IAMC Weekly News Digest – March 28th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Digest

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Harmony panel has not met since 2008 (Mar 23, 2011, Times of India)

Though the government-constituted State Level Committee for Communal Harmony should statutorily meet twice a year to discuss problems of different minority communities, the committee members alleged that the government has not convened a single meeting since 2008, the year that saw high voltage ethno-communal riots in Kandhamal district. The committee members brought the matter to the notice of the top honchos of government at a seminar here on Wednesday. The seminar “Policing: reaching out to the minorities” was organized by the state police in collaboration with Bureau of Police Research and Development.

“The committee used to meet regularly till 2008. For some reasons or the other the process discontinued. I requested the chief secretary to convene the meeting regularly,” I J Jachuck, a member of the committee, said adding “I do not think the committee even met after the Kandhamal riots.”

While state chief secretary is the chairman of the committee, home secretary is the convener. “A couple of MLAs and representatives of different minority communities are also members of the committee,” said Jachuck, a retired IPS officer. The committee had come into existence in 1995, sources said. Surender Singh, a minority community leader said, “The committee should meet regularly for the welfare of minority communities. I cannot recall when the committee met last.”

Chief secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik, who attended the seminar, said “We will ensure the committee meets regularly to discuss minority issues. The chief minister is regularly reviewing the progress of welfare measures announced for the minorities in the state. We have largely fulfilled the promises.” He also urged the police to treat minority complaints with extra diligence and commitment. Director of Biju Patnaik State Police Academy Satyajit Mohanty among other dignitaries spoke at the seminar.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/7775266.cms

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Modi pursuing ‘Politics of Hate’: Muslim MLA thunders in Gujarat Assembly (Mar 22, 2011, Twocircles.net)

In a hard-hitting speech in the state assembly on Tuesday, Congress MLA Gayasuddin Sheikh representing Shahpur constituency in Ahmedabad said that Chief Minister Narendra Modi was of late warming up with the Muslims for his ulterior political aims and he had no pious intentions behind his latest move. Accusing Modi of pursuing the “politics of hate”, Sheikh pointed out: “You can win political power in one or two states through ‘politics of hate’ but the political power at the national level cannot be won by narrow-minded political strategy”. It was the first time in the last 10 years that any Muslim MLA had spoken about Modi in such a harsh language either inside the state assembly or outside. Referring to Modi’s recent statements that 30 per cent of Muslims voted BJP candidates during October 2010 municipal and panchayat polls, Sheikh accused Modi of “adopting the Goebbel’s strategy of repeating a falsehood 100 times to make it appear a truth to the secular voters of the country”.

Sheikh explained it that Modi was doing it to remove the tag of anti-minorityism with him so as to move from Gujarat and rise in the national politics as he harbours the ambition to become prime minister. The Congress MLA said that a few years ago, the same Modi, pointing towards Muslims if any in his elections meetings, would say that ”I don’t require you”. “But the same man now misses no opportunity to tell the world that 30 per cent of Muslims supported his party candidates in municipal and panchayat elections”, Sheikh said, asking him to explain what made him to take a complete U-turn from his previous positions and develop a new love for Muslims. Stating that former prime minister A B Vajpayee displayed high degree of political vision to form National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to win the confidence of all the groups and communities with him, Sheikh said that Vajpayee pained by Gujarat violence of 2002, asked the rulers here to follow ‘rajdharma’ (statecraft).

“But people with their narrow mindset trying to acquire political power through illegitimate means ignored Vajpayee’s call. The consequence was that they managed to get power in Gujarat but BJP lost power in Delhi. It was in fact a rejection of BJP’s politics of hate by India’s majority and I am extremely proud of it”, Sheikh told the House, receiving applause from his party colleagues. Referring to BJP’s “misleading” propaganda that Muslims in Gujarat were better off than their religious counterparts in other states, and that they were making progress in educational and economic field without discrimination, the Congress leader said that “anti-minority” Modi government did not use the central funds worth crores of rupees for educational and economic upliftment of minorities in Gujarat. Instead, it returned the grants back to the centre year after year. “But whatever developments minorities in Gujarat have made, no leader or political party can be given credit for it. They have progressed because of the spirit of entrepreneurship and mature understanding among them”, Shiekh remarked. “People of Gujarat have now known that Modi talks of politics of development to divert peoples attention from his sinful deeds”, Said Sheikh. “Gujarat was always a developing state, it is a developing state at present and will continue to develop in future as well”, said Congress MLA, saying no matter which party ruled over the state.

Sheikh asked: “Let the state government tell the people how much funds it gave to Gujarat State Minority Finance Development Corporation? How much fund was allotted to the Gujarat State Wakf Board allotted for the development of Muslims? How many schemes finalised by the National Minority Development Corporation for the development of religious minorities implemented in the state? Why is the state government not giving figures about it?”. Stating that Gujarati Muslims did not need BJP’s sympathy, Sheikh said that Gujarati Muslims were achieving growth and economic development with support from the secular Hindu majority. Alleging that “certain elements with deranged mentality had tried to humiliate and insult Muslims in Gujarat”, Sheikh said: “I am proud to say that my nationalist Hindu brethren strongly supported us in our fight to get justice and constitutional rights”. Saying that Hindu society is by and large is of helping nature, Sheikh said that Hindus were like elder brother to Muslims in the country and both respected the religious sentiments of each other. “It is this cooperation which has made the development of the state possible”, said Sheikh.

