclusion of Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims in the Schedule Caste was launched on today afternoon at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) in the national capital. A civil petition is pending for eight years in the Supreme Court from 2004 challenging the validity of a 1950 order, which in third paragraph says, “No person who professes a religion different from Hinduism shall be deemed to be a member of the Scheduled Caste.”
The government has sought, at least on eight occasions, time from the Apex Court for replying, but has not submitted any response to the matter, delaying the issue. To press their demand Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), along with National Council of Churches in India (NCCI) and National Council for Dalit Christians (NCDC) today formally launched a nationwide post-card campaign, which has already begun since February 13 at Kanyakumari.
The campaigners plan to post ‘at least 100 post-cards each everyday’ to the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Advocate Franklin C. Thomas, National Coordinator of the NCDC said, “Since the issue is politicized, besides legal procedures, we will also have to politically move.” Organizers urged the UPA Government to at least file a reply, whether in positive or in negative, and not allow the matter to perpetually delay.
Campaigners accused the government of “selective discrimination” against Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims by seeking caste census as it was not sought during inclusion of Dalit Sikhs and new-Buddhists in the SC. Rev. Neethinathan, Chairperson of CBCI, added that the postcards campaign is to show the government that it’s a mass movement, and not confined to few individuals and that if the government does not wake up to their demands, 2014 general elections will be the test ground for them.
The post-card was jointly launched by Rev. Neethinathan of CBCI, Rev. PP Marandih and Alwan Masih of Church of North India, Rt. Rev. Probal Kanto Dutta, Chairperson of Commission on Policy, Governance and Public, NCCI and Dr Mary John, President of NCDC. First post card was signed by Ms Lourdu Mary. Advocate Franklin told TCN that they are in touch with several Muslim groups and individuals, championing the causes of the Pasmanda Muslims, and they hope to extend the campaign to include them as well.
- SHRC orders probe in dalit family’s house burning (Feb 14, 2013, Times of India)
- Dalit woman attempts self-immolation in MP CM’s presence (Feb 13, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- Dalit girl gang-raped in Uttarakhand (Feb 12, 2013, DNA India)
- Dalit’s gang rape: Police add stringent sections (Feb 11, 2013, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
Narendra Modi is being projected by a large section of Indians as the modern Moses, the one who will lead the beleaguered and despondent Indian people into a land of milk and honey, the man who is best suited to be the next Indian Prime Minister. And it is not just the Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS who are saying this at the Kumbh Mela. A large section of the Indian so-called ‘educated’ class, including many of our ‘educated’ youth, who have been carried away by Mr. Modi’s propaganda is saying this. I was flying from Delhi to Bhopal recently. Sitting beside me was a Gujarati businessman. I asked him his opinion of Mr. Modi. He was all praise for him. I interjected and asked him about the killing of nearly 2,000 Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat. He replied that Muslims were always creating problems in Gujarat, but after 2002 they have been put in their place and there is peace since then in the State. I told him this is the peace of the graveyard, and peace can never last long unless it is coupled with justice. At this remark he took offence and changed his seat on the plane.
The truth today is that Muslims in Gujarat are terrorised and afraid that if they speak out against the horrors of 2002 they may be attacked and victimised. In the whole of India, Muslims (who number over 200 million) are solidly against Mr. Modi (though there are a handful of Muslims who for some reason disagree). It is claimed by Modi supporters that what happened in Gujarat was only a ‘spontaneous’ reaction (pratikriya) of Hindus to the killing of 59 Hindus on a train in Godhra. I do not buy this story. First, there is still mystery as to what exactly happened in Godhra. Secondly, the particular persons who were responsible for the Godhra killings should certainly be identified and given harsh punishment, but how does this justify the attack on the entire Muslim community in Gujarat? Muslims are only 9 per cent of the total population of Gujarat, the rest being mostly Hindus. In 2002 Muslims were massacred, their homes burnt, and other horrible crimes committed on them.
