IAMC Weekly News Roundup – December 9th, 2013

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

US experts see no indication of ‘Modi wave’ in Assembly elections results (Dec 9, 2013, Business Today)

The results in four assembly polls in India have given the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the necessary momentum ahead of the general elections, but experts said there is neither an indication of a ‘Narendra Modi wave’ nor a guarantee of a similar performance next year. Giving due credit to its emphatic victories in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and in Delhi, the experts said the Modi factor is not the only reason for the party doing well.

“The BJP has always been competitive in these states, evidenced by roughly similar results in 2003. The bigger test of a wave is whether the BJP can win Lok Sabha seats from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala. The BJP won just one total Parliament seat from these states in the last two elections,” said Richard M Rossow, Director for South Asia, McLarty Associates.

In recent months, both the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Modi visited these states over a dozen times each. “While everyone has an opinion, there is no empirical evidence to prove whether either leader caused a wave in a direction,” he argued. However, Sadanand Dhume, of the American Enterprise Institute, argued that Modi passed his first big test after being declared as the prime ministerial candidate. “While it’s hard to quantify exactly how much Modi contributed to the BJP’s strong showing it’s clear that Modi has energized the BJP,” he said.

Although the recent state elections have been billed as a “semi-final” for the 2014 elections, one should keep in mind that the scope of these elections is limited to four states in the Hindi heartland where the BJP has historically had a strong presence, observed Milan Vaishnav, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The prestigious American think-tank has launched a ‘India Decides 2014’ on its website, which keeps a close tab on the developments in India ahead of the 2014 elections. “BJP’s strong performance gives it unquestionable momentum heading into 2014. Even though Delhi remains a question mark, the BJP’s sweeping victories in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan will give it a leg up as it builds its case nationally,” Vaishnav said.

The BJP triumphs also allows Modi to consolidate his position within the party, he said. “As the effective leader of the party, Modi will undoubtedly receive the credit for the BJP victories. But the Modi factor is not the principal reason the BJP fared well in these elections. The BJP’s success is due to local factors, including the fact that it had strong chief ministerial candidates,” Vaishnav explained.

http://businesstoday.intoday.in/story/us-experts-say-no-narendra-modi-wave-evident-election-result/1/201312.html

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Narendra Modi trying to protect Godhra riots perpetrators: Minority minister (Dec 5, 2013, DNA India)

Minority Affairs Minister K Rahman Khan on Thursday accused BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi of trying to protect the perpetrators of the violence during the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat by opposing the Communal Violence Bill. “The people who Narendra Modi represents, they are the people who will probably be affected because they are the perpetrators of communal violence and will be punished,” the minister said in an interview to Times Now news channel here.

“He knows that the perpetrators of 2002 Gujarat riots will be punished and that is why he is opposing it,” he said. “Why should he come in between? This law does not target any particular religion,” he added. His reaction came following Modi’s tweet opposing the Communal Violence Bill – the official nomenclature of which is the “Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill”.

The objective of the bill is “to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and religious minorities in any State”. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader has also written to the prime minister, urging him to seek wider consultations on the bill. Khan also rebuffed Modi’s assertion that the bill was a violation of the federal structure and said that it was just like any other central government law.

“This law doesn’t infringe on the rights of the state. It is a law enacted like any other law, like the CrPc (Criminal Procedure Court), or the IPC (Indian Penal Code),” said Khan. Condemning the “negative attitude” of the BJP, union Petroleum Minister M Veerappa Moily said the government was “open to dialogue”.

“They have a very negative attitude towards the bill. The bill is important as communal harmony is important in our country,” said Moily. The Communal Violence Bill is likely to be taken up in the winter session of the parliament that started Thursday.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-narendra-modi-trying-to-protect-godhra-riots-perpetrators-minority-minister-1930089

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Ishrat encounter: Doubt over ‘explosives’ on victims (Dec 10, 2013, Asian Age)

The CBI, which has completed its probe into the conspiracy that led to the encounter of Ishrat Jahan and three others on June 15, 2004, is likely to mention in its supplementary chargesheet that the explosives allegedly planted on the victims, after the shootout, were “non-chemical explosives”.

The agency will soon file a supplementary probe report in the case before a local court in Ahmedabad. This newspaper first reported that the forensic examinations of the powder – allegedly planted on the deceased by the accused cops after the shootout – revealed that it was not an “explosive mixture”.

“Immediately after the shootout, the Gujarat police had claimed that around 17 kg of yellow powder recovered from inside the Indica car, which was used to bring the four victims to the crime scene, was an “explosive mixture”. The Gujarat police’s claim about the nature of the yellow powder was part of the conspiracy to justify the encounter, sources said. Ishrat and three others were killed in a fake encounter on June 15, 2004.

The Gujarat police had claimed that the victims were on a mission to kill Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. “The yellow powder was analysed qualitatively and quantitatively by the forensic experts, including the then deputy chief controller of explosives, Baroda. They all said that the chemical mixture was not an explosive material,” sources said.

http://www.asianage.com/india/doubt-over-explosives-victims-204

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‘Modi represents forces that brought down Babri Masjid’ (Dec 7, 2013, Indian Express)

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat Friday launched a blistering attack on BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, terming him as the representation of the forces that had brought down the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and added the Left regime was fighting for a secular alternative in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections in 2014.

