In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- Modi is ‘dramatis personae’ of Gujarat ‘carnage’ 2002: Sanjiv Bhatt
- CBI questions Chudasama, Patel in Prajapati encounter case
- Father of alleged IM operative sues N Ram, Praveen Swami
- Sangh Parivar playing pressure tactics to freeze terror cases: PFI
- Pass anti-communal violence Bill: minorities
- Slice of OBC quota not enough: Muslim leaders
- Anna an RSS agent, Army deserter: Congress
- Waqf lands in AP being encroached upon: Congress MP
- Darul Uloom Deoband urges Hindus, Muslims to unite on Gita
- Babus, ‘senior Congress leader’ involved in Bhanwari Devi sex scandal, says Congress MLA
Opinions & Editorials
- The Nanavati Commission – Fairness under cloud – By Sayema Sahar
- Ideological Convergences: Hindutva and the Norway Massacre – By Meera Nanda
- Tribal victims – By S. Dorairaj
- Media Matters: A lot of virtual noise – By Sevanti Ninan
- Who should get the Bharat Ratna? – By Markandey Katju
- National Interest: The caste of corruption – By Shekhar Gupta
Modi is ‘dramatis personae’ of Gujarat ‘carnage’ 2002: Sanjiv Bhatt (Dec 23, 2011, Indian Express)
Alleging that Chief Minister Narendra Modi was “dramatis personae of the Gujarat carnage of 2002”, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt today again sought access to certain records of post-Godhra riot period.
In a letter to the Nanavati commission that is probing the riots, Bhatt has sought directions to the DGP, ADGP state intelligence bureau and the chairman of Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing some of the cases that he be provided with access to certain records of post-Godhra riot period and the statements made by him before SIT.
“My genuine request has naturally been opposed and will continue to be vehemently opposed by the state government that is headed by a Chief Minister who himself happens to be one of the most leading and most culpable ‘dramatise personae’ of the Gujarat carnage of 2002,” Bhatt alleges in the letter.
“…and (of) the subsequent on-going cover-up operations aimed at shielding the persons accused of heinous crimes,” letter says. He says the documents are needed for filing a comprehensive affidavit and bringing relevant documentary evidence on the commission’s record. Bhatt alleges that some of the most important documents which could make clear the roles of Modi and others have not been brought before the Commission.
- Gulburg riot victims seek stay on trial, move Gujarat HC (Dec 22, 2011, IBN)
- Nanavati panel gets 17th extension, 3 more months (Dec 21, 2011, Indian Express)
- Deadline set for 2002 riot report (Dec 23, 2011, The Telegraph)
- Gujarat riots panel final report by March (Dec 23, 2011, DNA India)
CBI questions Chudasama, Patel in Prajapati encounter case (Dec 24, 2011, IBN)
Aides of former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, – Yashpal Chudasama and Ajay Patel – were today questioned by CBI in connection with Tulsi Prajapati encounter case, officials sources said. Chudasama and Patel were questioned for about four hours today in connection with the Tulsi Prajapati case, CBI officials said.
Prajapati, a close aide of alleged gangster Sohrabuddin, was killed in an encounter near Chapri village of Ambaji in Banaskantha district on December 28, 2006. The Supreme Court had handed over the investigation of the Prajapati case to CBI. CBI has shown Chudasama and Patel, along with Shah, as accused in the charge sheet they filed in the Soharabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. They have been accused of trying to influence witness and derail CBI probe in the Sheikh encounter case.
However, CBI could not arrest them as they obtained anticipatory bail from the Gujarat high court. The CBI has challenged their anticipatory bail in the Supreme Court and the case is going on. CBI sources said, as both the encounters – Sheikh and Prajapati – are linked, they had called both the aides of Shah for questioning. Shah was arrested by CBI in the Sheikh encounter case but he is now out on bail. CBI’s appeal against bail given to him in Gujarat high court is pending with the Supreme Court.
- Staff crunch in CBI may derail probe in encounter cases (Dec 25, 2011, Times of India)
- CBI, forensic teams replay Sadiq Jamal encounter (Dec 22, 2011, Indian Express)
- Ishrat case: Family wants conspirators unmasked (Dec 20, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Can’t provide copy of FIR, CBI tells Ishrat’s mother (Dec 20, 2011, Times of India)
Father of alleged IM operative sues N Ram, Praveen Swami (Dec 19, 2011, Tehelka)
The father of alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operative Yasin Bhatkal has sued The Hindu newspaper’s Editor-in-chief N Ram and reporter Praveen Swami for defamation to the tune of Rs 5 crore. Muhammed Zarar Sidibapa, resident of Bhatkal, Karnataka, has sent a legal notice to The Hindu demanding an unconditional apology for a front-page story published on 1 December. According to the article, titled “Breakthrough in 2010 attacks raises fears of renewed jihadist campaign”, Sidibapa is an IM commander who had masterminded a series of bomb blasts in several cities since 2005 and was absconding. However, Sidibapa claims that he has been managing his business in Dubai since the last three decades.
In the notice sent to The Hindu, a copy of which is with Tehelka, Sidibapa has asked for damages of Rs 5 crore for the “mental agony caused to him by the newspaper’s deliberate and defamatory reporting”, which declared him an absconding terrorist. Sidibapa is also planning to file a separate case for criminal defamation. According to the Hindu report, Sidibapa, the father of Muhammed Ahmed Sidibapa, who police and intelligence agencies claim is a terror operative using the name Yasin Bhatkal, was “responsible for a string of bombings in several cities that began in 2005”. Swami also reported that Pakistani national Muhammad Adil, an alleged Jaish-e-Muhammad operative arrested by the Delhi Police Special Cell, was dispatched to India by “Indian Mujahideen commanders in Karachi to aid Sidibappa’s cell”. This part of the report has particularly enraged Bhatkal’s father, who says that Sidibapa is his family name. He has alleged that the report was a deliberate attempt to malign his family’s reputation.
When contacted by Tehelka, Sidibapa said, “I have been doing business in Dubai for the past 30 years. The article maliciously states that I was the overall-in-charge of the network, which later became the Indian Mujahideen. I would like to clarify that since there are numerous reports being churned out by the media, neither my sons nor I are involved in any terror network”. According to the police and intelligence agencies, Muhammed Ahmed Sidibapa joined the IM and assumed the name of Yasin Bhatkal, and has been the key conspirator in several major blasts in India. “There is no one in our family by the name of Yasin,” says Sidibapa, who said that his son had gone missing from Dubai seven years ago. “We have been searching for him for the past seven years. The Dubai police say that he has left the country.”
When contacted, Ram said, “I have no information on it.” While Swami, who is also the Hindu group’s Deputy Editor and a security expert said, “I have no idea since I haven’t received the notice.” S Thyagarajan, Associate Editor, The Hindu, Chennai, however, acknowledged receipt of the notice adding that the group’s lawyers were preparing for a reply. Akmal Rizvi of Prime Law Associates, advocate of Sidibapa, had earlier told Tehelka that the notice was dispatched to the Hindu office. On page 14 of the same issue, the report “Delhi arrests cast light on jihadists’ ‘Karachi Project’ says that Sidibapa, who had a bomb-making factory on the fringes of the Bhadra forests near Chickmagalur, Karnataka, escaped to Bangladesh, where he stayed in a Lashkar-e-Toiba safe house.
