IAMC Weekly News Roundup – January 21st, 2013
In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- RSS behind Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts, alleges Sushil Kumar Shinde
- NIA arrests man for Malegaon blasts, more could follow
- Minority panel seeks report of Muslims in jails without trial
- SC asks trial court not to pass final order on Raghavan closure report
- Dhule riots: ‘Cops allowed minor incident to escalate into communal clash’
- Assam riot victims complain of economic blockade, meet Shinde
- Court denies bail to Gujarat BJP MLA in firing case
- Mumbai woman cop’s poem touches a raw nerve
- Delhi gang-rape: Panel finds fault in police response
- Police ‘atrocities’ on Dalits: HC reserves order
Opinions & Editorials
- Pawns In, Patrons Still Out – By Subhash Gatade
- Rising Shadow of Trident: Modi’s Victory in Gujarat – By Ram Puniyani
- Dhule Riots: A petty squabble to ‘Kargilli firing’ – By Feroze Mithiborwala
- A Woman And A Minor Girl Kidnapped By Police In Andhra Pradesh – Fact Finding Report
- The Killing Fields of Assam: Myth and Reality of Its Muslim Immigration – By Vani Kant Borooah
- India’s Rape Culture: Urban versus Rural – By Ram Puniyani
RSS behind Samjhauta, Mecca Masjid and Malegaon blasts, alleges Sushil Kumar Shinde (Jan 20, 2013, IBN)
Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde on Sunday alleged that the training camps run by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were promoting Hindu terrorism. He also alleged that the RSS and the BJP were behind the Samjhauta Express, Meccca Masjid and Malegaon blasts. “Training camps of both the BJP and the RSS are promoting Hindu terrorism. Whether it is Samjhauta blast or Mecca Masjid blast or Malegaon blast, they plant bombs and blame it on the minorities,” he said on the last day of Congress Chintan Shivir in Jaipur.
Reacting quickly to the allegations made by the Home Minister, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said: “Home Minister’s statement is irresponsible and unfortunate. We condemn it.” He was joined by BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who said, “It is sad that the Home Minister is trying to disturb the peace of the country. The Congress should apologise, Sonia Gandhi should also apologise, otherwise they will have to face the consequences.”
Defending himself, Shinde said that he didn’t say anything new and only spoke about saffron terrorism which has already been talked about many a times in newspapers. “It is saffron terrorism that I have talked about. It is the same thing and nothing new. It has come in the media several times,” the Home Minister said. Sources said that Shinde was warned by the Congress leadership to make the clarification. Earlier in the day, Congress president Sonia Gandhi in her address at the Chintan Shiviar had asked party leaders to gear up for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and not indulge in nepotism so that they could win back people’s faith.
Congress leader and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla also clarified on Shinde’s statement saying he referred to right-wing terrorism and not Hindu terrorism. “Terrorism has no religion. The extremists and religious fanatics create terror. The Home minister did not refer to Hindu terrorism instead he meant right-wing terrorism,” he said. Right wing activists are alleged to have plotted the Samjhauta Express bomb blast. Six people, including Swami Aseemanand and Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, have been chargesheeted by the National Investigation Agency. Two bombs went off on the Samjhauta Express near Panipat on February 18, 2007 while it was on way to Lahore, killing 68 people.
Sadhvi Pragya is also one of the prime accused in the Malegaon blasts case of September 29, 2008, in which six persons were killed and 100 others were injured. On January 19, 2009, Maharashtra Police had filed a chargesheet in the Malegaon blasts case. According to the chargesheet, Lt Col Prasad Purohit was the main conspirator, who provided the explosives and Sadhvi Pragya arranged for the persons, who planted the explosives. In December, 2012, a man belonging to a right wing group was arrested by the NIA in connection with the May 18, 2007 Mecca Masjid blast that left 13 people dead in Hyderabad. Tej Ram was apprehended by NIA sleuths from Ravidas Marg area of Depalpur, 15 km from Indore.
- What has Centre done to control terror: SP (Jan 21, 2013, Times of India)
- If you accept RSS & BJP promote terrorism, why not take actions, ask Muslim groups (Jan 21, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Hindu terrorism: Lalu backs Shinde’s accusation of BJP, RSS (Jan 21, 2013, Indian Express)
- Congress defends Shinde on Hindu terror remark (Jan 20, 2013, Hindustan Times)
Malegaon blasts of 2006 could see more arrests of hitherto unidentified people. National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Wednesday detained and questioned one Dinesh Devra in connection with the Samjhauta Express and Malegaon blasts from a suburban town of Indore district, sources said. Though NIA teams made extensive searches at Sanver, a suburban town in Indore where Devra lives, he was not formally arrested till Thursday.
NIA, in fact, has been looking for one Dinesh Singh who it suspects played a role in procuring explosives and other logistics for blasts in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express. The suspect has been on the radar of the agency for a month now. At least three men with same or similar names had been shortlisted by NIA last week for questioning on the suspicion of them being the real Dinesh Singh.
These men were found to be residing in Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. It is, however, not yet clear whether Dinesh Devra is the suspect that NIA has been looking for. “According to our information, the real suspect hails from Indore, but it is not clear whether Devra is the one we are looking for,” an NIA official said.
According to sources, Dinesh Singh’s name cropped up during the interrogation of Rajender Chaudhary and Dhan Singh, arrested by NIA last month in connection with the 2006 Malegaon and Samjhauta Express blasts. The duo have told interrogators that Dinesh Singh was a close associate of key Hindu terror accused Sunil Joshi and Ramji Kalsangra and was instrumental in providing explosives and making of bombs before the blasts.
- In pursuit of saffron terror, NIA digs out blasts evidence in Indore (Jan 15, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
- Cops to probe Geelani attack case again (Jan 15, 2013, Times of India)
- Hindu extremists planned to target Justice Sachar (Jan 20, 2013, Indian Express)
- 12-month extension for NIA authority probing into blast cases (Jan 15, 2013, Times of India)
West Bengal Minority Commission has sought an “updated status report” of the cases in which people belonging to various minority communities are languishing in jails without a trial. Speaking to The Indian Express, Intaj Ali Shah, the chairperson of the commission, said thousands of people belonging to minority communities are in jails for a long time without facing a trial.
“The report available to us is quite old and we want an updated report on status of court cases initiated against people belonging to the minority communities. An updated record is required to understand the plight of the minorities lodged in jails. This is a matter of concern,” said the former justice.
Quoting a report available with the commission, Shah said 7,330 people from minority communities were found languishing in different correctional homes in Murshidabad – the district has the maximum number of minority community people in West Bengal, roughly 80 percent of the population.
According to him, in neighbouring Malda, another minority-dominated district, 3,682 people belonging to minority communities are in jails for over five years, and the trial of their cases is yet to start. “Similarly, in Birbhum district, the number of such inmates is 2,354, in South 24-Parganas it is 5,396, in North 24-Parganas it is 2,898 and in Burdwan the figure is 2,145,” he added.
“The government should take the matter seriously,” he said, adding that the present dispensation has taken the “right approach” towards the minorities. Shah observed that police personnel must be more “realistic and rational” while investigating the cases against the minority community people. “The attitude of the police should be such that people belonging to the minority groups do not feel scared of them,” Shah added.
