IAMC Weekly News Roundup - September 23rd, 2013 - IAMC
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IAMC Weekly News Roundup – September 23rd, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

‘No anguish on Modi’s face when he talks about riots’ (Sep 23, 2013, Rediff)

Tara Gandhi-Bhattacharya, Mahatma Gandhi’s granddaughter, on Monday said she did not find any trace of anguish on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s face when he spoke about the 2002 post-Godhra riots in his state. Talking to reporters, she said, “I am surprised as to how Modi, being a politician, being a human being, and being from Gujarat, can speak about the riots and that phase of violence without showing any pain.”

She, however, added that she was not passing a judgment on Modi as she did not know him well. Gandhi-Bhattacharya, 78, is vice-chairman of the Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti. Modi was recently named the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate for the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. “Once I watched Modi speaking in Gujarat from a distance. I can’t judge him. But when he mentions the excesses of the Gujarat riots, I do not see any anguish on his face,” she said.

Talking about the conditions at refugees’ camps in Gujarat which were set up after the riots, she said, “I was so pained (upon seeing them) that I could not sleep for the next six months.” About Modi’s infamous “puppy coming under the wheels of a car” remark, she said it was a case of use of “indecent language”. Asked whether Modi becoming the prime minister would pose a danger to the democratic values of India, Gandhi- Bhattacharya said, “I won’t name anyone, because by singling out one person, others cannot be condoned. Whoever comes to power must have compassion and courage.”



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I wouldn’t want to live in India if Modi becomes PM, author Ananthamurthy says (Sep 19, 2013, Times of India)

Jnanpith awardee and acclaimed Kannada writer Dr UR Ananthamurthy has said he will not live in a country with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister, triggering angry reactions from BJP which said he was free to leave India. As a controversy broke out over his strident anti-Modi remark, Ananthamurthy on Thursday stood his ground and said the Gujarat chief minister would create fear among people if he becomes Prime Minister. “I would not want to live in a country where Modi is the Prime Minister,” he said at an event here recently.

Against the backdrop of vitriolic attacks against him from the BJP and its sympathizers for his remarks, Ananthamurthy said, “He (Modi) will create fear and if a fearsome man is sitting there, people will just bow down to him because a bully creates cowards.” The country needs to build a citizenry who are not afraid and a governance where people do not follow a leader slavishly, he told reporters. Furious at Ananthamurthy’s remarks, BJP and supporters of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate dubbed him “parasite like” alleging he swayed according to political climate, having supported Congress and JDS in the past and “currying” favours with the government of the day.

BJP MP Ananthkumar Hegde and several local party leaders said he was free to leave the country. Several writers, including Baragur Ramachandrappa and K Marulasiddappa, have come out in support of Ananthamurthy while some others such as noted scholar Dr Chidananda Murthy flayed him. Ananthamurthy – who lost the Man Booker International Prize to American writer Lydia Davis in May this year – said there was dignity attached to Prime Minister’s post when Pandit Nehru and Narasimha Rao assumed the charge, but this will wane away if Modi becomes PM. “We had people like Nehru who could write a book in jail – Discovery of India, a great book even today. Rao was a great scholar too. There was some dignity for the Prime Minister’s post, but that dignity will go (if Modi becomes PM), he said.

On BJP leaders’ attacks on him, Ananthamurthy said he had been critical of Indira Gandhi and Nehru in the past but was never abused as much as the saffron party did. “If I say something and I am abused so much by a gang of people, imagine when they are in power what will happen,” he said. Ananthamurthy said the BJP has always criticized him because he did not buy the RSS Hindu philosophy. “They are a fascist party and don’t understand Hinduism. It is a great religion,” he said. On UPA government, he said it is not anti-people but was corrupt and should be punished. “But the way out is not choosing a man like Modi,” he said.



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Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case: CBI quizzes principal secretary to Modi, top cop (Sep 22, 2013, Times of India)

The audio tapes handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation by jailed IPS officer G L Singhal in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case, in which officials are allegedly heard conspiring to subvert encounter cases against them, have returned to haunt the Gujarat chief minister’s office. The CBI on Saturday questioned A K Sharma, JCP (crime branch) and G C Murmu, principal secretary to the CM, in Gandhinagar. Sharma and Murmu were questioned by SP (CBI) Sandeep Tamgadge at the Border Security Force office in the Gujarat capital.

Sharma and Murmu were asked at whose behest was the meeting held, who presided over it and what was its purpose. Earlier, the CBI had taken voice samples of the participants in the meeting and sent them to the Mumbai FSL for verification. Singhal, a key accused in the case, had given the CBI two tapes during his interrogation in February this year, which were later included in the CBI chargesheet.

The tapes are said to contain conversations among officials at a meeting held on November 19, 2011. In the tape, advocate-general Kamal Trivedi, junior ministers Praful Patel and Pradeepsinh Jadeja, Singhal, his lawyer Rohit Verma, Murmu, and jailed police officer Tarun Barot are allegedly heard discussing how to derail the probe into the case. The case was then being probed by the Special Investigation Team constituted by Gujarat HC.

During the questioning, CBI officials offered to play the tapes before Murmu and Sharma, but they said it was not necessary. Sharma reportedly told CBI he knew the tapes were true, but could identify only some voices. However, he refused to accept that the meeting was a bid to derail the probe.



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BJP MLA Suresh Rana arrested for role in Muzaffarnagar riots (Sep 20, 2013, The Hindu)

Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Thana Bhavan, Suresh Rana, became the first MLA to be arrested for his alleged role in fanning communal violence in Muzaffarnagar. A non-bailable warrant of arrest had been issued against him by a Muzaffarnagar court on Wednesday. State IG (Law and Order) R.K. Vishwakarma said the MLA was arrested on Friday from the Hazratganj area of Lucknow while he was on his way to Gomtinagar from the BJP office. Mr. Rana’s arrest came soon after the conclusion of the monsoon session of the Assembly.

