IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 14th, 2011

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

31 Indians Convicted in Violence That Killed Muslims in 2002 (Nov 9, 2011, New York Times)

An Indian court found 31 people guilty on Wednesday of killing 33 Muslims in Gujarat State in 2002 during sectarian riots that left more than 1,000 dead. Convicted of murder, arson, rioting and criminal conspiracy, they were sentenced to life in prison and fined. Forty-two other defendants were acquitted. The verdicts were a milepost in a case whose savagery stunned many Indians. The riots broke out after a train carrying mostly Hindus was set on fire at the station in Godhra, a predominantly Muslim area, killing 59 people. Blaming Muslims, mobs of Hindus rampaged, raping, looting and killing in a spasm of violence that raged for days and persisted for weeks.

Gujarat’s Hindu nationalist government and its police were widely condemned for ineffectiveness in halting the rioting or prosecuting anyone promptly, and the National Human Rights Commission filed a petition with the Supreme Court to press for justice. Five years later, in 2008, the court ordered special investigations into the train fire along with a number of attacks on Muslims. The case that ended with Wednesday’s verdicts was a particularly gruesome one. On that evening, March 1, 2002, two days after the train burning, a mob of Hindu rioters surrounded houses belonging to Muslims in Sardarpura village in the district of Mehsana and set them on fire. Dozens of people inside were burned alive.

Killings, arson and looting continued throughout the night, aimed at Muslims. Most of the village’s Muslim families moved away after the episode. Ghulam Ali, 31, a house painter, lost 13 extended family members, including a brother, a sister-in-law, an uncle and an aunt. He survived by sheltering with others in a half-burned house, and now lives 20 miles away. “Allah saved us on that day,” Mr. Ali said after the verdict. “Now there is a ray of hope in Gujarat. It gives us confidence that justice will prevail in other cases as well.” He said he and other relatives of victims were considering whether to appeal the acquittals, a step that Indian law allows. The special investigation into the train attack led to the trial of 94 people; 31 were convicted. Twenty were given life sentences, and 11 were sentenced to death.

A handful of other group trials have focused on rioters, yielding a few dozen convictions and, in one case, 11 life sentences. Left unresolved by the trial was the widespread belief in Gujarat that the violence against Muslims in Sardarpura and other villages was deliberately orchestrated. “The special investigation team did not go into the issue of wider conspiracy of riots,” Teesta Setalvad, an activist who represents riot victims and their families, said after Wednesday’s judgment. “Some of the witnesses testified and hinted about the wider conspiracy, but that was overlooked.” Ms. Setalvad said the victims were pleased with the life sentences in the case. “We are not in favor of death sentence,” she said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/10/world/asia/indian-court-convicts-31-over-muslim-deaths-in-2002.html

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Riot cop who battled state vendetta: Witness lost constable job (Nov 11, 2011, The Telegraph)

The Gujarat government had sacked an employee in connection with the riot case that led to 31 life terms yesterday – not the three among the accused but one who became a key prosecution witness. It was police constable Munsaf Khan, who had not only identified several key accused in the Sardarpura massacre of 33 Muslims but exposed the rioter-police collusion. Khan’s victimisation partly mirrors that of another whistleblower policeman, IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who was suspended and arrested after spilling chief minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the Supreme Court.

Khan was dismissed in 2007 after he had filed an affidavit in the apex court describing how the local police had left the village, giving the killers a free hand. He was sacked for going on “unauthorised leave”, the same charge on which Bhatt was later suspended. The constable, however, again moved the top court, on whose orders the government had to reinstate him six months later and provide him with police protection. Khan, 61, retired as a constable in 2009 and lives with his family in Sardarpura, his home village, with a single constable guarding his house. Khan says he had been home in Sardarpura on medical leave on the night of the carnage – March 1, 2002 – and saw the mob torch the house, 300 metres from his own, where the victims were hiding.

He says the previous day, February 28, police had come to the village after 20 shops owned by Muslims were torched, but had done nothing to protect the community. Being a policeman himself, Khan, who was then posted in Kallol near Gandhinagar, tried to restore peace. “I wanted to set up a peace committee on February 28 but neither the sarpanch nor others from the Patel community responded. Perhaps they had made up their mind to attack us,” Khan said. He later told the apex court-appointed special investigation team how then sarpanch Kanubhai Patel, 46, and his successor Kachara Patel, 58, led the rioters. Both were convicted yesterday, as were three government employees – electricity board staffers Mathur Patel, 49, Jayanti Patel, 46, and Ganesh Prajapati, 54 – who had all these years not faced even a departmental inquiry.

Khan says he saw Kanubhai help Mathur fix a searchlight before the house that was torched. He saw Kachara on the rooftop while a mob surrounded the house and shouted: “Kill them all. Not one should live.” After Kanubhai’s term as sarpanch ended four months later, Kachara, a Congress member, was elected unopposed. Kanubhai remained influential in the area as a BJP leader. The local police had not informed their higher-ups about the attack, which lasted from 9pm till 2.30am. It was Khan who called up a relative in Ahmedabad and got him to somehow contact district police chief Anupam Gehlot, who rushed in from Mehsana town, 50km away. “The entire Muslim population of the village would have been wiped out if Gehlot had not arrived,” a villager said. Of the 76 Muslim families that lived in Sardarpura, over 40 have left for good, selling their shops to the Patels. Only a few landowning Pathan families have stayed back.

Khan himself moved to Sanvala village, 30km away, for the next six months. “We have relatives there and Sanvala has a sizeable Muslim population. We felt safe,” he said. He added that after he rejoined work, he was harassed because he had identified the riot leaders and exposed the police collusion. So, he filed the apex court affidavit a few years later. Of the dozen-odd accused he had identified, seven have been convicted. One of the accused, Ambalal Patel, 57, sounded remorseful in court yesterday. “We faced a social boycott after the killings. Even our relatives avoided us,” he told reporters. In some cases, whole families – fathers, sons, brothers and uncles – have been found guilty. Sardarpura, however, observed a bandh against the convictions today.

http://telegraphindia.com/1111111/jsp/nation/story_14735821.jsp

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A lead the SIT ignored on Gujarat riots (Nov 12, 2011, The Hindu)

Telephone records accessed by The Hindu lend credence to a crucial affidavit filed by a journalist backing senior police officer Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim to have attended the controversial 2002 meeting at Narendra Modi’s residence where the Gujarat Chief Minister allegedly said Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger against Muslims in the wake of the Godhra carnage. The records show Mr. Bhatt and the journalist, former BBC correspondent Shubhranshu Chaudhary, were at roughly the same location and talking to each other before the February 27, 2002 meeting between Mr. Modi and the State’s top cops.

