IAMC Weekly News Roundup - May 6th, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – May 6th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review


Indian Americans welcome USCIRF’s recommendation to continue the ban on Modi’s US visa

Thursday May 2nd, 2013


The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos lauded the United States Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), for calling on the Obama administration to maintain a visa ban on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his role in the pogrom of 2002, that claimed over 2,000 lives and displaced over 150,000.



“There is significant evidence linking him to the violence and the terrible events that took place in Gujarat and for this reason, a visa would not be appropriate,” said Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the US commission for international religious freedom (USCIRF) during a press conference held on May 1, to release its annual report.



In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, IAMC President Ahsan Khan praised USCIRF for taking a position that is consistent with US law, international human rights norms and our shared values of human rights and religious freedom.



“USCIRF’s recommendation to continue the ban on Narendra Modi’s entry into the US, and your own position on this issue during your term as Senator are a timely reminder to human rights violators across the world, that the international community will hold them accountable for their misdeeds,” stated Mr. Khan in the letter. In 2006, then Senator John Kerry had written to the State Department expressing concern over reports that Narendra Modi could be applying for a US visa. The State Department had responded to Senator Kerry, assuring him that “the Department of State is extremely sensitive to your concerns and we are cognizant of the human rights abuses Mr. Modi has committed.”



IAMC has also called on the Government of India to note that USCIRF has continued to place India in Tier 2 of the list of countries where religious freedom is at risk. India has been on USCIRF’s watch list since 2009. Such a characterization is a challenge to India’s secular and democratic constitution and a blemish on our cherished tradition of tolerance.


Indian-American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 13 chapters across the nation.



For more information please visit our new website at: https://www.iamc.com



Indian American Muslim Council
Ishaq Syed
Phone: (800) 839-7270
Email: info@iamc.com

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Morton Grove, IL 60053
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email: info@iamc.com

1. US religious panel for continuing visa ban on Narendra Modi
2. USCIRF – Annual Report, 2013
3. “We have no orders to save you” – Report by Human Rights Watch
4. Concerned Citizens Tribunal – Gujarat 2002; An Inquiry into the Carnage in Gujarat

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US panel seeks continued visa ban on Narendra Modi (May 1, 2013, Indian Express)

A Congress-established independent panel on religious freedom has called on the US to maintain a visa ban on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying there was significant evidence linking him to the violence in the state in 2002. “There is significant evidence linking him to the violence and the terrible events that took place in Gujarat and for this reason, a visa would not be appropriate,” Katrina Lantos Swett, chairwoman of the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) told reporters today during a press conference held to release its annual report.

The annual report of USCIRF has placed India in the Tier 2 Countries on religious freedom along with that of seven other countries Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Laos and Russia. For the 2013 Annual Report, USCIRF has recommended that the Secretary of State to re-designate eight countries as countries of particular concern (CPCs): Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan. USCIRF also found that seven other countries meet the CPC threshold and should be so designated: Egypt, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Vietnam.

In its annual report, the USCIRF notes that Modi is the only individual against whom the US has so far used its visa ban provision related to religious freedom in March 2005 due to his alleged complicity in the 2002 riots that resulted in the deaths of an estimated 1,100 to 2,000 Muslims. “USCIRF continues to urge the Departments of State and Homeland Security to develop a lookout list of aliens who are inadmissible to the US on this basis,” the report said, adding that in November 2012, it had written a letter to the then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to continue the US policy against Modi apprehending that the Gujarat Chief Minister might apply for a visa.

“Directly related to identifying and barring from entry such severe religious freedom violators, IRFA (International Religious Freedom Act of 1998) also requires the President to determine the specific officials responsible for violations of religious freedom engaged in or tolerated by governments of CPCs, and, when applicable and to the extent practicable, publish the identities of these officials in the Federal Register,” the report said. “Despite these requirements, no individual officials from any CPC (Country of Particular Concern) countries responsible for particularly severe religious freedom violations have been identified to date,” the report noted. On the 2002 Gujarat riots, the report said, in the last two years approximately 100 people have been convicted of various crimes, with punishments ranging from minor monetary fines to life imprisonment, and more than 100 individuals have been acquitted because of lack of evidence, witnesses refusing to testify or the death of witnesses.

Additionally, “Gujarati police have closed a large number of cases, citing the unavailability of witnesses. Notably in the last year, Mayaben Kodnani, the former Minister for Women and Child Welfare, was sentenced to 28 years in jail for her involvement in the Gujarat violence,” it said. Observing that there has been no large-scale communal violence against religious minorities in India since 2008, and in recent years the Indian government has created special investigative and judicial structures in an effort to address previous such attacks, USCIRS, however said that in the past year, progress in achieving justice through these structures for the victims of past incidents continued to be slow and ineffective. In addition, members of religious minority communities, including Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, reported an increase during the period of intimidation, harassment, and violence, particularly in states withanti-conversion laws. Based on these concerns, USCIRF places India on Tier 2 in 2013. India had been on USCIRF’s watch list since 2009.



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‘Top cop Pandey, now on run, plotted Ishrat encounter with IB man’ (May 5, 2013, Indian Express)

The arrest of P P Pandey, the additional DGP in charge of CID (crime) who is now wanted by the CBI for his role in the 2004 Ishrat Jahan case, could be a tipping point for the Gujarat Police, whose many senior officers are already cooling heels in jails for their role various encounter killings in the state and in the investigations into the 2002 riots. A 1980-batch IPS officer, Pandey was the joint commissioner of police in Ahmedabad when Ishrat and three others were killed in a police encounter on the city’s outskirts in June 2004.

