IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 13th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

My house was destroyed in 2002. The mob leader has not been served a simple memo (Aug 10, 2012, Indian Express)

Dear Lord Meghnad Desai, I am J.S. Bandukwala, a retired professor of physics at M.S. University, Baroda. I have never met you, except on the occasion of Dr I.G. Patel’s 75th birthday celebration in Baroda. I read your Sunday Express column regularly. It is thought provoking, though I often disagree with your views. But your column on Narendra Modi and secularists shocked me (‘Power shocks’, IE, August 5). Permit me to enumerate the reasons.

The tone of your piece is heavily pro-Modi. You cite the convictions so far at Ode, etc as great achievements, comparing them with the failure to convict anyone for the Mumbai 1993 and the 1984 Sikh riots and the Babri Masjid demolition. That comment itself is pouring salt on our wounds. Muslims have suffered periodic mob fury, which has gone unpunished by the state, since 1947. The logic of the BJP’s existence appears to be hatred for Muslims, traced back to Savarkar and Golwalkar.

The Congress, on which we are forced to rely, is only interested in our votes. It has no interest in our socio-educational and economic uplift. The very nature of politics is such that a few Muslims – whether in the BJP or the Congress or even in socialist parties like the Samajwadi Party – act as agents for the community, and siphon off the benefits for their own selves. The illiteracy and poverty (which have deep historical roots), combined with an absence of genuine community leadership, left the space open for the ulemas, who have only worsened the plight of the Muslims of India.

My own house was completely destroyed in 2002. The leader of the attacking mob was an officer of M.S. University, Baroda. My daughter, who is married to a Gujarati Hindu, and I barely escaped certain death. The mob leader was not even served a simple memo. The Modi government has done everything possible to see that its saffron supporters are not touched by the post-Godhra Supreme Court activism. He got support from the SIT. Those convicted so far are outside the saffron band.

We are deeply grateful for support from activists like Teesta Setalvad who have fought for justice at great personal sacrifice. The English and electronic media have also been very supportive. Of the local language press, the less said the better. So far, I have considered you a sympathiser. But my trust has been broken. You see Narendra Modi as a future prime minister, and would not want to be on his wrong side. Frankly I will do whatever it needs to protect my community from that menace. With regrets, J.S. Bandukwala, Baroda, Gujarat

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/986181/

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2 more right wing accused named in Samjhauta case (Aug 11, 2012, The Hindu)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) has named two more accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case, thus taking the total number of accused to seven. In its supplementary charge sheet filed at a special court at Panchkula, the NIA has named Kamal Chauhan, alias Bhai Saab, and Amit alias Ashwani Chauhan, and charged them with murder, conspiracy, and some other serious offences.

In its charge sheet, the NIA has accused Chauhan and Amit, who is currently missing, of planting suitcase bombs in the Indo-Pak Samjhauta Express train that claimed 68 lives, mostly Pakistanis, on February 18, 2007. The NIA has said the duo, along with Lokesh Sharma and Samunder, alias Rajender Choudhary, who is also missing, had planted the bombs in the train near Panipat.

The remaining five accused charged under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act are Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Asimanand, Sunil Joshi (now dead), Lokesh Sharma, Sandeep Dange, and Ramchandra Kalasangra alias Ramji. All the seven accused are allegedly linked to Hindu right-wing organisations.

In its charge sheet, the NIA, which has been investigating the case since July 29, 2010, has said that Kamal Chauhan had visited Delhi from Indore to select the target for the blasts. They had initially decided on Delhi’s Jama Masjid area, but dropped the plan due to tight security in the communally sensitive locality. Later on, Samjhauta Express was selected as the target.

“They [Chauhan and Rajender] came by train to Delhi along with Lokesh Sharma and Amit for planting the bombs, and in due course, they planted the bombs as decided earlier by them. Investigation has also revealed that all of them had undertaken training in 2006 in a jungle near Bagli, District – Dewas, Madhya Pradesh. The accused, Kamal Chauhan and Amit, conspired and planned with the remaining accused and suspects and executed this terrorist act. They planted bombs in Samjhauta Express train on February 18, 2007,” the NIA statement said.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/article3752739.ece

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Digvijaya Singh slams LK Advani for remarks on Assam violence (Aug 12, 2012, Times of India)

Congress leader Digvijay Singh has hit out at BJP leader LK Advani alleging that his comments on Assam violence were adding fuel to the fire. Singh said that Advani’s comments on illegal migration were “ill-timed” as the state was burning at that time.

Accusing Advani of abetting violence in Assam by making provocative statements at Kokrajhar when the area was in the grips of ethnic strife, Singh said “these (the comments) are like adding fuel to the fire”. He was speaking on the “Sarokar” programme at Rajya Sabhha television to be telecast tonight. Advani, who had visited the area in last week of July had linked the situation in the state to that of violence in Jammu and Kashmir.

In the one-hour long discussion, Singh also took strong exception to “BJP’s love for Jinnah” when the opposition party’s national executive member Seshadri Chari quoted late Mohammed Ali Jinnah to emphasise the seriousness of the crisis in Assam maintaining that the latter had told his staff that “within 10 years Assam would come to Pakistan on a platter”.

Singh said that the the Assam accord was a result of a long-standing tribal strife in the area and is not a communal issue. The issue is extremely sensitive and needs to be addressed with utmost care, a press release by the Rajya Sabha channel quoted the Congress leader as saying. BJP leaders had come down heavily on the Congress government last week during an adjournment motion on Assam violence in the Lok Sabha.

