IAMC Weekly News Roundup – February 9th, 2015

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

A 100-yr-pact for communal amity in Konkan village (Feb 9, 2015, Financial Express)

Hindus and Muslims in Burondi, a village in Ratnagiri district – located 228 km from Mumbai – have signed a 100-year pact between themselves to maintain communal harmony. The pact, which has been notarised, lays down a code of conduct for members of both the communities to avoid communal strife in the village that has a population of 4,000.

Some of the clauses in the agreement include a code of conduct for processions before they pass through a holy place. “Hindu processions, be it a marriage procession or a religious one, will pass through the masjid with drums playing. However if there is namaaz going on, the procession will stop at a distance and pass only when the namaaz is over,” the agreement states. The three-page agreement also states that the Govinda procession will pass through the masjid area with full pomp and will also pay obeisance at the mosque.

It further stipulates that Hindus living between a particular stretch in the village will help and serve during the annual Urs that is held at Karajgaon Dargah. The agreement says members of both the communities will take part in each other’s festivities and steps need to be taken to ensure that these festivals are celebrated in an inclusive way. In any public programme held in the village, members of both the communities should be present on the dais and senior members of both the religions should be felicitated, it adds. …

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/a-100-yr-pact-for-communal-amity-in-konkan-village/

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OMG! Hindu Mahasabha’s Swami Omji threatens to kill Arvind Kejriwal like Nathuram Godse killed Mahatma Gandhi (Feb 9, 2015, India.com)

Swami Omji from Hindu Mahasabha is one among the rare people you will meet. He claims to be from an Independent political party contesting in the Delhi Assembly Elections 2015 from Palika Bazaar in New Delhi. He is a part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and claims Prime Minister Narendra Modi has sought him out for campaigning. Wearing a BJP cap, the Swami seems to be quite aggressive in nature while talking to the reporter.…

When asked who will win the Delhi Assembly Elections 2015, he says that there is no doubt about BJP’s victory. He also tells that he has convinced many Hindu Mahasabha members to vote for the BJP, as in the previous election many of their members voted for AAP or Congress by mistake.

He also says that Arvind Kejriwal is a traitor and will not come to power in Delhi. In a controversial statement, the Swami adds that like the Hindu Mahasabha had killed Mahatma Gandhi (which is questionable), they will also kill Kejriwal. When asked if Gandhi’s assassin Nathuram Godse was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha, he gives a vague answer. He also said that he had committed a mistake by beating up Kejriwal earlier, but that if he does not listen to him, he would not spare his life. He has also written a book against Kejriwal and given the AAP chief a copy of the book.

http://www.india.com/stream/omg-hindu-mahasabhas-swami-omji-threatens-to-kill-arvind-kejriwal-like-nathuram-godse-killed-mahatma-gandhi-275431/

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Barack Obama: ‘Acts of intolerance’ in India would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi (Feb 6, 2015, Indian Express)

US President Barack Obama on Thursday said “acts of intolerance” experienced by religious faiths of all types in India in the past few years would have shocked Mahatma Gandhi. The comments came a day after the White House refuted suggestions that the US President’s public speech in New Delhi, in which he touched on religious tolerance, was a “parting shot” aimed at the ruling BJP.

Hours before winding up his three-day visit to India on January 27, Obama had said, “Every person has the right to practice his faith without any persecution, fear or discrimination. India will succeed so long as it is not splintered on religious lines. Your Article 25 says all people are equally entitled to the freedom of conscience and have the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion. In both our countries, in all countries, upholding freedom of religion is the utmost responsibility of the government, but also the responsibility of every person.”

On Thursday, at the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast, Obama said, “Michelle and I returned from India – an incredible, beautiful country, full of magnificent diversity – but a place where, in past years, religious faiths of all types have, on occasion, been targeted by other people of faith, simply due to their heritage and their beliefs – acts of intolerance that would have shocked Gandhiji, the person who helped to liberate that nation.”…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/religious-intolerance-in-india-would-have-shocked-mahatma-gandhi-barack-obama/99/

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Documentary film blames BJP and SP for Muzaffarnagar riots where more than 60 people were killed (Feb 3, 2015, Daily Mail)

A documentary film on Muzaffarnagar riots has blamed the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the massacre of people in August and September 2013.… Directed by Nakul Singh and Neha Dixit, the film titled Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai (There is more to Muzaffarnagar) was screened in the Kennedy Hall of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) amid protests from students who owe allegiance to the SP.

The documentary film was screened in the presence of AMU student union president Abdullah Azzam and vice-president Syed Masoodul Hasan. The union’s honorary secretary and other team members, in fact, helped boost the morale of the students who had organised the screening on campus.