- Malegaon blast accused starts legal aid NGO to help those ‘wrongly arrested’ (Jan 22, 2013, Indian Express)
- Kolkata: Minorities comprise 27% of city’s BPL population (Jan 20, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Congress ignored Muslim issues in its Chintan Shivir: Rajasthan Jamaat (Jan 20, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Jaipur lit fest: Muslim groups want ban on authors who read out Rushdie words (Jan 21, 2013, Deccan Herald)
The Supreme Court on Thursday restrained the trial court in Ahmedabad from pronouncing its final order on the closure report filed by the Special Investigation Team headed by R.K. Raghavan, which went into some of the very serious 2002 Gujarat riot cases – including the Gulberg Housing Society massacre – against Chief Minister Narendra Modi and 61 others for allegedly having orchestrated the violence. A Bench of Justices D.K. Jain, P. Sathasivam and Aftab Alam passed this order on a petition filed by Zakia Nasim Jafri against the November 27, 2012 order passed by the trial court accepting the SIT’s case closure report, which was filed on March 13, 2012.
The trial court had rejected Ms. Jafri’s right to file the protest petition, as also her demand for supply of certain documents relating to the investigation in the Gulberg Society case. Ms. Jafri filed appeal against this order. Counsel Kamini Jaiswal, appearing for Ms. Jafri, submitted that despite the Supreme Court’s directions, all documents annexed to the SIT closure report were not supplied and, as a result, the petitioner could not file the protest petition.
Ms. Jaiswal said the trial court had rejected the petitioner’s request to see the sealed cover documents on the grounds that they were not investigation reports but were only enquiry reports of the SIT and hence, the petitioner was not entitled to the same. Mr. Raghavan, who was present in the Supreme Court, told the Bench that even the trial court could not see these reports. To this, Justice Alam observed: “That is even more strange and the magistrate should not have passed this order.”
Senior counsel Harish Salve, amicus curiae in the riot cases, said the supply of SIT reports would have serious implications. If the court wanted to pass an order it should confine it to this case as “we don’t want a situation where the accused in the already six concluded cases demand similar reports submitted by the SIT in sealed covers, which are the property of the Supreme Court.” The Bench issued notice to the Gujarat government seeking its response on this issue returnable on February 7. Though senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan is appearing for the SIT, the Bench said it was appointing senior counsel Raju Ramachandran as amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case.
- Cover for post-Godhra riot witnesses to stay (Jan 18, 2013, Times of India)
- Declare Shah panel illegal: PIL (Jan 17, 2013, Indian Express)
- Bilkis Bano case: Court refuses bail to convict (Jan 21, 2013, Statesman)
- Naroda Gam: HC reserves order on Kodnani’s plea (Jan 22, 2013, Indian Express)
Dhule riots: ‘Cops allowed minor incident to escalate into communal clash’ (Jan 19, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
The “communalism” of the “State machinery” allowed to escalate the communal violence in Dhule town of Maharashtra, alleged activists during a press conference here on Friday. The local police “systematically targeted Muslims” during the January 6 riots, in which six people were killed, they said. A fact finding team comprising – rights activist Shabnam Hashmi from ANHAD, Dr Ram Puniyani of All India Secular Forum, Professor Apoorva Anand of Delhi University, Advocate Nihalsing Rathod of Human Rights Law Network and several others – visited the town to investigate the violence, the third in the region since 2008.
According to the interim report of the fact-finding team, the police allowed a minor incident to escalate into a riot-like situation. “They intervened very late. And when they did, they targeted only Muslims,” said Shabnam Hashmi. As per testimonies collected by the team, the incident was triggered after a Muslim auto driver was beaten by the owner of an eatery in Macchi Bazar. “When the driver went to the police station to file a complaint, the officials were hostile and did not register his complaint, following which a mob gathered and people started pelting stones,” said Hashmi. “It was not a Hindu-Muslim issue, but the police only let the violence escalate,” she said.
The activists alleged connivance by the State machinery in the escalation of violence. “Why did it take the Chief Minister and the Home Minister nine days to visit the victims and order a judicial inquiry? There is a great sense of alienation and frustration among the Muslim community due to the callous response of the State,” Prof Apoorvanand said. He said that the locals were afraid to even file a case. In the rare event of some victims gathering the courage to act, they were told by the police that a case had already been registered naming them as the accused and they could not, therefore, file a case. He said fear within the community was so palpable that the victims refused to go to the civil hospital because riot victims in 2008 were allegedly beaten and driven away by some members of the majority community.
“The Dhule incident mirrors our society. If it is not taken seriously, the country will face a very severe struggle,” said Apoorvanand. Speaking on this occasion, Dr Ram Puniyani said, “The incident shows the communalisation of the State machinery. The police launched an inhuman, one-sided attack on the members of the minority community.” He said, “A total of 151 police personnel were taken to the hospital on January 6 of which 133 were discharged immediately, and all cases were described as minor.”
“When we checked the medical records of the victims, we noticed that the bullet injuries were above the waist in 90 percent of the cases. The police did not aim to disperse the crowd. It was targeted killing,” said Dr Puniyani. “It is time to put the police in the psychiatric couch to understand what makes them brutally attack the minorities,” said film director Mahesh Bhatt. “The mindset of the entire police force is contaminated and reflects a fascist attitude,” he said.
- People from Gujarat may have crossed over, says panel chief (Jan 17, 2013, Financial Express)
- Fact-finding team alleges deliberate targeting of Muslims in Dhule (Jan 19, 2013, The Hindu)
- ‘Dhule riot deaths were fake encounters’ (Jan 15, 2013, Times of India)
- ‘Mob that was not from either community had role in Dhule riots’ (Jan 21, 2013, Indian Express)
Victims of Assam riots complained of economic blockade in Bodoland Territorial Council districts and urged home minister Sushilkumar Shinde on Thursday to ensure compensation and rehabilitation. They are part of a 25-member team of the BTAD Citizens’ Rights Forum (BCRF) which met Shinde, National Commission for Minorities and political parties in Delhi demanding justice. Last July, 4.82 lakh people were displaced and 114 killed in the Assam riots. Six months after the riots, about 70,000 people are still living in 62 relief camps. “Those who returned home are living a life akin to that in concentration camps,” said BCRF president Zamsher Ali. His parents are still in a relief camp.
He alleged Bodo militants and political groups threatened non-Muslim residents of BTC areas into severing all ties with Muslims. “People have been forbidden from giving Muslims any work, buying or selling anything to them. Anybody who hires Muslims are fined Rs 5,000-Rs 25,000,” Ali said. After the riots, Muslim labourers at a Food Corporation of India godown in Gossaigaon were thrown out and replaced with workers from Bengal, Ali alleged.
Mohammed Farman Ali, a resident of Durgapur village in Chirang district, had fled to a relief camp with his family after houses were burnt during the riots. “After three months at the camp, the district collector took us back to our village. But we have no means to earn a living. Nobody is giving us any work,” he said. Hafiz Qasem Ali of Chirang’s Digoldong village is still living in a relief camp. They have been displaced thrice following riots in 1993, in 2003 and again in 2012.
“The government has not given us compensation or helped us return home. We live in fear every day,” he said. Those whose houses were burnt were handed out Rs 22,700 and three bundles of tin. Others got nothing. BCRF leaders demanded rehabilitation of all victims of violence, including Assamese Hindus, Muslims, Adivasis and Nepali in BTC areas. In Delhi, the riot victims had a bitter experience. “Barring the CPM and Anhad (NGO run by Shabnam Hashmi), everyone we met, including home minister Shinde, made insinuations of Muslims as Bangladeshi infiltrators,” Zamsher Ali said.