The ethnic violence in Assam, which started on July 19-20, has claimed 77 lives so far besides rendering more than four lakh homeless in the state. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi yesterday said that 1.6 lakh people displaced in the conflict have returned to their homes from refugee camps.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/15461123.cms

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Jamaat Islami condemns Gurudwara shooting, Mosque burning in US (Aug 9, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Jamaat-e-Islami Hind has condemned the shooting and killing of six persons at a Gurudwara in Wisconsin on 6th Aug. and called it an inhuman and atrocious act. The Jamaat also condemned burning of a mosque in Joplin area of Missouri on the same day. Leader of India’s largest Muslim organization has urged President Barack Obama to take strong steps against such fanatic acts.

Secretary General of Jamaat Mr. Nusrat Ali on Thursday called these attacks “an act of oppression and terrorism.” Expressing his concern, he said: “In a country like America, which swears by democracy, this attitude of targeting the places of worship of other religions is improper and unacceptable.” Jamaat leader demanded Obama administration to take strong steps against “such fanatic acts so that an end can be put to conspiracies to promote hate between followers of different religions.”

Seven people, including a gunman, died in a shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on 6th Aug. On the same day, a mosque in Joplin area, southwest Missouri was destroyed in fire. It was the second fire incident at the mosque in one month. Last incident took place on 4th July. According to Washington Post daily, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms together have about 30 investigators working to determine the cause of fire at the mosque. The investigators reportedly said it will take a few days to determine if the fire at the mosque was arson. The US has declared attack at the Sikh temple as a terrorist act.

http://twocircles.net/2012aug09/jamaat_islami_condemns_gurudwara_shooting_mosque_burning_us.html

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‘It is a sin to be born Muslim in Assam’ (Aug 6, 2012, Rediff)

A fact finding commission of leading Muslim organisations headed by the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat has said that it was a clear failure on part of the Bodoland Territorial Council and the Assam government in anticipation and control of the situation that has forced over 3 lakh people, most of whom are Muslims, to live in around 300 refugee camps. According to the commission, sections of the media and the Bharatiya Janata Party and its ilk are trying to turn this carnage into an issue of illegal immigrants, which is not correct or fair.

A delegation of representatives of some leading Indian Muslim organisations visited Assam during July 31- August 3, 2012 to study and assess the situation in the BTC and adjoining areas where over 50 people have been killed and over a hundred are reported missing as a result of alleged ethnic cleansing aimed at uprooting Muslims from BTC areas. The delegation, led by Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, president of the All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, visited a number of camps in riot-hit Cherang and Dhubri districts and met representatives of BTC and Bodos as well as Chief Minister Tarun Gagoi and Assam State Commission for Minorities Chairman Abdul Muhib Mazumder.

The commission alleges that using some criminal incidents in which both Muslims and Bodos were killed, Bodo armed gangs systematically attacked Muslim villages and indulged in random killings and firings, which precipitated the plight of Muslim villagers. It also stated that even though the state government was providing ration, a lot of other needs, especially hygiene, were neglected. Inmates in camps told the delegation that they are eager to return to their villages provided security is provided to them. A former MLA of the affected area told the delegation that it is ‘a sin to be born Muslim in Assam’.

Some of the observations made by the commission: Some the camps did not have security; the delegation saw army presence only in Bodo areas of Kokrajhar. One person had died in Tilwara camp due to hunger; one of the camps was not even getting ration. Proper lists of the displaced are yet to be prepared and FIRs have not been lodged in most cases, where remains of burnt houses were visible. Bodos are reportedly bulldozing houses and ploughing farms of the displaced in some areas.

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-it-is-a-sin-to-be-born-muslim-in-assam/20120806.htm

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2 killed as Mumbai protest against Assam riots turns violent (Aug 12, 2012, The Hindu)

At least two persons were killed and more than 50 injured as a protest at the Azad Maidan here on Saturday against the recent Assam riots and genocidal acts against Muslims in Myanmar turned violent. A state of high alert was issued throughout Mumbai. Tension and paranoia gripped the city as the three o’clock agitation, organised by the Raza Academy – a city-based organisation claiming to promote Islamic culture – suddenly erupted into violence with the protesters targeting police and mediapersons, setting vehicles afire, smashing cameras and chanting provocative slogans.

The police resorted to lathi charge, lobbed tear gas shells and fired in the air to disperse the truculent crowd. According to police reports, Mohammad Umar (17) and Altaf Sheikh, both of Mumbai, lost their lives in the violence. In all, 11 vehicles, including three OB vans, were gutted, while 45 policemen and some photographers, including The Hindu’s Vivek Bendre, were injured and their cameras smashed in the melee.

“For a while, there were fears of a relapse of the situation [seen] during the 1992 riots. We have escaped by a hair’s breadth … The situation could have turned lethal. But things are under control in other parts of the city,” said Police Commissioner Arup Patnaik, refusing to answer questions whether the violence was spontaneous or pre-planned. Around 30 police personnel were seriously injured while three civilians sustained bullet injuries. The injured were rushed to the city’s Saint George’s Hospital and G.T. Hospital.

Train and bus services were hit hard. The miscreants damaged at least 31 BEST buses at the CST Depot, where glass pieces were lying strewn all over. Buses running towards south Mumbai were terminated en route. “The protesters also shouted slogans on railway platforms,” A K Singh, Public Relations Officer, Central Railway, told The Hindu. There were stray incidents of violence but no local train was damaged. Businesses in the vicinity remained closed following the violence.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, who rushed to the Maharashtra capital from Yavatmal, assured the people that things were under control. Home Minister R.R. Patil urged citizens to desist from rumour-mongering. Muslim organisations such as the Markazul Ma’arif Education and Research Centre have condemned the unruly behaviour of the protesters and called for peace.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article3756085.ece

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Curfew on in riot-hit Bareilly, 200 arrested (Aug 13, 2012, Deccan Herald)

Curfew continued for a second consecutive day in Bareilly city in Uttar Pradesh Monday even as police said the situation following communal violence was under control. The administration imposed curfew in Quila, Prem Nagar, Baradari and Kotwali areas Sunday after clashes between Hindus and Muslims owing to the use of loudspeakers during a Janmashtami procession.