Arrest warrants have also been issued against two other BJP MLAs, Sangeet Singh Som and Kunwar Bhartendu Singh. Mr. Vishwakarma told reporters that the action was taken on the basis of the wanted application given by the Muzaffarnagar police. He said Mr. Rana was booked under Sections 188, 153 (A), 353 and 435 of the IPC and Section seven of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, which is non-bailable. After his arrest, Mr. Rana was first taken to the Gomtinagar police station and then brought to the State Guest House on Mirabai Marg. He was later produced before a magistrate. A total of 72 persons have been named in the FIRs lodged in connection with the Muzaffarnagar riots.

Non-bailable warrants were issued by a local court in Muzaffarnagar against 16 persons for their alleged role in the communal violence. They include the three BJP MLAs – Sangeet Singh Som, Suresh Rana and Bhartendu Singh – the Bahujan Samaj Party MP from Muzaffarnagar, Qadir Rana; BSP MLAs, Noor Saleem Rana and Jameel Ahmed; former Congress Minister, Saeeduzaman, and the Bharatiya Kisan Union chairman and spokesperson, Naresh Tikait and Rakesh Tikait.

Before his arrest, Mr. Rana had attended the Assembly session. In his clarification on his alleged role in the riots, he claimed he was innocent. He demanded that the compact disc of the Jat mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar be examined and if found guilty, he was willing to be punished. After the House was adjourned sine die, the legislator was escorted to the BJP office by a handful of fellow MLAs.

Reacting to the MLA’s arrest, the State president of the BJP, Laxmikant Bajpai, slammed the State government for pursuing a ‘Muslim appeasement’ policy. He said none of the Muslim MLAs, or MPs against whom warrants have been issued, were arrested. Mr. Bajpai demanded the Centre’s intervention and said the State government should be dismissed.



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Over 50,000 riot victims move to relief camps (Sep 17, 2013, Times of India)

As situation in riot-torn Muzaffarnagar and Shamli in UP inched towards normal, the state government on Monday shifted focus on rehabilitation of over 50,000 people who have taken shelter in 58 government-run and private relief camps in the two districts. Senior officials said the local administration kept a close watch on the situation. The opening day of the Monsoon session of the state assembly witnessed uproarious scenes with the opposition accusing the Akhilesh Yadav government of failing to control the violence that claimed at least 48 lives. Speaker Mata Prasad later adjourned the House till September 18.

Two BJP MLAs – legislature party leader Hukum Singh and Suresh Rana – booked for making inflammatory speeches – were present in the House while the state government claimed “efforts were on” to arrest the guilty. During a visit to Muzaffarnagar on Sunday, chief minister Akhilesh Yadav had promised to bring to book all those behind the communal flare-up, regardless of their clout. A senior official said the two MLAs could not be arrested because of the immunity enjoyed by them on the assembly premises. But Lakshmikant Bajpayi, state BJP president, dared the government to arrest the two MLAs who remained in the city after the day’s proceedings in the House.

Two more BJP legislators, one from the Congress and two of Bharatiya Kisan Union also remained “on the run” after being booked for making inflammatory speeches at the mahapanchayat that preceded the riots. The Congress legislators demanded Akhilesh’s resignation, holding his government responsible for the riots and for being “hand-in-glove” with the communal forces. CLP leader Pradeep Mathur said 548 days of SP rule had seen 107 instances of communal violence, an average of one riot every five days.

Officials said some stray instances of firing in the air by bike-borne miscreants were reported from some areas in Muzaffarnagar. More than 12,000 people were taken to preventive custody, they said. Rashtriya Lok Dal national general secretary Jayant Chaudhary said the CM’s visit to Muzaffaranagar on Sunday was an “exercise in futility” and accused the SP and BJP of colluding to polarize the voters in an election year. “The BJP leaders sparked off the violence and were let off by the SP government. Why were they not arrested despites FIRs having been lodged against them?” asked Chaudhary.



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They yelled ‘take away all the girls; they must know what it means to be dishonored’, recalls riots victim (Sep 18, 2013, Daily Bhaskar)

Around 4,000 victims of the August 27 communal riots in Muzaffarnagar have flocked in Loni in Ghaziabad, the outskirt of the national capital. Most of them are from the riot-affected rural areas of Baghpat, Shamli and Muzaffarnagar. Because of the lack of government support, they are struggling to survive in a madrassa compound in Loni. While several thousand people are living with relatives in the vicinity and the other two-and-a-half thousand are camping at Madrassa Zeenat-e-Islam.

Sitting cross legged on the floor, Haji Babu, the supervisor of the madrassa, tries to speak but cannot utter a single word. With tears in his eyes, he asks this correspondent, “Please go and meet them yourself.” Recounting tales of horror, police apathy and violence, the victims express a brazen cocktail of anger and helplessness. “The fire had already reached the lane behind our house. I had to run with my two daughters,” recounts 25-year-old Khushi (all names changed) as she breastfeeds her daughter. Her younger daughter was just two days old when she had to run away. The police tried to arrest her husband, a daily wage labourer, for “causing riots”. He was let off and joined her two days later.