Mr. Bhatt has claimed – in depositions before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team and in an affidavit – that he was present at the meeting and had heard the Gujarat Chief Minister instruct his officials to allow “revenge” attacks against Muslims. However, the SIT dismissed Mr. Bhatt as an unreliable witness and said none of the officials present at the meeting confirmed having seen him there. With Mr. Bhatt’s presence itself in dispute, no credence could be attached to his account of what happened at the meeting, the SIT concluded. The SIT, however, never examined Mr. Chaudhary, whose affidavit says Mr. Bhatt left an interview with him to go to Mr. Modi’s residence that night.

Talking to The Hindu, Mr. Chaudhary recalled his own meeting with Mr. Bhatt at his home late in the evening on February 27, 2002. His version of events – portions of which are contained in an affidavit he has filed in the Supreme Court – is that he reached Ahmedabad that evening. He immediately fixed up to meet Mr. Bhatt, and after finding out the location of his house on phone, reached there around 9 p.m. At 9.30 p.m., Mr. Bhatt hurried out saying he had been summoned to attend a meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article2619426.ece

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Nadeem Saiyed murdered to scare other Gujarat riot case witnesses? (Nov 7, 2011, DNA India)

Soon after RTI activist Nadeem Saiyed was stabbed to death in broad daylight on Saturday morning, the immediate theory that came floating was that he could have been killed by those whose illegal cow slaughter business Nadeem had exposed. But at the same time, it was not ruled out that he could have paid the price with his life as he was a key witness in the 2002 Naroda-Patiya riot case. People associated with the riot cases suspect that Nadeem was eliminated to send out a warning message to other riot witnesses. In his own case, Nadeem had been threatened in July this year by Kalupur don Mehboob Senior to withdraw himself from Naroda-Patiya case. The slain activist had even filed a complaint at Gujarat University police station.

Imtiyaz Kureshi, a witness in Naroda Gam case, was once threatened by one Dr Prahlad Parmar, who had claimed that he was the right-hand man of suspended and jailed IPS officer DG Vanzara. “Parmarhad approached me as I ran a printing business. When he called me to his clinic for paying me the bill for the work I had done for him, he first tried to lure me with money for not giving deposition in the court. When I refused to do so, he threatened me and said that he managed all money of DG Vanzara and if I did not obey his words, I will have to face dire consequences,” Kureshi said. Kureshi had also filed a police complaint on September 26, 2009 against the doctor for threatening him. But according to him, there was no significant development in the case. Similarly, Salim Sheikh, a witness in Naroda-Patiya case, had to face harassment. Sheikh had filed anapplication in the SIT.”Relatives of the accused had filed a wrong police complaint against me and put pressure on my brother Sattar, also a witness. However, in the court proceedings, I was proven innocent,” he said.

Sheikh has been provided police protection, but only for 10 hours.”As per the Supreme Court order, the witnesses should be given 24-hour police protection, but my family has been given police protection only for 10 hours. If Nadeembhai had policemen with him, he wouldn’t have been killed. I am also facing threat to life. One day, a policeman who was deployed for my security said that enmity with police would prove costly for me, as SIT would not last long. I filed a police complaint against that constable,” he said. Jan Sangharsh Manch founder and advocate Mukul Sinha, who is representing the riot victims in court,said the manner in which Nadeem was killed sent out a message to other witnesses. “He was killeddespite having police protection. This gives out a message that if Nadeem can meet with this fate, others too can be treated like this,” said Sinha.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1608799

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Bhatt demands security against ‘Modi supporters, Hindu fanatics’ (Nov 7, 2011, Rediff)

Suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who deposed against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the post Godhra riots, on Sunday made fresh demands for a bullet-proof car and the appointment of a nodal officer to look after his security, citing ‘ever increasing’ threat to his life.

“In the wake of the ever increasing threat to me and my family from (Narendra) Modi supporters and Hindu fanatics, I request you to designate a nodal officer for my security arrangements while travelling outside Ahmedabad,” he said in a letter to the state home ministry.

Bhatt has deposed against the Gujarat chief minister and his accomplices before various forums, including the Special Investigation Team probing the 2002 Godhra riots in Gujarat.

http://www.rediff.com/news/slide-show/slide-show-1-bhatt-demands-security-against-modi-supporters-hindu-fanatics/20111107.htm

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Abhay Chudasama may have hand in Tulsi case too: CBI (Nov 12, 2011, DNA India)

The central bureau of investigation (CBI) has claimed that it had gathered evidence that seemed to indicate that suspended IPS officer Abhay Chaudasama was also involved in the Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter. The probe agency has made this allegation in the affidavit that it filed in the Gujarat high court on Friday opposing Chudasama’s bail plea in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case. This is the first time that Chudasama’s name has figured as a possible accused in the Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter case. He is currently in judicial custody as an accused in the Sohrabuddin case.

Opposing Chudasama’s bail plea, the probe agency stated that the IPS officer had played a key role in threatening and influencing witnesses of Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case. If he was let out on bail, he could intimidate witnesses and tamper with evidence in the case, the CBI stated. The CBI has further said that it had got evidence that Chudasama had threatened Dashrath Patel and his brother, Raman Patel, both key witnesses in the Sohrabuddin case case. The Patel brothers are owners of Popular Builders, a construction company. The IPS officer was involved in the extortion racket run by Sohrabuddin, the probe agency said.

Justice KM Thaker, who is hearing the case, asked Chudasama’s lawyers to file a reply to the CBI’s affidavit by November 24. Earlier, on August 16, 2011, special CBI judge RM Parmar had rejected Chudasama’s bail plea, observing that the officer was an accused in a heinous crime and was allegedly a key conspirator in the case.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1611486

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Malegaon blast case: HC rejects bail of Lt Col Purohit (Nov 9, 2011, Indian Express)

The Bombay High Court today rejected the bail plea of 2008 Malegaon blast accused Lt Colonel Prasad Shrikant Purohit but allowed liberty to co-accused Ajay Rahirkar on certain conditions. “Lt Colonel Purohit was not just involved in talking about Hindu rashtra, but is alleged to have been instrumental in making RDX available,” the judge observed while rejecting his bail. “Reliability of evidence about his bragging to a witness that he had RDX in his possession and the evidence about finding of RDX on a cotton swab would have to be decided at trial. Therefore, he would not be entitled to bail,” observed Justice R C Chavan. “As far as Ajay Rahirkar is concerned, firstly, there is nothing in the conversation to show his involvement.

