IAMC Weekly News Roundup – November 19th, 2012

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Riots, encounters: Cong keeps heat on Modi (Nov 12, 2012, Indian Express)

Senior central and state Congress leaders attacked Chief Minister Narendra Modi and raked up topics the party has so far refrained from mentioning, including 2002’s post Godhra riots and “fake encounters”, while calling Modi a “blot on the nation”, “zindagi ka saudagar” (merchant of people’s lives) and “Vinash Purush” (man of destruction) at a rally in Viramgam, about an hour’s drive from Ahmedabad city, on Sunday.

“Narendra Modi is not a merchant of death but a merchant of people’s lives. The 2002 riots in the state happened by the order of the state government, it was something that had never happened in the country. He is a blot on the nation and if blot is good, as an advertisement says (daag achche hain), then it should be given an award. Modi should get ‘Hitler Award’ on Republic Day,” said Rajya Sabha MP from Goa Shantaram Naik while addressing a gathering.

Naik also said the ancestors of BJP, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, killed Mahatma Gandhi and “it’s sad that this party is running governments”. While saying that Gujarat is being ruled by businessmen not by Narendra Modi but “Narendra Adani”. He also said people are saying that Modi will become the Prime Minister, if it happens it will bring shame to the nation. Rajya Sabha MP and former member of Planning Commission Dr Bhalchandra Mungekar said “it’s unfortunate that a person like Modi is Chief Minister of Gujarat, the land of Mahatma Gandhi”.

Playing the minority card, he said Modi’s claim of development is a farce as there can’t be progress in the state or the country if minority, especially Muslims, are excluded. Modi hasn’t done anything for the community. “As a member of Planning Commission I have seen how arrogant Modi is. During the National Development Council meetings, I have seen him treating representatives of other states as farm labourers,” said Mungekar.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1030329/

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Muslim bodies gear up to take on SP govt over Faizabad riots (Nov 19, 2012, Indian Express)

The Akhilesh Yadav government is likely to face the heat of Muslim organisations over recent communal riots at Faizabad. Already several Muslim organisations have visited the riot-affected area and approached the president of All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) Rabey Hasan Nadwi for raising the issue in an effective manner. The Samajwadi Party government is already on the backfoot after its Maharashra unit president and MLA Abu Asim Azmi vented his ire against the government stating that Muslims are not safe under SP rule. Even the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari, who had supported the SP during the Assembly elections, has asked Muslims to reconsider their decision during Lok Sabha elections.

After the violence subsided in Faizabad, several Muslim organisations visited Faizabad and even the Muslims of the area arrived in Lucknow to meet Muslim clerics. Blaming the Akhilesh government, a joint front is being planned to corner the Chief Minister over the issue. “I had visited Faizabad and adjoining areas, including Bhadarsa, which were affected by violence. We have some demands which will be raised before the CM Akhilesh Yadav,” Arshad Madani, the chief of Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Hind stated. Madani was accompanied by at least 40 clerics and Muslim leaders who visited the area.

He also stated that the demands mainly include a high level enquiry of the violence, adequate compensation to the victims and also stopping the arrest of innocents. The clerics also stated that victims who have suffered loss of several lakhs of rupees are being given meagre Rs 30000. “I will personally meet Akhilesh and place my demands. Muslims have suffered a lot in these violence. Further, he should also take stern measures to prevent recurrance of such incidents,” Madani stated. On the other hand, several persons from Faizabad met Nadwi. “Muslims are being selectively targeted in the SP regime. We need safety and security. Our loss should also be compensated and the guilty be punished,” said Abdul Saleem, a resident of Faizabad, who had met Nadwi.

Nadwi who is also the rector of Darul Nadwatul Uloom, asked them to compile all the details about the incident. “We have been asked to get copies of FIR, expected loss and even those responsible behind the incident. All the papers will be handed to him,” said Mansoor Ahmed, another resident who met Nadwi. Not only this, a delegation also met Zafaryab Jilani who is the Additional Advocate General and apprised him about the situation. “Some people met me and they are responsible persons from that area. I had asked them to get me some vital information for presenting a realistic picture before the government. Definitely, we will meet CM Akhilesh Yadav and seek his intervention for getting justice to the victims,” Jilani stated.

http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/1033001/

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Police ‘atrocities’ anger Muslims (Nov 15, 2012, Times of India)

The United Muslim Action Committee (UMAC), the biggest representative body of Muslims in the state filed a petition with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC), complaining against police atrocities in Old City, officials said. Measures taken up by the police department to prevent or diffuse communal tension in the city seem to have rubbed the minorities on the wrong side, with members alleging harassment and discrimination by the police. Of late, the SHRC is witnessing a spurt in complaints by Muslim citizens and organizations, mainly in connection to police inaction. “From November 10 night, police have imposed section 144 in many parts of Old City but it looks like an undeclared curfew has been clamped. One can find barricades with hundreds of policemen in most parts of Old City,” said Abdul Raheem Qureshi, president of UMAC. He said if action is not taken, there could be riots against the police.

The UMAC said most of the commercial establishments had been forcibly closed by the police resulting in huge losses to the traders of the area. The committee members along with MIM leaders Asaduddin Owaisi and Akbaruddin Owaisi met the SHRC chairman justice Nisar Ahmad Kakru and briefed him on the prevailing situation in Old City. “Residents within a two kilometers radius are also unable to get their daily provisions. Ration shops, medical halls, private clinics and nursing homes are also shut in these areas,” the petition says.

Trouble broke out on November 11 when the Bhagyalakshmi Temple authorities built a canopy over a bamboo structure, violating court order, which they said was mainly to keep devotees away from the heat and rain during special aarti on Diwali day. But police did not bring down the structure and instead imposed restrictions, which forced people out off the streets.

The petition also focused on the state of petty vendors and fruit sellers who eke out a living with their daily businesses and informed that many of them are in a deplorable state. Members also complained that devotees are not being allowed to pray inside the Mecca Masjid because of unnecessary security measures. The members had earlier been to the police headquarters and complained with the commissioner. They further alleged that police was resorting to illegal arrests of minorities and traffic restrictions which were throwing life out of gear.

Blaming the police for the present situation, members requested the commission to enquire into the unofficial curfew and ensure that petty vendors and traders are compensated for the loss incurred during this duration. Admitting the case, the Chairman of the commission directed the chef secretary and DGP of the state and city police commissioner to enquire within 48 hours.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/17222640.cms

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Muslim doctors Thackeray’s last sentinels (Nov 19, 2012, Times of India)

The city’s Urdu newspapers on Sunday gave thorough coverage to Bal Thackeray’s death. All carried detailed reports about his early days, years as a cartoonist and transformation into a political firebrand. As for editorial comment , while most held him in a favourable light for being a messiah of Marathi Manoos, they criticized him for being anti-minority and communal. The Urdu Times, the city’s second largest Urdu daily, carried a story noting that the man who kept issuing statements against Muslims throughout his life was served by two Muslim doctors (Dr Jalil Parkar and DR Abdus Samad Ansari) when he breathed his last.

Columnist Shakeel Rasheed wrote in the paper, “I saw Thackeray having Unani medicines. My topic for the interview was Muslim enmity. I remember Thackeray saying that he wanted Muslims to support him, but they didn’t.” One story noted that the Sri Krishna commission held Thackeray’s provocative speeches responsible for the 1992-93 riots, “but today , it is being said that he gave a lot to Mumbai andMumbaikars” .