“The Left parties are working for a secular alternative. We do not think the BJP is the alternative for the Congress. We will have an alternative that will be based on alternative policies,” Karat said while addressing a rally called to protest the demolition of Babari Masjid exactly two decades ago.

Pointing out to the incidents of massacre of minorities in Gujarat under the tenure of Narendra Modi, Karat said that by projecting the name of Narendra Modi as the candidate for Prime Minister, the BJP and RSS are trying to add fuel to the fire of communalism in the country.

Karat also questioned Trinamool’s silence on Narendra Modi, saying the Mamata Banerjee-led party does not have any ideology and will side with the party that comes to power. “They are waiting for a situation to emerge in 2014. They are neutral. They can either go this way or that…,” he added.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1204580/

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Relief for babus in reworked draft of communal violence bill (Dec 7, 2013, Times of India)

Government officials, who refuse to obey an unlawful order of their superiors or political masters during communal violence cannot be held responsible for dereliction of duty, according to a reworked draft of the Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill.

The new bill cuts down the maximum penalty for death caused by communal violence – from the Rs 15 lakh proposed in the draft approved by the National Advisory Council (NAC) to Rs 7 lakh. Also, the competent authority – district magistrate or commissioner of police – has been given sweeping powers to prevent outbreak of violence in a “communally disturbed” area.

These include ordering prohibition of public utterances, singing of songs and playing of music that can incite passions; carrying of arms, knives, sticks and even stones that can be used as missiles; and preparation and exhibition of pictures and symbols that may lead to breach of peace. Any violation of these prohibitory orders will be punishable with imprisonment upto three years and fine.

Though the new draft bill finalized by the Union home ministry holds bureaucrats and government officials responsible for all acts of omission and commission during riots, it has made an exception for babus who stand up to unlawful orders by their superiors. According to the proposed law, any official who exercises the authority vested in him colourably or in a manner likely to lead to riots, or screens a person from legal punishment, or fails to prevent commission of communal violence, shall be guilty of dereliction of duty “provided that the refusal by an official to obey an unlawful order to perform an unlawful duty is not dereliction of duty”.

Chapter IV-A of the draft Act defines the powers of the competent authority, to be notified by the state government. Once an area is notified as “communally disturbed”, the competent authority will have powers to regulate, prohibit or permit any assembly or procession within that area. A district magistrate, based on information that a situation has arisen in the notified area where there is fear of breach of peace or discord between religious communities, may prohibit any act intended to intimidate, threaten to promote ill-will. The competent authority may prohibit use of any private place for purposes likely to disturb peace. Whoever contravenes the relevant order shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term that may extend to two years. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/26979122.cms

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Hounded out of home, death stalks Muzaffarnagar riots victims (Dec 2, 2013, Hindustan Times)

The Muzaffarnagar riots have stopped, but the deaths haven’t. A grave humanitarian crisis is unfolding, and victims lodged at the many relief camps say that official neglect, terrible living conditions and the onset of the bitter north Indian cold have already claimed almost as many lives as the riots, which left 60 dead. The Malakpur relief camp around 18 km from Shamli, one of the epicentres of the September riots which tore through western UP, is one that houses the largest number of displaced people. It has also seen the maximum number of deaths in the past one month: One almost every day. Of the 28 dead, 25 were infants, all under a month old.

Three months after the riots, close to 18,000 people are still huddled in camps, 4,500 in the Malakpur camp alone. Murshida Khatoon, 25, lost her 20-day-old newborn a week ago. A plastic tent surrounded by filth and human exreta is now her home and the family sleeps on dry grass, without a quilt to protect her other children from the cold. Riot victims living in the Loi camp, in Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh, burning firewood to keep themselves warm. (Raj k Raj/ HT Photo) “We got one after I lost my child,” says Khatoon. “But what is one quilt for a family of seven?” Another riot survivor, Dilshana Begum, who lost her five-month-old in Malakpur, says, “We took loans and sold our motorcycle to collect `20,000 to pay for hospital expenses. But even after spending every penny we had, we couldn’t save our child.”

Three other camps – Khurban, Badheri Khurd and Barnabi – have witnessed eight deaths, which include four children aged less than 30 days. Too afraid to take the dead back to the villages which were once home, hurried burials are carried out in graveyards close to the camps. “Newborns and old people are dying of cold. There is a severe scarcity of warm clothes and toilets in the camps which makes the situation very grim. The last time a medical officer visited any of these camps was almost a month ago,” says Chaudhary Gulshad, a member of a local committee running the camp.

Four have died in Shahpur and Basi Kalan camps while Loi, another camp with a large number of displaced people, has witnessed 12 deaths – the last one just a day ago. Mohd Shaqir and his wife, Sabira, rushed to a nearby health centre around midnight after their eight-month-old child woke up screaming and wheezing. The doctor told them that the boy needs to be administered oxygen, a facility they didn’t have. So, the couple rushed to another hospital. “While we looked for a hospital, I realised he had stopped breathing,” recalls Shaqir. “He died in my arms.”