Secondly, all that he could be said to have done is financing purchase of some arms and not any material used in the blasts at the instance of Purohit from the funds of a trust. Hence, Rahirkar would be entitled to bail,” the judge held. Rahirkar was ordered to be released on bail on his furnishing a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with one or more solvent sureties in the same amount. The judge asked Rahirkar to scrupulously keep himself away from all witnesses and report at the office of National Investigating Agency or its representative in Mumbai once a month on a convenient date to be fixed by the trial court till the case is over. Nisar Ahmed Haji Sayed Bilal, a Malegaon resident, had intervened in the matter and opposed the bail plea of both the accused. Defence lawyer Srikant Shivade argued that there was no direct evidence against the accused, and hence, they were entitled to bail.

Prosecutor Rohini Salian argued that since conspiracy was hatched in secrecy, such titbits of information as could be gathered from deliberations at meetings of conspirators, evidence about their movement and association with material or articles used in the blast, traced backwards from seizure of two wheeler which was found to have been used, could lead to the inference of applicants involvement in conspiracy. However, the judge felt that this would have to be tested at trial. Purohit’s counsel submitted that the accused was an army officer involved in anti-terror operations and was working for Military Intelligence. He produced some material to support such a contention. Relying on a Supreme Court judgement, the defence counsel argued that it would not be proper to implicate a person merely because of his communication with a person involved in the offence. He urged the court to consider that Purohit was a serving army officer with a good record in jail for the last three years. Hence, he should be given bail.

Purohit and Rahirkar were arrested and issued charge sheet in connection with the Malegaon bomb blast that occurred on September 29, 2008 and in which seven persons were killed. Co-accused include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Sudhakar Dhar Dwivedi alias Shankaracharya and Rakesh Dhawade. According to prosecution, the accused had formed an organisation known as Abhinav Bharat Trust at Pune in 2006 with headquarters at the address of Rahirkar. It was registered on February 9, 2007. They allegedly took an oath to strive to turn India into a Hindu rashtra called Aryawart. It was alleged that the members met from time to time to discuss various aspects for achieving their goal. Accused Shankaracharya is stated to have recorded conversations at the meetings and these recordings are the foundation of the case built up against the two applicants.

Approval for applying provisions of MCOCA in this case was granted on November 20, 2008, and the applicants were booked for offences under this stringent act. Purohit and Rahirkar along with others were issued charge sheet for offences under various enactments including MCOCA. Both the applicants applied for bail before the special judge. On July 31, 2009, the judge held that charges against them under MCOCA did not survive and discharged them. He directed that the case be placed before regular sessions court to try them for other offences, and therefore, rejected their applications for bail. The state challenged the order discharging the accused from offences under MCOCA before the high court. A division bench partly allowed the applications on July 19, 2010 and directed the special judge to decide the bail application expeditiously.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/873540/

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Six Hindu Vahini activists arrested in Hyderabad (Nov 14, 2011, Hindustan Times)

With the arrest of six activists of the Hindu Vahini, Hyderabad police claim to have solved the mystery behind last week’s attacks on eight people belonging to the minority community. Police said the accused attacked people of the other community on the pretext that they had slaughtered cows during Eid-ul-Zuha on Nov 7.

According to Police Commissioner AK Khan, the sleuths of the Commissioner’s Task Force solved the mystery behind the attacks that occurred on the night of Nov 8-9 at five different places in the city.”Police seized three motorcycles, three rods, one knife and six cell phones used in attacks,” said a statement from the police commissioner’s office on Sunday night.

The accused, all of them in their 20s, include one K Unni Krishna, who is a cinema artist from Kerala and one Surya Vanshi Santosh, a student of fashion technology and native of Adilabad district. Police said the accused assembled in Baghlingampally Park Nov 8 and conspired to attack people of the other community. The same night they attacked eight people with iron rods and a knife at five different places. The victims going on two-wheelers sustained serious head injuries.

The series of attacks crated panic among people. Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) leader and MP from Hyderabad Asaduddin Owaisi had urged police to immediately bring the culprits to book. MIM has demanded stern action against those involved in the attacks. MIM leaders voiced concern over deliberate attempts being made to vitiate the peaceful atmosphere in the city.

A delegation of MIM legislators met the police commissioner and lodged their protest over the permission given to Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia to visit the city. They demanded that a case be booked against Togadia for delivering a “provocative” speech during his visit last week.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/768853.aspx

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Togadia delivers hate-filled speech in a lackluster VHP program in Pirana (Nov 8, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Giving full credit to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for working for the cause of Hindus and Hindutva in the country, the VHP General Secretary Dr. Praveen Togadia chose the venue of Pirana near the Imam Shah Bava Dargah, some 25 kms away from Ahmedabad. The three days’ National Convention of the VHP incidentally coincided with the Bakrid and the thrust of the convention kept moving from Conversion to Cow slaughter and attack on minorities specially Muslims. Earlier the citizens from cross-section of the society from Gujarat and the rest of India had demanded Governor of Gujarat, Dr. Kamla’s intervention in alerting the State Police Administration to withdraw the permission to the VHP’s 3- Day Conference ‘Dharm Prasar Akhil Bharatiya Karyakarta Sammelan’ which ran from 5th to 7th November. There was tension in the air of Pirana as a result of this conference. In his typical style Dr. Praveen Togadia attacked the Muslims of the country. Dr. Togadia in his address opined that the history of Hindus and the Hindu culture can be traced back to 6000 crores years. He questioned the past of Muslims and Christians saying that who were they before 1400 and 2000 years respectively. He gave a call to Hindus to capture the Islamic holy places in Arab and Vatican of Europe.

He laughed at the logic of ‘Momin’ and ‘Believer’ words used by the Muslims and Christians. He gave a strong worded call to all Hidnus to unite without any caste or creed’s differences and fight for the security and protection of Hindu values and Hindutva. Togadia said it was enough now and if need arises it is time to show the world the strength and power of Hindus he cited the example of Godhra and said that it united the Hindus and gave a feeling of oneness to the Hindus of the State. Attacking the UPA’s government at the Centre Togadia urged that the UPA was all set to lend a license to the Muslims of India to carry out atrocities on Hindus and remain scott free through its draft Bill of Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011. This he said was not issued by ‘even Aurangzeb’. He said that it was getting too much now; jihadis are spread in all corners of ‘Bharat’. He said it looks as if the Centre has kneeled down before the Muslims and Christians and that it is time that Hindus will have to come on roads once again to demonstrate their strength. Inciting and igniting the flame of hatred Togadia further kept the attack on Muslims. Without chewing any words, he said the price-rise and the suffering of the common man in India is mainly due to the large population. It is, according to Togadia, high time to bring in force the Common Civil Code and govern the Muslims under it. He said unless and until the Muslims are stopped from keeping five wives and producing 25 children it cannot be solved. He also suggested the idea of kicking out several lakhs of Bangladeshi illegal immigrants living in India. He said the government had kept the Bangladeshis as their son in laws.

