IAMC Weekly News Digest – March 21st, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Digest


Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


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Communal Harmony

Symposium on communal harmony (Mar 21, 2011, Milli Gazette)

An Interfaith Symposium on the “Role of Religion in Maintaining Communal Harmony” was organised by Jamaat-e-Islami at Aligarh on 22 February. The symposium was organised as part of a one-week programme by Jamaat-e-Islami in Western Uttar Pradesh during 14-21 February under the topic “Islam for all.”

Dr. Safdar Sultan Islahi, Ameer-e-Muqami, Civil Lines, said that Jamate-e-Islami since its inception has been working to promote brotherhood and communal harmony. In order to promote the message of the symposium, a group of people interacted with the people of other religions to achieve peace. These people also tried to make people aware that Islam is for all and Qur’an is also for all human beings.

Dr. A.K. Jain of the Department of Law, D.S. College, Aligarh, represented Jain religion. Prof. Ramesh Kumar, head of the Department of Hindi at S.V. College, Aligarh, represented the Hindu religion. Prof. Saud Alam Qasmi, former dean of Faculty of Theology, AMU, represented Islam. Gyani Ranjeet Singh Bedhakak represented the Sikh religion and Rev. Santosh Pandey, priest of the Church of Ascension, Aligarh, represented Christianity. The symposium was chaired by Prof. Ejaz Ahmad Aslam, Secretary Jamaat-e-Islami Hind.


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Riots in Gujarat continue unabated (Mar 22, 2011, Milli Gazette)

The crimes committed by the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi are in public domain. However, whenever these are probed deeper the findings conclude that though he is guilty of those crimes yet he cannot be prosecuted. The latest SIT report also establishes this very fact that all the evidence has been (tactfully) destroyed. Hence no case can be slapped against him. Spokespersons of BJP who often appear on TV dump all these probes to be biased (hence wrong). They should at least study those reports by the teams appointed by Modi himself. These TV spokespersons quite often boast that there has been no riot after 2002. The fact should be seen in the light of 2002 itself i.e., Muslims who witnessed 2002 bear any kind of atrocity fearing the recurrence similar of repression and genocide if they resist (or protest).

It is a lie that there are no communal riots in Gujarat. Muslims of several villages in the Surat district suffered persecution in 2007. Yusuf Sheikh, Dushyant Dubey and Shabnam Hashmi reached there. It is almost impossible for the Muslims to live in these villages – Hathoda, Vailacha, Kosamba, Novi Kosadi, Kamchar rasta. A civil society team toured these villages. When asked whether such terror is let loose only before the elections, the Muslims replied that it is perpetrated every month. But Muslim inhabitants are so terrified that they do not dare to protest. Mody administration and his party BJP project the “myth” that there are no riots in Gujarat. Goraksha Security activists were involved in attacks in Surat and Vadodara districts.

Vice-President of Goraksha Samiti Jasu Darbar along with his twenty companions reached Kasodi village on 18 July 2007. He had been visiting the area for the last six months quite frequently for extorting money from the local Quraishis (butchers). On that day he was accompanied by about 20 goons in two cars and five bikes searching for a calf and they reached the village cremation ground. While returning they began threatening the Muslims warning them to live properly failing which their houses would be burnt. The villagers asked them not to speak so rudely because a similar retort would lead to confrontation. Jasu Darbar unsheathed his sword and began abusing. The villagers also picked up their lathis. The car and bike riders ran away in panic.

Jasu Darbar was surrounded by the mob which gave him a sound beating. The deputy surpanch of the village called the officer concerned and began preparation to rush Jasu to hospital but he collapsed on the way to hospital. Police arrived on the scene. It was prayer time. The police took away about 25 persons on the pretext of recording their statements. They are no longer traceable. The police did not register their arrest. There are about a thousand families in the village and half of these are Muslims. There had never been any communal riots in this village. On Jasu Darbar’s death VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS planned attack on Muslim houses damaging their properties.

In the adjoining villages also the Sangha associates resorted to their terror tactics and gave the Muslims a good thrashing. The Muslims dared not oppose them. Hence the Delhi spokespersons would not include this under riots. This riot had its effect on the village Valaicha where 22 houses, 3 shops and 2 bikes of Muslims were set afire. The police was present at the scene of arson and the fire brigade staff tried to douse the flames. The villagers left their homes and took refuge with their relatives. Similar conditions prevail in other villages too. Yet the Modi administration does not deem these as riots.



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When Modi was denied the visa (Mar 22, 2011, The Hindu)

Sometimes, diplomacy is more about keeping up appearances than about achieving concrete results. After India urged the United States in March 2005 to reconsider its decision to revoke the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the U.S. Embassy made an action request to Washington seeking a “review” of the case. However, the ‘action request’ cable of March 18, 2005 (29140: confidential) also had a revealing accompanying note: “Post does not expect any change, but would appreciate a cable telling the GOI [Government of India] we took a fresh look and decided to maintain our decision.” The cable was sent by the New Delhi Embassy under the name of Ambassador David Mulford after India’s Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran called the Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy, Robert O. Blake, to his office on March 18, 2005 to express India’s “grave concern” over the revocation of Mr. Modi’s visa. Evidently, the Embassy’s only interest in sending the ‘action request’ cable to the State Department was the diplomatic and political necessity of responding to Mr. Saran on March 19, 2005, the day Mr. Modi was to travel to the United States. …

Another cable sent three days later (29231: confidential), also under the name of Ambassador Mulford, reported that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, after having “gone through the motions” by protesting the U.S. decision, was “unlikely to ratchet up the pressure further.” The New Delhi Embassy’s reading of the situation, even if it was arguable on Mr. Modi’s “position deteriorating” in the national leadership stakes, must have reassured the State Department: “Congress has long viewed Modi as a vulnerable target and will, at the appropriate time, use the visa incident as further ammunition against him. Both Congress and the BJP particularly value the US-India relationship and Modi’s America bashing has made many nervous. Both parties will likely move to ensure that the negative impact on the relationship from this incident is minimal. With Modi’s position deteriorating, the BJP leadership could decide to quietly push him aside at the appropriate time. This could become a further liability for [BJP president L.K.] Advani, who [was] the senior party leader most visibly supporting Modi.”

