IMC-USA Weekly News Digest – February 2nd, 2009




Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan, a Delhi-based group which organizes a unique historical festival – Phool Walon Ki Sair – every year as a symbol of solidarity amongst Hindus and Muslims, and social worker Dominic Emmanuel have been selected for the National Communal Harmony award for the year 2008. The annual award is given by the National Foundation for Communal Harmony, an autonomous body set up by the Union home ministry for promoting communal harmony and national integration.

"The jury, headed by Vice-President Hamid Ansari, selected Emmanuel in the individual category and Anjuman Sair-e-Gul Faroshan in the organisation category. In addition to a citation, the award carries a cash award of Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh for the individual and organization categories, respectively," said a home ministry official.

The Anjuman has been organizing the ‘Phool Walon Ki Sair’ in Delhi for more than 40 years. Considered as an emblem of communal harmony, the floral ‘pankhas’ of Phool Walon Ki Sair are presented to the President and Vice-President besides other dignitaries. The festival involves a procession decorated with flowers to the shrine of Devi Jog Maya and the Dargah of Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki. It is generally celebrated in the month of October or November in Mehrauli, New Delhi.

The other recipient of the award, Dominic Emmanuel, has been working for communal harmony for the past two decades. He has been in the service of inter-religious dialogue and is actively involved in resolving conflicts/ differences between different communities. Fifty-seven-year-old Emmanuel is also one of the founding members of Parliament of Religions (Sarvadharam Sadbhav).

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The Sangh Parivar has once again been caught on the wrong foot by violent Hindu zealots in Mangalore who have indulged in public violence, this time against women at a pub on Saturday, just months after committing arson against churches for carrying out "conversions". The BJP has condemned the incidents, but is on the backfoot with some of the leading lights of the Sri Ram Sene having once been members of Bajrang Dal. The recurrence of violence after the attacks on churches drew worldwide condemnation is something the BJP could have done without.

Some senior BJP leaders like L K Advani have realised the adverse fallout of saffron hooliganism on sections of middle India that the party wants to woo but the latent, and sometimes active, sympathies of BJP-RSS leaders have led groups like SRS to proliferate. It is not a coincidence that SRS leaders like Pramod Mutalik and Prasad Attavar have launched aggressive mobilization on "Hindu" issues despite Mangalore having been in the news for all the wrong reasons.

The actions of the SRS are somewhat similar, at least in their motivation, to the Abhinav Bharat gang which has been charged for the Malegaon blasts. Mutalik is reportedly "disappointed" with the BJP-RSS and was sidelined by the Sangh which found his views too hard to stomach. Yet, the duo was able to go about their hate-filled, sectarian agendas without being seriously challenged.

The inability of the RSS to clearly and unambiguously condemn the violence against women as "unacceptable" was exemplified by its executive member Ram Madhav, who laid equal stress on pub culture being "alien" to Indian ethos as on criticising the SRS. He primly suggested the need for "public education" to deal with pub culture, leading to a BJP leader remarking that if the RSS was so against pubs, why could it not ask the Karnataka government to simply shut down all of them. BJP has won successive elections in Mangalore riding on polarization of Hindu votes and this has, over the years, led to the growth of freelancers like Mutalik and Attavar.


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It took the state government nine years and an incident of national shame to bring Rashtriya Hindu Sena chief Pramod Mutalik to book. Only nationwide public pressure on the government ensured this. Mutalik is quite a repeated offender. He has 27 pending cases against him in various courts across the state. Most relate to making inflammatory speeches, inciting hatred between religious groups, conducting training with intent to carry out subversive activities, defiling religious books, unlawful assembly, violating prohibitory orders, and evading judicial warrants.

He is wanted by police of 11 districts and some cases are nine years old. According to a dossier at state police headquarters, most cases were filed between 2000 and 2008. Some of the cases: Feb. 19, 2000: Mutalik abused minority communities and suspected their loyalty to the nation, in a speech in Malebennur in Harihar taluk of Davanagere district. Harihar police filed a case under Section 153A of the Indian Penal Code. Two years later, the district magistrate banned his entry into Malebennur and surrounding areas.

Jan. 13, 2008: Mutalik made insulting remarks against Muslims in a speech in Renukanagar in Davanagere city. The police registered a case under section 295 and 295-A of the IPC. Two weeks ago in Davanagere: Mutalik launched Rashtra Raksha Sene that he said was a group of volunteers trained to fight Islamic terror groups. Sri Rama Sena workers distributed pamphlets that reportedly pronounced all Muslims as terrorists. KTJ Nagar police filed cases against him. There’s no explaination why the state government was lenient all these years. "We were trying hard to get him all these days. Some time ago, we had sent a team of officers to Maharashtra to arrest him," Davanagere SP Sandeep Patil said.


