IAMC Weekly News Roundup – August 4th, 2014

In this issue of IAMC News Roundu

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

A unique communal harmony in Kochi (Jul 30, 2014, The Hindu)

Sociologist Ashis Nandy arrived in Kochi a few years ago to undertake a study on Kochi’s unique identity. During his enquiries, he found that the city had seen hardly any instances of communal violence, unlike many other cities in India. After studying the people here, he found that communal harmony here was based not on any principal of secularism, but on mutual dislike between communities. “Every community thinks that they are the best and have negative comments about the other community. They also know that the other community also thinks the same about themselves. But people are accustomed to living with differences,” said Prof. Nandy, in conversation with writer N.S. Madhavan. The two prominent figures were in conversation in Kochi on Tuesday evening in a talk titled -Another Cosmopolitanism’ part of the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s – Let’s Talk’ series. The duo spoke about the idea of cities and villages and Kochi’s pluralism. Kochi’s religious harmony was “not based on the goody-goody concept of brotherly feeling,” Nandy observed. Having returned to Kochi a few times in recent years since his first visit here, however, he feels that the Kochi he saw may be changing. “Kochi has sustained its nature. It is outside the mainstream and politicians haven’t intervened much with the communities, though that is changing. But people somehow sense that Kochi is incomplete without its communities,” he said. N.S. Madhavan, author of acclaimed short stories, said Kochi had seen a few major instances of violence, such as the battle between the Portuguese and the Dutch in the 17 century, clashes between Muslims and Christians in coastal areas of Kochi and Vypeen, and violence against the Sikh community in 1984. “A different kind of violence has been used upon the last of the major migrant groups to come to Kochi and Kerala – the Bengali, Bihari, Assamese and other migrant labourers,” Mr. Madhavan said. He said the people of Kochi had condemned them to “death by ignorance.” He said the migrants could be seen in the city every Sunday when they came from Perumbavoor and other regions to relax here. “They go to the boat jetty, take a boat, go to the park, and go back, all this without talking to the local people. We have shut them out, though we can’t do without them. It is a silent apartheid,” he said. http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/a-unique-communal-harmony-in-kochi/article6263278.ece [Back to Top]

SC judge draws sharp criticism for saying Gita should be taught since class 1, BJP backs him (Aug 2, 2014, IBN)

Supreme Court judge Justice AR Dave on Saturday drew the ire of politicians across the nation after making a controversial statement that Indians should revert to their ancient traditions, and texts such as Mahabharata and Bhagwad Gita should be introduced to children at an early age. Reacting strongly to Dave’s statement, NCP leader Majid Memon said,” I cannot understand how a learned Supreme Court judge can talk like this, or for that matter any other powerful politician say something so derogatory. Dave’s remarks contradict the constitution of our country. Speaking at an international conference earlier on Saturday, organised by Gujarat Law Society, Dave said,”Somebody who is very secular… so called secular will not agree… Had I been the dictator of India, I would have introduced Gita and Mahabharata in class one. That is the way you learn how to live life. I am sorry If somebody says I am secular or I am not secular. But if there is something good, we have to get it from anywhere.” Dave’s statement was also criticised by senior Congress leader Rashid Alvi. “If a judge desires to be a dictator then I must say that this dream itself is weird. Class 1 students don’t even know how to read properly, such statements are baseless”, Alvi said. However, BJP leader Nalin Kohli welcomed Dave’s statements, emphasizing that one should not look at it through the prism of religion. “There is nothing wrong with Mahabharata, Geeta, Ramayana. We should learn from them, and not view his statement as something against secularism.” http://ibnlive.in.com/news/sc-judge-draws-sharp-criticism-for-saying-gita-should-be-taught-since-class-1-bjp-backs-him/489928-37.html SEE ALSO:

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Saffronisation of textbooks is a cause for concern: panel (Jul 30, 2014, The Hindu)