Incidentally, D G Vanzara, the once-feared encounter specialist now jailed in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases, was DCP (crime) in Ahmedabad police in 2004. He was said to be close to Pandey, who is an accused in the Sadiq Jamal encounter case also. CBI believes Pandey “conspired” with some officials of the Intelligence Bureau who “passed” to him an input that Ishrat and three others were Lashkar-e-Tayabba operatives out on a mission to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

“The Ishrat encounter was planned by top officers of the Ahmedabad crime branch following an intelligence input from IB, which was received by the then Ahmedabad police commissioner K R Kaushik, who shared it with Pandey. Pandey, in turn, shared the input with his trusted aide D G Vanzara,” a CBI officer said. The input is said to have been passed by Rajinder Kumar, an IB official then posted in Gujarat. The CBI official said Vanzara had formed two teams under G L Singhal and N K Amin (both police officers now in CBI custody) to carry out the encounter killing of Ishrat and three others and Pandey had supervised the “logistics” and “communication” with Singhal’s help.

According to CBI’s chargesheet in the 2003 Sadiq Jamal killing case, Pandey had hired the private vehicle used in the encounter. Encounter killings apart, Pandey’s role in the probe into some of the most infamous massacres during the 2002 communal riots is also under the scanner. The police officer had supervised the probe into the Naroda Patiya, Naroda Gam and Gulberg Society massacres, which were then with the crime branch.

Deputy Inspector General of Police Rahul Sharma has told a special court that he had collected call records of some top politicians, bureaucrats and police officers as part of investigations into these cases from telecom companies, while assisting the crime branch. The original CDs containing the call records, Sharma stated, were handed over to Pandey, from where they allegedly went missing. After moving out of the crime branch, Pandey also served as chief of CID (intelligence) from 2009 to 11.



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Jailed encounter cop caught on camera ‘visiting home’ (Apr 30, 2013, Indian Express)

Rajkumar Pandian, an IPS officer suspended in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, was reportedly filmed by a local TV channel visiting his home in Ahmedabad without the team of Mumbai police escorts who had brought him to the city to be produced in a local court. Director General of Police Amitabh Pathak said a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the incident. Pandian was purportedly caught on camera walking out of his residence, Sharnam Appartments -10 at Prahladnagar, where he allegedly spent the night, in a casual attire and getting into a private car (GJ 1 KG 3870).

According to the local news channel, Pandian was tailed by its reporters after he arrived at the Ahmedabad railway station on Sunday night from Mumbai with the police party led by Mumbai police Inspector Suresh Kamble in Karnavati Express. According to the channel, Pandian was first taken in a private car to the circuit house, where he took about a minute to sign the register of entry before leaving the place driving a white car. The Mumbai police party, meanwhile, remained at the circuit house.

Room number 40, which was booked for Pandian, remained locked all night while the police officer allegedly stayed at his residence. On Monday morning, the car in which Pandian got into allegedly attempted to run over the lensman who was there to film him stepping out of his house. After fleeing the scene, the driver of the car was seen at the circuit house, clarifying to the media that Pandian was already in court.

According to the channel’s grab, Pandian appeared between 11 to 11.30 am at the circuit house, much later than the driver’s arrival in a black car. He was dressed in white shirt and blue denims and jumped inside the police van. The police escort party waiting for him at the circuit house then took him to the court for the hearing. “We still have to figure out whether it was the responsibility of Mumbai police or Gujarat Police. But we have ordered an inquiry into the matter and additional DGP (Law and Order) Shivanand Jha has been asked to probe,” Pathak said.

Principal Secretary (Home) S K Nanda said, “The matter pertains to the Mumbai police. They never informed us about when they were coming and going. Jail authorities here were also not informed. The accused is in the custody of the Mumbai police and so the Gujarat Police or the state government has no take on it”. Inspector Kamble refused to talk. Pandian had filed an application in the special CBI court that he was booked in the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case by CBI without taking the mandatory permission from the state government.



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Was Kauserbi killed in old ATS office? (May 6, 2013, Times of India)

The old office of Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) in Shahibaug could well be the scene of Kauserbi’s murder. Till date, the murder of Kauserbi – Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s wife – has largely remained unexplained in legal documents submitted in courts by the CID (Crime) and also the CBI. Neither agency has made any mention of how Kauserbi was killed. Earlier, in its petition before the Supreme Court, the Gujarat government had admitted in an affidavit that days after Sohrabuddin was gunned down in Narol in November, 2005, Kauserbi was also killed by Gujarat cops.

After analyzing the call details of mobile phones used by the accused policemen, CBI officials now suspect that Kauserbi may have been held and killed at the ATS office in Shahibaug. ATS recently shifted into a swanky new office on SG Road. “Using cellphone tower records we have established that several police officers who were part of Kauserbi’s murder conspiracy were at ATS office in Shahibaug on November 29, when Kauserbi was killed and her body taken to Ilol,” said a CBI official.

Kauserbi was last seen with Sohrabuddin in Hyderabad, when they were abducted by a joint team of Gujarat ATS and Hyderabad police. They were brought to Ahmedabad by road and kept in illegal detention at two farmhouses – Disha and Arham – in the outskirts of city. Their custody was then with police sub-inspector who is now an accused in this case. “The PSI’s call detail records (CDR) mark his location at ATS office on November 29,” said CBI officials. Presence of another accused, a police officer of the rank of deputy superintendent of police, has also been traced to ATS office in Shahibaug on November 29, 2005, and in Ilol at Sabarkantha district where Kauserbi’s body was cremated.

A police inspector, who is now a CBI witness, has said in his that the DSP was one of the senior officers present at Ilol when the cremation took place secretly on the banks of a seasonal river. The witness had been arrested by CID (Crime) in this case because he had got the wood for the cremation from Ahmedabad. Later, CBI chose to treat him as a witness, as it was proven that he was acting under directives from his superior officer – deputy inspector general of police D G Vanzara. …



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NIA nabs 2 Ajmer Sharif blast suspects in Vadodara (May 5, 2013, Indian Express)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested two of the accused in the 2007 Ajmer Sharif blast case from Vadodara late Friday night. Jayanti Gohil and Ramesh Gohil were picked up nearly two months after their relative Mafat Gohil, also an accused in the same case, was arrested from the city by an NIA team.