Another woman in the next room, Farzana fled Dhanwasa village in Baghpat with her three-day-old daughter, sister-in-law and mother-in-law. Nine bullets were fired on her house, which was burnt along with her 10 buffaloes. The entire family of 40 members was displaced. “After my entire family fled, I went back to my house but it was set on fire. I saw a girl, whose breasts were chopped off, was lying half burnt in my house,” says Reshma, Farzana’s mother-in-law. Twenty-two-year-old Jasmeen, who has lost her parents, cries inconsolably while narrating her sufferings. “When a mob of around 40 people attacked my house, I ran to Pradhan (village head) and begged before him for help. But he refused to do so. He and his supporters kept telling me, ‘Go back to Pakistan’, says Jasmeen who was set to get married next month.

“I ran away from my house barefooted when the rioters yelled, ‘take away all the girls. They must know what it means to be dishonoured,” she recalls. Jasmeen fled her village with her three younger siblings. She had to cross a jungle to board a truck carrying 50 more people to reach Loni. Ruksana (20) from Baghpat would have got married on Tuesday. “Our house that was lit up in celebration was burning when we saw it again from a distance,” said Hajra Begum, Ruksana’s mother, while the girl herself remained quiet. Women after women repeat the same story. The women who ran away after delivering babies are now suffering from several diseases. Suman Arora, the nurse stationed in this madrassa, says, “The women who ran away after delivering babies are now suffering from elongated uterus because of stress.” “Because of lack of amenities here like drinking water, there is a risk of epidemic like typhoid. We are also ill-equipped to prevent dengue in the current situation where these refugees are living,” she says. Distributing Parle G biscuits and pouches of drinking water to the victims, Meena, a local resident, says, “These women had no clothes to wear for the first 4-5 days. They hadn’t bathed all this while. The kids who accompanied them were naked. The local residents took out a procession to collect old clothes, soap, money, food grains to help them.” Government officials, including the district magistrate, have visited the madrassa twice. However, no relief has reached so far. …



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K. Rahman Khan seeks ordinance for communal violence bill (Sep 21, 2013, The Hindu)

Union Minister for Minority Affairs K. Rahman Khan has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring in a communal violence (prevention and control) bill through the ordinance route. In a letter, he pleaded its urgent need in view of “the recent events of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and tension in adjoining areas.”

Mr. Khan wrote to the Prime Minister on September 11 – and also to United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi – stressing immediate need for a comprehensive law with provisions both for preventing and controlling communal violence and providing adequate relief to the victims of communal carnage. “I am fully aware that in such a short time enacting a law would not be possible. Therefore, I request you to consider issuing an ordinance to deal with the problem under Article 123 of the Constitution,” he wrote.

It is clear from the letter that the Minister thinks that the proposed legislation – an unfinished agenda of UPA-I – has been shelved. The original version of the bill, drafted in 2005, was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The committee submitted its report on the draft in December 2012 and “later it seems the idea of enacting the aforesaid legislation was either deferred or shelved,” he said.

The Minister finds the redrafted bill – circulated for inter-ministerial consultations by the Home Ministry after incorporating the Standing Committee’s suggestions – “weak” and a dilution of the original bill. Mr. Khan had written to the Home Minister pointing out that this bill would “really not serve the desired purpose.” For one, the word “rehabilitation” has been removed from its title.



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Sting finds ‘holes’ in ATS case against Himayat (Sep 21, 2013, Indian Express)

News website Gulail.com on Friday released footage of a sting operation in which five “key” prosecution witnesses in the February 2010 Pune German Bakery blast purportedly claim they gave false testimonies against Mirza Himayat Baig, who has been convicted and sentenced to death for the terror attack. Video clips released by Gulail.com at a press conference showed prosecution witnesses alleging they were tutored by the Maharashtra ATS to give testimonies that suited its case.

“There were three main points on which Baig was convicted: that RDX was seized from the house he had stayed in, that he was of a jehadi mindset and spoke to his friends about it, and that he was seen in Pune with Yasin Bhatkal on the day of the blasts. However, all three points are false. More seriously, five or six crucial prosecution witnesses who deposed against Baig all gave false testimonies. They were constantly tutored, trained, threatened and tortured by the ATS. One witness’s family was detained in the ATS lock-up while he was deposing in court,” Gulail editor Ashish Khetan said.

Asked for a comment, DCP Pradip Sawant of the ATS said, “Two of the witnesses named have given their statements before two different magistrates under section 164 of the CrPC. Another witness turned hostile in court, so how does the question of tutoring arise? One witness who is supposed to have been forced to give false testimony, did not even depose before a court. These allegations will not affect our case.”



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Pay Rs 4 lakh to know about waqf property: UP Sunni waqf board (Sep 21, 2013, Times of India)

If you want to use the RTI Act to know the status of waqf properties – of which there is no official data and many of which is either encroached upon or usurped – you may have to pay lakhs of rupees as fee. Disclosing this startling fact before the Supreme Court on Friday, Moradabad-based NGO, Manav Vikas Sewa Samiti, said the Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central waqf Board had told the NGO that cost of information sought on management of listed waqf property was about Rs 4 lakh and would be furnished after it deposited the money.

In response to the RTI query, the Delhi waqf Board said, “No information is readily available. And the information sought by the applicant is quite voluminous and they lack wherewithal to provide the said information as compiling the list of properties, the disputes, suit numbers, courts’ names, present status would be time consuming process and would be an undue burden on our meager resources. Hence, we are unable to process the said information.” Making all waqf boards as respondents in its public interest litigation, the NGO complained that four years have passed since the Centre had framed a scheme in 2009 for preparing computerized inventory of waqf properties and get them back from encroachers, but till date the list had not reached finality.

