IAMC Weekly News Roundup - February 2nd, 2015 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 2nd, 2015

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Communal Harmony

A ride for communal harmony (Jan 28, 2015, The Hindu)

A hundred enterprising youth leaders are now on a mission to create awareness in Delhi, NCR, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh about the need to have communal harmony in society and ensure that the country’s name doesn’t get besmirched due to flare-up between people of different faiths.

Aptly described as changeloomers, these youngsters hail from different socio-economic backgrounds but share values of forging a bond between people of different faiths, caste and creed. They also share a vision to ensure that when the country moves forward the pluralistic traditions of the country continue unfettered.

As part of Changelooms With.in’s campaign “Bas! Stop …Discrimination Right Now”, these youngsters are committed to bringing about non discriminatory access to livelihood opportunities and inclusion of marginalised communities, people of different sexual orientations into the mainstream. Changelooms With.in is basically a leadership journey that encourages, recognises and supports young leaders to realise their potential and spearhead initiatives to bring about a change.…


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Groups stage dharna, seek communal peace (Feb 1, 2015, The Hindu)

Members of the district unit of the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike and other like-minded progressive organisations staged a dharna in front of the Clock Tower here recently seeking communal harmony in the society on the occasion of Martyr’s Day.

Speaking on the occasion, G. Rajashekar, writer and president of district unit of the vedike, said that Gandhiji’s last fast was against communal violence and communal politics of certain forces and also the lack of constitutional willpower of the ruling parties against such forces.

The problem of communal violence and communal politics by certain forces was continuing till the present day in the coastal districts of the State. It was always the innocent persons who suffered during such communal violence. … It was necessary to create an atmosphere of harmony so that all communities could mingle and live together in the country, Mr. Rajashekar said.


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Obama Warns India on Religious Divisions (Jan 27, 2015, Wall Street Journal)

…Throughout his short stay, the U.S. president had offered effusive praise for both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and India, heralding the country’s potential and its leader’s vision. But on Tuesday, Mr. Obama struck a more measured tone, politely nudging India to tackle issues that could divide the country and hinder its development.

“India will succeed so long as it is not split along the lines of religious faith,” Mr. Obama told a young audience at Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi. The president exhorted Indians to uphold the ideal of freedom of religion, which was laid out in the country’s founding documents, saying that in both India and the U.S., diversity is a strength.

Mr. Modi’s party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has faced criticism for pushing a religious agenda and chipping away at secularism in India. And the prime minister himself was cited for “severe violations of religious freedom” by the U.S. State Department. For a decade, Mr. Modi was prohibited from setting foot on U.S. soil – a decision that followed his failure to stop deadly Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002.…



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India investigates reports of mass ‘reconversion’ of Christians (Jan 29, 2015, The Guardian)

Reports of a new mass conversion of Christians in India have raised concerns over freedom of worship, days after Barack Obama challenged the country’s record on religious tolerance.

Details of the incident are unclear but it was reported that between 50 and 100 Christians from some of the poorest communities in India were “welcomed back” to Hinduism in a “homecoming ceremony” in a remote area in the eastern state of West Bengal on Wednesday.

A series of attempts by rightwing Hindu groups to hold mass conversion ceremonies have caused controversy in recent months. Conversion is illegal if there is any element of compulsion or bribery. “The worry is that some kind of coercion is involved. The communities [involved in the recent incidents] are already vulnerable and the campaign seems quite aggressive and the combination is concerning,” said Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director of Human Rights Watch.…



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Police bust Hindutva outfit’s plan to honour Nathuram Godse in Meerut (Jan 31, 2015, India Today)

A posse of police and paramilitary forces was deployed around the All India Hindu Mahasabha (AIHM) office in Meerut on Friday to put off the Hindutva outfit’s plan to install a bust of Nathuram Godse, who had assassinated Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948.