Jayanti and his son Ramesh, who were also accused in the 2002 Best Bakery case but were later acquitted by a Vadodara court, had gone missing in 2004 when the case was reopened by a Mumbai court following a Supreme Court order for its trial outside Gujarat. They were later declared as absconding. The NIA team nabbed the father-son duo from Kashipura village in Vadodara’s Waghodia taluka in a joint operation with the Vadodara Detection of Crime Branch (DCB).

Earlier, in 2010, the Rajasthan ATS had arrested Harshad Gohil, also their relative, in Jaipur for his alleged role in the Ajmer Sharif blast. Harshad had allegedly confessed to killing Sunil Joshi, considered to be the mastermind behind the blasts in Ajmer Sharif and Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid. Joshi was shot on December 29, 2007, at Dewas in Rajasthan.

On March 8 this year, an NIA team nabbed Mafat Gohil from his house near Hanuman Tekri in Vadodara while he was visiting his family members around 11 pm, his family had said. The four have been accused of transporting and planting a bomb at Ajmer Sharif, which had killed three people on October 11, 2007, under the guidance of Joshi, with whom they allegedly stayed before the blast. They are likely to be interrogated about the conspiracy behind the Ajmer blast and for their role in Joshi’s murder.



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Three ‘Bangaldeshi’ youth jailed are Indian citizens, minority commission says (May 3, 2013, Times of India)

Three teenaged youth, arrested for being Bangladeshi nationals, are actually Indian nationals, says the department of Health and Family Welfare, government of West Bengal. The three youths, aged between 17 and 19, were arrested by the Govandi police after the special branch conducted a joint operation with the later. The department of Health and Family Welfare in a letter to Munaf Hakeem, chairman state minorities commission, stated that the three youngsters were Indian nationals but the police labeled them and arrested as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.

The youth were Bilal Shaikh (19), Saeedul Shaikh (19) and Rehmand Sopiwal Shaikh (16), all residents of village Rampur, Kulghaat, Midnapur district in WB. “The three youth belong to a village in WB and can’t speak Hindi. They can communicate only in Bengali. The Mumbai police fixed them in a fabricated case of being Bangladeshis without any inquiry,” H S Janubasar, an officer of the WB department stated in the letter. He stated that the three boys were tourist.

“I have written letters to state Home minister R R Patil and city police commissioner Satya Pal Singh about this matter, requesting them to look into it and do justice,” said Hakeem. When contacted a police officer from Govandi police station, he said, “We have even asked the special branch team to first check the nationality of the boys and give them some time to prove their version of being Indian. However, they did not pay any heed on our request,” the officer said. No show cause notices to the boys were issued too.

When contacted, Sanjay Shintre, DCP special branch said, “In the last one year we have arrested more than 1,600 illegal Bangladeshi immigrants in and around Mumbai. If these teenaged boys are Indian nationals, ask them to hire lawyers. They could be discharged if they prove their nationality.”

It is worth noting that the police had last year arrested 22 labourers working at a construction site in Nallasopara terming them Bangladeshis. They were arrested and later released after two members of Parliament took up their case. Interestingly, Nizamuddin Mehmood Shaikh alias Chenia, a prisoner in Arthur Road jail, wrote a letter to Hakeem stating that he is also an Indian national from Uttar Pradesh but the police arrested him as a foreigner and he is in jail since November 14 last year.



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Set up SIT to probe 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Victim writes to PM (May 4, 2013, IBN)

An anti-Sikh riots victim, who is on an indefinite fast against the acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, on Saturday shot off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the 1984 riots.

Nirpreet Kaur, who lost her father in the riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, began her fast on Friday protesting Kumar’s acquittal in a riot case and demanding setting up of an SIT to probe the incident. “It was not a Hindu-Sikh riot but a political carnage. In order to save political people, evidences were buried, witnesses were not heard.

We demand that an SIT be set up in this matter so that truth can come forward and the culprits can be brought to justice,” she said in the letter. Kaur has also demanded that CBI should file an appeal in the High Court against Sajjan Kumar in the case in which he has been acquitted by a trial court recently.



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Road rage in Amreli turns communal, one killed (May 4, 2013, DNA India)

A minor accident escalated into a communal clash in Amreli on Friday, leading to the death of a young man and serious injuries to another person. According to police, the incident occurred in the morning when Haresh Sukhadiya’s car accidently hit a pedestrian belonging to the Muslim community near Rupam Cinema. A mob got into a scuffle with Sukhadiya, who somehow managed to leave the area.

After some time, the car owner returned with people of his community, all carrying sharp weapons. The two groups fought for a while. A bullet fired by Sukhadiya’s associate Hasmukh Dudhat from his private revolver hit Habib Qureshi, 32, who was standing at a nearby shop. “Qureshi died as the bullet wound was deep in his chest while Sukhadiya also suffered serious injuries as he was stabbed by some unidentified people,” the police said.

Timely action by the police brought the situation under control. “Heavy deployment has been made in the city, especially the affected area. We have engaged community leaders from both sides to maintain peace and calm,” said Shobha Bhutda, district superintendent of police. The violence brought Amreli to a standstill as shopkeepers downed shutters and most other commercial establishments also remained closed.

“We have also started night patrolling and called for two companies from State Reserve Police Force. Situation is calm but tense. Shops in some areas reopened in the evening,” Bhutda added. Meanwhile, the police have charged five persons for murder and rioting. “We have registered cases against Hasmukh Dudhat, Arvind Borda, Ashok Jogani, Gunvant Savaliya and Haresh Sukhadiya,” the DSP said. Incidentally, Borda is former president of BJP’s Amreli city unit.



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CBI’s independent position must be restored: SC on coalgate (Apr 30, 2013, Times of India)

In a big embarrassment to the government in the coalgate case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as “very disturbing” the CBI affidavit on sharing its report with the law minister and others and slammed the agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue. Hearing the coal blocks allocation scam case in a packed courtroom, the bench said “suppression” of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is “not ordinary”. A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha observed that there was a “very disturbing feature” in the affidavit filed on April 26 by CBI director Ranjit Sinha and the agency must be restored to its independent position.

