IAMC Weekly News Roundup – October 19th, 2015

In this issue of IAMC News Roundup

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Book Review

Read the emails Prashant Bhushan alleges show that Modi government colluded with 2002 accused (Oct 16, 2015, Scroll.in)

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court dismissed a petition filed by Sanjiv Bhatt, the former Indian Police Service officer from Gujarat, asking for two police cases against him to be transferred out of Gujarat and investigated by an independent agency. Bhatt said he feared the state was trying to falsely implicate him since he had given testimony against Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat.

One of those two cases pertained to a complaint filed by Tushar Mehta, then Additional Advocate General of Gujarat, alleging that Bhatt had hacked into his email account.

Although Bhatt denied hacking into Mehta’s account, as part of his petition in the Supreme Court, he submitted a series of emails which he claimed to have accessed from Mehta’s account while on vacation with him. According to Bhatt, they were close friends at that time. These emails, Bhatt’s lawyers claim, show collusion between the State of Gujarat and the riot accused.…

http://www.scroll.in/article/762529/read-the-emails-prashant-bhushan-alleges-show-that-modi-government-colluded-with-2002-accused

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Second time in a fortnight, President Pranab Mukherjee sends message on tolerance, dissent (Oct 20, 2015, Indian Express)

For the second time in less than a fortnight, President Pranab Mukherjee has referred to growing incidents of intolerance, this time expressing the “apprehension whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane” in the country. Underlining that “humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance”, the President greeted people on the eve of Durga Puja celebrations and said he hoped that “Mahamaya, the combination of all positive forces, would eliminate the Asuras or divisive forces”.…

“Assimilation through receiving is a characteristic of Indian society. Our collective strength must to be harnessed to resist evil powers in society,” he said. He said Indian civilisation had survived for 5,000 years because of its tolerance. “It has always accepted dissent and differences. A large number of languages, 1,600 dialects and 7 religions co-exist in India. We have a Constitution that accommodates all these differences,” he said.

On October 7, speaking at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan where he was presented a coffee table book ‘The Nationalist President – Pranab Mukherjee’, the President said: “We should not allow the core values of our civilisation to wither away. Over the years, our civilisation has celebrated diversity, plurality and promoted and advocated tolerance. These values have kept us together over the centuries.”…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/president-questions-rising-intolerance-after-ink-attack-on-j-k-mla/

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India witnessed religiously motivated killings, riots and forced conversion: US report on International Religious Freedom 2014 (Oct 15, 2015, DNA India)

India witnessed religiously motivated killings, arrests, riots and coerced religious conversions and the police in some cases failed to respond effectively to communal violence, according to the US State Department report on International Religious Freedom 2014.

In the India section of the Congressional mandated annual report released by Secretary of State John Kerry today, the State Department said that some government officials made discriminatory statements against religious minorities. “There were reports of religiously motivated killings, arrests, coerced religious conversions, religiously motivated riots and actions restricting the right of individuals to change religious beliefs,” said the report.

It said that in some cases, local police failed to respond effectively to communal violence, including attacks against religious minorities, although local officials used broad authorities to deploy police and security forces to control outbreaks of religiously motivated violence. The local nongovernmental organisation (NGO) Act Now for Harmony and Democracy reported more than 800 religiously- motivated attacks from May through the end of the year 2014.…

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-india-witnessed-religiously-motivated-killings-riots-and-forced-conversion-us-report-on-international-religious-freedom-2014-2135050

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7/11 case: 9 years after arrest, he returns to school, acquitted and free (Oct 13, 2015, Indian Express)

At the Jan Mohammed Kasam High School gates, the security guard takes a few minutes to recognise him before allowing him access. On August 2006, Wahid Shaikh, a 27-year-old English teacher, was pulled out of a classroom by the Mumbai Police as a suspect in the Mumbai train blasts. Nine years later, Shaikh was back to the premises Monday, as assistant teacher.

Shaikh is the lone acquittal in the 7/11 serial train bombings The three-storey school with 11 teachers and 350 students is a landmark in the Muslim neighbourhood of Grant Road with a monthly school fee of less than Rs 40. On Day One, Shaikh taught three subjects, his enthusiasm on many occasions competing with that of the students. Within half an hour of entering the school gates, and completing official paper work, Shaikh, now 36, saw himself in front of a blackboard. His first task was to teach spoken English to 40 students. Most of them, he said, hailed from the slum colonies adjacent Grant Road station.

