IAMC Weekly News Roundup – June 20th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup


News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials


IAMC Condemns Massacre of Innocent Villagers in Forbesganj, Bihar

Monday June 16, 2011

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC – http://www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India’s pluralist and tolerant ethos, has strongly condemned the shocking and inhumane killing of six innocent villagers, including two women and an infant, in the Forbesganj district of Bihar. IAMC has called upon the state government to ensure that the guilty are prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

On June 3, 2011, residents of the Rampur and Bhajanpur villages under Forbesganj block in Araria district came out, after the Friday Prayer, to protest against the blockade of the connecting road between the two villages for a factory. Without using any other measures to disperse the crowd, the police opened fire on the protestors. When protestors ran, they were chased all the way into their homes, where the police entered and killed them, including two women and an infant at point blank range.

“Our hearts go out to the families of the victims, and we share in their grief and feeling of betrayal”, said Shaheen Khateeb, President, IAMC. “The barbarism and lawlessness coming from those entrusted with upholding the rule of law, is symptomatic of the deeper malaise of radical sectarian ideologies having infiltrated the ranks of the police and the paramilitary”, added Mr. Khateeb.

Videos of the bodies of victims, obtained by news portal twocircles.net, show bullet marks on the head, neck, chest and abdomen, and evidence that the bullets were fired at point blank range. Moreover, the videos also show bullet marks on the walls and windows of the homes.

Although the judicial probe ordered by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, is a step in the right direction, IAMC believes preventing such horrific incidents from being repeated requires a stronger reaction from the state and central government.

The propaganda against the region launched by the BJP and ABVP, with baseless allegations of the Muslim-majority villages being a “haven for terrorists”, played a decisive role in this senseless loss of life.

Indian American Muslim Council (formerly Indian Muslim Council-USA) is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with 10 chapters across the nation. For more information please visit our new website at www.iamc.com.


Forbesganj Firing: Police killed women, infant at pointblank range

Forbesganj Firing: Nitish Kumar Orders Judicial Probe

Shaheen Khateeb
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Supreme Court amicus curiae, probing case against Narendra Modi, on Gujarat visit (Jun 18, 2011, DNA India)

Supreme Court amicus curiae in the Gulberg Society case, who has been entrusted with the responsibility of giving a report on a complaint against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and others, is on a two day visit to Gujarat. Raju Ramchandran, who has been entrusted by the apex court to find out independently if there is any evidence against Modi and others, named in a complaint, filed by Zakia Jaffery, today interacted with a few people attached to the case, including IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt. “I had a more than two-hour long interaction with Ramchandran today,” Bhatt told PTI. Bhatt refused to give details about the discussion he had with the court amicus curiae.

In a rare order, on May 6, the Supreme Court entrusted Ramchandran to have an independent overview of the report given by the SIT (appointed by the apex court) into the alleged role of Modi and others in the killing of Congress MP Ehsan Jaffery in Ahmedabad during the 2002 riots. The court gave power to Ramchandran to analyse the report, comments and statements of the witnesses and, if required, interact with them to give an “objective” assessment of the evidence. The apex court gave this judgment after Ramchandran had pointed out several loopholes in the report, submitted by the SIT to the Supreme Court, and had expressed dissatisfaction.

Bhatt had recently filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging that Modi had asked police officials to go soft on rioters and allow them to vent their anger, in a meeting held on the night of February 27, 2002. Zakia, wife of former Congress MP Ehsan Jaffery, had alleged in the complaint that Modi, top politicians, bureaucrats and police officers had engineered the post-Godhra riots, in which, her husband and 68 others were killed by mobs in Gulberg Society. Ramchandran will remain in the city tomorrow and is likely to interact with other witnesses in the case. However, Tanvir Jaffery, son of Zakia said that Ramchandran has not called his mother or him for interaction, as he might be meeting a few witnesses, who might be important in the case.



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Saffron War unveils Hindutva terrorism: Sandeep Pandey (Jun 18, 2011, Milli Gazette)

Saffron War – A war against nation – a documentary based on the communal terrorist politics being pursuaded by the BJP MP and the current head of the Gorakhnath Peeth Yogi Adityanath – was screened here on 16 April at UP Press Club. The film brings out the terrorist activities carried out by Hindutva organizations in the region. Addressing the audience during the discussion following the screening of the film, social activist Sandeep Pandey said that this Hindutva experiment is being carried out in the whole eastern UP but the activities are being constantly ignored by the government. Yogi Adityanath, and the Hindu Yuva Vahini which is supported by him, are responsible for many riots and massacres in the area. Just a few days back, a Muslim youth, Sohrab, going to Khalilabad was brutally killed by the Hindu Yuva Vahini people. In such a situation, this film reveals the communal experiments that are being carried there.

On this occasion, Advocate Shoaib said that Saffron War not only reveals the terrorist activities that are carried out by members of a specific community but also reveals how Dalits, women and children of the Hindu community are prepared and conditioned with communalism. Addressing the audience, Former VC of Lucknow University and Secretary, Saajhi Duniya, Prof Roop Rekha Verma said that eastern U. P. is completely trapped by lumpens. Communal forces have made the whole social set up of that area completely patriarchal and against women.

Yugal Kishor Karan Shastri, a mahant from Ayodhya, said that Yogi Aditya Nath is running a tradition that is completely against real Yogi traditions. His practices reflect a yogi as a lumpen. He said that this film reveals the truth of such experiments and practices. The film is in Hindi and is directed by young film makers Rajeev Yadav, Shahnawaz Alam and Lakshman Prasad. The event witnessed the presence of Prof Nadeem Hasnain, Arundhati Dhuru, Sheetla Singh, Suman Gupta, Ambrish Kumar, Siddharth Kalhans, Randheer Singh Suman, Lal Bahadur Singh, Ekta Singh, Ravi Shekhar and many other intellectuals of the city.