Sinha, in his two-page affidavit filed in the apex court, had said that the agency’s status report on coal allocation scam was “shared” with law minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of PMO and coal ministry “as desired by them”. The apex court said that sharing of information with the government about the probe into the scam has “shaken the entire process” and CBI need not take instructions from “political masters” on their probe. “Our first exercise will be to liberate CBI from political interference,” the bench said. The SC asked the CBI what authority did the law minister and joint secretaries in the PMO and coal ministry had to summon status report of an ongoing probe looked into by the court.

The SC wanted to know from the CBI director by Monday who others had seen the report apart from the minister and two joint secretaries in the PMO and coal ministry. The apex court asked the CBI to file a fresh affidavit. The SC has put the next hearing in the case on May 8. The SC also sought details of the officers of the CBI engaged in investigating coal scam and did not approve of the supervising officer Ravi Kant being allowed to be transferred to the Intelligence Bureau. The apex court also issued a warning to the coal ministry after the CBI said that it was not getting relevant materials regarding the coal block allocation from the ministry. In his affidavit, the CBI director had said, “I submit that the draft of the same (status report) was shared with law minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister’s Office and ministry of coal as desired by them.”

The CBI director had also assured the apex court that the agency will not share further status reports in this case with any member of the political executive. Sinha’s affidavit had contradicted the claim made by additional solicitor general Haren Raval on behalf of CBI on March 12 that the probe report in the scam has not been shared with any member of the government and it has only been shared with the apex court after being vetted by the CBI director. The affidavit was filed in compliance with the Supreme Court’s order which, in an unprecedented move on March 12, had directed the CBI director to assure the court that the status report in the coalgate scam is not being shared with the government. Today’s hearing came a day after Raval shot off a letter to attorney general G E Vahanvati in which he alleged that he has been made a “scapegoat” in the matter. Raval is also believed to have accused Vahanvati of trying to interfere in CBI’s probe report.

Earlier, the CBI and the Centre had clashed over the coalgate scam. The agency had told the court that there have been “arbitrary allotments without scrutiny” in the coal blocks allocation during the UPA-I tenure. The government had refuted its findings saying that the “CBI is not the final word on this.” In the status report filed by CBI on March 8, the agency had said that the coal block allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was given by the coal ministry in giving coal blocks to them. Meanwhile, Congress core group is meeting to chalk out a plan to deal with the crisis. The CBI officials are also engaged in an emergency meeting to discuss the SC observations.



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Dalit student attacked; OU students burned down portraits of Hindutva ideologues (Apr 30, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Osmania University has witnessed a rare Dalit assertion and retaliation against right wing Hindutva elements, when a fellow student was brutally beaten up by Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) BJP’s and RSS’s student wing. The reaction of Dalit students which followed after the attack on their fellow member has shaken the base of ABVP in OU which for past decade has become their den. Dalits across India have been a soft target of right wing Hindutva forces in order to dissolve Dalit independent identity.

Trouble began in the university campus when a Dalit student Perka Shyam, a Ph.D. Chemistry research scholar was attacked by the ABVP activists in the late Friday night. Since morning tension was building up between TRSV (student union of TRS) and ABVP when former members were interrogated by later after a mobile phone was stolen. As P. Shyam was a Dalit member of TRSV, he became a soft target by ABVP when he was alone at a tea stall in the campus, where 20 ABVP activists beaten him with lathis, thus inflicted harsh injuries on whole body.

On Saturday students lodged a complaint at OU police station against the act of ABVP, as the news spread agitated Dalit students gathered at Krishnaveni B- hostel and took out a rally with lathis amidst of anti-Hindutva and ABVP slogans. Dalit students before leaving the B-hostel took out the portraits of RSS founder Hedgewar, Hindu Mahasabha leader Veer Savarkar and Bal Gangadhar tilak which was installed in the corridor since the hostel was first inaugurated in 1970’s. Students also tear down saffron flag which was raised on the balcony of the hostel building. Student paraded the photos upside down in the campus beating it by foots and slippers.



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Opinions and Editorials

Gujarat: Conspiracy Most Sinister – By Teesta Setalvad (May 5, 2013,Peoples Democracy)

THE chief minister of Gujarat since 2002 and the home minister of the state too till today, the role played by Mr Narendra Modi since day one, i.e. February 27, 2002, has been unravelled – especially in the calculated misuse of his position to stoke the flames of retribution and revenge and also use hate speech himself. As the state’s home minister, he also conveniently ignored the build up of communal mobilisation and violence before 2002. In the first instance, the news of the Godhra incident was manipulated to ignore the provocative behaviour of the karsevaks that had led to a mob assembling near the Godhra station. At about 1 p m when the state assembly met to discuss the budget, Gordhan Zadaphiya, minister of state for home affairs, read out the statement prepared by home department. Suresh Mehta, the minister of industries, was also present in Vidhan Sabha, sitting next to Modi, when Zadaphiya was reading the note. “I was sitting by the side of Mr Narendra Modi, CM who remarked that ‘Hindus should wake up now’ ” (Statement made by Suresh Mehta on August 15, 2009 to the SIT at Annexure I, Volume I, pp 83-84). The chief minister then went to Godhra by a helicopter on the same afternoon. Gordhan Zadaphiya too left for Godhra by road.