After a brief verbal spat, the two sides pelted stones at each other, and attacked and vandalized government property. All schools and colleges, officials said, will remain closed till further orders.

A total of 205 people have been arrested for breaching curfew, Inspector General of Police Badri Prasad Singh told IANS.

Cases have been lodged against 48 people for rioting, obstructing government work and violence, he added. A large number of Provincial Armed Constabulary and Rapid Action Force personnel has been deployed in the curfew bound areas. This is the second time violence has broken out in the district, the last being on July 22. Four policemen have been suspended for alleged dereliction in duty.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/271325/curfew-riot-hit-bareilly-200.html

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Special tax audit charges Ramdev’s Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust with financial irregularities (Aug 14, 2012, India Today)

At a time when Baba Ramdev has embarked on a collision course with the Congress-led UPA government, tax sleuths are tightening the noose around the yoga guru. A note prepared by the Directorate General of Central Excise Intelligence (DGCEI) in July 2012 charges Ramdev’s Patanjali Yog Peeth Trust (PYPT) at Haridwar in Uttarakhand as well as other organisations linked with him with financial irregularities.

The DGCEI conducted a special audit and identified six major areas of investigation, the first being the overriding powers Ramdev has been accorded in the trust deed of PYPT. Also under the scanner is the “donation”, ranging from Rs.11,000 to Rs.11 lakh, received by the trust from corporate members for services rendered through yoga camps. This, the DGCEI noted, was in the nature of fees and not donation.

The tax sleuths have also called into question the huge tract of land the PYPT possesses on the basis of unregistered documents, the trust’s activities outside India – being carried out without obtaining any general or special order from the Central Board of Direct Taxes, and its “illegal activity”. The DGCEI also observed that while the Vanprastha Scheme applicants paid money to enjoy lifelong residence in cottages, the amounts shelled out did not qualify as donations because they were received in exchange for services rendered.

The primary focus of the special audit was on how money was being received by both PYPT and Divya Yog Mandir Trust (DYMT) to enable entities and individuals to participate in various schemes. According to the authority, showing these amounts as donations was a direct evasion of service tax. The note also disclosed that a showcause notice had been issued to PYPT by the additional director general, Delhi zonal unit, on April 24, 2012. It demanded service tax totalling Rs.4.94 crore for the period from October 1, 2006, to March 31, 2011. The document stated that the case was pending adjudication with Meerut’s central excise commissioner.

It added: “The investigation revealed that PYPT is charging fees from participants in the name of donations wherein they send donation coupons printed by them to be sold at the local level. All the proceeds received from donation coupons are repatriated to PYPT. But the services provided by them are covered under ‘health and fitness services’, which are defined under section 65(51) and attract service tax under section 65(105) (zw) of the Finance Act, 1994. “DYMT was also put in the dock for earning rent from immovable property but not paying service tax. The audit note said, “(It was only) after the initiation of the inquiry (that) they obtained registration and deposited service tax amounting to Rs.19.78 lakh along with interest.”

http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/tax-sleuths-are-tightening-the-noose-around-the-yoga-guru-baba-ramdev/1/213089.html

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Need action, not survey: Muslims (Aug 11, 2012, DNA India)

The minister of state for minority affairs Vincent H Pala on Thursday announced plans to conduct a survey to identify minority concentration blocks for effective implementation of minority welfare schemes. However, the data already exists on the website of the ministry. Muslim leaders and NGOs, now believe the exercise was an attempt to delay the implementation of the multi-sectoral development plan (MSDP) and other minority-related schemes. Pala told the Lok Sabha that the survey was being conducted to identify minority concentration blocks as recommended by the working group on ’empowerment of minorities’.

Former Rajya Sabha member Ejaz Ali said the act smacked of conspiracy. “It seems that in the name of survey, the government is delaying the implementation of programmes. The schemes already lack transparency and accountability,” he said. Hyderabad MP Asadudin Owasi, however, told DNA that he was giving the benefit of doubt to the minority affairs ministry. “We have been demanding the use of blocks as units rather than districts while allocating funds for past many years. Now that they have now agreed to it, I will give them the benefit of doubt on taking time to list blocks,” he said. He said he needs time to understand why the ministry wants to conduct its own survey. Both, the cabinet minister Salman Khurshid and Pala, were unavailable for comments.

The use of blocks as units, instead of districts, was necessitated by the fact that although several states have a number of minority concentration blocks they do not have any minority concentrated district. This disqualified them from seeking any grant under the head. States such as Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh and Tamil Nadu don’t have any minority concentration district, but collectively there are 102 blocks in these states with 25 per cent or more minority population. According to the 2001 census, 922 blocks are spread in more than 90 districts which have a considerable minority population.

Ali said that while Pala had sighted the lack of data to make block as unit of planning, the website of his ministry carries the 2001 census. “May be it is not possible for the government to prepare such statistics on the basis of the 2011 census. Still there is no need to conduct a fresh survey. The government can use the 2001 data till the results of fresh census are available,” he said.