All the papers agreed that he was a charismatic leader, one calling him the ‘Godfather of Maharashtra’. They also speculated about the Shiv Sena’s future. The Urdu Times wrote, “Will Shiv Sena be shattered after Thackeray’s death? Won’t some more Sena leaders defect to the Raj Thackeray-led MNS? At a time when Thackeray is no more, what will happen to the Sena?” It said that during his last days, Bal Thackeray was worried about his son and party’s future. “It was due to his charisma that the party became popular,” the newspaper’s editorial said.

The Inquilab maintained a neutral view. On its news pages, it carried pictures of Thackeray, Shiv Sainiks outside Matoshree, police bandobast and the arrival of Raj Thackeray at Matoshree. On its sports page, it carried four cartoons of Indian and Pakistani cricketers drawn by Thackeray.

The recently launched Sahafat had the headline ‘Shiv Sena orphaned : Bal Thackeray, who played politics in the name of Marathi prestige, passes away’. Its Sunday magazine had an opinion page on him, with a column calling him the most popular leader of Maharashtra and the voice of the Marathispeaking people.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/17274745.cms

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Bodoland Territorial Council member held with weapons, 5 more killed (Nov 18, 2012, Times of India)

Assam Police have arrested a key administrator of Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) with two AK 47s and ammunition hours after five villagers were shot dead in Kokrajhar on Friday night. Since November 10, 11 persons have died in renewed ethnic violence. Unidentified gunmen raided Jiabari village near Kokrajhar at 11.30 pm on Friday night and shot dead four of a family, including three women, and left a child injured. Another woman, who was shot earlier in the evening at Barkhas Nalbari, also died at a Bilasipara hospital. In curfew-bound Kokrajhar, miscreants fired at a Special Police Officer (SPO) while he was guarding National Highway 31 at Serfanguri at 6 pm on Saturday and snatched away his self- loading rifle. The SPO, Biraj Das, has been admitted to a private hospital in Bongaigaon in a critical condition.

Police have also imposed restrictions on use of personal security by all members of the council, most of whom are of Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT), which was disbanded in 2003 following the peace accord. They later floated the Bodoland People’s Front (BPF) which is power in the council since then. The ministry of home affairs on Friday sent an advisory to the state government to seize a large number of illegal weapons in Bodo pockets to contain unabated violence. “Chief minister Tarun Gogoi has asked the police to go all out to bring the situation under control. Police are on zero-tolerance mode,” a top government official said.

Police have sent the two weapons recovered from BTC executive member Mono Kumar Brahma’s house to the forensic laboratory to verify if they were used in the recent incidents. Two magazines and 60 rounds of ammunition have also been recovered along with the two guns. “We had information about illegal weapons with Brahma and we raided his house and found them. Brahma has been sent to 2-day police custody by a local court,” police said. DGP Jayanto Narayan Choudhury, while talking about the crackdown, said there are at least 100 illegal sophisticated weapons and a large number of countrymade weapons in use.

The police administration also extended its crackdown in pulling out house guards attached to executive members of the council, most of who are former members of now disbanded Bodo Liberation Tigers (BLT). “The extra security cover of these leaders has been pulled out. The security personnel, who will remain attached to them, have been asked to be in uniform while on duty and will no longer be armed with AK series rifles. Instead, they will be given 303 rifles and carbines,” a home department source said. Security cover allocated to the council’s chief executive member Hagrama Mohilary, his deputy Khampa Borgoyari and transport minister Chandan Brahma have not been changed, the source added.

The Bodoland People’s Front (BPF), in which Mono Kumar Brahma is a senior leader, is an ally of the Congress in the state government. Brahma’s arrest, however, has not evoked any mass reaction. Senior BPF leader Chandan Brahma, who is the transport minister, said, “This is not good. I smell a conspiracy. Mono Kumar Brahma is not the person to possess a weapon. He is a senior leader of BPF and has been actively involved in rehabilitation of people displaced in the July violence.” CM Tarun Gogoi refused to link Brahma’s arrest to any impact on the alliance. “Brahma has been arrested because some illegal weapons have been recovered from his house. This will have no impact on our alliance with BPF.”

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/17261177.cms

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In WB funds meant for minority concentrated areas used in village with negligible Muslim population (Nov 18, 2012, Twocircles.net)

In West Bengal implementation of Multi-sectoral Development Programmes (MsDP) of Central Government meant for minority concentrated districts (MCD) appear to be politically motivated by the respective provincial government. There appears to be some kind of arbitrariness – or intentional bias – in choosing and selecting villages or blocks for development programmes meant for minorities. The minority concentrated gram panchayat under the Magrahat-II Block is one such district. Although 80 per cent of villagers in Jugdia Gram Panchayat are Muslims, it does not enjoy any privileges under MsDP. On the other hand, Urelchandpur Gram Panchayat with 98 percent Hindu populations has been identified as ‘minority concentrated gram panchayat’ and thus enjoys development programmes meant for minorities.

Minority Affairs Ministry has selected 1228 blocks as minority concentrated regions, having more than 25% minority population. There are 152 Minority Concentrated Blocks in West Bengal, of which 22 blocks are in South 24 Parganas. Thus while Muslim dominated village of Jugdia Gram Panchayat is deprived of housings facilities, in Urelchandpur houses are being bulit under Indira Awaas Yojona (IAY), originally meant for Muslims. The Panchayat Pradhan (Sarpach) of Jugdia, Zafor Ali Molla filled a written complain to the District Magistrate of South 24 Parganas on April 17, 2012 pointing to the discrimination in the allocation of MsDP. He has, so far, got no response from the DM office, even after reminding him again on October 31 through email.

Molla, who is an intermediate chartered accountant, and serving as Gram Panchayet Pradhan for last 25 years told TCN that there appears some kind of conspiracy at administrative level so that the condition of minorities do not improve and are deprived from welfare schemes like IAY. The district minority affairs office, under the District Magistrate, issued two memos (Memo No. 462(29)/MA/10 dated 06/10/2010 and subsequently Memo: 514(29)/MA/10), according to which Urelchandpur Gram Panchayat in the Magrahat-II Panchayat Samiti (Block) is minority concentrated panchayat. TCN talked to Rizwan Wahab, Block Development Officer of Magrahat Block-II. He said that the specific village was identified as minority concentrated panchayat, before he occupied that post and so he is not aware of the realities. He added that for rectification higher authorities need to take the initiative.

Wahab, however, assured that he will keep an eye on the issue. He also informed that the complaint filed by the respective Gram Panchayat Pradhan has been to the office of District Magistrate for his consideration. When TCN asked the Block Development Officer (BDO) on how a gram panchayat with 98 % Hindu population was recognised as ‘minority concentrated panchayat,’ he refused to talk, as the decision as taken before his posting there. In South 24 Pargans so far Rs 66,660,250 has been released in two installments. Due to negligence and mismanagement of the state government MsDP appear to have uncertain future. If funds are not used on time, they may lapse and future funding may stop.

http://twocircles.net/2012nov18/wb_funds_meant_minority_concentrated_areas_used_village_negligible_muslim_population.html

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Akali factions clash at Delhi gurdwara, 11 hurt (Nov 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)

A bloody clash between two Akali factions, also involving security taskforce of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), at New Delhi’s Rakabganj gurdwara on Thursday resulted in injuries to at least 11 persons, including Manjit Singh GK, president of the Delhi unit of Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Badal.

The ruckus began around 11am, after Manjit and around 20 of his supporters sought to attend a meeting of the DSGMC executive in the committee’s office on the gurdwara premises. They were denied permission at the behest of DSGMC president Paramjit Singh Sarna, a longtime friend-turned-foe of the Badals who heads his own party SAD-Delhi since 2002.