The report further said that Sidibapa was back in India and was the commander of the jihadist cell responsible for most of the major terror attacks since 26/11. The article further stated that Sidibapa, after studying at the well-respected Anjuman Hami-e-Muslimeen School (Bhatkal) left for Pune as a teenager. He had contacts with Unani medicine practitioner-turned-Islamist proselytiser Iqbal Ismail Shahbandri and his brother Riyaz Ismail Shahbandri, the paper reported. The story further said that Riyaz is now the IM’s top military commander in Karachi. In his legal notice, however, Sidibapa claims that he studied up to standard three and never went to Pune as a teenager. He also denies of having any links with the Shahbandri brothers.
- They want to sue Praveen Swami, but fear harassment from agencies (Dec 21, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Delhi HC blast accused alleges torture (Dec 20, 2011, Indian Express)
- Accused in Advani bomb plot case seeks CBI probe (Dec 24, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- NHRC orders CBI probe into journalist’s complaint (Dec 23, 2011, The Hindu)
Sangh Parivar playing pressure tactics to freeze terror cases: PFI (Dec 21, 2011, Twocircles.net)
The Popular Front of India, (PFI), Chairman Mr. E. M. Abdul Rahiman in a statement issued on Wednesday has pointed out that the real motive of BJP behind targeting Union Home Minister Mr. P. Chidambaram is to freeze the ongoing investigations about the terrorist bomb blasts in which Sangh Parivar outfits and their leaders have been found involved.
The statement observed that the recent slowdown of the investigation procedure that has earlier pin-pointed the role of RSS National Executive Committee member Mr. Indresh Kumar in terrorist blasts and the RSS involvement in the murder of Sunil Joshi, was proof that Sangh Parivar pressure tactics were producing desired results.
The NIA and other investigation agencies have exposed the role of RSS central leadership in the recent incidents of terror such has Malegaon, Makkah Masjid, Ajmer and Samjautha Express. It is shocking that they have constituted a core group to carry out blasts across the country and entrusted the task of executing the same to its National Committee member Mr. Indresh Kumar. But surprisingly the investigating agencies have not yet arrested him. Due to the pressure being mounted upon the investigation agencies a further breakthrough in all the 16 terror cases, in which Hindutva outfits and leaders were put under scanner, remains a distant possibility the statement said.
The BJP and their allies are irked by the fact that most of these exposures came after Mr. Chidambaram took over the charge as Union Home Minister. He was courageous enough to call a spade a spade and to identify the Hindutva forces behind the serial blasts. Hence, they could not leave the present Home Minister unless and until he at least relinquishes the present portfolio.
Mr. Abdul Rahiman requested the secular party leaders in the opposition to keep a strong vigil on the communal agenda of the RSS and BJP, even while expressing their no compromise to corruption and nepotism, the statement added.
- NIA’s Headley chargesheet leaves Mumbai crime branch red-faced (Dec 26, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Youths acquitted of Jaipur blast charge narrate jail horror (Dec 25, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Malegaon accused bitten by RTI bug (Dec 26, 2011, Times of India)
- Hindu Mahasabha to field Malegaon case accused in UP polls (Dec 23, 2011, IBN)
Pass anti-communal violence Bill: minorities (Dec 25, 2011, The Hindu)
Members of minority communities held protests here on Saturday, urging the Union Government to table the anti-communal violence Bill in the House in the next session of Parliament.
Senior Congress leader A.M. Hindasgeri, who led the protesters, said that India was committed to protecting and promoting the ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of its citizens, including minorities.
Minorities had contributed to the growth of the nation. However, they were living in an atmosphere of fear and insecurity, and laws were necessary to ensure their protection, he claimed.
He called for a “strong law” such as the anti-communal violence Bill to be passed to prevent “targeted violence” against minorities and punish those who disturbed the peace and communal harmony.
- Minorities demand introduction of communal violence bill (Dec 26, 2011, Times of India)
- Delegation meets Sibal; seeks action against communal content (Dec 22, 2011, Indian Express)
- Court orders summons to websites for webcasting objectionable content (Dec 24, 2011, The Hindu)
- Stage is set for a more modest national centre for counter-terrorism (Dec 22, 2011, Indian Express)
Slice of OBC quota not enough: Muslim leaders (Dec 24, 2011, Indian Express)
The decision to carve out a sub-quota of 4.5 per cent for backward minorities from the 27 per cent reservation for Other Backward Classes is “inadequate”, so feels the Muslim leadership. According to them, it is neither proportional to the population nor does it address the backwardness of the community. The Muslims fear that including them in the “minority quota” basket would result in the “more developed” minorities elbowing them out, taking away even existing opportunities. Welfare Party president Mujtaba Farooq said Muslim outfits would organise a seminar soon to chalk out future plans.
Justice Rajinder Sachar, who headed the committee that looked into the socio-economic status of Muslims in the country, feels the government should have created a “most backward category” which would have automatically brought almost 80 per cent of the Muslims under the quota. Abu Saleh Shariff, who was member secretary of the Sachar Committee, said although he “doesn’t want to oppose and give a picture that what has come is not good, what has come is not in the interest of the poor”.
Approximately 80 per cent of the Muslims are either OBCs or “Dalit-type Muslims”, he added. In line with the recommendations of the Ranganath Misra panel, Shariff said, either a 10 per cent quota should have been fixed for backward Muslims or their share in the OBC quota should have been increased and Dalit-Muslims put in the SC/ST quota. “Muslims should be classified as a most backward community. They are about 12 per cent of India’s population and should be given 10 per cent reservation. Of course, the creamy layer should apply,” he said. Shariff urged the government to go in for affirmative action including providing backward Muslims access to education system, to preferential appointment in not just government but also private sector and access to normal bank credit.
Muslim outfits, especially the Jamiat-ulama-i-Hind, the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat and the Jamaat-e-Islami-Hind, expressed dismay at the government announcement. Mushawarat chief Syed Shahabuddin said the government should have followed the Karnataka model and given a quota exclusively to all Muslims, apart from equal access of Muslim OBCs to OBC quotas. This move may lead to bad blood between Muslim and non-Muslim OBCs, he said. Jamiat leader Abdul Hameed Nomani said backward Muslims should have got 6 per cent sub-quota within the OBC quota, while Dalit Muslims should be included in the SC/ST quota.
- Muslims unexcited, Christians say no gains (Dec 24, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Amend Article 341, Implement Mishra report: Bihar Muslim leaders (Dec 24, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- TDP for separate quota for Muslims (Dec 26, 2011, IBN)
- Implement Mishra, Sachar recommendations fully: Aligarh Muslim group (Dec 24, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Anna an RSS agent, Army deserter: Congress (Dec 25, 2011, IBN)
The knives are out between the Congress Party and Team Anna, a day after the Election Commission announced dates for polls to be held in February and March in five states including Uttar Pradesh. Congress spokespersons Rashid Alvi and Digvijay Singh are calling Anna Hazare an RSS agent, after a photograph of the anti-corruption crusader with RSS’s Nanaji Deshmukh emerged in a Hindi daily. The newspaper reported that Anna had worked with the RSS under Deshmukh’s leadership in 1983. Union Minister Beni Prasad Verma also joined the tirade, calling Anna an Army deserter. Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa will be going to polls early next year. The Congress has stepped up its attack on Anna Hazare, who is planning to campaign against the party in the poll-bound states.
