IAMC Weekly News Roundup - March 20th, 2017 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 20th, 2017

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


Teesta Setalvad delivers an indictment at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the human rights situation in India

Renowned Indian activist speaks on behalf of IAMC, Advocates for Human Rights and other partner organizations

March 21, 2017

Indian American Muslim Council (https://www.iamc.com) a non-profit advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, today welcomed Ms. Teesta Setalvad’s hard hitting testimony at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 15, 2017.

One of India’s most recognized activists and a strident voice against hate and sectarianism, Ms. Setalvad spoke on behalf of The Advocates for Human Rights, Indian American Muslim Council, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association and the Quill Foundation. Her testimony was part of a larger effort by IAMC and its partner organizations that includes a joint submission to the UN Human Rights Council for India’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) scheduled for May 4,2017. IAMC has also made a separate joint submission with Ms.Setalvad’s organization “Citizens for Justice and Peace,” for the same UPR.

Her brief testimony was before a full session of the UN Human Rights Council, with all the UN member countries in attendance, convened to review the report of the UN Rapporteur on Minority Rights. Ms.Setalvad noted that since the UN Special Rapporteur’s 2013 General Assembly report, the following developments had taken place in India:

1. Speeches by political leaders and members of Parliament had exacerbated the violence in Muzaffarnagar that claimed over 60 lives and left thousands homeless

2. The targeting of religious minorities accused of “improper” conversions from Hinduism

3. In the wake of state laws banning the sale of beef, mob attacks on people alleged to have beef in their possession have becoming a recurring event

4. The Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial or arbitrary executions noted that encounter killings “have become virtually a part of unofficial State policy” in India

5. The above acts are often committed with impunity stemming in part from close alignment between the government and non-state actors

6. Law enforcement agencies fabricate terrorism cases where Muslims are often targets

Ms. Setalvad then went on to mention that “progress in minority rights protection is under threat, including by hate speech, xenophobic rhetoric and incitement to hatred against minorities.” She then voiced the partner organizations’ position, joining the Special Rapporteur “in calling on UN Member States and the Human Rights Council to recognize that States bear the primary duty to protect the security of religious minorities with positive and preventive actions, through active engagement with religious minorities.”

“Ms. Teesta Setalvad’s testimony and the joint submissions of the partner organizations mark a turning point in international spotlight on the human rights situation in India”, said Mr. Ajit Sahi, noted journalist and Advocacy Director for the Indian American Muslim Council. Mr. Sahi, along with Jawad Khan, President of IAMC and Jennifer Presthold V.P. of AHR were also present at the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation. For more information, please visit our website at: https://iamc.com

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1. Video of Teesta Setalvad Testimony at UN Human Rights Council at 22 minutes in link below

2. Joint Submission of Indian American Muslim Council, The Advocates for Human Rights, Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association and the Quill Foundation

3. UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

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Letters for 2 years, SOS to PM, Election Commission still awaits EVM papertrail funds (Mar 19, 2017, Indian Express)

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi four months ago, the Election Commission sought urgent release of funds to procure enough Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines to cover all polling stations ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections in 2019. The EC has sent over 10 reminders to the government on the matter, since June 2014, and the letter to Modi by Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi, on October 25, 2016, was an SOS of sorts. The CEC very rarely writes directly to the PM, with its communication to the government on electoral matters normally limited to Law and Home ministries.

Several parties, including the BSP, Samajwadi Party and Aam Aadmi Party, have raised doubts about tampering of EVMs following the Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand results. Before the 2014 general elections, the BJP had talked of EVM tampering on many occasions.…

During a recent hearing on the contempt petition against the CEC on the matter, the EC told the Supreme Court that it needed 30 months to procure close to 16 lakh paper trail machines. This means that unless it ropes in more manufacturers, the poll panel would miss the 2019 deadline to equip all polling stations with VVPATs.…



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Uttar Pradesh: New Chief Minister must retract previous statements against Muslims (Mar 20, 2017, Amnesty.org)

The new Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, must publicly withdraw his previous inflammatory statements against Muslims and other religious minorities, Amnesty International India said today.