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The Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) chargesheet in the September 29 Malegaon bomb attack case has produced new information that backs the suspicion among security agencies that some recent unsolved bomb blasts in the country, particularly the one at Hyderabad’s Mecca Masjid in 2007, could be linked to some of those blamed for Malegaon. The Indian Express had reported on November 25 last year that some of the 11 men arrested for the Malegaon attack had allegedly told investigators that a Hindu activist had planted the bomb at the popular Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Ajmer in October 2007, which killed two people. They had also allegedly told investigators that the same set of people were behind the Ajmer and the Mecca Masjid blasts in which nine worshippers were killed during Friday prayers on May 18, 2007.

Moreover, similarities had been found between the bombs in the two incidents such as identical tin boxes, arming devices, the same Telugu newspaper used to wrap them, and mobile phones used as remote triggers for both bombs, with SIM cards in those phones traced to the same shop in Jharkhand. Joining this list now is an alleged conversation between self-styled mahant Sudhakar Dwivedi and retired Major Ramesh Upadhyay, working president of extremist Hindu group ‘Abhinav Bharat’, both of whom have been arrested for Malegaon. The conversation in Hindi is found in the transcript of an audio file titled majorupadhyaya.wma and is believed to be recorded on January 25, 2008, one among several audio and video recordings Dwivedi is alleged to have made of his meetings with the others accused, including the Malegaon conspiracy meetings. The Sunday Express has a copy of the Hindi transcript which is a part of the Malegaon chargesheet filed in a Special MCOCA court on Tuesday.

In the alleged conversation, the retired Major is quoted as telling the mahant that they need to create dedicated groups or committees among themselves which will be responsible for tasks such as domestic propaganda and international propaganda. Upadhyay then goes on to purportedly say, "At the same time, kuch log aise ho jo ek jo musalmaanoney aur christianoney jo dehshat faila rakhi hai, us dehshat ka mukaabla karney ke liye action karkey bhi, jaise Hyderabad ki masjid mein hua ya aur bhi jagahon pe logon ne kiya. to yah koyi ISI-waala aakey nahi kar raha tha. Is daur mein, yah apna hi koyi aadmi tha. Mein apni jaankari ke taur pe kah sakta hoon ki yah vyakti tha, woh tha ya nahi tha, woh mein nahin jaanta, wah colonel batayenge." (At the same time, there should be some people who can counter the terrorism of Muslims and Christians through action, like what happened at the mosque in Hyderabad or at other places. This was not something done by the ISI. This was one of our own men. However, from what I know, I cannot pinpoint who was specifically responsible. That I do not know. That, the Colonel will tell us.)

The alleged conversation does not contain any more details about the Hyderabad incident. But as reported by The Indian Express on Friday, Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit, named the main conspirator in the Malegaon case, allegedly told Dwivedi, Upadhyay and some other members of Abhinav Bharat at a meeting the next day, January 26, 2008, that he had conducted "two operations in the past and they were successful". Those remarks are also allegedly from an audio file on Dwivedi’s laptop and its transcript is also part of the Malegaon chargesheet. When contacted, acting ATS chief K P Raghuvanshi told The Sunday Express that the ATS had "alerted the investigating agencies after we found some parts of conversations between the conspirators were suspicious" and that police teams from Rajasthan, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat had also visited Mumbai to question Purohit, Dwivedi, Upadhyay and Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur.

"We have given all the evidence to the court. We have also communicated to the investigating agencies who came down for questioning that they could seek custody of the main conspirators if they feel the need for further questioning. We have also given the Gujarat team some inputs for the Modassa blast which they will have to take forward," he added. Lawyers defending the Abhinav Bharat members, however, say the alleged links to other blasts around the country are police theories and proving them in court would not be easy.


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The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) may again summon Maya Kodnani and Jaydeep Patel in the connection with the 2002 Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya riot cases. Sources in the SIT said on Sunday that to clarify certain issues in connection with their statements, the two may be called again during the visit of SIT head R K Raghavan to Gujarat on January 20.

Raghavan, however, refused to comment on the issue, saying things would be clear when he comes to the state. SIT officials had recorded statements of Kodnani, the Minister of State for Women & Child Development and Higher Education, and Patel, a Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader in December last year. Joint Commissioner of Police Ashish Bhatia had said that the statements would be verified with the facts of the case and further actions would be taken after that.

A number of witnesses in the two cases had named Kodnani and Patel as the accused for allegedly instigating and conducting riots at Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya after the Sabarmati Express carnage in February 2002. In December last year, the two leaders were summoned for the first time and their statements were recorded.


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The Karnataka Lokayukta has trapped a MLA from the Bharatiya Janata Party while he was accepting a bribe of Rs 5,00000 on Thursday. Lokayukta Justice Santhosh Hegde told that the MLA, Y Sampangi had promised a person named Farooq that he would settle a dispute regarding a site in Bengaluru. He also demanded Rs 5 lakh as bribe towards the same.