The Embassy cable also reported that in private conversations with American diplomats, “Indians have expressed overwhelming support for the US decision.” Initial shock at the denial was now turning to embarrassment and “Modi harmed himself by making vitriolic anti-American statements that are not resonating well.” One former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, the cable said, told DCM that “Ninety five percent of India stands with you.”



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Govt transfers all Hindu terror cases to NIA (Mar 21, 2011, IBN)

The Union Home Ministry has issued an order for the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to take over all Hindu terror cases. The cases include the murder case of RSS leader Sunil Joshi, who allegedly had a hand in the Samjhauta Express blast. The Law Ministry will issue a notification in this regard shortly. The Madhya Pradesh government, however, is unhappy with the development. It had already filed a chargesheet in Joshi murder case against Sadhvi Pragya Thakur and four others. Madhya Pradesh Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta questioned the need for the transferring the cases to the NIA now. “The Centre and state governments must realise their limits. Maintaining law and order is to be done by the state and the Centre should not interfere,” said Gupta. “What is the need to transfer the case? Investigations have been done and now a chargesheet has also been filed,” Gupta added.

Sources said investigations have indicated a link between Sunil Joshi, who allegedly had a hand in the Samjhauta Express blast, and the 2006 Nanded blast. Two people had died then allegedly while making a bomb. Sources also said CBI investigations showed that the two persons were known to Joshi and were sent by him for training in Nanded. The sources said further investigations will establish if the two were being trained for any of the other terror attacks that Joshi masterminded. Joshi is believed to be involved in most Hindu terror cases from Mecca Masjid to Ajmer to Malegaon. Reacting to the issue, senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said, “This is the most communal decision take by the Government. Terror is terror, why to communalise it? Such type of action even Muslims don’t like. This is the most corrupt and communal Government. Investigation on the basis of region is unacceptable.” “The tendency of the Central Government is to concentrate more powers on them and not to care about the federal spirit. They are encroaching upon the rights of the state governments, be in education or investigation,” he added.

Following are some of the past terror cases that are linked to Hindu nationalist groups. The 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing is linked to Indian Army Officer Prasad Shrikant Purohit, a member of Hindu nationalist group Abhinav Bharat. In the 2008 Malegaon blasts, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur is the prime accused – she arranged for two men to plant the explosives. Investigation into the 2007 Ajmer Dargah Blast has led to the arrest of five RSS members including Swami Aseemanand. CBI questioned senior RSS leader Indresh Kumar for his alleged involvement in the May 18, 2007 blast in Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid.



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Purohit team targeted Muslims as well as Christians: Army (Mar 15, 2011, Milli Gazette)

Military Intelligence after interrogating Lt Colonel Purohit has in its report said that not only Muslims, but also Christians were the targets of Purohit team. According to the report, Abhinav Bharat targeted Christians at Kandhamal in Orissa, Karnataka, Pune, Jabalpur and Bhopal. Purohit’s key aide Sameer Kulkarni is alleged to have killed two Christians in Orissa in the year 2008.

According to the army report, Pragya confronted Purohit during their joint questioning by the Military Intelligence, Maharashtra ATS and IB on 30 October, 2008 at Khandala. The report said, “She mentioned that the Army officer had met her on 5 October 2008, and confessed to have orchestrated the Malegoan blast, killing of two persons in Orissa in August 2008, and arson in North Karnataka. The officer admitted to having made such statements to Sadhvi Pragya but attributed these outbursts to his boasting about the Malegaon incident. Later, during the same confrontation, he admitted that this outfit had killed two persons in Orissa through Sameer Kulkarni, a full-time activist of Abhinav Bharat.” This was reported by the Indian Express on 29 January 2011.

The MI report further said, “Responsible for covert operations, the RSS activist Sameer Kulkarni was instrumental in breaking influential RSS and VHP workers towards Abhinav Bharat. He is known to be associated with the core group which had undertaken the IED blast in Ajmer in 2007. In March 2008, he accompanied Ramji Kalsangra and Sandeep Dange to Purohit’s residence in Panchmarhi. Police records confirmed his involvement in anti-Christian riots in Pune, Jabalpur and Bhopal. Lt Col Purohit admitted that, on behalf of Abhinav Bharat, Sameer killed two Christians in Orissa in August 2008. This act indicated that Lt Col Purohit wanted to establish an organisation with aggressive anti-Christian stance.”

The important findings of the MI report are: 1. Rakesh Dhavde was instructed by Purohit to supply RDX to Ramji Kalsangra and Dange in August 2008. 2. Dhavde received seven rounds of 9-mm service ammunition from Purohit, who had taken it out from Army units in Devlali. 3. Purohit illegally sold his 7.62-mm pistol to Atul Chandrakant Potnis, a Pune dealer. 4. A 32 mm Lama pistol was received by Purohit through Lt Col (retd) Shailesh Raikar, to be sold in Pune. 5. Purohit had a Webley & Scott revolver purchased from Potnis.