Stating that Modi had no moral right to speak on behalf of minorities, he alleged that “conspiracies are being hatched by some people to divide and harm the Muslim community but we are safe by the Grace of Allah, with support extended to us by open-minded Hindus in our hour of crisis”. Saying that of late, Modi has been holding parleys with Muslim leaders in his office, he said these would have been welcome had there been any good intention behind it. “But the fact is that he (Modi) is dreaming to become prime minister and hence, he is cosying up with Muslims to improve his anti-Muslim image of 2002”, commented Shiekh in his speech. “Muslims’ mistakes and immaturity in the past provided strength to fundamentalist forces but Muslims are not going to commit such mistakes again. We know well that existence of your politics is totally based on our (Muslims) opposition. The main basis of your politics is propagation of hatred against Muslims to achieve your aim of divide and rule. Your new found love for Muslims is part of a new strategy intended to improve your image among the people. But let me tell you that BJP lost Delhi to take over Gujarat. And it may lose even Gujarat while trying to take over Delhi”, Sheikh said.

http://twocircles.net/2011mar22/modi_pursuing_%E2%80%98politics_hate%E2%80%99_muslim_mla_thunders_gujarat_assembly.html

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Ishrat: Cop files complaint against SIT member (Mar 30, 2011, Indian Express)

In a new twist to the 2004 Ishrat Jahan encounter case, a police constable has lodged a complaint with Shahibaug Police Station alleging that Joint Commissioner of Police Satish Verma, along with two other police officers, had threatened him to give statements according to their instructions and illegally confined him for around four hours at an office in Shahibaug.

Verma is one of the three members of the HC appointed Special Investigation Team probing the case. The complainant has been identified as constable Vijaykumar Mishra posted with Shahibaug Police Station. In his complaint, Mishra has also named two other police officers – DSP F S Pathan and Police Sub-Inspector Vinod Makwana.

Ishrat and four others were killed in an encounter near Ahmedabad on June 15, 2004. Police had claimed they were Lashkar operatives out to kill Chief Minister Narendra Modi. At the relevant time, Mishra was posted as the wireless operator of the official vehicle of then ACP Narendra Amin, who was involved in the encounter.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/768952/

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CPI objects to MP govt employees taking part in “RSS Shakhas” (Mar 29, 2011, IBN)

The state unit of CPI(M) today opposed Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s statement that government employees would be allowed to take part in ‘Shakhas’ conducted by the RSS.

State CPI (M) Secretary Badal Saroj said Chief Minister’s statement indicated that confidential reports of government employees would now be written by those holding RSS Shakhas rather than department heads.

Saroj said that Chouhan was not concerned about the problems of the employees but worried about the fall in the number of Shakhas in the country including Madhya Pradesh. The CPI (M) leader also said that Chouhan’s decision was meant to encourage communal forces and added that all secular elements would oppose it.

http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/cpi-objects-to-mp-govt-employees-taking-part-in-rss-shakhas/628309.html

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NIA, CBI grill sadhvi Pragya for 2 hours (Mar 29, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) separately questioned sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, 41, on Friday in connection with five bomb blasts in different parts of the country and the murder of RSS worker Sunil Joshi at Devas, Madhya Pradesh. Joshi was also an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case. It is suspected that he was killed because he had become a liability to the Hindu-right wing group involved in the blast.

Sources involved in the investigation told HT during the more than two-hour questioning, Thakur remained uncooperative and did not reply to most questions. “She did not even say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and intermittently complained of dizziness,” an investigator said. While the NIA questioned Thakur for her suspected involvement in the 2008 Modasa bomb blast, the Samjhauta Express and Ajmer Sharif bomb blasts in 2007 and Joshi’s murder, the CBI questioned her in connection with the serial bomb blasts at Malegaon in 2006 and the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case. Sources said CBI particularly questioned Thakur about Swami Aseemanand’s revelations and claims about the Abhinav Bharat’s involvement in the 2006 blasts at Malegaon.

The NIA questioned Thakur about the motorcycle that was used to trigger the blast at Modasa, Gujarat, on September 29, 2008. The same day the group triggered a blast in Malegaon killing six people and injuring 101. In both cases, motorcycles were used to plant the explosives. The motorcycle used at Malegaon has been traced to Thakur. Doctors at JJ Hospital, where Thakur is lodged from December last year, said Thakur is “very cheerful” and does her daily work “without any problem”.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/678788.aspx

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CWG infrastructure works made contractors richer by Rs 250 cr (Mar 27, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The Prime Minister-appointed Shunglu Committee has found that over Rs 250 crore of the tax payers money has been pocketed by various contractors executing the Commonwealth Games projects. The high-level committee has estimated Rs 900 crore as “cost of delay” by certain government departments in implementing infrastructure related projects and Rs 300 crore loss to DDA in construction of Commonwealth Games Village near Akshardham temple here.

The Committee in its two reports – construction of Village and development of City infrastructure – has pointed out several irregularities like delays, collusive bidding and haste decision on part of certain central and Delhi government officials which led to cost escalation and loss worth crores to the government exchequer. The HLC has found procedural violations by Delhi Lt Governor Tejinder Khanna, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit and other top government officials for alleged inadequacies and indications of their poor oversight in executing projects related to the mega sporting event.

In its second report, the Committee said the Village site suffered from many shortcomings and necessitated extra spending of over Rs 630 crore in constructing a ‘Barapullah Nallah’ flyover. Besides, the project developer Emaar MGF also made gain of Rs 134 crore to Rs 220 crore and questioned the role of the consultant, Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC), the report said. “The HLC, based on the records made available to it, finds that the Union Cabinet was not provided with all the information regarding the pros and cons of the location of the Games Village…

“The consultant chosen by DDA (PwC) to advise them on execution of the Games Village Project in the PPP mode failed to perform their assigned task satisfactorily,” the Committee said in the report basing its findings on interview of 16 people. It also questioned the bail out package given to the builder and recommended action against Emmar MGF. “Government of India/DDA may take appropriate action against Emaar MGF, Project Developer, for knowingly supplying incorrect information and for its various acts of omission and commission,” the report submitted by the Committee to the Prime Minister’s Office said.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/678168.aspx

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‘Proposal on Urdu academy driven by communal agenda’ (Mar 29, 2011, The Hindu)

Several noted writers and academics of Karnataka have described the Karnataka Government’s proposal to alienate Karnataka Urdu Academy from the Department of Kannada and Culture and bring it under the Department of Minority Welfare as driven by a “narrow communal agenda” that denies Urdu its status as a language that transcends religious barriers. They have appealed to Governor H.R. Bhardwaj to prevail upon the Government to drop the proposal immediately.

