IAMC Weekly News Roundup – April 25th, 2016

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Announcements

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Indian Americans express shock, disgust over horrific church attack in Chhattisgarh; demand justice for victims

Suspected Hindutva activists from Bajrang Dal doused pastor and his pregnant wife with petrol in an attempt to burn them alive

April 23, 2016

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos has joined millions of Indians and people of conscience around the world, in strongly condemning the barbaric attack on a Christian pastor and his wife, in the state of Chhattisgarh in India. The incident took place last Sunday, April 17th, and reported in the media a few days thereafter.

Two attackers stormed into the church in Bastar district, set ablaze a Bible and other articles, before viciously assaulting the pastor and his pregnant wife. The couple managed to escape alive, after the men doused them in petrol in an attempt to burn them alive. News reports indicate the assailants were armed with a gun, rods and knives. Their brutal assault on Pastor Dinbandhu Sameli, his 7-month pregnant wife and daughter Roushni Vidya, represents an escalation of attacks on minorities in India since the government of Mr. Narendra Modi came to power.

Instead of filing charges of attempted murder, causing grievous injury, etc, the police havefiled lesser charges such as house trespass, dacoity, committing mischief by fire and injuring or defiling a place of worship.

Mr. Arun Pannalal, the President of Chhattisgarh’s Christian Forum stated in a quote appearing in the media, “Around 15-20 men with saffron bands on their forehead entered the church while Sunday prayer was under way at around 12 pm, and started vandalising the premises and started breaking everything,” Pannalal said and claimed that the “Bajrang Dal youth indulged in sloganeering and were raising Jai Shree Ram slogans. They started damaging chairs and fans. They did not spare women and even tore up their clothes. They also thrashed an infant,” he said.

Mr. Pannalal further referred to the perpetrators of the murderous assault as members of the Bajrang Dal, a radical Hindu supremacist organization affiliated to the RSS.The RSS is the fountainhead of Hindutva and the ideological reference point for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Mr. Narendra Modi. The increasing attacks on minorities and lower castes in recent years are consistent with the extremism and intolerance Mr. Modi and his party have espoused. Mr. Modi himself has been a lifelong worker of the RSS.

“The hate and venom spewed by the RSS and its affiliates and echoed by prominent members of Mr. Modi’s administration are directly responsible for this barbaric attack on Pastor Sameli and his family, ” said Mr. Umar Malick, President of Indian American Muslim Council. “Those who felicitate Mr. Modi during his foreign jaunts, should seriously consider the implications of what they are tacitly endorsing,” added Mr. Malick.

The attack in Chhattisgarh is part of a pattern of violence and hateful rhetoric against minorities in India. There have been scores of attacks on Christians and Muslims since India gained independence. However, the violence has gained in intensity, and the discourse become more vitriolic since the political ascendancy of the Hindu nationalist movement in the late-1980s. The situation has become even more dire with Mr. Modi’s victory in the 2014 general elections on promises of economic development that have been largely unfulfilled.

Leading global human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, have expressed grave concern over the worsening situation of religious minorities in India. Prime Minister Modi’s government, “failed to address increasing attacks on free expression and against religious minorities,” Human Rights Watch stated in its recent 659-page World Report.

“We demand not only that the perpetrators be held accountable, but also those who are engaging in a cover-up of the gruesome episode, and those that are enabling the sectarian hate that leads to such crimes,” Mr. Khalid Ansari, Vice-President of IAMC.

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

CONTACT:
Indian American Muslim Council
Phone/fax: 1-800-839-7270
Email: info@iamc.com
Facebook: Indian American Muslim Council
Twitter: @IAMCouncil
Address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053.

REFERENCES:

1. Chhattisgarh: Church attacked in Bastar, pastor and pregnant wife barely escape
http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-church-attacked-in-bastar-pastor-and-pregnant-wife-barely-escape-2203684

2. Youths vandalize Church, thrash worshippers in Chhattisgarh
http://www.news18.com/news/india/youths-vandalise-church-thrash-worshippers-in-chhattisgarh-1212813.html

3. Why it is no longer safe to be Christian in Chhattisgarh
http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/patrick-goodenough/indias-refusal-admit-us-religious-freedom-watchdog-seen-attempt-hide

4. Indian government failed to address attacks on minorities: Human Rights groups
http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2016-01-27/news/70120366_1_meenakshi-ganguly-human-rights-watch-rights-groups