A bench of Chief Justice P Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana P Desai and Shiva Kirti Singh issued notices to all the waqf boards and sought their responses to the PIL, which has sought a direction to them to comply with the December 18, 2012 order of the ministry of minority affairs for computerization of all waqf properties. The NGO said a joint parliamentary committee report on waqf in October 2008 had recommended computerization of records of state waqf boards. On the basis of the recommendations, the Centre had launched a scheme under e-governance project of the ministry of minority affairs directing all state waqf boards to streamline the records about the waqf properties. The Centre had earmarked Rs 25 crore for this.

It said, “The waqf properties under encroachment throughout India are worth trillions of rupees. These could have been used for the welfare of widow, poor, orphans, homeless, handicapped and destitute.” “Since the survey of waqf properties have not been done in most of the states, the waqf boards lose out substantial money which could have been generated from these and utilized for the welfare of the Muslim community,” the petitioner said.

While some waqf boards refused to furnish information under RTI Act, others waqf boards, which received central grant for computerization of records about waqf properties, informed the NGO that they have not yet done the mandated work as the Centre had not fixed a timeframe for it.



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Cop arrested for raping 17-year-old girl in Jalgaon (Sep 18, 2013, DNA India)

A constable was arrested in Jalgaon on Tuesday on charges of raping a 17-year-old girl on the pretext of marrying her. Ganesh Vishram Patil, 27, allegedly raped the girl inside the police headquarters in Jalgaon on September 5. The victim reported the matter on Monday night. Police said this could be the first case in Maharashtra where a policeman has been arrested under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act. Patil joined the force in 2006 and was posted at the Jalgaon police headquarters.

S Jayakumar, Jalgaon SP, said the victim, a student, used to frequent the police welfare swimming pool inside the headquarters for the past few years. “But outsiders had been stopped from using the pool for the past one year as there were no safety staff.” “Patil got to know the victim during swimming classes,” Jayakumar said. The officer said the victim and her relatives visited his office complaining about Patil.

“The victim accused Patil of raping her on September 5. Our preliminary inquiry has revealed both knew each other. Patil had promised to divorce his wife and marry the girl once she became an adult. But he had no intentions of marrying her,” Jayakumar said. Patil, booked under various sections of POCSO, was remanded in police custody till September 21. “We are collecting witness statements and the matter is being investigated by officers of the Zilla Peth police station in Jalgaon,” he said.



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Opinions and Editorials

Narendra Modi And The Reality Of Fascism That Haunts Us All – By V. Arun Kumar (Sep 18, 2013, Countercurrents)

…The rise of Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the next Lok Sabha election was not something which was unexpected, but this news chilled me to the bone. I was anxious and uncomfortable for some time. Finding me little uncomfortable, my friend looking at the scrolling on the news channel asked me little sarcastically, “So”. I understood what he meant. I just replied, “The seed of fascism is sown”. Fascism!! Isn’t that too much of exaggeration? Well, not at all. Actually, this is a reality. To understand this reality one must open up the historical repository of fascism and compare it with the present Indian social and political scenario and try placing this man, Narendra Modi, at the centre of the picture. But before venturing into the underworld of fascism and what it has for India, let us first look into the villain figure, Modi.

Narendrabhai Modi, the present chief minister of Gujarat and Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate, is someone who is totally unique from all other leaders India has ever seen. India’s post independence history had numerous leaders in power who had shown authoritarian and dictatorship attitudes, but never before there was a leader in power who can be termed as the flag bearer of fascism. A very good orator, crucial leader of right wing political party, member of militant right wing cultural organisation, a staunch believer and soldier of a dominant religious ideology, a person capable of polarizing the masses in the name of religion and the poster boy of Indian bourgeois class. Ah! A perfect ten to join the league of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

The life of Modi since he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat is well known. 2002 Gujarat genocide which killed thousands of innocent people was all done under the able guidance and auspices of Modi and his fascist goons belonging to the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal. His second stint as Chief Minister saw targeted killings of people from minority Muslim community and branding them as terrorists in a process of delegitimizing the minority population and tagging them as a the ‘problem’. India, a country of 1.2 billion people, is simmering between the two antagonistic forces. One is of a semi feudal structure and other the emerging bourgeoisie class. Indian social and political scenario is as diverse and complex as its cultural scenario.

While states like Kerala has almost come out of its feudal past; many states such as that of the middle Hindi speaking belt are dominated by the feudal landlords and their decrees. The blooming bourgeois society has also created a new middle class in the urban pockets of India. This new middle class, which considers itself the flag bearer of Indian political conscience, will play a very a vital role in fanning the fascistic winds in this country, either by supporting the tide or remaining silent to the onslaught of fascistic elements. Apart from the emerging new middle class, there exist the traditional petty bourgeoisie. Petty bourgeois, unlike the new urban middle class, is more close the proletariat masses. But this closeness is not something which is perfectly bonded. The rise in the social and economical crisis and its impact on the petty bourgeois can easily shift their loyalty towards a new viable alternative. …

India is in crisis, both economic and social. This crisis is the result of the contending forces of feudalism and capitalism, wherein each want to annihilate the other. While the bourgeois society wants to annihilate the feudal remnants for its growth, on the other hand the feudal forces don’t want to lose their dominance over the means of production. In this backdrop the revolutionary forces, if not becoming a cohesive and viable option can easily pave for the emergence of fascist forces. In the process of rise of fascism, the new middle class and petty bourgeoisie will play an important role. Fascism claims answers for all the problems. And I think they have. Shocked?? Fascism is a project where the problem solving technique lies in annihilating all the factors which it thinks is leading to the ‘problem’. And if there are no ‘problem’ creating factors, then there is no problem. How was Hitler trying to solve the problem of ensuring the purity of Aryan race? Simple, exterminate all others. As it is evident from the history (Italy and Germany), fascism has always attracted societies in crisis. But why will a nation support an ideology which aims at killing people? …



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RSS wants Hindu renaissance, Modi is its mascot – By Kingshuk Nag (Sep 16, 2013, Times of India)

Who said that the next Prime Ministerial battle will be between Narendra Modi and Rahul Gandhi? In reality it will be a war between the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Congress. To put it succinctly it will be a battle between all that the Congress supposedly stands for and all that the RSS signifies. If you want to stretch the argument it will be a battle between competing visions of what constitutes the idea of India. Have no illusion, Modi has been catapulted to be the Prime Ministerial candidate not because the BJP Parliamentary Board selected him (supposedly on the demand of the party’s cadres) but due to the diktats of the RSS.