Speaking at a dharna here on Monday, writer Fakir Mohammed Katpadi said the Karnataka Urdu Academy has always functioned as an autonomous body under the Department of Kannada and Culture since its inception in 1977, when the late D. Devaraj Urs was the Chief Minister. He said that Urdu language and literature have a long and rich history in Karnataka, particularly in the Hyderabad-Karnataka region. Mr. Katpadi pointed out that several people who wrote in Urdu were not Muslims, including Munshi Premchand, Rajendra Singh Bedi, Firaq Gorakhpuri and Gopichand Narang.

The same was true of many writers in Karnataka, including Shantharasa, Devendra Kumar Hakari, Panchakshari Hiremath, Muddanna Kanzar and Shamil Kaladgi, he added. K. Marulasiddappa, former chairperson of the Karnataka Nataka Academy, pointed out that Sufi seer, Khwaja Bandanawaz Gesudaraz of Gulbarga, is regarded the father of prose writing in Urdu. Kitab-e-Navras, written by the king of Bijapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah II, is regarded an important work.

Underlining the absurdity of the proposal, editor of Hosatu magazine G. Ramakrishna and theatre and film personality G.K. Govinda Rao asked if, by the same logic, Karnataka Government would consider bringing the Sanskrit University under the purview of Muzrai Department. K.L. Ashok, convener of the Karnataka Komu Sauharda Vedike, said the BJP Government had treated the academy badly by throwing democratic principles to the wind by cancelling the nomination of chairperson and members to the academy in 2010.

He added that there were also reports of a proposal to bring Karnataka Byari Academy under the Minority Welfare Department. Other speakers at the dharna included the former Minister B.T. Lalita Naik, writer ‘Shurdra’ Srinivas, CPI leader V.J.K. Nair and the former Karnataka Urdu Academy president Khaleel-ur-Rehman.

http://www.hindu.com/2011/03/29/stories/2011032950780300.htm

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Bengal worse than Gujarat for Muslims? (Mar 23, 2011, Times of India)

These are figures the Left Front should be wary of as it prepares to defend its citadel of 34 years in West Bengal. An analysis of data on the Muslim community released by the chief economist of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, Abu Saleh Sheriff, reveals that the state’s minority has benefited little from development measures. In terms of human development indices, the Muslims have fared very poorly. Of the 25.2% Muslim population, only 2.1% have government jobs and 50% children are out of school at the primary level. Only 12% go on to complete matriculation. These numbers are all the more astonishing given the fact that Left swears by its secular credentials and positions itself as a protector of minority rights.

Alarm bells have already started ringing, especially after a postmortem of the Left’s poor showing in the civic elections last year. An important factor which could have resulted in the dismal performance was Muslim disenchantment. In what may be viewed as the party’s efforts to make amends, there is a steep 33% hike in the number of Muslim candidates fielded by Left Front. It has gone up from 42 in 2006 to 56 this time in the 292-member Assembly.

Throughout his lecture, Sheriff – who has also been the member secretary of the Sachar panel – spoke of Gujarat and West Bengal in the same breath. In fact, he used the data to project the Left-ruled state in a far worse light than the state ruled by Narendra Modi, not regarded by many as a benefactor of the minorities. And this comparison appeared all the more relevant because the West Bengal government had gone out of its way to provide shelter to Qutubuddin Ansari, the man who became the face of the post-Godhra riots with his folded hands and tearful eyes.

“If a substantial fraction of the state’s 25% Muslim population have traditionally voted for the alliance it could be because of the projected gains of the land reforms even though if you look at the figures, it shows that these reforms do not seem to have made any significant difference to the living standards of the community. With the elections coming, it is time this reality is brought to the knowledge of the public,” Sheriff said. He was addressing a seminar on “Relative development of West Bengal and Socio-Religious Differentials” organized by the Institute of Objective Studies at the India Islamic Cultural Cultural Centre. Shariff’s figures on education, sourced, according to him from the census database and the Planning Commission, show 50% Muslim children attend school at the primary level, 26% remain in middle school and only 12% complete matriculation against 54%, 30% and 13% respectively for SC/STs and 80%, 58% and 38% for others.

Of the 90 minority-concentrated districts in the country, West Bengal has 12. “The worst are the state government employment figures where even Gujarat with its 9.1% Muslim population and with a 5.4% share in jobs is way ahead of West Bengal which is by far the worst in the country. We had to try very hard to get these figures out from the state government because, for obvious reasons, they are very secretive about this,” Shariff said. A look at OBC statistics in Bengal shows only 2.4% of its Muslims belong to that category. This, Sheriff says, is not the real picture and simply exposes the state government’s reluctance to undertake the enumeration exercise.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/7767763.cms

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Jats continue stir despite court orders (Mar 25, 2011, Hindustan Times)

Jat protestors continued blocking railway traffic in Haryana on Friday despite the Punjab and Haryana high court’s orders to immediately vacate the tracks and the Supreme Court ordering the state to stop them. “We are not happy with the verdict of the high court. They have simply directed the government to remove Jat protestors from railway tracks, but the court did not bother to look into the reasons and grievances for which we have been protesting for 21 days,” Yashpal Malik, national president of All India Jat Aarakshan Sangarsh Samiti, told IANS.