Anna should come clean on his links with the RSS, says Congress leader Rashid Alvi. “Which ideology does Anna follow, it is his personal decision. But there should be some honesty about it, people have the right to know what your ideology is. People must know,” Alvi said. “Anna now should give an explanation to the people, if he did have or still has some relation with the RSS. Instead of welcoming reservation for minorities in Lokpal, they said its up to the government, this also shows what his ideology is. We are answerable to the people, not Anna. The people have elected us, we are answerable to them, not anyone else,” Alvi said. RLD chief Ajit Singh has called Anna a bluff, saying the Gandhian has political agenda. “When he was leading a non-political movement, he got support from all the quarters but now when he (Anna Hazre) has entered into politics he would get to know how things work,” Singh said.
Union Minister for Steel Beni Prasad Verma has said that Anna Hazare is not a threat to the Congress. He even called him an RSS agent. “Anna Hazare is an absconding soldier since 1965 war between India and Pakistan. He campaigned against Sharad Pawar in local body elections but Sharad Pawar emerged as winner. He only creates drama games in Delhi. He has got no identity in Indian politics. Anna is RSS’s agent,” he said. “Why target only Congress? Rahul doesn’t hold a position in the government, why does Anna target him then? Why does Anna uses language like ‘Remote Control’ for Sonia and not a word against BJP leaders? Kejriwal gets 20 crore rupees every year from the US. Nai Duniya will publish another story next Sunday,” he said. Team Anna has rejected the charge and called for a gherao of MPs who oppose Lokpal bill in Parliament.
Arvind Kejriwal said, “When they don’t have anything to say they are saying these things. We will be encouraging people to sit on a peaceful dharna outside the residences of politicians from all the parties which are opposing the Lokpal bill in Parliament. If they are stopped, then they should allow themselves to be arrested.” “Why do they not pass Jan Lokpal bill, Why do they want to keep CBI in their hands? They are trying to ruin Anna’s identity by saying these things,” he added. In a tit for tat response, Team Anna member Kiran Bedi tweeted a picture of Digvijaya Singh sharing a dias with Nanaji Deshmukh questioning his RSS links.
On the election dates announced, he said, “Congress party is fully prepared to face the elections in Uttar Pradesh. Congress will emerge as winner under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi.” Team Anna Kumar Vishwas said, “It’s an insult to the Armed forces. The army praised Anna. People are watching, they will react with anger in the polls.” The BJP has also hit back at the Congress, saying it is resorting to mudslinging as it has lost the plot. “Nanaji Deshmukh was a great person. He has worked with lots of people. What’s wrong if Anna met him. Congress has lost the plot that’s why it is creating an issue,” BJP leader Prakash Javdekar said.
- Anna Hazare was an ‘active RSS Pracharak,’ reveals media report (Dec 25, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Team Anna-Govt at loggerheads over RSS photo (Dec 26, 2011, IBN)
- HC slams Anna, says fast can be nuisance for some (Dec 23, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- PILs in Bombay, Karnataka HC to declare Anna’s fast ‘illegal’ (Dec 26, 2011, IBN)
Waqf lands in AP being encroached upon: Congress MP (Dec 17, 2011, IBN)
Alleging that large parts of the waqf lands in Andhra Pradesh were in unauthorised possessions, Congress’s Rajya Sabha member V Hanumantha Rao today demanded that a survey be conducted.
“Large parts of waqf lands have been encroached upon. The state government should conduct a survey… then we will come to know in whose possession they are,” he said, talking to reporters here.
Some firms had constructed houses or commercial properties on the land allotted for the promotion of information technology, he alleged.
- Jharkhand Ex-minister owned DA worth 3217% above his income: CBI (Dec 22, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- NRHM scam: 2 former UP ministers to appear before CBI (Dec 26, 2011, Indian Express)
- 39 IPS officers declared ‘defaulters’ after goof-up (Dec 13, 2011, Times of India)
- In 10 yrs, 24 corporators disqualified for invalid caste certificates (Dec 13, 2011, Indian Express)
Darul Uloom Deoband urges Hindus, Muslims to unite on Gita (Dec 22, 2011, Times of India)
Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband issued a statement on Wednesday defending the Hindu religious text Bhagwad Gita. Deoband vice-chancellor Maulana Abul Qasim Nomani condemned the “Russian diktat against the Hindu holy scripture” and urged Hindus and Muslims to unite to drive home the point. Nomani also pitched for a joint approach against anti-Islamic bans Muslims face in the West.
But, many in the Deoband campus were surprised by his statement. They viewed it as a tactical move by the V-C to shed his ultraconservative image for wider acceptability. The appeal to Hindu religious heads to extend similar support to Muslims pointed to his cautious approach lest he was misunderstood and misinterpreted, sources said. “Allegation portraying Gita as extreme literature are totally baseless and highly objectionable,” Nomani told TOI. No religion in the world promotes violence and terrorism.
“This ban amounts to violation of the freedom to practise religion of choice enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The Russian highhandedness deserves to be staunchly countered,” he said. The Maulana in turn expected a similar support for Muslims from Hindu gurus on ban on hijab in several nations. “Affront to religion from foreign shores needs to be opposed by both communities together for maximum impact,” he said.
Maulana Khalid Rashid, head of Lucknow’s Firangimahal, also denounced “Russian arrogance” and said Muslims must offer their unflinching support to Hindus in what he called a direct attack on their private space. “We appeal to the government to take a firm stance so that such blasphemous interference is not attempted in future,” he said.
- Christians in MP oppose proposed Russian ban on Gita (Dec 22, 2011, The Hindu)
- Uproar in Parliament over Russia Gita ban (Dec 19, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Russia rejects call for intervention in Gita case (Dec 24, 2011, India Today)
- Gita not on trial but commentaries are: Russia (Dec 24, 2011, The Hindu)
Babus, ‘senior Congress leader’ involved in Bhanwari Devi sex scandal, says Congress MLA (Dec 25, 2011, India Today)
The heat generated by the Bhanwari Devi sex scandal is likely to reach Delhi, especially after reports of her links with a couple of senior political leaders have started doing the rounds. Speeches made at the massive ‘Kisan Swabhiman Rally’ in Jodhpur on Friday evening pointed towards this allegation. The rally, organised by the Adarsh Jat Mahasabha to mark the birth anniversary of late Chaudhary Charan Singh, was attended by nearly 40,000 people.
Congress MLA and retired colonel, Sona Ram, who emerged as the star speaker, claimed that the CBI had seized 139 sex CDs involving several government officers and a “very senior Congress leader” during investigations in the Bhanwari Devi case. Ram said since the leader’s name had figured on a TV channel too, he should either sue the channel or explain his position. Three days ago, Jat activist U. R. Beniwal had claimed on record that Bhanwari’s alleged links with a Union minister were the talk of the town.
Mentioning the minister by name, Beniwal had also demanded a clarification from him. Addressing the Jodhpur rally on Friday, Beniwal again repeated his allegation. The issue also cropped up during AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi and Union minister Mukul Wasnik’s recent visits to Jaipur. While Dwivedi declined comment since “it is a local matter”, Wasnik – also the party in-charge of Rajasthan affairs – said the CBI was investigating the case. During the CBI’s interrogation, the alleged Union minister’s name is said to have cropped up several times. It was in this context that Sona Ram wanted him to clarify his position.