Pratap Singh, the additional district magistrate (ADM) of Shamli has no information of the deaths in the camps in Shamli. Muzaffarnagar ADM Indermani Tripathi says 11 deaths have taken place in the Loi camp. Muzaffarnagar chief medical officer SK Tyagi says only “one or two deaths have taken place” in the camps in the district and he is looking into health assistance. “Many more deaths have gone unreported,” says Rehana Adib, whose organisation Astitva has been involved in the relief work from the initial days. “The camps are not supervised properly by health officials.”

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1158297.aspx

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AAP effect? Manmohan calls Anna, assures headway in Lokpal Bill (Dec 10, 2013, Indian Express)

On a day when social activist Anna Hazare began his indefinite fast, the government said on Tuesday that it is serious about passing the Lokpal Bill in the current session of parliament. “As far as the Lokpal Bill is concerned, I have given notice to Rajya Sabha chairman for taking it up… the government is taking all sincere steps to pass the Lokpal Bill,” said Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy in Delhi, blaming the opposition for stalling the proceedings of the house.

Meanwhile, Hazare said he would continue his fast till the Bill is passed, warning against efforts to evict him forcibly. “It has been brought to my notice that the minister has told the media that the Lokpal Bill will be passed in this session. My question is why did he have to inform the media about his intention? If he is determined, he should take steps to pass the Bill,” he said.

The first day of his fast saw few people in attendance. Asked about this, Hazare said he had asked people to protest in their own places. “Crowd gathering is not our work,” he said. He said AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal had not contacted him or expressed support for his agitation.

Senior AAP leaders said the party had issued a directive asking its members not to support Hazare’s agitation under the party’s banner. Sources said the directive was issued in view of Hazare’s recent letter to Kejriwal stating that his name should not be used for electioneering purposes. “He has said no political party is welcome. But those who individually wish to join him should do so,” said party spokesperson Preeti Sharma Menon.

Meanwhile, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat met Hazare on Tuesday. Stating that he had been sent by Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Thorat said, “Anna is not that young any more, so I have requested him to take care of his health.”

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1205804/

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Miscreants tried to demolish an old mosque in Kolkata, Police quickly swung into action (Dec 7, 2013, Twocircles.net)

A group of miscreant’s tried to demolish an old Mosque at Sulekha More in Jadavpur area of Kolkata on 6 December, but local police immediately swung into action to prevent any untoward actions. After getting the information, police personnel under Deputy Commissioner of Police reached the spot and warned against any such untoward action. A police battalion has been posted on the spot.

An old Mosque under the Boar of Waqfs, West Bengal situated on the Raja Subodh Mallick Road under the Jadavpur, only half km from Jadavpur University. Before partition there was Muslim locality, but after 1946 and 1964 Kolkata riots many Muslims felt insecure and left the place to settle in Bangladesh.

Several Hindu families have illegally encroached upon the mosque land and settled there. Despite several attempts by Kolkata Masjid welfare Committee, they failed to vacate the place. On December 6, however, the occupants tried to demolish the old structure. As the news reached the state Wqf board, a delegation of South Kolkata Waqf Committee Advocate Alam Minar met the police officer at the Jadavpur Police station.

Police have assured all protection to the mosque and said that they will not allow any new construction, but expressed their inability to vacate the place, unless they have order from the government. TCN tried to get comment from the State Waqf Board Chair Justice (Retd.) Abdul Ghani, but he denied to talk about this matter on the Babri majid demolition anniversary.

http://twocircles.net/2013dec07/miscreants_tried_demolish_old_mosque_kolkata_police_quickly_swung_action.html

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Telangana row: Cong MPs give notice for no confidence motion (Dec 9, 2013, Deccan Herald)

In an embarrassment to Congress, six of its MPs from Seemandhra today gave notice for a no-confidence motion against Manmohan Singh Government to protest creation of Telangana issue and were joined by TDP and YSR Congress Party in this endeavour. The Seemandhra MPs, four TDP members of Lok Sabha and three members of YSR Congress Party led by Jaganmohan Reddy gave separate notices to Speaker Meira Kumar for moving the no-trust motion. In their letter to Kumar, the Congress MPs from Seemandhra sought permission to move a motion expressing no-confidence in the Union Council of Ministers under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.

The MPs have been strongly opposing division of Andhra Pradesh and have submitted their resignations from Lok Sabha which have not been accepted. Soon after, four TDP members also shot off an identical letter to the Speaker, seeking permission to move no-confidence motion. Sources claimed that the Congress MPs from Seemandhra took TDP into confidence on the matter and they acted on the same lines. “We may be rivals in our State. But, we are joining hands for the cause of United Andhra,” one of the Seemandhra MPs told PTI. The MP claimed that they were in talks with other parties as well, for pulling down the Government, which is pushing for dividing Andhra Pradesh against the wishes of Seemandhra people. “If the Government is not there, the bill would not come to the Parliament,” the MP said.