There were three types of ‘jihads’ that were in force and were orchestrated by the Muslims, he felt naming them he said one is mehngai jihad, Love jihad and Petrol jihad . He said just 12 percent of total Indian population is Muslims and two and half percent of it is Christians yet Hindus are being compelled to live as second class citizens, this they will not tolerate any more, he said Hindus were being humiliated and tormented at the hands of Muslim terrorism. He criticized at the idea of the scholarships and awards to Muslims and subsidy to Hajj pilgrims being given to Muslims. Togadia crossed all limits when he spread his hate speech to a level when he said kaafir ka gala kaat do aisa Quran me likha hai and he further added in context of Christians that according to them the non-believers will go to hell. Togadia also opined that if Muslims do not mend their ways their Right to Vote must be ceased from them. He said as long as Muslims were there in the country, the holy cows were not protected in India. He and many others on the dais demanded that the cow should be granted the status of ‘Gau Mata’ in India and should be protected to the fullest. In a cursory mention Togadia said that the gauchar (grazing land) land was being used away otherwise by some elements which was not practiced even by the British who invaded and misruled in our country and even Aurangzeb. He questioned that when the grazing land (gauchar) is not there how will the cows survive.

Without naming Narendra Modi, his reported arch-rival in BJP wing of the Sangh ideology, he stated that ‘these days fashion of topi was also in place’. However, soon after the second days’ speeches were over, media tried to speak to him but Togadia smartly avoided all questions pertaining to Modi, Advani’s visit to Gujarat and the rule of BJP in Gujarat. He skipped the questions saying that he wanted to focus on ‘dharm prachar and prasar’ and on no other topic. There was mention and an all out verbal attack and inflammatory words used by him to carry out a verbal attack on UPA, Muslims and Christians of the country in particular and the world in general. Throughout his speech Togadia maintained that the Hindu religion was supreme and the land chosen for it was ‘Bharat’ as he questioned that why was Arabistan not chosen for the Hindu dharam by the Gods. The VHP leaders took all precaution to use ‘Karnavati’ (Amdavad) for Ahmedabad but they forgot that the banner on the stage itself carried the word Ahmedabad and not Karnavati! The tone and tenor of Dr. Pravin Togadia and selected words used by him in his hate speech were typical of him to degrade and attack the minorities and the misdeeds of the UPA. But on the whole the programme was lackluster and the leader looked quite demoralized. Booklets like ‘Vijay-Path’ and ‘Soniya ki barbarta va saazish’ was being freely distributed by the VHP workers at the venue.

Delegates from other States who attended the Sammelan from Chhatisgarh and elsewhere remained present at the VHP’s national Sammelan at Pirana but many of them chose to leave the place at the end of the second day for other places of Gujarat. When media persons tried to speak to some of them they showed their unhappiness over the fact that the Chief Minister of Gujarat had kept himself away from this sammelan and did not attend it. No state government minister attended the event. VHP sammelan was in progress and some inflammatory words and speeches were heard by entire area on loud speakers in the quiet Pirana area. Policemen were guarding the shrine. Many attendants of the Sammelan were also seen visiting the Imam Shah Baba’s Shrine. There were not many takers to Togadia’s call hardly few claps followed the dramatic delivery of speech.

http://twocircles.net/2011nov08/togadia_delivers_hatefilled_speech_lackluster_vhp_program_pirana.html

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Democracy should not be hijacked by Military: Anti-AFSPA activist (Nov 11, 2011, Twocircles.net)

Anti-AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Provisions Act] leader from Manipur, Bablu Loi Thongbam demanded adequate steps to prevent the Military from hijacking the democratic system of the country. The North East states require political solutions to bring back peace rather than repressive measures, he said.

He was talking in a programme organised by Hind Swaraj Forum to mark the 12th year of Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike against AFSPA. In spite of the widespread protests the Military is still against the repeal of AFSPA, he said that the root cause of frequent riots in the recent times in India is the neo-liberal economic system.

“Unless AFSPA is repealed at the earliest, it could very well steal away the left over Democratic spaces as well,” he said.He warned that it won’t take too long for AFSPA to be enforced in states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and even states like Kerala.

http://twocircles.net/2011nov11/democracy_should_not_be_hijacked_military_anti_afspa_activist.html

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Opinions and Editorials

Path to justice – Editorial (Nov 11, 2011, Indian Express)

Almost a decade after the Gujarat riots of 2002, the first verdict in the nine post-Godhra cases monitored by the Supreme Court has been pronounced, and 31 people have been sentenced to life imprisonment by a special court for the deaths of 33 Muslims at Sardarpura village in Mehsana district. Among the victims were 17 women and 11 children. When the court lifted the stay on the trials of these nine major cases in May 2009, it had underscored the delay already caused and the need for early completion of sensitive cases.

It was always clear that only a fully secure and committed legal process could bring closure for the victims of Gujarat 2002. Time and again, that process had been revealed to be vulnerable. In March 2008, the Supreme Court, fed up with the probes, had ordered a Special Investigation Team (SIT) be set up to investigate 10 cases, including the Godhra deaths.

While the sentenced retain their right to appeal, due legal process is what has found its way through the trial. The single case of Sardarpura is a symbol and demonstration of how the state had failed its citizens in Gujarat by not providing them the security it is meant to and by not coming to their rescue as soon as it perhaps could have. The victims were mostly farm labourers while the convicted were the landowners, the former having reposed their trust in the latter should the violence spread to their Shaikh Vaas area. They were murdered, brutally, by these self-same employers and neighbours.

Beyond the carnage of a riot, this was a case of betrayal. The story of the victims of Gujarat 2002 is a tale of betrayal at every level. It is this narrative that the legal process has to end. For his part, Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, has never expressed remorse for the riots. And too often, the horrors are reduced to rhetoric – inflated unnecessarily by some and defiantly ignored by others. For closure, Gujarat needs the legal process to work out an end and stick to the reality of what happened.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/874043/

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Gujarat riots: Narendra Modi’s role is the larger issue – By Seema Mustafa (Nov 11, 2011, DNA India)

Internal security is all about justice. Justice in food distribution, justice in poverty alleviation, justice in the observation of rights, justice in law implementation are just some aspects that make citizens secure, and nations vibrant and healthy. Governance to be effective has to be just, without prejudice and discrimination. Following the conviction of 31 people, the families of the 33 people who were burnt alive in the Sardarpura massacre in Gujarat in 2002 must be feeling a little more confident that justice is not dead in India. Despite the political system being compromised, they know that individuals and civil society are prepared to stand by them and knock at all available doors for justice. The tenacity of many of those working in Gujarat and outside in pursuing the cases of murder and rape is commendable and admirable, and as activist Teesta Setalvad said, the verdict has restored the faith of people in the judicial system. Though 31 were convicted, 42 have been acquitted. Even so the number of convicted is unprecedented.