Congress sources said Bhanwari had met this leader in New Delhi seeking a party ticket before the Rajasthan assembly elections in 2003. Earlier too, she was seen with this leader at the party’s state headquarters in Jaipur. In April, she approached BJP MLA Arjun Garg. “She said she was hurt and wanted to switch over to the BJP. She wanted me to arrange a meeting with former CM Vasundhara Raje for her and claimed she had enough material to dethrone the Congress government,” Garg said.
- Bhanwari killed on Maderna’s order: CBI sources (Dec 26, 2011, Indian Express)
- Bhanwari case: Court extends Maderna’s judicial custody till Jan 6 (Dec 26, 2011, IBN)
- Bhanwari Devi case: Another accused surrenders (Dec 26, 2011, Indian Express)
- Indra was behind nurse’s kidnap, says Sahiram (Dec 26, 2011, Times of India)
Opinions and Editorials
The Nanavati Commission – Fairness under cloud – By Sayema Sahar (Dec 26, 2011, Twocircles.net)
A facebook user has described the Nanavati Commission as a commission of the Modi Government, by the Modi Government and for the Modi Government. It would hence be farfetched to expect the Nanavati report to indict Narendra Modi because the commission was appointed by his state Government which is held responsible and grossly involved in the 2002 carnage.
This commission was obviously formed to whitewash the sins of the culprits of the 2002 carnage and to come out with a report which would give a clean chit to them. The commission has not been supporting the key witnesses of the Gujarat pogrom, further clouding its fairness.
Senior IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt, being one of the witnesses was denied legal assistance by the commission, when he was being cross-examined by the Government Counsel. The commission told Sanjiv Bhatt to ‘think and answer’ while denying his demand.
On Bhatt’s request to have access to details of call data, control room messages, intelligence records etc., the probe panel asked him to give a specific list. The commission said it would consider the application if Bhatt gives specific dates for which he’s seeking the data.
Sanjiv Bhatt responded promptly (15th Dec. 2011) and provided the commission with the details of documents/ records he needed an access to, which would support him in bringing out the truth of 2002. The comprehensive list was published in media as well, but the commission is yet to respond to the request of Bhatt.
- Survivor eyewitnesses – Cover Story (Dec 11, 2011, Sabrang)
- Barefoot: Remembering Kandhamal – By Harsh Mander (Dec 17, 2011, The Hindu)
- Kandhamal Survivors Apprehensive Of Bandh Call On Christmas – By Jugal Kishore Ranjit & Bipracharan Nayak (Dec 23, 2011, Countercurrents)
Ideological Convergences: Hindutva and the Norway Massacre – By Meera Nanda (Dec 31, 2011, Economic& Political Weekly)
On 22 July, Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, set off bombs in the heart of Oslo. He then went on a shooting spree on a nearby island where young members of the Labour Party were holding a summer camp. All told, he killed 77 people that day, many in their teens. He targeted the young people at that summer camp because he saw them as part of a multi-cultural left-wing cabal that was allowing a Muslim takeover of Norway. For him, they were the future “category A traitors” who had to be eliminated so that Europe could be “saved” from Islam. Even though Anders Breivik pulled the trigger, the massacre in Norway was by no means the work of Breivik alone. He is a product of years of immersion in a worldwide web of anti-Islamic ideas espoused by cultural nationalists of all stripes. The 1,518- page manifesto titled 2083: European Declaration of Independ-ence that he posted on the internet just before he went on his killing spree, is a handbook of anti-Islamic literature from all around the world. India figured quite prominently in this manifesto. So far, the India connection has been limited in the media reports to the 100-odd references to India, including Breivik’s ringing defence of sanatana dharma movements as allies of his war on Islam. The irony of a Muslim craftsman from Banaras embroidering the sword-through-the-skull badge for his army of “Knights Templars” modelled after 12th century Christian crusaders has also evoked much commentary. But there is a lot more to the India connection than meets the eye.
It is not a coincidence that nearly all the references to India in the Norway manifesto come from writers associated with Voice of India, a Delhi-based publishing house. Since it was founded in 1981, Voice of India (VOI) has been deriding Islam (and Christianity as well) as demonic and violent “political ideologies” not deserving the respect – and constitutional protections – reserved for religions. In recent years, VOI has emerged as the hub where the sanatana dharma movements make common cause with Islam-bashers, anti-Christian pagans, New Age seekers, deep-ecologists/eco-feminists and other disaffected right-wingers from Europe and the United States (US). The Norway manifesto reveals how totally enmeshed it has become in the worldwide network of “anti-Jihadi” groups. VOI represents a significant hardening of the ideology of Hindu nationalism which is important for the secular left to understand. When it comes to explaining Hindutva’s European entanglements, the Indian commentators and historians tend to start and end with M S Golwalker, the Nazi-loving “supreme guide” of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) from 1940-73. True to form, to explain the massacre in Norway, many Indian commentators have gone right back to We, Our Nationhood Defined, Golwalker’s notorious book that was published nearly a century ago in 1939. The infamous passage in which Golwalker praises Adolf Hitler for “…keeping up the purity of the race and culture, by purging [Germany] of the Semitic races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here…” is being cited as evidence that Hindu nationalists share a vocabulary of hate with European fanatics like Breivik. The fact that RSS has formally withdrawn the book from Golwalker’s collected works and (at least formally) disowned any ideological affiliation with this particular book has not been fully appreciated by the critics.
This fixation on Golwalker, however, overlooks the fact that, like anything else, fascism does not stand still. Right wing nationalisms in Europe and India have moved away from the rhetoric of racial purity to that of “clash of civilisations”. A case has been made by some (Bunzl 2005) that “anti-Semitism was invented in the 19th century to police the ethnically pure nation state”, while “Islamophobia is a formation of the present” whose purpose is to safeguard a supranational Europe’s “Judeo-Christian civilisation from a “fundamentally distinct and supposedly inassimilable culture of Islam”. Breivik and the VOI sources he cites see themselves as warriors in this war of civilisations. They are examples of “designer fascisms” that have learned to substitute biological racism with cultural racism, and to justify the latter in a seemingly liberal concern with saving democracy and secularism from cultures which are “inherently” incompatible with liberal ideals. Anders Breivik, for example, is firm in his support for the Jewish people and Israel: He counts being “pro-Israel, anti-racist, antifascist and anti-Nazi” as essential elements of his pan-European “crusader nationalism”. Indeed, he lays out plans on how to wean away young people who are attracted to racist groups and indoctrinate them into opposing “cultural Marxists” and Islamists instead. Even though he says he “fears the extinction of the Nordic genotype”, he is clearly not a classic white supremacist, as he is open to alliances with non-Muslim Asians and Jews. What he insists upon is the right of European people to enforce the “old rules of our culture” on religious minorities (a vast majority of whom are Muslims), feminists, gays and “cultural Marxists” who preach tolerance and equality for these minorities.
