“The overwhelming victor in India’s parliamentary elections that concluded on May 12 was the reactionary Hindu-supremacist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is responsible for one of the bloodiest anti-Muslim pogroms in the country’s recent history. The new prime minister, BJP head Narendra Modi, was chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 when his party spearheaded a communal massacre in that state that left over 2,000 dead, most of them Muslims. Now, having won 282 of the 543 seats in the lower house of parliament, Modi’s BJP has a decisive majority, the first time in 30 years that any party has had such a mandate. In the words of one party veteran, the BJP is set to tackle ‘corruption, inflation and Muslims.’
“Modi’s victory unseated the Congress party, which had governed India for all but 13 years since the country gained its independence from the British Empire in 1947. The Indian National Congress, commonly known as Congress, is the traditional organization of the Indian bourgeoisie that was led by ‘Mahatma’ Gandhi, and since independence by the family dynasty that began with Jawaharlal Nehru. Trading on having led mass struggles against the British colonial overlords, Congress cultivated an image of India as ‘the world’s largest democracy’ and of itself as a secular party able to surmount the country’s bitter national, ethnic, religious and caste divisions. In reality, Congress has presided over the suppression of numerous regional-separatist and leftist insurgencies while offering up minorities as scapegoats for conditions in what is one of the most impoverished and oppressed areas of the world.
“By repeatedly playing the Hindu communalist card, Congress put wind in the sails of the vile chauvinism pushed by the BJP. Congress itself has incited communal massacres, most notoriously in 1984 when prominent Congress politicians led lynch mobs in Delhi against the Sikh minority, killing more than 3,000 people. Its role in instigating the massacre—and in covering up its guilt for 30 years—gives the lie to any notion that Congress provides an alternative to BJP communalism.
“Modi is a lifelong member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a paramilitary Hindu nationalist organization whose founders were inspired by the fascist movements in Europe, believing that Nazi Germany had manifested ‘race pride at its highest.’ Madhav Golwalkar, an early leader of the RSS, expressed in a 1938 book the racist contempt for minorities in India that is inherent in Hindutva, the virulent nationalism based on Hindu fundamentalism:
“The foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but those of the glorification of the Hindu race and culture, i.e., of the Hindu nation and must lose their separate existence to merge in the Hindu race, or may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen’s rights.”
“Modi’s well-funded PR machine has worked overtime to prettify his ideology and sweep his dirty deeds under the rug. Based on his promises to develop industry and create jobs on the model of his home state of Gujarat, Modi’s campaign attracted in particular a considerable number of votes from youth in a country where the median age is 27 years. Even though his electoral support went beyond his right-wing Hindu constituency, the victory of an openly communalist party will mean intensified communalist terror, particularly against Muslims, who make up nearly 15 percent of the population. The BJP’s glorification of Hindutva will also fuel a reactionary backlash against women—both in the villages, where caste oppression legitimizes rape of dalit (‘untouchable’) women by higher-caste men, and in the cities, where women who work outside the home or wear Western clothes are considered fair game due to their lack of ‘modesty.’
“This week the picture [of civil rights in India] dimmed a little further, with the news that ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History,’ an eight-hundred-page book by Wendy Doniger, an eminent professor of religion at the University of Chicago, would be removed from Indian book shops. Penguin Books India, which first published the book, in 2009, signed an out-of-court settlement with an advocacy group, the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (‘Movement to Save Education’), who claim to be defending ‘the sentiments of Hindus all over the world.’ The group had filed a civil suit and multiple criminal complaints against Doniger and her publisher; under the terms of the agreement, which includes a bizarre clause requiring Penguin to affirm ‘that it respects all religions worldwide,’ the publisher will cease to sell ‘The Hindus’ in India, and pulp its remaining inventory.
“The original legal notice in the case, sent to Penguin in 2010, alleged that the book ‘is a shallow, distorted, and non-serious presentation of Hinduism … written with a Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in a poor light … The intent is clearly to ridicule, humiliate, and defame the Hindus and denigrate the Hindu traditions.’ Citing a passage in which Doniger refers to Sanskrit texts written ‘at a time of glorious sexual openness and insight,’ the complaint declares that her ‘approach is of a woman hungry of sex.’