Though Manjit is a member of the general house and not of the 15-member executive, he was invited by DSGMC general secretary Gurmeet Singh Shanty, a SAD-Delhi leader currently out of favour with Sarna. The Badal faction leaders said Manjit and his men wanted to stop the executive from giving “all powers” to Sarna ahead of the DSGMC polls due next month.

Within minutes, the verbal duel turned bloody; blank gunshots were fired, kirpans (daggers), swords and sticks rained as Sarna’s supporters and the security taskforce allegedly launched an offensive. Manjit was hit on the head with a kirpan. Admitted to Ram Manohan Lohia Hospital, he was reported to be out of danger by the evening. Other injured SAD-Badal leaders included party general secretary Chaman Singh, its Dharam Parchar Committee president Paramjit Singh Rana, youth wing secretary general Harmeet Singh Kalka, and Amarjeet Singh.

Sarna blamed the Badal faction and said five of his party workers, apart from DSGMC staff, were injured too. Both sides filed complaints with the nearby Parliament House police station, and a case of attempt to murder among other charges was registered for the attack on Manjit and his men. However, no one was named immediately in the FIR. …

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/959728.aspx

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2 cane farmers killed as protest turns violent (Nov 13, 2012, Times of India)

Two farmers were killed, one of them in police firing, while three policemen were injured and an unspecified number of vehicles were either damaged or burnt after an agitation by sugarcane farmers for higher prices for their crop turned violent in western Maharashtra on Monday. Chandrakant Nalawade, a small farmer from Vasagade village in Sangli, was killed when police opened fire to control the agitating farmers after they reportedly turned violent and torched a police motorcycle. In Indapur, another farmer, Kundalik Kokate, died after he was thrown off balance while deflating the tyre of a truck. Kokate died of head injuries. Superintendent of police Manoj Lohiya said Kokate, from Narotewadi village, and other protesters had stopped the sand-laden truck and tried to deflate the tyres.

The news of the farmers’ death and the detention of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) leader Raju Shetty spread fast, triggering rioting in the entire western Maharashtra. The protestors blocked traffic and targeted vehicles at random. State transport buses, police and private vehicles were stoned and torched across the region. Police resorted to a lathi-charge and arrested or detained thousands of farmers. Hundreds of passengers were left stranded at the Swargate bus stand in Pune as the state transport administration stopped buses leaving for parts of western Maharashtra. The agitating farmers had blocked traffic on the Pune-Bangalore highway and other roads in the region, including Pune, Sangli, Satara, Solapur and Kolhapur districts.

As many as 40 state transport buses were damaged on the Pune-Solapur and Pune-Kolhapur routes by agitating sugarcane farmers on Monday. A bus going to Kolhapur was set on fire near Peth naka. Besides MSRTC buses, many private vehicles including private buses, were set on fire at various locations on the Kolhapur highway. MSRTC officials said buses were stuck for more than five hours at Karad on the Kolhapur highway and at Bhigvan on the Solapur highway. Glass panes were broken and tyres were punctured of about 40 buses. Passengers who had planned to travel to their native places for the festivities were hit hard as their buses failed to reach the destinations till late evening.

“Operations remained disrupted since morning. Around 200 trips from Swargate were either cancelled or rescheduled. Besides ordinary and semi-luxury buses, the Shivneri services to Bangalore, Kolhapur and Sangli remained affected through the day. The buses were stuck at Karad and Indapur,” said an MSRTC official. Pune-bound buses from Sangli, Kolhapur and Solapur were blocked by agitators. Local bus operations were also thrown out of gear at MSRTC’s depots at Sangli, Kolhapur, Solapur and Barshi. There were no reports of any injuries to passengers, said an official. The MSRTC officials said that operations on other routes including Mumbai, Nashik and Aurangabad remained unaffected.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/17201329.cms

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2G case: SC slams govt for being ‘casual’ (Nov 19, 2012, Hindustan Times)

The Supreme Court on Monday asked the government for an explanation on the allegation of not putting up the entire 2G spectrum for auction and tweaking the terms of the bid. A bench of justice GS Singhvi and justice KS Radhakrishnan gave two days’ time to the department of telecommunication (DoT) to file a comprehensive affidavit on two issues – why the government did not put up the 900 MHz bandwidth 2G spectrum for auction and why wasn’t the entire 1800 MHz bandwidth opened for the auction that took place on November 12.

According to the petitioner, only 68% of the bandwidth was auctioned. “You come prepared for that,” the court said, fixing November 26 as the next date of hearing. The bench observed withholding of even 0.1% spectrum from the auction would not be acceptable. It rejected an affidavit filed by DoT’s under-secretary and told the government counsel that the next one must be filed by a secretary level officer.

The court ticked off the government for being casual. “This affidavit cannot be accepted. It has been filed by under secretary-level officer. Our earlier order said the affidavit must be filed by secretary-level officer. This is a deliberate action on the part of DoT,” the bench said. The government counsel was reminded of its earlier order in which the court had refused to accept the affidavit signed by an under-secretary. “It is unfortunate that the same mistake has been done again. Needful should be done within two days,” the court ordered.

The SC had on February 2 cancelled 122 licences for 2G spectrum and directed the government to allocate the natural resource by auction. On November 12, the government had received bids for just Rs. 9,224.75 crore on the opening day of auction for 2G spectrum services. The amount was far too less as against the government’s anticipation to earn a revenue of Rs. 28,000 crore. There was no bidder for pan-India airwaves for which the government had set a bid start price of Rs. 14,000 crore.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/961398.aspx

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Dalit Muslims, Christians demand Scheduled Caste status (Nov 16, 2012, The Hindu)

Civil society groups of Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians protested here on Thursday demanding that the “discriminatory” 1950 Presidential Order be amended. The Order held that only Dalit who professed Hindu religion could be treated as Scheduled Caste (SC). Addressing the protesters, Samuel Jayakumatr executive secretary, Commission for Policy, Governance and Public Witnesses, argued that “given the fact that the SC status and the benefits that go with it are aimed to address historical caste-based socio-economic deprivation, the Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims have more compelling case for SC status than many others”.

“Because of being deprived of SC status for more than half a century, the two minority communities are worse off in terms of major socio-economic indicators, than many of the so-called ‘Hindu’ Dalits. Not only that they are denied reservations in jobs and elected bodies but they are also not protected from anti-SC atrocity legislation,” he added.

Highlighting what he termed “double standards of the democratic India”, Hafeez Ahmad Hawwari, a leader of the Hawwaris, who have historically been engaged in the vocation of washing clothes argued: “Soon after the country got freedom Dalit Muslims and Dalit Christians were deprived of the affirmative action in 1950. The Indian State extended the SC status to Sikh and Buddhist Dalits in 1956 and 1990 respectively. Yet, it continues to deny the same to Christian and Muslim and Dalits which is a clear violation of the Constitutional rights of millions of backward people.”

Saleem Mansoori, a backward leader from Bihar, questioned the logic of the denial of the SC status to the two minority groups. “We are unable to understand that if religion cannot be the basis of providing reservation, how can it be made the basis to deny people their SC status?”

Fr. Z. Devasagayaraj, a representative of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the continued denial of SC status to Dalit Christians and Dalit Muslims makes “complete mockery” of the Indian State’s credentials of being democratic and secular. He highlighted that a petition for the amendment in the 1950 Presidential Order is currently pending in the Supreme Court. “The Apex Court has been repeatedly asking the Government to file an affidavit about its stand on the issue but the Government’s false credentials about minority welfare has been betrayed by the fact that it still has not filed its reply.”