To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938, when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalised after a German diplomat in Paris was shot dead by a Jewish youth whose family had been persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazi government that this was only a ‘spontaneous’ reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs. In terms of historical evolution, India is broadly a country of immigrants and consequently, it is a land of tremendous diversity. Hence, the only policy which can hold it together and put it on the path of progress is secularism — equal respect and treatment to all communities and sects. This was the policy of the great Emperor Akbar, which was followed by our founding fathers (Pandit Nehru and his colleagues) who gave us a secular Constitution. Unless we follow this policy, our country cannot survive for one day, because it has so much diversity, so many religions, castes, languages, ethnic groups.
India, therefore, does not belong to Hindus alone; it belongs equally to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Parsees, Jains etc. Also, it is not only Hindus who can live in India as first-rate citizens while others have to live as second or third rate citizens. All are first-rate citizens here. The killing of thousands of Muslims and other atrocities on them in Gujarat in 2002 can never be forgotten or forgiven. All the perfumes in Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Mr. Modi in this connection. It is said by his supporters that Mr. Modi had no hand in the killings, and it is also said that he had not been found guilty by any court of law. I do not want to comment on our judiciary, but I certainly do not buy the story that Mr. Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. He was the Chief Minister of Gujarat at the time when horrible events happened on such a large scale. Can it be believed that he had no hand in them? At least I find this impossible to believe.
Let me give just one example. Ehsan Jafri was a respected, elderly former Member of Parliament living in the Chamanpura locality of Ahmedabad in Gujarat. His house was in the Gulbarga Housing Society, where mostly Muslims lived. According to the recorded version of his elderly wife Zakia, on February 28, 2002 a mob of fanatics blew up the security wall of the housing society using gas cylinders. They dragged Ehsan Jafri out of his house, stripped him, chopped off his limbs with swords and burnt him alive. Many other Muslims were also killed and their houses burnt. Chamanpura is barely a kilometre from a police station, and less than two kilometres from the Ahmedabad Police Commissioner’s office. Is it conceivable that the Chief Minister did not know what was going on? Zakia Jafri has since then been running from pillar to post to get justice for her husband who was so brutally murdered. Her criminal case against Mr. Modi was thrown out by the district court (since the Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court found no evidence against him and filed a final report), and it is only now (after a gap of over 10 years) that the Supreme Court has set aside the order of the trial court and directed that her protest petition be considered. I am not going into this matter any further since it is still sub judice. …
- Can Modi’s model beat Manmohan’s record? – By Aakar Patel (Feb 17, 2013, DNA India)
Talk Hindutva, Sell Narcotics? Curbing Freedom of Press: The Karnataka Way – By Subhash Gatade (Feb 17, 2013, Countercurrents)
A 10-member group allegedly assaulted a staff member of Kannada daily Karavali Ale at Kulai here on Wednesday night. According to B.V. Seetaram, director and chairman of Chitra Publications, which publishes the paper, Harish Putran (36), office assistant, was attacked when he was waiting near Vishnumurthy temple to catch a bus back home. He was hit with iron rods and wickets and chased by the attackers, Mr. Seetaram said. Mr. Putran managed to save himself by hiding behind a shop. Mr. Seetaram suspected the involvement of a rightwing group in the attack. He said Karavali Ale published a report on Wednesday alleging the rightwing group’s involvement in the sale of narcotics in the city. Copies of the newspaper were burnt and some vendors were threatened against selling the Wednesday’s edition, he said. Mr. Putran has been admitted to a private hospital. A complaint has been filed with the Surathkal police. (Karavali Ale employee attacked : Staff Correspondent, The Hindu – MANGALORE, February 7, 2013) It has been a ‘happening’ week. Celebrations around one billion rising held in different parts of the world.Soni Sori acquitted in four cases. Dr Sunilam and two of his associates getting bail from Jabalpur highcourt after spending three months in Bhopal jail. More than two hundred intellectuals, activists writing to President of India about the manner in which Afzal Guru was hanged. Interestingly in the melee of news certain troubling developments in south of Vindhyas have not got enough attention they deserve. And they concern the curbing of media by majoritarian elements with due connivance of the people in power.