While accusing Bodo leaders of attempting ethnic cleansing through riots, former CPM MP from Silchar Noorul Huda said, “If there are Bangladeshi infiltrators, why doesn’t the government evict them? We have been hearing this for the last 42 years at least. Why doesn’t the government work on the national register of citizens?” BCRF demanded Assam’s borders with Bangladesh and Bhutan be sealed to settle the foreigners’ issue and end infiltration.
- Jaipur tense as ‘communal’ clashes leave 10 wounded (Jan 15, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)
- Rajastahn Muslim forum appeals for justice in Gopalgarh riot (Jan 19, 2013, Twocircles.net)
- Explosion in Dasna mosque, cause not yet ascertained (Jan 15, 2013, Indian Express)
- Mumbai University book dubbed communal (Jan 18, 2013, Times of India)
A court on Tuesday rejected the bail plea of jailed Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Legislative Assembly Jetha Bharwad, who had been charged with attempt to murder in a case related to firing during the last month’s assembly elections. “Prima facie a case against the accused has been made out and looking at the conduct of the accused he is not allowed to be released on bail,” Principal Sessions Judge D T Soni said, while rejecting the bail application of the MLA.
Four persons were injured on December 17 last year during the second phase of Gujarat Assembly polling when a bodyguard of Bharwad, who later won from Sahera seat in Panchmahal district, opened fire in Tarsang village. The village falls under his Assembly segment. Bharwad had suffered head injuries in stone pelting by a mob during the firing. He was admitted to a private hospital in Godhra. The police had registered a case of attempted murder against Bharwad, his bodyguard and five others.
On December 18, Bharwad was detained while he was being treated for injuries. The same day he was brought to a private hospital in Ahmedabad for CT scan, but he gave a slip to the police and ran way from the hospital. Bharwad surrendered before the police the next day after the sessions court here rejected his anticipatory bail plea. After completion of his police remand, the BJP legislator was sent to judicial custody. Bharwad later filed bail plea, on which hearing was concluded on January 4 and the court had reserved its order for Tuesday.
In his application, the ruling party MLA had contended that the firing was carried out in ‘self-defence’. “Though it is still debatable who fired from the weapon, the way he (Bharwad) and his bodyguard were attacked with stones, it (the firing) was carried out in self-defence,” J M Panchal, who argued for the BJP legislator, said. “It was just an act of self-defence and there was no intention to kill anybody,” he maintained.
Opposing the bail plea, public prosecutor A A Hasan submitted that Bharwad has a history of indulging in violent acts and cases had been registered against him. He argued that Bharwad was a politically connected person and if released on bail, he might hamper the police investigation or influence witnesses in the firing case. Bharwad is now contemplating to move the Gujarat high court for bail.
- Archbishop slams saffronization of texts (Jan 13, 2013, Times of India)
- Raj Thackeray’s MLA, 15 others booked for attacking engineer (Jan 19, 2013, Indian Express)
- After Bal Thackeray’s demise, Shiv Sena faces disintegration (Jan 21, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- No question of teaming up with BJP: Yeddyurappa (Jan 18, 2013, Rediff)
A woman traffic inspector was at the centre of a controversy on Monday over her poem in a Mumbai police in-house journal in which she called last year’s Azad Maidan protesters “snakes” and “traitors” and suggested that their hands should have been “chopped off.” A complaint was filed with the State’s Home Department, the Mumbai Police Commissioner’s office and the Azad Maidan police station by Ameen Mustafa Idrisi, who runs an NGO, Muslim-e-Hind, and Nazar Mohammed Siddique, one of the accused arrested in the Azad Maidan violence case who is currently out on bail.
The complainants sought the registration of an FIR against Commissioner Satyapal Singh, Joint Police Commissioner (Administration) Hemant Nagarale, inspector Sujata Patil who penned the verse, the publisher and other unknown “conspirators” in connection with the publication of the poem in the police department’s house journal Samvad .
Ms. Patil has tendered an apology in writing, saying she did not intend to hurt anybody’s religious sentiments or any religion after the poem titled “Azad Maidan” left Mumbai police embarrassed. “Sujata Patil has already apologised in writing. She has said she did not intend to hurt anybody’s religious sentiments or any religion. The written unconditional apology will be published in the next edition of Samwad,” Mr. Nagarale said. Ms. Patil is a traffic police inspector posted at Matunga.
“Hausla buland tha, izzat lut rahi thi…himmat ki gaddaron ne Amar Jyoti ko haath lagane ki, kaat dete haath unke toh faryad kisi ki bhi na hoti…Saanp ko doodh pila kar, baat kare hain hum bhai-chare ki,” read the poem. (Their morale was high, [women] were being dishonoured. The traitors had the audacity to touch Amar Jawan Jyoti. Had we cut off their hands nobody would have complained. We feed milk to the snakes and then talk of harmony.)
The complainants have sought the guilty to be booked under Sections 295(A) (Maliciously insulting religion), 298 (uttering or putting such words which insults religion), 504 (insult to provoke breach of peace), 505 (false statement), 120(B)(criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intention) of the IPC.
- ‘Gujarat among states with poorer Muslims’ (Jan 15, 2013, Hindustan Times)
- Redefined primary school sections may bring minority schools under RTE’s 25% free seat ambit (Jan 15, 2013, Times of India)
- MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi in judicial custody in 2005 case (Jan 21, 2013, Indian Express)
- Owaisi’s arrest sparks tension, shutdown in Hyderabad (Jan 21, 2013, Twocircles.net)
A panel, set up to probe alleged non-responsive behaviour of Police Control Room vans in helping the Delhi gang-rape victim, is learnt to have found fault in the police’s response to the distress call and also failure to stop the bus from plying after being fined several times. The probe by Home Ministry Joint Secretary Veena Kumari Meena noted that the PCR vans responded to the distress call made on behalf within acceptable time but they could have cut short the arrival time and left the spot with the victims earlier than the recorded time, official sources said.
The inquiry found fault in the part of the police as well as the transport department of Delhi government as they failed to withdrew the permit to the bus or seize it despite violating many rules and being challenged several times in the past. The report was submitted to Union Home Secretary R K Singh on Thursday. The probe panel was specifically asked to look as to how much time the PCR vans took to reach the spot, whether they delayed in taking action after reaching the spot on discussing the jurisdiction issue or any other issue and whether the PCR policemen took all necessary action as warranted.
The probe also looked into the role of Safdarjung hospital staff while treating the gangrape victim and her friend and recent media report regarding non-responsiveness of Dial 100 helpline to a woman journalist. The 23-year-old paramedic student was brutally raped and assaulted in a moving bus. She died in a Singapore hospital on December 29.
- No DGP responds to Justice Verma panel (Jan 21, 2013, Times of India)
- Sex education leads to more crimes against women, says Mumbai police chief (Jan 15, 2013, Indian Express)
- Minority panel suggests measures to curb gender bias (Jan 21, 2013, Times of India)
- Co-education the problem, education girls separately: Jamaat chief (Jan 20, 2013, Yahoo)
The Gujarat High Court Thursday reserved its order on suo motu proceeding initiated in the alleged atrocities against Dalits of the Rajkot city by the local police last year. A division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala had initiated the proceeding while considering a letter from a human rights organisation about the alleged incident that was reported on June 25, 2012.
According to the details, Gunvant Rathod, a Dalit leader from Rajkot, was killed by some non-Dalits on June 24 last year. The next day, after Rathod’s cremation, some Dalits held a rally protesting the murder and demanding arrests of the culprits. According to the complaint letter, the police resorted to lathicharge on the protesters without any provocation.
