IAMC Weekly News Roundup – March 12th, 2018

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

PM Modi’s secret committee set to revise India’s history (Mar 7, 2018, Asia Times)

The government of Hindu nationalist Prime Minster Narendra Modi gathered a group of scholars in January last year and gave them a mission – to rewrite India’s history. According to a report by Reuters, Modi quietly appointed a 14-member committee of scholars which included a geologist, archaeologists, scholars of the ancient Sanskrit language and two bureaucrats.

The aim of the committee was to use evidence such as archaeological finds and DNA to prove that today’s Hindus are directly descended from the land’s first inhabitants many thousands of years ago, and to make the case that ancient Hindu scriptures are fact and not myth.

The Hindu nationalists want to extend their power beyond controlling politics over the diverse country and ultimately want to shape the national identity to match their ideology that India is a nation of and for Hindus.… RSS spokesman Manmohan Vaidya said “the true color of Indian history is saffron and to bring about cultural changes we have to rewrite history”.…



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Assam Cops Attack Women Scribes, Journalists Demand Immediate Action (Mar 12, 2018, The Citizen)

Several journalists’ bodies have condemned the attack on scribes on duty by Assam police personnel in the Assam-Mizoram border which took place on March 10. The journalists’ associations based in New Delhi have also written to Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal to take appropriate steps in this regard.

According to the reports at least two journalists – Emmy C Lawbei, a reporter of the News18 and Catherine C Sangi, correspondent of All India Radio were injured while they went to cover a students’ rally near Bhairabi town in Kolasib district along Mizoram-Assam border.

“The police kept on beating them despite knowing that they were journalists and not protesters.…The action by the Assam police therefore was unwarranted and uncalled for. Several journalist including a woman journalist with a television channel sustained injuries in the lathi charge by the police,” said the statement issued by Gautam Lahiri for Press Club of India, Shobhna Jain of Indian Women’s Press Corps and Nadeem A Kazmi of Federation of Press Clubs in India. …



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Sri Sri Ups the Communal Ante By Wading into Ayodhya’s Murky Waters (Mar 7, 2018, The Wire)

Political watchers are divided over whether Sri Sri Ravishankar just had a foot-in-mouth moment or is playing a deeper political game on behalf of the ruling establishment in the run up to the next general election.

Jumping into the Ayodhya quagmire, the godman-entrepreneur has decided that the contentious Babri Masjid/Ram Mandir dispute, that has raged for years since the 1980s and torn India apart, will escalate into a “civil war” unless it is resolved through an “out-of-court settlement”.

“If [the] Ram Mandir issue is not solved, we will have a Syria in India,” the Art of Living founder told India Today in an interview on Monday. The dispute, he said, could be simply resolved if Muslims “give up” their claims on Ayodhya. “Muslims should give up their claim on Ayodhya as a goodwill gesture… Ayodhya is not [a] place of faith for Muslims.”…



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Hours After Warning Action Against Partymen Involved In Vandalism Of Statues, Amit Shah Denies Taking Action Against H Raja (Mar 7, 2018, Outlook)

BJP President Amit Shah today said the party will not take action against national secretary H Raja who is facing flak for his controversial remarks on Dravidian icon Periyar. A row had erupted in Tamil Nadu yesterday over Raja’s remarks indicating that statues of Periyar could be pulled down next after a Lenin statue was razed in Tripura following the BJP’s victory there.

Asked if the BJP will take action against Raja, Shah told reporters outside Parliament, “No, we will not”. As the comments in a Facebook post against Periyar, founder of the Dravidian movement, drew condemnation from several political parties in the state, Raja deleted it while the BJP’s state unit distanced itself from the issue, saying it was his personal view.