A letter from B. V. Seetaram, editor of ‘Karavali Ale’ to the Press Council of India (PCI) explains the state of affairs. It talks about how ‘…[t]here is no let up in the attack on the circulation network of Karavali Ale and its staff. For the fifth day in succession, the newspaper bundles carried by vehicles were forcibly taken away today by the same gang of thugs and for the third time in a row our colleagues had to suffer physical attack at the hands of the parivar hoodlums.’ (11 Feb 2013) It is a second letter to PCI after a gap of mere four days as ‘there is no relief provided to us by the law and order agencies’. It requests the PCI to ask the police to take remedial steps to enable its normal working. It ends with a line that if such steps were not taken “. [w]e are afraid we will be forced to stop the publication of the 22 year old newspaper.”
The first letter had explained in detail why Karavali Ale, coastal Karnataka’s popular Kannada daily, well known for its secular and progressive outlook, has been “…[t]arget of attack several times by the communal outfits like the Hindu Jagaran Vedike, …and the like, faces now another threat to its two-decade existence as goondas belonging to these outfits, during the past couple of days, have let lose a reign of terror by way of obstructing the circulation of the newspaper in the city of Mangalore and physically attacking the newspaper staff. A senior staffer of the newspaper is lying in the hospital bed, fighting for life following a physical attack on him by men of Hindu Jagaran Vedike, deadly weapons like clubs and iron rods.” One does not know whether Press Council of India (PCI), which is especially pro-active as far as communal elements is concerned has taken cognisance of this SOS of a different kind and asked the Karnataka government to take necessary action or not? The urgency of the unfolding situation can be gauged from the fact that the staff of the publication is receiving threat calls and its attendance has dwindled and it is a real possibility that these extremist elements would ultimately force a twenty two year old paper to shut down.
It may be added here that Karavali Ale, which was founded by Seetaram and his wife Rohini, way back in 1991, is published as a six page Kannada broadsheet from Mangalore and Karwar. They also run three other publications in the region – an English weekly called Canara Times and two Kannada dailies Sanje Ale and Kannada Janantaranga. Karavali Ale happened to be a leading midday newspaper in the coastal districts of Dakshina Kannada, Udupi and Uttara Kannada – with an estimated sales of more than 50,000 copies – before December 2008 when a series of attacks on its distribution network dented its circulation. One may agree to differ with the style of journalism of the paper which is ‘no-holds-barred kind’ but is a fairly respected newspaper for the bold stands it takes. Apart from its consistent struggle against majoritarian communal elements who have been trying to transform this region into Hindutva lab of a different kind, it has not shied away from writing about fundamentalist elements in Islamic and Christian faiths in the region as well. Commenting on his arrest by the Karnataka police three years back in a case of defamation filed some time ago ‘Frontline’ (Silencing act, January 17-30, 2009, VIKHAR AHMED SAYEED) said : The real estate mafia in the region also came under Karavali Ale’s scanner. It criticised atrocities of large builders while questioning the indiscriminate development being encouraged by the Urban Development Authority in Mangalore. Another powerful group that the newspaper has taken on was the private transport lobby. According to Seetaram, a third group that the paper has offended is the “religious mafia”, many of whom he described as “fake priests”. In the original story that the newspaper carried on a Swami in February 2008, it accused him of being involved in child trafficking. …
The attack on Karavali Ale this time can be said to be a continuation of efforts of the vested interests in the region to silence this voice which has refused to ‘mend its ways’ as per their diktats. Perhaps it would be opportune here to browse through the said report on drug mafia in Mangalore which appeared in the paper (Hindu Jagarana Vedike leader is a drugs dealer in Suratkal , Feb 6, 2013) which has sort of unleashed their fury this time : … First Naveen Soorinje, now ‘Karavali Ale’. It appears that the people in power in the state who have lost all legitimacy to rule with a number of corruption charges against them and ongoing infighting for power have decided to stick to power by shooting the messengers themselves. They rather want to declare from rooftops that under their jurisdiction Press freedom has to R.I.P.