The police also allegedly entered the houses of Dalits at Ambedkarnagar and beat them up. Those beaten up allegedly included children and women. A 16-year-old girl was allegedly kicked by the police following which she sustained serious spinal injury threatening to cause permanent disability. The incident of atrocities was reported to police but no action was taken against the responsible officers, it has been alleged. The injured girl was shifted from Rajkot to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital, where authorities registered a medico-legal case and informed the Rajkot police. The police, however, allegedly did not register her statement.
Following this, Dr Jayanti Mankadiya and another person wrote to the Chief Justice about the police atrocities and sought his intervention. The letter was enclosed with photographs and a video CD on the alleged police atrocities. Chief Justice Bhattacharya referred Mankadiya’s letter to Justice Akil Kureshi to give his opinion if it was a fit case to take suo-motu congnisance. Justice Kureshi gave his nod for the same while ordering appointment of senior advocate of HC Shalin Mehta as amicus-curaie.
Today, the state government opposed the proceedings. Government Pleader Prakash Jani argued that the proceedings were not maintainable and that the victims had already set the criminal machinery in motion. He also argued that the police was discharging its duty to control the crowd. Mehta argued and supported the proceedings and added that the CD containing video of police atrocities established culpability of police officers.
- Dalits ostracise Dalits in Karnataka village (Jan 21, 2013, The Hindu)
- Haryana Dalit teen who burnt herself after rape succumbs (Jan 18, 2013, Indian Express)
- Discrimination main reason for Dalit kids dropping out: study (Jan 22, 2013, The Hindu)
- Haryana: 6 held for raping teenager over two months, making video (Jan 21, 2013, Indian Express)
Opinions and Editorials
… it was sheer coincidence that the latter half of last month when the brutal gangrape of a young girl on the streets of Delhi helped unleash people’s anger over increasing cases of sexual violence and shook the powers that be from their deep slumber, also happened to be the period when one was witness to new exposures in the yet unfolding phenomenon of Hindutva terror. A section of the media carried reports informing the readers about arrests of foot soldiers of these terror modules, it supposedly also brought forth clinching evidence in cases which had remained unresolved till date and also provided few missing links in some other cases. The National Investigating Agency (NIA) which has been specially constituted to probe cases of terrorist attacks felt that with these arrests it would be able to get new important evidences in Samjhauta Express bomb blasts (2007), Mecca Masjid bomb blasts (2007) as well as bomb blasts in Malegaon (2006 and 2008). One also heard that finally the Maharashtra government had asked the central government to ban ‘Sanatan Sanstha’ – a ‘spiritual’ organisation headed by one Athavale whose activists have been found to be involved in many acts of terror and have been convicted as well.
But what was missing in all these news clippings was that there was no word about the real masterminds of this terror turn in Hindutva politics, the patrons who conceived plans, provided funds and managed explosives. Not that the investigating agencies were unaware of their existence, not that their names have not cropped up umpteen times during interrogation of these foot soldiers and not that these patrons of terror are living underground donning new identities but despite all these things there was no word about them. e.g. No word about one Indresh Kumar, one of the top leaders of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) who finds mention in many of the foot soldiers interrogations, one who was present in a hotel in Jaipur when the participants in the terror module were hatching plans to ‘reply ‘ the ‘others’ in kind ; no mention about Ms Himani Savarkar and the likes of Dr R.P. Singh who were present in many of the planning meetings of ‘Abhinav Bharat’ which was behind many of these terror acts; no word about a very senior leader of Vishwa Hindu Parishad called Togadia who was in touch with Lt Col Purohit and held meetings with him in a hotel in Mumbai as the transcripts available with Anti-Terrorism Squad Maharashtra in connection with Malegaon 2008 bomb blast make it clear. …
Bomb blast at the house of Laxman Rajkondwar, a longtime RSS activist on April 6, 2006, which killed his son and another activist, definitely brought to the fore this phenomenon, but it cannot be said to be the beginning of Hindutva terror. As far as terror acts such as Mhow (1999), Bhopal (2002, 2003), Nanded I (April 2006) and Nanded II (Feb 2007) to the likes of Malegaon I (Sep 2006) and Malegaon II (Sep 2008), Kanpur (August 2008), Tenkasi (2007) and many of their ilk are concerned, you will find that participation of activists of RSS or its affiliated organisation has been noted and first information reports have also been lodged underlining their involvement, but all such acts can be said to be the continuing legacy of a more hardcore section within the Hindutva fraternity, which had its genesis say in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, at the hands of Nathuram Godse. According to Chunnibhai Vaidya, a renowned Gandhian from Gujarat, there were total six attempts on Gandhi’s life during a span of 14 years which involved Hindutva radicals. One also need to bring forth hitherto less reported incidents involving Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh activists in terror acts such as the Shikarpur bomb blast (Karachi, 1947, Economic and Political Weekly, July 8, 2006) which saw deaths of two pracharaks or the terror plot discussed by Rajeshwar Dayal, the first home secretary of United Province then in his autobiography (A Life of Our Times, Orient Longman, 1999) which exposed the sinister design of the hindutva workers to organise a pogrom against Muslims in western Uttar Pradesh in the immediate aftermath of partition.
How does the involvement of an organisation in particular heinous acts is deciphered? There could be two ways to understand it. Firstly, one traces the actual perpetrators/executioners of these acts who are part of such an organisation, then declare that the particular group is very much involved in these acts. Secondly, one lays hands on decisions taken by the highest leadership of the organisation which exhorts/appeals its followers to engage in such acts supposedly to further the ’cause’. As far as terror acts such as Mhow (1999), Bhopal (2002, 2003), Nanded I (April 2006) and Nanded II (Feb 2007) to the likes of Malegaon I (Sep 2006) and Malegaon II (Sep 2008), Kanpur (August 2008), Tenkasi (2007) and many of their ilk are concerned, you will find that participation of activists of RSS or its affiliated organisation has been noted and first information reports have also been lodged underlining their involvement. Coming to the second layer, many accused have pointed fingers to few senior leaders of RSS for their tacit support to their work. The likes of Assemanand, Bharatbhai or accused in the first Nanded bomb blast etc, have even shared how they were exhorted by them to engage in such acts. And while the RSS has formally denied that it is involved in such terror acts, it remains to be seen how such a strict hierarchical organisation can explain ‘waywardness’ of so many of its activists.
Thirdly, a culture of violence promoted by RSS is a worrisome thing. Take a look at many reports of commissions which looked into riots in different parts of the country after independence, and you will find what has been said about it. In fact, after assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, this is what the government communique issued on February 4, 1948 said which announced the ban on RSS: …the government has, however, noticed with regret that in practice members of RSS have not adhered to their professed ideals.Undesirable and even dangerous activities have been carried on by the members of the Sangh. It has been found that in several parts of the country, individual members of the RSS have indulged in acts of violence involving arson, robbery, dacoity and murder and have collected illicit arms and ammunitions. They have been found circulating leaflets, exhorting people to resort to terrorist methods, to collect firearms, to create disaffection against the government and suborn the police and military. … The Indian government at the centre and the governments in power in different states seem to follow the American policy of “not saying sorry”. Forget compensation, or forget prosecuting the guilty officers, a cursory glance at many of the terror acts involving Hindutva terrorists – which were initially blamed on Muslims – makes it clear how they have consistently refused to acknowledge their mistakes and offer any apology. The investigations into Mecca Masjid bomb blast at Hyderabad in the year 2007 seemed to be an exception. The youth who were falsely accused of involvement in the blast and badly tortured for days together were given compensation less than Rs one lakh each only when MIM (Majlis Ittehadul Musalmeen) a political party having few MLAs in A.P. assembly forced the Congress government to do it. Here also none of the police officers involved in the illegal detention and torture of scores of Muslim youth was reprimanded.