In India, too, a newer generation of Hindu nationalist has come of age that rages not against “Semitic races”, but against the “Semitic god” (the common god of the Torah, the Bible and the Koran) and the “monstrous” religions of the Semitic people – Islam, above all, followed some notches below by Christianity (but excluding Judaism which like Hinduism, is an ethic religion, does not proselytise and does not have much of a presence in India). The racial angle, which in India (unlike in Germany) was always more a matter of cultural traditions passed down from hereditary ancestors than a matter of biological markers, has pretty much disappeared from the post-Golwalker Hindu right. And as in the case of the European new right that Breivik represents, the new Hindu right is staunchly pro-Israel: India is now counted among the part of an “unwritten axis” with Israel and the US against “Islamic terrorism” (Prashad 2003). The selfstyled “anti-jihadists” in the US allied with George W Bush’s administration and the conservative Heritage Foundation have been pushing for a closer partnership with India. It is not race but a clash of civilisations – between dharmic and Abrahamic civilsations – that is central to the post-Golwalker Hindu right. This new Hindu right has been honing its radical critique of “Semitic monotheistic religions” from the perspective of “yogic spirituality”, largely through books published by the Delhi-based publishing house called “Voice of India” (VOI). VOI was founded in 1981 by two ardent Hindu revivalists and anti-Communists, Ram Swarup (1920-1993) and his friend, Sita Ram Goel (1921-2003). From the autobiographical account left behind by Goel, it appears that VOI was born out of frustration with what they saw as anti-intellectualism of RSS.9 They wanted to get rid of the borrowed concepts from the west: instead of judging Hinduism from the vantage point of monotheism (as was done by reformist movements like Brahmo Samaj and Arya Samaj), they wanted to reverse the gaze and “process and evaluate the heritage of these (monotheistic) creeds in terms of Hindu categories of thought…to evaluate other religions on the pristine premises of Sanatana dharma… ” (Goel 2000:9). … VOI has taken it upon itself to add a theological dimension to Savarkar and Golwalker’s political ideology of Hindutva. …
Evidence for the global reach of the VOI-school of Hindutva can be found in the Norway manifesto. Breivik proclaims grandly that his army of Knights Templar “support the Sanatana [sic] Dharma movements and Indian nationalists in general”. He believes that “the Sanatana Dharma movements are suffering persecution from the Indian cultural Marxists as are their European cousins”. These cultural Marxists, apparently, are holocaust deniers, or “negationists”, i e, they want to hide the “genocide” of Hindus at the hands of Muslims throughout Indian history. All the “authorities” that Breivik cites to argue in support of Hindu nationalist case come from the VOI lineage. The manifesto makes two references to a Belgian writer, Koenraad Elst. … In Europe, Elst is considered a “leading Orientalist” (as Fjordman calls him in the manifesto). He writes frequently for The Brussels Journal, a European nationalist, anti-Islamic blog that has a history of fomenting anti-Islamic ideas and that was cited repeatedly by Breivik in his manifesto. Elst has also worked with think-tanks and publications which are suspected of links with Belgium’s far right, anti-Islamic, anti-immigrant party, Vlaam Belang. … In India, Elst is the darling of the Hindu right. He is held in great regard as the “intellectual heir” of Ram Swarup and Sita Ram Goel who practically took him under their wing when he was researching the Ayodhya conflict in the late 1980s. His book, Ram Janmabhoomi vs Babri Masjid: A Case Study in Hindu-Muslim Conflict was published by VOI and released by L K Advani. … Apart from Elst, all the other Indian sources Breivik cites are affiliated with VOI. … Now that Breivik’s manifesto has revealed the names of anti-Islamic authors, bloggers, websites and groups that shaped his thinking, the great washing of hands has begun. Just about everyone named by Breivik has issued stern statements distancing themselves from his violent deeds. …Decrying the violence is necessary but not sufficient, because the agenda of the Islamophobic right is much larger than spilling blood in the streets. As he makes it clear over and over again, Breivik’s primary objective was to “create a platform to consolidate anti-Marxist forces before Europe is overwhelmed demographically by Muslims”. In other words, his first priority was to take down the “cultural Marxists”, or multiculturalists, who are supposedly “appeasing” Muslims. … This must surely sound familiar to Indian ears where the Hindu right has turned even those policies that do nothing more than safeguard the constitutional rights of Muslims as citizens of India as “appeasing” them. Indeed, Breivik advises his Hindu nationalist brothers to first go after the so-called appeasers, the “cultural Marxist government” and its left-wing sympathisers – the “category A and B traitors”, respectively – and only later resort to the “counterproductive” street attack on Muslims. So the “appeasement” of Muslims is the problem that Hindus and the European right share. … This war against the teachings of Islam is the real story behind the “India connection” to the Norway massacre.
- Only Reacting, Not Acting – By Mukul Dube (Dec 17, 2011, Countercurrents)
- Ramped up, yet no harbinger – By Ram Puniyani (Dec 21, 2011, Tehelka)
Tribal victims – By S. Dorairaj (Dec 17, 2011, Frontline)
A pair of huts perched high on a rock surrounded by gigantic boulders, bottlegourd creepers crowning their roofs thatched with palm leaves, a pool of crystal clear water on the rocky terrain, a partly dilapidated but majestic stone-pillared mantap standing close by, and a temple in the vicinity housing idols of Madurai Veeran and a few other folk deities. The secluded place in T. Mandapam village on the banks of the legendary river Pennai in Tirukkoilur taluk of Villupuram district in Tamil Nadu has an incredible beauty. Strangers to this remote place will find it hard to believe that beneath its picturesque appearance and serenity lies a story of police brutality unleashed against four young women of the Irular Scheduled Tribe and their hapless kin who have been living there for several years. Two sisters and the wives of two of their brothers told Frontline that they were forcibly taken away from their home in a van and subjected to sexual assault including rape by policemen on the night of November 22. Their mother and older male members of the family were away at the local police station, where they had been asked to report. Six of their relatives were subsequently detained in prison in connection with a case foisted on them by the policemen, they said. The incident, which has sent shock waves across the State, comes within two months of the landmark judgment in the 19-year-old “Vachathi case”, in which all the 269 accused, including personnel of the Forest, Police and Revenue Departments of the Tamil Nadu government were convicted of rape, torture, destruction of evidence and wrongful confinement (“Justice for Vachathi”, Frontline, November 4). The atrocities were committed against the Malayalee tribes of Vachathi village in Dharmapuri district in June 1992. The incident also reminded the State of the gang rape, allegedly perpetrated by policemen, of a 17-year-old Irular girl at Athiyur village in Villupuram district in 1993. As news of the T. Mandapam incident emerged three days after it happened, thanks to the intervention of the Pazhangudi Irular Pathukaappu Sangam (PIPS, or Association for the Protection of the Irular Tribe), demands for action against the guilty policemen and rehabilitation of the victims were raised by some political parties, tribal people’s associations and human rights organisations. Protest demonstrations were held in different parts of the State.