“Adityanath has been one of Uttar Pradesh’s most polarizing politicians, given to hateful rhetoric that incites discrimination and hostility against minority groups, particularly Muslims,” said Aakar Patel, Executive Director, Amnesty International India.

“As chief minister of India’s most populous state, he and his party have an obligation to ensure that his positions do not become government policy. It is therefore imperative that he retracts any statements which may provide a license for others to abuse human rights.”…



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India: Hindus tell Muslims to leave village ‘immediately’ (Mar 17, 2017, The Independent)

Posters calling on Muslim residents to “leave immediately” have resulted in a police investigation in a village in Uttar Pradesh, India. Written in Hindi, the posters were found in more than two dozen locations in the town of Jianagla. They warned of “dire consequences” if the estimated 200 Muslim residents in the village do not all leave by the end of the year.

Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have just secured a substantial victory in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and the posters featured had the name of one of their MPs. “With BJP in power in Uttar Pradesh, Hindus of the village would do what US president Trump was doing to Muslims in that country,” the poster reportedly said, according to the Times of India.

The police have removed the majority of the posters and five men from the village have been hauled in for questioning. There are approximately 2,000 Hindus and 200 Muslims living in Jianagla. Indian media reported that neither group was happy about the incident.



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Ayodhya Dispute: Muslim Law Board says negotiation should be based on justice, evidences (Mar 21, 2017, India Tomorrow)

Responding to the mediation offer of Chief Justice of India in the Babri Masjid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has said that though such negotiation efforts have failed in the past, it would consider the offer as it has come from Chief Justice of India.

However, the board made it clear that the negotiation for an amicable solution of the dispute should be in clean environment, with both parties having equal status and it should be based on justice and evidences and without any preconceived notion.…

“All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s stand has been that the dispute should be resolved either through dialogue or court. In the past also, several attempts were made for dialogue but all failed. The main reason of the failure was that the other party demanded us to vacate the place saying it was birthplace of Ram. So dialogues could not proceed further. If they have the same stand, then there is no use of fresh dialogue,” said Dr. SQR Ilyas, Co-convenor, Babri Masjid Committee of AIMPLB. AIMPLB is party to the case pending in the Supreme Court.…



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Uniforms of Rajasthan government schools get a touch of RSS (Mar 17, 2017, Hindustan Times)

The new school dress for students of government-run schools in Rajasthan will have a tinge of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the ideological fountainhead of the state’s ruling party, the BJP.

Education minister Vasudev Devnani told HT that from the next academic session boys will have light brown shirt and brown trousers or shorts and girls will wear light brown kurta or shirt with brown salwar or skirt.

A senior government functionary, however, added that the colour of the trousers/ short and salwar was identical to the new RSS uniform introduced in 2016.… To ensure that the shade of brown exactly matches with that of the RSS uniform, the education department is collecting samples from Bhilwara, the textile town that supplied clothes for the first lot of new uniforms of the right-wing organisation.…



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Visit to study crime scene: Gujarat HC judges likely to visit Naroda Patiya riot site (Mar 21, 2017, Indian Express)

A division bench of the Gujarat High Court is likely to visit Naroda Patiya this Saturday to understand the geographical location of the scene of offence where 97 Muslims were massacred on February 28, 2002, during the post-Godhra riots.

The bench, comprising Justice Harsha Devani and Justice A S Supehia, has asked the lawyers representing the Supreme Court appointed-Special Investigation Team (SIT), which probed the case, to make necessary arrangements. A senior lawyer representing the SIT said the bench is yet to pass a formal order, but has orally instructed SIT officials to remain present at the spot on Saturday morning.