- We deserve better leaders – Editorial (Jan 22, 2013, DNA India)
- RSS’ Tryst with Terrorism: Past & Present – By Shamsul Islam (Jan 20, 2013, Countercurrents)
Rising Shadow of Trident: Modi’s Victory in Gujarat – By Ram Puniyani (Jan 20, 2013, Countercurrents)
The recent electoral victory of Narendra Modi, his third consecutive one (Dec 2012), has drawn lot of applause from a section of society and he is being projected as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. It’s another matter that BJP, itself is in shambles as far as electoral arena is concerned and its NDA allies are unlikely to endorse Modi, given his aggressive communal politics and the authoritarian style of his functioning. One knows that this victory of Modi was predicted by many exit polls, one also knows his victory was not a smooth sail, as by now the dissatisfaction from his policies, his style of functioning is adversely affecting a large number of Gujarat population. The people of Gujarat turned out in big numbers to cast their vote. Many commentators feel that his win is due to his development policies, that he has won again is an endorsement of his claims of development of Gujarat. The development model undertaken by Modi is a total surrender to the favored industrial houses, which are having a gala time in Gujarat. The shiny malls and roads of Gujarat hide behind them the travails of the deprived and marginalized sections of Gujarat, the villages in particular. Every Nano car rolling out from Tata car is subsidized by the state to the extent of Rs 60000. The hype of development propaganda, managed by the American Company APCO Worldwide, which has already worked for notorious dictators like Sani Abacha (Nigeria) and Nurusultan NAzarbayev (Life President of Kazagistan), has done its job well again. The job by this agency has been done so well that anybody questioning the development of Gujarat is receives various derogatory labels. As a matter of fact what Modi has done is nothing unusual and states like Maharashtra have achieved much better in this direction, without the hype. Here comes one of the roles of Modi, not only to hire an image maker but also to act like Goebbels.
This so called development hides that the social indices of Gujarat which are very much on the lower side when compared to many other Indian states. What matters in popular perception is the image more than reality. So this aspect of Modi’s propaganda did sell well for a section of middle class not only in Gujarat but all over the country. Many a commentators do buy this uncritically and attribute Modi’s victory to this factor. As its not only the mall going middle class but even the suicide committing farmers families, the starving dalits and Adivasis, who also vote, they feel the reality of the ‘development’ of Gujarat in their lives, so a large turn out to vote and in rural areas they did show that the so called development is from the annals of make believe World. The major factor which has worked in Modi’s favor is the polarization which has taken place in Gujarat after the 2002 carnage. This is one episode of violence, which has separated the communities on religious lines. While Hindus, have bought the line that it is only due to Modi that they are safe, at the same time Muslims know that they have not only been the major victim of 2002, but also that post 2002, they have been totally marginalized in physical space, with ghettoization taking place. They know that they are physically not safe and have been pushed back economically and socially. The real fear is stalking the lives of Muslim community as a whole. They have been relegated to second class citizenship. Modi has given a clear message that the nine percent Muslims don’t matter to him as he has made up his vote bank by consolidating the Hindus by instilling the fear amongst them. Still all Muslims do not vote against them. To begin with the Muslim majority areas have been delimited in a way that they can’t influence in the electoral result, or the impact of their voting is minimized. A section of trader-businessmen Muslims did vote for Modi for sure. Another section had to vote for him out of fear.
As far as dalits and adivasis are concerned the social engineering unleashed by BJP associates VHP and Vanavasi Kalyan ashram has done its job and a section of these deprived sections has been won over to the Hindutva fold and vote for the BJP. The sense of insecurity amongst minorities and minority women is paramount, making them withdraw into their shells. The liberal space in the state of Gujarat has shrunk rapidly, more than in other states. The educational institutions have been thoroughly brought under the management of academics sympathetic to Modi’s ideology. The state now reminds one of a dictatorial state, as pointed out by the ex- BJP chief Minister Keshubhai Patel himself. It can be called as communal-semi fascist state. The major factor in the state is the polarization and abolition of liberal space. This is ‘Hindu Nation’ in one state. One is reminded of the USSR, where ‘Socialism in one state’ was the slogan to begin with. In India while there are many states ruled by BJP, it is Gujarat, which fits into this ‘Hindu Rashtra in one state’. The real danger today, which is reminded by Modi’s victory are manifold. To begin with the communal fascism is creeping in India through deeper pores of the nation. It is said that RSS is not happy with Modi coming to power and becoming larger than the party, the BJP. This is a contradictory situation. RSS on one hand wants to create a Hindu Rashtra. On the other it wants to regulate the whole process. The contradiction is that RSS ideology pushes the nation towards dictatorial thinking, as RSS itself is modeled on Ek Chalak Anuvartita, (controlled by single supreme dictator), the Sar Sanghchalak, whose writ is unquestionable. At the same time one recalls that one of the characteristics of fascisms the single charismatic leader. Modi fits in to that model very well. It is being said that in Gujarat, the RSS and its progeny VHP, Vishwa Hindu Parishad has been marginalized. One should know that the RSS and its non electoral progeny is there to make the ground for creating a communal space in which BJP can then rough shod and work for Hindu Nation. In Gujarat, these organizations are redundant now as they have already played their role. With Modi’s victory it’s clear that in India the communal fascism is marching state by state, and in the social space, in a gradual manner.
Modi’s blatant proximity to industrial houses is again in tune with the pattern of a fascist state. Hitler was also the darling of big capital. Hitler had mass following amongst the middle classes and could co-opt the poor as its storm troopers, street fighters. Modi is walking the same path, the difference being that of speed and regional variation. India being the vast diverse nation, the Gujarat pattern stands out very clearly as a repeat of German fascist onslaught with many differences. The other BJP ruled states are adopting different paths, some features being common. These common features are cultural infiltration, and relegation of minorities to the margins. It is in this situation that those committed to secular democracy need a rethink. At electoral level, the parties like Congress, Samajvadi, Communist and Socialist parties, do not perceive the threat to democracy and secularism as they should be doing. If they understand the implications of Hindu Rashtra, the impact of Modi in hiking up the communal politics and communal thinking, then they have to close their ranks. They need to rise above their electoral and prime ministerial ambitions and take this threat of communalism head on as a united front.
That seems to be a very tall order to expect from these electoral formations which so far have not demonstrated their willingness to come together for the sake of principles. Is it thinkable at all these parties will contemplate more in terms of saving democracy and secularism rather than protecting their fiefdoms? Its time these parties wake and realize that unless they hang together, the danger of communal fascism taking over the country in the future is not ruled out. Still one knows all this is an optimistic urge. If wishes were horses! What can secular elements do at this point of time? They have engaged in legal activism, advocacy work, done rehabilitation work and conducted awareness programs to the best of their capabilities. It seems their best is not good enough. The need for more innovative thinking to ward off the threat of looming communalism has become more menacing with the victory of Modi. It’s a warning signal of sorts to do our utmost to strengthen the values of freedom movement, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It’s time to remind ourselves of what the preamble of our Constitution tells us. It’s time to build a real people’s platform for secularism and democracy. It’s time for social movements to take this issue in utmost seriousness before the situation is created that social movements will themselves will not be permitted to march forward for the cause of human rights of the deprived sections of society.