The RSS is the fountain head of the sangh parivar and controls its various arms including the BJP and dozen others like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) Vanvasi Kalyan Kendra (VKK) and the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). The RSS’ avowed objective is to work for Hindu renaissance in India and the organization pushed Narendra Modi to the top with a purpose. The RSS’s bosses felt that Modi – in the present context – would be the right guy to fulfill the stated aspirations and goals of the organization. By doing so they pushed out their earlier mascot Lal Krishna Advani who had furthered the organization’s objectives effectively by launching the Ram Janmabhoomi movement in the early 1990s. He is also the guy who galvanized the BJP after the party had been reduced to holding 2 seats in Lok Sabha in the elections held in the aftermath of the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. But in the end he could take the organization thus far and no more. He could not consolidate the “Hindu” vote to a size that would enable the BJP to capture India electorally.

The Ram Janmabhoomi movement came to a naught although the Babri Masjid was demolished and in the 1993 elections in UP (where Ayodhya is situated), the BJP had to cede ground to the BSP whose representative Mayawati became chief minister. The Ram temple for which the Babri Masjid was razed to ground never came although the country witnessed major communal conflicts in the aftermath of the movement. Realizing that the movement had to not help realized the RSS’s dream of putting the BJP in power, L K Advani signaled in 1995 that the moderate A B Vajpayee and not he would be the mascot of the BJP. This was a strategic move: a kind of strategic retreat by the RSS combine that allowed the BJP to come to power in 1998 and 1999 and remain in power till 2004. It was not a total RSS/ BJP government because the party came to power in association with other parties who jointly formed a National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Therefore the RSS could not push its core agenda much but was content to wait for a more opportune moment.

However in Gujarat, the RSS was able to install one of its proteges as chief minister. He was none other than Modi. The earlier chief minister Keshubhai Patel was also a RSS man but not as strident or zealous as Modi. Narendra Modi had joined the RSS full time as a seventeen year old after coming to Ahmedabad from his village in Vadnagar 100 kilometers away and serving as a tea vendor for a while. Modi was fully engaged in RSS staying at its Ahmedabad headquarters and schooled in the organization’s culture. As such Narendra Modi personified the interests of the RSS. Well known is the fact that there was an unprecedented polarization in the state after the Gujarat riots of 2002 –which took place barely a few months after Narendra Modi ascended the chief ministerial gaddi. Under unprecedented attack, Prime Minister Vajpayee (never a hardline RSS member) wanted to drop Modi. But he was prevented from doing so by Advani, the RSS’s chief representative in the BJP. So Modi continued and in the aftermath of the polarization caused by him, he romped back to power in the December 2002 elections.

After losing elections in 2004, the BJP has never come back to power in Delhi. In Gujarat however Modi continued his run and got re-elected in 2007 and 2012.But with the 2014 elections coming close, the RSS’s desire to see a BJP government in New Delhi has intensified. It sees hope in the constant bungling by the Congress led UPA government in the last few years what with massive corruption scandals whether it is related to the Commonwealth Games, Telecom licenses or allocation of coal blocks. The RSS has realized that large sections of people desire change and wants to tap into this segment who might just vote for change not waiting to figure out what is the change that they want. They also would not bother to analyze what is the change that the RSS and its political affiliate BJP stand for. …



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Communal Polarisation and the NaMo Effect – By Archana Prasad (Sep 22, 2013, Peoples Democracy)

Though Narendra Modi (NaMo) was announced as the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP only last week, the impact of his national role has been felt since the beginning of this year. Majoritarian Hindu communalism has shown its blatant fascistic face by engineering a series of communal riots in the wake of this impending announcement. The obvious message is that the BJP is attempting to use such politics to create a ‘Hindu vote bank.’ Whatever its electoral consequences, this dangerous politics is a threat to the basic social fabric of the country as it destroys the mutual trust and class unity between different social groups within the working classes. In this sense, it also fundamentally harms and reduces the space for a democratic and Left challenge to the economic fascism of a neo-liberal regime. The communal riots in Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are reflective of the political polarisation that is being effected through the appointment of hard-headed communal poll managers in different states, especially Uttar Pradesh.

One of the first aspects to note about the riots in the recent times is the way in which trivial incidents have been used to polarise public opinion. In January 2013 the Dhule riots were created out of a minor incident which was ignored by the police. However, this incident was used by Hindu organisations to target the life and property of the Muslims. In Bihar too, similar minor incidents and the inaction of the police repeatedly formed the basis of the mobilisation of Hindu mobs. This underlying aggression of majoritarian communalism has been a result of the development of a Hindu ‘nationalist’ and anti-migrant consciousness through the penetration of communal organisations in local politics. In this sense the political anointment of Modi as a prime ministerial candidate is also reflective of way in which such a polarisation is being attempted.