Farooq had initially approached the police regarding his dispute, but was directed to meet the MLA. He was told that only the MLA could sort out the matter following which he decided to meet the MLA. The meeting was fixed at the legislators home in Bengaluru for Thursday afternoon. While the money was changing hands, Farooq recorded the entire conversation and handed it over to the Lokayukta.

The Lokayukta team reached the spot and seized Rs 50,000 in cash and a cheque for Rs 4.5 lakh. Justice Hegde said that the MLA during questioning said that he was taking the money to settle the dispute but also added that the amount was not meant for him. However the Lokayukta team says that the conversation suggests clearly that the amount was meant for the MLA.


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Shiv Sena MP and Saamna executive editor Sanjay Raut was on Tuesday arrested for allegedly "leading the attack" on a five-star hotel in Mumbai last week but was later granted bail by a local court. The Rajya Sabha member was arrested by the Mumbai Police and produced before the Andheri metropolitan magistrate, which remanded him in judicial custody till February 5.

Raut’s lawyers then filed a bail application before the same court, which released him on a personal bond of Rs 5000. Raut was booked under IPC sections related to rioting, said a senior police official from Sahar police station. He was arrested on Tuesday morning in connection with the attack on Hotel Intercontinental in suburban Andheri by Shiv Sena-led Bhartiya Kamgar Sena (BKS) on January 21.

At least 53 BKS members, who were arrested in the case, were also granted bail of Rs 5000 each by the court. The mob had vandalized the lobby and kitchen of the hotel to protest the sacking of 21 employees of the hotel by the management.


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Islamic clerics of Azamgarh are leading a train-load of Muslims to the national capital New Delhi [Images], where they propose to stage a demonstration on Thursday to mark their protest against what they termed as "framing of local youth as terrorists". Their anger was particularly against the killing of four young men from Azamgarh in the Batla House encounter in New Delhi a few months back. And the protest rally is aimed at pressing their demand for a judicial probe into the incident. And their feelings are so strong that the locally based Ulema Council has managed to raise Rs. 1.1 million to hire a 24-coach special train, titled ‘Ulema Special’, that will carry the group from Azamgarh to New Delhi on Wednesday evening.

"Our protest rally is slated for the Boat House at India Gate on Thursday," council convenor Maulana Aamir Rashadi said, just before embarking on his landmark journey from Azamgarh at noon on Wednesday. "We want a judicial inquiry to be conducted by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court," he said. Rashadi, who is known to have organised the entire show almost single-handedly, said , "It is high time the police puts brakes on their tendency to blame every terrorist act in the country on the youths from Azamgarh." According to him, "each of the three young men, killed in the police encounter at Batla House, were clearly victims of this very approach of the cops; but this must end now."

While about 2,000 persons were stated to be on board the special train, a larger number of clerics and students from Delhi based madrasas were expected to join the demonstration. Significantly, the passengers include the next of kin of the three youth – Atif , Ameed and Chota Sajid – who fell victim to police bullets in the Batla House encounter. Besides the family members of at least 10 others who were picked up from their homes in Serai Meer town in Azamgarh district and booked for the sensational terrorist strikes in Jaipur, Delhi and Ahmedabad. "Our objective is to make our voice heard across the country that the youth from Azamgarh is being targeted by the police of different states, who find it convenient to blame every terrorist attack anywhere on them," he pointed out.

Asked how he was able to fund a whole special train for which besides the booking amount of Rs.1.1 million, he had also made a security deposit of Rs.300,000, Rashadi shot back, "It is the people of Serai Meer and Azamgarh who have donated money out of their earnings." Rashadi’s Ulema Council was formed in November last year, shortly after cops started arresting youth from the district for their alleged terrorist nexus. Significantly, his son Talha Amir was arrested by the Mumbai Anti-Terrorist Squad at the Nagpur railway station last month . The cops then claimed that Talha was the fourth "terrorist" who escaped from the Batla House, but eventually failed to produce any substantive evidence against him following which he was granted bail by a Maharashtra court earlier this month.

When asked whether it was his son’s arrest that had prompted him to mobilise people for the Boat House protest rally in Delhi, Rashadi sought to clarify, "Certainly not; I had planned it more than a month before they picked up my son; though of course there is no doubt that he was also being implicated." Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh [Images] police was ensuring full security for the train that has to traverse across the eastern corner to the western tip of the sprawling state. "We have alerted every district to maintain a vigil all along the route of the train, which is scheduled to make the return journey from Delhi on Thursday night," said a police spokesman.


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Calling the "concerted and well-planned attacks in Mumbai" as an example of a "ruthless operation undertaken to damage the confidence of India", President Pratibha Patil on Sunday said one of the priority tasks before the country was to "secure the nation against terrorist and fundamentalist elements".

"Government has put in place a new agency to deal with terrorist threats and has also brought in legislative changes. A determined, coordinated and concerted approach by all agencies to tackle this menace would be necessary. Our security personnel can be confident that every citizen of India is with them as they take action to safeguard our borders and secure our safety and security within the country," Patil said in her address to the nation on the eve of the 60th Republic Day of India.