As he gave detailed instructions, he chose to engage students in a play called “Find the location”, where students are made to spread themselves in the classroom and give their location by describing the nearest object.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/mumbai/711-case-9-years-after-arrest-he-returns-to-school-acquitted-and-free/

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Another Dadri? Suspected Bajrang Dal mob lynches man in Himachal for cow smuggling (Oct 16, 2015, First Post)

At a time when Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said that Muslims can live in India only if they give up eating beef, reports of lynching of a man in Himachal Pradesh for alleged cow smuggling emerged on Friday.… The 28-year-old victim, named Noman, was found by Himachal Pradesh Police on Wednesday morning inside a truck at Sarahan village and rushed to a hospital where he succumbed to his injuries, added the report. Noman was a resident of Rampur village of Saharanpur district of Uttar Pradesh. Police have registered a case of murder.

According to another DNA report, Imran Asgar, Noman’s relative, who was travelling with him, alleged that Bajrang Dal activists stopped the truck they were travelling in and then beat up Noman.…

The police, with the help of local villagers, arrested all the five cow smugglers, after several hours of chase in the forest. It was then that Noman was attacked by the villages and suspected Bajrang Dal activists. A case of murder under section 302 of IPC was registered on the complaint filed by Imran, relative of the deceased, by Pachhad police.…

http://www.firstpost.com/india/another-dadri-suspected-bajrang-dal-members-lynch-man-in-himachal-over-alleged-cow-smuggling-2471614.html

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Modi govt cannot wash its hands of Dadri lynching, says Sachin Pilot (Oct 14, 2015, Indian Express)

Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Wednesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s remarks that his government had nothing to do with the Dadri lynching and cancellation of Ghulam Ali’s Mumbai concert, saying it is not appropriate for the Centre to wash its hands of by saying that it had no role to play.…

“I think they are trying to trivialise the issue. I think the unfortunate lynching and the death of the gentleman in Dadri is symbolic of the systematic decay in our social fabric that is being accentuated by the new government,” he said.…

“It’s not just about politics, it’s about the country. What are the kind of ideologies that we are propagating? What are the kind of people who are in position of power, whose words count for and they are somehow trying to divide the secular thinking of our nation and that I think is unacceptable to India,” he said.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/modi-govt-cant-wash-its-hands-of-dadri-lynching-sachin-pilot/

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Derecognise Shiv Sena, book its leaders, demands AAP (Oct 19, 2015, Hindustan Times)

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday demanded that the Shiv Sena be derecognised in the backdrop of the latter’s recent activities, including Monday’s protests at BCCI office in Mumbai. AAP said that in its nearly 50 years of existence the Shiv Sena has only contributed to “politics of hate and goondaism”.…

“So what exactly is the Shiv Sena? It is just a front for goondas who earn their living by threatening harmless people like singers, writers and holding the financial capital to ransom with its threats of bandhs and riots,” she said in a statement. In the last few weeks, the Shiv Sena has threatened and cancelled Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali’s concert and attacked the organiser of a launch event of a book, written by a former Pakistani minister. On Monday they attacked the BCCI offices which has led to cancellation of the India-Pakistan cricket meet, Menon said.

“This is completely unacceptable. Civil society must come together and demand a ban on Shiv Sena, as they neither understand, nor participate in upholding our Constitution or our democracy. Instead they are always ready to precipitate tensions with neighbouring countries,” she said. “The AAP demands that the Election Commission should take note of Shiv Sena’s illegal and dangerous activities and de-recognise them. The state government should book Sena leaders for inciting violence and destroying the law and order of the state,” she demanded.

http://www.hindustantimes.com/india/derecognise-shiv-sena-book-its-leaders-demands-aap/story-cLgSdbQ16jfA20tcLdEIXK.html

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India’s Writers Are Returning Literary Awards to Protest Diminishing Freedoms (Oct 13, 2015, Time)

Several writers in India have relinquished awards from one of the country’s top literary institutions over the past week, in a symbolic show of protest against what they say is a growing disregard for freedom of speech under the government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.…

The primary motivation for returning the awards, some of them have said, is the academy’s failure to publicly protest the murder of a prominent atheist scholar in late August – allegedly by hard-line Hindu fundamentalist groups. However, others also cited the recent lynching of a Muslim man by a Hindu mob on suspicion of his having consumed beef (cows are considered sacred by Hindus), pointing at a growing climate of intolerance that bodes ill for freedom of speech in the South Asian nation.