- Blow to secularism – By Kuldip Nayar (Jan 10, 2013, Deccan Herald)
- The Cold Glint Of Saffron Madness Is Upon Us – By Dr. Sylvia Karpagam (Jan 21, 2013, Countercurrents)
Dhule Riots: A petty squabble to ‘Kargilli firing’ – By Feroze Mithiborwala (Jan 17, 2013, Twocircles.net)
This was the first time that we would have come across this term – ‘Kargilli firing.’ It was in a meeting in Dhule where activists from both the communities were present that a young Muslim mentioned this term and most of us were shocked beyond words. What he was basically stating was that the police opened fire with an agenda to kill as if they were at war with Pakistani troops over the Line of Control. Thus the deep seated anti-Muslim bias amongst vast sections of the police is indeed evidently true, frightening as it sadly is. There was also another first. We have come across many reasons for riots that break out spontaneously & they range from arguments over a scooter accident, to kite flying, to a love affair, to a little incident outside a Temple or a Masjid being the norm. But the recent one riot in Dhule on the 6th of January certainly tops the bill, as it was precisely a petty frivolous squabble over a food bill at a food-stall that set this riot off that finally led to the deaths of 6 youngsters, namely Imran Ali Qamar Ali (25), Aasim Shaikh Naseer (21), Saud Ahmed Raees Patel (18), Hafiz Mohd Aasif Abdul Haleem (22), Rizwan Hasan Shah (24) and Yunus Abbas Shah (20), with 3 others who had their legs amputated.
Needless to say that the police firing was only directed towards the Muslim rioters, whilst the Hindu rioters were provided cover to loot, pillage & burn properties in Macchi Bazar. The evidence has all been captured on mobile-video recordings & the police are clearly seen to be participating in the general looting & mayhem. This was a riot that should never have been & once it started, it could & rather should, have been easily contained by the police within a matter of two hours or less. Macchi Bazar is a Muslim populated mohalla (locality) which serves the best non-vegetarian food in all of Dhule & thus in the evenings there are droves of Hindus who come there to eat. Then right across the local chowk is Madhavpura a Hindu majority locality. The incident sparked off from a heated argument between a Muslim youth & the food-stall owner (a Hindu), over a bill. It took a violent turn, with an exchange of blows & then the Muslim youth went over to the Police Chowki, right opposite the stall barely 20 feet across the street. The policemen advised the boy to go file the complaint at Azad Nagar Police station, as it could not be registered at the chowki. The point to be noted here is that, this is the most communally sensitive spot in all of Dhule & the policemen stationed there should have known better. Here itself the feud could have been nipped in the bud, if the constable would have just walked 20 feet across & sternly warned the two erring parties to settle the petty matter. The Muslim boy on seeing the inaction went & called for his friends to support him & so did the hotel owner & then the situation just deteriorated into a stone & bottle throwing melee from both quarters.
Here too there was a failure of the youth from both communities who live just right across, but do not have friends that they can reach out to & appeal for an end to the mindless stone throwing. Even the social leadership on either side was absent & so were their elected representatives. All it would have taken were for a few community leaders to have stepped in the midst of the violence & controlled the mobs, with a certain degree of physical threat to their own lives. Or maybe that is why they were all away, hiding in the safety of their own homes. It’s a shame, truly a matter if utmost shame. The police later intervened, but sided entirely with the Hindu community, as has been the case with many riots across the country. Prior to the firing, water-cannons were not resorted to, nor was there a lathi-charge to disperse the crowds, or tear-gas shells fired. The police firing could have also been in the air & that would have been sufficient to disperse the rioting mobs. But the police chose to open fire right into the Muslim locality & they fired above the waist, with an agenda to kill. As of yet, it is still not clear as to which police official gave the powers to shoot & they are still passing the buck. We were also informed that in the recent violence at the Bhim Nagar locality of Dhule (2011), where many policemen were injured grievously during a riot in which also two police vans were burnt, the police dealt with the situation without firing a shot & brought it under control within a matter of hours without any loss of life. Also recently in the Azad Maidan riots (Mumbai, 11/8/2012), the police performed their task admirably & did not fire on the Muslim lumpens who had gone on the rampage. Thus successful precedents of the police having controlled riots, without resorting to bullets, within the matter of a few hours are there for all to see & learn from.
Mind you, it was just a matter of containing the violence between four lanes at a chowk, which is a meeting point for Machhi Bazaar, Pala Bazaar, Tasha Galli, Maulvi Ganj and Madhavpura. The riots which continued to rage for over three hours did not spread to any other localities in Dhule & this is a positive point. Even as the rumours of a riot swirled across the town, people in other localities gathered at their chowks to guard their areas & were clearly not going to either participate or start attacking the minorities in their areas. Also, another important point is that, neither did this riot spread to the rural outskirts of Dhule or North Maharashtra, as has been the case in the recent past, were the embers could have fanned the flames in Malegaon, Nasik, Raver, Chopda & Nandurbar. But this time, it just did not happen. The other positive element has been the role of the doctors & the nurses, due to whom many innocent lives were saved. Here it must be stated that the doctors were all Hindus from the Lokmanya, Astha & Suhas Hospitals. If it were not for doctors like Dr. Sanjay Khopde, the death toll would have been far higher. The negative element has been the statement from 41 lawyers who have stated that they will oppose any prosecution of the police & defending any of the Muslim rioters. The lawyers have turned judges. This has also been the case after terror attacks in Varanasi & Pune, where a section of the lawyers had deemed the suspected Muslim youth to be terrorists & guilty, prior to a trial. The Indian Bar Council needs to take action against these lawyers, who are undermining the judiciary & the Indian Constitution itself. The media has played a mixed role & in the first phase lacked in portraying the prejudiced role of the police. The local channels were taken off the air & this too contained the fear & rumour mongering. Also a lot of misinformation was planted into the media by the police themselves, so as to build a case for the indefensible police action. But this story is certainly collapsing like a wall of cards.
Even on our visit to Dhule, we found that the secular activists from across communities were discussing the matter without any tension amongst them. Normally after a riot, there is an uneasiness that creeps into the atmosphere, but here in Dhule this was not the case. It was Rahul Wagh (BAMCEF-Borkar) & his friends Narendra Khairnar, Ravi More, Jay Wagh amongst others who invited us to Dhule. They mobilized their Muslim activist friends like Abdul Sattar, Adv. Salahuddin, Ashfaque, Habib, Babu Sheikh, Farouque Sheikh, Liaqat Pathan, Majid Khan, Muhammad Zaid, Zainulabedin, Munir, Nafees & many more, who were all active in the post-riot situation. Be it at the hospitals where they carried the dead & the injured, or in terms of organizing food & relief for those who had lost their properties & businesses, to working to maintain calm in the town, all of them played a key role in ensuring peace. Whilst hearing the Muslim activists, it was clear that they felt entirely orphaned. None of them denied or defended the fact that the Muslim youth were involved in the rioting & stone throwing. All they said was so were youth from the Hindu community. But the entire police action & arbitrary & lethal firing was directed solely at the Muslim community & that is where the term ‘Kargilli Firing’ was mentioned. Abdul Sattar, both a businessmen & a political leader, (from the Shah-Fakir, Muslim OBC community) broke down whilst speaking & stated that the entire Muslim community found itself very “helpless & orphaned”. All they said was that they wanted justice from the government. …
- Police Complicit In Dhule Riot: Fact Finding Report – By Concerned Citizens (Jan 19, 2013, Countercurrents)
A Woman And A Minor Girl Kidnapped By Police In Andhra Pradesh – Fact Finding Report (Jan 19, 2013, Countercurrents)
A four-member fact-finding team of the Human Rights Forum (HRF) to Nimmalagudem village on January 16, 2013 was told by tribal residents that two women of the village — Madvi Parvathi, (aged 21, wife of Madvi Bhaskar) and a minor Kovasi Somidi, (aged 15, daughter of Kovasi Idma and Kovasi Aite) were forcibly taken away by policemen from Andhra Pradesh at about 7 am on January 12, 2013 from the village itself. Their whereabouts are not known till date. According to Parvathi’s mother Punam Jogamma and her husband Bhaskar, Parvathi is also pregnant.