“Conservative Hindu groups have been campaigning against Doniger for more than a decade, contending that she misunderstands and deliberately misrepresents Hindu texts and practices, insults Hindu gods in her readings of myth, and crudely focusses, through a psychoanalytic lens and above all else, on sex. [...]
“Assigning blame for this deplorable state of affairs, as with so much else in India, is an exhausting exercise in circularity. In Doniger’s case, it would seem reasonable to start with the man who filed the suit, Dinanath Batra, who has waged a series of legal battles to cleanse Indian textbooks of what he deems ‘objectionable passages.’ But Batra, who is associated with the family of Hindu nationalist organizations connected to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.), has many defenders, who maintain that he has simply sought recourse to which he is entitled by Indian law. (This defense has frequently been accompanied by the disingenuous claim that free speech is not at issue in this case, because the settlement was a voluntary one.)
“So perhaps the law is to blame? This was the crux of Doniger’s own statement, released on Tuesday: the ‘true villain,’ she wrote, was the section of the Indian Penal Code that criminalizes, in its words, ‘deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class.’ [...]
“On Friday, Penguin India finally released a statement, which suggested that the relevant Indian law ‘will make it increasingly difficult for any Indian publisher to uphold international standards of free expression.’ This may be true, but it is a claim that should have been tested by seeing the case through to its conclusion.
“In the absence of further clarification from Penguin, we are left with the dispiriting sight of the world’s largest trade publisher—the recently merged Penguin Random House—surrendering to a spurious legal threat from a minor advocacy group. Seen from this perspective, it seems certain that the decision to withdraw the book was not made in Delhi. It is all too easy to imagine that Bertelsmann and Pearson, the European conglomerates that share ownership of the company, concluded that a long legal struggle to defend free speech in India was not worth even a minor cost to the bottom line.”
“A people who have never fought each other in history are today bitterly estranged, fearful and angry. ‘Not even during the Partition riots of 1947 did a drop of blood flow in our villages’, they repeatedly told us. And today, some 50 lie dead, and 50,000 have fled their homes in terror.
“Cramped into makeshift camps in madrasas and mosques, many resolve never to return to the land of their ancestors. The Muzaffarnagar countryside in western Uttar Pradesh is reeling under the gravest communal clash the country has witnessed since the 2002 Gujarat carnage.
“People of diverse faiths who live together do not spontaneously turn against each other. There are three requisites for mass communal violence to occur.
“The first is the deliberate manufacture of hatred. The second is the manufacture of a ‘riot’. The third is a complicit State: no riot can continue beyond a few hours unless the state actively wishes that it does so. [...]
“In Muzaffarnagar, in the patriarchal Jat community, the issue chosen to foment hatred was women’s ‘honour’. The claim was that ‘love jihad’ was being waged, by which Muslim boys were equipped with smart clothes, deodorants and sweet talk to entice Jat girls into ‘love’ traps.
“An unfortunate incident on August 27 in Kawal, in which three young men, one Muslim and two Jat were killed in violent clashes, was deployed as evidence of ‘love jihad’. The claim was that the Muslim youth was killed by the brothers of a Jat girl who he was stalking, and these brothers in turn were killed by a violent Muslim mob.
“BJP MLA Sangeet Som uploaded a video of two boys being killed by a mob in Sialkot, Pakistan, claiming that the footage was of the Jat boys being killed by a Muslim mob. This video was circulated widely through mobile phones, and fuelled mass rage against local Muslims. Later evidence suggests that the death of the three young men resulted instead from a hot-headed clash between the boys after a motorcycle accident.
“The second requirement for communal violence to occur is the manufacture of the riot itself. Building on the groundswell of local Hindu fury against their Muslim neighbours because of their alleged deliberate assaults on the ‘honour’ of Hindu girls, a mahapanchayat on September 7 was convened with the explosive theme ‘Save Your Daughters’.