The President added that technology should be used to counter terrorist threats to the nation. "We should be far ahead of the terrorists who are increasingly using sophisticated technology to carry out their violent agenda," she added. On the global economic slowdown, Patil said the "actions of some credit and banking institutions had resulted in a crisis of confidence all around".

"The need for strengthening oversight mechanisms for financial institutions and for rules which are clear, transparent and uniformly applied is being acutely felt. Some companies that over-extended or functioned in an unethical manner have caused losses to shareholders. Such incidents highlight the need for stronger corporate governance," the President said.


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Voices of protest within the Samajwadi Party (SP) are getting shriller against party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s recent poll pact with former BJP leader Kalyan Singh. Lok Sabha member Shafiqur Rahman Barq, already angry at being denied a ticket to contest the next elections, joined three other Muslim leaders of the party on Tuesday to launch a fresh attack against Mulayam. "Mulayam Singh Yadav has deviated from his secular credentials by teaming up with Kalyan Singh. The Muslim community is restless and angry over this move," the MP from Muradabad told reporters. "By forging a pact with Kalyan, Mulayam appears to be planning to play the Hindu card in the next elections."

"Mulayam’s clean chit to Kalyan Singh that the former BJP chief minister was not responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid is baseless and factually incorrect," he said. "In fact, Kalyan Singh was sent to jail for a day by the courts for this. The Mulayam-Kalyan pact has added salt to the wounds of the Muslim community." Barq, however, said he had not quit the party and dared the leadership to expel him. He also hinted that he won’t make serious attempts to mobilise Muslim sentiments against the Mulayam-Kalyan pact by teaming up with other minority MPs.

In Lucknow, meanwhile, the party fielded a senior leader, also a Muslim, to defend the tie-up. Ahmed Hasan said that Muslims across the board had welcomed the development as this would weaken the communal forces, which would ultimately prevent L K Advani from becoming the Prime Minister. He said that Muslims know that Mulayam would never have any truck with the BJP to gain power, as was done by Mayawati thrice in the past. The Muslims also know that if Advani became Prime Minister, the whole country would become Gujarat for them, he added.

He defended the induction of Kalyan’s son Rajvir Singh into the party, which came in for criticism by senior party leader Mohammed Azam Khan. "What is new in it? Rajvir Singh was health minister in the previous SP government led by Mulayam Singh Yadav and Azam Khan was also a minister," said Hasan. Apart from Barq, three other Muslim MPs of the party – all denied tickets to fight the next elections – have voiced their protest against the electoral ties with the former BJP leader. They are Salim Sherwani, Afzal Ansari and Shahid Akhlaque. "Senior Muslim leaders of the SP, including Saleem Sherwani and party parliamentary board member Azam Khan, are seriously concerned by this pact," Barq said. He hinted that he might team up with Sherwani to forge a strategy.


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Martyrs’ Day is here. Sixty-one years after his death, one of the issues closest to Mahatma Gandhi’s heart untouchability remains unresolved even in his home state. In fact, Dalits are forced to be martyrs in various ways. "While Gandhi gave Dalits the sobriquet of Harijan’ or people of God, this has improved their living conditions only marginally over the years. His dream of Antyodaya’ or rising of the lowest in the caste hierarchy remains unfulfilled," says Dr Varsha Ganguly, director of Behavioural Science Centre (BSC), an NGO which works on issues of marginalised sections of society.

Four issues continue to plague Dalits in Gujarat, who make up 7.5 per cent of the population, which amount to human rights violations. A dharna is being organised at Sabarmati Ashram on February 3 by Gujarat State Gram Panchayat Social Justice Committee Manch on two of these regularising cemetery grounds for marginalised communities and demanding withdrawal of the policy to entrust responsibility of discarding dead animals in villagesto Dalits.

An ongoing study by BSC mapping labour patterns in south Gujarat, Ahmedabad city and Sabarkantha and Banaskantha, has revealed the pathetic living conditions of migrant labour, 70 per cent of which consists of Dalits and tribals. Contractors pay them in advance for the season. As a result, labour is bonded with no negotiating power. They are paid less than minimum wages and have to work as long as asked.

The study reveals there are around 50,000 labourers in salt industry, 40,000 in Bt cotton farms, one lakh in sugarcane plantations in south Gujarat and at least 40,000 in construction sector in Ahmedabad who face these conditions. According to the Panchayati Raj Act in the state, it’s Dalits who have to handle dead animals. BSC is agitating for the removal of this clause from the Act. "This is a historical blunder made by the state perpetrating the caste system. Since Dalits were doing this job, which hurts their dignity, it was legitimised," says Dr Ganguly.