The Committee for Resisting Saffronisation of Textbooks (CRST) has expressed concern about the ‘right wing ideology’ being circulated in textbooks prepared by the present “secular” government. Issuing a statement on behalf of the 14-member committee, convener Suresh Bhat Bakrabail said that this was “causing immeasurable damage to secular spirit in education”. Mr. Bakrabail released a copy of the committee’s report on the textbooks for classes 7 and 10 which states that the instances of saffronisation violated the National Curriculum Framework 2005 and reflected the government’s reluctance to bring macro changes in textbooks. According to the report, the chapter on folk history in the Social Science textbook for class 10 this year blames the westerners for following the linear model of time while highlighting the Indian traditional method of Kalachakra. The report quotes from the textbook: “History is narrated as tretayuga, dwaparayuga etc. In such circumstances, many new incidents, events or avatars may merge.” The report explains that the non-Vedic concept of time has been ignored. The report says that the History and Civics textbook for class 7 mentions ‘crusades’, ‘immoral behaviour of Catholic Church’, ‘invasions of Muslims’ repeatedly, the purpose of which could be none other than to permeate negative stereotypes. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-karnataka/saffronisation-of-textbooks-is-a-cause-for-concern-panel/article6261946.ece SEE ALSO:

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RSS criticizes minority status to Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists (Aug 3, 2014, Times of India)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has strongly criticized categorization of Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as minority communities and termed it a conspiracy to divide Hindu society. On the third day of its think-tank meeting at Thengadi Bhavan here, RSS debated philosophy of Hindutva during which orators pointed out that Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists cannot be considered minority communities because they are part of the Hindu society. About 25 organisational ‘pracharaks’ made presentations on Saturday after which RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) international working president Praveen Togadia addressed the gathering of 190 saffron thinkers. Addressing the gathering Bhagwat said RSS does not consider Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists as different from Hindus. He argued Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life and concept of Hindu ‘rashtra’ (nation) and nationality comes from our ancient culture and tradition. … http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/39528702.cms SEE ALSO:

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Sohrabuddin kin asks for Amit Shah’s narco test (Aug 2, 2014, Indian Express)

Slain gangster Sohrabuddin Sheikh’s brother moved the special CBI court on Friday asking it to issue directions to conduct narco-analysis tests on BJP president Amit Shah and 37 others accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati encounter cases. The court is likely to hear the application on August 14. In the application moved before special CBI Judge B H Loya, Sheikh’s brother Rubabuddin said, “CBI has not decided on the mastermind and the role of each accused”. Shah did not appear in the court and moved an exemption application which was opposed by CBI. However, the court allowed the exemption application. Shah said as the president of a national party, he was busy in meetings with various leaders from different states as Assembly elections are scheduled later in the year.… http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/sohrabuddins-brother-seeks-narco-test-on-amit-shah/ SEE ALSO:

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Over 600 ‘communal incidents’ in UP since LS results, 60% near bypoll seats (Aug 5, 2014, Indian Express)

A third of all “communal” incidents recorded by police in Uttar Pradesh in the 10 weeks following the Lok Sabha election results have occurred in – or on the fringes of – 12 assembly constituencies that are scheduled to go to polls over the next few months. If a larger circle is imagined – covering broadly the region around these constituencies – this proportion rises to two-thirds, police records scrutinised by The Indian Express show. The records show a running strand of attempts made by an aggressive BJP, a desperate SP, and a flagging BSP to turn every clash involving individuals from the two largest religious communities into a communal issue. There is also clear evidence of provocation in areas where Dalits and Muslims live together, leading to communal polarisation. Between May 16 – when UP delivered a spectacular tally to the BJP in the Lok Sabha – and July 25, 605 low-key clashes took place which police identified as “communal” in nature. Nearly 200 of these occurred in or around the 12 constituencies, and another 200 in the broader region.… http://indianexpress.com/article/india/uttar-pradesh/express-investigation-part-i-over-600-communal-incidents-in-up-since-ls-results-60-near-bypoll-seats/ SEE ALSO:

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Objectionable Facebook post sparks communal tension in Khandwa, One killed (Jul 31, 2014, Times of India)