“Fiery speeches were made against Muslims, and after the frenzied crowd dispersed, they attacked Muslim settlements. In the majority of villages, Muslims were labourers in the sugarcane fields of Jat landowners. Their small houses were set aflame and looted, some were killed, and terrified people fled to the safety of numbers in Muslim majority villages.
“The third prerequisite for a manufactured riot is a complicit State administration, which fails in prevention, control, rescue and relief. The administration took no steps to quell the rumours, arrest those stoking hatred, or prohibit the mahapanchayat. Once violence broke out, the police forces mostly stood watching as the crowds attacked Muslim settlements, without using force or firing to disperse the furious mobs.
“They did not rescue the escaping people; instead survivors depended on Muslim wealthy landowners to protect them as they fled. The administration did not establish relief camps; instead these were organised by the victimised community in Muslim majority villages. We found little presence of the State in these camps: it did not organise sanitation, healthcare, child care or police outposts to record people’s complaints.”
“The communal violence in Muzaffarnagar and neighbouring areas is a warning of the days to come. Uttar Pradesh (UP) is crucial to the electoral fortunes of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) if its prime ministerial aspirant, Narendra Modi, has to have a plausible chance of coming to power. There has been a rise in incidents of communal violence since the Samajwadi Party (SP) government was elected to office last year, but the “riot” earlier this month – when close to 50 people were killed, a few hundred injured and tens of thousands fled from their homes – stands distinct in its scale and is clear evidence of what Paul Brass has termed the ‘institutionalised riot system’. The ‘Gujarat model’ of using the terror of communal violence to forge communal unity among ‘Hindus’ to build an invincible vote bank appears to be the strategy that has been employed [...].
“That the ‘Hindus’ in this riot are largely Jats has been acknowledged. However, Muslims too have caste and class markers. Some reports talk about Muslims being farm labourers, carpenters and blacksmiths to the landowning Jats. That clearly indicates a subservient relation with the dominant caste. In fact, one report quotes a Hindu Jat villager, ‘There will be no peace until the balance of power is sorted out. One community in each village will remain dominant.’ This then raises the question of why the dominant agricultural caste would want to drive out farm labour at the very time when agricultural operations are at their peak and the harvest is only weeks away. Another newspaper reports that Muslims who have run away from their villages to relief camps claim that they have left behind acres of cultivated land with standing crops, but fearing for their lives they would not want to return. The report estimates that in total there would be thousands of acres of such land and most landholders fear that these will now be encroached by members of the dominant caste. Does this indicate that landless lower-caste Muslims are now becoming landed? Or does it mean that a section of the dominant Hindu agricultural caste is willing to forgo the services of its (Muslim) farm labourers, even when labour supply is a problem, only to be able to appropriate prime agricultural land of the landed Muslims?
“The shifting of communal violence to rural areas perhaps cannot be understood without understanding the major changes in agriculture over the last few decades [...]. But it is equally clear that after the Nellie and Bhagalpur killings of the 1980s, this is perhaps the first large-scale rural communal violence and a warning about the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s new strategy of breaking out of its urban enclaves.
“This particular incident also built on the other trajectory of reactionary politics in the region – of trying to control the sexuality of women – which has expressed itself regularly in ‘honour’ killings and khap panchayat embargoes on lifestyle. That the present killings, which appear to have a land-labour angle, were planned at a mahapanchayat of Hindu Jat khaps calling for the protection of the ‘honour’ of their women illustrates the continuities between caste, class, patriarchy and property.”
“Following swiftly on the heels of communal violence in Dhule in which six members of the minority community were killed, comes the news of physical assault on Prof. Pramod Bhumbe, a Dalit teacher at the BR Ambedkar Samaj Karya Mahavidyalay. Friends in Dhule and Jalgaon inform us that Prof. Bhumbe while teaching his students about Indian social reforms movement, discussed certain episodes from the Hindu epic Ramayana. This was videographed by a student on his cell phone and the video clip later circulated and handed over to VHP and Bajrang Dal goons. The clip was quickly construed as proof of Prof. Bhumbe’s insult to Hinduism.