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Forbesganj firing: Probe the role of Dy CM: CPI-ML (Jun 15, 2011, Twocircles.net)

The Communist Party of India (Marxists Leninists) today demanded probe of the role of BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi in the Forbesganj police firing. CPI-ML held a sit-in at Kargil Chowk in the heart of the city. The group also demanded proper compensation to the victims and restoration of the village road. On 3rd June, police had opened fire on the villagers in Bhajanpur village under Forbesganj block when they came out to protest against the blockage of their old village road. Four people including a six-month-old infant and a pregnant woman were killed.

Sitting on dharna, Umesh Singh, farmers leader of CPI-ML, also demanded criminal action against BJP MLC Ashok Agarwal whose son is said to be one of the directors of the upcoming factory. When TCN asked Singh who he thinks is responsible for the firing he said: “BJP leader and Deputy CM Sushil Kumar Modi had gone there on 29th May and held a meeting at the house of BJP MLA from Sikti Anandy Yadav. In the meeting they hatched the plan in favor of BJP MLC Ashok Agarwal.”

Why the sate government has not suspended any police officer nor announced compensation for the victims even 12 days after the incident, Singh said: “This government with the support of BJP is working for capitalists and land mafia. That’s why they are not taking action in the case.”

Putting CPI-ML’s demands before the government he said: “Bring Sushil Kumar Modi under the judicial probe for the police firing. Lodge murder case under Section 302 against BJP MLC Ashok Agarwal and police officers responsible for the firing. Each of the deceased must be given Rs 10 lakh and each injured Rs 5 lakh. The villagers whose land was acquired for the factory must be compensated according to today’s market rate. The village road must be restored.”



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Sohrabuddin killing: CBI opposes move to commit case to sessions court (Jun 14, 2011, Indian Express)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has opposed the magisterial CBI court’s preparation to commit the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case to the concerned Sessions Court. The Central probe agency argued that the Supreme Court is seized with its application to transfer the encounter case outside Gujarat, and two of the accused in the case are yet to be arrested.

The special magisterial CBI Court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate A Y Dave had called all the accused in the case to the court on Monday to initiate the process to commit the case to the Sessions Court. CBI counsel Ejaz Khan said they took objection on two grounds. First, two accused – Ajay Patel and Yashpal Chudasama – are yet to be arrested in the case. Both Patel and Chudasama are out on anticipatory bail and CBI has challenged the bail in the apex court. Secondly, CBI has already demanded transfer of the case outside Gujarat and the apex court is yet to decide on the same. Khan said the agency is busy investigating the Tulsiram Prajapati encounter case.

Khan said they made these arguments orally before the court on Monday following which the court asked them to file a purshish for consideration. Further proceedings have been kept for June 21. Former Minister of State (Home) Amit Shah, who is one of the accused in the case, did not remain present before the court on Monday. The court had summoned Shah on Monday to initiate the case committal procedure. His lawyer Robin Mogera moved an application requesting exempting Shah from appearing before the court since the Supreme Court has banned his entry in Gujarat.



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Ishrat probe: Satyapal takes charge (Jun 19, 2011, Times of India)

More than a month after the Gujarat high court’s order, Maharashtra top cop Satyapal Singh took charge on Saturday as SIT chairman which is probing the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. The Gujarat government’s notification regarding his appointment as SIT chairman was communicated by SIT members exactly a month ago on May 18. Before the Maharashtra ADGP took charge as per the HC directions, the government on June 6 expressed inability to spare its officer, who is occupying the very important position as ADGP Law and Order. The cop was transferred to this department after the Gujarat high court’s decision to appoint him as SIT chief in place of the outgoing IPS officer, Karnail Singh.

As the Maharashtra government’s expression of reluctance was not enough, the officer himself dashed a letter on June 13 to concerned authorities intimating them that he could not take up the task of investigating the 2004 encounter case. His refusal was on two grounds that he does not know the Gujarati language and secondly one of the suspected cops in the encounter, ADGP P P Pande is his batch-mate and good friend. Hence it would be embarrassing for him to investigate against his friend. However, four days after refusal, Singh sent a message to SIT that he would take charge on Saturday and accordingly he did so, as confirmed by SIT member and senior IPS officer Mohan Jha. Singh even reported to the high court that he has taken charge, and conducted a meeting of SIT officials discussing the case details.

Why Singh decided to take up the task after refusal and after reluctance on part of his state government is not known. The probe in this case began in 2009, but has not attained finality as the investigation has been hampered by various legal as well as procedural issues. The appearance of Tamang inquiry report practically stalled the probe for considerable period. Similarly, absence of SIT head in this last phase has halted the investigation after the suspected cops, including IPS officer GL Singhal, approached the Supreme Court in April objecting to the functioning of a headless SIT.



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Guj HC orders CBI inquiry in Sadiq Mehtar encounter case (Jun 16, 2011, IBN)

In 2003, after the encounter, the crime branch had claimed that intelligence inputs suggested Sadiq was a noted criminal, in the league of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel, and had planned to kill BJP leader L K Advani, Chief Minister Narendra Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia.

However, Sadiq’s brother has stated in the petition that the encounter was fake. Shabbir claims that his brother was not a terrorist, and the encounter was a ‘cold-blooded murder’. Futher, the conspiracy to kill him was hatched by Vanzara and IPS officer P P Pandey who was heading the city Crime Branch in 2003, the petition says.