In a Facebook post today, Raja said that “Facebook admin” had put up a post comparing the razing down of Lenin statue in Tripura with that of EV Ramaswamy, popularly addressed as Periyar in Tamil Nadu.…



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Threat to journalist, activists: With no IP address, investigation hits roadblock (Mar 11, 2018, Indian Express)

Police probing a threatening Facebook message directed at journalist Sagarika Ghose, writers Shobhaa De and Arundhati Roy and activists Kavitha Krishnan and Shehla Rashid appear to have hit a dead end, after a phone number provided by the social networking website to police was found to have no connection to the accused.

Instead, the number belonged to a resident of Meghalaya who, police found, had no link to the “hit list”, posted online in the wake of journalist Gauri Lankesh’s murder in Bengaluru. Each person who registers on Facebook has to provide a phone number – but in this case, the contact details given by the accused while making his account were fake, police said.

Sources in the Cyber Cell of the Delhi Police’s Economic Offences Wing said that days after lodging an FIR, they had written to Facebook, asking them to share the IP address of an account under the name ‘VirkamAditya Rana’, which had been deleted after Ghose filed a complaint and a case was lodged on September 7.…



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Britain to take up ‘persecution’ of religious minorities in India (Mar 5, 2018, Hindustan Times)

Britain will raise the issue of alleged persecution of Christians and Sikhs in India during the April meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and Windsor, following demands by MPs to take it up with Prime Minster Narendra Modi.

During a lengthy debate at the Westminster Hall of the House of Commons on ‘Freedom of religion or belief’ last week, MPs cited details of alleged persecution in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and elsewhere, and demanded that ministers discuss it when Commonwealth leaders are here for CHOGM.

A ministry of external affairs officer in India said the ministry would need to see the transcript of the debate before making any comments on the issue. Martin Docherty-Hughes (Scottish National Party) mentioned the detention in Punjab of his constituent, Jagtar Singh Johal, allegedly without charge, and claimed that “members of the Sikh community across the UK have become gravely concerned that they, too, may be detained on the simple premise of being a member of the Sikh faith”.…



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Hadiya free to live with her husband, says SC; sets aside Kerala HC order (Mar 8, 2018, Indian Express)

The Supreme Court on Thursday allowed Muslim convert Hadiya to live with her husband Shefin Jahan, setting aside a Kerala High Court order. The top court said Hadiya was free to pursue her future endeavours in accordance with the law.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra said the Kerala High Court should not have annulled the marriage.… The apex court had on February 22 questioned whether the high court could nullify a marriage between “vulnerable adults” after the father of the 25-year-old woman had justified the order.

In an affidavit filed before the top court, Hadiya said that she had married Jahan on her own will and sought the court’s permission to “live as his wife”. On November 27 last year, the apex court had freed Hadiya from her parents’ custody and sent her to college to pursue her studies, even as she had pleaded that she should be allowed to go with her husband.…



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‘Bajrang Dal’ men chop woman’s fingers, break son’s hands in Gujarat (Mar 6, 2018, Times of India)

Bajrang Dal men allegedly chopped off the fingers of a Muslim woman in Chhatral town of Gandhinagar district in Gujarat for disobeying the Hindu right wing group’s diktat to remain indoors.

Roshanbiwi Syed, 52, had her left thumb, index finger and middle finger chopped off. Her son, Farzan, 32, suffered fractures on his hands and skull. Both were hospitalized and are reportedly stable.

According to local activists, communal tension has been high in the area since December 6, when the local Bajrang Dal led a procession through the Muslim-dominated Kasbavaas in Chhatral, to mark the 1992 demolition of the Babri mosque. On Sunday night, tension escalated after a fight broke out in the area, the reason for which is still unclear.…



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Four more witnesses turn hostile in Sohrabuddin ‘fake’ encounter case (Mar 8, 2018, Indian Express)

The count of witnesses turning hostile in the 2005 Sohrabuddin Shaikh alleged fake encounter case increased by four, after all four of them, who deposed Wednesday, denied contents of the panchnama they had signed on. So far, 59 witnesses have deposed, of which 42 have turned hostile.