- Our Hindu rashtra – By Samar Halarnkar (Feb 13, 2013, Hindustant Times)
- ‘Police Can’t Arrest Togadia’ – By Subhash Gatade (Feb 10, 2013, Countercurrents)
Rajnath Singh, the new BJP President (Feb 2013) has brought forward the issue of Ram Temple once again. The Sadhus associated with VHP have also proclaimed that it is on their agenda. All the top leaders of RSS Combine are visiting the Mahakumbh, taking a dip in the Holy Ganges and affirming the Ram Temple as the fulcrum of their all round campaign in the wake of the forthcoming 2014 Parliamentary elections. What is disturbing is that after the Allahabad High Court verdict on Ayodhya, which had asked to divide the land into three parts one each being given to the three litigants, Sunni Waqf Board, Nirmohi Akhada and Ram lalla Virajman, the matter is pending in Supreme Court. In the wake of the judgment the RSS had asserted that Muslims should give up their claims for the sake of the sentiments of majority. Despite the cases pertaining to ownership of the land where the mosque is located, VHP etc. were already asserting that no mosque will be permitted in Ayodhya. As per VHP, mosque has to be outside the ‘Shastriya Seema’ (boundary) as given in the Ramcharita manas (The Ram Legend, by Tulsidas) of Ayodhaya. Meaning there by that Ayodhya is a holy place of Hindus only.
It must be made clear that Ayodhya means (A+Yudhya: A no war zone). It is not only holy for Hindus. Ayodhya has been a focal point of many religions, Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism. From about fifth century BC fairly large Buddhist community was living in Ayodhya. Though this religion suffered a setback during first millennium AD, several remnants of its existence did survive. According to Jain tradition Ayodhya was the birthplace of the first and fourth Tirthankara. The early places of Hindu worship of Ayodhya were of Shaiva or Vishnu provenance. The specific worship of Rama even as an avatar of Vishnu is a much later development. References to the image of Rama appear only in sixth Century. Nawab of Awadh region, where Ayodhya is located had given land for the biggest temple in the area, Hanuman gadhi. Another argument doing rounds is that state should take up the building of the Ram Temple at Ayodhya the way Somnath temple was built by the state. Advani and many others have been claiming that the Somnath reconstruction was done as per the decision of the Nehru cabinet. This is a total lie. Since the public memory is too short anything propagated repeatedly starts sounding like being true, the way Hitler’s propaganda minister Goebbels used to do. Contrary to this; a little peep into the recent history will show us that Indian Government had nothing to do with the reconstruction of Somnath temple. The lie that Nehru Government had reconstructed or supported Somnath reconstruction is a distortion of the fact that two ministers of Nehru cabinet were involved in the reconstruction in their personal capacity. As such when the idea of reconstructing temple at Somnath was mooted by Sardar Patel, Gandhi who was alive at that time opined that Hindus are themselves capable to build the temple and they don’t need Government money or assistance for reconstruction neither should Government give money for such a construction.
With the death of Sardar Patel, K.M.Munshi and N.V. Gadgil, who were ministers in Nehru’s Cabinet, took up reconstruction work at personal level. There was no question of reconstruction proposal being passed by the Cabinet as falsely being claimed by communal forces. After the completion of the temple for its inauguration, the then President of India Dr. Rajedra Prasad was invited. He accepted the invitation against the wishes of Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru. Nehru opined that public officials should never publicly associate with faiths and shrines. Today nearly two decades after the demolition of the Babri Mosque, we have seen as to how much damage this Ram temple campaign has done to the political scene in the country. Unfortunately the Ayodhya Judgment has accepted faith as the basis of the verdict. It has been challenged in the Supreme Court though. At this moment why can’t RSS and company wait for the court verdict before declaring it on their agenda? The real reason for this is a political one. Temple construction has nothing to do with Hindu religion. RSS combine could demolish the mosque and built their political strength. Starting from two MPs in Lok Sabha in 1984 elections, as they gradually took up this issue, BJP by and by went up to 183 MPs in Parliament in 1999 elections. The mass hysteria created by this movement built up the BJP from a marginal outfit to the major opposition party. After 1999, BJP gradually went declining in its electoral strength. The present effort to revive Ram Temple issue has a calculated strategy. The calculation may be that reviving this campaign may increase its power and bring it to the forefront again.