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SIT chief’s transfer to Mizoram may hit work (Mar 22, 2011, Indian Express)

While the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the High Court to probe the Ishrat Jahan encounter case is to submit its report in the court in the second week of April, the transfer of Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh to Mizoram may lead to delays and complications, say SIT sources. Singh was appointed by the HC as the chairman of the three-member SIT. The other two members are Gujarat-cadre IPS officer Mohan Jha, who was chosen by the state government, and IPS officer Satish Varma, who was the choice of the petitioners.

Singh, who belongs to the Union Territory cadre, has been recently transferred to Mizoram as Inspector General of Police. SIT members said that Singh’s transfer would not “really” affect the process of investigation but procedures of questioning, examination of evidence, etc. could be delayed. “We were told about Singh’s transfer about a month ago but the decision came only last week.

Since he has moved quite far from Gujarat, he could find it difficult to be present during questioning, examination of evidence or in meetings where high-level decisions are taken,” an SIT officer said. SIT officials said since Singh remains the chairman of the team, all decisions would have to be taken with his consent. The SIT team is to submit its investigation report on April 8 in the Gujarat High Court.



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Sawai Madhopur tense after SHO burnt alive (Mar 19, 2011, Times of India)

Tension gripped the town a day after a police officer was burnt alive by a mob following suicide by a student leader. The police on Friday registered two FIRs in the violent incident. In the first, 30 people, including a student leader Banwari Lal Meena, have been named along with 1,000 unidentified people for killing Station House Officer (SHO) Phool Mohammad. The second FIR has been registered against another mob for blocking a road in after the incident. The police had resorted to firing after the road blockade in which two youth were injured.

The mob on Thursday turned violent after a student leader, protesting police inaction in a murder case, set himself on fire and jumped off a water tank in Surwal village. Hundreds of his supporters had gathered at the spot. As the mob fury intensified, a police vehicle was set on fire, in which Mantown SHO Phool Mohammed was sitting along with his team. The SHO’s charred body was recovered from the burnt vehicle by some cops.

The town remained tense on Friday as members of a particular community took out a rally and gathered at the district collector’s office. The markets were closed and people preferred to remain indoors. Police have launched a hunt for Banwari Lal Meena, who had climbed atop the water tank along with Rajesh Meena (who committed suicide) and a few others on suspicion that Rajesh was incited by them. “We have come to know that some students, including Banwari Lal had incited Meena,” said a police officer.



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Reservation issue for minorities does not concern Muslims alone: Salman Khurshid (Mar 19, 2011, Thaindian.com)

Minister for Minority Affairs Salman Khurshid on Saturday said that reservation would be for all the minorities and not just for Muslims. While attending a rally on water conservation in the India’s national capital, Khurshid said the issue of reservation for minorities does not concern Muslims alone. “There wont be any Muslim reservation in this country. The reservation will be for the minorities only. And we know that there are other minorities also. But 85 percent of the minorities are Muslims. This is a fact,” Khurshid told reporters, while attending a rally on water conservation here. “So when there will be reservation for minorities, then there is no doubt that 85 percent of the advantage will also go to Muslims. This is again a fact,” he added.

Khurshid also stated that reservation would be given on the basis of backwardness and not just on the basis of caste or creed. He further said that a proper decision would be taken only after there is a common consensus on the percentage they deserve through the route of OBCs (Other Backward Castes). The Minister also pointed out on the reservations that Muslims and other minorities have got in the states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

There has been a call for reservations for Muslims in government jobs and education by various Muslim groups. The demands sprang up after the Ranganath Mishra Commission enquiring the status of minorities recommended reservation for minorities in government jobs and education last year. It recommended ten percent reservation for Muslims and five percent reservation for other minorities like the Christians and Sikhs. Tamil Nadu has 3.5 percent reservation for Muslims within 27 percent quota earmarked for backward castes, while Andhra Pradesh has four percent reservation for Muslims.



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Govt bringing new enemy property law to deprive thousands of Muslims (Mar 13, 2011, Twocircles.net)

The Congress-led Central Government is working on a new enemy property law that will directly affect thousands of genuine Indian Muslims who preferred to live in the country when their close relatives were migrating to Pakistan. The new law will deprive them of the properties that they inherited from their migrating relatives. Not only this, the Enemy Property Amendment Bill will deprive the heirs, almost all of them are Muslims, of their legal right to seek judicial redressal and claim their properties confiscated by the Custodian of Enemy Properties. After the war with Pakistan in 1965, India declared all such properties left by the migrants “Enemy Property” and its appointed custodian captured the properties claiming they belong to “enemies” while their owners and occupiers are genuine Indian Muslims who enjoy full citizenship and civil rights as Indian citizens.

In 2010, Raja Mahmoodabad won his decades-long legal battle to recover his confiscated properties when the Supreme Court upheld his right on the properties his father Late Raja MA Ahmad Khan left behind while migrating to Pakistan in 1957. But fearing that thousands of such genuine claimants of the “enemy” properties will turn up to reclaim their confiscated properties, the Union Government issued an ordinance on 2nd July 2010. However, it withdrew the ordinance after the protest from civil society.