Several cases are to come up before the courts, with the Supreme Court having monitored the process in part. It remains to be seen whether the Special Investigations Team will place before the courts evidence of political conspiracy at the highest level in Gujarat. But this is a good beginning, and optimism has returned to some extent among those who have been fighting not just the cases, but also powerful political leaders in their nearly decade-long struggle for justice. Many battles would have been won, and major problems and issues averted, had the political class been sensitive to the need for dispensing justice. The alienation among Sikhs reached new levels after the 1984 massacre in Delhi when Congress leaders led the mobs that killed over 2,500 Sikhs. The subsequent years saw a running battle between the people and the Congress that kept trying to reinstate the tainted leaders, even as it denied justice to the victims. Similarly, Gujarat was a blow to secularism across India, with Muslims still not having reconciled to the open murder and rape of thousands in Gujarat by motivated mobs during BJP chief minister Narendra Modi’s rule. The state law and order forces disappeared from view and allowed the carnage to continue unabated.

In fact, the history of Independent India has been dotted with communal violence – Meerut, Malliana, Kanpur, Aligarh, Bhagalpur, Hubli, Bhopal – with the recommendations of enquiry committees/commissions remaining buried in the corridors of power. The reluctance of the political parties in power to dispense justice in such cases is amazing, more so as the wounds continue to fester in the absence of justice. Hundreds of thousands of families affected by communal and caste violence have given up hope, carrying anger and insecurity as part of their baggage. Some are able to manage, but for many the injustice generates deep helplessness that is the root cause of many of the problems affecting states and communities. Significantly a direct Hindu-Muslim clash does not generate the same trauma if the state administration is perceived to be taking just and effective action. The problem really arises when the state joins the perpetrators, either during the attack by directing its police machinery to stay away, or after by blocking the wheels of justice through deliberately shoddy investigation. This generates deep insecurity that ghettoises castes and communities, and creates fissures that are not easily bridged.

Thus the special court verdict while welcome is clearly not enough. Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modvadiya has said that the ‘crocodiles’ had been acquitted and clearly not investigated. If he truly believes this, then the Congress should play a major role in exposing the facts and ensuring all comprehensive justice. There has been too much of rhetoric and little action, with the real work of approaching the courtsand fighting individual cases being left to civil society. The larger issue remains Modi’s involvement in the 2002 violence. The SIT reportedly has found no involvement of Modi’s complicity in the violence, (there is no official word on this, only media leaks) although the chief minister has been named in the petition filed by Zakia Jafri, widow of the slain Congress leader Ahsan Jafri. A report has also been filed by senior advocate Raju Ramachandran authorised to tour Gujarat as an amicus curiae (friend of the court). However, the court has left it to the SIT to decide whether or not to take Ramachandran’s report on board. Again leaks suggest this report admits to grounds for further inquiry into Modi’s role during the violence. But again there is no official confirmation.

Senior police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who is facing the state administration’s wrath for some frank talking, had filed an affidavit raising serious questions about the SIT’s probe. Privy to considerable information as a senior officer, he has deposed before various commissions of inquiry about Modi’s role in the violence. While he has just got bail after being arrested, his family remains fearful for his life. Important witnesses have died mysterious deaths in Gujarat, with no arrests of even possible assailants. Courageous officers like Bhatt need to be protected, and perhaps the UPA government at the Centre that does not hesitate to impose its writ on states in financial matters should ensure the security of Bhatt and all those seeking justice in Gujarat. If the courts and the people succeed in ensuring justice it will go a long way in preventing such massacres in the future, and strengthen the foundation of secularism and democracy in India.

http://www.dnaindia.com/print710.php?cid=1610749

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The Yatra Mantra – By Rana Ayyub (Nov 19, 2011, Tehelka)

AS HE bites into the last morsel of his roti-dal meal at a local eatery in the interiors of Maharashtra, he looks at me and says he misses his wife’s Sindhi curry. Then he adds, glint in his eye, “Benazir Bhutto used to love it too.” The reference to the other Sindhi who became prime minister is perhaps pregnant with meaning, but our man is already on to other things. “That’s not to say I’m complaining about the local food I eat on the yatra,” he says, calling for a glass of buttermilk. Perhaps mindful of another PM-in-waiting, who savours the fare in Dalit households. An aide reminds him he had stopped at the very eatery on his previous yatra. He nods: “That is why it all looks so familiar.” Then he trails off again, “This is what yatras give us: contact with people on the ground, I have been able to reach out to people …” He should know. The patriarch of the fragmented BJP parivar is on his sixth yatra in 20 years, still searching for that elusive goal.

It is the 26th day of Lal Krishna Advani’s Jan Chetna Yatra, a journey monitored more closely and more critically by his party colleagues than by the rival Congress. Yet for all the disdain with which the 84-year-old Advani’s unquenched prime ministerial ambitions are treated, there is a degree of admiration. Even his detractors concede that traversing the country and being on the road for 44 days requires stamina. “Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj had to leave the yatra right after day one,” says a senior party functionary, “as they complained of nausea and exhaustion.” TEHELKA began tracking Advani from the coast of Mangalore, Karnataka, travelling with him to Goa and Maharashtra, and leaving the trail in Gujarat. There were many interactions with Advani, many questions, many thoughtful pauses — reminiscent of a former prime minister — as he reflected on the years gone by, and the fate of his party.

To his adherents and close associates, Advani remains as charismatic as when he began his first (Ram Rath) yatra on 25 September 1990. To others, it is a different story. To Advani himself, there is recognition that he will never be able to fill the void left by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Nevertheless he remains a crowd-puller. Thousands come out to hear him speak, undeterred by heavy rains or the scorching sun. “You keep asking me about this being my attempt to repackage myself as the prime minister of the country,” he says, “but I will still tell you this is what matters, what these people have shown me time and again, whenever I have gone on a yatra, be it on Ayodhya or on corruption. Why then do I need to clarify? Why should I make statements?” His tone changes every time a journalist asks him about his prime ministerial ambitions or his troubled relationship with BS Yeddyurappa, former chief minister of Karnataka. He ignores these questions at media conferences, choosing to answer them instead from the dais: “They ask me if this is an attempt to repackage myself, so I have stopped giving them the answer. This rally is not about me or about the BJP. It’s about you. It’s about the crores stashed away in foreign accounts.” Predictably, the crowd rises in applause.