Nimmalagudem, with about 30 tribal households, is in Konta block of Sukma district, Chattisgarh. It is located only about 3 km from the Andhra Pradesh border. Residents, who are all farmers, said a huge police party from AP consisting of over 100 personnel, including the Greyhounds, came to the village at daybreak on January 12. On seeing the police from a distance, most men fled into the forest in the opposite direction. The policemen began abusing and beating up residents including several women and children. Among those beaten up were Sodi Devi, a 10 year-old girl and a 12-year old boy Madvi Venkatesh . The boy lost three teeth as a result.
The policemen then picked up a farmer Podium Chukkaiah and his minor son (aged about 11) P Bhimaiah as well as Parvathi, Somidi and another woman Madkam Saramma. Their hands were tied and they were taken to a spot about half a kilometre away from the village below a hillock where there were remnants of a camp set up earlier by the Maoists. Accusing the four as well as the entire village of providing food and help to the Maoists, they beat them with their hands and sticks. Bhimaiah was slapped repeatedly.
Several women including Parvathi’s mother Jogamma, her aunt Punam Somamma, Somidi’s mother Aite followed the policemen pleading with them to not harm their daughters. The policemen instead abused and also beat up the three women and even kicked them. Aite and Jogamma tried to give some water to Parvathi and Somidi but the policemen did not allow it. Soon after, the police partially disrobed Parvathi and Somidi and forcibly took the two away with them. They let go of Saramma, Chukkaiah and Bhimaiah. Chukkaiah was bedridden for two days from the beatings and is now better. Over a week after they were abducted by the AP police, there is still no trace of Parvathi and Somidi. The incident was reported in the Telugu media after the tribals went to Cherla, a mandal headquarters in Khammam district of AP, and narrated the events to local reporters. When contacted by reporters, police officials have kept denying knowledge of the whole thing.
On January 16, Nimmalagudem villagers again walked to Cherla and met the Bhadrachaslam sub-collector Narayana Bharat Gupta. They told him what had happened on January 12 and pleaded with to help them locate their daughters. They told him that every-time there was movement of Maoists in the area or any incident involving the Maoists, the Andhra police were targeting Nimmalagudem and harassing them. Gupta promised to take up the matter with higher officials. Two days have gone by and there is no word about the women. Fax messages have been sent to the Chief Justice of the AP High Court as well as the Chattisgarh CJ seeking their intervention. An appeal was made by HRF through the media to immediately set the two women free and handed over to their families.
- Can this Collector change Dantewada? – By Prakhar Jain (Jan 17, 2013, Tehelka)
The Killing Fields of Assam: Myth and Reality of Its Muslim Immigration – By Vani Kant Borooah (Jan 26, 2013, Economic& Political Weekly)
It is commonplace that in the wake of large-scale migration into a region conﬂict between the native population and immigrants often follows. Whether in Britain, Germany, France, the United States (US), Sri Lanka, Burma, Malaysia or South Africa, large-scale migration, by disturbing the equilibrium of the native population, has resulted in conﬂict. Immigrants make claims on scarce economic resources. They acquire political inﬂuence, and their alien culture threatens the existing “way of life” (Dancygier 2010). All these tendencies are aggravated when, as sometimes happens, immigrants do better than the native population in exploiting available opportunities and consequently enjoy greater economic success compared to their hosts. The Indian state of Assam encapsulates all these features, particularly the fact that migrants into Assam over the past 100 years and more have carved for themselves a better life than enjoyed by the native Assamese (Weiner 1978). Moreover, they have acquired political inﬂ uence and, through language and religion, disturbed the cultural equilibrium of the Assamese-speaking Hindu natives. This paper addresses the issue of migration, particularly Muslim migration into Assam.
Connected to the parent country by a narrow land corridor, and largely separated from it by Bangladesh India’s eastern state of Assam – covering an area of 78,500 sq km with a population of just over 31 million is dominated by the mighty Brahmaputra River. The Brahmaputra Valley has two main geographical features: the ﬂoodplain that is home to the vast majority of Assamese and the Karbi hills populated by the Karbi people (Shrivastava and Heinen 2005). The state is the home to myriad ethnic groups represented by a plethora of armed groups who offer to “liberate” them from the hegemony of their “oppressors” – sometimes perceived as the Indian government, sometimes the state government, and sometimes just other ethnic groups. In consequence of the undercurrent of hostility between the various subgroups in Assam – engendered by a zero-sum competition for land and resources – life in the state is regularly punctuated by ethnic violence: Karbi clash with Kuki, Dimasa with Zeme, Rabha with Garo, and Bodo with Santhal (Kashyap 2012). Overshadowing these ethnic clashes, however, is the fact that in the past 25 years or so Assam has spawned some of the most egregious incidents of anti-immigrant violence in south Asia directed mainly, though not exclusively, against Bengali Muslims.
Most recently, at the end of July 2012, Bodo tribesmen began a wave of killing of Bengali Muslims and arson attacks on their homes in which, by August 2012, over 80 people had been killed (mostly Muslims, but also some Bodos) with almost half a million persons from nearly 400 villages sheltering in refugee camps. In earlier incidents, clashes between the Bodo and Bengali Muslims in August-October 2008 resulted in 70 deaths with over one lakh people rendered homeless. In July 1994, assaults on Bengali Muslims in Barpeta district resulted in 100 deaths (most of them Muslims); and in October 1993, 50 people were killed in Bongaigaon district in clashes between the Bodo and Bengali Muslims.The most egregious act of violence occurred on 14 February 1983 when a large group of armed men from the Lalung tribe in Assam raided 14 villages, in close proximity to each other, in Nagaon district and killed over 4,000 persons – men, women and children – most of whom were Bengali Muslims. This was the infamous Nellie massacre, so named after one of the affected villages, in the aftermath of which nearly a quarter of a million people were rendered homeless and thousands ﬂed the state (Weiner 1983).
The ostensible reason for attacks against Bengali Muslims is invariant – they are accused of being illegal immigrants who, taking advantage of the porous 267-km long border between Assam and Bangladesh entered the state and occupied land belonging to the native population. Moreover, through a rapid increase in their numbers, they are seen as diluting and debasing traditional Assamese Hindu culture through the instrument of a foreign language (Bengali) and an alien religion (Islam). The political counterpart to these acts of violence is demands by political parties for the detection and expulsion of foreigners. The social unrest and political events in Assam that culminated in the signing of the Assam Accord of 1985 are comprehensively described in Weiner (1983), Baruah (1994) and Gosselink (1994). However, the accord, which signalled an ofﬁcial recognition of the fact that Assam had an “immigration problem”, raised more questions than it answered. First, what was the scale of the problem? How many immigrants – perhaps from other parts of India (Bengali speakers from West Bengal, Hindi speakers from Bihar), perhaps from other countries (Nepal, Bangladesh) – were there in Assam? Second, what was the division of immigrants between Hindu and Muslim? Third, of the total number of immigrants, how many were illegal immigrants as deﬁned in the accord?