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/dalit-muslims-christians-demand-scheduled-caste-status/article4100400.ece

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Opinions and Editorials

State Honour To Hate Propagandist – By Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Nov 19, 2012, Countercurrents)

Bal Thackeray is no more. His funeral attracted lakhs of people. Mumbai remained shut for so many days. It is time to sit and ponder over the what really is the legacy of Sena. The champion of Hindu Nationalism enjoyed every damn thing which we claim as ‘western’ influence while spiting venom at ‘outsiders’. Mumbai’s biggest event management show is over as the person who converted a cosmopolitan Bombay to a parochial narrow Mumbai was cremated with State Honor. A man who did not hesitate to violate the very principles of Indian tricolor was taken in the state carriage with his body wrapped in the Indian National Flag and was finally provided Guard of Honor before his mortal remains were consigned to flames. Is not it a tragedy that the Indian state that the man who should have been asked to account for his role in various riots in the city actually was seeking the same from others? A modern city of Bombay actually pathetically turned into a medieval one where fear became the buzz word. The crowd assembled there was undoubtedly huge and it also shows how the issues raised by Thackeray touched the chord of the people in Maharashtra. It reflects the failures of the secular leadership of the state which needed a Thackeray to legitimize itself to fight against ‘communal’ Shiv Sena. The party though wanted to dominate Maharashtra politics yet never believed in democracy itself. The fact is that Thackeray was not a believer in democracy but Shiv Sena was necessary evil for him through whom he could run his ‘Sarkar’ and bargain with political parties particularly Congress which gave him strength and protection. Often we hear from commentators that Thackeray was unambiguous and spoke what his heart wanted. Yes, that was a great quality but it is also a fact that those who believe in democratic voices and dissent can never speak like the fascists who damn care for anything and are ready to even kill people for dissenting with them. There was no space for dissent in Shiv Sena as party never really believed in democratic values as its core values were absolutely fanatic and fascist. That is why funds and crowd was never a problem for Shiv Sena as their core constituency ensured that ‘everyone’ participate in their programmes. Hence it was not out of ‘love and affection’ that people kept their market closed in Mumbai but out of fear. And here the elected government of Maharashtra remained complete failure. It may have handled the situation politically but it allowed the atmosphere of fear to grip the city and that was condemnable.

The hypocrisy of the Indian elite from Bombay Film world as well as political class was visible. From the day when Thackeray’s was on ventilator, Amitabh Bachchan tweeted and asked for prayers. If anyone who follow politics know about Amitabh Bachcchan then he turn out to be the biggest hypocrite who can keep one ‘secular’ Mulayam in his pocket on left side while the absolute right winger Narendra Modi on the other side. It is the same ‘bhaiyaa’ from UP, who would always flaunt his Hindi background in puritanism while dining with Bal Thackeray in the evening. How these contradictions are managed by these stars are well known to us but the people who throng at their films and shows must ask this question whether Amitabh Bachchan support Thackeray’s fulminations and hate propaganda against the North Indians? Whether they and others who feel that Mumbai is now ‘anaath’ without him support Sena’s digging the pitches before an Indo-Pak match? Maharashtra is the land of extreme contradiction. It was land where Tilak and later Sangh Parivar grew up. They always used the religious identities to build huge crowds during Dushara festivities. In true sense Maharashtra was a purely brahmanical land. But this Brahmanism also got the biggest challenge in Maharashtra and in the heart of their places. Right from Jyotiba Phule to Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Maharashtra was a land of revolution of also. It created a new wave of assertion among the Dalits and other marginalized communities. Those commentators who are making the entire issue as unprecedented must visit Diksha Bhumi on every Dusshera day in Nagpur and Chaitya Bhumi on every December 6th to see what is unadulterated devotion to leadership and ideology. If the crowds are the measurement of popularity then definitely many in India can be unparalleled in that and particularly the cadre based parties are managers in bringing people but the crowds that throng Nagpur on Dusshera and Mumbai on December 6th come at their own to pay their respect to Baba Saheb Ambedkar. How many times, we report this event on our TV screens. Hence it is essential to understand why our political class as well as ‘mainstream’ media loves to create a larger than life size image of even the so-called ‘undemocratic’ people who it was crying against just few months back on the Marathi Manus issues. It want to create an impression that Brahmanism and Hindutva have got wider support in India and government must understand this but then Karunanidhi, Maywati, Lalu Yadav, Communist Parties can always manage huge crowds and have shown that too. How many time, we had live broadcast of their meetings and programmes?

There are few things about Thackeray, which most of the commentators portray that he was very unambiguous about his views and that he never hid his words, he spoke what he wanted. But that is exactly the quality of fascist characters. Since, they do not believe in any dissent and democracy they do not care what other think. A person like Thackeray was promoted by Congress to protect its own interest. The more his abuses and fulminations against Muslims and North Indian, the biggest was the opportunity for the party to project itself as the ‘well-wisher’ of this section. This has resulted in the marginalization of the Muslims in particular because their issues never got that much highlight as the north Indian media went on the other issue of Thackeray on the issue of Marathi Manus. For the votaries of Hindutva, Thackeray’s anti-Muslim rhetoric made him an iconic figure but when the same Thackeray spoke against the North Indian or Mumbai becoming ‘dharmshala’ then the same clientele of Thackeray turned against him. And that is why question may be asked as how has a person who spat so much of venom against Indian nationals from other state and different religion that he practiced, is given state honor in cremation and allowed the ‘public’ farewell. It has two meaning for me. One, that the entire Maharastra is sharply polarized like any other parts of the country on caste, religious and ethnic lines and that whatever Bal Thackeray spoke was accepted by the local Maharashtrians particularly upper castes. Of course, it is also true that the Shiv Sena’s largest vote share come from OBCs too who were used against naming of Marathwada University as Dr Baba Saheb University, against Dalits. Strange that we do not find much of the Bahujan politics in Maharastra where it originated in the form of vast struggles and social movements of Jotiba Phule and Chhatrpati Shahuji Maharaj. Is it not an irony that son of Prabodhan Thackeray, who was a devout follower of Joti Ba Phule and his Satya Shodhak Samaj rarely spoke about Phule and the struggle that he committed himself for social change.

It need to be analyzed whether we are witnessing an upper caste counter revolution in India these days which is being reflected in the form of Hindutva, anti-corruption movements or various other urbanized forums and then in the name of farmers, to make it rural also. There is a commonality among them. If the crowd at Thackeray’s funeral or at Anna’s Ram Leela or Arvind Kejriwal’s dramas in Delhi, they are quintessentially upper caste middle class background people with deep prejudices towards the Dalits and Muslims. They were accused of not stepping out of their homes and were not a vote bank. Perhaps, it is an indication that they too are now becoming solid blocks so get their issues addressed by the power elite. Corruption never matter for Thackeray and the anti-corruption messiahs of India never bothered to touch him for it was clear that they know he never believed in niceties. As he was very clear about his perception, many times, it was felt, he spoke the language that suited political parties and other people. The Babari Masjid was demolished on December 6th, 1992 in Ayodhya and Thackeray got an opportunity to spread his hate agenda in Mumbai. Another Maratha veteran Sharad Pawar was the chief minister of the state and yet when the communal riots began in Mumbai in January-February 1993, the police and administration was closely working with Shiv Sena gangs. Hundreds of Muslims were killed and there are proofs of the participation of various political leaders yet the state government did nothing. It never pursued cases against those culprits in these riots. What happen if the people do not get justice when their near dear ones are killed and butchered in front of them? We know international terrorism is there but we also know that this terrorism or ideas will never get support from people if justice is there. And in the aftermath of bomb blasts in Mumbai where underworld dons are considered to be the real culprits, the Mumbai police have been active in arresting Muslim youths. It is clear that the organisations like Sena were there to pressurize and communalise the entire administration and they succeeded. Today, Mumbai live in uncertainty as the underworld uses different guerrilla tactics to retaliate and avenge the attacks or discrimination against Muslims and Sena and its gang have active state support to protect the ‘Hindus’. It is strange how they change their tactics. When the anti-Muslim or anti-Pakistani rhetoric does not work then Marathi Manus issue is raised so that non Marathis live in constant fear.