As per state government policy, Dalits should be given 10 per cent posts as mid-day meal sanchalaks (organisers). "Ironically, these sanchalaks have to hire non-Dalit cooks, as if Dalits do the cooking children belonging to other communities will not eat the food," says Dr Ganguly. Though Dalits are Hindus, they bury their dead. This is because they are not allowed to enter Hindu crematoriums. Out of 600 villages in nine districts of the state, only 58 have separate graveyards for Dalits. As they are not given land, they bury their dead anywhere and are not able to accord respect to them.


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The people behind the Malegaon terrorist attack fell into three categories – Sangh parivar cadres, army men and old Savarkarites. The first person to be arrested by the police, Pragya Singh, was a sadhvi and former ABVP leader. A second group of the accused comprised army men, retired or not, related to the Bhonsle Military School (BMS). Major Ramesh Upadhyay, a former defence services officer was arrested first, but the key figure was Lt Col Prasad Purohit, who had approached Upadhyay when he was posted at Nasik as liaison officer. Purohit and Upadhyay imparted military training to young activists – including bomb making – and were instrumental in getting arms and explosives. Most of the training camps took place in the BMS, which had been directed by Rtd Major P.B. Kulkarni between 1973 and 1988, andwho had been associated with the RSS since 1935. In fact, the Bajrang Dal organised training camps in the BMS (Nagpur) as early as 2001. The five accused mentioned above were all members of Abhinav Bharat, a Pune-based movement initiated by Purohit in June 2006, whose working president was Ramesh Upadhyaya but whose president was none other than Himani Savarkar, V.D. Savarkar’s daughter in law, who also headed the Hindu Mahasabha.

The people, the places and the modus operandi are revealing of the continuity that underlines the Hindu tradition of terror, harking back to V.D. Savarkar. The young, revolutionary Savarkar had created the first Abhinav Bharat Society in 1905. The movement drew its name and its inspiration from Mazzini’s ‘Young Italy’, but was also influenced by Frost Thomas’s Secret Societies of the European Revolution, a book dealing mostly with the Russian nihilists. The movement was dissolved in 1952, but ten years back, just before finishing his term as Hindu Mahasabha president, Savarkar had created the Hindu Rashtra Dal, another militia whose mission was to impart military training to the Hindus in order to fight the Muslims, Gandhi’s followers and the Mahatma himself. This movement cashed in on the work of the same institution – the Bhonsle Military School, started in 1935 by B.S. Moonje, another Nagpur-based Savarkarite, after a European tour which had exposed him to Mussolini’s Balilla movement.

Like the Abhinav Bharat of today, the Hindu Rashtra Dal attracted Hindutva-minded Maharashtrian Brahmins – especially from Poona – who found the RSS insufficiently active. Some of them also had connections to the British Army. Nathuram Godse and N.D. Apte, the two main architects of Gandhi’s assassination, are cases in point. Godse thought that RSS strategy contented itself with "organisation for the sake of organisation". The Hindu Rashtra Dal, by contrast, organised training camps where volunteers learnt how to manufacture bombs and use guns from bicycles and cars. The key instructor was N.D. Apte who had served the army as Assistant Technical Recruiting Officer. In this capacity, he could use the War Service Exhibitions – which were intended to attract young Indians to the army – to initiate Hindu Rashtra Dal members into the art of modern arms. The Hindu Rashtra Dal’s terrorist agenda culminated in the assassination of Gandhi, who had already been a Savarkarite target before – in 1934, they threw a bomb in Poona Municipal Town Hall where Gandhi was making a speech against untouchability.

While today’s Abhinav Bharat belongs to an old tradition harking back to Savarkar and even Tilak, the new element here lies in the implication of one serving officer of the Indian army. Certainly, any institution can have a black sheep. But was he that isolated? He has already named other officers who would have been his more or less passive accomplices and his colleague, Upadhyay, who once headed the Mumbai unit of the BJP’s ex-servicemen cell. The BJP, indeed, inducted ex-army men in large numbers since the 1990s. After the BJP came to power in 1998, two dozens ex-servicemen more joined the party. This inflow of ex-army men may reflect the increasingly communal atmosphere of the institution. In December 2003, a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies for Tehelka, one of the first among army men – and probably the most comprehensive – showed that 19 per cent of the soldiers interviewed felt that the army practised some religious discrimination – and 24 per cent of the Muslims among them shared this view.

Instead of distancing itself from the Hindu terrorists, as it had done in the 1940s, this time the Sangh Parivar has decided to support the Malegaon accused. Bajrang Dal chief Prakash Sharma declared that "policy makers should be worried if the Hindus were taking to arms because of the government’s skewed approach to war on terror" and admitted that the Bajrang Dal was running training camps too "to boost their morale [the Bajrang Dal’s members]. The country wouldn’t get its Abhinav Bindras if there were no armed training for the youth". In a way, the RSS, with the Bajrang Dal, has created a buffer organisation to handle the dirty work that the Sangh was earlier obliged to do itself – work similar to that of the Savarkarite organisations, whether they are called Hindu Rashtra Dal or Abhinav Bharat.