Between the time the meeting with home department officials was called (10.30 a m) and the assembly met, Modi spoke to Ashok Bhatt, another accused and then the minister for health, several times and left for Godhra to reach soon after 12 noon. These calls indicate clearly that part of the sinister conspiracy to milk macabre political mileage from the Godhra tragedy included clear-cut instructions from Modi to Bhatt to hastily conduct the post mortems of the bodies of the dead persons (not all were karsevaks – the Concerned Citizens Tribunal (CCT, Crimes Against Humanity, Gujarat 2002) had clearly recorded that even a station master’s wife simply travelling locally had been killed – out in the open in the railway yard, in the presence of an illegally assembled mob of VHP workers – since curfew had been declared at 10 a m. Such a decision to conduct post mortems of the burnt and disfigured bodies out in the open is completely against the law. Post mortems take place after bodies have been identified, in the presence of relatives. If bodies are unidentified there are procedures and rules for public notices to be issued, and bodies are kept in the morgue, etc. There are laws against allowing photographs of these bodies being taken or propagated. What was the reason for this hasty post mortem if not to stoke hatred and revenge? The Special Investigation Team (SIT) under a former director of the CBI, R K Raghavan, found nothing to say in its closure report about this illegality, ignoring the aspects of conspiracy completely.

After visiting the railway yard where the bodies had been laid out in full public view in violation of the curfew orders, Modi held an official, mini-cabinet meeting at the Collectorate where, irony of ironies, Jaideep Patel, a VHP rabble-rouser, was allowed to be present. It is here that the controversial, criminal and illegal decision to transport the bodies to Ahmedabad in the charge of Jaideep Patel, also an accused, was taken. The hate speech was a powerful tool used to fan the flames. “An unforgivable, inhuman heinous act has been committed on the soil of Gujarat. This act is an act which no civilised society can forgive. I wish to assure all citizens of Gujarat that Gujarat will not be able to stomach/tolerate/live with such an act. Not only will the guilty get exemplary punishment but such examples will be set that none will ever venture to commit such acts in future” (from the official Gujarat government press release available to Mrs Jafri at Annexure IV File VII of the SIT Records). The tenor and tone reflect the unashamedly partisan nature of Narendra Modi’s mindset at a critical juncture when statewide violence has already broken out – from the afternoon of February 27, 2002. The SIT has failed to examine or evaluate the tenor of this press release, nor the others attached in the record provided by the Gujarat government, though they have been made available and further demonstrate the discriminatory mindset of Narendra Modi. However, the amicus curiae in the case, Raju Ramachandran, found clearly and unequivocally that there was material to prosecute Modi under sections 166 and 153A and B of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) (amicus report to the Supreme Court dated July 25, 2011).

Modi’s speech on February 27-28, 2002 on Doordarshan’s Gujarati channel concerning the Godhra incident is no less problematic: (Modi steps out from the coach and sitting in the conference room): Sarkar taraf thi… samuhik hinsa ka trasvadi krutya hua. Itni bhayanakta itni krurata jiske liye shabd nahi hai. Sarkar ne mrutakon ke parivar ko 2,00,000 rupaye dene ka nirnay kiya hai. Sarkar koi bhi kadam uthane se hichkegi nahin aur gunehgaro ko puri saza milegi (Translation: The government… a collective terrorist act was perpetrated. There are no words for such cruelty, such barbarism. The government has decided on a compensation of Rs two lakh for each of those who have lost their lives. The government will not hesitate to take any necessary step and the culprits will be severely punished.) Alas, the same sense of exemplary punishment for the criminals responsible for the post-Godhra massacres has never been a priority for Modi. Sections of the speech made by Modi at the onset of his election rallies, the infamous Gaurav Yatra, in September 2002 are also worth recalling. He delivered the speech at Becharaji, Mehsana on September 9, 2002. The National Commission for Minorities summoned a copy; field officers of the State Intelligence Bureau of Gujarat Police and ASGP R B Sreekumar found it harmful to public peace and violative of Indian criminal law. What was the result? R B Sreekumar was promptly transferred. Modi said: “We have resolved to destroy and stamp out all forces of evil, who are a threat to the self-respect of Gujarat.” This was clearly an indirect justification of a policy of carnage against the minorities after the tragic Godhra incident. Referring to relief camps for the riot affected Muslims, Modi said: “What brother, should we run relief camps? Should I start children producing centres there, i.e., relief camps? We want to achieve progress by pursuing the policy of family planning with determination. We are 5 and ours are 25 (Ame panch, Amara panch)!!! Here he was making the claim that every Muslim family produces five children.)

These remarks from the highest elected representative in a state are nothing short of an attempt to ridicule the plight of refugees from the minority community who were dis-housed because of widespread violence that was not contained. Refugees in these relief camps included the victims of mass massacre, rape and arson. State complicity at the highest level has been judicially held responsible for the sustained spread of the violence. Therefore, ridiculing the camps and thereafter lacing the statement with the poisoned stereotype of the alleged Muslim aversion to family planning during an election campaign clearly has a motive. This statement also projects the Muslim minority as a stumbling block to progress and patronises an ‘us versus them’ mindset among the populace that then becomes easy fodder for incitement and the outbreak of communal violence. On the whole, the speech displays a definite communal bias, denigration of the minority community, ridiculing and belittling of the holiest scriptures of the minority community particularly the five pillars of Islam, the holy month of Ramzan and observance of Roza. Such references are likely to germinate a sense of hatred, ill-will and exclusivism about the Muslim minority in the minds of the majority community. The claim that nothing happened in the form of riots after the speech is irrelevant, dangerous and untenable, because the sense of exclusivism and sectarianism, obvious in the tone and tenor of the speech, not only goes against the concept of emotional integration of the Indian people but also engenders an intense feeling of alienation among the Muslims towards the Hindu community. The potent poison of hate speech was and is a useful tool for the chief accused in this case.



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The Karnataka prophecies – By Seema Chishti (Apr 29, 2013, Indian Express)

Karnataka goes to polls on May 5, with results expected on May 8. Each day brings with it new possibilities of alignment and realignment, and other tantalising signals for 2014. The run-up to 2014 has almost become an absorbing spectator sport, with parties in overdrive on “prime ministerial” candidate selection. An election for a big state could bring an element of reality into such fantasy politics. Assembly elections don’t really matter, say the losers of all state elections. Reflect back on the BJP’s successes in three assembly polls in November 2003, which had prompted the NDA to bring forward the general elections. We can all clearly recall what happened in the general elections that ended in May 2004. So, could Karnataka 2013 offer clues for 2014? Karnataka, with 224 assembly seats and 28 Parliament seats, has often been the opposite of a bellwether state. But this time, with the two main national parties and a serious third party in the fray, it mirrors the national faultlines. It is also a litmus test for the general elections, because “corruption” has been a prominent issue in the state, leading to the departure of its former chief minister, B.S. Yeddyurappa. Its durability as an election issue could be tested here.