The dirty games of Sena are well known. Bal Thackeray was not just rabidly accusing and abusing Muslims but he stood against all forms of rights granted to Dalits and OBCs under Indian constitution. He vehemently opposed reservation for Dalits and OBCs and his Sena was responsible for bloody war in Aurangabad for the renaming of Marathwada University in the name of Baba Saheb Ambedkar in which thousands of Dalits came on the street and many sacrificed their lives for the cause. So, it is clear that the caste Hindus, afraid of Dalit assertion and rights of OBCs and Muslims found Shiv Sena ‘candid’ and ‘unambiguous’ but their own hopes were dashed when ‘all of them clubbed’ together in the name of ‘Bihari’ and were threatened with dire consequences. That way, Thackeray and his clans were helping Bihar’s ‘secular’ leaders to get united under one umbrella shedding their caste identities which is still impossible for any state in India, leave alone Bihar. In one of his interviews with Shekhar Gupta, on ‘ Walk the Talk’ at NDTV, Thackeray was proudly drinking white wine with him which makes him different than others who will speak against smoking and drinking in public but will do the same in private. It is well known that he loved warm Indian beer. His Cigar was very famous and unlike other Sangh Parivar wallahs, he enjoyed life particularly with the glamour world and never hid his relationship with film stars. Irony is that the Hindutva brigade used Nehru’s lifestyle to target him as a ‘westerner’ and always created an image as if smoking and drinking was the sign of an ‘evil’ person. Hopefully, with Bal Thackeray’s open love for all these things, they will change their views and take people based on their ideology and action. …

http://www.countercurrents.org/rawat191112.htm

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Claims on test – By Anupama Katakam (Nov 17, 2012, Frontline)

This October, the British government announced that it was ending its decade-long boycott of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In the aftermath of the 2002 Gujarat riots, several countries had declared that Modi would be denied entry into their countries because he had violated religious freedom. Only the United Kingdom has revoked this now, a decision that made Modi tweet thus on October 11: “I welcome U.K. govt’s step for active engagement and strengthening relations with Gujarat. God is great.” The decision followed the British High Commissioner to India Sir James Bevan’s meeting with the Chief Minister on October 22, where the former largely discussed business and investment opportunities in Gujarat. Soon after the meeting, Modi said: “I am very happy that world leaders think they should meet me and do business in Gujarat.” For Modi, the British move has been the fruit of all the hard work he put in to shake off the communal label. The man who was once associated with the worst-ever communal riots India has witnessed in recent history has been working relentlessly for several years now to establish himself as the leader who brought industrialisation and thereby progress to Gujarat and thus gave it a great future. The timing of the British decision could not have been better. Gujarat goes to the polls at the end of this year, and Modi faces a tough battle. Since he obviously cannot use communalism to win this election, he has worked tirelessly to project himself as a “Vikas Purush” (man of progress and development), who brings in massive investment and creates no obstacles for business and industry desirous of coming to Gujarat and as the only “thinking, progressive and honest” politician around. Some observers call it a “massive public relations stunt”.

Frontline spoke to a cross section of people in Gujarat to find out if this election will be easy for Modi. The State’s middle classes seems convinced of his capabilities as the Vikas Purush, so do the rich Indian and non-resident Gujarati populations. The vote of the middle classes may be all his, but the poorer sections have begun to have serious doubts about this “progress”. Modi’s inability to deliver on crucial fronts such as employment, education, health and water supply will rob him of the votes of the poor in the urban and rural areas. According to Rev. Cedric Prakash, a human rights activist, malnutrition, hunger, unemployment, sanitation, water scarcity, and inadequate schooling facilities persist all over the State. “He may talk of development, but statistics prove otherwise.” The high growth rate is not in keeping with its patchy social development record, and if the social sector is not taken care of, it cannot be progress, says Prakash. Every alternate year, Modi hosts a huge business summit, called Vibrant Gujarat, to attract investment from across the globe. According to the organisers of the 2011 summit, about 7,936 memorandums of understanding (MoUs), worth Rs.20,83,000 crore ($450 billion) in all, were signed then. Moreover, around 100 tie-ups were forged with leading institutions from across the globe for exchange of knowledge. The summit had representatives from over a hundred countries participating in it; several top Indian industrialists spoke. Modi has repeatedly proclaimed that the summits have been a huge success for the State and that the model should be emulated by other States. However, a report titled “Investment and Growth Patterns Across 20 Major Indian States”, released in September this year by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham), says Gujarat may have bagged the largest number of investments but has lagged behind when it comes to their implementation.

According to Assocham, Gujarat attracted Rs.16.28 lakh crore in investment until December 2011. However, 51.8 per cent of the projects are yet to pick up steam. The report says that of the total investment proposals, Gujarat attracted 39.2 per cent in power generation, 24.2 per cent in manufacturing, 16.2 per cent in services, 14.3 per cent in real estate, 5.2 per cent in irrigation and 0.9 per cent in mining space. “Because of the massive public relations exercise, the State is able to garner investments; however there are no significant results. Soon Modi will have to answer some tough questions from not just industrialists but also his vote bank,” said an industrialist based in Ahmedabad. “The problem is that while Modi is efficient, his administrators are like any other in the Indian bureaucracy. These bureaucrats have to execute the projects for Modi to honour the promises. Otherwise he is going to look like a fool. For the vote bank, the kind of investment Modi is getting is not translating into jobs. These are heavy or manufacturing industries, which are not labour intensive. Therefore, no one is seeing the benefits,” he added. “Gujarat needs to focus on increasing investments in the services sector,” said Jay Ruparel, vice-chairman, Assocham. “The absence of the information technology sector and the preference for [financial] capital over human capital by the State government, present and past, have affected investments in the State.”

Gujarat’s industry consists mainly of sectors such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, petrochemicals, oil and gas, power, gems, engineering, automobiles, food and agri-businesses. Owing to the focus on the manufacturing sector, employment is not being generated in the numbers required to show growth. Admittedly, the Modi government has been more efficient than governments in other States. A third-generation industrialist from Maharashtra recently signed an MoU with Gujarat to start a unit producing pumps and compressors. “It was amazing how smoothly and how fast the process went. We got land, power and labour issues resolved within months. I would have never moved from Maharashtra as we have all our units there, but we took this decision as Gujarat promised efficiency and delivered.” Gujarat has many advantages that other States do not have. And Modi has been shrewd enough to capitalise on that, says Vijay Parikh, who owns a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant in Vadodara. For instance, it has a massive coastline, which has been a boon for trade since historical times. An attraction for industry, particularly the oil and gas industry, are the ports. The State has a mercantile community, which makes matters easier. What Modi may have done is to make Gujarat a power-surplus State and ensure that it had a reasonably good infrastructure, says Parikh. Modi has a penchant for yatras (road trips). Just before the announcement of the Assembly elections and the implementation of the code of conduct, Modi and his band of Ministers went on a month-long Vanthambhi Vikas Yatra (Non-stop Development Yatra). Travelling the length and breadth of Gujarat, the politicians propagated the State’s achievements. Officials say that more than 27,000 works involving an expenditure of Rs.30,000 crore were inaugurated or started during the yatra.