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The Right-wing Hindu group, Sri Rama Sene, created by Belgaum-based Pramod Muttalik, following his expulsion from the Bajrang Dal in 2004, has been at the forefront of several moral policing incidents and communal violence in the Mangalore region in the last three years. Among the latest incidents the outfit has been associated with is the attack on a pub in Mangalore carried out on January 24 – something the outfit proudly claims as a "spontaneous reaction" to the alleged flouting of Indian norms of decency. The outfit has been recently linked, though denied by Muttalik himself, to a bomb blast in a Hubli court in May 2008, following the arrest of a gang of alleged dacoits, several of whom are believed to have a history of association with groups like the Sene.

Pravin Muttalik, an alleged relative of the Sri Rama Sene chief, again denied by Pramod Muttalik, has also been implicated as a key accused in the investigations of Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) into the Malegaon blasts of 2008. The Sri Rama Sene’s stronghold is, however, the coastal Karnataka region which saw a rise in communal politics in the aftermath of the 1991 Babri Masjid demolition. Drawing its cadre from the young, communally inclined rowdy elements, the Sene has been primarily involved in moral policing activities like preventing inter religious ties, preventing the slaughter of cows and inciting communal violence in the region.

In 2005, the Sene was responsible for an attack on a bus carrying the employees of a local store in Mangalore. The employees, both Hindus and Muslims, were going on a picnic organised by their employers. Sene activists attacked the bus accusing the storeowners of encouraging relationships between Hindu and Muslims. Numerous other incidents where Sene activists have monitored inter-religious relationships and attacked non-Hindus have been reported over the past three years.

In another infamous incident in 2005, an elderly man, Hasanaba, and his son were stripped and dragged in a field after they were found in a local market by Sene cadre allegedly attempting to sell a calf. The self appointed moral policemen from the Sene are alleged to have been involved in the communal violence in Mangalore in October 2006 that resulted in the imposition of three days of curfew in the district. The violence started after Sene men tried to chase down a truck allegedly carrying cows to an abattoir in the heart of Mangalore.

The Sene is alleged to have actively participated in the violence that followed, including the stabbing of a youth who was being taken to the then newly opened Mangalore airport to catch a flight to Dubai. However, with the BJP being sympathetic to such groups and being in power in some form in Karnataka since 2006, key leaders of the Sene have courted arrest for several of these acts of violence but without serious charges being pressed against them.


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It only keeps getting worse. Intolerance is a stain that is spreading deep and fast in our country. Violent attacks by hoodlums inspired by extreme ideologies – be it regional chauvinism, religious bigotry or a warped sense of Indian tradition and ethos – are becoming an alarmingly frequent feature of our times. The incident last weekend in Mangalore, in which women were physically assaulted by a bunch of goons bearing allegiance to the Sri Ram Sene – a fringe right-wing outfit – simply because they chose to visit a pub is further evidence of this phenomenon.

Like those associated with other extremist right-wing groups, members of the Sri Ram Sene are self-appointed custodians of ‘Indian culture’. Just what is this monolithic culture that these people refer to and use as an excuse to further their exclusionary political agenda? Is beating up women also part of this culture? Our culture and traditions are neither static nor singular. Through the centuries, they have been shaped and reshaped by historic events and interactions with other cultures. Today, there could be more than a billion ways of being Indian.

It’s worrying that small groups of people can hold the public to ransom and assault our collective liberties with such apparent ease. More troubling is the fact that our state and central governments seem ill-equipped and unwilling to crack down swiftly on such groups. Be it against Raj Thackeray in Mumbai or similar troublemakers elsewhere, administrations move too slowly and feebly, undermining citizens’ faith in their ability to secure law and order. Those responsible for attacks on churches and prayer halls last year in Mangalore have not all been brought to book yet.

This time, a couple of dozen men involved in the pub attacks have been taken into custody but all attackers have not yet been arrested. State home minister V S Acharya has not helped matters by saying that pub owners must "augment security to prevent this kind of incident in future". What is the minister suggesting? That we privatise the enforcement of law and order? Isn’t it the government’s job to ensure public security?

The state government’s condemnation of the incident and stated resolve to suitably punish the guilty are welcome. But that is not enough. Unless it fairly pursues the matter, and is seen to be serious about keeping its word, the government in Karnataka runs the risk of being accused of looking the other way as the state, known for its tolerant spirit, slides down a path of intolerance.