In order to address the question of scale, the usual method is to subtract from the population of Assam at any given census date (say, 1961), an estimate of what the population of Assam would have been, if its population (from the previous Census 1951) had grown at the all-India rate. The difference then represents the number of migrants into Assam between the two census dates – in this case 1951 and 1961. Using this method, Weiner (1983) calculated that over the period 1901-81, Assam received 10.4 million immigrants; its population increased from 3.3 million in 1901 to 19.9 million in 1981 against a 1981 predicted level of 9.5 million if its population had grown at all-India rates between 1901 and 1981. Using this method, Nath and Nath (2009) estimated that 4.6 million persons migrated into Assam in the 100 years between 1901 and 2001. Two features characterise these separate estimates. First, Weiner’s (1983) ﬁgure of 10.4 million immigrants between 1901 and 1981 differs wildly from Nath and Nath’s (2009) estimate of 4.6 million immigrants between 1901 and 2001. This suggests that at least one (or, perhaps, both) of these sets of authors is mistaken in their calculations. Second, and more importantly, both sets of authors are mistaken in their methodology since neither takes account of the fact that the religious composition of the populations of Assam and of India differs greatly. …
- The Dark Side of the Iron Hill – By Anil Mishra (Dec 22, 2012, Tehelka)
While the horrific rape of Damini, Nirbhaya (December 16, 2012) has shaken the whole nation, and the country is gripped with the fear of this phenomenon, many an ideologue and political leader are not only making their ideologies clear, some of them are regularly putting their foots in mouths also. Surely they do retract their statements soon enough. Kailash Vijayvargiya, a senior BJP minister in MP’s statement that women must not cross Laxman Rekha to prevent crimes against them, was disowned by the BJP Central leadership and he was thereby quick enough to apologize to the activists for his statement. But does it change his ideology or the ideologies of his fellow travellers? There are many more in the list from Abhijit Mukherjee, to Mamata Bannerji, Asaram Bapu and many more. The statement of RSS supremo, Mohan Bhagwat, was on a different tract as he said that rape is a phenomenon which takes place in India not in Bharat. For India the substitute for him is urban areas and Bharat is rural India for him. As per him it is the “Western” lifestyle adopted by people in urban areas due to which there is an increase in the crime against women. “You go to villages and forests of the country and there will be no such incidents of gang rape or sex crimes”, he said on 4th January. Further he implied that while urban areas are influenced by Western culture, the rural areas are nurturing Indian ethos, glorious Indian traditions. As per him ancient Indian traditions gave great respect to women, and it is due to these values of Indian tradition, that villages are free from crimes against women.
The statistics from India fly in the face of Bhagawat. In a significant statistical observation and study of rape cases Mrinal Satish, faculty member of National Law University, Delhi, tells us another tale. He has used the court data and observes that 75% of rape cases take place in rural India. His observations are based on the cases reported in Criminal Law Journal from 1983 to 2009. The cases of rape in villages, like that of Khairlanji and rape against Adivasi women may not be on the radar of the Hindutva boss, Bhagwat, but those engaged with the issues of dalits, Adivasis and gender issues cannot buy the simplified rural versus urban divide. One knows that patriarchy which looks at women as secondary beings, primarily as sister, mother or daughter, rather than a person in her own right. She is not a being with swayam (selfhood) of her own. As for as RSS ideology is concerned only men have swayam (selfhood). The full form of RSS, the male organization is Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh while its women’s organization is Rashtrasevika Samiti, do note that the word swayam is missing here, in the name of women’s organization.
The myth that women had a place of honour in ancient Indian period is a well constructed one. During the long span of ancient Indian period the status of women kept changing, but women being subordinate beings was the running theme. During the Aryan period of pastoral life the women were supposed to commit symbolic self immolation after the death of husband, later this got converted to actual burning of the widows. It is probably around this period that two great epics were written, Ramayan and Mahabharat. In Ramayan Lord Ram banishes his pregnant wife Sita, because of the rumours about her character amongst the subjects of Ayodhya. In Mahabharat, the Panadavas use their common wife Draupadi as a ‘thing’ and use her as a bet in gamble. Not to be left behind their cousins try to disrobe her in the court in front of the King Dhritrashtra! So much for the glorious place of women in ancient India! Later period’s values are well reflected in Manusmiriti, where the women were explicitly denied education and serving the husband and household chores were regarded as equivalent of education for the women. Manusmriti gives the detailed code for women and it leaves no doubt about women being subordinate or the property of men. The Gupta period (3rd to 7thCentury), which is regarded as the Golden Period of Ancient India, the women were having limited access to education and barring few names which are dished out to prove the glorious condition of Hindu women, mostly the women were having limited access to education. Their participation in Yagnas was secondary to husband, the Yajman, who was the primary being who had solicited the priest for the Yagnas. Yajnman word interestingly has no female equivalent.
The ideologues of the Mohan Bhagwat parivar attribute all the prevalent ills to the coming in of Muslims. This is a very clever ploy to externalize the internal suppression of women, and also of dalits. It’s not too long ago in history that during British rule, the continuation of this religiously sanctioned Hindu norm, Sati, had to be fought against by social reformers. The ghastly sati system, occasionally surfacing even now, and supported subtly by conservatives has not been easy to eradicate as religion was cited as the argument for preserving it. In the wake of sati of Roopkanwar in 1986, BJP’s Vice President Vijaya Raje Scindia, not only defended the sati system but also took out a morcha to oppose passing of the bill against sati. BJP of is the political child of RSS. The travails of Raja Ram Mohan Roy in struggling against Sati system are a legend. The child marriage was/ is another such evil. While British wanted to bring in the law in early twentieth century to abolish child marriage, the argument to oppose it came from the sources of Hindu religion. It was asserted that as per Hindu norms the girl must be married before her first menses, Garbhadhan. It was argued that our religion’s norm about early marriage cannot be violated. The introduction of widow remarriage, the struggle to abolish Devadasi system, each of these has a long and painful story to tell about the status of women in India, in Ancient India, not influenced by modernization.
The education is the key to the empowerment of women and an integral part of democratization process. It was a painful journey and the efforts of Savitri bai Phule in this direction are revolutionary in the true sense of the word. These efforts were downright opposed on various grounds, the main obstacle being the Hindu traditions. As such what is being criticized by Bhagwat as modernization is basically the process of democratization of society. This gentleman is stuck in the feudal mode thinking and is upholding feudal of social relationships in the garb of Hindu glorious traditions. As per these traditions; caste and gender hierarchy rules the roost. The atrocities against women are not due to democratization, which this worthy is calling modernization or westernization. The core of modernization is caste and gender equality. The essence of modernization is abolition of hierarchy, based on birth-the hierarchy of caste and gender. The process of democratization is the march of society from formal values of equality to substantive equality, and this the march has to be the agenda of social movements. The roots of oppression of women lie in the patriarchal values, which is the carry forward of ancient and medieval values, related to feudal society, society with the rule of kings, where woman was regarded as the one whose arena is the domestic work. The condition of widows and the women who were burnt alive as sati reflects the glorious ancient tradition to which Mr. Bhagwat wants to push back the Indian society, undoing all what Indian society has been able to achieve through the struggle for Independence, which was not merely a struggle to throw away the British rule but also a struggle to do away with caste and gender hierarchy. …
- Shedding Darkness – By Anuradha Raman (Jan 28, 2013, Outlook)
- Women’s Work, Stigma, Shelter Homes and the State – By Sujata Gothoskar (Jan 26, 2013, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Engendering A Work Shift – By Pragya Singh (Jan 28, 2013, Outlook)