The list of those who have returned their awards includes poets, playwrights and authors from various parts of the country, working in several Indian languages.…

http://time.com/4070957/india-writers-sahitya-akademi-awards-nayantara-sahgal/

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Complete shutdown in Moga; demonstrations across Punjab (Oct 18, 2015, The Tribune)

Sikh protesters continued their agitation against the desecration of a ‘bir’ of Guru Granth Sahib in Moga district for the fifth consecutive day on Saturday. National and state highways as well as major link roads were blocked at nearly 30 locations.

All educational institutes and business establishments remained closed in Moga town as well as most villages in the district. Public transport also remained off roads. The situation became tense in the town when protesters forced shops to close. The police took one youth into custody.…

In Haryana, various Sikh organisations took out a procession to protest against the ‘poor law and order situation’ in Punjab, demanding stringent action against officials responsible for the situation. Meanwhile, in Bariwla village in Punjab, the police have registered a criminal case against unidentified persons for Friday’s incident of desecration of holy texts near Sarainaga village.&hellip

http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/punjab/complete-shutdown-in-moga-demonstrations-across-punjab/147159.html

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“To Impose A Uniform Belief Or Practice Is Antithetical To Freedom” (Oct 17, 2015, Outlook)

We, as sociologists and concerned citizens, feel extremely concerned about the lynching at Dadri, and the murders of scholars and thinkers like MM Kalburgi, Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and others, and wish to register our strong protest.

We are not just shocked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s late response, but also by the implications of the victim-blaming statement he made. To say that ‘Hindus and Muslims should not fight each other but should fight poverty instead’ puts the onus for peace and fighting poverty entirely on civil society and communities and absolves the state of any responsibility for both. As Prime Minister, he should have asserted that the state would defend the rule of law.

In a country with some 4693 communities and over 415 living languages, each community is bound to have its own customs, including dietary choices. Individuals may also follow practices different from the ones followed by the majority of their community. Any attempt to impose a uniform belief or practice, on either individuals or communities, is antithetical to the freedom enshrined in the Constitution. It is the state’s responsibility to ensure this freedom.…

http://www.outlookindia.com/article/to-impose-a-uniform-belief-or-practice-is-antithetical-to-freedom/295628

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Opinions and Editorials

Modi and the Hindu Hard-Liners – Editorial (Oct 14, 2015, New York Times)

Since he was elected in May 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India has been adept at appeasing his Hindu hard-line base while, at the same time, promising economic growth and development to a wider national and international audience. But that balancing act is in danger of teetering, imperiling not only the economic development Mr. Modi has promised but also India’s open, inclusive democracy.…

Although Mr Modi denied that his party had anything to do with the episode, his public aloofness as officials in his government and extremists across the country have aggressively pushed a Hindu nationalist agenda is partly to blame. So are the prime minister’s efforts to make cow slaughter a divisive political issue. During his election campaign Mr. Modi had warned Hindu voters that if the Congress Party gained control, it would expand a “pink revolution” of cow slaughter.…

Mr. Modi should keep in mind the wise words of India’s president, Pranab Mukherjee, in an eloquent plea for sanity last week. “We cannot allow the core values of our civilization to be wasted,” Mr. Mukherjee warned, adding, “This civilization has celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, endurance and plurality.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/15/opinion/modi-and-the-hindu-hard-liners.html?_r=0

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Hate culture – By Sagnik Dutta (Oct 30, 2015, Frontline)

Bisara, a sleepy village in Dadri block of Gautam Budh Nagar district in Uttar Pradesh, came alive on September 28 as word spread that a Muslim resident, 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq, had slaughtered a calf and had beef at home. … Residents say there was never any communal violence in the village in the past. On September 28, however, there were concerted efforts by fringe elements to mobilise villagers around the emotive issue of cow slaughter. The Rajput reaction to the lynching also points to communal polarisation that must have preceded the crime. Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma, who is also the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament from the Gautam Budh Nagar constituency, has claimed that the lynching was not a premeditated action. But interactions with villagers on the ground suggest the contrary.…

In Gujjar-majority Kaimrala village, about 20 kilometres from Bisara, Muslim men find themselves targeted on the pretext of preventing cattle theft. In September, a mob lynched three young Muslim men suspected of having stolen a couple of buffaloes. The similarities with the Bisara incident are stark. … The communal overtone is hard to miss. Village residents also say that the police did not arrive in time to control the mob.…