YSRCP also gave notice for the no-trust motion. Any move to bring a no-confidence motion requires the support of some 50 odd members, ten per cent of the membership of the House. “The 15th Lok Sabha has not seen any no-confidence motion. A plan by Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress to bring it over a year back came a cropper as it failed to find the requisite support. Trinamool has 19 members in Lok Sabha. The plan of the Congress MPs appears to be to embarrass the government on the Telangana issue by seeking support of those opposed to the division of Andhra Pradesh or creation of smaller states. The Congress MPs, who signed the joint letter to the Speaker, were R Sambasiva Rao, Sabbam Hari, V Arun Kumar, A Saiprathap, L Rajagopal and G V Harshakumar.

The TDP MPs to sign the letter were K Narayana Rao, N Sivaprasad, Nimmala Kristappa and Venugopala Reddy. TDP has five members in the Lok Sabha and one of them did not sign the letter. The three members of YSR Congress who sent the joint letter to the Speaker were Y. S. Jagan Mohan Reddy, Mekapati Rajamohan Reddy and S.P.Y. Reddy. A Congress MP from Seemandhra said they are working to muster the support of requisite MPs and some other political parties were ready to extend support in their mission to bring down the UPA government.

TDP leaders said they had opened talks with various ‘anti-Congress’ parties, in their attempt to dislodge the government. TDP MP Venugopala Reddy said his party gave the notice as the government did not have the moral right to continue and has lost credibility after the humiliating defeat in four states. “We are coordinating with all political parties. Shiv Sena, JD(U), AIADMK, DMK, TMC and all like minded parties,” he claimed.

http://www.deccanherald.com/content/373617/telangana-row-cong-mps-give.html

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Sai admits to fathering child with absconding sadhvi, Jamna (Dec 10, 2013, Indian Express)

Self-styled godman Asaram’s son Narayan Sai, who is facing rape charges, has confessed to having fathered a child with one of his sadhvis, Jamna, who has been absconding. He said this in the presence of his wife, Janki, who had been called by the Surat police to be present during his interrogation on Monday. The questioning was done in full view of CCTV cameras, specially installed in the lock-up room and other areas of the Crime Branch at Chowk Bazaar, where Sai is currently lodged.

Sai’s chauffeur, Ramesh Malhotra, has been sent to Surat district central jail under judicial custody, after his remand ended on Monday. The CCTV cameras had been fixed in different locations about two days ago to keep constant watch over Sai. Other such cameras have also been fixed inside the police inspector’s office.

Surat police commissioner Rakesh Asthaana can watch the footage and hear the conversations in his office, when Narayan Sai is questioned by the police at the Crime Branch. On getting a call from the Surat police, Sai’s wife Janki, who lives in MP, arrived in Surat on Monday morning. She was accompanied by her aunt Anita and her lawyer. Janki was with the police and Sai was interrogated in her presence. Police said Sai had confessed to be the father of Jamna’s son, Moksh.

Police claim that Sai met Jamna on four occasions after rape charges were brought against him and her (for being an accomplice) at Jehangirpura police station in Surat. Sai and Hanuman’s remand period will end on Wednesday. According to sources, a police team is already on its way to arrest Jamna.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1205768/

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Opinions and Editorials

The not-quite ‘semi-final’ and what it portends – By N. Ram (Dec 9, 2013, The Hindu)

…Hindutva spokespersons have depicted the latest Assembly contests as a ‘semi-final’ in which the winner’s form portends an overpowering victory in the ‘finals’ that will be played in April-May 2014. The problem with the analogy is that the guaranteed winner of the other semi-final, which will be played in virtual space, is a constellation of regional and some other non-BJP, non-Congress players, and the finals will be played by three contestants under differential rules – with the two semi-final winners each able to play on only part of the pitch and only the guaranteed loser in a position to play on the whole pitch, more or less. So how is the contest shaping up for the big prize? …

Everything points to the BJP emerging as the single largest party, by some distance, in the sixteenth Lok Sabha. The Congress, some pollsters speculate, could be reduced to half its present strength of 206. The regional, Left, and other non-Congress, non-BJP parties and independents are likely to make up a sizeable proportion of the next Lok Sabha, well above the UPA’s total strength. So what is the threshold from which a Modi-led BJP could bid aggressively to form a government? Given the overall political picture, it needs to be well over 200 Lok Sabha seats for the NDA – which after all is a shadow of the alliance it was when Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a much more acceptable political leader than Mr. Modi, spearheaded it to power in 1998 and 1999.

The essential political truth is that notwithstanding his present avatar as ‘Vikas Purush’, the Man of Development, Mr. Modi does not attract allies; he repels erstwhile allies and also potential allies. It is well established that he is a highly polarising and divisive figure, with a special notoriety rooted in his and his government’s role in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. Interestingly, India’s newspapers and news television channels have, by and large, maintained the necessary professional distance in reporting the Modi campaign. But what they have also done is to keep the focus on the deeply troubling path he has taken to the national stage – and on what this portends for secular and democratic governance.