The bench is hearing a set of appeal petitions moved by 30 convicts, including former BJP minister Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babubhai Patel alias Babu Bajrangi who have been sentenced to life imprisonment. The appeal also includes petitions moved by the victims and the SIT for enhancement of sentences and also against the acquittals.…



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Girl students asked to remove burqas to write SSC exams in school (Mar 19, 2017, New Indian Express)

The Sri Vignana Vardhini (SVV) High School located in Saidabad here finds itself in a controversy after a teacher allegedly forced Muslim girl students to remove their burqas before writing SSC exams. Tension prevailed outside the school as irate parents of the students staged a protest near the school on Saturday.…

“On Friday students were made to remove their burqas before the exams. Today again when the school asked them to remove their burqas, their parents were infuriated,” said Amjed Ullah Khan, an MBT leader, who lodged a complaint with Saidabad police against the school management for hurting religious sentiments.

He also enclosed along with his complaint a copy of orders from District Education Officer (DEO), Hyderabad vide: RC.No.01/G-II/DEO/Hyd Dated: 1st March 2017 that no Muslim girl student should be forced to remove burqa during the exams at any centre.…



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SC to Modi govt: Why not give March 31 extension to all to deposit old notes (Mar 21, 2017, Economic Times)

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Modi government’s decision to close the March 31 RBI window to deposit old notes was smacked of arbitrariness and sought to know why categories other than those travelling abroad were not being allowed to do so.

A bench led by chief justice of India J S Khehar said that the discretion vested in the government by the ordinance had been exercised arbitrarily to allow one category only when the law permits the government to extend the relief to other categories too.

Under the December 30 ordinance, only those who missed the December 30 deadline because they were travelling abroad could deposit old notes with RBI subject to verification. Though the government can allow the benefit to other categories it hasn’t. A slew of petitions in the court have challenged this as illegal. The bench led by the CJI prima facie seemed to agree with this view.…



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Case of abetment to suicide registered in JNU scholar death (Mar 15, 2017, Times of India)

Two days after a 28-year-old Dalit student of Jawaharlal Nehru University allegedly hanged himself at his friend’s house in south Delhi’s Munirka, a case of abetment to suicide was registered on Wednesday. The deceased Muthu Krishnan, who had named himself ‘Krish Rajini’ on Facebook, allegedly hanged himself at his South Korean friend’s house in Munirka using a blanket on March 13.

“We have registered a case of abetment to suicide and the relevant section of The Scheduled Castes (SCs) and the Scheduled Tribes (STs) Prevention of Atrocities (PoA) Act. The case has been registered against unknown persons,” said a senior police officer.…

The student’s father had said that his son cannot commit suicide and had demanded a CBI probe. “My son cannot commit suicide. He was very strong and confident. We want a CBI probe to be conducted and actual reason behind his death be revealed,” said Jeevanandam, Krishnan’s father. He had also demanded registration of an FIR under the SC/ST Act.…



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Cops ‘beat’ Dalit to death for applying Holi colours on upper caste in Jharkhand (Mar 16, 2017, Hindustan Times)

A 52-year old Dalit man was allegedly beaten to death by the police for throwing coloured powder on an upper caste on Holi in Jharkhand’ Koderma district, the victim’s widow said. The family of victim Pradeep Choudhary said that the deceased, along with other villagers, had sprinkled abir (coloured powder) on a local chowkidar Rajendra Yadav as a gesture of goodwill on Holi.

However, Yadav took exception to the action and called upon police to teach the group a lesson. “The police started beating up Pradeep till he fell unconscious. They then took him to the police station,” Pradeep’s widow Jashwa Devi said.

Jashwa claimed that she along with her brother rushed to the Satbarwa police station but the officials did not allow them to see Pradeep and instead abused them over their caste. Jashwa said police eventually dropped Pradeep home the next morning. “His body bore many bruises. We took him to Koderma Sadar hospital from where he was referred to Ranchi but he succumbed to his injuries,” Jashwa alleged.