“A ray of hope was kindled after the long-drawn legal battle of Raja Mahmoodabad last year but it is being defeated now by a legal sleight of hand. The first attempt was made last summer when the Union home minister tried to sneak in an ordinance insulting and defeating the purpose of Parliament. The move was defeated due to a quick and strong reaction of civil society. Now the home ministry is seeking to pass it through Parliament with some cosmetic changes which will deprive thousands of Indian Muslims of their rights and strip of their right to seek justice through courts,” said Dr Zafrul Islam Khan, Editor, The Milli Gazette fortnightly.

Talking to TwoCircles.net from Bhiwandi this morning Dr Khan said: “The new law will affect thousands of Muslims who genuinely inherited the properties. It will justify the illegal capture of Hindus on such properties.” He urged the community leaders to come out and put pressure on the government to withdraw the bill that is simply against Muslims. He urged immediate action from the community as the parliamentary committee working on the draft is closing its door for comments and interventions by civil society on 15th March 2011. “The draft bill has been referred to the parliamentary select committee on home affairs which has sought comments and interventions by civil society to reach it by 15 March 2011. In other words, there is not much time left for us to react,” Dr Khan said. …



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Ex-women prisoners allege being abused in Jail (Mar 9, 2011, IBN)

Three former women prisoners have alleged that they were subjected to verbal and physical abuse including sexual assault, beatings, threats and intimidation by authorities. The women, now out of prisons, spoke to reporters at a meeting organised by Campaign for Custodial Justice and Abolition of Torture, an NGO.

The women said their life behind the bars in Nilakottai and Tiruchi was horrible and there was violation of human rights and denial of adequate rights in prisons. They alleged that detainees were often abused verbally and physically by jail authorities. Many in the prison were deprived of food, sleep, and medical care and they had no proper access to family members or to free legal counsel.

They said that some guards also demanded payment for food or better facilities. Office bearers of the NGO said they would file a case shortly to implement a 2007 Madras High Court order to prison officials and government on the facilities to be provided in jails.



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RSS leader booked for outraging maid’s modesty (Mar 18, 2011, Times of India)

Sunil Joshi, a senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) functionary working in Vidarbha’s Akola and Buldhana districts, has been accused by his maidservant of outraging her modesty. Joshi has denied the allegations, and described them as a political conspiracy.

The RSS too sees it as a conspiracy to defame Joshi and the organisation.

The incident has brought back memories of RSS pracharak-turned-BJP general secretary Sanjay Joshi, whose steamy video with a woman, circulated through CDs, led to his ouster from the party.



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Opinions and Editorials

Gujarat Carnage, Modi and SIT “clean chit” – By Ram Puniyani (Mar 18, 2011, Milli Gazette)

After the Special Investigation Team appointed by Supreme Court submitted its report in December 2010, a front page headline in a leading daily announced that SIT gave a clean chit to Modi. This was picked up by a large section of the media to hail Modi being the man for progress of Gujarat. Industrialists’ chorus for Modi, the potential prime minister, is on for quite some time. This news of ‘clean chit’ to Modi gladdened the hearts of communal forces. Social activists could not believe what they read. A number of citizens inquiry committees reports have already worked overtime to bring forward the truth of Gujarat carnage. It is not for no reason that the Gujarat pogrom has been called as a State-sponsored carnage. The ground work of activists, interacting with the hapless victims, has already given a precise picture of what took place in Gujarat. There are scores of citizens committees reports, and also the report of the Peoples Tribunal, led by a leading legal luminary who had concluded that the carnage went on the way it did due to the proactive involvement of the Modi government which gave it the horrific character. Despite all the reports, a substantial section of the popular perception looked at Modi in a favorable light. The way truth is undermined when it pertains to the minorities and weaker sections of society was clear in the case of Gujarat carnage. Though ‘social consciousness’ had some doubts that the carnage was not handled well, the major focus was shifted to Godhra carnage and the alleged role of Muslims was highlighted. This projected role of Muslims seemed to be giving justification to Hindu retaliation.

Despite the Bannerjee Commission report saying that Godhra tragedy was not preplanned act by Muslims, it could not make a dent to the popular perceptions as already the media and other propaganda machinery led by Modi had created the image of aggressive Muslims burning the train. Now with SIT coming to investigate some aspects of the carnage, there was a hope amongst victims and social activists that the truth of Gujarat, the truth of the State-sponsored carnage will finally come out and the guilty will be punished and victims will get justice. With this hope in the background when the perceptions were manufactured that SIT has given a clean chit to Modi, it was a fake and bitter pill for the victims and social activists doing their best to fight for the cause of justice. With so-called news of SIT giving clean chit, many further lost the faith in the system, with the feeling that probably this is the end of the road for justice in this country. Fortunately, that is not the case. The Tehelka scoop (5th February 2011) clearly shows that the newspaper headline was a concoction. The scoop shows that the report has squarely put the blame of the carnage on Modi. All the charges against him stand vindicated in the SIT investigation report. The report practically confirms all the findings of the People’s Tribunal and other citizens committees which painstakingly investigated the Gujarat violence and called it a pogrom. The SIT report submitted to the Supreme Court confirms that Modi had tried to alter the situation in the Gulbarg society case by saying his by now most infamous words: ‘every action has equal and opposite reaction’. The SIT report confirms that Gujarat Government had deputed ministers in the police control room, a move which gave the management of violence in the political hands making it more horrific and motivated act. It was a common knowledge that few honest police officers, who had stood by the call of their duty and prevented the aggravation of violence, were transferred to insignificant postings.