That this essential political truth has had an impact even at the top leadership levels of the BJP was evidenced by Lal Krishna Advani’s revolt against the installation of Mr. Modi, first as the BJP’s election campaign chief, and then as its prime ministerial candidate. Instant media analysis might have concluded that the BJP’s pre-eminent ideologue and strategist was deeply offended because he was overlooked for the top job but that reading is both shallow and simple-minded. The more likely explanation is that Mr. Advani, with his long institutional memory, is disturbed by what lies in store for both the party and the Parivar – given Mr. Modi’s political notoriety, which, among other things, repels potential BJP allies.

All this suggests that the BJP, although assured of its single largest party status, will not go into the mid-2014 ‘finals’ as the favourite, in any event not the overwhelming favourite. Interesting political moves are on, for example, the Congress’s reported attempt to strike a deal with the Bahujan Samaj Party, the alliance manoeuvres in Bihar, not to mention the Telangana drama that lies ahead, that could make a difference on the ground. It is quite conceivable, even likely, that a post-poll combination of triumphant regional parties will, with external support from the Congress and the Left, be able to form the next government.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-notquite-semifinal-and-what-it-portends/article5437122.ece

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Illusions and Disillusionment – Editorial (Dec 14, 2013, EPW)

What began as a silent whisper after the 2002 atrocities in Gujarat has reached a crescendo over the past six months: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a serious contender for the post of the prime minister of India. The powerful (and dubious) media management strategies of Modi have made him, in the eyes of his followers, a front-runner six months ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. A high profile also brings with it greater scrutiny, and what is coming out week after week is adding up to an authoritarian personality who is narrow in his vision for India, who does not care to reach out to all Indians, who can subvert the law for personal ends, and, who, in the nature of US-style politicians, can be economical with facts (often to hilarious effect) and focused only on building an image.

Not once has Narendra Modi sought to dispel the notion that he has benefited in Gujarat from a cynical consolidation of the Hindu vote that followed the events of 2002. (Let us, for the moment, set aside the accusation that there is evidence of Modi’s complicity in the bloodbath of Muslims in the state.) The constitutional head of the government in Gujarat has not once apologised for the inability of his administration to protect citizens from violence; at best he has said that one feels sorry just as when “puppies” are accidentally crushed by a moving car. It required the intervention of the Supreme Court to obtain a measure of justice for the victims of 2002 because Modi’s government did not show any seriousness about getting justice done. Modi has not once nominated a Muslim to stand for election to the state assembly on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party and not once in his recent campaigns outside the state has he specifically called on all groups and classes to join him in a journey to build a better India. There can be no question that Modi is the most aggressive face of Hindutva that an elected holder of constitutional office has ever exhibited.

If the strong undercurrent of Narendra Modi’s politics has been hard-core Hindutva, the message he now sells is “development”. Election-style packaging in India has been taken to new heights in recent months by portraying Modi as an administrator of growth and development. It would seem that facts do not matter. As far as growth is concerned, Gujarat has always been a high performer and has done no better since 2001 under Modi than it did in the previous decade. When it comes to social indicators of health, education and nutrition, Gujarat under Modi has remained in the middle rung despite high growth rates. As far as future investment is concerned, the annual “Vibrant Gujarat” business summits have generated proposals of tens of thousands of crores of fresh investments but only a tiny fraction has been converted into actual outlays. The list of myths is endless. About the only significant achievement of Modi in Gujarat is the reform of electricity distribution, where, with the creation of separate feeder lines for agriculture and rural households, the reliability and quality of power to both sub-sectors has improved. Big business of course loves Modi because he carries an aura of authority and he has been quick to hand over land and dole out tax concessions to everyone from the Adanis to the Tatas.

The packaging of Narendra Modi has been so successful that it does not seem to matter that nowhere else in India do so many senior police officers stand guilty of illegal use of the law to take people’s lives (Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh, and Tulsiram Prajapati). And in recent weeks we have had the astonishing revelation that Modi’s right-hand man, Amit Shah, was personally directing police officers, on behalf of “Saheb”, to follow and report on every single step taken by an adult woman. Narendra Modi’s government does not seem to know that citizens are to be protected by law and not intruded upon by officials of the law, in this case supposedly (and unconvincingly, one must state) because one parent was concerned about his adult daughter. …

Narendra Modi’s rise in the public imagination as a man of development has of course been possible entirely because a venal and increasingly incompetent government has been in office since 2004, headed by a party that has been converted into the fiefdom of one nuclear family. But it has also taken place at a time when big business and a vocal urban salariat have shown an open distrust of democratic politics and a simultaneous thirst for faster economic growth. These two groups have tasted the fruits of rapid growth after liberalisation and they are impatient for more. Democratic politics calls for an accommodation of all classes and such an accommodation may well slow growth and require what are disparagingly described as “populist” measures, both anathema to big business and the urban salariat. Modi promises to clear all that stands in the way of a “strong and prosperous” India. Some of us do not want to see that it is a lie of a promise and the promised path is dangerously narrow and sectarian.

http://www.epw.in/editorial/illusions-and-disillusionment.html

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Sardar and the swayamsevaks – By Christophe Jaffrelot (Dec 7, 2013, Indian Express)