In the heyday of Indira Gandhi, Karnataka saw a dynamic chief minister, Devraj Urs, who came to power in 1972. Not belonging to the dominant Vokkaliga or Lingayat community, his politics were broader than just winning either of the two influential castes. Under him, politics became a matter of bringing together caste alliances and other interests. His land reforms and grooming of a wide section of the present Karnataka leadership ensured that the state voted for the Congress even after 1977, when most parts of India rejected Indira Gandhi. It was Urs who offered Indira Gandhi Chikmagalur in 1978, as a comeback constituency. It proved to be the run-up to Delhi. In later years, when the NDA ruled Delhi, Karnataka was happy with S.M. Krishna. Yet, after the UPA came to the Centre, the Janata Dal (Secular) and then the BJP have found favour with Karnataka voters. Unlike the four other big assembly elections to follow this year – all expected to be straightforward bipolar contests – Karnataka’s two-party equation is disrupted by a powerful third element, the JD(S). Known to have impacted results in the past, the JD(S) is no pushover and it is unclear whether it will enter into an understanding with a larger party.

The state BJP was badly hit by Yeddyurappa’s departure and his setting up of a parallel party, the Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP). Yeddyurapa appears to have one goal – to demonstrate his utility to the BJP. Thus, he has a deep interest in his former party’s misfortune. The BJP’s spectacular campaign had been spearheaded by Yeddyurappa over the years. His loss will weaken any pitch the party makes to return to power. Both the JD(S) and the KJP, if not making the contest four-cornered, will test both big parties for their ability to make alliances, offer concessions to smaller but crucial players, or plough ahead on their own. This would be useful practice for 2014. The corruption issue affected Yeddyurappa’s government, his own political fortunes and his friends in the mining industry. The Lokayukta report triggered off the crisis in part, offering a disturbing picture of crony capitalism and reflecting the political influence of the mining mafia in several parts of the state. In this case, the BJP was in the line of fire. But the same issues have dramatically changed the landscape for the UPA at the national level. So how the electorate responds to “corruption” in the state may shed light on how it will respond in the general elections. Also, how the Congress is able to mine this as an issue, to use an unfortunate pun, in a virtually four-cornered contest, could be a precursor of things to come in 2014.

This election may also offer a template for neighbouring Andhra Pradesh. Here, in two general elections, the Congress under YSR Reddy seemed invincible. But after his premature death, the party’s own successes went against its future prospects. Its inability to “manage” YSR’s son, Jaganmohan Reddy, meant that it alienated itself from the memory of the person who had brought it to power. Yeddyurappa was no YSR, but his centrality to the BJP’s fortunes and his subsequent rift with the party seem to parallel the Andhra story. The bearer of YSR’s legacy, his son Jaganmohan, the head of the YSR Congress, is presently cooling his heels in jail on corruption charges. So, in Yeddyurappa’s fortunes minus the party, there could be a tale for how the “YSR factor” can be expected to fare. The campaign for Karnataka is interesting to observe. It could be the first test case of Narendra Modi’s appeal outside his state. The choice of the BJP’s new national executive has led to some conclusions about the kind of politics the BJP wants to go back to. Several elements in Karnataka help communal positioning of all kinds. A large and influential minority is one of them. The BJP cannot bank on Lingayat consolidation alone, with Yeddyurappa gone. The party may be seen trying out the Amit Shah or Varun Gandhi style of campaigning, to test its efficacy outside the Hindi belt. Its campaign could indicate how it wants to be seen nationally, as an alternative to the UPA.

Tamil Nadu and Kerala are admired for showing the radical way out of social oppression and dealing with the caste question. But Karnataka has been known for its ability to gradually ensure change and better the prospects of all sections – Dalits, backward castes and Muslims. As early as 1881, the then Maharaja of Mysore, Chamaraja Wodeyar, had inaugurated the Mysore Representative Assembly. It had, no doubt, a limited idea of membership, but it provided a forum for discussion and debate, the first in princely India. Political scientist James Manor points out that jatis may be seen not as a hierarchy, but as different groups that can be brought together in a variety of combinations, an idea that Karnataka might have been one of the first to play with. Now, in the 21st century, how the state’s electorate chooses its government may have an impact beyond its borders.



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The 1984 riots call for justice and closure – Editorial (May 2, 2013, Economic Times)

Nearly three decades after the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, there is neither closure nor justice. What we have is the acquittal of some principal accused like Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. The state must appeal against the verdict and speed up the remaining legal process. Organised communal violence means, in a broad perspective, a de facto assault on the foundational principles of the Indian republic. In India, it is almost a truism that, mostly, riots don’t just happen on their own, spontaneously. They are almost always organised. And when there is official complicity – whether from the state machinery or individuals therein, or from the political class, or both – the very nature of the state comes into question. In such cases, communal riots in letter and spirit vitiate and unravel the concept of the nation.

This is particularly true in the case of the 1984 riots. Decades later, some of the main accused are still either being acquitted in some related cases or the courts are asking for more probes after investigating agencies gave them clean chits – as with Jagdish Tytler a few weeks ago. This rigmarole makes a mockery of justice. And 1984 is particularly ghastly as even delayed, partial justice (itself a mutation) seems nowhere on the horizon.

All this makes something like the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011, so important. True, there were disagreements on quite a few aspects of this National Advisory Council-drafted Bill – on phraseology within NAC itself, on intent and import from the BJP, on the Bill hurting principles of federalism from some states. But that is no reason why the political class can’t discuss and agree on a Bill that seeks to end the culture of impunity on communal violence. The impunity so tellingly displayed in cases relating to 1984.