A case in the point is communal strife in Nawada and Bettiah districts of Bihar where at least six instances of inter-community clashes were recorded after the split between the Janata Dal (United) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The stage for the last month’s riots in the state was set by the entry of Narendra Modi as the chief campaigner and his address to the Bihar BJP cadre towards the end of July 2013. As always, the speech attacked the UPA government, ‘weak PM’ and the ‘Muslim appeasement politics’ of both the Congress party as well as the Janata Dal (United). It was clear that the BJP was setting up the political foundations for a justification of the violent clashes between the cadres of the two parties and building up communal tension before the riots that took place on the eve of Eid.

This was reflected in Bettiah where Hindu ‘nationalist’ organisations provoked Muslims through slogans about the ‘appeasement politics’ of the Congress. In Nawada, violent mobs raised slogans supporting Narendra Modi and targeting Muslim establishments. In the Muzaffar Nagar riots in Uttar Pradesh the khap mahapanchayat was used to fan majoritarian communal sentiments and turn the dominant Jats against the Muslims. The direct political connection was seen from the fact that four BJP MLAs were arrested for inciting riots and fanning communal tensions. The significant role of reworking the caste alliances in the creation of such riots, too, cannot be underestimated. The Sangh Parivar not only sees Modi as a mascot of Hindutva but also as an OBC leader who will expand the social basis of the BJP. Hence in Bihar the campaign projecting Narendra Modi as an OBC leader intensified just prior to the Nawada and Bettiah riots. The attempt of the BJP is to create a new alliance between the upper castes and the OBCs (other backward classes) in order to win Bihar in 2014. Communal propaganda is helping this process of social engineering.

The strains of this can be seen also in the Muzaffar Nagar riots where the main communal tension is between the Jats and the Muslims who are being targeted by violent mobs. Hence the Modi factor is not confined to a general polarisation between the Hindus and the Muslims, but aims at creating a division between the OBCs and other deprived sections. In this sense the Sangh Parivar’s strategy is essentially divisive and it not only creates communal strife but also seeks to use its hegemonic majoritarianism to create caste tensions in the society. Thus the penetration of the Sangh Parivar has to be understood in terms of its widening and transforming social basis if it is to be countered in an effective manner. …



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Politics of hate and divide: Hindutva undermines social stability required for growth – By B.G. Verghese (Sep 17, 2013, The Tribune)

The Muzaffarnagar riots are another terrible blot on India’s democracy and integrity. To kill innocent people in cold blood for some petty political gain is barbaric. The Samajwadi Party bears prime responsibility for inactivity in the face of gathering storm warnings. It took stern action to prevent the 84-kos parikrama yatra around Ayodhya, slyly suspended a young, innocent SDM for allegedly vitiating communal harmony by itself playing the communal card, and then allowed Muzaffarnagar and the adjacent countryside to burn for days.

The caste politics of the BJP and Ajit Singh’s RLD also played out in a bid to break the winning but weakening Muslim-Jat combination in western U.P in the hope of electoral gain. It allowed a Muslim panchayat and then a far more provocative mahapanchayat organised by the Bharatiya Kisan Union at which incendiary speeches were made by BJP, Congress and other party leaders. Hindus were instigated to violent retaliation for an incident that was videographed in Sialkot, Pakistan, two years ago but now morphed to transplant a scene of “Muslim terror” in Muzaffarnagar. The fake video went viral on Facebook and was reproduced in some Hindi dailies even as the State tried to block its circulation. There is dangerous mischief afoot and the origin and trajectory of the fake video need to be traced.

The VHP has a take on this too. The joint general secretary of its Meerut branch, Chandra Mohan Sharma, told The Hindu that on August 27 a Muslim boy teased a Hindu girl, triggering tension. A fake video of this “incident” was screened at the mahapanchayat at which the need for Hindus to protect their young women was stressed, fuelling passions. The VHP’s regional secretary at Meerut, Sudarshan, accused the SP government of being partial to Muslims. The U.P Bajrang Dal chief, Balraj Singh, spoke of a “wider conspiracy”. He accused the Muslims of circulating the fake August 27 video to terrorise Hindus and cause them to leave their homes “in panic and fear” like the Kashmiri Pandits. “Like in Kashmir, Muslims want to take over the State. They want to take over Hindu property and Hindu women through ‘love jehad’ …… in order to expand the Muslim population, using Hindu girls as machines”. To this bit of vicious nonsense Sudarshan added that the mahapanchayat was followed by “a Godhra” and “what happened after that was a reaction on the lines of post-Godhra in Gujarat. The Hindus did not sit back….Victory will be ours. The Sangh’s work is to unite the Hindus, to protect our temples, women, cows, Ganga, our religion”. (The Hindu, September 11, 2013, Delhi edition).

This extensive quote is the Sangh Parivar’s credo which was repeated in slightly different terms at the RSS-BJP meeting in Delhi on September 11, also attended by Praveen Togadia, the VHP chief, to discuss their “core agenda” of Hindutva. According to ManmohanVaidya of the RRS, Nitin Gadkari “spoke of the Ramjanambhoomi movement and temple construction, Article 370, cow protection, saving the Ganga and a common civil code”. Enter Narenrda Modi, crowned the BJP’s prime ministerial face on September 13, and exemplar of the Gujarat 2002 “action-reaction” theory in which the “action” is contrived – in executing which pogrom he was ably backstopped by Advani as the Union Home Minister. Advani once again expressed his protest at this premature elevation of the man before the autumn elections in four states by boycotting the BJP parliamentary board meeting. But he was ignominiously ignored, though damned with faint praise.