With this scoop, it stands confirmed now that the Gujarat Government had destroyed the records of wireless communications of the period of the violence. Modi did display a discriminatory attitude towards the victim minorities and he did not visit the riot-affected areas or minority victims camps till quite late during the carnage. Not only this, Gujarat Government appointed RSS-affiliated lawyers in sensitive riot cases. Modi did not take any steps to stop the Bandh call given by VHP and supported by BJP on 28th February. This move of VHP gave a big start to the massacre and the attitude of the State to the bandh gave a signal to the rioters for doing what they did. SIT confirms that the officials tried to mislead the election commission in the wake of forthcoming elections by projecting that there is peace and atmosphere is conducive for elections while the truth was that violence was simmering in the society. It also comes out of the SIT report that the Police carried out extremely shoddy investigation of Naroda Patia and Gulbarg society cases. There are diverse reactions to the report. Social activists are asserting that this is sufficient ground for lodging FIR against Modi. The BJP on the contrary is more worried about investigating as to how the leak took place. Interestingly, while today this party is demanding a probe into the scoop, it was none but the BJP which went to town when the news ‘SIT gives clean chit to Modi’ was highlighted!

Nobody in their best wisdom asked a question as to when the report is confidential how come this headline in the newspapers? In a classic display of double standards, BJP never questioned the first ‘leak’ as that suited its political purpose. Now when the boot is in the other foot, the legality of scoop is being questioned. Meanwhile, what is happening to the victim community? They have been browbeaten into a second class citizenship status, ghettoization is going up by leaps and bounds, and the process of justice to victims of violence is prominent by its absence, the efforts of human rights activists succeeding in few cases, notwithstanding. This raises the larger issue of how the popular perceptions are modulated, how the mass consciousness is manufactured in the society. Right since the Godhra train burning, a particular view of events put across by the murderers is dominating the media. Any doubts about the major erosion of the story have been treated with contempt by large sections of media.

In the case of the headline ‘SIT gives a clean chit to Modi’, the same perception was boosted that it is the minorities and social activists who are the cause of the trouble in Gujarat and beyond. The social perceptions are very crucial in making the criminals of the of the ilk of Modi to rule with iron hand and to keep getting re-elected despite having a huge stock of skeletons in their cupboards and despite there being blood on their hands. In this battle for the minds of society, the communal elements are having the major manipulating power at present. Goebbels is being outplayed in Gujarat. This whole episode should make us do the introspection as to how to ensure that ‘truth shall prevail’ in present circumstance. Also which are these forces? Politics-media alliance can manipulate the mass thinking at will by publishing that ‘SIT has given clean chit to Modi’? If we cannot wake up to this stark fact of our society, such popular perceptions will be laying the ground for the mass murderers to keep ruling with great appreciation form the communal forces and captains of industry and they can also manipulate the opinions of the masses in their favour.



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Don’t mitigate, stop this horror – By Abdul Khaliq (Mar 16, 2011, Milli Gazette)

In the immediate aftermath of the bomb blasts that devastated Ajmer Sharif (2006), Mecca Masjid (2007), Samjhauta Express (2007) and Malegaon (2006), our intelligence agencies had claimed that these gruesome attacks were the handiwork of Islamist terrorist groups. The disclosures were followed by large-scale arrests of suspects – predictably Muslims. That was not all. The intelligence agencies fed the media with detailed “accounts” of how the accused men had planned the mass killings in cahoots with their Pakistani and Bangladesi counterparts. As tangible evidence, Muslim men and even boys with beards and skull caps were paraded as the perpetrators of terror before an unquestioning media, and in turn mischievous mediamen like Arnab Goswami and Praveen Swami coloured the incidents with a communal hue. It was no surprise then that during this period, a vicious SMS proclaiming “all Muslims are not terrorists but all terrorists are Muslims” was widely circulated in a clear attempt to reinforce prejudices and further the divide between Hindus and Muslims in the country. The woes of the ordinary law-abiding Muslim were compounded by these mindless acts of terror. Living on the margins of society, discriminated against in the job market, in education, when seeking loans and even when looking for accommodation, he is now burdened with the stigma of being in tacit collusion with terrorists. His commitment to the nation is being questioned because of the widespread belief, fuelled by intelligence agencies and media, that all terrorists were Muslims. Numerous Muslims complained about being called “aatankvaadis” sometimes by their associates and sometimes even by strangers. An entire community is being punished for the crimes of an aberrant few. Scores of Muslims have been rounded up, detained without any proof of crime, and tortured. So insecure is the Muslim mindset that following every terror attack, we have the poignant yet ludicrous spectacle of Muslim leaders and celebrities of every hue and colour condemning the barbaric attacks.

Clearly, the Muslim celebrity feels that unless he publicly condemns the terrorist acts, the general impression would be that he actually approves of these acts or was indifferent to them. Perhaps at the back of their mind was the infamous statement of the former Prime Minister Vajpayee who almost justified the Gujarat riots by stating that the Muslim condemnation of Godhra incident was not loud enough: hence the loud protests now. They tiresomely proclaim the universal truth that terrorists have no religion. And yet Muslims feel insecure and harried with every terrorist attack as they sense the country’s negative focus on them. But now the truth is out. Swami Aseemanand’s confession has finally and indubitably confirmed what Hemant Karkare had first exposed-the Hindutva nexus with terror. Brave Karkare’s investigations had sent shock waves through the nation and inevitably invited the wrath of known Muslim baiters such as Bal Thackeray and L.K. Advani. Despite the grave allegations against Sadhavi Pragya of inspiring terror attacks, the president of a national party visited her in jail and came out strongly in her defense. But somehow the media and public at large did not seem to be too outraged by the open support given to such criminal and antinational elements by leading functionaries of a national party. There is a lesson here. Would the nation at large be as tolerant if a Muslim leader had visited the perpetrator of the 26/11 attacks and spoken in his defense? Such a Muslim leader would most certainly have been pronounced an antinational. Clearly, there are dual standards in assessing actions of the dominant and minority communities, respectively.