In the case of six states – Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and the Union territory of Lakshadweep, where the minority community is in majority, there is a proposal to identify blocks which have 15 percent or more population of the communities which are in minority in the region. That means the Hindus would be able to get benefits of minority schemes in these states, instead of Muslims and Christians.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1726584

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Police ‘beat up’ dalits, Rajkot top cop, home secretary get HC notice (Aug 10, 2012, Indian Express)

Taking suo motu cognisance of alleged atrocities committed on dalits by Rajkot city police, the Gujarat High Court on Thursday issued notices to the state home secretary and Rajkot police commissioner. A division bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala were acting on a letter from a dalit organisation about the alleged incident that took place on June 25 this year.

According to details, a dalit leader from Rajkot, Gunvant Rathod, was killed by some miscreants on June 24. The next day, a funeral procession was taken out by dalits before Rathod’s body was cremated. After the cremation, some in the funeral procession staged a protest demanding that the culprits be arrested.

According to the complaint letter to HC, police indiscriminately beat up the protesters without any provocation. Police also allegedly entered the houses of dalits in Ambedkarnagar area and mercilessly thrashed them. Those beaten up included children and women. One of the injured, Rupa Sondarava (16), was allegedly kicked by police following which she sustained a serious spinal injury that is threatening to cause permanent disability. Rupa was shifted from Rajkot to Ahmedabad Civil Hospital where hospital authorities registered a medico-legal case and informed Rajkot police about the same. The police, however, allegedly did not register her statement. Following this, Dr Jayanti Mankadiya, president of Gujarat Dalit Sangathan, and others wrote to the Chief Justice about the incident and sought his intervention. They also sent photographs and a video CD purportedly showing police action. Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya referred Mankadiya’s letter to Justice Akil Kureshi seeking his opinion if it was a fit case to take suo motu conginsance of. Justice Kureshi agreed it was and a senior advocate of HC, Shalin Mehta, was appointed as amicus curaie.

The suo motu proceeding seeks strict action against the erring police officers and registration of a case against them under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The next hearing is scheduled after two weeks.’

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/986476/

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Opinions and Editorials

Why Modi cannot shake off 2002 – By Javed Anand (Aug 10, 2012, Indian Express)

In his latest column for The Sunday Express (‘Modi and Muslims’, IE, August 5) BJP spokesperson and the Sangh Parivar’s moral face, Sudheendra Kulkarni, has a sad story to tell: Narendra Modi loves Muslims, but alas, Muslims love him not. And, as usual, the real villains are secularists who stand in the way of Muslims embracing Modi and Hindutva’s majoritarianism. How does Kulkarni know of Modi’s love for Muslims? Why, isn’t that “crystal clear” from the “honesty, clarity, candour, courage and transparency” that shines through Modi’s interview to Shahid Siddiqui, editor of the Urdu weekly, Nai Duniya? When he penned the words, “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” celebrated Czech writer Milan Kundera clearly had in mind the communist regime in the erstwhile Soviet Union. In the context of India, were you to replace “man” with “Muslims” and “power” with “Modi”, you might begin to understand why Gujarat’s and India’s Muslims are unwilling to forget. Kulkarni, who counts many Muslims among his friends, has yet to realise that a community that was so far content with rushing relief to co-religionists following communal carnages has woken up to the need for justice and the punishment of the guilty. If the prevailing culture of impunity is to be challenged, to remember is critical.

Siddiqui still insists that he has not forgiven Modi. But if you read his three-page interview with Modi, it is apparent there is much that he has forgotten, or chosen to forget. Thanks only to the intervention of the Supreme Court, victim-survivor Zakia Jafri’s complaint accusing Modi and 62 other top politicians, civil servants and police officers of criminal conspiracy for mass murder was investigated by a specially appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT). The case is now before a magistrate’s court in Ahmedabad awaiting judicial scrutiny. So let’s leave the criminal conspiracy and mass murder charges to the courts and recall a few telling instances of Modi’s attitude to Muslims since 2002 right up to his Sadbhavana circus in 2011. Observations of the preliminary report of the SC-appointed SIT on Modi’s “action-reaction” theory on the targeting of Gujarat’s Muslims: “His [Modi’s] implied justification of the killings of innocent members of the minority community and an absence of a strong condemnation of the violence that followed Godhra suggest a partisan stance when the state had been badly disturbed by communal violence”.

While Modi announced Rs 2 lakh as compensation to the family members of those who had died in the Godhra train tragedy, family members of those killed in the subsequent carnage were offered only Rs 1 lakh. Following a national outrage against such naked discrimination, Modi did make amends. Not by raising the amount to Rs 2 lakh in both cases but by reducing it to Rs 1 lakh for all. In mid-March 2002, the Modi government was forced to provide relief material to relief camps run by the Muslim community only after directions from the Gujarat high court in response to a petition by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP). By March-end, following allegations that his government had started threatening Muslims running relief camps with arrest unless they wound up the camps immediately, CJP again had to appeal to the court, which ruled that the relief camps were not to be shut down till their residents found some place to go back to. To ensure compliance, the division bench granted a supervisory role to CJP.

Though forced to comply with the high court’s orders, Modi could not restrain himself from hurling the “hum paanch, hamare pachees” (polygamous Muslim men producing 20 children per family) canard against the community and asking at a public meeting why his government should finance “baby producing factories”. Asked for his comments on such an obnoxious remark, the then BJP president, Venkaiah Naidu, responded with “the issue is closed”. In September 2002, the then VHP president, Ashok Singhal, declared he was “proud” of the fact that entire villages had been “emptied of Islam” and whole communities of Muslims had been “dispatched” to refugee camps. Chief Minister Modi saw no need to question such shocking hate speech, forget directing the registration of a criminal complaint.