The BJP taunt asking the Congress to name Modi’s opponent at the 2014 hustings is a bit of tomfoolery that only a trivialising media and empty minds find crucially important. If this is the BJP’s “programme”, then heaven help it. The Congress has a PM whose parliamentary term extends to 2019 or thereabouts. There is no compulsion in the party to make a new announcement here and now. The BJP has entered a new phase with the RSS actively in command and Hindutva as its masthead. This ploy has backfired in the past as it divides the nation even though it might consolidate a section of the Hindus. Others, including many in the corporate world, realise this but believe Modi’s “development card” will triumph. Their calculus is problematic as development and investment must be postulated on long-term social stability which is what Hindutva undermines, apart from being regressive in itself. …



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Branded for life – By Vidya Subrahmaniam (Sep 22, 2013, The Hindu)

The Hyderabad police came for Mohammad Rayeesuddin on February 24, 2013 – three days after the Dilsukhnagar twin blasts shattered the city’s fragile calm, killing 17 and injuring over a hundred. The 30-year-old man returned home fatigued from daylong grilling only to be again picked up a week later and subjected to more interrogation. This time, he was with the police for over 15 hours, and his panicked family began to imagine the worst. Rayeesuddin’s mother and wife had reasons to worry. The family’s breadwinner was one among the 30-odd males picked up in August-September 2007 for suspected involvement in the Mecca Masjid and Gokul Chat Bhandar blasts. After weeklong torture in various police hideouts, Rayeesuddin was shown as formally arrested and sent to trial. On February 14, 2008, he obtained conditional bail, and on December 31, 2009, the Court of the VII Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge cleared him and the other accused of all charges.

The Hindu got in touch with Rayeesuddin in February 2011, and what emerged was the familiar and heart-breaking story of ‘once a terror suspect always a terror suspect.’ Hum utthe baitthe dar me rahte hain [I live in constant fear],” he said, talking of the constant presence in his life of the khaki uniform. The policemen turned up on expected occasions, such as the anniversaries of the Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat anti-Muslim violence and whenever a terror alert was sounded. Often they did not even need the fig leaf; they would turn up just to let him know that he will never stop being under watch. So when the inevitable happened, and the police knock came in the aftermath of the Dilsukhnagar blasts, Rayeesuddin’s family was understandably crazed with worry. Rayeesuddin himself told The Hindu: “My life is ruined.” He also had a logical question to ask: “I know what it is to go to jail and face torture. Freedom came to me after so much pain, would I forgo it all to get involved in a fresh terror attack?”

Very recently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) declared the absconding Riyaz Bhatkal the primary suspect in the Dilsukhnagar blasts. It also produced Bhatkal’s associate Asadullah Akhtar in a local court, naming him a second key suspect. But this in itself is no guarantee that the Mecca Masjid boys will finally be free of the ‘forever surveillance’ that has been their fate since 2007. After all, they were freed of the Mecca Masjid charges because a Hindutva link had surfaced when the case was reinvestigated. If that did not stop the police visits, there is hardly any reason why the alleged Bhatkal link to the Dilsukhnagar blasts will. For those acquitted, the tragedy is compounded by the fact of their being Muslim. After much humming and hawing, the Andhra Pradesh Government ordered compensation to those released in the Mecca Masid blasts and other similar cases. The decision itself was taken under pressure from the National Commission for Minorities, which visited the victim boys, and noted the abominable condition in which they lived. Yet the compensation had not even been fully disbursed when the Andhra Pradesh High Court cancelled the award and ordered the State government to recover the sum it had already disbursed. The order, which termed the award illegal and beyond the jurisdiction of the government, was a stunning blow – both to those who had received the compensation and those waiting in eager anticipation for their turn. For the terror acquitted, the compensation was more than a means of starting a new life. It was official recognition that they had been wrongly accused.

Only a terror accused knows what it is to be officially freed of the terror tag. In a society where ordinary Muslim citizens find it difficult to get jobs and accommodation, the Muslim terror tag is equivalent of being condemned to non-existence. Of course, accusations of torture and worse have been made equally by Hindutva-linked terror accused such as Pragya Thakur and Aseemanand. However, the vast majority of those picked up are Muslims, and as an agonised activist told The Hindu: “Muslim boys get picked up in the first place because they are Muslim. They are the first suspects regardless of whether or not there is an actual Islamist connection to the terror act. And then, when they are acquitted, they cannot ask for compensation because the Constitution prohibits religion-based discrimination.” Ironic indeed! Surely it could not have been the intention of our founding fathers that the injunction against religion-based discrimination ought to be used to further discrimination. In the Mecca Masjid case, as in many others, there is clear evidence of police and administrative mala fides. This was systematic State-sponsored discrimination. If the State finally, and at its leisure, moves to compensate those it victimised by design, how can that be bad in law?

The logic is compelling, and that is perhaps why on September 19, the Andhra Pradesh High Court recalled the stay order on the compensation awarded to those acquitted in the Mecca Masjid and other cases. Not every terror accused comes even close to getting compensation. Mohammad Aamir, who spent 14 years in jail as the main accused in 20-odd low intensity bomb blasts executed between 1996 and 1997 in Delhi and neighbourhood, finally walked free in January 2011, fully acquitted in 17 cases and acquitted on appeal in one more case. The remaining two cases, in which too acquittals are eventually expected, hold only academic significance today because Aamir has already served more than the maximum prison term of 10 years for offences in these cases. Aamir emerged from jail to a hero’s welcome. The press celebrated his freedom, and he himself laboured under the illusion that there would be an official compensation for the ordeal he endured. While he was in jail, his father passed away and his mother suffered a paralytic attack. But every government official he met stood up to receive him, commiserated with his plight and made promises that were, of course, never fulfilled. …



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Asaram’s empire – By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Oct 4, 2013, Frontline)

A regular feature of the satsangs (spiritual gatherings) of the self-styled godman Asaram is atmasudhar or soul cleansing. Using a number of Hindu mythological narratives, he reaches similar conclusions every time – atmasudhar can happen only when you live a “pious life”, one that is free of sexual desires and any form of Western influence. This, coupled with a vegan diet and regular meditation, can lead to soul cleansing, he preaches. Meat-eating, according to him, is a foreign habit and is the root cause of aggravated sexual desire and aggression among people. Sexual conduct, according to him, should be governed only by the need to keep the life cycle alive. And this is weaved into the broader narrative ofdeshseva(service to the nation).