5. Revoke NSA charges against right-wing leader: Home Ministry reportedly issues diktat to UP govt
http://www.firstpost.com/india/mha-reportedly-asked-up-to-revoke-nsa-charges-against-right-wing-leader-accused-of-assaulting-muslim-man-2571114.html

6. Rohith Vemula’s death sparks outrage within Indian diaspora
http://twocircles.net/2016jan28/1453995780.html

7. 110 Journalists Killed In 2015, India Deadliest Asian Nation For Reporters: Study
http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/110-journalists-killed-in-2015-most-in-peaceful-countries-reporters-without-borders-1260240

CONTACT:
Indian American Muslim Council
Phone/Fax: 1-800-839-7270
Email: info@iamc.com
Facebook: Indian American Muslim Council
Twitter: @IAMCouncil
Address: 6321 W Dempster St. Suite 295, Morton Grove, IL 60053.

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Hostile witnesses derailing trials in ‘saffron terror’ cases (Apr 21, 2016, Times of India)

What started with a bang as an extensive probe into alleged “Hindu terrorism” some years back is now fizzling out with crucial witnesses turning hostile. About 40 witnesses have turned hostile in the trials in the Ajmer Dargah blast of October 2007 and the Samjhauta Express blast of February 2007 alone. Many more plan to follow suit as part of a trend which began after the regime change at the Centre in 2014.…

Most of the 40 witnesses who have turned hostile in the Samjhauta and Ajmer cases have either claimed that “they were pressured to give their earlier statements” or “denied knowing the accused -Swami Aseemanand or others -whom they previously claimed to have met”. For example, Randhir Singh, now agriculture minister in Jharkhand, went back on his statement in which he had accepted being an acquaintance of Sunil Joshi, an alleged Hindutva hardliner who allegedly plotted acts of terrorism before he was killed under mysterious circumstances.

RSS worker Rohit Kumar Jha, who had “confessed” to having procured SIM cards for Sunil Joshi and another terror accused Devendra Gupta, has disowned his testimony which the NIA considered to be crucial. In 2015, Jha said in court that he could not have recorded a statement in English as he was not conversant with the language. The retractions don’t augur well for the prosecution as the material evidence in the cases against Sadhvi Pragya Singh, Lt Colonel Prasad Purohit and other accused was very ‘weak’, sources said.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/51920735.cms

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Modi, Shah ordered staged shootout in Ishrat Jahan case: Congress (Apr 24, 2016, Business Standard)

The Congress on Sunday said the Gujarat Police killed Ishrat Jahan in a staged shootout in 2004 on the orders of the then chief minister Narendra Modi and BJP leader Amit Shah.

The opposition party also said that accusations against Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi in the case were “preposterous and diversionary tactics”, adding that the central government was obstructing trial in the case to protect those accused in the staged gun battle.…

Senior party leaders Kapil Sibal told reporters: “The plain and simple intrigue of the central government is to ensure that the most important persons of the BJP/government are not brought to trial.”…

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/modi-shah-ordered-staged-shootout-in-ishrat-jahan-case-congress-116042400606_1.html

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Curfew imposed in Jamod, Maharashtra due to communal tension (Apr 18, 2016, Twocircles.net)

Curfew is imposed at Jamod village in Buldhana district of Maharashtra after members of two communities indulged into stone pelting and nine persons were injured, two of them seriously.

The incident occurred on Saturday night when members of one community were collecting eatables from households for their distribution as prasad marking the culmination of Ram Navmi.

They were raising slogans to which members of another community who were observing funeral procession of Mukaddar Khan’s mother objected resulting into stone pelting between the groups. The incident forced police to fire shots in the air and impose curfew in some areas to bring situation under control.…

http://twocircles.net/2016apr18/1460994079.html

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Armed men attack Chhattisgarh church, set afire Bible, thrash pastor (Apr 19, 2016, Indian Express)

Two unidentified men armed with sharp-edged weapons barged into a church in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar district and allegedly set ablaze a Bible and other articles besides thrashing the pastor and his pregnant wife, police said on Tuesday. The incident took place on Sunday evening at village Karanji Matagudi Para under Parpa police station limits.…

As per the complaint, two men identified themselves as belonging to some other denomination of the Christian community and expressed their desire to pray in the church. After entering inside the premises, they launched an attack on the pastor and poured inflammable liquid on the Holy Bible, furniture and other religious material kept inside and set them ablaze.…

The attackers were armed with a knife, hammer, sword and petrol. After breaking locks of church premises, they barged inside and poured petrol on the Bible, other holy books, furniture and mike set and torched them, he said. They also poured petrol on pastor Deenanath and his pregnant wife, Meena and tried to set them afire but somehow they managed to escape, Pannalal added.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/chhattisgarh-church-attack-armed-men-set-afire-bible-2760376/

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Under PM Narendra Modi, India has become ‘lab of communalism’: Kanhaiya Kumar (Apr 24, 2016, Economic Times)

Describing the RSS as force behind the Narendra Modi Government, JNU student leader Kanhaiya Kumar today alleged the present dispensation had converted the country into a “laboratory of communalism and anti-Dalit” policies.