As early as the 1920s, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel showed ambivalent attitudes vis-a-vis the Muslim minority in Gujarat and India at large. On the one hand, he had been supportive of the Khilafat Movement, considering that it had “as a matter of fact, been a heartbreaking episode for the Indian Muslims, and how can Hindus stand by unaffected when they see their fellow countrymen thus in distress?” This sense of solidarity was fostered by his belief – that he emphasised in the 1940s in the name of national unity – that Muslims “originally belonged to India and were converted from Hindus”. On the other hand, Patel complained to Mahatma Gandhi one day that “the manners and customs of Muslims are different. They take meat while we are vegetarians. How are we to live with them in the same place?” Gandhi replied “No sir. Hindus as a body are nowhere vegetarians except in Gujarat.” Patel’s attitude vis-a-vis the Muslim minority changed after Partition. In a letter he wrote to Rajendra Prasad on September 5, 1947, he explains that, as home minister, he had “already given licences to two or three Hindu dealers for the sale of arms”, suggesting that he was promoting anti-Muslim militias.

Soon after Independence, in November 1947, Patel came to Junagadh – a state whose Nawab wanted to accede to Pakistan – in order to direct the occupation of the state by the Indian army. He seized this opportunity to visit the remnants of the temple of Somnath. According to his close associate, V.P. Menon, he “was visibly moved to find the temple which had once been the glory of India looking so dilapidated. It was proposed then and there to reconstruct it so as to return it to its original splendour…” He declared that “The restoration of the idols would be a point of honour and sentiment with the Hindu public”. While Gandhi and Nehru disapproved of a decision that was, in their view, affecting the religious neutrality of the state, Patel received the support of the Sangh Parivar.

He was to show some sympathy to the RSS a few weeks later. In December 1947, he made a speech in Jaipur that reflected his will “to turn the enthusiasm and discipline of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh into right channels”. On January 6, 1948, in a speech in Lucknow, he invited the Hindu Mahasabha to amalgamate with the Congress. He held out the same invitation to members of the RSS, criticising Nehru obliquely: “In the Congress, those who are in power feel that by virtue of authority they will be able to crush the RSS. You cannot crush an organisation by using the danda [stick]. The danda is meant for thieves and dacoits. They are patriots who love their country. Only their trend of thought is diverted. They are to be won over by Congressmen with love.”

Gandhi was assassinated by Nathuram Godse, a former RSS member, three weeks later and the organisation was banned. As home minister, Patel was in charge of the repression that he justified in eloquent terms to S.P. Mookerjee, his colleague from the Hindu Mahasabha in the Nehru government: “The activities of the RSS constituted a clear threat to the existence of the government and the state. Our reports show that those activities, despite the ban, have not died down. Indeed, as time has marched on, the RSS circles are becoming defiant and are indulging in their subversive activities in an increasing measure.” Still, Patel was prepared to engage the RSS. In December 1948, he “advised members of the RSS to join the Indian National Congress if they had the good of the country uppermost in their hearts”. Then he negotiated with RSS leaders the making of a constitution in order to lift the ban. In February 1949, he declared in the course of an interview: “To the RSS I have made an open offer. I told them: change your plans, give up secrecy, draft your constitution, come in the open field, respect the Constitution of India, show your loyalty to the Constitution and the flag and make us believe that we can trust your own words. To say one thing and to do another is a game which will not suit.”

Still, he wanted to make the best of the RSS. One month later, revealing his ambivalence, he said in an interview: “You will recall that there was a time when people called me a supporter of the RSS. To some extent that was true because these young men were brave, resourceful and courageous, but they were a little mad. I wanted to utilise their bravery, power and courage and cure them of their madness by making them realise their true responsibilities and their duty. It is that madness that I want to eradicate.” Patel legalised the RSS after it adopted a constitution complying with his demands. He then considered that “the only way for them is to reform the Congress from within, if they think the Congress is going on the wrong path.” Soon after, on October 10, 1949, while Nehru was abroad, Patel had a resolution passed by the Congress Working Committee authorising RSS members to be part of the party. Nehru later had this resolution nullified. …

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1204472/

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Defeat the Communal Challenge – Editorial (Dec 8, 2013, Peoples Democracy)

We are going to press on the eve of the 21st anniversary of the wanton destruction of the Babri Masjid. This destruction was not merely the demolition of one building, or, an Islamic religious structure alone. It symbolised the efforts to destroy the edifice of the modern secular democratic republic of India that emerged over a century-long epic struggle for India’s freedom and modernity. While shedding crocodile tears, the RSS/BJP have all along claimed that this destruction was the result of a spontaneous ‘anger’ of the kar sevaks assembled there. They, of course, deliberately bypassed the fact that the build-up to December 6, 1992 was the feverish sharpening of communal polarization whose aim, apart from reaping immediate electoral and political benefits by seeking to consolidate the majority Hindu vote bank, was to carry forward the ideological project of the RSS, defeated by the Indian people at the time of our independence, to convert our modern republic into a rabidly intolerant fascistic ‘Hindu Rashtra’.