But it is doubtful if this strategy may succeed again. Two decades ago, it worked. So many years down the line, the voter profile has changed and the newer set of youth may not be too enamoured by the call for temple building, as the more crucial issues are baying at them. Still there is a big appeal of emotive issues amongst a large section of society. And RSS combine has been whipping up the emotive messages through different programs. As outfit like RSS thrive on identity issues, Ram Temple is their major trump card. The arguments that Ram Temple is a symbol of our nationalism also seem to have smudged the issue in the minds of many. We know that Indian Nationalism does not veer around the mosques and temples. It is not a religious nationalism. In a democracy Nationalism cannot be identified with the religions’ of the kings of the past. Even the Kings of both religions had mixed administration anyway. One needs to come to terms with the values of freedom struggle, which made India into a nation, based on democracy and secularism, dump the issues of temple-mosque and grapple with the issues of livelihood and human rights of the citizens.
- Rapists in Uniform – By Anuradha Bhasin Jamwal (Feb 23, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)
My Name Is Khan And, Pain of A celebrity Being An Indian Muslim – By Ram Puniyani (Feb 8, 2013, Countercurrents)
Shah Rukh Khan is no ordinary celebrity. Being the lead actor with a very vibrant presence on big and small screen makes him to be very much on the top. Recently the communal elements asked him to produce his patriotism certificate. Khan in one of his articles in The New York Times-Outlook Turning Points ((January 2013) suggested that India has a bias against Muslims and goes on to say that “Political leaders have made me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India.” He also writes “There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighboring country-this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return (to Pakistan) when they refer to my original home land.”
In response to this the Pakistan foreign minister Rahman Malik was quick to ask the Indian Government to provide security to Khan. Hafiz Sayeed went to the extent of inviting Khan to Pakistan with a promise to provide him with security. Both these are sort of pinpricks which are usually dished out by the neighbors to each other. When Hindu minorities suffer in Pakistan the immediate chorus comes up here in India is to ask to take steps for security of Hindus in Pakistan. Malik and Sayeed were just trying to put some salt in to the wounds of Indian psyche, not that they are concerned about Indian Muslims as such. They belong to a country where large section of Muslims themselves is struggling to live the life of dignity. A section of Muslims is being called Mohajirs and is denied most of the privileges of citizens. In Pakistan currently the Shia Muslims and Ahmadiyas are an object of wrath. So lesser said about Rahman Malik and Hafiz Sayeed Company the better.
The criticism directed against Khan was that he is giving ammunition to the elements across the border to criticize India. But can we keep the wounds of Indian Muslims under wraps, with no smell polluting the air? As far as Khan’s statement that there are biases against Indian Muslims is concerned, it is a painful reality. Muslims have been demonized; the strong streak of Islamophobia persists all over. The myths, stereotypes and biases against Indian Muslims were heightened with the partition tragedy, when the communal forces propagated that it is due to Muslims that India had to be partitioned. This is a total misreading of recent history as majority of Indian Muslims neither supported the idea of Partition nor were behind the Muslims League. Muslim League cut a sorry figure in 1937 assembly elections as majority of Indian Muslims did not vote for Jinnah party. And after the Jinnah’s resolution demanding Paksitan in 1940, majority of Indian Muslims took out processions opposing the demand of Pakistan. The other biases against Muslim community started intensifying through the propaganda by the communal forces, the biases about the Muslims related to the atrocities committed by Muslim kings, the biases related to polygamy, number of children, beef eating and their loyalty to Pakistan. The parallel process of communal violence started marginalizing them from social scene, the violence against them (Muslims are 13.4% as per 2001 census; Muslims are close to 90% amongst the riot victims). These stereotypes against Muslims are currently at peak and hatred resulting from these biases is leading to repeated communal violence and polarization.