Muzaffarnagar Abhi Baki Hai shows how Hindutva organisations and leaders of the ruling SP provoked the masses against each other to commit atrocities towards members of the opposite community. The documentary also shows the present living condition of people who have been displaced from their houses because of the riots. Scores of such people live under fragile tents where children don’t have food to eat.…

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2936773/Muzaffarnagar-riots-Documentary-film-blames-BJP-SP.html

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30 arrested for ghar wapsi in Coimbatore (Feb 8, 2015, Times of India)

Police arrested 30 Hindu Munnani members for conducting ghar wapsi (homecoming) event at Thudiyalur, near Coimbatore, on Friday evening. Four members of a Christian family were “reconverted” to Hinduism at the event. The incident comes close on the heels of Christian religious heads condemning the sudden spurt in reconversions in Tamil Nadu.

The Hindu Munnai members had planned to conduct the programme at a temple in K Vadamadurai near Thudiyalur, but were denied permission by police. “We did not invite anyone to join Hinduism. People approached us seeking to reconvert to Hinduism, and we helped them,” said D Thiyagarajan, Coimbatore north district secretary of Hindu Munnani. A case was registered under Section 151 (preventive detention) of the CrPC and those arrested were let off within a few hours.

The Hindu Munnani members alleged that people were being lured to convert to Christianity and such forcible conversions should be prevented in future. T Ganesh, 30, a car driver, voluntarily converted to Christianity three years ago, and changed his name to Alwin. His daughter Dhikshiya became Angel, mother Shantha became Stella and his younger sister’s son Prasanth was named Yabesh. Hindu activists said the family faced discrimination after conversion and decided to reconvert to regain the lost respect.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46160438.cms

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Catholics Fear Campaign of Church Attacks in India (Feb 2, 2015, New York Times)

A series of episodes at churches over the last two months has prompted Roman Catholics here to worry about a deliberate campaign of violence, and to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out against religious intimidation.

At least five Catholic churches in and around Delhi have reported various attacks, including suspected arson, burglary, vandalism and stone-throwing. The latest was discovered on Monday morning at St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi, where a parish employee found the church’s front door broken open, ceremonial vessels missing, and communion wafers strewn about.

The episodes have caught the attention of human rights advocates, who have been alert to any new pressure on religious freedom in India since Mr. Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party swept to power inelections last May. But church leaders say that the authorities have not taken the attacks seriously enough.…

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/world/asia/catholics-fear-campaign-of-church-attacks-in-india.html

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Surya namaskar made compulsory in 48,000 schools Rajasthan (Feb 4, 2015, Times of India)

Amid protests from different corners, the education department issued orders on Tuesday for government and private schools to introduce surya namaskar in all secondary and senior secondary classes with immediate effect.

The order issued by office of director secondary education, Rajasthan says that every secondary and senior secondary school has to hold 20 minute assembly or bal sabhas everydaywhich includes surya namaskar, meditation and paper reading. Effectively this order will be applicable for little over 48,000 schools including 28,000 government schools (secondary and above).

The order issued by the office is in line with that of Madhya Pradesh government which issued a similar directions a long time back. The order divides 20 minutes into three segments including first five minutes for prayers, national song, oath and group song. The next 10 minutes are for surya namaskar, yoga and meditation while the last five minutes for newspaper reading in both Hindi and English.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46114163.cms

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Loopholes in CBI Chargesheet Helped Former Police Officer DG Vanzara Get Bail (Feb 7, 2015, NDTV)

Loopholes in the CBI chargesheet against DG Vanzara had gone in his favour, a special court said while granting bail to Gujarat’s most controversial police officer.

Mr Vanzara – accused in two encounter killing cases – got bail from a CBI court on Thursday, but he is yet to be released from prison due to pending procedural formalities. Mr Vanzara had earlier obtained a bail in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case from a Mumbai court nearly after eight years.

The detailed order of the court, made available now, has highlighted several inconsistencies in the investigations of the agency, which was in charge of the case.…

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/loopholes-in-cbi-chargesheet-helped-former-police-officer-dg-vanzara-get-bail-737725

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Liaquat framing: MHA moves closer to acting against cops (Feb 5, 2015, Times of India)

In a step closer to possible action against the Delhi Police personnel who allegedly framed former Hizbul Mujahideen militant Liaquat Shah in a cooked-up terror case, the home ministry has internally moved the file recommending departmental action against the delinquent officers.

Sources said the file has moved from Internal Security division to Union Territory division, which has administrative control over the Delhi Police, for action. The internal security division has recommended that “appropriate departmental action” may be taken in view of the “serious allegations” of misconduct on part of the officers involved.