His satsangs, therefore, become a vendetta platform against all forms of Western import into India. For him, if a person indulges in soft drinks, meat or junk food, or wears costumes such as denims and T-shirts or falls in love before marriage, it prevents him fromatmasudhar. Through this discourse-a sordid mix of social conservatism, Brahminism, moral policing, all linked to the parochial idea of a nation – he not only demonises meat-eating communities (especially minorities in India) as foreigners and as people who are aggressively sexual, but also entrenches a world view that is widely practised by right-wing Hindu nationalist forces.

Not surprisingly, the popularity of Asaram grew by leaps and bounds in the late 1980s and early 1990s, exactly the period when the Ram Janmabhoomi movement became the stepping stone for Hindu nationalists in the Indian polity. This was also the period when the Hindu nationalist movement reoriented its political strategy towards a reactionary anti-Westernisation dialogue, indulging in various forms of moral policing, an aspect that Asaram’s teachings too reflect.

With India adopting the policies of liberalisation and globalisation in the early 1990s, market-driven consumerism and individualism were slowly becoming a norm. People were grappling with the changed ideas of living and Asaram tapped into this insecurity by employing atmasudhar. A natural corollary of this linkage is that Asaram continues to get political patronage from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled State governments – especially Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Gujarat-despite the many cases of murder, land-grabbing and sexual assault against him. When he was recently arrested on charges of rape, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and the Hindu Jagruti Manch organised violent agitations across the country. …



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Book Review

Liberalisation, Hindu Nationalism and the State: A Biography of Gujarat

Author: Nikita Sud
Reviewed by: Sanjeevini Badigar
Available at: OUP, Ground Floor, YMCA Library Building, 1, Jai Singh Road, Post Box 43, New Delhi – 110001,India, 2012; pp xvii + 249, Rs 695.. http://www.oup.co.in/
Gujarat and Its ‘Protean’ State (Sep 28, 2013, EPW)

Gujarat has been much in the news in the past decade where economic growth and communal violence have been pitted against each other as being typical or representative of the state. Nikita Sud’s brilliant book, which examines the trajectories of economic liberalisation and Hindu nationalism, seeks to challenge such notions about Gujarat, which she argues deserves “more than being boxed into single, unimaginative categories” (p 184). Presented as a “Biography of Gujarat”, the book is a rich empirical account that examines the trajectory of economic liberalisation and Hindu nationalism over time to portray a complex picture of a protean state, eluding definitive pronouncements of “possibilities in ideas, action and politics” (p 184). …

The next section examines Hindu nationalism, beginning with its emergence and its consolidation in modern-day Gujarat. To trace the path to Hindu communalism the author begins with 19th century reformist movements, revivalist movements and traces the development of groupings over time that form what is today the Sangh parivar or the “family of the Sangh”. In examining the relationship between secularism, Hindu nationalism and the state, the book examines major riots in the state in the post-Independence period. Sud argues that even though secularism is the avowed constitutional ideal, in practice in 1969 and subsequently through major instances of communal violence in the 1980s, 1990s and in 2002, state officials did not exercise their constitutional obligation neutrally – thus leading to an increasing de-secularisation in the state that reached its nadir in 2002.

The chapter however concludes that the state in Gujarat did not come across as unambiguously secular even before 2002 and that the government’s support for the cultural-nationalist agenda has been constrained by alternative norms and pressures thereafter – it cannot be said that the state in Gujarat represents the quintessential Hindu-rashtra today. The earlier chapters in the book do arrive at the conclusion that there has been a shift in political economy from an “era of land to the tiller to land for liberalisation” (p 113). However, the author somehow desists from stating the same with respect to communal violence, despite highlighting shifts in the communalisation of the state, particularly, since the 1980s that reached its lowest point in 2002. After presenting empirical evidence for the erosion of the principle of neutrality and the penetration of right-wing forces in the bureaucracy, the author’s conclusion against what she describes as generalisations and “deterministic pronouncements of paradigm shifts and political juggernauts” (p 184) comes as a surprise for a number of reasons.

The alternative norms and pressures that have served to constrain the state, which otherwise had a popular mandate, have come largely from outside the state and even outside the country. It was due to the larger political milieu in Gujarat that the government in power at the time of the 2002 violence has been re-elected emphatically and where, by the author’s own account, “vast swathes of bureaucracy, police and the public service providers in sectors such as health and education demonstrate convergence with the agenda of Hindu supremacist nation state” (p 196) and not to mention the not-so-uncommon signboards that declare places as “Hindu rashtra”, that activists and lawyers have had to use such expressions. Although their voices found little resonance in the political apparatus within Gujarat, the sustained campaign of civil-society groups and the media did, however, succeed in bringing to light human-rights violations and the threat of imminent miscarriage of justice that led to the national and international public outcry. Depositions of victims and activists before the commission appointed by the state government to inquire into the violence, the Nanavati-Shah Commission of Inquiry,1 proved ineffectual and the initiatives undertaken by the commission to investigate the actions of the state came primarily due to pressures from outside the state (Khetan 2011; Jaffrelot 2012). …