That the Hindutva terror network has spread far and wide is evident from the fact that apart from the Sadhvi, the Swami and myriad underworld figures, there is a serving army colonel involved in planning the attacks. For some strange reason there has hardly been any discernable public outcry at the revelations that Hindutva terrorists have executed a series of deadly terrorist acts. However, it would be dangerous to dismiss the evil of Hindutva terror as a mere aberration, ‘the handiwork of a few hotheads’ as inappropriately described by a leading T.V. personality when they should actually be regarded as monsters for the heinous crimes committed. What is disturbing is that many misguided Indians believe that these mass murderers are giving the Muslims a dose of their own medicine and therefore deserve only commendation. Little do they realize that violence is a zero sum game and that every murderous act will inevitably be followed by retaliatory horror. There are no winners in this horrendous expression of hate.

There is no doubt that the fight against terrorism in this country is coloured with religious overtones. It is therefore essential that the government acts firmly and without prejudice in stamping out this cancer. The first job of the government should be to unconditionally release all those Muslims detained in connection with the blasts admittedly authored by Aseemanand and his group. The government and its law enforcement agencies cannot possibly undo the hurt caused to the thousands of Muslims who have been persecuted for no fault of theirs. But by releasing these innocents unconditionally, the government would be sending a message that a grievous wrong is being corrected. Our country has been extremely sensitive to victims of any form of devastation whether natural, social or accidental. While no amount of compensation can make up for the torture and harassment undergone by countless Muslims for crimes they knew nothing of, it is imperative that the government adequately compensate the victims and their families. Apart from monetary compensation, jobs should be given to each victim or some members of his family. The law enforcement authorities have been merciless in dealing with Muslim organizations such as SIMI that are suspected of nurturing terrorists. While the government may have strong reasons for the stringent action taken, it is intriguing that there is no move to ban equally dangerous organizations like the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and Abhinav Bharat etc. Soft peddling on this issue would not only encourage these antinational groups to continue their criminal activities aimed at the minority community, but also heighten the sense of insecurity among the Muslims.

If the fundamentalist outfits are not challenged and defeated, this country will continue to live in the shadow of terrorism. In the last two decades, innocent Muslims have suffered grievously at the hands of religious fundamentalist groups. The Mumbai pogrom of 1993, the Gujarat genocide of 2002 were not random killings but mass murder of a particular community, and both these ghastly happenings were at least as heinous as the dastardly Sikh killings of 1984. Our Prime Minister rightly felt that the nation owed an apology to the Sikhs for that terrible act and it was indeed honourable of him to tender such an apology. In the last few years, thousands of innocent Muslims have been rounded up, confined and tortured for bomb blasts engineered by fundamentalist Hindutva groups. Would it not be in the fitness of things for the Prime Minister to say sorry to the Muslims for the suffering that they have had to undergo for no fault of theirs?



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Raid raj blackmail – Editorial (Mar 17, 2011, Indian Express)

The Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit that the state government holds is its showpiece, a chance for it to show off its attractiveness to investors. Each time, memoranda of understanding (MoUs) are signed, often with extraordinary numbers attached; this year the government declared the value of the MoUs was around Rs 20 lakh crore. This newspaper has, in the past, examined some of these claims, and found them wanting. But an examination by a free press of such numbers put out by a state administration is one thing; outright harassment is quite another. And the reports coming out of Ahmedabad of the actions of the Central income-tax authority are difficult to describe as anything short of harassment.

The I-T department has written to the state industries ministry, demanding that it turn over “the details of MoUs signed by various corporate entities with the Government of Gujarat”. The local I-T commissioner wants copies of “all such MoUs (worth more than Rs 1,000 crore) signed in the Vibrant Gujarat Summit held on January 11-12, 2011” as well as in the earlier edition. Almost amusingly, the department also demands that the details of actual investments this year should also be turned over, so they can be compared to the MoUs. The supposed motivation for this request? “An inquiry pending in this office.” What conceivable inquiry could require such comprehensive data? This is clearly not based on following up a particular corporate return, the institutionally appropriate method. This is not the product of a broader inquiry into dubious investment in various states. This is a fishing expedition, pure and simple – and one that appears to be, as the BJP at the Centre and the state has pointed out, born of political vendetta.

The use of all the organs of the state to go after those associating with those whom you dislike politically is reminiscent of the methods used in the Emergency. It displays a wanton disregard of the independence that tax inquiries should exhibit, and of the restraint a mature government should display. And it amounts to using blatant scare tactics against investors, something that a government that claims reformist credentials should never even begin to consider. This no-holds-barred harassment of all investors in Gujarat must end, or this government will stand guilty of further subverting yet another institution to political ends.



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Deadly turn – Editorial (Mar 18, 2011, Times of India)

Just when the multi-agency probe into the 2G spectrum scam appeared to make some headway, the sudden death of Sadiq Batcha comes as a setback to the investigation process. Thirty-seven-year-old Batcha’s phenomenal rise from a small-town salesman to a real estate tycoon is more than just a rags-to-riches story. From the available evidence, his rise can be linked to the political fortunes of former telecom minister A Raja, currently under investigation in the 2G spectrum scam case.