Pandey is presently additional director general of police and heads the state CID. Vanzara is behind the bars in connection with the 2005 fake encounter of Soharabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausar Bi. In the affidavits before the High Court, both officers have denied the allegations.



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Fasting swami dies as BJP govt ignores his anti-quarrying dharna (Jun 13, 2011, Indian Express)

Seer of Haridwar-based Matri Sadan Ashram, Swami Nigamanand, who was on fast for nearly four months demanding immediate stopping of quarrying in Ganga and shifting of Himalaya stone crusher from Kumbh mela area, today died in a hospital near here. District Magistrate of Haridwar R Meenakshisundaram said Swami Nigamanand (36) died at the Himalayan Institute of Medical Sciences at Jolly Grant this afternoon. Nigamanand had begun his fast on February 19 and was in coma since May 2. A postmortem of Swami Nigamanand would be conducted in view of the complaints of poisoning to him by his fellow sadhus of the ashram, the DM added.

The founder head of Matri Sadan Ashram Swami Shivanand had lodged a complaint against Chief Medical Superintendent (CMS) of Haridwar district hospital Dr P K Bhatnagar and owner of Himalaya Stone Crusher Gyanesh Kumar in Kotwali police station of Haridwar on May 11 alleging Swami Nigamanand was poisoned on April 30 during treatment, following which he went into coma on May 2. Nigamanand was admitted to Haridwar district hospital. On April 30, he was given an injection by a nurse after which he went into coma on May 2, Swami Shivanand alleged. Later, Nigamanad was shifted to the hospital in Jolly Grant. Swami Shivanand alleged Nigamanand was given “Organo phosphat” through injection which led to deterioration in his condition.

Meanwhile, the Congress MLA from Tehri Kishore Upadhyay has accused Uttarakhand government of being responsible for the death of Nigamanand. Upadhyay charged the death of Nigamanand has “exposed” the double standards of BJP government in Uttarakhand. “While the Chief Minister did everything to break the fast of Ramdev, he did not go to see even once another sadhu who was also admitted in the same hospital for fighting corruption,” he said. Upadhyay said he and Union Minister of State for Agriculture Harish Rawat had also written letters to chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank requesting him to order an inquiry into the allegations of poisoning and send Nigamand to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) for better treatment. “But nothing was done by the state government in this regard,” he added.



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Ramdev pawn of facist BJP to create civil disorder: Congress (Jun 14, 2011, DNA India)

Shaken by the campaigns launched by Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev, an embattled Congress today lashed out at the duo saying they lack the mandate of the people. “Some self-styled people have become torchbearers of corruption and unearthing of black money. They do not have the mandate of the people,” AICC leaders-in-charge of Meghalaya, Dhaniram Shandil said addressing party workers. Attacking Yoga guru Ramdev, he accused the RSS and BJP of backing such “so-called crusaders to create civil disorder in the country”.

Questioning Ramdev’s fleeing from the rally during the police raid at the Ramlila Grounds in Delhi, Shandil said, “Is he a thief? Why he did not give himself to the police?” “Such self-styled crusaders are being backed by fascist organisations like the RSS and BJP to create civil disorder after the drubbing they faced in the recent elections”, he said. AICC secretary Sanjay Bapna even questioned Ramdev for taking cash donations instead of cheque and said he “doubted the credentials of a yogi who cannot withstand a fast for even a week”.

Union minister of state Vincent Pala said these people want to tarnish the image of the UPA despite the fact that the Congress has been taking prompt steps to counter corruption and address issues plaguing the country. Chief minister Mukul Sangma described the movements as a “threat to the time-tested democracy of the country” and claimed that only the Congress has the resolve to take head-on issues like corruption and black money. “They are trying to hijack this resolve of the Congress. Their approach is dangerous. They cannot dictate the Parliament,” Sangma said. The Congress leaders appealed to the party workers “to make the people realise the situation before the volcano erupts”.



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Can Army kill, rape and yet enjoy immunity? SC asks govt (Jun 16, 2011, Indian Express)

Irked by the Centre’s diametrically diverse views on army and para military forces’ immunity from criminal prosecution in fake encounter killings, the Supreme Court today asked the government to spell out its position on the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act and other laws. “You cannot say that an army man can enter any home commit a rape and say he enjoys immunity as it has been done in discharge of official duties,” the apex court remarked.

The apex court made the remarks after senior counsel Ashok Bhan, appearing for the Centre, voiced divergent views on two separate encounter killings involving military personnel in J&K and Assam. In the 2004 Chattisingpora killing in J&K, where seven youth were killed in an alleged fake encounter by Rashtriya Rifles personnel, Bhan sought prosecution of the armymen whereas in a similar alleged fake encounter by CRPF men in Assam, the counsel said they enjoyed immunity.

“How can you adopt diametrically different views?” the bench said, to which Bhan admitted it was “compulsions of his professional duties.” He urged the court to de-link the two issues and deal with them separately. However, the bench said since “the issue involved vital questions of law relating to public”, the matter would be taken up for a detailed hearing immediately after vacation.



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Girl raped, murdered by cops: Scheduled Castes panel (Jun 17, 2011, Hindustan Times)

The National Commission for Scheduled Castes on Friday accused policemen of raping and killing the Lakhimpur teenager, even as the Uttar Pradesh government filed a status report before the Allahabad high court on the CB-CID probe into the incident. The Commission, which had visited Lakhimpur Kheri recently to inquire into the death of the 14-year-old girl in Nighasan police station, spoke to the parents of the victim and made an on-the-spot assessment.