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Opinions and Editorials

‘The Appointment of the Dodgy Yogi As CM is Last Nail in Coffin of Constitutional Democracy’ – By Neera Chandhoke (Mar 20, 2017, The Citizen)

…The 2017 U.P election has catapulted serious issues onto the centre stage of politics. A political party has won an absolute majority, but at what cost? Think of what incendiary rhetoric, and ruthless, soulless, irresponsible strategies do to the collective sensibilities of the Indian people. What is their impact on modes of living together, and on civility that has been created out of the experience of sharing common lives and livelihoods?…

The BJP has won in Uttar Pradesh, but the people of the benighted state are going to pay a heavy price for this victory. Scholarly research shows that people in some regions of the state exhibit a degree of social prejudice against members of other communities. This is part of the sociological process of defining one’s own community as distinctive, simply because it is not like the ‘other’.… Recollect the Prime Minister’s electoral speech in UP, in which he contrasted the spatial reach of kabristans to that of shamshan ghats.…

In its obsessive desire to undermine India’s secularism, the BJP has landed up destroying institutions, beliefs, practices and the protection offered by the Constitution. The leaders have taken political discourse to a new low. We hear with sadness the death knells of democratic constitutionalism. The appointment of this dodgy Yogi to a position of constitutional power is the last nail in the coffin to which constitutional democracy has been consigned.



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Victory for anti-Muslim bigotry – Editorial (Mar 19, 2017, The Guardian)

The world breathed a sigh of relief last week as the Islamophobe populist Geert Wilders failed to become the head of the biggest party in Holland. The respite from elected bigotry did not last long. On Sunday an even more stridently anti-Muslim extremist took power in the biggest election of this year.…

The man chosen by the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, to lead UP, home of Hinduism’s holy Ganges river and the Moghul tomb of Taj Mahal, is a fellow Hindu nationalist, Yogi Adityanath. Mr Adityanath is a Hindu priest who, while elected five times from his temple’s town, has been shown repeatedly to be contemptuous of democratic norms.

He has been accused of attempted murder, criminal intimidation and rioting. He says young Muslim men had launched a “love jihad” to entrap and convert Hindu women. Mother Teresa, he claimed, wanted to Christianise India. He backs a Donald Trump-style travel ban to stop “terrorists” coming to India. On the campaign trail, Mr Adityanath warned: “If [Muslims] kill one Hindu man, then we will kill 100 Muslim men”. This cannot be dismissed as mere rhetoric. The argument that once in power the BJP would become more reasonable does not wash. There’s little sign India’s constitutional protections would enable the BJP to continue in power while the dynamics of its wider movement are kept in check. Mr Adityanath, now a powerful figure, is signalling that in India minorities exist merely on the goodwill of the majority. Step out of line and there will be blood.…



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As Complaints of EVM Tampering, Electoral Malpractices Pour In, SC Directives on Paper Trail Verification Need Urgent Implementation – By Gautam Thaker (Mar 21, 2017, Sabrang India)

In the recent concluded local elections in Maharashtra, serious accusations have been made about tampering with the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). Following the results of the District Panchayat and Mahanagar Palika polls, several complaints to the state election commission have alleged that EVMs had been hacked. The fraud has gone to inexcusable levels: in many places, a large difference has been noticed between the number of voters registered and the votes counted.

In Mumbai, it has been found that one candidate had secured ‘0’ votes. In this context candidates of the respective parties have registered complaints before the Election Commission. Several parties across the political spectrum, the Shiv Sena, the NCP, the MNS, and the Congress candidates have lodged complaints about an alleged fraud within the EVMs.

Besides, tampering has also been alleged with the electoral rolls. During the polls of Mumbai Mahanagar Palika, 11 lakh voters lost their right to vote at the last moment, as their names were missing. Many of these were from underprivileged sections of society.…



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A Hotelier Attacked In The Name Of Beef In Jaipur – By Kavita Srivastava (Mar 20, 2017, Countercurrents)

One Kamal didi ( she signs as Kamal didi too) of the Rashtriya Mahila Gau Rakshak Mandal was trying to catch stray cows with the help of the nagar nigam to take them to the Gau shalas, when Qasim a cleaner boy from Rabbani Hotel came to throw garbage in an empty plot near the dustbin on Kanti Chandra road. All the hoteliers and other private residents throw garbage there. Some of the stray cows who were hanging out near the kachra, (The stray cow population of the city is always hovering near dustbins, as they are very hungry) immediately went for the freshly thrown bags, which had food waste along with some chicken / mutton bones.