Modi’s electoral campaign for the 2002 polls suggested he was pitted not against other national parties but the then Pakistan president “Mian Musharraf”. As one political commentator observed, for the Sangh Parivar, Pakistan and Mian Musharraf are often a euphemism implying Indian Muslims, questioning their loyalty to the country. All this was in 2002. For reasons of space, fast forward to Modi’s Sadbhavana in October 2011 where, before TV cameras on two separate occasions, he responded with a flat no to Muslims who offered him a skull cap on one occasion and a keffiyah on the other. Modi claims to have done an awful lot for Gujarat’s Muslims during his tenure. A quick web search will lead you to a recent well-researched paper by Abusaleh Shariff (a member-secretary of the Sachar Committee) to explode this myth. Need more be said on Modi’s love for Muslims?

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/986180/

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Beyond the “Darbhanga Module” of terror – By Mohammad Sajjad (Aug 12, 2012, Twocircles.net)

Of late the India’s security and investigative agencies through the Indian media have started conveying us that there is a “Darbhanga Module” of “Indian Mujahideen” which is alleged to have carried out some terrorist activities in certain cities of India. There have been few arrests of some educated professionals, some of them working in the Gulf countries. The real truth will come to us after a long haul of slow-paced judicial trial (even in TADA the conviction rate was as low as below two per cent). There has been allegations against the agencies of procedural lapses in the modes of arrests made thus far (I have dealt with few other aspects of this in my essay in the Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu daily, Sunday Dastaawez, 25 May 2008; for more comprehensive, powerful, and nuanced analysis, see Irfan Ahmad, “The (In)visible Indian Terrorism”, 16 September 2011, http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/09/2011912104910716820… 16 Sept 2011).

Nonetheless, just for the sake of pushing my argument, ahead if we believe, only for a moment, that the allegations against the detained Muslim youths are true, and if this has something to do with “alienation”, and marginalization from the structures and processes of power, and with state discrimination against them in socio-economic uplift then we need to ponder this: Darbhanga-Madhubani is a region from where among a particular social class of Muslims, relatively speaking, there is fairly good proportion of educated youth. The Constitution’s provision under the Articles 29 and 30 have been made better use of by the Darbhanga Muslims; the educational entrepreneurs among the Darbhanga Muslims have been running minority institutes of teachers’ training (B.Ed.), the Katihar Medical College, etc. In Bihar, during the Laloo-Rabri regime, doors to B. Ed courses were closed except these Muslim minority institutions. It must have been a source of envy for the Maithil Brahmans and other Hindus.

Darbhanga has been gifted by the Union Government with the off-campus of a Central University, the Maulana Azad National Urdu University (MANUU), which offers professional courses like Diploma in Engineering and Technology in Urdu medium to ensure greater inclusion of Muslims. Since long, this region has been sending Muslim MPs in the Lok Sabha, on occasions, simultaneously two MPs). In 1990-91, Darbhanga’s Muslim MP, Prof. Shakilur Rahman (former VC, Mithila University, Darbhanga, and Bihar University, Muzaffarpur) was the Union Health Minister in 1990-91. He had won the 1989 Lok Sabha against all odds put by the powerful caste group of Darbhanga, and his onslaught against vested interests deeply entrenched into the Mithila University had earned him great popularity which ensured his victory. Darbhanga’s [several times] MP, Mr. Fatmi, an engineer from AMU, was the Union Minister of State for Human Resource Development, 2004-09; the Madhubani’s several times MP, Dr Shakil Ahmad, an MBBS from Muzaffarpur, was the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, 2004-09; earlier he was minister of health in the Bihar Government; his father was the Deputy Speaker, Bihar Assembly. Presently Dr. Shakil is the national spokesperson of the biggest political party, ruling over India and also in large number of provinces, the Congress. Ghulam Sarwar (1926-2004) represented a segment of Darbhanga in the Bihar Assembly; he was minister of education, 1977-79, then he held several portfolios including Speaker Bihar Assembly during 1990-2004. Abdul Bari, an MLA from Darbhanga, is an important leader of the RJD which ruled over Bihar for 15 years, and throughout this period he has been minister; at the moment he is the leader of opposition in the Bihar Assembly. Among the Muslims qualifying for the Civil Services, there is hardly any list which is not represented by a Darbhanga Muslim.

Secondly, certain fallacies apart, the Indian state and its democratic processes are responsive enough. Once you assert your demand in a concerted and sustained manner, it stands conceded and fulfilled by the state. The National Council for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) has been empowered to do the needful towards educational uplift; it has declared the Jamia Millia Islamia, a Central University, as a Muslim minority institution, reserving fifty per cent of the enrolment intake for the Muslim students. The government/UGC offers certain fund to the Hamdard University. One can multiply such instances. The recent legislative piece of the fundamental right to education is a wonderful revolutionary weapon of uplift and empowerment more particularly for the weaker and oppressed sections. We ought to launch a campaign to make full use of it. Invest in education for a turnaround.