The move comes after NIA sent a note to the home ministry indicting nine policemen, including a DCP, an ACP and three inspectors, in the case. NIA alleged that the officers had deliberately framed Shah after planting explosives in an old Delhi hotel through their informer Sabir Khan Pathan. Shah was actually returning from Pak-occupied Kashmir with his family to surrender under the J&K government’s rehabilitation policy for former militants.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46126195.cms

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In mid-night blaze training-center, farm of a NGO working at grassroots burnt in WB (Feb 3, 2015, Twocircles.net)

The training centre and adjoining farm of a NGO engaged in social activities was set ablaze on the mid night of January 27 by alleged miscreants in the Birbhum district of West Bengal.

The suspicious fire has burnt down completely the farm, preserved seeds, poultry and training center of the Mohammad-Bazar Backward Classed Development Society (MBBCDS), who work among the marginally weaker sections of the society, mainly the tribals and Muslims women, located at Herika Village of Purana Gram panchayet area under the Mohammad Bazar police station in Birbhum district. The society is being headed and established by social activist Ayesha Khatun.

Speaking to twoCircles.net, Ayesha Khatun confirmed that the MBBCDS center was set ablaze, adding that it was one of their main centers. She said that around mid-night as they were preparing to go to sleep, they got the information of the fire, and rushed to the center; but still could not save the farm, the poultry farm as well as the plants and trees have completely been gutted, she said.…

http://twocircles.net/2015feb03/1422967542.html

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Police inaction in dalit harassment cases draws ire (Feb 7, 2015, The Hindu)

The inaction of the police in rendering justice to those who faced harassment from upper castes came in for sharp criticism at the ninth annual conference of the Dalit Sthree Sakthi (DSS) organised here on Friday.

Several speakers said that police were not registering cases against the people involved in attacks on SC and STs in a majority of the incidents. The policemen were also shielding the accused involved in rape cases without conducting proper investigation. Counter cases were booked against the victim’s family members for requesting the police to expedite the investigation, they explained.

“We brought to the notice of senior police officials about the inordinate delay in investigating the pending cases but nothing concrete has been done till date. The station house officers (SHOs) in several districts, including Krishna region were not taking necessary steps in completing the inquiry even after receiving instructions from the higher authorities,” said DSS National Programme Coordinator G.D.V. Prakash.…

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Vijayawada/police-inaction-in-dalit-harassment-cases-draws-ire/article6867151.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

Modi’s Dangerous Silence – Editorial (Feb 6, 2015, New York Times)

What will it take for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities? Attacks at Christian places of worship have prompted no response from the man elected to represent and to protect all of India’s citizens. Nor has he addressed the mass conversion to Hinduism of Christians and Muslims who have been coerced or promised money. Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right.

Recently, a number of Christian churches in India have been burned and ransacked. Last December, St. Sebastian’s Church in East Delhi was engulfed in fire. Its pastor reported a strong smell of kerosene after the blaze was put out. On Monday, St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi was vandalized. Ceremonial vessels were taken, yet collection boxes full of cash were untouched. Alarmed by the attacks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has urged the government to uphold the secular nature of India and to assure its Christians they are “protected and secure” in their own country.

There is also concern about the mass conversions. Last December, about 200 Muslims were converted to Hinduism in Agra. In January, up to 100 Christians in West Bengal “reconverted” to Hinduism. Hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (V.H.P.) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), make no secret of their support for a “homecoming” campaign designed to “return” non-Hindus to the fold. More than 80 percent of Indians are Hindu, but Pravin Togadia of the V.H.P. says his organization’s goal is a country that is 100 percent Hindu. The only way to achieve that is to deny religious minorities their faith.…

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/07/opinion/modis-dangerous-silence.html

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In the conversion noise, the silence – By Sumit Baudh (Jan 21, 2015, Indian Express)

Buddhist, only because they are afraid of losing their legal status of SC. It might be an inducement for Dalits to profess Hinduism. A Dalit family in Alappuzha, Kerala, has said in so many words that they “converted for quota benefits”. Everyone should be free to profess any religion of his or her choice without fear or inducement. Instead of creating a controversy over a new anti-conversion law, the government must make an urgent assessment of the implicit inducement and systemic discrimination caused by the Constitution Order.

The usage of “conversion” is discursive, vague and misleading. It assumes a prior religious denomination. For example, my father did not “convert” to Buddhism because there was nothing to convert from. He never formally professed any religion, apart from occasional celebration of the popular Hindu festival Diwali. “Conversion” undermines the agency of so-called converts to choose their religion. A more suitable word would be profess or embrace.

The alternative usage of ghar wapsi (homecoming) is similarly presumptuous and wrong. If there was ever any ghar (home), the Hindu caste order and the practice of “untouchability” never allowed Dalits in it. Ghar wapsi is paradoxical and offensive because “untouchable” Dalits are intentionally, systematically, violently and forcefully kept outside the so-called ghar.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/in-the-conversion-noise-the-silence/2/

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Saffronised censor – By Anupama Katakam (Feb 20, 2015, Frontline)

“I AM proud to be a BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] man, and Narendra Modi is my action hero,” said Pahlaj Nihalani, Hindi film producer. For his unstinting loyalty to the party and the Prime Minister, Nihalani has been rewarded amply: he has been made the Chairman of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), or censor board.