After the inquiry, the Commission concluded that the girl was raped and strangulated and later hanged from a tree in order to pass it off as a suicide, the NCSC said in a release. Director of the UP officer of the NCSC, RD Chandrahas, who visited Nighasan on June 14, went through the General Diary, “panchnama” and FIR and on its basis concluded that the girl was raped by policemen. In order to save themselves and destroy evidence, they strangulated her and to project the girl’s death as a suicide, her body was hanged with a loosely tied “dupatta” from a broken tree branch which was as low as five feet and her legs were also found folded, the release said.

Meanwhile, the Allahabad high court fixed July 4 as the next date of hearing after the Uttar Pradesh government filed the status report on the investigation into the incident and asked the state government to file a complete investigation report. The court, while hearing a petition by a local lawyer seeking direction for a CBI probe into the case, had asked the state government to apprise it by Friday of the status of the probe by the CB-CID or any agency.



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Opinions and Editorials

Sangh working on an agenda in Muslim-dominated East Bihar – By Mumtaz Alam Falahi (Jun 15, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Since the National Democratic Alliance (BJP+JDU) came to power in the state six years ago, the Sangh Parivar has increased their activities in the Muslim-dominated border districts of East Bihar. They are working on an agenda. They want to demoralize the community. The growing saffron color is resulting in the local police becoming trigger happy, say Muslim community leaders and intellectuals in Araria.

“This is a peaceful area. People are poor and simple. In the last six years, Sangh has increased its activities to put the community in inferiority complex. They have an old agenda. They ran a campaign of Bangladeshi infiltrators from 1972-1982. They failed. Now that they are in power in the state, they have renewed their activity. They say Muslims want to make this whole region – from Bangla border through Indo-Nepal border covering some districts of UP towards Kashmir and Pakistan – into Islamistan. In the garb of this false propaganda they want to break the community socially, economically and educationally. For the purpose they can plan even ethnic cleansing,” says Nayyaruzzaman, president, Jamaat-e-Islami Bihar.

Zubair Alam, president, Minority Development Forum, Araria says: “Sangh has increased activities on the issue of AMU centre. People are very peaceful here. Bu the outsiders want to disturb the communal harmony.” Asrar Ahmed, Urdu journalist attached with Urdu daily Qaumi Tanzeem says: “The NDA says they are working for welfare of the minorities, but on the ground they are doing nothing. He says BJP is dominating JDU in government. BJP is working on its agenda.”

“The Sangh wants to demoralize the Muslim community who are in good number here though they are very poor in every aspect,” says Qamar Masood, Principal (Retd), Azad Academy, Araria. Asked why state government has not taken action against any police officer involved in Forbesganj firing, Masood said: “Maybe Nitish has not yet come out of victory mood. It seems the second massive victory has got into his head. He is taking things for granted. He thinks people will come to him whatever he does.”



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Proxy battles – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Jun 18, 2011, Frontline)

The intervention of civil society groups in mainstream politics has acquired a qualitatively new dimension with the agitation against corruption launched by Anna Hazare in April and the follow-up to it by the self-professed spiritual guru Baba Ramdev in June. At the same time, the new dimension also threatens to undo the very benefits of the engagement. To start with, the movement has become more aggressive in a physical sense, complete with police action against civil society activists. The proclamation by Ramdev about raising a “fighting force for self-defence” has added to the turbulence. Another qualitative dimension is the increasing exploitation of the so-called “neutral” civil society groups by the two mainstream political forces in the country – the ruling Congress and the principal opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) – to advance their own agendas. The exploitation is such that it could well be termed as reverse intervention. In the net political situation thrown up by these developments, the two parties and civil society groups stand to lose their credibility significantly. In this context, questions about the stark deficiencies in terms of political creativity in the leaderships of the Congress-led ruling dispensation and the BJP have come up. In fact, it was the emergence of this qualitative dimension that resulted in the turbulent night at Ramlila maidan in New Delhi on June 4-5. A little past midnight on that day, armed Delhi policemen descended on the venue where Ramdev and his supporters, who had apparently gathered there to stage a hunger strike on the issue of black money, were sleeping. The police reportedly resorted to a lathi-charge and fired tear gas shells after detaining Ramdev. The days preceding the police action were marked by secret and not-so-secret parleys between Ramdev and some senior Ministers of the Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, including Pranab Mukherjee and Kapil Sibal. The discussions reportedly revolved around the main demand of Ramdev, that immediate action should be taken to bring back the black money stashed away in foreign tax havens.

However, the run-up to the police action as well as the events that followed it made it more than clear that Ramdev and the senior Ministers had entered into an understanding not only about the demands but also on the question of how and when the agitation would be called off. By all indications, this understanding was not implemented in its entirety. Sibal went to the extent of stating that Ramdev had gone back on his word after giving an assurance about the withdrawal of the agitation. This alleged “backing out” by Ramdev as well as the events following the night of June 4-5 have brought into focus the possible penetration by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar, including its political arm the BJP, into the yoga guru’s organisation, the Bharat Swabhiman Trust, and his agitations. According to Home Minister P. Chidambaram, the Centre is convinced that this is part of a well-planned subversive move by the Sangh Parivar. A statement issued by him pointed out that the government had taken note of the resolution passed by the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha of the RSS on March 10-13 at Puttur in Karnataka declaring the formation of an “Anti-Corruption Front” with Baba Ramdev as its patron and former BJP leader K.N. Govindacharya as its convener. Chidambaram also pointed out that the RSS affiliate, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), had decided on May 12 to float an organisation called Youth against Corruption to coordinate with Ramdev. Chidambaram also stated that a circular was issued on May 20 by Suresh Joshi of the RSS to all swayamsewaks (volunteers) to render all possible cooperation to Ramdev’s campaign. Similar instructions were issued on May 28 by Ashok Singhal, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), another affiliate of the Sangh Parivar. The developments following the midnight swoop on the Ramlila grounds, particularly the manner in which Ramdev reached Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and continued his agitation there, has somewhat corroborated the Home Minister’s observations. The Sangh Parivar has been the most important source of support for the yoga guru. So much so that the top leadership of the BJP, including the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, made prominent appearances at the venue of his hunger strike against corruption.