Batcha’s real estate firm, Green House Promoters – with Raja’s kith and kin holding crucial positions – started with an equity base of Rs 1 lakh in 2004 and went on to become a Rs 600 crore company within a short time. The firm, already under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate scanner, is alleged to be one of the vehicles used to launder kickbacks from the sale of 2G spectrum licences. As a key aide and business associate of Raja, Batcha was a crucial link to any investigation unearthing the money trail associated with the telecom scam.

Reports suggest that Batcha was ready to turn approver in the case, and his death raises many questions. Opposition parties, both at the Centre and in Tamil Nadu, suspect foul play and an attempt to subvert the investigation process. Their demand for a CBI probe into Batcha’s death is justified. On its part, the DMK government has indicated its willingness to do so. The political consensus in this regard is welcome.



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What Does It Mean To Be A Muslim In India Today? – By Mahtab Alam (Mar 21, 2011, Countercurrents)

Recently, Shanina K K, a journalist from Kerala, who worked with Tehelka news weekly and now works with Open magazine, received the Chameli Devi Award for being an outstanding woman journalist. While receiving the award she said, “See, I happen to be a Muslim, but I am not a terrorist.” What made her say that and what was she trying to convey or explain? It means, as she explains, “If you belong to the minority community, they will also profile you. It is very difficult to prove that you are not a terrorist. It is equally difficult to prove that you are not a Maoist in our life and times.” Shahina has personal experience of it, so she must know. As most of us are aware, she has been falsely framed in under sections 506 and 149 of the Indian Penal Code, for ‘intimidating’ witnesses in the Abdul Nasir Madani case. Her only ‘crime’ was that she investigated the case of Kerala PDP leader Abdul Nasir Madani, who is an accused in the infamous Bangalore blasts case, and asked the question, “Why is this man still in Prison?” Madani had already spent 10 years in prison as an under-trail in the Coimbatore blast case of 1997 and who was later acquitted in 2007. In fact, this writer has also had a similar personal experience, but thankfully, to a lesser degree of threat to his life during a fact finding visit of Giridih Jail in the state of Jharkhand, in July 2008. I was branded a Maoist along with two other friends, and illegally detained for five hours by Giridih Superintendent of Police, Murari Lal Meena who is now being promoted to the rank of DIG, Special Branch of the Jharkhand Police. He had also threatened to put us behind bars in the same prison without any hope of being bailed out for at least a year.

But this is not the story of some Shahina and Mahtab alone. This is a story, very typical of what happens to hundreds of Muslim youngsters who are arrested and tortured by the police with no evidence or on false charges. The testimonies published in two reports that have been released recently by ANHAD and Human Rights Watch show what it means to be a Muslim in India today. They are nothing short of spine chilling. Nisar Ahmed, whose son Saqib Nisar is an accused in the 2008 bomb blast cases and who was arrested by Delhi Police after the infamous ‘encounter’ at Batla House says in HRW’s report, “When I asked my son if he was tortured, he said, ‘They are hardly going to treat me with love. They want to build the case… They used to make us memorize a story of the police version of the case. We were not allowed to sleep until we could recite the police version.” Another testimony reads, “In August 2010, Mohammed Salman, a 17-year-old held in Delhi’s Tihar Jail in connection with bomb blasts in the capital, appeared in court with his head bandaged. Salman told the judge that two inmates had repeatedly slashed his face with a razor blade earlier that month. He said that the jail authorities “did nothing” to prevent the incident – international law prohibits the incarceration of children under 18 with adults – although he had twice requested transfer because he feared for his safety and when no action was taken against the attackers. He also accused guards of laughing and saying: “He is a terrorist and this is what should happen to him, anyway.”

I also remember Ataur Rahman of Mumbai, in his mid-sixties, whom I met during the people’s tribunal on the ‘Atrocities Committed against Minorities in the Name of Fighting Terrorism’ at Hyderabad in August 2008. At the tribunal he had told us, “My house was raided on July 20, 2006, by the anti-terrorism squad at around 9.30pm… they frisked our house and took three computers unlawfully and whisked me away to an unknown destination. For several days I was kept in illegal custody. I was then formally shown to be arrested on July 27, 2006, and an FIR was lodged against me… Me, my wife, my daughter and daughter-in-law were paraded before my arrested sons. We were abused and foulmouthed at by the police officers continuously. For all these days I was beaten up before my sons, similarly my sons were beaten up in front of me. The women of the family who were called up by the ATS daily were asked to drop their burqah before my arrested sons, and the sons were humiliated in front of the women folk by hurling abuses at them… The third day: I was again taken before my sons, who were handcuffed in the adjoining room. Here one officer… whom I can identify, beat me up and threatened me that the women in my family are outside and they will be stripped naked if I do not remove my clothes before my children and other police officers. Some other arrested accused were also brought there and I was stripped naked…”

There are hundreds of stories like this. Not only that, even if you are a non-Muslim and believe that Muslims have right not to be tortured, illegally detained and unnecessarily harassed, then you are doing a crime! Take the case of Vinod Yadav, a human rights’ activist and friend of mine from Azamgarh. Vinod was very active after the ‘encounter’ at Batla House and declaration of Azamgarh as ‘Nursery of Terror’ by both security agencies and media houses. In October 2008, when a joint fact finding team of PUDR, APCR, Janhastakshep and NCHRO visited Azamgarh and to which I was part of, he played a major role in to carry out the fact finding. But that cost him a lot. Within a week of our visit, he was arrested on a flimsy charge of cheating along with another activist Sarfaraz Alam at Lucknow station as they arrived from Azamgarh. They were taken by the state police to a secret detention centre in Lucknow and severely beaten for two days for participating in rallies against abuse of Muslim suspects in the bombings. Vinod was repeatedly told… ‘you are a Hindu and you are questioning the statements we make about Muslim boys and that is not good… You should not be seen with these Muslim people again, and if you don’t understand this, the future will be bleak for you’. To be a Muslim in India today is to be encounter-able, to be constantly suspected of being a terrorist, to be illegally detainable and severely tortured, to have the possibility of being killed without being questioned, no matter if one is a believer, agnostic or an atheist. Carrying a Muslim name deserves and qualifies for the above treatment!