“Modi is the Prime Minister and the RSS is his strength. They have converted the country into a laboratory of communalism and anti-Dalit policies. Why do you fear when we talk about our ideology seeking social equality and fight to end casteism?” he asked, addressing a packed gathering of students assembled under the banner of Progressive Students’ Association.…

The 29-year-old JNU student alleged that the nature of “Bharat Mata” was being altered. “Earlier, Bharat Mata held farm grains in one hand and tiranga on another. Now tricolour is being replaced by bhagwa (saffron). These people will change the national flag. They have nothing to do with nationalism. What they want to promote is one religion and one culture”.…

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/51969336.cms

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Minorities panel’s move to curb police harassment (Apr 21, 2016, The Hindu)

The State Minorities Commission has started a drive to make policing sensitive when it comes to arrests of youth from marginalised sections, including Muslims.

As two cases of alleged police harassment had led to the deaths of two youth in Guntur and Vikarabad, and since more complaints are piling up with the Commission regarding police harassment, officials of the Commission will now engage in dialogue with Superintendents of Polices and Commissioners in districts and cities in the twin States.

In two separate incidents in Gatkesar and LB Nagar, two youth who were arrested for petty offences had earlier harmed themselves in the past one month, the Commission observed.…

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Hyderabad/minorities-commission-move-to-curb-police-harassment/article8501776.ece

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Bajrang Dal activists strip, tie with electric pole and thrash a Muslim youth in Mangalore (Apr 19, 2016, Janta ka Reporter)

In yet another incident of right-wing fanaticism and utter disregard for the rule of law, dozens of youths belonging to right-wing Hindu outfit Bajrang Dal attacked a Muslim youth in Mangalore because he was travelling with a Hindu girl. The incident happened on Monday evening when the 28 year old Shakir was driving in a car with allegedly a Hindu girl in Attavar in Mangalore.

Speaking to jantakareporter.com, the police inspector of Pandeshwar police station, Dinakara Shetty said that the police had launched an investigation and will release a statement on Tuesday afternoon. He said, “There were members of many hindu sanghatana (outfits). We are investigating the matter and will soon arrest the culprits. It’s a clear case of immoral policing.”

The armed goons stripped Shakir, tied him with an electric pole and thrashed him mercilessly. “Shakir was going by car along with a girl of another faith. Hindu activists waylaid the car at Babbugudde, pulled him out and stripped off his clothes. Later, they tied him to the electric pole and thrashed him,” local police was quoted by several Mangalore-based newswebsites.…

http://www.jantakareporter.com/india/exclusive-bajrang-dal-activists-strip-tie-with-electric-pole-and-thrash-a-muslim-youth-in-mangalore/11350

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Cow slaughter increased under BJP, says Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati (Apr 24, 2016, India Today)

The Shankaracharya of the Dwarka-Shardapeeth Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati today claimed that cow slaughter and export of beef have increased since the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power at the Centre.

“Slaughtering of cows is on the increase since BJP came to power. The export of beef has also increased under the BJP government,” Swaroopanand said.

Swami Swaroopanand Saraswati said a total ban should be enforced on cow slaughter and a law be soon enacted in this regard. He also appealed to political parties not to politicise the Ram Mandir issue.…

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/cow-slaughter-increased-under-bjp-says-shankaracharya-swaroopanand-saraswati/1/650563.html

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Court to consider complaint against channels over doctored video (Apr 25, 2016, Business Standard)

A court here on Monday fixed May 26 for considering a complaint against three news channels which allegedly ran doctored videos of the JNU controversy. The complaint was filed by the Delhi government seeking action against Zee News, NewsX and India News for broadcasting alleged doctored videos of the February 9 incident at the JNU where “anti-India” slogans were said to have been raised.