Ten days after the demolition, the Liberhan Commission of enquiry was set-up. After labouring for sixteen and a half years and with 48 extensions of time, its report was finally submitted to the parliament in November 2009. On page 917 of the report in para 158.10 the Commission summarises its findings and conclusions by saying “The claim made by leaders of the movements and the icons from political or social organisations does not carry conviction to conclude that the demolition was carried out by kar sevaks spontaneously out of sheer anger or emotion. The mode of assault, the number of kar sevaks who carried out the demolition and the constraints of the space to accommodate the number of people, veiling of the identity of the kar sevaks entering the domes, the removal of idols and the cash box from under the dome and subsequent re-installation in the make shift temple, construction of the make shift temple, availability of instruments and materials for demolition and for the swift construction of the make shift temple categorically leads to the conclusion and finding that the demolition was carried out with great painstaking preparation and pre-planning.”

Such a deliberate pre-planned action is not only sought to be obfuscated but was also based on a gross misleading of the country and various institutions of our democracy. As the movement for “mandir wahin banayenge” led by L K Advani was wreaking communal violence and mayhem across the country, apprehensions of the possible destruction of the Babri Masjid were raised in the National Integration Council at a meeting in November 1991. The then BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh had assured the country that nothing of such nature would be permitted by saying, “as regards the disputed structure I want to make it clear that I assure you the entire responsibility of the protection of the disputed structure is ours. We should be vigilant about the disputed structure. We have strengthened the arrangements for its protection. Now nobody will be able to go there. No incident would be allowed to be repeated when three persons climbed on the top of the dome. I want to convey this assurance to you through this council. Overall, it is our clear submission regarding the court; we will abide by the order given by the court. We do not want to do anything by violating its order.”

However, soon after demolition, in a public speech in Calcutta, this very chief minister proudly stated that if he had given this job of demolition to contractors, they would have taken many days, but his kar sevaks had achieved the objective in five hours! Characteristic RSS/BJP double speak! The late Comrade Jyoti Basu, as the chief minister of the state of West Bengal, had submitted a video recording of this speech to the Liberhan Commission. It is, therefore, clear that this destruction was part of a planned undermining of the very foundations of the modern Indian republic. This act, by itself, challenged the capacity of the Indian people and its political leadership to uphold the Constitution and the inalienable rights enshrined in it like ensuring equality for all its citizens irrespective of caste, creed, gender or any other reflection of our country’s vast social and cultural diversity. This is a challenge that continues to confront us even after these two decades.

A decade after the demolition of the Babri Masjid came the ghastly Gujarat communal pogrom. Once again, the flames of communal conflagration engulfed our country’s secular democratic foundations. That the challenge continues to remain potent is reflected by the fact that no one was punished for the destruction of the Babri Masjid even after these two decades and no one, mainly responsible for the Gujarat carnage, has been punished so far. Apart from healing the wounds, such delay in delivering justice only pours salt over these wounds weakening our fragile secular democratic edifice. Now, a decade after the Gujarat carnage, the RSS/BJP is projecting the Gujarat chief minister under whose aegis this ghastly communal carnage took place as their prospective prime ministerial candidate for the country following the 2014 general elections. After initial hiccups, L K Advani, who led the ‘rath yatra’ in the 1990s leading to the demolition of the Babri Masjid and largely symbolising the surcharged atmosphere of communal hatred and violence then, has fallen in line with the RSS/BJP’s decision of projecting their prime ministerial aspirant. He has recently said, on record, that he has been “Modified”. …

http://pd.cpim.org/2013/1208_pd/12082013_edit.html

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Role of police in communal violence – By Irfan Engineer (Dec 6, 2013, Twocircles.net)

Role of Police and administration in controlling communal violence has been wanting and in fact prejudicial to minorities. Communal riots in India are generally well planned. Riots that are spontaneous in nature can be controlled within 24 hours unless the police or the district administration or the government wants it otherwise. In other words, there are two necessary conditions for riots to continue beyond 24 hours – it should be well planned and the administration, including police, should want it to continue and should be otherwise complicit.

Vibhuti Narain Rai, an upright IPS officer with hands on experience in controlling riots and one who has studied communal riots and role of police extensively, argues that Indian society is not torn apart with civil war and existence of armed militias as in West Asia, Europe or other parts of the world. Therefore, if the police and administration is unable to control a riot a riot within 24 hours, it only means that their actions, conduct and behaviour need proper examination. Through his research, Rai has arrived at a conclusion that police and the administration have deep-rooted communal bias that prevents them from controlling communal violence within 24 hours. Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer also observed that during his investigations, constabulary in Mumbai were reading Samnaa, a daily news paper published by a communal party Shiv Sena. The constabulary which was deployed to control the communal riots in 1984 in Bhiwandi proudly proclaimed that they were Shiv Sainiks in uniform. In his investigation of Jabalpur riots in 1961, Engineer gives account of armed constabulary molesting Muslim women inside their homes and several accounts of police biases in his aforesaid article, though cautioning that there are unbiased and impartial police officers as well.