The point I am trying to make is: Among the Muslim educated youth and the middle classes there should not be any feeling of alienation; rather than falling prey to any hard-headed, right-wing, foreign-inspired chauvinistic radicalism (if any), they should organize themselves to pressurize the democratic institutions and processes to press their demands, pertaining to education, employment, health, security of life and property, religio-cultural freedom, and all such things. India’s secular democracy offers a lot to all of us, we must strengthen it. All of us should unitedly force out any hard-headed tendency of resorting to blasts. Meanwhile, the struggle for justice to the detained youths must also continue. Needless to add, the Muslim youths are neither meant for being hired by any ISI nor are they meant for being fired by their own security agencies.

http://twocircles.net/2012aug12/beyond_%E2%80%9Cdarbhanga_module%E2%80%9D_terror.html

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Riots & the bogey of Bangladeshis – By Banajit Hussain (Aug 8, 2012, The Hindu)

During the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded in Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon and Chirang districts of the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous Districts (BTAD) and the adjoining Dhubri district, we have witnessed the tragedy of nearly 400,000 people belonging to the Bodo and Muslim communities being forced to move to 273 temporary refugee camps. These people will stand internally displaced, scarred and traumatised for months to come, if not years. So far, it is estimated that 65 persons have lost their lives and around 500 villages have been torched to the ground. The magnitude of this human tragedy is overwhelming considering the short span of two weeks in which it occurred. It poses a serious threat to the already fragile state of secularism in the region whose demography has always been so diverse. It urgently calls for a restoration of trust and confidence amongst all the people affected by the riots. What is surprising is that rather than focussing on the immediate need for a humanitarian call to stop the killings and the violence on the part of community leaders and the administration, an atmosphere of extreme polarisation has been brought about, with leaders of both the Bodo and the Muslim communities hurling allegations and counter allegations at each other.

To make matters worse, leaders of the Bodo community, large sections of mainstream Assamese society, and a section of the media and the political class took it upon themselves to allege and prove that the responsibility for this human tragedy lies squarely on “illegal Bangladeshi migrants” and that the undifferentiated Muslim masses inhabiting western Assam are “Bangladeshis”. The social media was also chock-a-block with rumours – like the one about boats laden with guns and bombs being sent from Bangladesh to arm the illegal migrants in their alleged bit to take over Kokrajhar district. It cannot be simply assumed that the BTAD leadership and the mainstream Assamese society are innocently mistaken in believing that all Muslims inhabiting this area are illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Rather it is a conscious “mistake” laced with communal undertones. The rhetoric of “illegal” migrants flooding the region that appears to be fuelling the attacks is backed largely by what seems to be paranoia about the perceived growing numbers of Muslims in the area, all of whom are assumed to be “illegal” migrants. It is a well documented historical fact that a large number of peasants from erstwhile East Bengal migrated and settled in Assam in the early decades of the 20th century. However, in the prevailing atmosphere of jingoism and xenophobia, it is not enough to just state that migration of East Bengali Muslim peasants in the early decades of the 20th century is a well documented historical fact.

This historical fact needs to be reiterated today, especially when a constitutional authority like the Election Commissioner of India, Harishankar Brahma, in his overzealous attempt to prove that illegal Bangladeshis are behind the violence, claims that this stream of migration into Assam started during the late 1960s and early 1970s (“How to share Assam,” Indian Express, 28th July, 2012). However, if one looks at the census data, his claims appear unsubstantiated and historically flawed. One wishes that a constitutional authority like him would be careful about and be aware of the country’s official demographic records. Hypothetically, if we take the entire population of 33 lakhs in Assam in 1901 to be “indigenous”, and we apply the all-India rate of population increase of 74.82 per cent between 1901 and 1941, then the population of Assam in 1941 should have been 57.69 lakhs instead of 67 lakhs. That means approximately 9.31 lakh people had migrated into Assam in this period. Applying the same all-India rate of population increase during this period, the Muslim population in 1941 should have been 8.8 lakhs, instead of the 16.9 lakhs it actually was. From this, it can be inferred that the increase was due to the settling of migrants in the State and that the majority of these Muslim peasant migrants who settled in Assam during this period were East Bengali Muslim peasants. It is worth mentioning that Muslim East Bengali peasants first settled in undivided Goalpara district (which included Kokrajhar, Bongaigaon, Chirang and Dhubri till the 1980s), before they spanned out to other parts of lower and central Assam. From 1901 to 1931, 4.98 lakh East Bengali Muslim peasants are recorded in Goalpara district alone.

If one is to believe the assertions of the Election Commissioner, then the question that immediately arises is – where are the descendants of the lakhs of East Bengali Muslim peasants who settled in this area before Partition? In all probability, many of them today are languishing in the relief camps with the imminent threat of being identified as Bangladeshis. It has also been claimed by various people, including the Bodo leadership, that the Bangladeshi population in Kokrajhar district – where the violence erupted first and which is also the political seat of power in BTAD – has increased by leaps and bounds in the last decades. Contrary to what popular perception might hold, even a cursory glance at the census data gives a different picture. There has been no alarming increase in Kokrajhar district of the Muslim population in decades. In 1971, the Muslim population in Kokrajhar (then it was a sub-division of undivided Goalpara district) stood at 17 per cent, with no census being conducted in 1981. It stood at 19.3 per cent in 1991 and, in 2001, it stood at 20.4 per cent. Even though the religion-wise census figures for 2011 are not yet available, provisional results from the 2011 census show that the decadal growth rate of population between 2001-2011 for Kokrajhar district is 5.19 per cent, interestingly, marking a decline of 9 per cent as compared to the decadal growth rate of 14.49 per cent between 1991 to 2001. (The decadal growth rate for Assam between 1991 to 2001 was 18.92 per cent and 16.93 per cent between 2001-2011.) There can only be two plausible reasons for this 9 per cent decline in population growth between 2001-2011. One possibility, though highly unlikely, is that the population growth rate has remained more or less the same as it was between 1991 and 2001, but the death rate has shot up by 9 per cent. The other possibility, which seems more plausible, is that there has been a considerable out-migration from Kokrajhar, especially after the formation of the BTAD in 2003.