Kamal Didi immediately started thrashing Qasim that he was trying to pollute the cows with so called beef and dragged him and brought him to the hotel, with 15 other of her followers. Very Soon more than a hundred people joined them later, all wanting Rabbani to come out. The police was called that beef was being Cooked and served in this hotel. The police and the media came together.

The Gau Rakshaks are always with the media. When they could not find Rabbani, they picked up Wasim the receptionist and the cleaner and booked them under section 151 CrPC and arrested them. At the hotel they found brochures on the activities of the SIO (the Jamaat Student wing), writings of Maulana Wahauddin and the communal HARMONY campaign literature of Jamait Islami Hind, so the police reached the Jamaat office asking for Naeem Rabbani. When they learnt that he was not there, they went to his house and as said by filmstar Ajeet, in his famous dialogue “uski ma, behen ko utha lao”, they picked up the brother in law Abdul Rahman, who had nothing to do with the hotel.…



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Depoliticisation of students is a cover for right-wing forces to take over universities – By Rajat Datta (Mar 17, 2017, Hindustan Times)

If there is one claim being made by the BJP, that nothing like this has happened since India’s independence, which rings true, it is the BJP’s success in introducing a discourse of binaries in the way nation or nationalism ought to be understood.

What do I mean by this discourse of binaries? The central point of this discourse is not the way nationalism is constructed, but the manner in which a rhetoric of anti-nationalism is articulated, and then morphed into an ideal nationhood.… Such a view of anti-nationalism denies dialogue, not in a broad liberal sense of occupying a middle position among contending views, but as a fractious embroilment of opposing political and ideological dispositions, which is necessary to expand and broaden the democratic space in a free-thinking environment. The worst victim, in my view, of this kind of constriction is old-style liberalism. What we are seeing in India increasingly is a vicious attack on that.…

The call to de-politicise students is a fig leaf to legitimise an ultra-right wing ideology under the mask of equivocality. De-politicisation does not mean the absence of politics. It is another means of covertly creating the space for the right-wing to take over, without opposition, the space to be vacated by left and left of centre political formations. Once this happens universities will die; so, will the nation.



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BJP leader held in baby-sale racket – By Suhrid Sankar Chattopadhyay (Mar 31, 2017, Frontline)

Mahila Morcha leader Juhi Chowdhury’s arrest for her alleged involvement in a baby-trafficking racket in north Bengal’s Jalpaiguri district has come as a major setback for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the State. She was arrested by the State’s Criminal Investigation Department on February 28 from Kharibari near the Nepal border after a 10-day search. The names of several other State- and national-level BJP leaders have come up during investigations. This was the second time in three months that names of BJP leaders came up in separate baby-selling rackets.

The latest case was unearthed when the Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) spotted irregularities in the activities of Bimala Sishu Griha, a government-approved home for newborns in Jalpaiguri, and alerted the State police. According to preliminary investigations, as many as 17 babies were sold from the home to Indians and foreigners. On February 19, the police arrested the institution’s director, Chandana Chakraborty, and her assistant, Sonali Mondal. Chandana Chakraborty heads two other organisations in the region – the Ashroy Short Stay Home and the Naorth Bengal People’s Development Committee, a non-governmental organisation.

According to Chandana Chakraborty, Juhi was first approached by the home for “help” in solving certain “problems” of the organisation. According to informed sources, the home repeatedly got into trouble with the CARA over its activities and sought to use Juhi Chowdhury’s BJP connections at the Centre to smoothen out the difficulties. Chandana Chakraborty claimed that on several occasions she had accompanied Juhi to Delhi, where the latter apparently met senior BJP leaders.…



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