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November 26 terror attack on Mumbai shook the whole nation like never before. The society and state have been putting in their best to see that measures are taken where by the terror acts don’t repeat. So traumatized has been the nation that every conceivable measure is being given a serious thought for the safety and security of society. To begin with the condolence for the dead was expressed through number of events, candle light march, human chains, all religion prayer meetings and area networking has come up in a very visible fashion. In many of these protests the anger against politicians had a free for all expression, at places sometimes overtly and sometimes covertly the fear of Pakistan and ‘Jehadi’ terrorists has been the running thread of the protests. The misplaced call for war against Pakistan is the part of this phenomenon only. The state, the central Government in order to show that something is being done, passed a law, empowering the state as if that will deter the terrorists, who generally come with the full readiness to die. The state is blowing hot and cold, sometimes threatening war and at others talking tough and less often also saying that war is no option.

State is also reviewing the quality of bullet proof jackets, increasing airport security and the security of coast line. Civic society groups have been undertaking workshops for disaster management, a university went on to declare a two year course against terrorism. The best amongst these have been the mohalla committee initiative to cement peace between different communities. One recalls that after most of the severe phenomenon of violence the civic society has responded with great concern earlier also. Be it the post Babri demolition Mumbai riots or the Gujarat carnage 2003, for a good bit of time socially oriented and concerned individuals and groups sprang into the relief, rehabilitation and intercommunity amity work. This time there is a lot of ferment and a part of it does hold Pakistan as the culprit of the attacks of terror. The measures taken by state though some of them welcome, the measures of civic society groups, related to intercommunity amity are very valuable. But how far will they go? It seems that the knee jerk reaction after the phenomenon is more focused on the symptoms of the phenomenon. Tighten security, have better bullet jackets and have stringent laws. There is not much attempt to go beyond the obvious to unravel the truth of sectarian and terrorist violence. Surely sectarian violence is due to some political groups baking their bread in the divisive politics, the ground for which is prepared by the hate ideology, spread of misconceptions and distorted view of the minorities, their history, their present. So, as lot of groups and individuals correctly talk about peace, about need for amity, their attempts do not reach to the core issue of fighting against divisive politics, the attempt to unravel the truth about minorities, their present, their past.

The communal violence and emotive issues give more strength to the communal parties, who in turn give bigger space to their affiliates who work at cultural and religious level to increase the communal divides and weaken national integration, further paving way to still worse violence in times to come. Not only that, their intensity has been worsening every next time they are staged. Gujarat was worse than Mumbai and Orissa has been more horrific than Dangs. The trajectory of communal violence has clearly shown that all the efforts by state to curb it have been misdirected; the social initiatives have been serious but probably not hitting the target in the effective way. One means the communal congruence of right wing ideology during last three decades. As far as terrorist attacks are concerned, the formulation that All Terrorists are Muslims has been the understanding on which policies are made and implemented. With the result that the real causes of terror are not taken up for treatment of the disease of terrorism. From 1993 onwards terror attacks have been occurring, stringent laws or other wise. The deeper injustice has been giving raison de tre’ to the repetition of these attacks. Here also the attacks have been worsening, the Mumbai one being worst so far. If we see a bit more seriously, the real causes of terrorism have not taken up for fighting against. The popular perceptions stops at Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba being the real cause obviates the need to see beyond Al Qaeda etc. It prevents us from seeing the role of US imperialism in bring them up and using these groups for US’ political-economic gains. So all anger, protest against Pakistan and accompanying factors gets major importance. One misses the point that terrorism of AL Qaeda variety has roots in US policies of control over oil resources. It is due to those policies that these groups were propped up to fight Russian armies occupying Afghanistan. One has to see beyond the obvious to realize that this type terrorism has its genesis from the deeper political designs. The indoctrination of the radical groups which began due to this policy of US can not be fought against merely by strengthening some more laws and by new set of weapons.

Pakistani society is as much a victim of this dastardly phenomenon as India is. Terrorists always are looking for the holes in security through which they operate and their biggest advantage is that they are indoctrinated to the extent that they are willing to stake their all, including their lives to do what they have been doing. On similar wave length operates the terror attacks by Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur and other of her group. These Hindutva warriors have also been indoctrinated into hating others for the sake of their avowed goal of Hindu Rashtra. So where do we go, what direction we give to our concerns to ensure that terror attacks do not occur. First and foremost, all places where injustice prevails, where democracy is stifled in a shortsighted way, those places become a rich fertile ground for breeding of terrorism. The one planted by US, Al Qaeda type, needs to be fought at global level. US is to be made accountable for much of this cancer which has spread in the area. While firmly dealing with the present terror set ups, democracy also needs to be made strong in Pakistan itself. One sees the subtle difference in the utterances of democratic elements in Pakistan and the Army-ISI-Mullah combine.

The global peace movement has to ensure that the United Nations comes to the fore and stops the hegemony, the imperial behavior of US in particular. No measure short of restoring UN, making US follow the wishes of global community, a more democratized United Nations will suffice. This rejuvenated UN has to take up the global issue of terrorism, and put a brake on one sided, arbitrary US policies. US war on terror, and those who go by that, need to be put on the margins and entire charge of global interventions taken up by UN. While draconian laws are no solution to the problem, it is likely they create and intensify the problem. The mantra of ‘tighten the security’ has not yielded any success in preventing it. The core point is to see that the concerned civic society makes its stand clear, that terrorism’s roots lie in injustice on one hand and US policies on the other. We need to raise our voices against injustice and US hegemony both to see that over a period of time the terror menace is eliminated by and by.