In fact, along with him, a band of BJP supporters have secured coveted positions on the board. This action is vintage BJP. In its previous tenure at the head of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, the party had packed several quasi-government bodies with its own people in what was seen as an effort to further the Sangh Parivar’s saffron agenda.

Essentially, the mass media, especially films and television, are largely secular platforms, and technically should function without any government interference. Positioning profiles such as Nihalani in key posts is causing concern within the film industry and among the liberal-minded. The BJP and other Sangh Parivar organisations have never been apologetic about their views on certain issues relating to religion, women and social norms. Their handling of these topics has been narrow-minded, even bordering on the absurd.…

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/saffronised-censor/article6848455.ece

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Indian Democracy At The Crossroads – By Ram Puniyani (Feb 6, 2015, Countercurrents)

I begin this lecture paying tribute to my very dear friend, Dr. Asghar Ali Engineer, with whom I had the rare privilege of working with for close to two decades. Dr. Engineer was a unique scholar-activist, totally committed to the dream and vision of a humane society that honours the values of diversity and where human rights for all are the defining point.

In this regard, he may have been among the first persons who realized the dangers of divisive communal politics. It was he who set the trend seeking the causal factors behind communal violence, doing his own meticulous investigation after such riots. He contributed massively to reforms that took place in the Bohra community, on the issues of secularism and finally, in the interpretation of Islam. We need to learn a lot from him in order to strive for a society that values peace, amity and compassion.

Where are we standing today? What are the major threats to Indian democracy, today, even more menacing with the coming of the Modi Government? The factors contributing to his victory have been several. The unstinted support given to him by India’s corporate; the fanatical zeal of the RSS and its lakhs of volunteers; the role of a corporate controlled media; the false projection of the ‘Gujarat model of development’; the polarization of society along religious lines; and last, but not the least, the discrediting of the Congress through the campaigns launched by Anna Hazare, Baba Ramdev and Arvind Kejriwal that culminated in the formation of AAP party.…

http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani060215.htm

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The rest is silence – By Ilangovan Rajasekaran (Feb 20, 2015, Frontline)

“The writer Perumal Murugan is dead. He is no God. Hence he will not resurrect. Nor does he have any belief in rebirth. Henceforth a stupid teacher, P. Murugan, will alone live.”

This elegiac note posted by P. Murugan [Perumal Murugan], 48, on his Facebook page an hour before midnight on January 12 described perfectly the state of this writer’s mind in the wake of the protests in Tiruchengode, which he fondly calls in the foreword to his Tamil novel Madhorubagan “a town that has seeped into me” and helped him reach “new understandings”. The town is in Namakkal district in Tamil Nadu.

Madhorubagan is at the centre of a controversy created by a sinister alliance of caste groups and right-wing forces, which took serious objection to the book, accusing the author of “polluting” their culture and temple worship and denigrating Hindu womanhood. Notwithstanding his clarifications, these vociferous elements went to the extreme of forcing this writer and Tamil scholar to withdraw his works from the shop shelves.…

http://www.frontline.in/the-nation/the-rest-is-silence/article6852122.ece

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The Law Is Under Trial Here – By Neha Dixit (Feb 16, 2015, Outlook)

“If the government does not do anything in the next few days, I will do what even Damini did not do. I will set myself and my sons on fire in the middle of Muzaffarnagar city,” says S on the phone, two days after two rape accused in her case were granted bail. When I had met her in July, S was about to start her ‘Stitching Training Centre’ along with her husband, determined to fight her case till justice was hers.

The Damini she refers to you may know as Nirbhaya, or more baldly as the “Delhi gangrape victim”. S was gangraped by three men from her village in Lankh on September 8, 2013, in Shamli district … but her ordeal, as well as that of hundreds of women sexually abused and gangraped, was subsumed within a broad category that came to be called ‘the Muzaffarnagar riots’. It was a madness that-according to the ‘official’ record of the Uttar Pradesh government-led to 60 deaths, seven rapes and the displacement of 40,000 people. Never mind if we could actually be looking at some 200 deaths, 1,20,000 people displaced and hundreds of unreported mass rapes.

S’s trajectory has crossed the Nirbhaya case in several ways. The Criminal Amendment Act, 2013, drafted by the Verma Commission set up in the wake of the protests following the December 16, 2012, Delhi gangrape, came into force in February 2013. While the Act introduced multiple amendments in laws related to sexual violence, lawmakers for the first time also took cognisance of the systematic violence against women during communal riots in India. As a result, a crucial amendment-Section 376(2)(g)-was included in the Indian Penal Code.…

http://www.outlookindia.com/article/The-Law-Is-Under-Trial-Here/293296

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