“Teaching social reform movements without reference to the stinging critique of caste oppression and its implication in religious sanction is difficult anywhere. In Maharashtra, however, it is impossible. The legacy of Jyotiba and Savitri Phule, and Ambedkar is a living, thriving one. It survives in the fiery songs of Sambhaji Bhagat; in the hundreds of book festivals and cultural groups that can be found in the smallest towns and hamlets of the state. It is this culture of resistance, which often takes the form of sarcasm, and even ridicule of the superstitions of caste religion and its assorted institutions that Hindutva resents so much.
“While Muslims are always cast as the other, radical Dalit critique cannot be domesticated and absorbed into the Hindutva identity. The two incidents—of communal violence and the attack on Prof. Bhumbe–are not unrelated. They reflect the growing confidence of the Hindutva forces and the state support they enjoy, even under the rule of their political opponents. Neither the SP not the DM of Dhule have been suspended by the state government despite the clear indictment of the administration in the January anti-minority violence by civil society investigations. Can an administration, which was hand in glove with the storm troopers of VHP and Bajrang Dal in January, be expected to seriously pursue the case against Prof. Bhumbe’s attackers? We appeal to all progressive and democratic groups in Maharashtra to ensure the security and safety of Prof. Bhumbe, as the police which led the mobs against a vulnerable minority can hardly be entrusted to do so.
“Moreover, as fellow teachers, we expect the classroom to be a space of developing and nurturing social critique—precisely what Prof. Bhumbe was doing. We stand in solidarity with him and condemn the right wing vigilantism.”
Manisha Sethi, Adil Mehdi, Ahmed Sohaib, Tanweer Fazal, Arshad Alam, Farah Farooqi, Azra Razack, Anwar Alam, Ghazi Shahnawaz, Ambarien al Qadar, Adnan Farooqi, Sucharita Sengupta, Manoj Jena, MS Bhatt and Nabanipa Bhattacharya.
Also endorsed by
Teesta Setalvad, Shabnam Hashmi, Peggy Mohan and Githa Hariharan
“The 2002 communal riots not only drove Muslims into new ghettos all over the state, they also reduced them to the status of second-class citizens who do not seem to exist for the government. This is the finding of a city-based NGO, Janvikas, which conducted a survey on the status of the minority community in the state after the riots.
“The survey has revealed that Muslims are the new outcastes who, more often than not, are denied basic facilities which are available to people of other communities. Not only that. It appears that this neglect of the community is officially sanctioned for the riot victims find no mention in government records as people who need help. [...]
“About 16,000 Muslims displaced by the riots are still living in relief colonies that are denied even the most basic amenities.
“The 83 relief colonies that were built after the riots are almost all located in Muslim-majority areas. Fifteen of them are situated in Ahmedabad and the support they receive from the state government is negligible. [...]
“There has also been a sharp decline in the earnings of almost every displaced individual. The survey has revealed that the average annual income of displaced Muslims in Ahmedabad has come down by 31% as compared to their income before the riots.”
“The Gau-Vansh Vadh Pratishedh (Sanshodhan) Vidheyak (Prohibition of slaughter of cow-progeny Bill) just passed in Madhya Pradesh empowers the government to prosecute any person found slaughtering a cow or even transporting the calf for the purpose of slaughter. [...]
“In March 2010, the Karnataka assembly passed the The Karnataka Prevention of Cow Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2010 by voice vote after uproarious scenes, and a four-hour acrimonious debate. [...] According to the Deccan Herald, the bill prohibits slaughter of cattle, sale, usage and possession of beef, puts restriction on transport of cattle and also prohibits sale, purchase or disposal of cattle for slaughter.
“The BJP governments in Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh may have brought these laws with the intention of putting pressure on the lifestyle and livelihoods of the minorities. But are these bills acts of political bravado on the part of the BJP? According to the Economic Times, 6th Jan 2012, beef is the most popularly consumed meat in India – 26 lakh tons annually. In comparison, only 6 lakh tons of mutton and 14 lakh tons of pork were consumed in India. The article quotes the US Food and Drug Administration, saying India is in fact the third largest exporter of beef in the world, exporting as much as 1.28 million tons of it!