According to a section of the Congress leadership, including party general secretary Digvijay Singh, who has run a sustained campaign against the yoga guru, his activities and his organisation, all this is part of the long- and medium-term efforts that the Sangh Parivar has made to build up a civil society platform against the Congress and its allies. “The Sangh Parivar has been at this for quite some time and they have used different faces and different organisations to advance this strategy. Why they are doing this is anybody’s guess. In all probability they are convinced that their own political outfit, the BJP, has lost all political and moral credentials to advance an anti-corruption struggle of this sort,” Digvijay Singh said. Incidentally, he had raised doubts about Anna Hazare’s credentials too, when the Gandhian staged a fast against corruption in April. Whatever may be the final verdict on Digvijay Singh’s observations, there is little doubt that the Sangh Parivar, particularly the BJP under its current president Nitin Gadkari, has made systematic efforts to reach out to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in various spheres of social and cultural life ranging from anti-corruption campaigns to environmental awareness drives to swadeshi promotion to abolition of caste inequities. In fact, a number of Sangh Parivar observers had cited these enhanced activities involving NGOs and pointed out in the past few months that this could well be the new political-organisational thrust of the Sangh Parivar, especially in the context of its failure to fulfil its political role as the principal opposition. This assessment gained greater credence in the face of the BJP’s repeated failures to highlight and corner the Congress-led UPA government on the several corruption and misappropriation scams in the past two years. Even during the Anna Hazare-led agitation, many politicians and observers had pointed to the large presence of Sangh Parivar activists in the day-to-day management of the agitation. Interestingly, sections of the ultra-Hindutva groups also affirm that Ramdev’s agitation was essentially a proxy social and political battle fought by the Sangh Parivar leadership. Comments that have come from the ultra-Hindutva web group the United Hindu Front essentially mean that the “RSS mindlessly gave its entire cadre strength, middle-level leaders, etc. for the bogus movement of Anna Hazare” and that “when RSS-BJP realised that they were totally used and thrown, they retaliated with the Baba popularity card, and the galvanisation was stupendous”. “But”, a commentator adds, “the man [Baba Ramdev] was not up to the task, and it was obvious that the government was up to no good.”

Comments on the webpage also assert that the RSS made a mistake when it deputed the firebrand Hindutva sanyasin Sadhvi Rithambara to the venue of Ramdev’s agitation for it impelled many people, particularly the secular supporters of the anti-corruption agitation, to move away from the movement. All these corroborate the contention of Digvijay Singh. On its part, however, the leadership of the Sangh Parivar has pointed out that it is the Congress that has consistently sought to rope in NGOs and social activists associated with these groups to advance its political aims. According to BJP leader Rajnath Singh, the UPA under its current chairperson Sonia Gandhi has literally outsourced all thinking and law-making on major policy issues to an elite group, which has been incorporated into the National Advisory Council (NAC). “It is through this mechanism that Sonia Gandhi wields her illegitimate status as a super-Prime Minister, thus usurping the power and authority of legitimate constitutional position-holders and institutions,” he said. He added that a number of veteran political observers had pointed out that the “idea of putting a non-governmental watch over your own government undermines the very idea of elected, constitutional democracy”. Another BJP leader, who did not wish to be named, pointed out that the Congress and the UPA government had sought to play politics even with Ramdev. “The manner in which four senior Ministers led by Pranab Mukherjee, the number two in the Cabinet, went to the airport to receive Baba Ramdev and engaged him in dialogue was a clear effort to create divisions in the ranks of the civil society groups that had come together during the Anna Hazare-led agitation. The idea was to prop up Baba Ramdev against others in civil society groups. But this game plan failed to take off,” he pointed out.

Whether one agrees with this assessment or not, there is little doubt that the UPA government made a spectacle of itself by first sending a high-level delegation to negotiate with Baba Ramdev and later cracking down on him and his supporters. Whatever the later justification for this, the contradictory actions highlighted the total lack of political creativity in the Congress and the UPA. A senior South Indian Congress leader, who spoke on condition of anonymity, stated ruefully that Pranab Mukherjee was the only remaining political mind in the top echelons of the party and he too was faltering and seemed to be losing his touch under the double duress of the apolitical leadership provided by Manmohan Singh to the government and Sonia Gandhi to the party. In a nutshell, the events of early June underscored the lack of political vision on the part of mainstream parties and the absence of creative socio-political intervention by them. The events have also dealt a heavy blow to the credibility of civil society groups, which were thought to uphold probity in public life. Clearly, these are interesting times, as the Chinese would say.



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A flawed Bill – By V. Venkatesan (Jun 18, 2011, Frontline)

India has witnessed several widespread atrocities against minority communities throughout its history. The existing laws have been found to be grossly inadequate to prevent such violence and punish the guilty. As a result, a culture of impunity has taken root, manifesting itself from time to time during communal violence. The 15-member National Advisory Council (NAC), set up as an interface with civil society, provides policy and legal inputs to the government with special focus on social policy and the rights of disadvantaged groups. It consists of distinguished professionals drawn from diverse walks of life, and its contribution to the preparation of draft Bills is significant. Therefore, when it constituted a five-member Working Group on the Draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, and formed a 24-member Advisory Group and a 10-member Drafting Committee comprising experts from outside the NAC last August to prepare the Bill, expectations were high. A similar Bill, prepared by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in 2005, was examined by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs but was not enacted. Considering that most political parties when in power (except the Left) had failed to stop communal and targeted violence at different points of time since Independence, the 2005 Bill did not inspire confidence.