“I cannot comment on whether we will vacate the tracks or not as it would be a collective decision. We have conveyed the message of the high court to the protestors and now they would themselves decide further action,” he added. Seeking inclusion of the Jat community in the Other Backward Classes (OBC) category for quotas in central and Haryana government jobs, Jat community members have blockaded nearly 20 railway tracks across Haryana. Various Jat leaders on Friday held secret meetings with their community members and planned to block the crucial Ambala-Delhi railway line.

Police have increased its vigil near the tracks. “We would not allow Jats to block any more railway track in the state. Security has been increased near the Amabal-Delhi railway line as we have got information that some Jat protestors plans to block it on Friday,” said a police official on Friday. The worst affected are the districts of Hisar, Bhiwani and Jind. Passengers have been stranded in various parts of Haryana and some parts of adjoining Punjab due to the blockade. Northern railway authorities have been forced to cancel several long distance and inter-city trains in Haryana in the last few days.

Leaders of Haryana’s Jats had also threatened to halt road and train traffic and disrupt water supplies to Delhi if the authorities failed to promise them quotas in government jobs. “We are ready to face the wrath of the government and are even ready to sacrifice our lives. We just want the government to either say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to our demands. They are fooling us for the last many years,” stated Malik. The high court had on Thursday directed the Jats to immediately leave the railway tracks they blocked in several parts of Haryana for nearly three weeks. The court had also asked the administration in stir-hit districts to ensure that all Jat protesters were removed from the railway tracks.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/677440.aspx

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NHRC seeks report on police excesses in Dantewada (Mar 29, 2011, The Hindu)

The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), taking suo motu cognisance of the March 23 report published by The Hindu on murders, violence and rape in a Chhattisgarh village, has sought a report within two weeks from the Union Home Secretary, Chhattisgarh Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police (DGP). Social Activist Swami Agnivesh, who was attacked twice by members of the Salwa Judum and Special Police Officers (SPOs) of Chhattisgarh when he and some others tried to take relief materials to the people of Chintalnar and other villages on March 26, has sought President Pratibha Patil’s intervention to render justice to the villagers.

He demanded a judicial probe by a retired Supreme Court judge into the incidents and despatch of immediate relief to the starving villagers. The NHRC, in a sitting on Monday, considered the incidents and observed that the contents of the press report, if true, raised serious issues of violation of right to life of the tribal communities. It wanted the officials to explain the steps being taken for the rehabilitation of those whose houses were burnt; and whether monetary relief was being considered for the victims.

The Hindu published reports and photographs, saying 350-members of the police forces of the State and Central governments, during a five-day anti-Maoist operation in the villages of Tarmetla and Timapuram from March 11, torched about 300 homes, granaries and wood-sheds, killed three men and sexually assaulted three women. Journalists, who tried to visit the affected villagers, were intimidated. The reports said the Koya commandos of the Chhattisgarh police and CoBRA battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force let loose violence while conducting the operation to destroy an arms factory, reportedly being run by Maoists at Morpalli in Dantewada district.

The Koyas burnt about 50 buildings, including homes and granaries in Chintalnar. In Tarmetla village, the police burnt about 200 structures, including homes, granaries and woodsheds. They shot dead Sulla (30), a villager who was picking tamarind from a tree and left his body hanging from the tree. Some women were kept in the Chintalnar police station and allegedly raped by policemen.

http://www.hindu.com/2011/03/29/stories/2011032964061600.htm

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Opinions and Editorials

Indian Constitution and Hindutva – By B.A. Desai (Mar 23, 2011, Milli Gazette)

Indian constitution is both a legal and social Document. Our unique Freedom Struggle based on Truth and Non-Violence took in its fold all sections of the Society, the rich and the poor and women, youth, all religious communities, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Parsis, Sikh or Jain. In fact all castes and communities took part in this struggle. As a result, the Indian Constitution reflects not only the values of Freedom Struggle but also values of Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Indian Constitution incorporates the kind of Nationalism known as Territorial Nationalism, where everyone born in the territory of India, is an Indian. All citizens in the territory of India, either by birth of or by acquisition are equal whether he/she is Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Jain or Parsi or atheist! The mandate of the Constitution is to promote tolerance and harmony amongst people of India transcending religious linguistic, religious or section or sectional diversities and to preserve the rich heritage of our Composite Culture. The theme of this paper is to examine how far Hon’ble Justice Verma’s judgments which have come to be known as “Hindutva Judgments” fulfil the Constitutional Mandate! At the outset, it must be stated that the said judgments have been disagreed by two Constitutional Benches of the Supreme Court and the cases are referred to a larger Bench. In the case of Narayan Singh vs. Sunderlal Patwa, the five bench judgment of the Supreme Court disagreed with Hon’ble Justice Verma’s Judgment referred it to larger Bench of seven Judges.

Hon’ble Justice Verma overlooked both Bommai’s and Karatarsingh’s cases and gave restrictive meaning of definition of corrupt practice under section 123(3) A and held that it would be not corrupt practice so long as the candidate does not appeal to the voters on the ground of his religion even though he appealed to the voters on the ground of religion of voters. Similarly in the case of Abhiram Singh vs. C. D. Oomachand, three judges bench headed by hon’ble Justice K. Ramswamy referred the entire case to five judges bench holding inter-alia that “we are of the view that the entire case requires to be heard and decided by a larger bench of five judges since the decision thereon impinges upon the purity of election process and becomes fraught with deleterious effect in a democratic polity! The words of Hon’ble Justice Ramaswami have indeed proved prophetic. The said judgment rules the roost since 1995 along with Judgment of Hon’ble Justice Verma in the case of Manohar Joshi vs. N. B. Patil where Hon’ble Justice Verma found that statement by Shri Manohar Joshi that “First Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra did not amount to appeal on ground of religion.” Hon’ble Justice Verma’s discourse on Hinduism and Hidutva is naive. He did not find any difference between Hindutva and Hinduism and held that the term Hindutva is related more to “way of life of the people in the Subcontinent” … “The word is used and understood as synonym of “Indianisation, i. e. development of uniform culture by obliteration of the differences between all the cultures co-existing in the country.” Justice Verma further says, “reference can be made to any religion to criticize any political party for practicing discrimination against any religious group or generally for preservation of the Indian culture”.