Police are complicit at three stages. The first stage is that of early warnings when the riots are being planned. During this stage, religion wise data and their spatial distribution is being compiled. In Gujarat for example, the rioters attacked even those establishments and businesses having Hindu names, Hindu employees and Hindu partners. Even these establishments were not spared where, either one of the sleeping partners or the financers of the establishment was a Muslim. The data of Hindu establishments having Muslim partners was probably collected from sales tax authorities and registrars of partnership firms. Then Hindu and Muslim homes are marked for precise identification of the targets by the rioters. In Surat and Ahmedabad, Hindus were told to write “Jai Shri Ram on their houses”. During my investigation of Surat riots in 1992-1993, many of my informants told me that some individuals pretending to be from census authorities had come to check their ration cards and the data in the ration cards were noted by them.

Next, equipments to be used during riots are collected, like fuel oils and gas cylinders, to burn houses and weapons for stabbing. As an early warning, it is easy to observe escalating confrontation over practical non-issue/s between the two communities and mobilization of the communities through provocative speeches that promote enmity between two communities. If there were no riots in Bhiwandi and Aligarh, otherwise communal hotbeds, after demolition of Babri Masjid, it was because of effective and impartial preventive measures in the two towns. Every major riot has its early warnings spread over weeks and sometimes over months. L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra before the demolition of the Babri Masjid is an example.

Kandhamal riots had their early warnings from 24th December 2008 when the arches erected by the Christians to celebrate Christmas was demolished by Sangh Parivar members and anti-Christian mobilization through provocative speeches were given, is another example. Police or the administration can pro-actively intervene during this stage, arresting those making provocative speeches or collecting equipments for riot or planning the riot, bringing together notables and ordinary members of both the communities together and facilitating interaction between them, undertaking confidence building and working out mechanism to counter rumours. If the administration is determined, outbreak of violence can be prevented at this stage. An early warning of a riot is fairly evident to any ordinary person of ordinary intelligence, let alone police, whose job is to gather intelligence. At this stage, the police are required to collect intelligence, take preventive actions like detention of anti-social and communal elements or execution of bonds, and instil fear in the minds of mischief mongers through show of force or diffusing tension through reconciliatory measures. …

http://twocircles.net/2013dec06/role_police_communal_violence.html

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Why is rape in Goa different from rape in Muzaffarnagar? – By Saeed Naqvi (Dec 6, 2013, DNA India)

State election results have taken Tarun Tejpal off prime time shows and the front pages. This is something of a relief. On Nov 7-8, past midnight, after extensive partying at what was billed to be a THINK fest at a five star hotel in Goa, the feisty proprietor editor of Tehelka magazine followed one of his junior reporters, a friend of his daughter’s, and allegedly did things to her which under a revised law is tantamount to rape. Strangely, something similar happened the subsequent day too. In such stories, a routine triangle emerges. There was, for instance, Tarun’s wife and family in a state of trauma. In the young lady’s case there is apparently a boyfriend in the bargain. The truth of any human story will always be conditioned by these extraneous factors.

No sooner had the story leaked than it was banner headlines, recycled mornings, afternoons, nights on prime time shows. That was not all. It remained the staple for TV discussions week after week, as if the world had come to a standstill, riveted on Tarun Tejpal. By a coincidence, I had just returned from Muzaffarnagar, barely two hours drive from New Delhi, where Muslim victims from recent communal violence were preparing for a bitter winter in makeshift camps. Among the refugees were scores of women, raped in front of their parents and children and who are still waiting for the wheels of justice to move at all. In Tarun’s case there is that uncertainty as to what really happened. Here is rape with as many witnesses as can fill a court of law.

Efforts to administer justice in the case of an alleged rape in the lift of a five star Goa hotel, contrasted sharply with gross inaction in Muzaffarnagar. The star struck media was taking no interest. These victims of rape and ethnic cleansing were confronting yet another challenge. The regional party in power in Lucknow, the Samajwadi party, were keen that these victims must somehow disappear because their continued presence in camps reflects on the government’s inability to prevent the pogrom.

There was another dilemma. If the state intervened on behalf of the Muslims, the government will lose Hindu support. Should it end up doing nothing for the uprooted Muslims, the party faces the certainty of that vote bank drifting away. So what should “Maulana” Mulayam Singh Yadav do on the eve of key national elections? He has a brainwave. He will require the few thousand Muslims still in the camp to accept a lumpsum of Rs.5 lakhs, equivalent of $8,000, by way of compensation for having been dislocated.

So far so good. But they will be entitled to this lumpsum only on one condition: they sign an affidavit that they will not ever return to their homes under any circumstance. Why is the government of Mulayam Singh going to such extraordinary lengths to prevent this timid vote bank from returning to their villages? Because he cannot guarantee them their security. Why such helplessness on the part of the nation’s most populous state? Because the conflict in the region is between Jats and Muslims and the police force is overwhelmingly Jat. If that is the case why not transfer a Jat force to a non Jat area and the other way around? Hush!! Don’t even whisper this. Jats will get angry. …

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-why-is-rape-in-goa-different-from-rape-in-muzaffarnagar-1930609

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