On Wednesday, four residents of Ahmedabad were called as prosecution witnesses to depose on the panchnama conducted by the police in connection with the alleged encounter of Sohrabuddin on November 26, 2005.…

One of the two witnesses told the court that the police asked them if they were willing to do ‘seva ka kaam’ as panch witnesses and took them to the Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) office. They were told that a death had occurred and a panchnama is to be drawn of the clothes the deceased was wearing.…



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Bilkis Bano Gangrape: SC Gives Gujarat Govt Last Chance to File Report on Action Against Guilty Cops (Mar 12, 2018, The Wire)

After months of hand wringing, the Supreme Court has given the Gujarat government a last chance to file a status report on disciplinary action taken against police officers convicted in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape case.

Led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, the Supreme Court bench has given the state six weeks’ time to file their reply. In November 2017, a bench comprising the CJI and Justices A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y, Chandrachud had considered a submission made by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, to give the state government six more weeks to furnish a reply.

This wasn’t the first time that such an extension was made. The apex court had already granted time on October 23, 2017, to the state government to apprise it on whether any departmental action had been initiated against police officers whose conviction was upheld in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case.…



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Opinions and Editorials

What the Modi government’s ‘committee to rewrite history’ is really studying – By Shreya Roy Chowdhury (Mar 10, 2018, Scroll.in)

In 2016, the Ministry of Culture appointed a committee to examine ancient Indian history. Its stated objective is a mouthful: “Holistic Study of Origin and Evolution of Indian Cultures since 12,000 Years before present and its Interface with other Cultures of the World”.

On March 6, Reuters reported that the 12-member committee met in early January this year to discuss “how to rewrite the history of the nation”. Its main objective, the report stated, was to establish a clear line of descent between the earliest inhabitants of the subcontinent and the Aryans, the race associated with Vedic culture.

This is a longstanding ideological position of the Hindutva ecosystem led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which contests the theory that Aryans were foreigners who invaded India and replaced the indigenous Indus Valley Civilization.…



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As India’s Tensions Boil, Even a Statue of Gandhi Isn’t Safe – By Maria Abi-Habib and Hari Kumar (Mar 10, 2018, Washington Post)

The vandals attacked a statue of Gandhi in the southern state of Kerala, breaking its wire-rimmed eyeglasses. They targeted a monument to Lenin, using a hydraulic jackhammer to destroy the sculpture in the northeastern state of Tripura. They shattered a statue of a revered figure among Dalits, lower-caste Indians, leaving it in pieces in Meerut, about 50 miles north of New Delhi.

The attacks were part of a wave of vandalism that has unleashed accusations and recriminations and sent political tensions boiling over as, one by one, at least six monuments have been vandalized since Monday. Indian opposition parties attribute the attacks to supporters of the governing Bharatiya Janata Party, emboldened after a landslide victory in state elections in the country’s northeast last weekend.

The opposition parties say the backers of B.J.P. and its allies foster a climate of intolerance and target other Hindus who oppose them, as well as religious minorities such as Muslims.… The opposition parties, meanwhile, say that the proof of B.J.P.’s culpability lies in the calls on Tuesday from the party’s leader, H. Raja, for supporters to destroy a statue of an activist admired by lower castes, Periyar Ramasamy, in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Hours later, the statue was defaced.…



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The encounterables – By Manisha Sethi (Mar 6, 2018, Indian Express)

It has taken some time for the police encounters in Uttar Pradesh to become news. Perhaps it is the relatively meagre rate of actual kills as Prakash Singh reminded us, “only one person killed in 30 encounters” (‘Fear and faith’, IE, February 28) that imparts to them an aura of normalcy.