In Manohar Joshi’s case, Justice did not find any wrong in election speech of Manohar Joshi, a Shiv Sena leader, holding that, “In our opinion mere statement that Hindu State will be established in Maharashtra is by itself not on the ground of his religion but the expression at the best of such hope … It does not constitute corrupt practice under subsection (3-A) of Section123”. Hindu communal forces have looked upon this judgment as Judicial Imprimatur of their divisive ideology. Since the time Hindutva/Hindu Rashtra came up as assertive phenomenon in the political scene, the divisiveness has gone up by leaps and bounds, and the polarisation of communities has gone up. The intimidation of minorities is taking place under the flag of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. Contrary to the Constitutional mandate of inclusiveness and composite culture, Justice Verma’s judgment is exclusionary to the core and supports the political goals of Hindu communal elite. It is questionable if courts are theologically and sociologically equipped to define the Hinduism. For Justice Verma, words “Hinduism” and “Hindutva” are synonyms. He always writes in his judgments “Hindutva/Hinduism.” This, with due respect, is not correct. In S. R. Boomai case, judges have quoted Swami Vivekanand and Mahtma Gandhi to show Hinduism ethos of tolerance and respect of all religions. “Swami Vivekanand stated ‘that right of religious system and ideals is the same morality. Myself say “Om” other says “Johova,” another “Allah ho Mohmmad,” another cries “Jesus”‘.

According to historian, Tapan Rayachaudhri, “Vivekanand was among earliest nationalist thinker to claim the Indo-Islamic past as part of the Indian Heritage.” Mahatma Gandhi stated ” The separate religious Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism are different converging the same point even as the tree has single trunk but many branches and leaves so there is one perfect religion but it becomes many as it passes through the human medium. The Allha of Muslims is the same as God of Christians and Ishwara of Hindus … You cannot be a true Hindu if you hate any other religion. I consider myself a follower of Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and every other religion because I am a true Hindu.” Hindutva (with respect to Hon’ble Justice Verma) is certainty not synonymous with Hinduism. He wrongly stated that “ordinary Hindutva is understood as “way of life” or “a state of mind” and it is not to be equated with or understood as religious fundamentalism. It is obvious that Hon’ble Justice Verma did not know or ignored Savarakar’s work published in 1923 titled “Hindutva – who is a Hindu?” According to BJP ideologue Swapna Das Gupta, “It is a commentary on Savarkar’s perspicacity that his celebrated pamphlet “Hinutva” written in 1923, remains the starting point of any theoretic construct of the Hindu Upsurge!” This was written by him soon after demolition of Babari Masjid. Savrkar was quite categorical in defining nationhood. According to him, “A Hindu means a person who regards his land of Bharatvarsha from the Indus to the Seas as his father land (Pitrubhumi) as well as his holy land (Punyabhumi) that is cradle of his religion”.

Referring to Mohammedans and Christians, Savrkar says, “‘Hindustan’ to them is father land but to them it is not their Holy Land which is far off in Arebia or Palestine! These are the essentials of Hindutva- a Common nation (Rashtra), a common race (jati) and a common civilisation (Sanskriti), Sanskriti is preeminently implied by the word Punyabhumi as it precisely sanskriti including in sanskar, i. e., rites and rituals ceremonies and sacraments that makes a land Holy land.” For the minorities then the option of retaining both their faith and their Indian nationality is extinguished. This the reality of Hindu Rashtra based on Hindutva. Hindutva is not a restatement of Hinduism. It is the formulation of a new political ideology of hate called Hindutva. It is a synthesis of Religion and Politics. It is opposed to the values which came to be associated with the secular democratic principles enshrined in Indian Constitution, which Supreme Court itself has declared as Basic Structure of the constitution. Hon’ble Jusrtice Verma of the Supreme Court, however, lays down that “Hindutva” is not to be understood as religious Hindu Fundamentalism. He further pronounced that “Hindutva” is to be understood as “Indianisation.” This is diametrically opposed to “Indianisation” under Indian Constitution as interpreted in S. R. Bommai’s Case. Hindutva Judgment is the Judicial approval of the ideology of RSS Parivar. Hindutva is constantly referred to by RSS Parivar and has become part of the political manifestos of BJP and Shiv Sena … Hindu Religions have various streams, Sharmanism, Tantra, Bhakti, Shiva and Dominant Brahmanism. The ideology of RSS and Sangh Parivar is Brahmanism with Hindutva and is also called Cultural Nationalism. It is the Culture of upper caste the one resorting to Ram, Gita and Acharays, the one having with Sanskrit (DevBhasha) and laws of manu. It is not the culture of Dalits, Bahujans and Adivasis. Hindutva is not merely against the interests of minorities but against the majority of Hindus. It is certainly not synonymous with Hinduism. Hindutva Judgments are in violation of the Basic Structure of the Constitution. It is sad that the Supreme Court did not find time to constitute five or seven judges bench to hear them and reverse them!

http://www.milligazette.com/news/708-indian-constitution-and-hindutva

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Jaitley does it – Editorial (Mar 28, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The BJP was never as dumb as it looks. So why deny Hindutva being an ‘opportunistic issue’? Here’s another editorial courtesy those fine folks of WikiLeaks. And once again, we shall feign shock for the benefit of all those television studio anchors. This time round, it’s BJP Rajya Sabha MP Arun Jaitley who comes under Julian Assange’s nerdo-anarchic war against the Establishment. Mr Jaitley apparently had told Robert Blake, the US charge d’affaires in New Delhi in 2005, that Hindutva was an “opportunistic issue” for the BJP. Everyone, barring the RSS, seems to be pouncing on the poor man – Jaitley not Blake – for this ‘admission’ which, strangely, Mr Jaitley has since the Wiki leaked, denied making.