Since the Bodos (who constitute 20 per cent of the population in the BTAD area) hold a monopoly over political power in the area, it is unlikely that there has been any significant out-migration of the Bodo population from Kokrajhar district. The Koch Rajbangsis, who constitute roughly 17 per cent of the total population of the BTAD, have been campaigning for and demanding a separate homeland – Kamtapur – which territorially overlaps the BTAD, thus making it unlikely that they would out-migrate, abdicating their political claim over the territory. In all probability, the out-migration involves other non-Bodo communities, including Muslims. By now it should be clear that simplistic propositions like ‘Bangladeshi illegal migrants are the root cause of the violence’ not only prevent us from understanding the complex reality of the situation but also reek of communal propaganda. The demographic reality of western Assam is a mosaic of different ethnicities with their own claims of identity and territorial aspirations. In the light of this, some glaring questions stare us in the face. What informs this fear of the growing number of Muslims? How are these fears of the swamping of the ethnic and cultural identity of the Bodos being fuelled, and by whom? How and when did all Muslims in the area get classified in the public mind as “illegal migrants from Bangladesh?” Looking for answers to questions like these, rather than raising the bogey of numbers and formulaic xenophobic explanations might make the difference, literally, between life and death in this region today.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article3738939.ece

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Spare the rod, free the media – Editorial (Aug 13, 2012, Mid Day)

Things spiralled out of control on Saturday afternoon in the city, as protests about ethnic violence in Assam and Myanmar got ugly and violent. The city press was present at the Maidan, venue for frequent protests and demonstrations. This one, too, seemed to be on track with the press taking pictures, OB vans present, reporters getting their quotes or sound bytes, when, the crowd suddenly got violent.

The police presence was quickly upped as the city seemed to be on the brink of a communal riot. While one appreciates how difficult and sensitive such situations are, one cannot understand why the police beat this paper’s senior photographer Atul Kamble who was at the site. Kamble told the police that he was a press photographer and was taking pictures as that was his job. Still he was lathi charged. It is shocking that police personnel hit a journalist who was simply recording the event.

What does one do when protectors turn aggressors? Why was Kamble targeted for doing his job? Who is going to provide answers? Of late, one has seen the media at the receiving end of people’s ire. Often this anger turns violent and the press becomes a victim of violence. Whether it is the price for bold and fair reporting or simply being in the place they have to be at dangerous times, they pay a heavy price.

That the police have unleashed this violence is simply unforgivable and till somebody is held accountable and punished one fears that we will see repeats of such incidents, where for some reason or the other, a media person may have to bear the brunt for doing his job.

As a vibrant democracy, we need a free and fearless press. That the press needs to watch out for the very people who are supposed to be protectors is a sad commentary on the current state of affairs.

http://www.mid-day.com/columnists/2012/aug/130812-opinion-Spare-the-rod-free-the-media.htm

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Throwing in the Towel – Editorial (Aug 18, 2012,Economic & Political Weekly)

The recent fast-unto-death by members of “Team Anna” (a self-proclaimed name which has always sounded pompous even if loved by a media looking for a catchy title) thankfully ended without any calamity on the advice of a group of “eminent” citizens and with a promise to carry on the “movement” in the political sphere. Many commentators have, rightly, seen in this denouement a clear sign of defeat or at the very least, a public acknowledgement of a dead end for the anti-corruption movement which exploded on all of us through the good offices of the electronic media in April last year.

While the uncritical support that this movement received from the media and its savvy use of the media (especially the hyperventilating 24-hour news channels) helped beam its message to homes across the country, a large part of the support it had garnered was based on widespread anger and disgust with the venality in state institutions and among the personnel who man them. The pervasiveness of corruption, nepotism and abuse of power leaves almost none unaffected. The poorer and more marginalised a person, the greater the oppression. However, the anti-corruption movement of Anna Hazare and his group did not target this daily tyranny faced by millions of nameless citizens, it instead targeted the big-ticket instances of corruption by top politicians and government functionaries. Further, the proposal of Anna Hazare’s group – a gargantuan Jan Lokpal bureaucracy accountable to none and one that would centralise the powers and functions of investigator, judge, and prosecutor – was a solution as bad as the disease that it sought to cure.

Given the public anger against top-level corruption and the incompetence of the government, the group was able to paper over these and various other contradictions in its agenda as well as within its social base. From groups aligned to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who found in this an opportunity to put the ruling Congress-led government on the mat, to those who claimed lineage from socialist politics, representatives of social movements, to funded non-governmental organisations, and to political parties from the Naxalite tradition, the anti-corruption movement had managed to build a large political alliance. If one looks at the political spectrum which was gathered together, it surely was impressive and harked back to the major cross-class alliances of the Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) movement. Single-point agendas like corruption have often provided a fertile ground for building such cross-class alliances. However, there is a crucial difference between these older movements and that led by Anna Hazare. Behind the wide collection of political brands, there was little evidence of a political alliance of social classes. The only social class which seemed visible was the urban middle class, itself an amorphous category and difficult to identify, mobilise or retain. The self-proclamation of the Anna Hazare group of being non-political was perhaps as much “Newspeak” as it was an unwitting recognition of its inability to mobilise mass-based political support.