While the average Muslim has been living with these biases pasted on his/her forehead, after 9/11, ‘All terrorists are Muslims’ has also been popularized through various mechanisms, section of media, words of mouth, SMS chains through mobile phones and the social media. While in the regular channels Muslims are too few, in the offbeat channels of social life, they do excel as in sports, music and films. At the same time the Muslims, who by mistake reach the top slots in position of authority have to be more careful for obvious reasons. Here the communal parties and outfits pick up some pro-Pakistan label against Muslim celebrities. Dilip Kumar, Yusuf Khan, was initially given the same abuse of being for Pakistan and he had to face lot of music when he was awarded the highest civilian honor by the government of Pakistan, Nishan-e-Pakistan. Lot of demonstrations was held in front of his house by these outfits to humiliate him. That may be one of the reasons for him not being awarded the highest civilian honor, which he deserves many times over. Mohammad Azaruddin, the outstanding cricketing talent and ex-Indian cricket Captain was mocked that he plays poorly when playing against Pakistan, to enable Pakistan to win! Shah Rukh Khan is another such celebrity. He had to face the double flak. Being a Khan, twice he was detained and stripped at the US entry points. Interestingly when he was detained many of his fans were approaching him for his autographs right there. In India the Shiv Sena, claiming to be a patriotic organization, holding on to Hindu Nationalism not Indian nationalism, has meted similar treatment to Shah Rukh Khan. Khan is from Peshawar and it is an enlightening point to know that his father was the follower of Khan Abdul Gaffer Khan, Frontier Gandhi, and participated in freedom struggle.
Shah Rukh Khan knows he is too secure; he is not talking as a victim, it is not from the angle of victimhood. He is expressing the anguish of being a Muslim at a time when in India the anti Muslim sentiments are at a peak and these get a boost from global Islamophobia created by American propaganda. Imagine the pain of an Indian when he is looked down to be owing allegiance to the neighboring country? Only those seeped in the values of Indian freedom struggle and those respecting the values of Indian Constitution can feel the anguish of Shah Rukh Khan and many more Muslims, celebrity or not, who have to keep producing loyalty and patriotism certicates time and over again, and that too to those belonging to the politics based on the ideology, which was not a part of freedom movement and has little respect for values of Indian Constitution. In popular psyche the identification of Indian Muslims with Pakistan has been cultivated with vehemence by communal forces. Muslims are more loyal to Pakistan is a standard propaganda. How can we judge patriotism of an individual? By cheering for the cricket teams or by allegiance to Indian Constitution? The matter of fact is that some disgruntled Muslims may be showing their anguish by cheering for Pakistan, in cricket matches, but that’s where the matters rest. A lot has been made of this deliberately and this falsehood has become part of social common sense. Shah Rukh Khan has been made a deliberate target by the communal forces and it is a part of their game of manufacturing biases against Muslim community as a whole. His expression in the said article is expression of what many Muslims suffer in India, celebrities included.
- Indian Muslims after the Sachar Committee Report – By Archana Prasad (Jan 27, 2013, Peoples Democracy)
- The Recent Shah Rukh Khan Controversy And Being A Muslim In India – By Shaik Zakeer Hussain (Jan 30, 2013, Countercurrents)
- Three years without Shahid Azmi – By Mahtab Alam (Feb 11, 2013, Twocircles.net)
Whispers of an impending scam in the Rs 3,600 crore AgustaWestland chopper deal have been doing the rounds for over a year now. It finally took the arrest of Giuseppe Orsi, chairman and CEO of the Italian defence and aerospace giant Finmeccanica, and three others earlier this month to bring the kickbacks buzz right to the doorstep of former chief of the Indian air force, S.P. Tyagi. With yet another scam threatening to blow up in the face of the UPA government, the MoD has ordered a CBI probe into the deal, which included purchase of 12 swanky helicopters to ferry around top Indian dignitaries. The Enforcement Directorate is looking into the money trail—kickbacks allegedly being paid to the ex-air chief through his cousins.
The BJP, elated at another opportunity to embarrass the government, is already calling it the “Bofors sequel”. Party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, one of the first to raise the issue in the Rajya Sabha in December, says ironically, “The country which would have benefited from the deal has taken action while the country which lost money has not done anything.” Interestingly, his query then was answered by assurances from defence minister A.K. Antony that a probe by the MoD acquisitions wing was under way. But it seems the Italians were a few chopper sorties ahead. Interestingly, this will be the first defence scam where the alleged money trail, the middlemen have all been identified. In fact, they have even confessed their part in offering kickbacks. The Italian connection hasn’t been missed here by the Opposition, “St Antony” and “Madam Sonia” are sure to have a tough time of it when Parliament reconvenes on February 21.