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The spectacle of the glowing endorsement by some of the India’s most successful and wealthy industrial leaders of a Chief Minister raises important, and troubling, concerns. It gets even more serious when the CM has a record of both – stimulating economic growth and fostering bitter social divisions. Then we ask: What do we expect from those who lead our country? What constitutes good and responsible government? And who are the heroes of our times? The owners of some of the largest business empires did not leave any doubts over their choice of a national icon. Anil Ambani declared that Narendra Modi, the CM of Gujarat, made him proud to be a Gujarati and an Indian. "Imagine what will happen if he leads the country?" he gushed. Ratan Tata lauded Mr Modi’s track record: "Today there is no state like Gujarat. Under Mr Modi’s leadership, Gujarat is head and shoulders above any state." Telecom leader Sunil Mittal, likewise, endorsed Modi’s elevation to the CEO of the entire nation.

What is it about Modi’s leadership that makes him so attractive to big industry? Tata, in an interview, praised Modi’s capacity to deliver what he promises, like land, unlike his peers. Modi has, so to speak, the capacity to deliver economic growth without dissent. His major selling point is to attract private capital investment, with astounding tax benefits, which amount to subsidising large industry by the ordinary taxpayer. The 20th century saw a growth of the State in most parts of the world. In diverse political systems, the State derived its legitimacy mainly from what it pledged to its citizens. What States actually delivered to them was often paltry and deceitful, but still they accepted the political and ethical premise that the primary duty of governments was to deliver services, or protect rights, of common people. It dramatically changed in the 1990s, when agencies like the World Bank propagated the view that a good government facilitates functioning of private markets, rather than defending its dispossessed and socially oppressed people. It is by this measure that Modi’s administration can be arguably elevated to a model of good (the best?) governance, even though its glittering claims of double-digit growth and investments worth millions of dollars are possibly exaggerated.

But for those who believe that the quality of governance must be measured by what a state does for its most disadvantaged citizens, Modi topples from the tall perch where the industry leaders have installed him. It is not just that he enabled, if not actively sponsored, the brutal massacre in 2002. Till date, he has refused to express regret for the slaughter, but often boasted about it as a crowning act of ‘gaurav’, and macho political courage, to singularly crush the ‘enemy within’. He refused to establish relief camps, assist the survivors or heal the vast social divide. Muslims, as a result, have either been driven out permanently from many villages or live with fear in segregated ghettoes. This crime still persists and is compounded with the passage of the years.

The International Food Policy Research Institute, in 2008, ranked Gujarat 69th in the ‘alarming’ category of global hunger. The National Family Health Survey III estimated that 42.4 per cent of children in Gujarat are suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition, and about 47.4 per cent are underweight. Large developments projects have entailed massive displacement of tribal and slum residents. Do we seek a land in which governments replace impediments and democratic dissent by wealth creation? When Tata chose the ‘good M’ (Modi) over the ‘bad M’ (Mamata), he was really choosing what was for him the ‘good M’ (money) over the inconsequential ‘bad M’ (massacre). And by endorsing, even celebrating his choice, this is truly at the core of yet another ‘M’, the moral crisis, in which we find ourselves today.


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The fraud at Satyam Computer Services may well turn out to be the biggest of all scams unearthed from the interior of corporate India. As evidence and speculative narratives from the ongoing investigations are leaked selectively to the media, it is clear that there is no single Satyam story. Through multiple routes involving a large number of related companies and myriad transactions, the promoters of Satyam, led by the company’s chairman, B. Ramalinga Raju, are alleged to have siphoned out a huge amount of money from the firm. To cover that up, the accounts were manipulated and documents forged to declare non-existent cash reserves and understate liabilities. The money that was taken out may have been used, among other things, to acquire large quantities of land in what seems to be a set of speculative real estate ventures that could enrich the promoter’s family. The two Maytas – Satyam spelt in reverse – companies were important conduits in this process, but there were clearly many more. According to reports, the Registrar of Companies has found that "Satyam’s annual report reveals several transactions with subsidiaries and other group companies by way of investments, purchase of assets and other receivables", which point to the concealed transfer of funds out of the company. Shockingly, one of the allegations made by the Crime Investigation Department (CID) of Andhra Pradesh is that the company had only 40,000 employees on its rolls as against the 53,000 it claimed to have. The remaining 13,000 were merely fake salary accounts through which as much as Rs.20 crore a month were taken out of the company over a period of five years. If true, this involves descent to a level of manipulation and fraud that could make the story much bigger than it already is. There are reasons to believe that there is indeed much more to be revealed, as the effort at separating truth from lies proceeds.