Despite this absence of a political anchor, it was clear that this anti-corruption movement was political from its inception, not just in the more indirect sense but in the manner in which it attacked the government and campaigned in elections to target the Congress and benefit its opponents. The eventual announcement of a formal political identity for the anti-corruption movement was presaged by its demand for probes against the president, prime minister and leading cabinet ministers. While the move to take on a more formal political role was expected for some time, it is still not clear whether there is any unanimity among those who constituted the core group about what this role will be. Would it be a separate political party as indicated by Arvind Kejriwal, the primus inter pares of the group, or would it be an effort to identify and support “honest” candidates in elections, as announced by Anna Hazare? Further, there are voices from within the core group itself – Akhil Gogoi and Santosh Hegde among others – who object to this openly political role. It is also unclear how the new political formation is going to mediate between the polar positions among the group members on issues like Kashmir, industrialisation, land acquisition and the role of the security agencies.

These are not easy issues to address and will take time and much effort to tackle. However, the very initiation of the political turn has meant that the group’s one abiding support base – the BJP-tilted urban middle class – has already been alienated. Whatever electoral success they manage in this context is likely to hurt the BJP and thus help the Congress. While a political force independent of the established players and free from corruption and abuse is welcome, there is nothing at present to suggest that the proposed new politics will either be free of these vices or will be successful. All that can be said at present is that this incarnation of the anti-corruption movement has been a failure. However, by raising the issue of corruption – an important one by all accounts – in the manner in which they did, pushing all other opinions aside, then playing politics with it and finally throwing in the towel, Anna Hazare and his group have closed the space and made it that much more difficult for the various anti-corruption, accountability and transparency movements all over India. In that “Team Anna” has, albeit indirectly, given a free pass to corruption and abuse of power.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/throwing-towel.html

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Learning from Maruti – Editorial (Aug 11, 2012, Economic& Political Weekly)

The killing of a Maruti Suzuki manager in the violence at its factory in Manesar, Haryana last month is a tragic denouement of a long-standing industrial dispute at the plant. As has been written and reported extensively, including in the columns of EPW, the workers at Maruti’s Manesar plant have been agitating for long to get their union recognised, the contract workers regularised and the wages increased. Till the violence in July, all the strikes and agitations by the workers were peaceful and the only violence was that by the police and the factory’s security who often beat up and corralled workers who were protesting. Unfortunately, for over a year, the management of Maruti Suzuki has done everything in its power to deny the workers their demands. In this they have received fulsome support from the Government of Haryana whose police personnel have worked as the private goons of the management to terrorise and beat up the workers, and whose labour department has worked to hide and support every infringement of labour rights. With the workers denied every possibility of peaceful and honourable redress, their union not recognised and their leaders broken and bribed, it was only a matter of time before the pent-up anger and frustration exploded. It is unfortunate that this led to the loss of a life.

Much has been written in the mainstream press and the alternate media about the conditions of work at Maruti’s Manesar plant and what led to the violence. Some of it bears repetition. First, the workers’ nominal wages have risen by a mere 5% over the past five years while the consumer price index has gone up by 50%. Other data shows that over the past decade, Maruti Suzuki’s profits have increased 22 times and the salaries of its managers have also increased manifold. In fact, the India operations of Suzuki have been the only real bright spot in a sea of red ink on Suzuki’s global accounts. In this context, the continued exploitation of the workers, both by increasing the amount of cars produced in the same unit of time as well as by increasing the casualisation of the workforce (two-thirds of the workforce is now contract labour) indicates that Maruti is sure making its cars on the cheap!

However, the events at Maruti over the past year, especially the violence in July, point to some other issues which need comment. The first is the changing face of media and communication. While the mainstream media has broadly given out the management version of a murderous mad mob of workers attacking peaceful management officials, it has also given a surprising amount of space to accounts which are sympathetic to the workers and expose Maruti’s abysmal treatment of its workforce. This is fairly unprecedented. It is not only daily newspapers like the Times of India, Hindu, Indian Express and DNA which have carried reports and analysis from the workers’ perspective. Even the financial press, long considered the voice of the corporate world, has given space to strong critiques of the Maruti management. In fact, last year during the peak of the strike a group of institutional investors in Maruti stock had organised a video conference with the striking workers to “understand” their point of view. There is a shift in the way the media and sections among those considered pro-capital have viewed and portrayed the industrial dispute at Maruti. While this should not be over-stated, it would also be unwise to ignore it.

Perhaps this space which has opened up is partially the result of a growing realisation among a section of the managerial and capitalist class that extant working conditions – forms of exploitation and oppression which are as old as modern industry in this country – are perhaps not sustainable and that there is a limit to increasing productivity only by raising the rate of -exploitation of labour power. Perhaps it is partly due to the diffusion of media in its social and mobile forms, partly a function of increased literacy and education, and thus awareness, of the worker, or a bit of conscience among the opinion-makers. Whatever the origin or basis of this political space – albeit small and contested – which has emerged to talk about labour rights and management wrongs, it needs to be grasped with both hands.

Unfortunately, the organised movement of the working class is in a shambles. The trade unions are in no way able to seize this moment and push it. This is the time to come up with an alternative labour law. Indian capital has bemoaned the “rigidity” of labour laws and called for “reforms”. Given the actual conditions in which capital treats labour, with 16-hour and even 20-hour shifts in this very belt of Gurgaon-Manesar, reforms according to capital mean only a removal of whatever little restraint that exists on exploitation. The present labour law has not protected workers; it has only provided a legal maze that employers can exploit. A new labour law is needed which lays down clear rights of the workers and duties of the management, while providing the flexibility for labour processes that are required in modern manufacturing. The old trade unions seem unable to take the initiative. New unions and organisations are springing up from among the workers. They need political and legal cover to grow and mature. If that remains unavailable, if working conditions are not improved, and if the government continues to behave as if it is on the payroll of exploitative industrialists, it will only lead to greater industrial unrest and even violence.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/learning-maruti.html

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