For now, the delivery of nine helicopters has been put on hold (three of them have already been delivered). And while 30 per cent of the payment has been made, the next instalment stays cancelled till the outcome of the CBI probe. Antony has gone on to say that “India can get its money back at this stage” suggesting a very real possibility of the deal being scrapped altogether. The MoD, in damage control mode, has come out with a factsheet detailing how they had written to the company M/s AgustaWestland, the Indian embassy in Rome and various other authorities in Italy as soon as media reports of an alleged deal started appearing in February ’12. It still doesn’t explain, though, why a formal CBI inquiry was not ordered back then. The revelations about possible kickbacks came as far back as a year ago from Lorenzo Borgogni, former head of Finmeccanica’s external relations department. It was his disclosures that led to a full-fledged Italian investigation into alleged unethical dealings by the company, bringing within its ambit the Rs 3,546-crore contract with India.
The Italian investigators’ focus in the Borgogni testimony was his allegation that one of the middlemen, Guido Haschke, was hired as an “intermediary” for a sum of 41 million euros. This “compensation” was alleged to have been hiked at the last minute by 10 million euros. The Italian investigators zeroed in on this ‘escalation’, which was allegedly used by company officials to bribe political parties there for plum postings. The investigators from Italy’s attorney general’s office, in a preliminary report filed on February 12, called for the arrest of Finmeccanica CEO Giuseppe Orsi. It was here that they alleged that Finmeccanica had bribed S.P. Tyagi when he was iaf chief to swing the chopper deal in favour of the company. (The kickbacks were allegedly paid through his cousins Julie, Sandeep and Dosca. Julie has business associations with Carlo Gerosa, another of the middlemen.) Some Rs 217 crore was apparently kept aside for “corrupt activity” out of which disclosures so far have suggested that the Tyagi cousins were paid Rs 72 lakh. The payment of bribes to the middlemen through contracts between firms registered in Tunisia and India was “still under way” when the scam was discovered.
The report further alleges that technical requirements for the contract were tweaked by India only so as to allow the AgustaWestland chopper to enter the bidding process and that kickbacks of millions of euros were paid in Italy and India. The investigation report also says that Orsi and middlemen Has-chke, Gerosa and Christian Michel facilitated the payments to India. “Haschke and Gerosa, through the Tyagi brothers, in turn through their cousin Shashi Tyagi, managed first to change the tender det-ails in a way that would only favour AgustaWestland, modifying the ‘operational ceiling’ from 18,000 ft to 15,000 ft of altitude, thus allowing AgustaWestland (which otherwise could not have even submitted an offer) to take part in the tender,” the report says. It also alleges that the flight trials were tweaked. The trials were conducted after Tyagi retired in 2007. “Then they managed to introduce a comparative flight trial with a non-functional engine, thus facilitating AgustaWestland helicopters, the only ones which had three engines. In this way, they managed to get the contract…,” the report says. Interestingly, it was Brajesh Mishra, national security advisor in the BJP-led NDA government, who ordered the specification changes after consultations with the spg in ’03. The late George Fernandes was defence minister then. (Jaswant Singh, NDA defence minister for a while, has come out publicly in support of S.P. Tyagi and the chopper deal saying it’s normal procedure for specs to be changed. Then he goes on to ask, “If my cousin is a robber, does that make me one too? You must be careful of guilt by association”, apparently a considered defence of the ex-air chief.) While investigations take their course, the taint of kickbacks has spread through the defence establishment. For a start, there is a clear danger of future acquisitions being delayed by an overcautious government. Which brings in its wake an alarming question: will this take a toll on the modernisation of our already dated armed forces? Only time will tell.
- NGOs: A silent scam – By S. Dorairaj (Feb 9, 2013, Frontline)
- ‘The Entire Helicopter Deal Must Be Put On Hold And Reviewed’ – By Ravi Shankar Prasad (Feb 13, 2013, Outlook)
Kalahandi bauxite: Tale of two hills and tribal identity – By By Aroonim Bhuyan (Feb 18, 2013, New Indian Express)
Misconception of sorts over a sacred hill and threats perceived to the identities of the tribespeople around this village in Odisha’s Kalahandi district seem to have stalled a major bauxite mining project here. Visit this area and you see hundreds of hills – and the tribespeople in them are known to worship the tallest among them as the protector of their forests and livelihood. Where the misconception comes in is over whether the same sacred hill was once allotted to Vedanta to mine bauxite for a 1 million tonne per annum aluminium plant that was set up in 2007, and soon became a lifeline for people around this area. Out of 150 million tonnes of bauxite allotted to Vedanta by the state-run Odisha Mining Corp, 78 million tonnes is on one of the hills of the Niyamgiri hill range – which was why the company had set up the plant at the foothills of this hill range.