So is he blaming the media for what seems to be the obvious? He laughs it off, “No, no… I understand their compulsions.” It’s a much toned down response compared to the one he had given TEHELKA just a day earlier, as his cavalcade left Goa and he sipped coffee with his daughter Pratibha and protégé M Venkaiah Naidu, former BJP president. “I have been a journalist myself,” he had said then, “and am appalled to see the media reducing everything in the BJP to just a fight for power. Whereas the Congress is being treated as a holy cow… Why not question the dynastic rule in that party?” As if on cue, his yatra aide-de-camp, a man he refers to as the “Little Master”, Ravi Shankar Prasad, comes to his defence. “There is a lot more to LK Advani,” he argues, “than what has been projected. Why not talk of other things? Why not talk of the 2G scam?”

As Advani drives from one state to the next, his message is the same. He gives gathered crowds facts on the stash of black money lying in overseas accounts. These are facts he claims to have got from a Washington, DC, based think-tank. He urges the throng to take a vow to eschew black money and bring home that is lying abroad. The template messaging is not without its surprises. As he enters Goa, a Congressruled state, where a former BJP man is chief minister, and faces charges of corruption and of facilitating illegal iron-ore mining, he resorts to copybook cricket. In a move that surprises the BJP unit in Goa, Advani does not take on the Congress government there. He reads out earnest statistics on black money, but chooses to call mining a larger malaise. “We were expecting him to take on the Congress government in Goa head-on,” mutters a BJP functionary in Goa, but all one gets to hear is a statement that goes, ‘Legal mining too is suffering from illegal mining’.” Prasad calls it deliberate action, so as not to pre-empt the report on illegal mining in Goa, which is yet to be submitted. …

http://tehelka.com/story_main50.asp?filename=Ne191111YATRA.asp

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Manipur blockade must end – Editorial (Nov 9, 2011, The Hindu)

It is inconceivable that agitationists can ever succeed in blocking the main highways leading into, say, a State such as Madhya Pradesh for more than a few hours. Yet they get away with blockading Manipur for months on end, again and again, simply because disruptions in that farthest corner of the Northeast do not cause a ripple in the rest of India. So it is hardly surprising that people in Manipur think the country does not care for them. The latest blockade, which started on August 1, has led to an acute shortage of essential commodities, with the prices of food, medicines, and fuel shooting up sky high. Ordinary people have borne the brunt of the agitation, black marketeers and hoarders are having a field day, and the central government has been a bystander to the less-than-competent handling of the situation by the Ibobi Singh government in the hapless State. The siege began when the Kukis affiliated to the Sadar Hills Districthood Demand Committee blocked National Highways 53 and 39 to press their demand for a Kuki majority district to be carved out of portions of a larger district claimed by the Naga people as part of the ‘greater Nagalim.’

The Nagas responded to the SHDDC blockade with one of their own. Instead of handling both firmly, the State government appears to have only worsened ethnic tensions by getting the SHDDC to withdraw its blockade with a written assurance that the demand for a separate Kuki district would be met. The United Naga Council and the All Naga Students’ Association of Manipur have since intensified their blockade.

The Centre’s apathy aside, the inflexible positions taken by the protesters, and their political vision stretching no further than the narrow confines of their ethno-nationalism, are the main reason for the mess in Manipur, and in some other parts of the Northeast as well. The Meities, who form the majority ethnic group, are not blameless in this saga of exclusivist politics; the tussle between the Kukis and the Nagas cannot be separated from the larger confrontation between the nationalisms of the Meitei and the Naga.

Reconciling these competing visions is not an easy task; there are no quick answers. It calls for a leadership that is prepared to think big and re-imagine the State, and the region, in progressive inclusivist fashion. More immediately, the blockades on the highways must end. They have caused immense suffering to the poorest of Manipur’s 2.7 million people who cannot afford to pay black market rates for their daily essentials. The blockaders must realise that they cannot use blackmail to gain their political ends.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/article2609723.ece

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Gallows for infanticide: Welcome deterrent for heinous act – Editorial (Nov 12, 2011, The Tribune)

Sangrur District and Sessions Judge MS Chauhan’s order of capital punishment against a father who snuffed life out of his four-day-old daughter is rough but apt. Indeed, what can be more barbaric than a father killing his own child? That this happened in Sangrur district of Punjab which has one of the worst child sex ratios in the state only proves that the son preference continues to have psychotic dimensions in the region. In fact, so strong are the societal pressures to have a male heir that not too long ago in the neighbouring state of Haryana a woman was killed for not bearing a baby boy. While the heartless act of the father in the Sangrur case can never be condoned, equally abominable are the crimes of those who flout the PNDT law, go in for sex determination and abort the foetus if it turns out to be a female.

That the practice of female foeticide is rampant in relatively developed states like Punjab and Haryana, both of which have dismal sex ratios, speaks volumes about the patriarchal mindset that has deep roots in the feudal society. Perhaps the sociological reasons behind the obsessive son preference may lie in social practices like dowry. However, the real culprit is a bigoted mindset that prevails not only among middle and lower middle classes but also upper classes which are as guilty of killing unborn daughters. While the recent data may have proved that the middle class’s attitude towards girls is changing, clearly much more needs to be done.

Unfortunately, not only has the fear of law not worked, even positive incentive schemes of the government have not yielded the desired results in dissuading parents from eliminating daughters. Perhaps, a mass movement alone can be the answer to this widely prevalent social evil. Punitive judgements, like the one delivered by judge Chauhan, too will be able to make a difference only if these are followed by equally deterrent action not only in cases of female infanticide but also foeticide. Let it not be forgotten that in 2010 only 13 convictions took place under the PNDT Act.

http://www.tribuneindia.com/2011/20111112/edit.htm#3

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Accord in Uthapuram – By S. Dorairaj (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)

At last, the residents of Uthapuram, a small village in Madurai district, Tamil Nadu, which came into the news when a portion of the huge “wall of untouchability” dividing the habitations of Dalits and caste Hindus was demolished three years ago, have begun to see light at the end of the tunnel. On the initiative of the police and the district administration, an agreement was reached between the Pallar (Dalit) and Pillai (caste Hindu) residents on October 20, which emphasises a new, positive direction in their coexistence besides enabling them to shed their six-decade-old acrimony. Asra Garg, Superintendent of Police, Madurai district, the architect of the agreement, told Frontline that it was the outcome of teamwork and was hammered out after several rounds of talks with representatives of the two communities. It has been clearly laid down in the accord that caste Hindus should allow Dalits to worship at the Muthalamman-Mariamman temple in the village although its administration and maintenance will remain under their control.