Objectionable posts on a fake Facebook profile of ruling BJP leader and Khandwa municipal corporation chairman Amar Yadav triggered communal tension in Khandwa town on Wednesday. One person was killed in the violence while at least four others, including a policeman were critically injured. News about objectionable posts spread like wildfire in the town at around 7pm and as people poured out on streets in Imlipura and Kaharwadi traders downed their shutters. Residents visited the social networking page and posted inflammatory comments that further vitiated the atmosphere, said district administration sources. Unconfirmed reports said Hatampura and Khanshwali localities were tense and four persons were injured in the violence. Superintendent of police Khandwa Manoj Sharma confirmed one death. A case of murder has been registered against unidentified persons at Moghat police station, police sources said. Acting in the matter, Khandwa district administration clamped prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPc and heavy police force has been deployed in the town, Khandwa police sources said. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/39328938.cms SEE ALSO:

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SIMI ban stays, judge for review of weak cases (Jul 31, 2014, Indian Express)

The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Tribunal led by Delhi High Court Judge Suresh Kait on Wednesday upheld the Centre’s ban on the Student Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for five years. Citing a recent speech by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the tribunal, however, suggested that the government may consider constitution of a special tribunal to look into cases where “mere suspicion is the basis for registration of a case and expedite (cases) to ensure only the guilty are punished and the innocent persons are released”. The tribunal, constituted on February 27 to adjudicate on the Centre’s ban on SIMI – the seventh since September 2001, started its hearings on March 4. Its members travelled across the country, before concluding the hearings on July 27. Confirming the Centre’s ban on SIMI, the tribunal said there is sufficient material to show that SIMI is active and its members are indulging in unlawful activities. It upheld the central government’s right to claim privilege and rely on secret material that was only made available to the tribunal. The party contesting the SIMI ban was not granted access to this material. … For the first time since the Centre banned SIMI in 2001, the tribunal upheld the locus of erstwhile members of SIMI to challenge the ban. The Centre’s position has been that only the members or office bearers of SIMI are eligible to challenge the ban, not erstwhile members. This led to a situation where the two erstwhile SIMI members challenging the ban were asked to say that the SIMI was still in existence and they were active members. Making several suggestions to the government, the tribunal cited a hearing in Bhopal, where Akhtar Sayeed Siddiqui, a 79-year-old retired businessman, told them that while the people who are guilty should be punished, those who are innocent should not be implicated in false cases and kept in custody for long. Siddiqui deposed as a member of the public, and has no links with the SIMI. … http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/simi-ban-stays-judge-for-review-of-weak-cases/ SEE ALSO:

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Naxals blow up house of CRPF man (Aug 1, 2014, Indian Express)

Maoists blew up the house of a CRPF jawan on Wednesday night at Kutumba in Aurangabad, in ‘response’ to the July 19 Madanpur police firing that had killed two persons. Police said more than 100 rebels, over two dozens of them armed, surrounded the house of CPRF jawan Vinod Singh who was a part of Combat Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) team of CRPF at Gaya camp in Kutumba. The rebels asked all the jawan’s family to vacate the house before they looted it, blew it up with a bomb and torched it. No one was hurt. The Maoists left posters that said the attack was in retaliation against the Madanpur firing. They also threatened that such attacks “could be repeated if police did not stop anti-Naxal operations”. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/naxals-blow-up-house-of-crpf-man/ SEE ALSO:

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Drag woman by hair, rape: RSS member’s advice on teaching Hinduism (Jul 31, 2014, First Post)

V R Bhat, who is a prominent member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Karnataka is now facing a police complaint after he threatened a woman activist with rape on Facebook. A Deccan Chronicle report says that Bhat posted on Facebook threatening Prabha N. Belamangala, a social activist who is secretary of NGO Janavignana Samiti, with rape. Bhat apparently wrote in his reports that “activists (like Prabha) should be dragged by their hair and sexually assaulted to correct their approach towards Hinduism,” adds the report. A NewsMinute report quotes from Bhat’s post which read, “Poor things, what do they know, they think what they know is truth, (but) things will be all right if women like you are dragged by their hair and raped by rapists.” So what was the reason for issuing the rape threat. According to report, it was in response to a comment that Prabha had written saying that, “a great deal of contributions are made by the lower strata of people towards development of a nation, but the upper strata of certain religious sects take the credit.” As this piece by Subhashini Ali on NDTV points out Bhat not only criticised “Prabha not only for her lack of understanding of Sanathana Dharma” but added “she is one of those who reads books by the famous Kannada Dalit writer, Devanur Mahadeva, and is, therefore, assured of the unqualified support of other readers like herself.”… http://www.firstpost.com/india/drag-woman-by-hair-rape-rss-members-advice-on-teaching-hinduism-1643011.html SEE ALSO:

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Dalit woman stopped from hoisting flag, MP govt served notice (Jul 31, 2014, Hindustan Times ()

The National Human Rights Commission has sent notices to Madhya Pradesh divisional commissioner, Chambal and district magistrate, Morena regarding a Dalit woman sarpanch, who is being denied her right to hoist the national flag. The commission has issued notices to them calling for factual reports within two weeks. HT had reported on June 28 that Madhya Pradesh Human Rights Commission had also taken cognizance of the incident. According to the report, for the past four years, a dalit woman sarpanch has not been allowed to hoist the national flag on Independence Day and Republic Day at her village Puravas Kalan in Morena district. Instead, a former sarpanch, who belonged to an upper caste, hoists the flag. The woman’s husband lodged a complaint before the commissioner of Chambal division. She also staged a dharna in Bhopal alleging that administration was supporting the upper caste lobby. http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1246670.aspx SEE ALSO:

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Opinions and Editorials

Ambient intolerance goes up in the Modi era – By Bharat Bhushan (Jul 29, 2014, Business Standard)

Something has changed in our society after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. Today, speaking carelessly about other religious communities has become acceptable. A new “normal” is being defined about how India talks to herself and the world. Election campaigns tend to accentuate political differences to appeal to voters and draw them away from others. Modi’s campaign also gained from polarising voters. After a handsome victory, however, as prime minister, he has failed to heal the polity. If he lets the situation drift, differences could grow into deep social divisions. The tendency towards this is evident from several disturbing developments – of which Modi is a silent spectator. The testosterone-charged grey eminences of Hindutva, such as Ashok Singhal and Praveen Togadia, are openly threatening the Muslims. Singhal claimed that Modi’s victory was a blow to Muslim politics because it showed elections could be won without Muslim support. He saw Modi as the “ideal” RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) volunteer who would implement the Hindutva agenda. Modi’s invitation to Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for his inauguration was explained as the necessity of resorting “to deceit at times”. Togadia went much further in threatening the Muslims. He claimed that they may have forgotten the Gujarat riots of 2002, but they should remember the Muzaffarnagar riots of 2013. Referring to the mythical Ramayana tale he warned, “If you set Hanuman’s tail on fire, Lanka will burn.” He did not receive even a rap on the knuckles. Even legislators openly speak of a Hindufication agenda, with one from Goa claiming that under Modi India will become a “Hindu nation”, and another countering that it already was one. As if this were not enough, obscurantists like Dinanath Batra are crawling out of the woodwork. Now that his claptrap has made it to the reading lists in schools in Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat, he wants the school curricula for the entire country changed. The RSS has been emboldened to set up an education commission of its own – the Bharatiya Shiksha Niti Ayog or Indian Education Policy Commission – to suggest changes to make the curricula more “Indian”.… http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/bharat-bhushan-ambient-intolerance-goes-up-114072901247_1.html SEE ALSO:

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Test-Tubes In Hastinapur – By Anuradha Raman (Aug 11, 2014, Outlook)