One is not sure what would be a satisfactory statistical rate of deaths before we start to worry over the “trigger happy” ways of the police, but even a single killing in police action requires investigation. Forty killings in less than a year – with no corresponding loss or grievous injury to any policeman – indicates that encounters in UP are not being carried out in self-defence.…

Singh’s brazen defence of the policy of encounter killings – notwithstanding mandatory platitudes of caution and circumspection – is wrong on several counts.…But surely Singh is not innocent of the fact that this stated law is followed mostly in the breach – that magisterial inquiries if conducted are managed, while rewards and promotions are routinely bestowed upon “encounter specialists”.…



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As Number of Murdered RTI Activists Rises to 67, It Is Modi Government That Needs to ‘Act Rightly’ – By Venkatesh Nayak (Mar 12, 2018, The Wire)

Yet another Right to Information (RTI) activist in Gujarat has paid with his life for demanding transparency. On March 9, Nanjibhai Sondarva (35), a resident of Manekvada village in Kotda Sangani taluka of Rajkot district, was allegedly clubbed to death by six people.

The deceased’s father has claimed that the attack occurred soon after Sondarvai filed an RTI application demanding transparency about the funds spent on the construction of a road in his village.

This was, however, not the first time that Sondarva had been attacked. A year-and-a-half ago, he and other members of his family were assaulted, allegedly by the village sarpanch who apparently was furious at Sondarva for using the RTI to expose financial irregularities in the developmental works undertaken in the village. Meghabhai, Nanjibhai’s father, is said to have named the sarpanch in the complaint submitted to the local police regarding the latest incident.…



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Modi’s biggest contribution to India is teaching it to hate – By Vrinda Gopinath (Mar 9, 2018, Dailyo.in)

It seems to be finally dawning on the people that “Modistan” is the same as “Rogistan”. As the BJP wins election after election to now rule 21 states in India, victory galas and revelry should swamp party cadres. Instead, what have the BJP and its Sangh ideologues ushered in? The plague of hatred, bigotry, acrimony, bile and an overpowering majoritarian rage to smash history, Dalits, minorities, free thought, cultures, eating habits, multiculturalism, classicism, and now, statues.… Let’s look at random history since Modi became the prime minister.…

Why do millions of your ardent fans and followers who have mostly never been a victim of communal riots or who are mostly “upper caste” and Hindu, hate minorities and Dalits with such venom? Why is lynching and murdering cow traders a defence of Hindu culture, but blinding teen stone-throwers with pellet guns in Kashmir admissible? Because they are branded terrorists? What is this state ideology of hatred?

What is this constant whirring of images of barbaric, bloodthirsty, ruthless Mughals when there is a rich tapestry of history and culture that this country has also inherited, alongside battles and conquest? And, why so silent about British colonialism and its unabashed plunder? Is it because the RSS leadership prohibited its cadres’ participation in Independence movements, which has been well-researched and accepted? Modiji, are you fogging your own dodgy history?



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The lamentable humiliations of Hadiya – By Namita Bhandare (Mar 9, 2018, Hindustan Times)

…Those still convinced that the 24-year-old Hadiya was a victim of brainwashing and, thus, incapable of making rational choices, and those celebrating the court-ordered granting of her ‘freedom’. But at the heart of the Hadiya controversy lies not so much the right of a grown woman to choose her husband and religion, but prevailing attitudes towards women by society at large.…

Hadiya’s marriage to Shefin Jahan following her conversion to Islam has been problematic for not just her father, a self-declared atheist, but also the state and several Right-wing organisations that see a larger conspiracy of love jihad – an evil plot, in their eyes, that involves the seduction of gullible young Hindu girls by wily Muslim men with the express purpose of converting them to Islam. But the theory in this case falls flat: If Hadiya married Jahan – a man she met on a matrimonial site – after conversion, where is the conspiracy to convert her?

In a ghastly turn of events, in response to a petition filed by her father, the Kerala High Court ordered Jahan not to have contact with his wife, gave the parents ‘custody’, and even annulled the marriage on grounds that a “girl [sic] aged 24 is weak and vulnerable, capable of being exploited in many ways”. This was done despite numerous affidavits filed by Hadiya asserting that she had not been coerced into either conversion or marriage. But for the court, there was no question of granting this ‘weak and vulnerable’ woman agency. The March 8 Supreme Court verdict does overturn that pernicious judgment.…



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