The police detained several leaders of the organisation and imposed prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the CrPC in the city. The Mahasabha had planned to observe Shaurya Diwas (Bravery Day) on the occasion and install a bust of Godse at the gate of their office in Sharda Road area.

Sources said the Uttar Pradesh government received intelligence input that the Mahasabha leaders had brought a bust of Godse from Jaipur on Wednesday and kept it at a secret place-probably in the house of a member of the organisation.…



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The row that wasn’t: VP ‘not saluting’ the tri-colour exposes Hindutva prejudices (Jan 27, 2015, Twocircles.net)

As the country celebrating the Republic Day on Monday, Hindutva trolls on social media were out abusing the Vice President Hamid Ansari; many went so far as questioning his patriotism purportedly because he was not saluting the national flag when the national anthem was playing at the main function on Rajpath here.

Ansari’s office later clarified that the President and all persons in uniform only are supposed to salute the national flag.

Social media was abuzz with a photograph, where President Pranab Mukharjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikkar were seen saluting the tri-colour, while US President Barack Obama and Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari were seen standing in attention position. Hindutva troll did not stop by just pointing out Ansari not saluting the flag but also encircled his face, seen with a velvet cap with his hand straight down.…



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RSS song is part of morning ritual in Ahmedabad school (Jan 31, 2015, Indian Express)

On Friday, an unusual song rang out from FD High School in the Muslim-dominated Juhapura area in Ahmedabad rural district. The students were singing ‘Manushya tu bada mahaan hai’, a song closely linked to the RSS.

The song was among two handed over by educational officials to the 472 schools in the district – granted, private and government secondary and higher secondary – as part of a new mandatory morning ritual of students singing motivational songs.

The other song was ‘Vaishnava jan to’, which is considered as one of Mahatma Gandhi’s favourites. “In a recent meeting with the principals, it was decided to include these motivational songs in the morning assembly – three days a week,” said DEO (Rural) M I Joshi. … An official who was part of one such inspection team on Friday said that district officials would submit a report on the initiative to the Gujarat Education Department.



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BJP incite riots wherever elections are due: Rahul Gandhi (Jan 29, 2015, Indian Express)

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi Thursday accused BJP of inciting riots in poll-bound states and said not a single such incident had happened in the national capital during his party’s 15-year rule. In an election rally at Seelampur area, he referred to recent “riots” in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri and said no one from other parties except Congress workers helped affected people.

“We were in power in Delhi for 15 years but not a single incident of riot took place. Wherever elections are due, BJP’s people incite riots. Riots were triggered in Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Maharashtra wherever elections took place,” he said.

Promising to restore communal harmony if Congress comes to power in Delhi, Gandhi said, “When riots took place in Trilokpuri, you didn’t see (Arvind) Kejriwal or anybody else. There were people from Congress who helped the victims.”…



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Sujatha Singh: PMO wanted me to have no reference of PM Modi in my resignation letter (Jan 31, 2015, India Today)

Her offer to take early retirement was rejected as Prime Minister’s Office wanted to delete a reference that she was doing so on the instructions of Prime MinisterNarendra Modi, former Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh, whose tenure was abruptly “curtailed”, said on Saturday.

Singh said External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had informed her on January 28 afternoon that the PM wanted to appoint S Jaishankar as the Foreign Secretary. She said she had sent a letter on that evening seeking early retirement “as instructed by the Prime Minister”. But she got a call from the Prime Minister’s Office “asking me if I would consider deleting it (the words)”.

The former FS said she made it clear that “I would not” delete reference to the Prime Minister. “It was on the instructions of the Prime Minister and as a good civil servant, we follow instructions,” she told Karan Thapar on Headlines Today.…



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FIR against VHP chief Pravin Togadia in West Bengal (Jan 29, 2015, Indian Express)

A day after a “ghar wapsi” programme was organised at a tribal village of Rampurhat in Birbhum district, the Bengal police lodged separate FIRs against international working president of Vishwa Hindu Parishad Praveen Togadia and VHP general secretary Jugal Kishore on Thursday as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee ordered an inquiry.