The issue of the construction of a common bus shelter, which was also contentious, has been settled. The caste Hindus have agreed to clear the encroachments along the new pathway created after the removal of a portion of the wall. They will also withdraw the case filed in this connection. Both communities will make efforts with the help of the Superintendent of Police to withdraw cases registered against each other. They will extend their cooperation in maintaining law and order by approaching the police and the district administration to resolve amicably any problem arising in the village. Both sides have agreed to promote cooperation and unity. Uthapuram had been a hotbed of caste tension and witnessed violent clashes in 1948, 1964 and 1989. However, the village earned notoriety in 2008 when the Tamil Nadu Untouchability Eradication Front (TNUEF) focussed on the “wall of untouchability” raised by caste Hindus close on the heels of the caste riots in 1989 ( Frontline, June 6, 2008).

The TNUEF and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), along with some Dalit organisations, staged protests all over the State demanding the demolition of the caste wall. The issue was raised in the State Assembly too. Intensifying the struggle for the removal of the wall, the State CPI(M) leadership made it clear on April 29, 2008, that the party would pull it down if the then Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government failed to do so. Denying that the wall had been constructed to perpetuate untouchability, caste Hindus had been claiming that it was needed to protect their kin. It had been built according to an agreement signed by the two communities, they said. They took a tough stand on the issue and resorted to different forms of protests to stall the demolition. However, much to the relief of Dalits, a portion of the wall was removed by the district administration on May 6, 2008.

But subsequent developments proved that the animosity of the caste-Hindu residents towards Dalits had not died down. They left the village on May 6 in protest against the government’s action and returned only after a week. Stalemate continued with regard to the construction of a common bus shelter, and Dalits were denied access to the temple and the common pathway. This sorry state of affairs resulted in further efforts last year by the CPI(M) and the TNUEF to bring the two communities to an agreement. However, much water has flowed under the bridge since then. Sustained struggles launched by the Dalits, sincere efforts made by the police and the district administration, and the realisation of the need for peace on the part of caste Hindus have resulted in the agreement, according to P. Sampath, the leader of the TNUEF. “The agreement has thrown up an opportunity for greater class unity between the two communities as the vast majority of them are small and marginal farmers,” he said.

http://flonnet.com/fl2823/stories/20111118282312100.htm

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Book Review

Gujarat Beyond Gandhi: Identity, Society and Conflict

Author: Ed. Nalin Mehta and Mona Mehta
Reviewed by: V. Venkatesan
Available at: Routledge, 8th Floor, 711 3rd Avenue, New York, NY 10017, USA. http://www.routledge.com/
Review:
Enigma of Gujarat (Nov 5, 2011, Frontline)

For observers from outside Gujarat, the State has always remained an enigma wrapped in profound paradoxes. Looking at it from the prism of contemporary history and politics, analysts have not been able to comprehend why the State, despite being a part of the erstwhile Bombay State until 1960, finds itself an exception to the dominant political culture of India. What are the unique events that have shaped the character of the State and its rulers and people, making them different not only from their own glorious past but also from the rest of India? The book under review answers the question insightfully and comprehensively through eight distinct articles on different aspects of the State. Edited by Nalin Mehta, Honorary Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, and Mona G. Mehta, who teaches politics of South Asia at Scripps College in Claremont, California, United States, the book seeks to focus on the change and continuity in the State. Apart from the editors, six inquisitive scholars of history, political science, anthropology, sociology and media studies explore key trends and events with fresh eyes, to “shed new light on hidden corners and to discern new meanings”. The editors introduce the subject aptly in the introduction: “The region now known as Gujarat has always been a crucible for ideas of India. Gujarat, in many ways, is a land of firsts. It is the land where the British encounter first began in 1608 when William Hawkins docked his ship in Surat. It is the land of Somnath, of the invasions from Ghazni which, seen through the jaundiced lenses of colonial-era history, turned into a defining leitmotif in the hagiography of 20th century Hindu revivalism.” They point to the other firsts. It was on the Sabarmati river that Mahatma Gandhi first set up home when he returned from South Africa and began transforming Indian nationalism from an elite debating club to a mass movement, his creative methods of passive protest arguably drawing as much from the colonial experience as from indigenous Kathiawadi and Vaniya traditions.

The iconic Sardar Patel first mastered the mechanics of creating a party machinery on his home turf. Gujarat’s soil gave Indian nationalism some of its earliest torchbearers: Dadabhai Naoroji, Badruddin Tyabji, Pherozeshah Mehta, Dinshaw Wacha, Rahimtulla Sayani – all of whom presided over the annual sessions of the Indian National Congress in its early decades. It also produced Mohammad Ali Jinnah, “Westernised no doubt, but also a Gujarati Khoja who would change the subcontinent’s destiny”. The editors quote Romesh Thapar, who had presciently noted in the pages of Economic and Political Weekly in 1975 that the turmoil of Gujarat may well be a precursor of larger things to come, including the political drift that led to the upheavals of the Emergency period and the subsequent formation of the first Janata Party government in 1977 at the Centre. Gujarat saw independent India’s first police action in Junagarh in 1949; the movement against corruption in public life launched by the Navnirman Samiti in 1974, which arguably produced India’s largest public protest since the anti-British agitations; the State also produced the most ubiquitous acronym in Indian politics: KHAM, or the Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim coalition. The editors suggest that the cynical pursuit of this caste arithmetic kept the Congress firmly in power until the mid-1980s, and in 1985, it led to the first large-scale anti-reservation violence. The Navnirman (social reconstruction) movement began as students’ protests against rising food prices and the poor quality of food available in hostels in Ahmedabad. This soon won support from all sections of society and became a mass movement against the corruption-tainted Chimanbhai Patel government. The Chief Minister was forced to resign and the Centre imposed President’s Rule in the State. The movement inspired Jayaprakash Narayan to give a call for a “total revolution”. The Navnirman movement caused a serious setback to the Congress. The party devised the KHAM strategy to return to power in 1980, but it alienated the upper castes, who first organised an agitation against reservation for backward classes in 1981. This agitation turned into communal riots in 1985, and was a precursor to the upper-caste protests across northern India when Prime Minister V.P. Singh announced the implementation of the Mandal Commission recommendations in 1990. The editors believe that the anti-reservation violence became an important factor in the gradual saffronisation of the State.