We say ‘strangely’ because one would have thought that by stating that Hindutva was an “opportunistic issue”, Mr Jaitley was confirming that the BJP wasn’t really a nutty, paleolithic party that wanted a Hindu nation, but was a master of political branding. If anyone needed to be upset, it should have been the foaming-at-the-mouth set from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and other sundry groups that believe parliamentary democracy to be a necessary digression before the coming of the revolution: Ram Rajya. Instead, liberal folks, who always found Hindutva’s hard exclusivism abhorrent, are the ones getting het up. Mr Jaitley’s ‘admission’, of course, doesn’t mean much beyond confirming the established fact that politics and advertising are professions that demand some amount of tricking people with low IQ levels.

But then, it doesn’t really matter whether a mosque was torn down because those instigating the violence genuinely believed that the structure was obnoxious or just played along with the mob. Being a hypocrite about a bad thing is better than being a hypocrite about a good thing. Imagine if the BJP was open about Hindutva being nothing more than a political tool and if Mr Jaitley was exposed as saying that he genuinely believed in it. So the BJP isn’t really a ghoul but a chap who pranced about wearing a Halloween mask. Till the next WikiLeak then.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/678677.aspx

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Secular question – By V. Venkatesan (Mar 12, 2011, Frontline)

A unique feature of Indian secularism, as interpreted by the country’s judiciary, is its emphasis on the “essential practices” doctrine. The doctrine, which seeks to cleanse religion of superstition and irrationalities, is based on the premise that the state must protect only the “essential and integral part” of religion. The state protects the essential practices of a religion by following the principle of non-interference and by keeping a principled distance from it. The doctrine requires the state to desist from favouring the essential practices of one religion in order to maintain its neutrality. The doctrine, as developed by Justice P.B. Gajendragadkar, Chief Justice of India from 1964 to 1966, appears to find limited support and understanding within the higher judiciary today, as was revealed by two recent pronouncements – a judgment delivered by the Gujarat High Court on February 10 holding bhoomi puja (foundation-laying), a Hindu religious ceremony, as a secular activity, and an obiter dictum passed by a Supreme Court Bench against the Centre’s failure to enact a Uniform Civil Code (UCC). In the first case, the Gujarat High Court Bench comprising Justices Jayant Patel and J.C. Upadhyaya dismissed the public interest litigation (PIL) plea of a Dalit activist, Rajesh Solanki, who challenged the performance of a bhoomi puja ceremony within the High Court premises in Ahmedabad on May 1, 2010, to mark the beginning of the construction of a new High Court campus. According to a report in the media, the Chief Justice of the High Court, the Governor of the State, and Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Court were present at the function. Solanki sought to have the ceremony declared unconstitutional. He argued that a public place should maintain its secular credentials in a secular country. The bhoomi puja ceremony, which was followed by a prayer and the chanting of Sanskrit slokas by Hindu priests, would make the judiciary lose its secular credentials in the public eye, he contended. Shockingly, the High Court not only dismissed his plea but imposed a penalty of Rs.20,000 on him, doubting his bona fides.

After surveying various judgments delivered by the Supreme Court on secularism, the High Court stressed that Indian secularism was based on the principles of Vasudhaiva kutumbakam or Sarva jana sukhino bhavantu. The court interpreted this as “Live and let others live, and letting the religion be followed by those who want to follow”. Interestingly, to decide the question whether the bhoomi puja ceremony is secular or not, the High Court relied on the “essential practices” doctrine but decided against adopting a tried and tested formula associated with it. In deciding the question as to whether a given religious practice is an integral part of the religion or not, the test always would be whether or not it is regarded as such by the community following the religion. However, the court found no merit in this test: in its view, the community concerned may speak with more than one voice and the question will always have to be decided by the court. The High Court used a circuitous argument to justify the religious ceremony. Thus, in its view, the foundation-laying ceremony is an important event in the construction of a building. For laying the foundation, it is necessary to excavate the earth to some extent. According to the court, bhoomi puja essentially involves a prayer to the earth to “pardon” or to graciously bear the burden or the damage, if any, to make the construction of the said structure successful, which is to be used for the betterment of the institution of the High Court, and for the betterment of all persons connected thereby directly or indirectly, irrespective of their caste or religion or community. Therefore, it said, such offering of prayer to the earth at the time of the foundation-laying ceremony could not be termed a non-secular action if “manav dharma” is to be understood in its real sense in furtherance of the principles of secularism observed by our nation. The High Court also justified the recitation of Sanskrit slokas by Brahmin priests during the ceremony, saying they were in furtherance of the prayer offered to the earth. The court went on: “If the ultimate aim for successful construction of the building is holy and with the larger interest of those persons who are to be directly or indirectly benefited by the successful construction of the building, irrespective of their caste or community or religion, it would fall within the principles of ‘Vasudhaiva kutumbakam’, meaning welfare to all and hurt to none. Such in no manner can be termed as non-secular activity.” Twisting logic, the court said prayers to the earth could not be termed an essential or integral part of a particular religion – in this case, Hinduism.

The court’s convoluted justification of a religious ceremony as a secular activity rakes up curious inconsistencies. Even if the bhoomi puja ceremony is indeed a secular activity as interpreted by the court, is it not violative of Article 51A (h) of the Constitution, which requires every citizen to develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform? By no stretch of the imagination can a prayer to the earth to pardon or graciously bear the burden or damage to be caused by the construction activity be termed scientific or rational. To many, it would seem as an unjustified encouragement of a superstitious activity, even if it is secular. The court, however, did not address this inconsistency in the judgment. According to the High Court, Solanki filed this petition with extraneous considerations, and there was no bona fide public interest as he tried to espouse the cause of the organisation behind him, or other persons. But the High Court judgment is silent on what these extraneous considerations were, and why it thought there was no bona fide public interest in his petition even though he tried to express it eloquently in his petition.