Two different cases were lodged against Togadia and Kishore. While Togadia was charged with delivering “communal speech” at the public meeting in a Rampurhat village, Kishore has been charged for delivering “hate speech and applying force on tribal people”, a senior police official said. The complaints were lodged by two tribal youths who were present at the programme.

About 17 Christian and two Muslim families were “reconverted” to Hinduism on Wednesday through “shuddhi havan” (purificaton) and other rituals. The event was attended by Tagodia and other top VHP leaders.…



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NIA recommends tough action against Delhi Police officials (Feb 1, 2015, Indian Express)

NIA has recommended departmental action with severe punishment against at least five officials of Delhi Police’s elite Special Cell for allegedly fabricating a case against a resident of Kashmir and projecting him as a ‘suicide attacker’ of Hizbul Mujahideen terror group.

They include an officer of the rank of an Assistant Commissioner of Police and a couple of inspectors who had allegedly connived with Aslam Halka, who had gone to Nepal to receive Liyakat Shah, a resident of Lolab in North Kashmir, official sources said. They said National Investigation Agency (NIA) has recommended regular departmental action with major penalty for the officials of the anti-terror cell of Delhi Police.

NIA had submitted a report on the role of Delhi Police’s Special Cell officials after which top sources in the Home Ministry indicated that tough action will be taken against the delinquent officers who had allegedly “framed and fabricated” terror charges against Shah. The NIA report left the action against the erring police officials to the discretion of the Ministry. …



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Gujarat cop arrested for tampering with gangrape FIR (Jan 28, 2015, Indian Express)

The Panchmahals police have arrested a sub-inspector under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act for “wilfully” neglecting his duty and allegedly altering an FIR on a complaint of gangrape by a Dalit girl and taking off certain names from the report. All those whose names were excluded from the new FIR were local BJP leaders.

The police action came after the Gujarat State Human Rights Commission last year ordered the Panchmahals DSP to register an FIR against Gadhvi and constable Arjun Koyabhai. The SHRC had passed the order while acting on a complaint by Ahmedabad-based human rights activist Valjibhai Patel.

Patel had moved the SHRC after the Panchmahals police authorities only took departmental action against the two policemen, ignoring their criminal culpability. This is for the first time in Gujarat that policemen were booked and arrested under the provisions of Section 4 of the SC & ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.…



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Opinions and Editorials

Obama and religious freedom – Editorial (Jan 30, 2015, The Hindu)

The first public reactions to U.S. President Barack Obama’s soul-stirring “Address to the People of India” at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi before winding up his three-day historic trip to the country on January 27 have, rather predictably, displayed a binary logic. A good section instantly saw in Mr. Obama’s candid views on “dealing with diversity of beliefs and of faiths” and the need to uphold the constitutionally guaranteed ‘Right to Freedom of Religion’ without fear of persecution or discrimination, a well-meant yet stinging reminder to the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government to rein in its religious fundamentalist elements. But an equally vocal section seemed to resent his homily to a nation whose “Sanatana Dharma has been extremely tolerant” of all religions.

However, holistically there is more substance to Mr. Obama’s 34-minute speech, set in the context of two emerging scenarios. First, the possibility that America can be “India’s best partner” in a whole range of activities including the ‘next wave’ of economic growth, and second, at a more personal level how India for Mr. Obama represents “an intersection of two men who have always inspired me” – Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi – in striving for equity and peace in a non-violent way.…

The late Philosopher-President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, in his work, The Spirit of Religion said: “The world has got together as a body; it is groping for its soul… If we can have a United Nations Organization, cannot we have a United Religions Organization?” Mr. Obama’s plea for religious freedom aims to give that vision a chance under very different circumstances.