The political scientist Nagindas Sanghavi explains this transition with clarity in his essay. He argues that although the legacies of Navnirman fizzled out, the 1985 riots and the fallout of KHAM politics greatly eroded the Congress’ base. The commercial culture of Gujarati society precludes the growth of ideologies, organisations or parties that are inclined towards radical or revolutionary transformations. The anti-reservation riots alerted the higher castes about the possibility of losing government jobs and educational facilities and made them more assertive and aggressive in their political activism. They began to support the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which opposed KHAM and led the anti-quota agitation. The bureaucracy lost its image of impartiality and let its anti-Muslim prejudices exacerbate. Ornit Shani, an academic in Israel, cites independent evidence to suggest that State authorities and government officials aided the systematic persecution of Muslims in Ahmedabad and in large parts of Gujarat during the post-Godhra violence in 2002. In her essay, she probes how the system of corruption around illicit alcohol permeated socio-political arenas, compromising the law enforcement agencies in ordinary times. She suggests that this had an unexpected impact in 2002, when vested interests harnessed the bureaucratic inclination to toe the line of the political masters during communal violence. She observes that once a governance system is compromised in everyday life, it becomes subservient; it cannot be expected to function impartially in times of strife and as such can be misdirected for any purpose. Citing the Sachar Committee report on Muslims, she gives an instance of how the State government reversed a long-standing policy of reservation for two backward Muslim communities. In 1978, the Baxi Backward Classes Commission in Gujarat recognised and included in the list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) a few Muslim groups, among them Muslim Julaya and Muslim Ghanchi. In 2003, the State Welfare Department rejected their caste certificates, asking the candidates belonging to these groups to produce records for the period prior to 1978. As the Baxi Commission recognised these groups only in 1978, documents prior to this period were unavailable. In her essay “A river of no dissent: Narmada movement and coercive Gujarati nativism”, Mona G. Mehta shows that the political dominance of Hindutva stands on the strength of coercive nativism forged during the Narmada movement. A manifestation of this is available when the critics of the Sardar Sarovar Project are dubbed as opponents of Gujarat’s development. She sees this more as a failure of alternative voices to effect sustained political change than as an electoral success of the BJP.

She also draws our attention to an important conundrum of democracy in the State: a popular consensus garnered through the instruments of democracy, such as free media, public debates and the rights of assembly and protest, to produce exclusion, ultimately undermining the substantive ideals of democracy. She argues that democratic institutions and a vibrant civil society have not only failed to protect the rights of minority citizens and viewpoints but have become unwitting conduits for their marginalisation in the State. Democracy, she says, is profoundly vulnerable to popular support for exclusionary politics. Ironically, she concedes that the same democracy offers the most compelling possibility for an inclusive political future. In his essay on spatial segregation and the infrastructure of violence in Ahmedabad, Arvind Rajagopal suggests that violence created an alibi for enhanced ghettoisation. Successive communal riots in Ahmedabad, he says, both consolidated and accelerated what urban planning accomplished in ordinary conditions – spatially separating Hindus and Muslims from each other and further clustering the members of each community. In some areas, this led to the shrinkage of Muslim-occupied territory. Rajagopal argues that Gujarat’s exceptional ‘success’ as the poster child of neoliberal development was complemented by the manner in which it had normalised an exceptional social order predicated on accelerated practices of social segregation, which in turn enabled anti-Muslim violence (and its rhetorical justification). Parvis Ghassem-Fachandy, an anthropologist, adopts an ethnographic approach in his essay. He argues that the Gujarati disgust for meat became an important cultural relay for the vegetarian politics in the State. He then shows how the insistence on an identity formulated in the language of non-violence renders a permissive identification with violence. This, according to him, explains the utter lack of reflection in Gujarat about 2002, despite its strong Jain and Bhakti traditions, and the paucity of an internal public debate beyond the usual binaries of us versus them. No wonder then that when Chief Minister Narendra Modi undertook a three-day “sadbhavna” fast in October, ostensibly to promote communal harmony, there was no sense of remorse expressed either by him or his supporters for the 2002 carnage.

In his essay, Nalin Mehta cites the legal battle between the eminent sociologist Ashis Nandy and the Government of Gujarat over a newspaper article written by Nandy decrying the communalisation of Gujarati middle classes. The Supreme Court dismissed the government’s plea that Nandy’s article was communal and struck down its prosecution of Nandy. Mehta argues that the Nandy case shows that Moditva and its brand of authoritarian development offer little scope for dissent. Anindita Chakrabarti, an academic with the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur specialising in social movements, discusses the trajectory of two social movements in Gujarat – one Hindu and the other Muslim. Her study of Tablighi Jamaat’s (TJ) role in the rehabilitation work following the 2002 riots has shown that despite being apolitical, it came under state surveillance. According to her, the concept of secularism, as perceived through the eyes of the religious actors, is a covenant between the state and the religious groups. Despite its reticence, the TJ is perceived as political by others. Similarly, she found the Hindu religious movement, Svadhyaya, to be in close contact with the state machinery through a series of legal cases relating to the unresolved question of succession within the movement. She finds it too simplistic to suggest that both these movements erode the secular fabric of the State by virtue of their interface with politics. The year 2010 marked not only the 50th year of the institution of the linguistic State of Gujarat, but also the 150th year since the first indentured Indians set foot in Natal (South Africa). Goolam Vahed, Associate Professor of History at the University of KwaZulu Natal, and a Gujarati South African himself, highlights the distinct migratory history of Gujarati South Africans and the importance of these histories in the perceptions of community identity. He points out that despite the growing sense of being Hindu or Muslim, Gujarati Hindus and Muslims in South Africa are not antagonistic to each other, at least not openly. Developments in India, by and large, have not sparked tensions between the two communities in South Africa, he observes. In their introduction, the editors recall the poet Sundaram’s tribute on the occasion of Gujarat’s founding day, when he lauded its role as the traditional entry point to India and as a melting pot of cultures. They point out that Gujarat’s reputation as a tolerant society and its mercantile ethos have been cardinal pillars of its self-image over the centuries. Even as it remains an industrial powerhouse, they ask: “The important question is, can it produce a novel and inclusive politics in the present era to recover this glorious image?” In a sense, Narendra Modi symbolises the enigma of Gujarat. He represents the serious divide between Gujarat and the rest of India because of his perceived role in the 2002 pogrom. In recent days, he has only reinforced this perception by seeking to victimise police officers who have sought to present evidence against him. The book helps us to understand this divide better by dissecting the various dimensions of contemporary Gujarat, which continues to be Hindutva’s least-explored laboratory.

http://flonnet.com/fl2823/stories/20111118282307500.htm

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