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Aberration as the Norm – Editorial (Apr 27, 2013, Economic &Political Weekly)

To say that India’s 1,135 prisons are overcrowded would be an understatement. But for the government to acknowledge year after year that over 60% of the inmates in these prisons are actually undertrials, people who have not yet been convicted, is a scandal. In New Delhi’s Tihar Jail alone, according to the latest data, 73.5% of the prisoners are undertrials. This situation prevails despite the introduction of Section 463A in the Criminal Procedure Code that entitles any undertrial who has served 50% of the maximum sentence for the crime for which he has been charged, to seek release on a personal bond. In fact, since this amendment, thousands of undertrials have been released across India. Yet the percentage of undertrials remains stubbornly high.

In March the Supreme Court commented on the problem of undertrials languishing in jails. In a matter relating to pending cases under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985, the judges stated, “The laxity with which we throw citizens into prison reflects our lack of appreciation for the tribulation of incarceration; the callousness with which we leave them there reflects our lack of deference for humanity.” Also in March, the union home ministry sent out an advisory to all states and union territories in which it pointed out that “only the poor and indigent” are unable to put up bail and thus continue to be undertrials for long periods. It also acknowledged that “the lack of adequate legal aid and a general lack of awareness about rights of arrestees are principal reasons for the continued detention of individuals accused of bailable offences, where bail is a matter of right and where an order of detention is supposed to be an aberration”.

Yet, the aberration is the norm. According to the latest data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), of the 3,22,000 prisoners in India (2011 figures), 2,23,000 or 64.7% are undertrials. In states like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Meghalaya, the percentage of undertrials exceeds 80%. In Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and Delhi it is over 70%. Apart from overcrowding and the terrible conditions prevailing in most jails because of this, the men and women incarcerated for long periods are being denied their fundamental rights. Given that a large number of them are poor, indigent, illiterate or semi-literate, they remain unaware of their rights. They do not know, for instance, that they are entitled to free legal aid. They do not know that they can be released on personal bond. What little knowledge they have comes from other jail inmates instead of the jail authorities who should be informing them about all the options available to them.

The problems of the people wrongfully detained are compounded when jail authorities refuse to release information. Recently, the former central information commissioner, Shailesh Gandhi, had to appeal to the Maharashtra’s information commissioner to ensure that the 43 prisons in the state put information in the public domain about the number of undertrials in their prisons who have already served half the maximum sentence for the crime for which they have been charged. The Maharashtra prison authorities have been given up to 12 May 2013 to do this. Gandhi had earlier used the right to information (RTI) to obtain this information and moved the Bombay High Court. As a result, a handful of detainees were released. But his latest effort is significant because it attempts to institutionalise transparency so that the families of these undertrials can seek their release.

The fact of a high percentage of undertrials is only one aspect of a long list of problems that afflict the country’s justice system. Given the inordinate delays leading to literally millions of pending cases in courts, the number of undertrials is bound to remain high. Yet, even if the other problems cannot be resolved overnight, this is one concrete issue that can be addressed without delay. What justification was there, for instance, for Tamil Nadu to continue to incarcerate 272 undertrials even after they were granted bail? There are scores of such stories that illustrate the travesty of justice taking place each day in some part of India. If for no other reason than to reduce the load on prisons, it is imperative that state governments and union territories begin the process of identifying the undertrials entitled for release and start working towards their release. Also, following Maharashtra’s example, information about such prisoners should be available on prison websites of all states and union territories. The release of such undertrials might appear to be a small step in the face of the virtually insurmountable problems facing the Indian judicial system, but it will go some way in imbuing a sense of confidence in ordinary people that some things can change in this country.



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Over 2,000 fewer farmers every day – By P. Sainath (May 2, 2013, The Hindu)

There are nearly 15 million farmers (‘Main’ cultivators) fewer than there were in 1991. Over 7.7 million less since 2001, as the latest Census data show. On average, that’s about 2,035 farmers losing ‘Main Cultivator’ status every single day for the last 20 years. And in a time of jobless growth, they’ve had few places to go beyond the lowest, menial ends of the service sector. A December 2012 report of the Institute of Applied Manpower Research (IAMR) – a part of the Planning Commission – puts it this way: “employment in total and in non-agricultural sectors has not been growing. This jobless growth in recent years has been accompanied by growth in casualization and informalization.” It speaks of an “an absolute shift in workers from agriculture of 15 million to services and industry.” But many within the sector also likely moved from farmer to agricultural labourer status. Swelling the agrarian underclass.

So how many farmers do we have? Census 2011 tells us we now have 95.8 million cultivators for whom farming is their main occupation. That’s less than 8 per cent of the population. (Down from 103 million in 2001 and 110 million in 1991). Include all marginal cultivators (22.8 million) and that is still less than 10 per cent of the population. Even if you count together all cultivators and agricultural labourers, the number would be around 263 million or 22 per cent of the population. (Interestingly, this reduced figure comes after a few big states have actually reported a rise in the total number of cultivators. Since 85 per cent of all marginal workers reported more than a 100 days work, this could possibly reflect the reverse pull of MNREGA, among other factors). Between 1981 and 1991, the number of cultivators (main workers), actually went up from 92 million to 110 million. So the huge decline comes post-1991. Hold on: aren’t 53 per cent of the population farmers? No. That’s a common fallacy. The over 600 million Indians dependent on agriculture are not all farmers. They are deployed in an array of related activities – including fisheries. This confusion is widespread and innocent.