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Derailing The Constitution: A Threat To The Idea Of India – By Shehzad Poonawalla (Jan 26, 2015, Countercurrents)

As a keen observer of politics and a student of the Constitution, I often wonder if the 2014 Lok Sabha election results, have thrown up, in the midst of cheer and change, a much avoidable narrative of triumphanism, unilateralism and chauvinism that threaten the very Idea of India.

The most visible attack has been on the secular soul of India or Bharat. Today, secularism is considered to be a bad word in our political lingo. One is often mocked for being a “sickularist” or a “pseudo secular” not just by social media supporters of the ruling party but its top leaders and spokespersons who have polluted and adulterated the word. …

The founding fathers had already discussed the issue of secularism thread bare in the Constituent Assembly and had consciously introduced Articles and Provisions that made ‘secularism’ an inalienable part of our constitution. It was an affirmative decision to not replicate Pakistan and become a theocratic state albeit of the Hindu variety.…



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Ideological Politics of BJP in Power – By CP Bhambhri (Feb 1, 2015, Peoples Democracy)

In the latter part of 2014, four members of Parliament made provocative statements. Yogi Adityanath, the MP from Gorakhpur, claimed that young Muslim men had launched a “lovejihad” to entrap Hindu women, by marrying and converting them to Islam. Sakshi Maharaj, the MP from Unnao, said that the murderer of Mahatma Gandhi, Nathuram Godse, was a true patriot. Sadhvi Jyoti Niranjana, MP from Fatehpur (and who had been recently inducted into the council of ministers), said that all those who did not worship Lord Rama or vote for her party were ” haramzadon” (a term that we can politely translate as ‘rascals’, although the original Hindustani admits of more pejorative connotations). Satish Gautam, the MP from Aligarh, proclaimed his support to a programme of converting Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.

The four MPs all belonged to the Bharatiya Janata Party, the party that is running the Union government. As a result, the Opposition asked the prime minister, as head of government, to clarify his stand on the MPs’ remarks. The Rajya Sabha was stalled for days on end, with the prime minister first declining to appear and then making a statement, which, in the Opposition’s view, was not sufficiently condemnatory of his errant MPs.

In the vast press coverage on these controversies, one salient fact seems to have been obscured. This is that the four fire-raising MPs of the BJP had all been elected from the state of Uttar Pradesh. They had all been chosen to contest for Parliament by the then general secretary of the BJP, Amit Shah, who had been given sole charge of the campaign in India’s largest state. Remarkably, neither the press nor the Opposition had noticed the connection. While the prime minister was repeatedly asked to state his stand, no one – whether inside Parliament or outside it – directed their criticisms to the man principally responsible for having made MPs out of bigots.…



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Punish the Delhi Police Special Cell for framing Sayyed Liyaqat Shah, set an example – By Aman Sharma (Jan 27, 2015, Economic Times)

I am no terrorist. A feeble looking 45-year-old Sayyed Liyaqat Shah had shouted this out to journalists as he was paraded before media by Delhi Police Special Cell men sporting AK-47s in 2013. A handcuffed Shah was quickly whisked away. …But the fact remains that Special Cell men have faced no punishment for their alleged criminal acts of framing innocents. There is no accountability either – Special Cell’s chief, Special Commissioner SN Srivastava stays put in the chair since July 2012. All seven officers named and suspected by the NIA for framing Shah remain associated with the Cell, including their highprofile Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Sanjeev Kumar Yadav. This is despite then Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde knowing from the onset, while handing the case to NIA in 2013, that Shah had been framed by the Cell.

This case is a watershed in exposing Cell’s way of creating terrorists out of thin air. NIA says Shah’s arrest was pre-planned by DCP Yadav knowing well he was returning from Pakistan under the surrender-cumrehabilitation scheme of the J&K government. Further, Cell’s officers got its informer to plant an AK-56, grenades and explosives in a Jama Masjid guest house and said Shah led them to the same. In fact, it’s difficult to say what is more disturbing – the Cell having a repository of weapons for such plants or it ensuring its informer has disappeared without a trace for nearly two years now.