The month-long yatra ended on September 15, the same day as the Garib Kalyan Melas (GKMs), a scheme for the lower-income groups, ended. The State government claims it has distributed benefits worth Rs.13,000 crore in the nearly 1,000 GKMs held across the State. “He comes to us only during elections. The poor in Gujarat are not on his agenda,” says Ramesh Solanki, who works in a denim factory in Ahmedabad. Meanwhile, former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, who is Modi’s bête noire, said that the State was opening its treasury to companies such as the Tatas; it had given the company Rs.33,000 crore against an investment of Rs.22,000 crore for the Nano project, he said. He said the State had fallen to the sixth rank in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) and had a debt of over Rs.10,000 crore. The number of farmers’ suicides had gone up to 5,000, and malnutrition was rampant in the poorer and tribal districts of the State, he said. Patel also said the State was run by an autocrat and that no one else had any powers—this was not healthy for the State, he warned. The former Chief Minister may not be far from the truth. Several reports and studies by academics are beginning to bust Modi’s claims. A paper called “Myth of Vibrant Gujarat”, written by Ram Punyani, a well-known human rights and communal harmony activist with the All India Secular Forum, says: “Through conclaves like Guava Gujarat and the annual meetings of NRIs and industrialists, investment is being solicited, and more than the forthcoming investment, projections are being made of the flow of dollars, creating the image that it is during Modi’s regime that Gujarat has begun to progress. The fact is that there are some investments; there is some industrialisation, but it is far from what is being projected. In previous Vibrant Summits, claims of big capital investments have been made. For example, in 2005 claim for Rs.1,06,161 crore had been made. Out of that, investment of Rs.74,019 crore (63 per cent) was made as stated by the Chief Minister but in reality, as per the information availed under RTI, only Rs.24,998 crore (23.52 per cent) projects were under implementation.” …

http://flonnet.com/fl2923/stories/20121130292302500.htm

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Dubious dealings – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Nov 17, 2012, Frontline)

“A big upheaval” was the buzz in the upper echelons of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS)-led Sangh Parivar from the moment revelations on some doubtful investments in Nitin Gadkari’s business empire came out in the last week of October. Questions had been raised earlier, too, about the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president’s business dealings and the decisions he had taken as a Minister in the erstwhile Shiv Sena-BJP government in Maharashtra, but the “expose” on “ghost investors and amazing friendly loans” was perceived to be much more serious for a number of reasons. According to senior Sangh Parivar activists, this perception was essentially based on three factors. First, the charges about Gadkari’s wrongdoings had come at a time when the BJP was planning a major offensive against the ruling Congress, including members of the “first family” of the party, on the issue of corruption, and had, therefore, weakened its political initiative. Second, this had all the potential of accentuating the multilevel power struggles within the BJP. Third, the context had raised questions about the special treatment meted out to Gadkari by RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat and this, in turn, had caused palpable strain in the relations between senior RSS leaders. What significant sections of the Sangh Parivar found particularly galling was that the revelations seemed to equate Gadkari with Robert Vadra, the controversial son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Vadra’s meteoric rise in business over the past five years was also self-confessedly aided by “a little help from friends”.

Responding to allegations of financial impropriety in business dealings against him, Gadkari, too, stated that “his companies’ balance sheets were not fit for any bank to lend him money and hence he requested his good friend D.P. Mhaiskar of Ideal Road Builders (IRB) Group to help him out”. The request was accepted by the IRB Group and it advanced money to Gadkari’s companies. As in the case of the loan advanced to Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality by the real estate developer DLF, it is not clear whether Gadkari’s benefactors had asked for any security or whether IRB shareholders were aware of the extraordinary advance. The revelations showed that more than 100 companies had brought in amounts ranging from lakhs to crores for many of Gadkari’s business-related activities. What complicated the situation was the high positions held by Gadkari’s close associates, including his driver, in the various companies that were part of this business activity. Clearly, the allegations had the effect of blunting the BJP’s attack on the Congress. The fact that the revelations came less than a month before Gadkari’s re-election for a second term as party president enhanced their impact. The decision to allow Gadkari to run a second term was opposed by many senior party leaders, including L.K. Advani. Apart from the inner-party tussles relating to his re-election, there was the multilevel struggle over the choice of a prime ministerial candidate for the next general elections. Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Delhi-based senior leaders such as Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj, and Gadkari himself are aspirants to the nomination.

Though it is not clear whom the RSS will favour, there is little doubt that its top brass in Nagpur has a special regard for Gadkari. In fact, the RSS went the extra mile at the BJP’s National Executive in Mumbai in May to get Article 21 of the party constitution amended in order to allow its Nagpur man to seek another term when he completes his present tenure in December. For this, it succumbed to Narendra Modi’s demand seeking the expulsion of RSS pracharak Sanjay Joshi from the National Executive. Modi had made it clear that he would attend the Executive only if Joshi was removed. This was done, and Modi supported the validity of the amendment enabling an active party member to hold the post of president for two three-year terms. However, according to a senior RSS activist, the revelations on Gadkari’s business dealings have put a question mark on the constitutionally approved second term for the party president. “The leaders opposed to a second term for Gadkari, including Advani, would certainly up the ante now. You will see many manifestations of this in the days to come,” the activist told Frontline. Sure enough, BJP leader Ram Jethmalani called for Gadkari’s resignation. Subsequently, his son Mahesh Jethmalani resigned from the National Executive, saying the issue of Gadkari’s financial wrongdoings was affecting the party’s image. More importantly, he said the revelations had weakened Gadkari’s chances of putting up a good fight in the race for the prime ministerial nomination.

It is in this context that the sustained patronage of Bhagawat that Gadkari enjoys has come into question. Those who apparently have reservations about Bhagawat’s support to Gadkari include top leaders of the RSS, Suresh Soni and Madan Das Devi. In fact, Sangh Parivar activists told Frontline that in view of the reservations expressed by some RSS leaders, Bhagawat made Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS joint secretary, another point man to manage the relations with the BJP. Earlier, the charge of liaising with the BJP was mainly with Suresh Soni. By all indications, these issues were discussed at the RSS national conclave held in Chennai in early November. The formal view of the conclave, expressed by senior leader Suresh Joshi, specifically on the charges against Gadkari, was as follows: “If the allegations are true, then the accused person should be punished. This is the stance of the Sangh on charges of corruption against anybody, including Gadkari.” But Suresh Joshi also added that one cannot pronounce anybody guilty on the basis of allegations by the media. All these developments do raise a question over Gadkari’s second term as party chief. However, there are indications that the RSS will in no way accede to the demands of those seeking Gadkari’s removal before the conclusion of his term.