Yet, there are also a few whose colossal ignorance leads them to dismiss the country’s massive farmers’ suicides as trivial. For instance: “at least half of the Indian workforce is engaged in farming. This fact points to a much lower suicide rate per 100,000 individuals for farmers than in the general population.” Note how easily those ‘engaged in farming’ become ‘farmers!’ As a notion it borders on the whacko. It goes: After all, 53 out of every 100 Indians are farmers. So our 270,940 farm suicides since 1995 are a low number on a population base of over 600 million. So low that we should be agitated over how the suicide rate in the general population can be brought “down to the levels prevailing amongst farmers.” Never mind for now the appalling moral position that a quarter of a million human beings taking their lives is hardly alarming. The Bhopal gas tragedy, the worst industrial disaster in human terms, claimed over 20,000 lives. But in this perverse logic, since that was less than 0.003 per cent of the then population, it is rendered meaningless. That position says more about its authors than about the suicides. It shows they are clueless about who a farmer is – and about what the data show.

It shows even greater ignorance of who defines and counts a ‘farmer suicide.’ The Census records cultivators. The police count suicides. The police do not read the Census. Not for definitions, anyway. The Census groups the population into workers and non-workers. The latter would be infants, children, students, housewives, unemployed, aged and retired people. Farmers, or cultivators come under ‘Workers’ – a huge category covering many varied groups. Now rural workers account for close to 70 per cent of all workers. And rural workers consist of farmers, agricultural labourers and non-farm workers. Cultivators (main workers) in the Census are barely eight per cent of the population as a whole. (That’s after a two-decade secular decline in this group). The ongoing farm suicides – 184,169 of them since 2001 according to the National Crime Records Bureau – are taking place on a smaller and shrinking base. Their intensity has hardly diminished. In most of the States accounting for two-thirds of all farm suicides, the intensity has likely risen.

Of course distress affects a much wider population dependent on agriculture. (Farmer bankruptcies crush the village carpenter, and even play a role in weaver suicides). The sufferings of others are as real. It is not as if the agricultural labourer or non-farm worker is having a great time. Both sections have seen distress migrations – and suicides. (For that matter the owner of a small industrial unit in an urban city could be distress-hit). Their suicides are no less tragic. But it is vital to know who officially gets counted as a farmer. And who gets listed in the ‘farmers’ suicides. For that tells us more about the ongoing tragedy and gives us a sense of its awful scale. Everybody who works in the film industry is not an actor. Everyone in the educational system is not a student. And all those in the 53 per cent of the population related to the farming sector are not farmers. Even among those who are, only a limited group gets counted as such when police and governments make farmers’ suicide lists. Cultivators are counted by the Census. Suicides are recorded by police stations across the country. The numbers collated by State governments. Very different approaches are involved. …



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Violence & resistance – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (May 17, 2013, Frontline)

ON March 30, towards evening, 22-year-old Vikram and his 10-year-old cousin Sudhir were returning home to Medina village in Rohtak district on a buggy, a pushcart, after a hard day’s work of harvesting potatoes on land taken on lease from a member of a dominant caste. Riding the cart with them were four others, including two young girls, all schoolchildren who had probably hopped on to the pushcart for a joyride.

All the youngsters were Dalits. Before the buggy could take them home safely, some young men, belonging to the dominant Jat community, rode up on motorcycles and fired at them indiscriminately, killing Vikram and Sudhir. One child was shot in the leg, and a boy called Rajesh managed to escape into the nearby fields. The two minor girls, one of whom was mentally challenged, remained frozen in the pushcart, unable to run or react. The shooters sped away after the attack. The police apprehended a few of the conspirators, but the main accused absconded.

Vikram, a second-year student of Sanskrit at an institution run by the Goud community, an organisation of Brahmins, had hoped to become a teacher. He has left behind a young widow, Mamta, and an infant son. Within a fortnight, three more incidents involving atrocities against Dalits were reported from various parts of Haryana. On April 13, in Pabnawa village, Kaithal district, some 83 Dalit homes were vandalised and looted following the marriage of a Dalit youth to a girl from the dominant Ror community of the village.

The couple are now in a state-run protection home; their entry to their village is permanently barred. In Bhiwani district, on April 15, a young Dalit boy was tied to a tree and a vehicle rammed into him only because he had demanded the ceremonial right to ride an elephant for a boy of his community. A few months ago, in the same district, a bridegroom, his father and members of his family were beaten up by members of the dominant caste for riding the ceremonial bridal horse, called Ghurchari. In Jhajjar, Dalits were not allowed to perform Holika Dahan in Jahangirpur village on Holi and were beaten up.



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Book Review

On the Muslim Question

Author: Anne Norton
Reviewed by: A.G. Noorani
Available at: Princeton University Press: 41 William Street, Princeton, New Jersey, USA, Pages: 282, Price: $24.95.http://press.princeton.edu/
Muslim bogey (May 17, 2013, Frontline) On the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, L.K. Advani, who still aspires to be Prime Minister of the country, wrote an article in his party’s organ, BJP Today. It was not, as you might expect, on national issues. It was on his pet hate—the Muslims of India.

A.B. Vajpayee’s style was different. But he must be the only Prime Minister in a multicultural society to denounce a section of his own people, and that too, shortly after they had been subjected to a pogrom in Gujarat in which at least 2,000 Muslims were killed. Vajpayee attacked Muslims shortly thereafter in two speeches, in Goa and while on a trip abroad. Right now deputations of Muslims wait on Ministers to seek redress against arbitrary arrests of Muslims on charges of terrorist activity, which the courts seldom uphold.

Anne Norton’s book, published on March 25, makes a very timely appearance indeed. The author is Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. She writes: “In our time, the figure of the Muslim has become the axis where questions of political philosophy and political theology, politics and ethics meet. Islam is marked as the preeminent danger to politics; to Christians, Jews, and secular humanists; to women, sex, and sexuality; to the values and institutions of the Enlightenment.”

The West’s response to Islam reveals more about the West than it does about Islam. It reflects its own insecurities. Anne Norton calls for “the emancipation of Muslims-not for Muslims, not for Muslim societies, and not for Islam, but to ensure nothing less than the survival of Western civilisation”. The brave band of Indian secularists who fight against the BJP’s and its mentor the RSS’ plans to reduce the Muslims of India to “the other” in our polity are, in truth, battling for the survival of India’s democracy and the values cherished by its founding fathers.