The first test tube baby was born in India, 7,600 years ago, and he was called Dronacharya. Ancient sages divined a long time back the leaps in technology we see today, such as stem cell research. Perplexed? This is part of school curricula in India; the first a gem from a Class IX science textbook; the second from Dinanath Batra’s Tejomay Bharat, now supplementary reading in Gujarat. A Hindi textbook for Class VIII students in Karnataka twists a Kannada folktale to have a tiger sermonise beatifically on how eating beef is sinful. Last year, primary schoolchildren in Punjab were told shehar diyaan kudiyaan (city girls) were husn phuljharian (sparklers). Elsewhere, another girl’s arrival in college was hailed as ‘college wich aaya patola’ (a gorgeous girl has come to college). The books, which were meant for primary class students, were withdrawn after educationists directed that the highly sexist and inappropriate content be deleted. But not before causing a major embarrassment to the state government which had set up a panel of five government officials to frame the primary textbook curriculum. The Punjab education department had then supplied these books to several government-run primary schools. Some books even had a chapter on jeeja-saali (brother-in-law and sister-in-law), defying explanation why primary schoolchildren needed acquaintance with that relationship. “Education is not on any government’s agenda,” says Anoop Singh Virk, an educationist from Punjab. “In my state, 75 per cent teaching posts are lying vacant, showing the importance attached to education. As for teaching Ramayana and Mahabharata, these are mythologies and should be introduced to children as such, not as scientific tools of education.” The battle is not Punjab’s alone. When Vasundhararaje was CM last time, Viswakarma was introduced in Rajasthan school textbooks as town planner, engineer, and the country’s first trade union leader! The books were withdrawn following pressure from academics.… http://www.outlookindia.com/article/TestTubes-In-Hastinapur/291554 SEE ALSO:

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A saffron surge in Anandiben’s Gujarat – By R.K.Misra (Aug 4, 2014, Free Press Journal)

It takes a wise man to handle a lie while truth is best left to fools. Or so it seems, if current events in Gujarat are anything to go by. The induction in 42,000 primary and secondary government schools of a set of eight books as supplementary but compulsory reading is a case in point. The books authored by Dinanath Batra, the national executive committee member of the RSS education wing, Vidya Bharti, have been translated into Gujarati by the Gujarat state School Text Book Board. They even carry congratulatory messages from the present prime minister. The idea is to replace the distorted western thought with Hindu ideology, it is pointed out. However, the reverse seems to have happened. So you have Japan attacking America with an atomic device during the Second World War and the birth of 100 Kauravas in Mahabharata being attributed to ancient Indian advances in modern stem cell technology. Batra first hit headlines when he got Wendy Doniger’s book on Hinduism pulped. But all these instances are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg because there are larger issues at stake. Ruled by the BJP for over a decade and a half, why is the state suddenly witnessing a spurt in visible saffronisation in the two months that Anandiben Patel has held fort as the chief minister of Gujarat? Though it was Narendra Modi who earned the sobriquet of ‘Hindu Hriday samrat’ in the aftermath of the 2002 communal riots, his landslide victory in the Vidhan Sabha elections the same year saw him gradually changing gears to a developmental profile. In the matter of saffronisation, it seemed as if he had decided that silence is more manageable than sound. As the persona of Modi bloomed on the political stage eclipsing even the party, saffron and its Hindu view of life took a backseat. National center stage considerations only added to its isolation. The new chief minister seems to be making amends with a vengeance. A strict dress code for teachers complete with a colour code is on the anvil. No jeans or T-shirts, sarees or, at best, salwar-kameez.… http://freepressjournal.in/a-saffron-surge-in-anandibens-gujarat/ SEE ALSO:

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The Nuke Spooks – By Ushinor Majumdar (Aug 9, 2014, Tehelka)

The ‘leaked’ Intelligence Bureau (IB) report on how and in what measure activism in India is impacting the country’s economic security has by now been trashed more or less across the board by activists, liberals and the media. There are as many ‘analyses’ doing the rounds about the motive behind the writing of the report (why, when, by who) as there are about its ‘leak’. Some – the very adventurous, or the merely conspiratorial – talk of a larger game than is obvious. Others are picking it apart for the very real factual holes in it, the sort of thing unexpected of an intelligence agency that thinks of itself as premier. Much of the information in the report is there online for the taking by a diligent data journalist. Firstly, it is not a report but an ‘Intelligence review’. For the greater part, the review seems a mountainous aggregate of unsorted financial statistics, patched together with the usual establishmentarian grouses against troublesome organisations whose mandate exists outside that of the government. There are various conjectures – even believable theories – about when this review was ordered, if at all, and when it was written. Clearly, its provenance is older than this shiny, new government – it is said to have been kicked off when P Chidambaram was the home minister – but there are inerasable indicators in the text that its bits and pieces, of uneven quality, were stapled together and presented as a unitary whole after this government was sworn in.… http://www.tehelka.com/koodankulam-anti-nuclear-spooks-ib-report-sp-udaykumar/ SEE ALSO:

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Strengthen Actions on Kandhamal Day on August 25, 2014 – By Dhirendra Panda (Jul 25, 2014, Countercurrents)

National Solidarity Forum is a coalition of various organizations, artists, film makers, writers, academicians, legal activists and human rights activists, which has undertaken various actions on the issue of delayed and undelivered justice to the victims and survivors of communal violence in Kandhamal in Odisha in India. We have appealed to the civil society in India and abroad to observe Kandhamal Day on August 25, 2014, when Adivasi and Dalit Christian survivors of 2007 and 2008 violence are still waiting for justice and perpetrators violence are roaming free. The violence on the minorities spread to many other parts of India apart from Kandhamal also. It is becoming more and more obvious that the violence was entirely a pre-planned activity rather than just a spontaneous action on the basis of religious identity. The questions before us are many on the question of women’s rights, child rights, religious rights, Adivasi rights, Dalit rights and human rights in general. The questions are also being raised on the role of police machinery, legal system, governance, media and how such a genocide attempt can take place questioning the very foundations of Indian democracy. It is not that several people were killed and many churches were demolished, women were raped, religious minorities were forcefully converted, houses were burnt, institutions of education, health and even orphanages were destroyed by Sangh Parivar – a non-state actor, but it is painful and frustrating that the Government almost facilitated these forces for such violence. Another important question is how the majority of civil society stood watching it and whether the civil society has a role in shaping Indian Democracy.… http://www.countercurrents.org/panda230714.htm SEE ALSO:

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Sex Ratio, Khaps and Marriage Reform – By Ravinder Kaur (Aug 2, 2014, EPW)

The recent move by the Satrol khap of Haryana to relax restrictive marriage norms and induct women into khaps appears like a revolutionary move for these hidebound and regressive bodies. The head of the khap, Inder Singh Mor, has stated that members can now marry among its 42 bhaichara (brotherhood) villages, decreasing somewhat the difficulties of finding brides in this state that suffers from a skewed sex ratio and bride shortage. Even more impressively, the khap has decided to allow inter-caste marriage, a relaxation that strikes at the very heart of caste endogamy, the marriage norm primarily responsible for reproducing and maintaining caste boundaries. Perhaps an even more revolutionary step has been the creation of a woman’s wing of the khap; traditionally khaps have been all-male institutions dominated by older males that enforce social control over their communities in keeping with rigid patriarchal, kinship, age and gender norms. Sudesh Chaudhry has been appointed the head of this wing and it seems has been especially tasked with ensuring the smooth transition to intra-bhaichara village marriages. Breaking another tradition, Mor is also urging youth to become members of khaps and voice their opinions on matters of concern. Are these steps intended to shore up an increasingly challenged institution or are they simply responses forced due to a difficult demographic situation and a rapidly transforming economy? With Haryana’s current sex ratio standing at 877 women for 1,000 men and an even more abysmal child sex ratio of 830 girls, the number of bachelors has been piling up over the decades, driving many to look for brides in other states. According to the 2001 Census, 10%-15% males in the age group of 25-49 remain unmarried. The census data on marriage in Haryana shows that the crowding of bachelors happens between the ages of 20 and 29. According to the local media, around 50 men in each of Haryana’s 7,000 villages have no prospects of finding a bride locally. Some villages are known to have upwards of 200 bachelors looking for brides. In a society which practises “universal” marriage and where for many marriage is perhaps the only means of achieving social adulthood, the tensions caused by lack of marriageable girls are enormous.… http://www.epw.in/commentary/sex-ratio-khaps-and-marriage-reform.html SEE ALSO:

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