Damage by this case is immense because it reinforces the perception in J&K that Kashmiris are deliberately framed in terror cases and made to rot behind bars for years. If not for NIA, that did not oppose Shah’s bail soon after taking over the case and enabled him to walk free, he would have still been in Tihar Jail waiting for a distant court verdict. Further, this case damaged credibility of the government’s ambitious return and rehabilitation policy for militants who crossed over to PoK in the turbulent 1990s. It is imperative for the government to punish the Special Cell and set an example.



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Gandhiji’s Martyrdom Anniversary: Sardar Patel Held RSS And Hindu Mahasabha Responsible For His Murder – By Shamsul Islam (Jan 29, 2015, Countercurrents)

After the murder of Mahatma Gandhi on January 30, 1948, the RSS was banned on February 4, 1948. It was banned for anti-national activities and the government communiqué (issued by the Home Ministry headed by Sardar Patel) banning the RSS was self-explanatory…

It is well-known that the then Home Minister, Sardar Patel, had a soft-corner for the RSS and continues to be a favourite with the RSS. However even Sardar Patel found it difficult to defend the RSS in the aftermath of Gandhiji’s assassination. In a letter written to the head of the RSS, Golwalkar, dated 11 September 1948, Sardar Patel stated:

“Organizing the Hindus and helping them is one thing but going in for revenge for its sufferings on innocent and helpless men, women and children is quite another thing…Even an iota of the sympathy of the Government, or of the people, no more remained for the RSS. … Since then, over six months have elapsed. We had hoped that after this lapse of time, with full and proper consideration the RSS persons would come to the right path. But from the reports that come to me, it is evident that attempts to put fresh life into their same old activities are afoot.” …



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Witnesses shot, stabbed, attacked with acid: Is Asaram a godman or don – By Arun George (Jan 13, 2015, First Post)

The killing of witness Akhil Gupta, a former cook and witness in a case of rape filed against Asaram Bapu, might just end up being the most obvious of multiple attempts that seem to have been made to influence the trial against the controversial godman.

Gupta, a former cook to the godman, was walking home on Sunday when he was shot by two unidentified persons in Muzaffarnagar and succumbed to his injuries despite being rushed to nearby hospital.

However, as this report points out, Gupta had begun staying in a rented home some distance from his original residence in order to ensure his own security. And with the killing, Gupta also became the second witness after Amrut Prajapati, another former devotee of the controversial godman was killed in June 2013 in Gujarat. …



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Book Review

Destruction of the Babri Masjid: A National Dishonour

Author: A G Noorani
Reviewed by: Mayank Mishra
Available at: Tulika Publishers, 24/1 Ganapathy Colony Third Street, Teynampet, Chennai – 600018, Tamilnadu, India, 505 pages; Rs 995 . http://www.amazon.in/
Demolishing an idea of India (Jan 28, 2015, Business Standard)

…The demolition of December 6, 1992, will certainly rank as one of the most tragic events of independent India. It was perhaps the first serious internal challenge to the idea of India. And the author of the present volume describes in detail how subsequent events failed miserably to restore even parts of what was lost that day. Written by a lawyer of eminence and a constitutional expert, the book critically examines the judgments delivered by the courts prior to and after the event.

And he concludes that “Muslims have lost in every judicial forum as a mosque was converted into a temple: in 1949-50 and in 1986, when K M Pandey, District Judge of Faizabad, ordered that locks on the gates of the mosque be opened on 1 February, 1986…. In 1992, the mosque was demolished. In 1994, the Supreme Court pronounced against the Muslims and in 2010 the Allahabad High Court dismissed their suit.”

The book follows two compiled volumes of documents and primary source materials on various aspects of the Ayodhya dispute published in 2003 by the same author. The present volume has included documents and disclosures that have come to light after that.…