Some sections of the Sangh Parivar aver that there are two reasons for this. First, advisers of the RSS, such as S. Gurumurthy, believe that despite the allegations levelled against him, Gadkari’s management of his financial affairs has been such that nothing can be proved against him legally. Secondly, sections of the RSS, too, had benefited from Gadkari’s business operations and this is known to the top brass. This found reflection in the meeting of the core group of the BJP’s leadership on November 6 in New Delhi. Following a two-hour-long presentation by Gurumurthy, the core group asserted that Gadkari had not done anything wrong, legally or morally. While this support by the RSS could help Gadkari for the time being, there is little doubt that the affairs in the Sangh Parivar, and especially the BJP, will continue to be tumultuous for a considerable period of time. A signal of this was visible in the boycott of the core group meeting by Advani, who has been opposed to the RSS micromanaging the BJP’s affairs, at least in the past five years.

http://flonnet.com/fl2923/stories/20121130292303300.htm

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Who Milks This Cow? – By Ramachandra Guha (Nov 19, 2012, Outlook)

I was born in a home of broad-minded Hindus. My father, though by caste a Brahmin, never wore a thread. His own father’s brother was a lifelong opponent of the caste system; a hostel he opened for Dalit students still functions in Bangalore city. My mother went from time to time to a temple, but was happy to eat with or make food for humans of any background or creed. Two of her brothers had married out of caste; a third had married a German. When, in 1984, I got my first job, at the Centre for Social Studies in Calcutta, I had to fill in a questionnaire which, among other things, asked me to denote my religion. I wrote ‘Hindu’, immediately attracting the ire of a friend who worked at the same centre. He felt that a secular state had no business asking for a person’s religion, and thus I should have left the answer blank. This friend was a Marxist, so (although he would not then recognise or admit it) he actually subscribed to a faith of his own.

As I saw it, I was brought up, if loosely, in the Hindu tradition. One could still be a Hindu and not believe in—indeed, militantly oppose—caste discrimination and the subjection of women. One could be a Hindu and still be respectful of other faiths and traditions. That is what my reading of Gandhi had taught me. And if Gandhi, who in adult life did not enter a temple, and who was vilified by sants and sankaracharyas, could yet call himself a Hindu, so—when pushed—could I. Five years after this debate with a Marxist, I encountered a rather more direct challenge to my Hindu faith. I had been with a team of scholars to investigate a communal conflict in and around the town of Bhagalpur, in Bihar. The riot was sparked off by the brick worship ceremonies connected with the plans to build a Ram temple on the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The ceremonies clashed with a Muslim festival, and violence broke out between young men of the two religions. The conflict spread outwards from the town into the countryside.

Nearly two thousand people died in the Bhagalpur riots. Many more were rendered homeless. Although Muslims were less than 20 per cent of the population, they constituted more than 70 per cent of those who had been killed or displaced. We visited a once-flourishing village of Muslim weavers, or julahas, whose homes and looms had been totally destroyed by a mob of Hindus. The survivors were being taken care of by a prosperous Muslim weaver in Bhagalpur town, who had laid out tents in his garden. Other refugees were being provided food and shelter by a Muslim religious organisation. Of government work in the resettlement and rehabilitation of the refugees there was not a sign. I was shaken to see that my fellow Hindus would willingly partake of such savagery, and that my government would take no responsibility for the victims. Till then, the politics of religion had no place in my scholarly work or writing. My principal field of research was the environment. I had just published a book on the social history of the Himalayan forests, and had written scholarly essays on environmental conflicts in Asia and North America. However, I was now provoked to write an essay on the Bhagalpur riots for theSunday Observer. That newspaper collapsed soon afterwards, but I remain grateful to it for publishing the first article I wrote on the bloody crossroads where religion and politics meet in modern India.

In the 1990s and beyond, as the religious right gained in strength and importance across the country, I was making the move from academics to becoming a full-time writer. I now published fortnightly columns in two different newspapers. My brief, in each case, was very broad; I could, and did, write on history and sport apart from politics. But since these were the years in which the Sangh parivar moved from the margins to the centre of public life in India, naturally I wrote about their activities as well. In the past two decades, I must have published some forty articles that have dealt with the politics or policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, or of state and central governments led or directed by them. This constitutes somewhat less than 10 per cent of my total output—that is to say, at least nine in ten of my articles have dealt with other subjects. However, it is always articles that touch on the philosophy and practice of Hindutva that attract the most attention (and anger). They have brought me into contact with a certain kind of Indian who gets up before dawn, has a glass of cow’s milk, prays to the sun god, and begins scanning cyberspace for that day’s secular heresies. If a column I write touches in any way on faith, Hinduism, Hindutva, Guru Golwalkar, Gujarat, or Ayodhya, by breakfast I have had deposited, in my inbox—or perhaps in the ‘Comments’ section of the newspaper’s own website—mails which are hurt, complaining, angry, or downright abusive. …

http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?282904

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Charminar, once an icon of Hyderabadi pride, now a combat ground of religious dominance – By Mohd. Ismail Khan (Nov 11, 2012, Twocircles.net)

It’s Saturday afternoon and its business as usual at the circle around Historic Charimnar it is bustling with traffic and hundreds of petty vendors doing their trade. Seeing the current scene tourists who are visiting the nearly 500 year old monument will hardly have any idea that since past two weeks this area is deep in neck with communal boil and both Muslim and Hindu communal elements have decided to made this cultural icon of Hyderabad a battle ground to challenge each other’s supremacy over the city. Bhagya Lakshmi Mandir resembles a fort now, shielded 100 meters from left to right by police barricades and from Inspectors to ACP’s, and DCP’s every one keeping an eye on every movement near the temple. Bhagya Lakshmi Mandir goes a long way with controversies; the recent one is just another corner stone to a list of disputes. It was normal thing during Friday prayers at Mecca Masjid to see that security was beefed up at the Mandir, but now it has become an everyday affair. The mid night of October 31st witnessed a new round of controversy, when temple authorities under the protection of police were erecting tin shed over the temple roof. Locals along with Majlis-e-Itehadul-Muslimeen leaders gathered there and protested till the early hours of morning, alleging that expansion is illegal and it will harm the monumental structure of Charminar, thus kick started a new round of dispute with right wing Hindu groups like VHP, Bajrang Dal and even BJP which has announced extension of Mandir at any cost. Interestingly the controversy broke out just when International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) team was in the city to inspect the efforts made by the state government to remove the encroachments around Charminar which is suggested for UNESCO World Heritage status. Bhagya Lakshmi Mandir has a vague history; temple authority contends that temple is as old as Charminar. But the old timers, historians, heritage activists and even Archeological Survey of India have refuted this claim.

According to the locals, during Qutub Shahi period a stone was erected as a milestone announcing the ending of Plague in Hyderabad. After some centuries that stone was regarded auspicious by some locals and was decorated with ‘Haldi’ and ‘Kumkum’. Soon years after the annexation of Hyderabad state by Indian army, mass prayers began and temporary shed was put in place. Soon the ‘auspicious’ stone was replaced by idol of Lakshmi Goddesses of wealth as new symbol of prosperity of a new Hyderabad. Now days one can even spot the big frame picture of RSS protégé Gowalkar welcoming devotees in the Mandir. In many communal riots in 80’s and 90’s temple was damaged, but it recovered soon, it grew, and expanded in every passing festival. The temporary sheets and decorations put in for the festivals were later converted into a property of temple. Slowly a stone idol became a one floor high concrete structure, right under the nose of ASI which was conserving Charminar since 1951. In 1992 finally an amendment was made in Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958 restricting any constructions within the 100meters of the site. But even by then, as claimed by some heritage activists ASI was blind to the illegal constructions around Charminar. Vasant.K.Bawa was the first director of newly formed Archeology and Museum department in the erstwhile Hyderabad State, he has done an extensive work in the field of cultural heritage of Hyderabad Deccan. Reacting to the recent controversy of Bhagya Lakshmi temple Mr. Bawa said it is down low to give a religious color to a cultural and heritage monument. Speaking to TwoCircles.net he said, “Heritage should be neutral of all religions, art and culture of our past is more valuable than present communal politics. Politics with cultural monuments is a bad precedent to be laid.” “When I heard about this news, first thoughts came in my mind was about Spanish mosques converted into cathedral and churches converted into mosques in Turkey, we should not jump to such religious bigotry of that 14th century,” Mr. Bawa said. But ASI who is being believed by many as an important player in the whole issue, is totally absent from the scene. The Superintendent Archeologist when contacted was always on inspection tours, Dy. S A refused to talk on the issue. And even when we tried to contact Conservative Officer of Charminar he was also not reachable.