On February 8, Justices Dalveer Bhandari and A.K. Ganguly of the Supreme Court were hearing petitions filed by the National Commission for Women’s Delhi chapter, which sought the formulation of a uniform marriageable age because different stipulations in different statutes had created confusion. The Bench observed that the government’s attempts to reform personal laws did not go beyond Hindus, who, it said, had been more tolerant of such initiatives. “The Hindu community has been tolerant to these statutory interventions. But there appears a lack of secular commitment as it has not happened for other religions.” In the last two decades, the Supreme Court had repeatedly passed obiter on the importance of enacting a Uniform Civil Code as mandated by the Constitution under Article 44, which says, “The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India.” The Supreme Court was critical of the government’s failure to enact a UCC in 1985 (Shah Bano judgment), in 1995 (Sarla Mudgal case), and in 2003 (John Vallamattom case), because it hoped a UCC would help forge national integration. As the Constitution granted separate rights to minority religious communities to enable them to live with dignity, the state did not consider the adoption of a UCC absolutely essential for national integration. During the hearing before the Supreme Court, Additional Solicitor General Indira Jaising explained the differences in age limits provided in statutes, saying that these were meant to achieve diverse social objectives. “Hence there could not be a uniform (marriageable) age. Though the government feels that girls above 16 years should be said to have attained the age of consent to sexual relation and hence could marry, the formal age of marriage would stay at 18 years,” argued the ASG.

The Supreme Court’s obsession with the enactment of a UCC as an instrument to promote secularism raised the question whether it understood the implications of the social transformation currently taking place in the country. At the ground level, over the last decade, says Rohit De, a lawyer and a doctoral candidate with the Department of History at Princeton University, United States, legislative reforms in Hindu and Christian law and the increasing juridification of Muslim law have created a great degree of uniformity between different personal laws. Secondly, he says, there has been greater democratisation inside communities and a concerted attempt to reform family law from within. The UCC debate, according to him, is becoming slowly irrelevant given the internal reform and harmonisation of community-specific family laws. We are close to having a harmonious Hindu and Christian law, for instance, in most important respects, he says. The realisation that family laws in books do not accurately represent gender relations or empowerment in practice has led to a shift in focus to economic questions rather than cultural ones, he notes. The most relevant example is the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, which shifts the focus from religious identity to common experiences shared by women in the family. In other words, the Indian state has sought to achieve the objectives of Article 44 through other means, without actually enacting a UCC, which, in a sense, could indirectly harm the “essential practices” doctrine of secularism by interfering with the personal laws of religions.

http://flonnet.com/fl2806/stories/20110325280604400.htm

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Bengal worse than Gujarat for Muslims? – By Abantika Ghosh (Mar 23, 2011, Times of India)

These are figures the Left Front should be wary of as it prepares to defend its citadel of 34 years in West Bengal. An analysis of data on the Muslim community released by the chief economist of the National Council of Applied Economic Research, Abu Saleh Sheriff, reveals that the state’s minority has benefited little from development measures. In terms of human development indices, the Muslims have fared very poorly. Of the 25.2% Muslim population, only 2.1% have government jobs and 50% children are out of school at the primary level. Only 12% go on to complete matriculation. These numbers are all the more astonishing given the fact that Left swears by its secular credentials and positions itself as a protector of minority rights.

Alarm bells have already started ringing, especially after a postmortem of the Left’s poor showing in the civic elections last year. An important factor which could have resulted in the dismal performance was Muslim disenchantment. In what may be viewed as the party’s efforts to make amends, there is a steep 33% hike in the number of Muslim candidates fielded by Left Front. It has gone up from 42 in 2006 to 56 this time in the 292-member Assembly. Throughout his lecture, Sheriff – who has also been the member secretary of the Sachar panel – spoke of Gujarat and West Bengal in the same breath. In fact, he used the data to project the Left-ruled state in a far worse light than the state ruled by Narendra Modi, not regarded by many as a benefactor of the minorities. And this comparison appeared all the more relevant because the West Bengal government had gone out of its way to provide shelter to Qutubuddin Ansari, the man who became the face of the post-Godhra riots with his folded hands and tearful eyes.

“If a substantial fraction of the state’s 25% Muslim population have traditionally voted for the alliance it could be because of the projected gains of the land reforms even though if you look at the figures, it shows that these reforms do not seem to have made any significant difference to the living standards of the community. With the elections coming, it is time this reality is brought to the knowledge of the public,” Sheriff said. He was addressing a seminar on “Relative development of West Bengal and Socio-Religious Differentials” organized by the Institute of Objective Studies at the India Islamic Cultural Cultural Centre. Shariff’s figures on education, sourced, according to him from the census database and the Planning Commission, show 50% Muslim children attend school at the primary level, 26% remain in middle school and only 12% complete matriculation against 54%, 30% and 13% respectively for SC/STs and 80%, 58% and 38% for others.