One of the victims lodged a police complaint on November 26. The police registered cases under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 363 (kidnapping) and 427 (causing damage to currency notes) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 376 (rape) of the IPC read with Section 3(1) (xii) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against “certain unidentified policemen”. Under the High Court’s direction, the victims underwent tests at the government medical college hospital in Villupuram. A public interest petition was filed in the Madras High Court on November 28, seeking a direction to the State government to hand over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) since the State government “is indifferent to the sensibilities of Scheduled Tribes”. The petition, filed by P. Pugalenthi, director of the Chennai-based Prisoners’ Rights Forum, sought the court’s direction for criminal proceedings against the erring police personnel. “The very arrest of the women after sunset would amount to a gross misconduct on the part of the police personnel,” the petition said, pleading for an interim direction to the government to suspend all the guilty policemen immediately. As the rape victims were members of a Scheduled Tribe, the crime attracts Sections 3(1) (xii) and (2) (vii) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, it said. During the hearing on the petition, the Public Prosecutor pleaded that unless the charges could be proved during the investigation and a charge sheet was filed, the guilty policemen could not be arrested. In response, the First Bench of the High Court, which is hearing the case, observed on December 7: “We fail to understand the submission…. If a lady goes to a police station complaining about sexual harassment or rape by any named person, the police officer will not hesitate to arrest the person immediately. If that be so, why should law made applicable to the common man not be applied to the police officers?” The court also said: “Needless to say that the payment of compensation will not restore the chastity of the women, who have been allegedly raped. The state has to take action in accordance with law against those persons, who have allegedly committed rape on those lady victims.” Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa announced on November 29 that she had ordered the suspension of five policemen: Inspector Srinivasan, Special Sub Inspector Ramanathan, head constable Dhanasekar and constables Karthikeyan and Baktavatsalam. Preliminary investigations revealed that the policemen had detained some Irular women in a vehicle during night time, she said. Pointing out that a probe by the Tirukkoilur judicial magistrate was under way, she made it clear that stern action would be taken against the police personnel if they were found guilty. She also announced a solatium of Rs.5 lakh each to the victims from the Chief Minister’s Public Relief Fund.
The victims shuddered to recall the incidents of the “black Tuesday”. Enquiries revealed that the two sisters who were raped lived with their parents and three of their brothers in one of the two huts on a rock around 1.5 km from T. Mandapam village. The family eked out a living by collecting sand from the streets where goldsmiths work and retrieving gold fragments by running the sand through a sieve. When the incident occurred, two other sons of the family, who usually worked at brick kilns at Ulundurpet in Villupuram district and Panapakkam on the outskirts of Chennai, were visiting with their wives, one of whom was pregnant. They were there because work at the kilns was suspended because of the monsoon. Two other male relatives were also staying with them. According to the complaint, around 3 p.m. on November 22, three policemen came to the hut and took away one of the visiting brothers in connection with a theft. They told the women that his father should come to the police station when he returned from work. Accordingly, the detained man’s parents and elder brother went to the police station with two other relatives that evening, leaving only women and young boys at home. After they were gone, eight policemen ransacked the house around 8 p.m. and allegedly helped themselves to the family’s savings. Four of them then packed the two girls and the two daughters-in-law of the family in a van along with three younger sons and two relatives and drove away. The other four policemen stayed back. The girls were taken to a eucalyptus grove far away from the village. When their parents and other relatives came back home from the police station, the waiting policemen pounced on them and thrashed them with sticks before taking them to the Tirukkoilur police station, where the men were detained. The only woman in the group, the accused person’s mother, was driven away in the van to Sandaipet, close to Tirukkoilur town. Shortly afterwards, her two daughters and daughters-in-law, who had been “arrested” from their home, were brought to Sandaipet. Accompanied by four policemen, they were asked to join their mother and taken again to the eucalyptus grove, one of the victims later alleged in her complaint. According to the complaint, the policemen asked the girls to get down and led them to the grove past midnight. The girls were taken to separate places and raped. One of the victims was pregnant. She said she was molested, while the others were gagged and raped, one of them by three policemen. The girls were kept in “custody” for the rest of the night. Around 5 a.m., the policemen dropped them at the village. Around noon a police team allegedly came back to their hut and smashed utensils.
With a local lawyer playing the Good Samaritan, the four young women and their mother were able to contact some activists of the PIPS in Villupuram, who helped them to lodge the complaint on November 26, one of the victims said. Meanwhile, the victims’ father and five others were arrested in “theft cases” and lodged in the central prison in Cuddalore. Among them were the two sons who had come visiting. All the victims said they would be able to identify the men who assaulted them. Irulars, one of the six primitive tribes, form a tiny minority in Tamil Nadu, numbering about 100,000 in a population of 7.21 crore. The literacy rate among Irulars is around 34 per cent against the State’s literacy rate of 80.33 per cent. The British ethnographer Edgar Thurston’s historic work Castes and Tribes of Southern India, published in 1909, says that the Irulars of composite South Arcot, comprising Villupuram and Cuddalore districts, “are chiefly found about the Gingee hills, talk a corrupt Tamil, are very dark skinned, have very curly hair, never shave their heads, and never wear turbans or sandals. They dwell in scattered huts – never more than two or three in one place – which are little, round, thatched hovels with a low doorway through which one can just crawl, built among the fields…. They are perhaps the poorest and most miserable community in the district. Only one or two of them own any land, and that is only dry land….” A century later, not much has changed for them. The coordinator of PIPS, Prabha Kalvimani, also known as P. Kalyani, said around 60 per cent of the Irulars in the northern districts led a semi-nomadic life and worked in brick kilns and rice mills as bonded labourers as they found it difficult to repay the loans taken from the owners. Some of them work as cane cutters. Irular people getting slapped with theft cases has been a regular feature for several years, he said, adding that the issue hit the headlines in 1993 after ‘Athiyur’ Vijaya was gang-raped after her father, P. Masi, was arrested. The case generated an awareness among the Irulars that they needed to rally under the banner of an association to defend their rights. However, Irulars continued to be booked in theft cases, tortured by the police, and sent to jail. They were booked under Sections 379 (theft) of the IPC on charges relating to theft of copper power cables and pumpsets belonging to farmers, and breaking of temple hundis, Prabha Kalvimani said.
Irulars in the northern districts have repeatedly held demonstrations and petitioned officials such as the Home Secretary, the Director General of Police and District Collectors to seek redress. This year, between August 22 and September 10, three cases of police torture were reported in Tirukkovilur, Sithalingamadam and Moolasamudram in Villupuram, Kalyani alleged. Poet and documentary film-maker Kutti Revathi said Irulars were frequently targeted by the police as they had no one to speak for them. She said her current project, a social documentary titled “We are Irulars”, aimed at highlighting two important issues: non-issuance of community certificates to Irular students, which was an obstacle in the path of their educational pursuit and employment, and the prevalence of large-scale bonded labour in rice mills and brick kilns. Drastic changes in their living conditions occurred after the enactment of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Irulars, living on the dry plains, had an amazing snake-catching skill. Over generations, they had developed a traditional knowledge system of ethno-medicine as they were badly in need of it while dealing with poisonous reptiles. At one stage, they were exploited by some Western traders, who purchased snake skins. Earlier, they were treated as friends of farmers as they used snakes to catch farm rats to prevent crop loss. Over the past four decades, however, there was a process of alienation as Irulars started losing their livelihoods and became labourers or manual workers, Kutti Revathi said. As bonded labourers, they faced varied forms of torture and humiliation, including sexual, physical and psychological abuse at their workplaces. The vast majority of the tribe gave up snake-catching long ago. However, the possession of snake-catching sticks and pots used for trapping farm rats are necessary preconditions for the acquisition of community certificates. Attempts by activists and experts to form cooperatives for Irulars, through which snake venom could be extracted even while preserving the reptiles, did not take off, she pointed out. Kutti Revathi, who had captured on camera one of the two Irular festivals, Iruli Kumbam, said even while fighting for their constitutional rights, efforts must be made to preserve their cultural traits. P. Shanmugam, president of the Tamil Nadu Tribals Association, N. Nanjappan, president of the Tamil Nadu Tribal People’s Association, and Kalyani have accused the police of attempting to hush up the case. Demanding action under the S.Cs and S.Ts (PA) Act, they have criticised the police for allegedly detaining the victims at the office of the Superintendent of Police for over 18 hours. Nanjappan and Kalyani have demanded a probe by the CBI and early identification parade, while Shanmugam has said that the case should be handed over to the Crime Branch-Crime Investigation Department of the State Police.