The murder of Akhlaq in Bisara village comes in the backdrop of increasing attempts at demonising the Muslim as a religious and cultural “other”. It polarises society and intensifies the sense of fear and paranoia among minorities. Looking at it as merely a law and order issue would mean ignoring the larger implications of Hindutva politics for pluralism and tolerance in the country.

http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/hate-culture/article7756856.ece

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When Silence Is Not an Option – Editorial (Oct 17, 2015, EPW)

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley chooses to dismiss it as “a manufactured revolt” but only a partisan can miss noticing that the decision of more than 40 poets, writers and performers to return national awards as a form of protest is something that India has not seen since independence. When the distinguished English language writer Nayantara Sahgal returned her 1986 Sahitya Akademi Award, along with Hindi poets Uday Prakash and Ashok Vajpeyi, few expected that this would escalate into a virtual flood of “award wapsi” as some have called it.

Its significance lies in the wider context ofthe place of writers in a democracy. Why should writers from Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Goa, Punjab, West Bengal, Jammu and Kashmir, Kerala, Delhi and elsewhere feel moved at this juncture to return awards given to them by the country’s premier literary institution, the Sahitya Akademi? From the common thread running through their statements of protest, it is clear that they are disappointed that the Sahitya Akademi has said next to nothing about the daylight assassination of Kannada writer and Akademi award winner M M Kalaburgiin Dharwad in August this year, nor has it noted the growing atmosphere of intolerance that this murder represents.…

The protest by writers is an important moment; it might not alter electoral arithmetic but it will stand as a reminder that silence is not an option at times like this. It is one way to counter those who prefer to settle arguments with bullets and lynching.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/when-silence-not-option.html

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The lynch mob – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Oct 30, 2015, Frontline)

… reports from different parts of north India over the past one year have underscored the vicious climate created by the multiplicity of voices and silences that perpetuate the Hindutva assault. These reports have emanated from regions close to the national capital of New Delhi to Bhagalpur, Samastipur and Sitamarhi in election-bound Bihar. Assaults with regard to alleged cow slaughter were reported in February from Saharanpur in western Uttar Pradesh when 24-year-old Jahangir was lynched and in June when a Haidar Ali was beaten up, tied to a motorcycle and dragged in Pilibhit district.

According to senior officials in the Uttar Pradesh administration, there have been close to a hundred minor and major assault cases over alleged cow slaughter. “These days the issue of cow slaughter is the norm, but before that we had seen similar communal assaults on issues like love jehad and ghar wapsi, or forced reconversion,” a senior security official told Frontline. More recently, election-bound Bihar witnessed similar localised attacks in Bhagalpur, Sitamarhi and Samastipur, all in the name of alleged cow slaughter.

The current orchestra of voices and silence emanating from the BJP, its government and other outfits in the Sangh Parivar exemplifying various hues and shades of complicity and collusion is very much in tune with the track record of the Hindutva combine’s multiple social, cultural and political adventures since the 1980s. Multi-speak is an instrument that the Sangh Parivar has used to the hilt over the past three decades. One of the most striking manifestations of this was in the Ayodhya Ramjanmabhoomi agitation that culminated in the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. Various Sangh Parivar outfits had then come up with different tones of aggression and moderation, but finally all joined hands to bring down the historical masjid.…

http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/the-lynch-mob/article7756800.ece

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Bring Out The Brushes: Tug Of War Over A Tin Of Tar – By Prarthna Gahilote, Prachi Pinglay-Plumber (Oct 26, 2015, Outlook)

… Last week, even as urbs prima in Indus quietly celebrated the 19th anniversary of its rechristening to Mumbai from its earlier British identity, no one was left in any doubt about its new personality – India’s most cosmopolitan city shackled by the competitive parochialism, communalism and majoritarianism of the BJP and the Shiv Sena. A ban on beef, followed by a blanket ban on sale of meat. A cancelled ghazal concert of a Pakistani artiste. Black paint on the face of an organiser hosting the launch of a book by a Pakistani. Thankfully, a brief respite from the all-round bad news came from the Supreme Court, which overturned a stay on dance bars.