Delhi government’s counsel N. Hariharan told the court that the accused knowingly and with malicious intent caused damage to the JNU students and the university and disrupted communal harmony and security in Delhi by transmitting a forged, fabricated, doctored and altered video. He added that the doctored video was shown as genuine.…

In the plea, the government sought action against the editors-in-chief, managing directors and directors of the news channel and two companies Zee News Media Corp Ltd and Information TV Pvt Ltd.…

http://www.business-standard.com/article/news-ians/court-to-consider-complaint-against-channels-over-doctored-video-116042500989_1.html

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CPDR Condemns The Sacking Of An Upright Dalit Judge By Chattisgarh Government (Apr 25, 2016, Countercurrents)

…Prabhakar Gwal, Chief Judicial Magistrate during his posting at Sukma has been dismissed by the Chattisgarh government for being a pro-poor and pro-adivasi. A young dalit 2006 batch judge, he became known for taking on corrupt officers and for being a thorn in the flesh of the government and the police. He has now been summarily terminated “in the public interest” by the Chattisgarh government on the recommendation of the High Court.…

What is Prabhakar Gwal’s crime or offence according to the High Court of the state and the government? A complaint forwarded by Sukma’s Superintendent of Police to the District Judge after getting several letters written by number of police station officers that the CJM’s method of working is to obstruct the police which was lowering the morale of the police. His dismissal is the latest in a series of attacks on journalists, lawyers, academicians by the Chattisgarh administration.…

This judge was so fearless that he would term the arrests of thousands of people being produced before him as Maoists as fake arrests; he wrote to the District Judge and even Director General of Police Kalluri that the police is implicating innocent people. He went to the extent of issuing warnings to Thanedars that he would send them to jail if they framed innocent people.… In short, the BJP-led governments both at the Centre and in Chattisgarh are preparing for an all-out war on the tribals of Bastar and upright judges like Judge Gwal do not fit in their scheme of actions.…

http://www.countercurrents.org/cpdr250416.htm

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Opinions and Editorials

The Persuasions of Intolerance – By Janaki Srinivasan (Apr 23, 2016, EPW)

…While the list of violations of freedom of expression in India over the past two decades runs long, the breakneck speed with which instances are now piling up makes it imperative to look beyond the violations and ask what is distinctive about the current debate over freedom and dissent. Why do these attacks on individuals and institutions have such popular traction as can be ascertained from the public response at offline and online forums?…

On the one hand, leading commentators as well as editorials have reiterated the classic liberal argument for tolerance, that is, no idea, however offensive, marginal or unconventional in the face of public morality and discourse ought to be restricted unless there is a clear risk of tangible harm to others in society. On the other hand, free exchange of ideas enriches public discourse, hence, protection of freedom of expression and tolerance of dissent is required of any democracy. However, this argument seems to lack persuasive appeal at the present juncture, met as it is with impatient dismissal; rather it has the paradoxical effect of both creating and widening the gap between the mainstream and the marginal.…

While there is indeed greater awareness of events taking place across the world, an individual’s sense of self and social standing is tied to the constant urge to espouse rather than form opinions and listen to others. If you are not liking, sharing, commenting constantly and not part of what just went viral; you are deemed without any identity.… Apropos Marcuse it can be argued that tolerance has lost its persuasive power as it is not able to compete with the thrill of trolling, high decibel television debates and physical violence in public life. These offer a shortcut to public engagement with the righteousness of being on the side of truth.

http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/17/commentary/persuasions-intolerance.html

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Modi Government is Playing a Dangerous Game by Politicising NIA – By MK Venu (Apr 25, 2016, The Wire)

Something is just not right about the way an orchestrated campaign is being run to discredit the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) painstaking effort since 2011 to unravel the role of Hindu extremists in a series of bomb blasts in Malegaon and Samjhauta Express between 2006 and 2008. Some news TV channels suddenly discovered “new evidence” last week to claim there were holes in the Hindu terror angle to these cases.…

This was bizarre because the same NIA had painstakingly collected evidence in the past to establish the role of the Hindu terror networks in these blasts, which had then resulted in the move to discharge the Muslim men accused in the case. So why is the NIA suddenly going against its own past findings? The reason is not far to seek. The NIA under the BJP-led regime seems reluctant to proceed with the cases where the role of Hindu terror networks has come to the fore.…

All these legal-definitional wrangles actually reflect a highly polarised polity in which important terror cases are being viewed through a communal prism. The government continues to claim it is not influencing these cases. But facts on the ground, such as Rohini Salian’s affidavit, tell a different story.

http://thewire.in/2016/04/25/modi-government-is-playing-a-dangerous-game-by-politicising-nia-31341/

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New Tryst with Freedom – Editorial (Apr 30, 2016, EPW)