- Tribal Rights and the ‘Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill 2011’ – By Brinda Karat (Dec 31, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
Media Matters: A lot of virtual noise – By Sevanti Ninan (Dec 17, 2011, The Hindu)
What a noisy year it has been. It brought us Mr. Katju, who alarmed, appalled, and amused in turn. He was appointed Chairperson of the Press Council in the last quarter of the year, and has been making himself heard ever since. His latest views, put out last week, relate to Internet offences. Before and after him, TV anchors have harangued and heckled, and now it is Kapil Sibal’s turn to utter first and ponder later. What do we get in response to his call for proactive screening of the Internet? More noise, unsurprisingly. A rising crescendo of free-spirited protests, though some of the offences can hardly be defended. The noise has been at one level, and succeeded at hogging attention. The action has been at another level. Two murders of journalists, 14 attacks on them over the year in different parts of the country, one Home Ministry circular asking for withdrawal of advertising to newspapers, a standing committee draft that proposes to bring media under the Lok Pal Bill, lots of legal notices to media outlets, some doubtless justified. And a few hundred take-down notices issued by the government to Net intermediaries. Also a stiff fine is ordered on one of them, Yahoo, for failing to disclose identities of users.
And more telling than Sibal’s bombast, one would imagine, is the fact that the Rajya Sabha was told in a written reply that the Home Ministry had asked the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology to ‘monitor’ Facebook and Twitter. Has it complied? How precisely? Last week, there was more action: an amendment to the Cable Act of 1995 got passed in the Lok Sabha. It requires cable operators to transmit all channels in encrypted form, and generally attempts to rein in the sector in various ways. The old Act authorised the seizure of the cable operator’s equipment if he/she violated provisions of the Act, and limited the period of seizure to 10 days. The amendment says the seizure can be extended by an order of the district judge, and there is no limitation on the period of seizure. The pattern since 1995 has been that the authorised government functionaries seldom used the powers of the Act. If that changes, the increased powers could be worrying.
Between the noise and the actions we have a public sphere increasingly open to both state interventions as well as cyber excesses. The same year that saw social media trigger the Arab Spring also saw digital media being employed to spread the locations of the London riots. Who is to rein in whom? When does freedom become licence? There will be more noise in the new year as we thrash these issues out. Since self-regulation is the debate of the season, can it apply more effectively to cyberspace? There are no media houses in the social media realm, only intermediaries. Then there is the whole business of political thin skins turning on the media. As many as 255 of the 360 plus take-down notices that Google got from the Indian government in the first half of last year related to complaints by the government and the political class about criticism. It would be nice to get their details and be able to examine how justified the take-down requests were. Last week, a Maharashtra Minister was complaining about press coverage that turned what he said was a minor defeat in the municipal council elections into a major one by virtue of the noise made about it!
So far, Mr. Katju has taken it upon himself to periodically opine rather than act, so that we don’t really know in what ways he is toning up the Press Council to respond effectively to complaints. Even passing strictures against media outlets or statements exonerating them, with regard to specific complaints, which is within its powers, is better than no action. What action has the Press Council taken on the issue of the Herald in Goa being implicated in a paid news sting operation? Any investigation ordered? It would be nice if future press releases from Mr. Katju could be about his institution’s decisions rather than his views. Because, in the meantime, the marketing manager of the paper implicated in the Goa sting has sent a defamation notice to Mayabhushan Nagvenkar who did the entrapment. One year of noisy debate and dangerous living just went by. But we can always be hopeful about the next one. Who is to rein in whom? When does freedom become licence? There will be more noise in the new year as we thrash these issues out.
- Regulating Internet Content – Editorial (Dec 31, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- What to do about internet content? – Editorial (Dec 10, 2011, The Hindu)
These days, the issue of awarding the Bharat Ratna on Republic Day is in the news. When I appealed for the Bharat Ratna to Mirza Ghalib and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, some people objected, saying that such awards should not be given to people who are no more. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong in giving awards posthumously, provided they are given to the right persons. The Bharat Ratna has been conferred posthumously in the past. Two examples are Sardar Patel and Dr. Ambedkar.
Mirza Ghalib is a modern figure, not a legendary one like Lord Rama, or an ancient one like Gautam Buddha. Though he was brought up in the feudal tradition, he often broke through that tradition on perceiving the advantages of modern civilisation. Thus, in one sher (couplet), Ghalib writes: Imaan mujhe roke hai, jo khenche he mujhe kufr / Kaaba merey peechey hai, kaleesa merey aage The word ‘kaleesa’ literally means church, but here it means modern civilisation. Similarly, ‘kaaba’ literally refers to the holy place in Mecca, but here it means feudalism. So the sher really means: “Religious faith is holding me back, but scepticism is pulling me forward; feudalism is behind me, modern civilisation is in front.” Ghalib is hence rejecting feudalism and approving of modern civilisation. And this in the mid-19th century when India was steeped in feudalism.
Urdu poetry is a shining gem in the treasury of Indian culture (see my article, ‘What is Urdu,’ on the website www.kgfindia.com). Great injustice has been done to this great language. Before 1947, Urdu was the common language of the educated class in large parts of India – whether the person was Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Christian. However, after 1947 some vested interests created the false propaganda that Urdu was a foreign language and a language of Muslims alone. Mirza Ghalib is the foremost figure in Urdu, and the best representative of our composite culture. Though a Muslim, he was thoroughly secular, and had many Hindu friends. He no doubt died over a century ago, but our culture, of which Urdu is a vital part, is still alive. I first appealed for the award of the Bharat Ratna to Ghalib at the Jashn-e-bahaar Mushaira in Delhi in April 2011. My appeal was supported by many prominent persons in the audience. They included Meira Kumar, Speaker of the Lok Sabha; Salman Khurshid, Union Law Minister; and S.Y. Quraishi, the Chief Election Commissioner. However, soon thereafter a leading journal described my appeal as ‘sentimentalism gone berserk.’
As for Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyaya, at a recent function in Kolkata I appealed for the award of the Bharat Ratna to him. Sarat Chandra in his stories launched a full-blooded attack on the caste system, against women’s oppression, and superstitions (see Shrikant, Shesh Prashna, Charitraheen, Devdas, Brahman ki beti, Gramin Samaj, etc.), evils that plague India even today. In his acceptance speech at a meeting organised in the Calcutta Town Hall in 1933 to honour him, Sarat Chandra said: “My literary debt is not limited to my predecessors only. I am forever indebted to the deprived, ordinary people who give this world everything they have and yet receive nothing in return, to the weak and oppressed people whose tears nobody bothers to notice. They inspired me to take up their cause and plead for them. I have witnessed endless injustices to these people, unfair, intolerable injustices. It is true that springs do come to this world for some – full of beauty and wealth – with its sweet smelling breeze perfumed with newly bloomed flowers and spiced with cuckoo’s songs, but such good things remained well outside the sphere where my sight remained imprisoned.”