Of the 90 minority-concentrated districts in the country, West Bengal has 12. “The worst are the state government employment figures where even Gujarat with its 9.1% Muslim population and with a 5.4% share in jobs is way ahead of West Bengal which is by far the worst in the country. We had to try very hard to get these figures out from the state government because, for obvious reasons, they are very secretive about this,” Shariff said. A look at OBC statistics in Bengal shows only 2.4% of its Muslims belong to that category. This, Sheriff says, is not the real picture and simply exposes the state government’s reluctance to undertake the enumeration exercise.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Bengal-worse-than-Gujarat-for-Muslims/articleshow/7767763.cms

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Towards oligarchy – By Bhaskar Ghose (Mar 26, 2011, Frontline)

Many in India have had, for many years now, an uneasy feeling that democracy, as generally understood, sits uneasily among the people of this country. India has large and sometimes articulate political parties and it has had leaders totally committed to the concept of democracy, which is also true. There was Jawaharlal Nehru, Jayaprakash Narayan and others who believed in the concept of democracy as the only one that would keep the country together and take it forward. Like true democrats they believed that dissent was an essential part of democracy, and that the country would only be enriched by debate and discussion, even by agitation if that became necessary. Their belief was complemented by their direct contact with the people; the trust that people had in them made it possible for them to persuade them to accept, enthusiastically, the beliefs and ideas they gave them. But when such leaders and people are not there any more, what happens to the parties and institutions they have built and nurtured? One facile answer is that political argument gets stronger and power shifts from one group to another when elections are held. In other words, the people decide who will have the responsibility to manage the country, removing those whom they consider incapable and bringing in those they think can do the job. This is very convenient and comforting. It is also totally fictitious. It is true that political argument does get stronger, more so because of the increasingly watchful media, of which most political groups have become wary, even fearful, and not without reason. The fiction lies in the belief that the “people” remove those who do not perform and bring in those who they think can perform.

First, the concept of “people” is simplistic; the vast numbers of individuals in the country are an infinitely complex entity consisting of a vast number of groups and sub-groups. This enormous mass of individuals does not come together and decide anything; that is not what happens, not at all. What happens is that a strategy aimed at finding acceptance with groups of individuals, in some cases possibly fortuitously, works or works better than the strategy of another group. In the 2009 general elections, the strategy of what was called the Third Front did not work; most individuals did not trust it. In a muddle of strategies, the United Progressive Alliance got through but not because it had planned to do so. It had, of course, tried to win, but its plans were wide off the mark. When it won it must have been as surprised as anyone else. On the other hand, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) had a strategy that he had worked on for years – to give people the kind of development and security they had been yearning for – and his victory was no surprise, except perhaps to his opponents, and their surprise was more at the magnitude of his success than at the victory itself. It made their strategies and plans look comic in comparison. Nitish Kumar is an exception, and a phenomenon confined to Bihar. At the national level, and in most other States, the structure of democracy is being subjected to forces that may well change it completely over time. To understand that one has, perhaps, to take a step back and look at what the process is about today.

It is not about representing the “people’s” will. It is about control and power. Our so-called democracy is defined not by the existence of dissent and opposition activity but by the nature of the power wielded. It is monarchical and meant to secure the interests, political and economic, of the ruling group, whichever it is. And this is done by ensuring that power remains with an elite group – preferably the family, but also those who are close to it and share the same backgrounds. One can see it today in what many refer to as the First Family in the Congress; Sonia Gandhi is clearly grooming her son, Rahul Gandhi, to be the next Prime Minister, and should he not marry and have children, then there is her daughter, with two children who are doubtless being groomed as future Prime Ministers or party leaders. But they are not by any means the only family. Look at the number of sons and daughters now who are inducted into the corridors of power: Jyotiraditya Scindia, Sachin Pilot, Supriya Sule, even Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar who is what he is because he is Biju Patnaik’s son, and a whole host of others whom media naively call the Young Turks. The original Young Turks were not just young; they had come to prominence because of their abilities, not because of who their father or mother was. Inevitably, the elements of power are being chivvied towards specific families, which will then determine who will stand for elections for their parties, and thus consolidate their own position, securing it for their generation and the generations to follow. Increasingly, their contact with the people has become more and more distant; the people get to be called the “masses” who have to be manoeuvred by skilled managers (devotees of the families, naturally).

It is not a phenomenon confined to the Congress party; it is as much in evidence in the opposition parties such as the Samajwadi Party and others. And where the factor of unease comes in is in what appears to be an inevitable slide towards oligarchy, where an elite takes over power – political and economic. It is economic, too, of course. All the big corporate giants are busy grooming their sons and daughters to take their place among the power elite; Mukesh Ambani and Anil Ambani are only one instance of this. Even the much-revered Tata group is reportedly looking for a Tata to head it once Ratan Tata leaves; Rahul Bajaj has already inducted his son into his empire, so has Vijaya Mallya. The German sociologist Robert Michels developed a concept that is common knowledge now – the iron law of oligarchy. He says, in effect, that democratic institutions, both political and economic, must inevitably transform themselves into oligarchic entities as the ruling elite strives to keep power and control. The people can never rule; it simply does not happen. He wrote:

“It is nonetheless true that social wealth cannot be satisfactorily administered in any other manner than by the creation of an extensive bureaucracy. In this way we are led by an inevitable logic to the flat denial of the possibility of a state without classes. The administration of an immeasurably large capital, above all when this capital is collective property, confers upon the administrator influence at least equal to that possessed by the private owner of capital. Consequently the critics in advance of the Marxist social order ask whether the instinct which today leads the members of the possessing classes to transmit to their children the wealth which they (the parents) have amassed, will not exist also in the administrators of the public wealth of the socialist state, and whether these administrators will not utilise their immense influence in order to secure for their children the succession to the offices which they themselves hold .” (Robert Michels; Political Parties – A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies on Modern Democracy; London, 1916. Reproduced and preserved in the library of the University of Virginia.) It seems almost natural to us; a large number of us take instinctively to servitude. It will not do to point to the existence of the opposition. Michels argues, very persuasively, that the opposition and the ruling group are actually one when it comes to the formation of the elite structure that will rule. The concern that this rule be perpetuated is a shared one; all that changes is which part of the elite group gets to rule. One can only hope that this is not what we have in store for us, that we do produce some leaders from outside the elite families who, like Nitish Kumar in Bihar, will lead parties with clear concepts of development.

http://www.flonnet.com/fl2807/stories/20110408280708600.htm

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