In a deplorable, if not entirely unexpected, move the administration of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has taken strong disciplinary actions against students it had identified for alleged indiscipline and for breaking university rules.…

Despite having had the process of an enquiry before handing out these punishments it does appear that the punishments are unfair and, more importantly, driven by the saffron political waves trying to drown out the island that has been JNU. The students and teachers of JNU had raised serious questions about numerous procedural lapses in the entire process – the very constitution of the “High Level Enquiry Committee,” the random, yet deliberate, manner in which some students were targeted, the sending of “show-cause” notices, the charges of “indiscipline,” spreading “casteist” and “communal” feelings, etc.…

It is no accident that aazadi has become the rallying cry of this rebellion. The NDA government backed by the RSS have set the full force of their authority and state power, Canute like, against this rising tide.… We are confident that even if we are in a dark hour, this country will awake, surely, into a dawn of ever-widening freedom of thought and action.

http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/18/editorials/new-tryst-freedom.html

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Struggle for equality – By T.K. Rajalakshmi (May 13, 2016, Frontline)

The demand that women be allowed to enter and worship at religious spaces that they have been barred from signifies, to a large extent, women’s growing assertiveness in seeking equal rights in all spaces. This is viewed as an outcome of the increasing awareness and consciousness of the rights guaranteed under the Constitution.

Although the resolution of the demand for democratisation of all spaces will involve a protracted legal process, … what is clear is that these movements do raise certain fundamental questions of discrimination and exclusion justified under the garb of traditional religious practices connected with a narrow biological determinism of purity and pollution as far as women are concerned.…

The contradictions and the conflict between the customary and the constitutional are not new but what is settled is that in the eventuality of a conflict, it is the latter that will prevail. The limitations of democratising the religious domain, based as it is on a set of entrenched beliefs, is a challenge in itself, as the stakes involved in preserving the character of that domain are rather high.

http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/struggle-for-equality/article8523453.ece

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You’re a Maoist in Bastar if you dare to oppose the State – By Parakram Rautela (Apr 7, 2016, Dailyo.in)

…The inspector general of police, the top cop in the Bastar range, had called a press conference at his residence to announce the surrender of three alleged Naxalites.… Police officers sat on chairs on a dais assembled on the lawn of the IG’s residence, the Naxals – one man and two women – stood, and local print and TV journalists sat on chairs on the lawn and listened to the IG as he listed out the reasons, he thought, there had been a sudden and massive spike in the number of Naxal surrenders since the Narendra Modi government had come to power in Delhi and he himself had shuffled into town, and how the security forces had declared an all out war on the Maoists.

After the IG had his say, the floor was opened up to questions and the local journalists dutifully lobbed a few easy questions at the cops. Nobody seemed to be very interested in talking to the alleged Naxals, or asking them why they had surrendered. I was. So, turning to the man, I introduced myself as a freelance reporter from Delhi and asked him: “Will you please tell us in your own words how long you were with the Maoist movement, what you did for them, and finally, why you left?”

Before he could answer, the IG pounced on me: “How dare you talk to him like that!” he said at the top of his voice. “You come here with your fancy education and think you can talk to a simple tribal man like that. Look at him, he’s trembling.” He then proceeded to tear into me for a good few minutes, the gist of his outburst being that people like me came from “outside” and made things difficult for people like him.…

http://www.dailyo.in/politics/maoism-chhattisgarh-bastar-naxalism-jaglag-narendra-modi-soni-sori-crpf/story/1/9950.html

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Ambedkar vs Dronacharya: Why Gurugram is just the RSS telling us who’s boss – By Kancha Ilaiah (Apr 20, 2016, Scroll.in)

Changing the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram is clearly a decision taken after due deliberation. It is no coincidence that its announcement was timed with the celebrations of Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.…

the RSS roadmap is clear. Its pracharak chief ministers can be called upon to moderate and balance all the praise showered on Ambedkar in search of newer vote banks. The timing of the re-naming of Gurgaon as Gurugram tells the story more effectively than anything else as it was changed in the midst of the Ambedkar Jayanthi celebrations.

The RSS’s inner soul belongs to Dronacharya – not to Eklavya and Karna. It is delusional therefore to expect any real progress towards an egalitarian nation from a government that is controlled by them. Their idea of sab kaa saath, sab kaa Vikas has to be true to its soul – and pay obeisance to their casteist idols.

http://scroll.in/article/806918/ambedkar-vs-dronacharya-why-gurugram-is-just-the-rss-showing-whos-the-boss

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