What we can get is only anonymous quotes of ASI officials in the newspapers, a sensitive matter on which no officer is willing to put their name to. According to some anonymous sources quoted in the newspapers, ASI denied that temple officials took permission for any construction and even ASI expressed their surprise on the midnight renovation work. Frustrated Muslim leaders over the failure of ASI on stopping, as what they term ‘illegal prayers’ in the Charminar, they has asked permission from ASI to offer prayers at the historic mosque situated at the terrace of the monument. The mosque build along with Charminar has the capacity of 250 people and it has also being mentioned in the ASI website’s catalogue of brief description about Charminar. When ASI officials rejected the request by reportedly saying that when ASI took over the monument prayers was not going on at the mosque at terrace, whereas Mandir was concerned prayers were on at one of the pillars of Charminar. The blatant response of ASI officials on Muslims assumed right to perform prayer in Charminar, didn’t stop Muslims to counter Hindus, who were assembling in large numbers especially during Friday prayers to perform’ Aarti’. Last Friday Muslims finally found a way to counter Hindu ‘presence’ in the Charminar. A 2/3 small room in Charminar which was ones use to keep ‘Alawa’ black flag of Shia’s is now home for a Ghous-e-Azam Flag which is situated under the fourth tower of Charminar adjacent to the Mandir, after Friday prayers at Mecca Masjid thousands of Muslims crowded the tiny room to offer ‘Salam’ at the flag, as oblivious to counter the Bhajans from the Mandir. Now the new strategy of Muslims and their leaders has got police on tenterhooks, fearing the same communal volatile situation every Friday. Heritage activist from Old city of Hyderabad S.Q. Masood said ASI is directly responsible for the chaos created by the communal elements, “ASI has not fulfilled its duties, the reactions in Charminar and around the old city streets regarding temple issue, is the result of decades of negligence and ignorance ASI has put in to the crucial issues.”

Mr. Masood believes that only way to solve the current problem is, by shifting all the religious structures from in and around Charminar to different locations. Dr. N. Mandal of Forum for Better Hyderabad speaking to TwoCircles.net said the act of expansion and further construction of temple or any other religious place at in and around Charminar is illegitimate. “The construction of Bhagya Lakshmi temple is wrong, Charminar is a protected heritage monument, it should not be converted into a prayer hall of religions.” “Even in ancient temples which are now under ASI prayers are not allowed in them, so it is out of question to entertain religious prayers in the cultural and heritage monuments,” said Dr. Mandal. On the other hand another heritage activist Jaswin Jairaj believes that political parties which are least bothered about protecting monuments are hijacking the issue of charminar to gain political mileage for 2014. “All of them minority community, majority community, and even the Govt. is playing dirty politics over the protection of a monument. Political parties from both the communities have decided to test their power on this sensitive issue, while Govt. which is politically dependent on M.I.M and can’t offend majority community is turning a blind eye over a delicate issue.” On ASI, Mrs. Jairaj said, “ASI is a spineless body; they don’t have guts to implement their own rules. If ASI would have intervened in this matter in the first period, this communal politics wouldn’t have arrived. They should confront the situation and should shift all the religious objects in around Charminar including the Mandir to some other place.”

Majlis-e-Itehadul Muslimeen got their biggest boost in the Mandir-Monument cold war when A.P. High court granted a stay order on any further construction on the Mandir structure, M.I.M’s local Counselor Mohsin bin Ahmed Balala was one of the petitioner. The division bench comprising acting chief justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and justice Vilas Afzalpurkar directed the state government and its police and archaeology departments to maintain status quo as of on October 30, 2012. Senior Advocate Bhuja Tarakam who appeared for one of the petitioner in the case told TwoCircles.net, that Temple authorities indeed damaged the structure of Charminar by putting holes under the wall. He said, “Any construction within 100 meters of the Charimnar is illegal let alone creating holes in its walls to erect bamboos.” Mr. Tarakam took exception and didn’t blame ASI for the mess; he said it is local police which is responsible for encouraging illegal construction at midnight under their protection.” But interpreting the High court order, Mr. Tarakam said there is no barrier for temple administration in decorating the Mandir in approaching Diwali as it is their norm to do it annually. Now with Deepavali approaching and right wing Hindu groups at valor to decorate the Bhagya Lakshmi temple as ostentation of their power, fireworks and crackers of other way is expected to be high around Charminar. It once stood tall as an icon of Hyderabad’s rich culture, heritage and communally harmony. Now it is nothing less than a battle ground for religious supremacy.

http://twocircles.net/2012nov11/charminar_new_battleground_communal_forces.html

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Some hope, lots of despair – By Abhijit Patnaik (Nov 15, 2012, Hindustan Times)

Arvind Kejriwal has resorted to publicly naming and shaming everyone from politicians to corporates. Anna Hazare has reignited the Jan Lokpal debate, scandals are being exposed with increasing frequency. The anticorruption movement has gathered momentum in the last twelve months, and presumably, corrupt officials are running for shelter. Yet, according to a Hindustan Times survey, 41.2% of respondents feel that government officials are more prone to take a bribe today. The movement may have many followers on various social media platforms and thousands may have turned out for candlelight vigils, but practising what you preach is a different ball game. Only a third of respondents said that they are less likely to offer a bribe even in today’s atmosphere where corruption is the big sin.

The survey, conducted by research agency Hansa, covered 13 cities and over 28,000 respondents. Some of the results were unsurprising. No prizes for guessing who most people blame for corruption. An overwhelming 64.7% say it is politicians. This anti-politician sentiment is strongest in north India. But blame is also placed on the nature of our politics today. With no single party in a majority, coalitions are here to stay. But that is not always a good thing. Vested interests in some parties have kept others hostage, which is perhaps why over half the respondents said that this leads to more corruption in the government.

The media, which has played a central role in the anti-corruption fight is viewed favourably by respondents, with 45% saying its role has been positive. The need for improving governance assumes particular importance in the background of a government battling various scandals and having lost opportunities for furthering growth and pushing reform. The government has sought to silence its critics by boldly ushering in foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Retail sector, aviation and has approved bills to open up insurance and pension sectors to foreign investment, apart from a slew of other measures. But when it comes to issues of bureaucracy, polity and administration, concerted action is lacking.

We asked respondents what they feel India needs to concentrate on most. Education and health topped the answers, unsurprising for a country like India. But interestingly, it was governance reform which came third – more than other crying needs of the nation such as power, roads or transport. “Public spending is notoriously leaky and fosters corruption. Fundamental reforms in this area are necessary and are long overdue to push growth,” said Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Rajya.

A growing India is increasingly looking for effective governance skills in its leaders. No wonder, a quarter said that Narendra Modi is their leader of choice, with Sonia Gandhi a distant second with 16.4%. Only 13% chose Rahul Gandhi. But the Gujarat leader’s popularity doesn’t transfer to his party. While 35.8% feels that a Congress or Congress-led government is best equipped to steer India through its economic slump, only 30% have similar confidence in a BJP or BJP-led government.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/959348.aspx

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