No story on Bal Thackeray, the late Shiv Sena ‘supremo’, is ever complete without mandatory references to his love for the good life: a glass of beer at lunch, Javed Miandad’s spunky cricket, Michael Jackson’s catwalking, and M.F. Husain’s art. But after Uddhav Thackeray felicitated those who wasted ink and paint which his father could have made better use of as a cartoonist, and his young son Aditya defended the shameful attacks in the name of soldiers, it became clear that every generation of the Sena, whose party symbol is the tiger, is finding it ever more difficult to get off the animal which is devouring the city’s very soul.

“We have gotten used to the tail wagging the dog, but the fact of the matter is the dog gives a tuppence to the tail. However, in the past 15 months, we have seen greater lumpenisation of politics and a phenomenal rise of intolerance, accompanied by intimidation and even violence. There have been riots under the Congress too. No one is lily white. But the difference is that now the state authorities choose to look away or keep mum when there are blatant attempts at discrimination,” says veteran journalist and analyst Dileep Padgaonkar.…

http://www.outlookindia.com/article/bring-out-the-brushes-tug-of-war-over-a-tin-of-tar/295615

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Families of Murder Victims: What the State and Society Owes Them – By Penelope Tong (Oct 17, 2015, EPW)

Homicidal violence, with due consideration to its severity and irreversibility, understandably draws intense reactions. The establishment of innocence or guilt and the subsequent punitive action are considered to be the sole agenda of the state to the exclusion of psychological, social, economic and related needs that are a part of the experience of having been affected by extreme violence.…

While the justice agenda may be served to some extent, research that has attempted to comprehend the term “closure” and the extent to which it is related to being facilitated by “the ultimate penal sanction” or the maximum sentence possible, finds that the experience of bereavement by homicide cannot be reduced in complexity to an understanding as simplistic as to expect that the harshest sentence will automatically translate into closure (Armour and Umbreit 2007).…

The findings of research, the complexities involved in the experiences of violence, the immediate and long-term aftermath of death by murder, and the intricacies visible in individual situations cannot be ignored in the quest for justice. The role and the responsibility of the state and the community within the context of murder is an area that needs to be debated and deliberated upon, alongside cries for and strong demands for justice. This might lead us to answering the question “is justice all that they deserve?”

http://www.epw.in/notes/families-murder-victims.html

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Book Review

Interrogating Inclusive Growth: Poverty and Inequality in India & Persistence of Poverty in India

Author: K P Kannan & Eds. Nandini Gooptu and Jonathan Parry
Reviewed by: Alpa Shah and Jens Lerche
Available at: Routledge, Mac House, K.G. Marg, Connaught Place, Delhi- 110 001; 2014; pp xx + 310, Rs 795. & Social Science Press, 1/24, Asaf Ali Road, New Delhi – 100 002; 2014; pp xiv + 432, Rs 745.. https://www.routledge.com/ & http://www.amazon.in/
Review:
India’s Democracy: Illusion of Inclusion (Oct 10, 2015, EPW)

… India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, riding the wave of the GDP figures, marked his first anniversary in power with further promises of dazzling economic growth, strengthening his central policies to attract foreign investment and ensure ease of doing and expanding business in the country. Following the direction for privatisation and liberalisation laid out by Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya’s (2013) Why Growth Matters, of dismantling India’s labyrinthic labour laws, Modi has proposed labour reforms to aid business interests in hiring and firing labour and make it tougher for workers to form unions.…

Despite their international backing, such neo-liberal reforms have met fierce opposition from scholars and activists. Amartya Sen and Jean Drèze’s (2013) An Uncertain Glory argued that growth, though important, was not enough to improve the living conditions of the poor, let alone undermine caste and gender hierarchies or create employment. Just as Sen and Drèze challenged Bhagwati and Panagariya in writing, Modi’s proposed labour reforms have been attacked on the ground. Eleven trade unions-the biggest of which is linked to Modi’s ruling party – conducted a nationwide strike against them on 2 September.

The publication of K P Kannan’s Interrogating Inclusive Growth: Poverty and Inequality in India and Nandini Gooptu and Jonathan Parry’s edited collection Persistence of Poverty in India enter this highly charged terrain to dispel the mantra that economic growth by itself will reduce inequality and eliminate poverty. They do so in complementary ways; while Kannan provides us with powerful macro statistics to show the impact of neo-liberal policies on the widening gap between the classes higher up and those below, the in-depth case studies in Gooptu and Parry’s book give a rich understanding of the processes that lead to the persistent poverty of some groups over others.…

http://www.epw.in/book-reviews/indias-democracy-illusion-inclusion.html

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