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Muslim And Christian Dalits Victims Of Religious Apartheid Sanctioned By The State – By Yoginder Sikand (Mar 22, 2011, Countercurrents)

In 1935, the British, in response to growing demands from the oppressed castes, led by Babasaheb Ambedkar, arranged for a number of castes, whose names were specified in a schedule (hence called Scheduled Castes), to be given reservations in government jobs and elected bodies. These castes, numbering several hundred, had historically been treated as despised untouchables, considered both by the wider society as well as the Hindu religion as sub-humans or worse. They were not defined by any religion. They included a number of castes or sections thereof whose ancestors had converted over the centuries to various religions, such as Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and Sikhism, in search of liberation from the tyranny of the Hindu, or, more specially, Brahminical, religion. Recognising the legitimacy of the demands of the oppressed castes for reservations as a means for representation, the Constitution of India continued with the special provisions for the Scheduled Castes under Article 341, but in 1950 a Presidential order specified that no person professing any religion other than Hinduism would be deemed to be a member of a Scheduled Caste.

This patently anti-secular and grossly anti-democratic order was stiffly resisted by non-Hindu Dalits. In the face of strong protests, over the years the Indian state was compelled to extend Scheduled Caste status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits. This is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of these groups that number in the tens of millions. It is a patent act of discrimination on the basis of religion engaged in by the Indian state itself, clearly revealing its pro-Hindu bias. It compels Dalits to identify themselves (often against their will, given the degraded status that Hinduism consigns them to) as ‘Hindus’, thereby artificially inflating Hindu numbers. This is the price that they have to pay in order to receive the crumbs of state patronage. Although the Brahminical texts, the basis of what is called ‘Hinduism’, clearly do not recognize Dalits as members of the Hindu society, treating them as ‘polluting’ outcastes, as outside the four-fold varna system, by insisting that the Dalits identify themselves as ‘Hindus’ if they wish to enjoy Scheduled Caste status, the Indian state has, in one stroke, engaged in a massive act of religious conversion, more aptly described as ‘religious bribery’, converting, through the force of law, millions of people to a religion that is predicated on their degradation and the brutal denial of their humanity. According to the law, if a Christian or Muslim Dalit converts to ‘Hinduism’, he is automatically entitled to Scheduled Caste status. This is another way in which the Indian state acts as a Hindu missionary agent, its secular pretensions notwithstanding.

‘Upper’ caste Hindu leaders seek to justify the discriminatory religious clause attached to the Scheduled Caste category on the grounds that it is a ‘compensation’ for the degradation that Hinduism, in contrast to Christianity and Islam, prescribes for the Dalits, using this as an argument to deny Scheduled Caste status to Christian and Muslim Dalits. This claim is deeply flawed. It clearly contradicts their repeated (and patently false) claims of the superiority of Hinduism and its supposed teachings of universal compassion and tolerance. It also ignores the fact Sikhism and Buddhism (treated by them as ‘branches’ of Hinduism, the protests of their votaries to the contrary not withstanding) clearly denounce untouchability but yet Buddhist and Sikh Dalits enjoy Scheduled Caste status. There is thus no logical reason to deny the same status to Dalit followers of other egalitarian religions, such as Christianity and Islam. The absurdity of this restriction appears even more apparent when considered in the light of the fact that no such religious restrictions apply in the case of the Scheduled Tribes.

It is clear that the misplaced perception of Islam and Christianity being ‘non-Indic’ and, therefore, ‘foreign’, religions is at the root of the refusal to extend Scheduled Caste status to Christian and Muslim Dalits. It is apparent that this restriction also stems from a fear, pervasive among the ‘upper’ caste Hindu ruling class, that if Scheduled Caste status were extended to Christian and Muslim Dalits, scores of so-called Hindu Dalits might convert to Christianity and Islam in order to escape the shackles of ‘Hinduism’, which, as Dr. Ambedkar rightly considered, was a code designed to consign them to eternal, religiously-sanctioned slavery. Such a prospect, needless to say, poses a major threat to the hegemony of the ‘upper’ castes.

Deprived of Scheduled Caste status for decades, the Christian and, in particular, Muslim, Dalits are probably worse off, in terms of major socio-economic indicators, than the so-called Hindu Dalits. Unlike the latter, they are denied reservations in jobs and elected bodies, are not protected from anti-Scheduled Caste atrocity legislations, and no separate provision is made for them in government schemes. In addition to the degradation they suffer as Dalits, they suffer discrimination as religious minorities – at the hands of agencies of the state, ‘upper’ caste Hindus and their ‘upper’ caste coreligionists. This is, therefore, added justification for scrapping the discriminatory provisions of the 1950 Presidential order and for extending Scheduled Caste status to them as well.



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