This speech should inspire writers in India even today when 80 per cent of our people live in horrible poverty, when on an average 47 farmers have been committing suicide every day for the last 15 years, when there are massive problems of unemployment, and problems in the areas of health care, housing, education, and so on. I also appeal for the Bharat Ratna to the great Tamil poet Subramania Bharati, who a hundred years ago wrote against women’s oppression and was a thorough nationalist and social reformer. … How many people in India have read Ghalib, Sarat Chandra and Subramania Bharati? There are demands to give the Bharat Ratna to cricketers and film stars. This is the low cultural level to which we have sunk. We ignore our real heroes, and hail superficial ones. I regret to say that the present generation of Indians has been almost entirely deculturised. All that they care for is money, film stars, cricket, and the superficial. Today India stands at a crossroads. We need persons who can give direction to the country and take it forward. It is such people who should be given the Bharat Ratna, even if they are no more. Giving it to people who have no social relevance, such as cricketers and film stars, amounts to making a mockery of the award.
- Ghalib, Bharat Ratna And Lost Memories Of The Indian Republic – By Farzana Versey (Dec 23, 2011, Countercurrents)
Is there a caste or communal link to corruption and crime? Or, are your chances of being involved (and getting caught) in corruption cases higher as you go down the caste ladder? Nobody in his right mind would say yes to either of these. But let’s examine some facts. Why is there a preponderance of this underclass among those charged with corruption, or even targeted in media sting operations? Here is a roll call: A. Raja and Mayawati (Dalit), Madhu Koda and Shibu Soren (tribal), Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh Yadav (OBC), are all caught in corruption or disproportionate assets cases. Faggan Singh Kulaste, Ashok Argal and Mahavir Singh Bhagora, caught in the cash-for-votes sting, are all SC/ST; among the BSP MPs in the cash-for-queries sting, Narendra Kushwaha and Raja Ram Pal (who is now in the Congress) are OBC, and Lalchandra Kol a Dalit. Of course, there are also some illustrious upper-caste representatives in the net: Sukh Ram, Jayalalithaa, Suresh Kalmadi. But there are far fewer of them. Could it be that the upper crust tends to be “cleaner” as a rule, or could it be that the system is loaded against those in the lower half of the social pyramid? The Sachar Committee report on the condition of Muslims also tells us that the only place where our Muslims have numbers disproportionately high in comparison to their population is jails. So, face the question once again: do Muslims tend to be more criminal than Hindus, or is the system loaded against them?
For another example, look at the BJP. Two of its senior leaders were caught on camera accepting cash. One, Dilip Singh Judeo, caught taking Rs 9 lakh, was a mere MP, but of a high caste, and was happily rehabilitated in the party, fielded in the election, and is now back in Parliament. The other, Bangaru Laxman, caught taking just Rs 1 lakh, was ranked much higher in the party; he was, in fact, the president, but much lower on the caste pyramid, a Dalit. He has been banished and isolated and is fighting the charges in that Tehelka sting case by himself. I am sorry to use this expression, but the party treated him as an utter outcast even as it continued to defend Judeo. What is the difference between the two except caste? You want to take this argument to the judiciary? It has been loosely insinuated by many prominent people, including by some notable members of Team Anna, that a large number of our former chief justices have been corrupt. But who is the only one targeted by name (however unsubstantiated the charges)? It is Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, currently chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and, more importantly, India’s first Dalit chief justice. These questions are inconvenient, but can never be brushed aside in a diverse democracy. These have become even more important now as the political class has responded to Team Anna’s Lokpal campaign by bringing in 50 per cent reservation for lower castes and minorities. You can say this is a cynical political ploy to counter what is, after all, an upper-class, upper-caste, urban movement so far. But facts are facts and there is no hiding from them. The system is much too prejudiced, much too loaded against the underclass. Reservations may not be the perfect solution. But how else do you ensure equity? How do you convince this vast majority of Indians below the very top of the social pyramid that this new all-powerful institution will be fair to them? Or, you can flip this very same question in the context of Team Anna. Why has this vast majority of socially and economically vulnerable Indians been so distant from their movement? Why are the leaders who represent them, from Lalu to Mulayam to Mayawati, so strongly critical of the institution of Lokpal? Because the minorities, the weaker sections, are always afraid of mass movements, particularly when these are led by the dominant upper classes. In these movements they see the threat of majoritarian excesses. And that is exactly the apprehension that the political class, particularly the UPA, has now gotten hold of.
The upper caste, creamy layer of our society is the most prejudiced, and yet the most dominant minority in any democracy in the world. That is why even the person representing Mayawati on otherwise brilliant funny-man Cyrus Broacha’s show on CNN-IBN always has a blackened face (Dalits are supposed to be dark-skinned, no?). An interesting new turn has meanwhile taken place in the discourse over the Lokpal bill. Whenever asked to comment on the UPA’s ploy of reservations, members of Team Anna simply say they are happy to leave that entirely to the government. Leave something entirely to the government? When was the last time you heard Team Anna say that? They are doing so because the caste card, howsoever cynical, has thrown them entirely off-balance. They are now paying for having built such an unrepresentative upper-crust leadership, deluded perhaps by the belief that this battle was theirs to win on Twitter, Facebook and television channels where their interlocutors were trumpeters or fellow travellers. They forgot that the battle for power and ideas is fought in a democracy’s parliament and within its institutions. They started to believe their own mythology of being apolitical. They did not realise that politics, in a democracy as diverse as ours, needs two essential pre-requisites: ideology and inclusiveness. Abhorrence of corruption is a universal virtue but not an ideology. If there was an underlying ideological impulse to this movement, it was anti-politicianism, underlined by that slogan from the early, heady days – Mera Neta Chor Hai.
It was probably because of that philosophical abhorrence of politics, and the give-and-take, the unending deal-making it involves, that Anna did not set up a truly diverse and representative “Team” to begin with. They had the wisdom and the sincerity, they thought, and Indians, cutting across barriers of caste and religion, would be smart enough to see it. Representative inclusiveness, they probably believed, was part of our cynical electoral politics though that did not stop them from having a Dalit and a Muslim girl help Anna break his fast, making it the first time that a child was described as “Dalit” on a public stage in a mass rally. Leaders of Team Anna now rightly say that theirs indeed is a political movement. But even if they assert that it is above electoral politics, they have erred gravely in not learning from the political class and building a representative leadership. It could have come from both their abhorrence and ignorance of politics, from a lack of respect for the political class, and an inability to appreciate that you need politics to create a sense of fairness, balance and empowerment in such a diverse society. That is the difference between Anna on the one hand, and Gandhi and JP on the other. Both of the latter made inclusive politics the vehicle of their revolutions. Team Anna, instead, tried to circumvent politics, and now finds itself right in the thick of it.
- The Madness in the CBI’s Method – By Ashish Khetan (Dec 31, 2011, Tehelka)
- One step forward, two steps back – Editorial (Dec 24, 2011, The Hindu)
- ‘The government’s Citizens Charter Bill is a great breakthrough’ – Nikhil Dey with Shoma Chaudhury (Dec 31, 2011, Tehelka)