The confusion is over the identity and sanctity of the hill. “The Niyamgiri range has hundreds of hills. The highest is 1,500 metres above mean sea level. It is called Nimagiri. Being the highest, the people see it as the seat of their king. That’s their belief,” says Vedanta-Lanjigarh chief operating officer Mukesh Kumar. “But the bauxite we are talking about is deposited in another hill at a height of 1,300 metres – 15 km away. It is called Niyamdangar. That is what was given to us. Nimagiri does not have any bauxite to mine,” Kumar told IANS, adding Geological Survey of India maps clearly show this. Why the confusion? This is due to contrary reports of some NGOs which are doing the rounds here and being quoted extensively by environment activists. “They (Niyamgiri hills) are home to more than 8,000 Dongria Kondh people, whose lifestyle and religion have helped nurture the area’s dense forest and unusually rich wildlife,” says the London-based Survival International.
“At the centre of the struggle was the Dongria’s sacred mountain, the ‘mountain of law’. The Dongrias worship the top of the mountain as the seat of their god and protect the forests there,” the group says. “Vedanta Resources wants to mine the bauxite from the top of the same mountain.” The word is that the Dongria Kondh people believe that the top of the hill that the London-based NGO refers to as the ‘mountain of law’ is the seat of Niyam Raja and the tribespeople worship him. However, people like Ajay Mishra, a retired professor of geography and a leading civil society member of Bhawanipatna, the headquarter-town of Kalahandi district, are sceptical. “For me, this issue is concocted. I have never heard anything about worshipping Niyam Raja by the people here in all my life. All these came up after the Lanjigarh plant was set up,” said Mishra, who was born in Bhawanipatana and spent his entire life here.
“Come to look at it. What don’t we worship? We worship the trees. We worship water. We worship the earth. But does it mean that we have do it at the cost of development work,” he added. “The Dongria Kondh people don’t have good houses. They don’t get clean drinking water. They don’t have electricity. They don’t have access to good education. We should help them improve their living standards,” Mishra told IANS. “Do we really have to keep them as a museum piece always?” he wonders. “Global non-government organisations have their own interests. They are not concerned with the welfare of the local people. They are only concerned with some war between company X and company Y – about grabbing the market,” Mishra adds. There are others, like social activist Prafulla Samantara, who feel an industry around Lanjigarh will threaten the identity of the Dongria Kondh people. “They are nature-loving people. They worship the hills. This (Lanjigarh) project is against their interests.”
But countering such opinion is Gopinath Behara, a retired professor of chemistry from Sambalpur University and a noted opinion-maker of Bhawanipatna. “We aren’t asking the Dongria Kondh people to come down from the hills and join the so-called mainstream in the plains.” he says. “They can live in the hills. But at the same time, they have a right to improve their living standards. Their children must have access to good education. They should improve their economic condition,” Behera adds. “When they can do all this and more while maintaining their own culture and identity, why not?” he argues, alluding as to why the Dongria Kondh people should continue to be called one of the most primitive tribal peoples of India. In removing such confusion and answering the debate lies the fate of the 1 million tonne per annum aluminium refinery, which employed some 7,500 people in and around Lanjigarh, and has now been forced to shut shop since December for want of bauxite.
- Introspecting Time For Aadivasi Movements For Autonomy – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Feb 15, 2013, Countercurrents)
- The question of casteism still remains – By K. Satyanarayana (Feb 5, 2013, The Hindu)
- Indian Farmers Trapped And Desperate – By Graham Peebles (Jan 26, 2013, Countercurrents)
- Welcome to closet illiberalism – By Vidya Subrahmaniam (Feb 11, 2013, The Hindu)