The Working Group presented its draft Bill to the NAC on April 28, and the NAC placed it in the public domain for comments. On the basis of the comments that were received until June 4, the council will finalise its recommendation to the government. Even as the political class and civil society reacted to the various provisions of the draft Bill, deep fissures within the Advisory Group and the Drafting Committee came to the fore. Many members of the Advisory Group opposed the key provisions of the draft Bill. Two of the Drafting Committee members, legal researcher Usha Ramanathan and civil liberties lawyer Vrinda Grover, quit the committee on February 20 expressing their displeasure over its insistence on creating a National Authority. The process of preparing the draft Bill came under criticism for the lack of democratic decision-making and transparency. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has described the Bill as the “most dangerous to the country’s unity” and threatened to launch a campaign against it. The controversy is over the very definition of communal and targeted violence in the draft Bill. Communal and targeted violence, according to the Bill, is any act resulting in injury or harm to any person and or property, knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group, which destroys the secular fabric of the nation.

Many members of the Advisory Group took umbrage at the phrase “which destroys the secular fabric of the nation” because it sets a higher threshold for an act to be considered communal and targeted violence. According to Soumya Uma, a member of the Advisory Group, it is not possible to establish whether in a given case the secular fabric of the nation is destroyed, let alone threatened. “We had, therefore, suggested avoiding the use of such too general phrases, which is likely to cause confusion rather than help precise definition,” she said. But the Drafting Committee accepted the recommendation of the Standing Committee on Home Affairs in this regard, ignoring the protests that emanated from the Advisory Group. The BJP has opposed the definition of the word “group” in Clause 3(e) of the draft Bill. A clear definition of group is important because communal and targeted violence has to be one knowingly directed against any person by virtue of his or her membership of any group. The Bill defines group as a religious or linguistic minority in any State in the Union of India or the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Critics of the Bill ask why violence against a majority community should not be considered communal and targeted violence. There is, however, a consensus within the NAC that the definition of group should remain because there is a huge institutional bias against minorities. The definition acknowledges this bias so that there is no dilution of fair trial. Usha Ramanathan justifies this definition, saying that “our experience with communal violence has shown absence of institutional protection for the minorities”. NAC member Harsh Mander has pointed out that Hindus are a minority in seven States. He is also of the view that there are laws to take care of attacks by minority communities.

Under Chapter IV, the Bill seeks to create a National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation. The National Authority, the Bill says, shall consist of a chairperson, a vice-chairperson and five other members. A proviso adds that not less than four members, including the chairperson and vice-chairperson, shall belong to the minority community. Another proviso requires that at all times, there shall be one member belonging to the S.C. or S.T. and four women, whether as chairperson, vice-chairperson or as members. According to the Bill, the National Authority shall conduct an inquiry suo motu or upon any information or otherwise received in relation to the occurrence or likely occurrence of offences of communal and targeted violence, and negligence in the prevention of communal and targeted violence by public servants. The Authority can issue advisories and make recommendations to state and non-state actors. The Bill seeks to create similar authorities at the State level. The National Authority can issue directions to the State authorities, and its directions shall be binding. According to Usha Ramanathan, since the objective of the Bill is to break the culture of impunity, there is a need to enlarge the list of communal and targeted offences on the field. Instead, she says, the Bill creates overblown bodies in the form of National and State authorities. Since experience has shown that no Commission of Inquiry has been effective in breaking the culture of impunity, creating authorities at the Central and State levels – which are in practice Commissions of Inquiries – would hardly help prevent communal violence, she observes.

One of the key guiding principles of the Bill is that its basic framework must not rest on the declaration of “disturbed areas” because it will enlarge the state’s powers, thereby threatening individual liberties. However, Clause 20 of the Bill says that the occurrence of organised communal and targeted violence shall constitute “internal disturbance” within the meaning of Article 355 of the Constitution, and the Central government may take such steps in accordance with the duties mentioned thereunder as required by the nature and circumstances of the case. The experience of Central intervention under Article 355 during the 2002 Gujarat pogrom shows that it is hardly effective in the absence of political will to force the State government to take action. Article 355 says that it shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution. As the NAC reconsiders the draft Bill, in the light of the comments from political parties and civil society, it is hoped that it will result in a robust law to prevent communal and targeted violence.



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Tehelka expose puts Dayanidhi Maran in the dock – By Tehelka Bureau (Jun 11, 2011, Tehelka)

TEHELKA’s expose of DMK leader and Union Textiles Minister Dayanidhi Maran’s involvement in a Rs 700 crore telecom scam (Hello? Who Will Bell This Cat by Ashish Khetan and Raman Kirpal, 4 June) has created a political storm. It showed how Maran, during his tenure as telecom minister in UPA-1, allotted licences without revising the 2001 rates to Aircel. In a possible quid pro quo, Maxis owner Ananda Krishnan invested Rs 700 crore in Sun Direct TV and Sun Radio, a company owned and run by Maran’s brother Kalanidhi and his wife Kaveri.

While Maran has sued TEHELKA for what his lawyer calls “a concocted lie under the pretext of investigative journalism”, there is a growing demand for his resignation. Reports even suggest that the CBI might soon summon Maran. One of the petitioners in the case and leading Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan has submitted an affidavit along with TEHELKA’s story in the apex court and requested the inclusion of Maran in the investigation.

The Congress has already distanced itself from the issue and has said that the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)would look into the matter. JPC Chairman PC Chacko has confirmed that the committee has requested for information from the Department of Telecommunications (DOT) on the basis of TEHELKA’s story. Here are some more reactions.



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Election Verdict 2009- Whither BJP? – By Ram Puniyani (Jun 12, 2011, Tehelka)

The resounding defeat of BJP in the 2009 elections, decline in number of seats and decline in voting percentage prompted various BJP insiders and sympathizers to do the some introspection. Where did the party go wrong? In his piece in Times of India 4th June 2009, Swapan Dasgupta feels that BJP has got too much identified with Hindutva, which is no more appealing to large section of Hindus so it needs to come out of this image for a makeover. Sudheendra Kulkarni (Tehelka 13th June 2009), looks at the defeat as close Advani aide and also as an insider and points out that Advani was not sufficiently backed up by RSS and BJP on one hand, and on the other he goes on to say that BJP’s implementation of Hindutva looked to be anti minorities and that its links with RSS need to be given a second look. For Kulkarni projects as if Hindutva is all inclusive, Hindu identity is core of Indian Nationalism, and Cultural nationalism is not meant for Hindus alone. One can infer that Kulkarni stands by the core RSS concepts of Hindutva, Cultural Nationalism and Integral humanism and finds BJP practices faulty in this direction.

One can point out that since Kulkarni is an insider, associated with BJP from the times of Advani’s Rath nay, blood yatra, and is close to the top echelons of BJP and that he had all the time to point out to BJP leadership as to how their practice is deviating from the genuine Hindutva. One is not sure whether this has been done inside the party forums, any way lets keep that aside. Concepts and ideologies are not made in the thin air. They reflect the needs of social groups. These terms couched in the language of religion were devised by ideologues of declining sections of Hindu society, the landlords and Brahmins early nineteen twenties onwards. The term Hindutva in particular came into being as the politics of Hindu Mahasabha and RSS. It stood for politics of Hindus, for the building of Hindu Rashtra. This word was coined by Savarkar in 1920s and was meant to be an alternate notion of politics to the one being articulated by national movement, led by Gandhi. Similar concept of nationalism, based on the values of liberty, equality and fraternity were also articulated by Ambedkar, while the third major stream during freedom movement, Bhagat Singh and Communists dreamt of a Socialist society, based on the notions of substantive equality and state regulating the social relation to ensure this equality.

It must be pointed out that the concept of Hindutva was aiming at Hindu nation, in contrast to the Muslim nation being propounded by Muslim League, and in opposition to the concept of democratic secular nation for which Gandhi, Maulana Azad led national movement was working. This Indian nationalism is all inclusive, inclusive of all religions, castes and both genders. The concepts of Hindu and Muslim nations are exclusive concepts. The second point is that the Gandhi-Ambedkar Nationalism was based on the equality of caste and gender while HIndutva and the ideology of Muslim nationalism were continuum of the feudal values, the harping on caste and gender hierarchy. In the same direction later Deen Dayal Upadhyay the ideologue of RSS-BJP very cleverly put up the concept of Integral Humanism. This concept argues that as any organism is well balanced due to the division of work between different parts of the body, similarly different social groups perform different well defined tasks to provide the equilibrium for the proper social functioning. This in a way talks of status quo in the caste and gender relation prevalent in society. Similarly Cultural nationalism as propounded by RSS and adopted by BJP stands for the elite Brahminical culture as the synonym for Indian ness. All in all this is precisely what RSS defines and BJP practiced so far. There cannot be equal place of dalits, women and non Hindus in this scheme of things. Swapan Dasgupta feels BJP has to drop Hindutva, to provide an alternative based on good governance, non dynasty politics etc. Kulkarni’s reading of Hindutva and integral humanism is from the world of make-believe, totally off the mark.

The simple question is why were these practitioners of Hindutva, cultural nationalism aloof from National movement, which laid the basis of India and India’s independence. These streams which take the cover of glorious traditions focus only on those traditions which are elitist, in Indian context; Brahminical or those belonging to Ashrafs from Muslim community. Why can’t RSS-BJP talk that primarily they are loyal to the values of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and dump all those concepts built around religious identity? It is because these religion based concepts are the best cover for oppression of women, dalits and non Hindus. And in turn these concepts also demonize, intimidate and commit violence against minorities, trying to reduce them to second class citizens. BJP could come to power only because of harping on identity of Lord Ram. BJP does hold Ram is the symbol of India’s identity. This is one of the expressions of their cultural nationalism. The question arises why only Lord Ram is the symbol of India, why not Shambuk, or Bali or Sita. In nutshell their cultural nationalism picks up those characters which suit the interests, agenda of Hindu elite. Surely had Ram temple agitation not taken up, Babri mosque not demolished and Mumbai and Gujarat violence not instigated, BJP would have been on the margin of Indian society. Its very raison detre is due to the fact that it is progeny of RSS, to the fact that it is related to VHP, Bajrang Dal etc., whose vagaries it keeps defending most of the time. It is thoroughly exclusionist and that’s why it justifies Gujarat violence, Kandhamal, rejects Sachar committee etc. It is not a mere coincidence; it is the core of BJP politics. It is not that the concept of Hindutva is inclusionary and practice is faulty, the very concept of Hindutva is exclusionary, in theory and practices both.

Can BJP throw away Hindutva, aim of building Hindu Nation around glorious Hindu traditions of Manu Smriti etc? The question is misplaced as BJP is nobody to decide that. BJP is merely a political arm of RSS; it is RSS which has to decide that. Can RSS cut its own legitimacy off by renouncing Hindutva? The question does not arise. RSS essentially is aimed around these goals. Kulkarni’s confusions and his welcome concern about poor, minorities and dalits are misplaced as those are not the concerns of RSS, they have never been and can never be the concerns of BJP and company at any point of time. Hindutva or integral humanism is cleverly worded disguise to undermine the concept of democracy. Last two decades had been a nightmare where the values opposed to Indian nationhood asserted themselves aggressively, bringing immense miseries. One hopes with the trend of decline of BJP, those striving for democratic struggles, struggles for equality and rights of dalits, women, adivasis, workers and minorities will come to occupy the main social space and protect the nation form the damages done by the politics in the garb of religious identity.



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M.F. Husain: Victim Of Intolerance – By Ram Puniyani (Jun 15, 2011, Countercurrents)

On 9th June 2011, M.F. Husain breathed his last in a London Hospital, and was later buried in the cemetery in London as per his wish that he should be buried at a place of his death. The most celebrated painter of India, more Indian than any of his detractors died, away from his home, due to self imposed exile. This self imposed exile was due to the threats of Hindu fundamentalists. The renowned painter called by many as Picasso of India, had the fate similar to that of Picasso, who also went into self exile in the regime of Fascist Franco of Spain. M.F. Husain’s work spanned a long period, evolving with time and deeply rooted in the rich traditions of India, plural, diverse Hinduism. He was confronted as to why he does not pick up Islamic motifs for his work to which he replied that Islam has Calligraphy alone and human figures are not drawn in Islamic tradition. He came more into the news from the decade of 1980s, with the rise of sectarian politics, as the intolerant Hindutva groups started attacking his painting- exhibitions regularly. The allegation was that he is hurting the sensibilities of Hindus, and is doing it deliberately as he is a Muslim. He was abused for painting Hindu Goddesses like Sarswati, Durga, Draupadi and the one titled Bharat Mata in nude.

Interestingly some of these paintings were done in 1970s or so. With the rise of the movement for Ram Temple the Hindu Fundamentalist forces became more assertive, the intolerance grew in the society, many a magazines and newspapers stated fanning the fire of ‘hurting our sentiments’ and that’s when the followers of VHP, Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena started attacking Husain’s, exhibition, his Gufa in Ahmadabad, SAHMAT painting exhibition and so. Later these communal forces went on filing case after case against him to harass him. The Courts ruled in Husain’s favor saying that his paintings are not promoting enmity between communities in any way, and that he is well within the limits of his artistic freedm. Husain by this time was quiet old, he was offered the security by the state but he declined to be imprisoned in the cordon of security and decided to take the citizenship in Qatar to continue his work in his own uninterrupted way, while maintaining that the Passport is a piece of paper and he remains an Indian at heart. He also missed India but it was a strong choice, to do the work in an uninterrupted way or to face the physical and mental wrath of the Hindu fundamentalists. As such he was not spared by Muslim Fundamentalists also, who had objected to his film, Meenaxi: ‘A Tale of Three cities’ on the charge that it blasphemes Koran.

As such Husain probably represents the best of Indian syncretic traditions and that too his rooting in Hindu mythology and culture may be much deeper than those who kept attacking him. He was born in the Maharashtrian town of Pandharpur; a place of pilgrimage for the Warkari’s the followers of great Marathi Saint Tukaram. He belongs to Sulaimani sect of Shias, whose some practices are like Hindus and they also believe in the theory of reincarnation. During his childhood years he was very impressed by the staging of Ramlila and along with his Hindu friend used to enact it. He also went to study the Valmiki and Tulsidas versions of Ramayana. His quest for understanding the society led him to the study and discussion of Gita, Puranas and other spiritual texts. His rooting in liberal Hindu culture, not the Brahmanical variety, was very deep. One example we can glean from the information card which he designed for telling people about his daughter Raeesa’s marraige, who did not want any ceremonies. His card showed Parvati sitting on the thigh of Lord Shiv with Shiva’s hands on Parvati’s breast. Husain regarded this union as the first marriage in the cosmos.

When he was in Hyderabad, Ram Manohar Lohia suggested to him to paint Ramayana. Husain was broke at that time, but he undertook this job seriously and drew 150 canvasses around Ramayana mythology over a period of eight years. He also used to discuss with the Pundits of Kashi on the themes when drawing this Hindu epic. He regards Ganesha as one of the figures with a delightful form, a brilliant material to draw and generally before beginning on a large painting first used to draw Ganesha. The major criticism against him was and is definitely politically motivated. Being a Muslim and drawing these motifs so boldly was unacceptable to the offshoots of Sangh Parivar. As such the charge that nudity is an insult to Hindu Goddesses does not hold water as Husain pointed out that Nudity is a metaphor for purity in Hindu mythology. The example of Khajuraho cannot be dismissed on the ground that people wanted to increase the population so these were drawn, and were otherwise of no consequence to Hindu culture. As such Khajuraho paintings were expression of the prevalent culture. The painting or any other work of art has to be seen in the context of the artist and the cultural rooting of the work. Nudity can express vulgarity as well as purity, and that’s where the fundamentalists of all variety show their intolerance to the extreme.

The rise of fundamentalism for various reasons has exiled the creative people, like Tasleema Nasreen, Salman Rushdi and tormented the likes of Vijay Tendulakar and Deepa Mehta in recent times. The case of Husain is a bit more unique, as here is an artist whose work on Hindu iconography is insurmountable, one who is deeply rooted in the deeper spirit of broad Hindu culture, still he has been hounded by both varieties of fundamentalists. All this has taken place while the other political formations have been so ineffectual in protecting him, creating an atmosphere where the creative people can undertake their work without any fear or intimidation. While the Hindutva party has been the blatant opponent of his work the other parties have done precious little for protecting the maestro.



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