“In Madhya Pradesh, in particular, there is a large population of tribals - 13 million - for whom beef constitutes a staple. In Karnataka as well, large sections of the state's population will be affected directly once the bill passes into law, including farmers, milk producers, leather workers, most of whom are Dalits and Muslims, and of course the common man. [...]
“James, a young Dalit Activist, is more graphic. ‘You (upper castes) take the best of the cow - its labour, its milk, its offspring, and sell it after you have no use for it. When we find ways to use this resource, you attack us and even kill us (referring to the killing of 5 Dalits in Jhajjar, Haryana, in 2008, who were skinning the carcass of a cow after purchasing it). You are taking our livelihoods from us, even though we make it out of the waste you discard. Is this justice?’
“‘This law will take away food from the poor who cannot afford to buy chicken or mutton’, says another Dalit activist. ‘The cost of mutton, already high, will go up to one thousand rupees’, said Siddaramaiah, leader of the Opposition, during the Assembly debate. ‘Thus you will be thrusting vegetarianism on the people. This is only possible in Hitler's regime. Is yours a Hitler's regime?’”
“An article in The Hindu newspaper yesterday made a pointed comparison to the condition of people in Madhya Pradesh, which has the country’s highest rate of infant mortality and lowest rate of literacy. [...]
“The law has come into force a decade after riots in the state that erupted when Hindu nationalists took to the streets over reports Muslims were secretly killing cows. The riots helped bring the BJP to power in Madhya Pradesh a year later, in 2003.
“The BJP’s campaign against cow slaughter is seen by some analysts as part of its ongoing attempt to create a pan-Indian nationalism out of the myriad identities that exist in India.
“‘Outside a small section of modernised Indians, many still think of themselves not as Hindus, but in terms of caste, language and sect,’ said Ashis Nandy, a leading social theorist with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.
“Promoting a ban on cow slaughter, he said, ‘is an attempt to steamroll these other forms of identity and have people think of themselves purely as “Hindus”. It is a cynical attempt to consolidate political support.’”
“A Muslim cattle trader’s son was beaten and part of his head, one eyebrow and half his moustache shaved off by alleged Bajrang Dal workers in Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh after he refused to give them money to allow him to ferry cattle which the attackers alleged were meant for slaughter.
“Police rescued the 25-year-old victim, Anish Aslam Kureshi, but charged him with unlawfully transporting cattle for slaughter under a state law for preserving cattle, and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. A sessions court in Chhindwara ordered his release on bail today.
“His attackers, whom the police identified as Bajrang Dal workers, were also arrested, but were charged with minor offences. They were released almost immediately by the Bichhua police station.
“On December 22, a tough new Madhya Pradesh anti-cow slaughter law providing for seven years in jail for eating beef, empowering police to carry out raids on mere suspicion, and putting the burden of proving innocence on the accused received presidential assent.”
“Activists of a local Hindutva brigade attempted to barge into a leading star hotel in the city on Wednesday demanding to stop its plan to hold New Year party in ‘western style’. What provoked the Hindutva outfit was the announcement of the hotel that alcoholic beverages would be served free to women who accompany men to the New Year party. Police have arrested and removed 27 activists of the little-known Hindu Makkal Katchi (Tamizhagam).
“They told the management of the hotel not to engage in attempts to infuse Western values into Indian minds.
“‘The Le Meridian hotel has announced ballroom dance party on the occasion of New Year. By inviting couples to the party, the hotel is trying to popularise drinking culture among women. While the younger generation is already addicted to alcohol, the star hotel is now trying to spoil our culture and such parties are encouraging alcoholism among the youths,’ said Arjun Sampath, founder-president of Hindu Makkal Katchi (Tamizhagam).”
“It was a terrifying Christmas in 2007 for tribal and dalit Christians who live in the second poorest, deeply forested district of Odisha, Kandhamal. Long-smouldering violence targeting them exploded, and was to continue to rage for another full year. During this time, 600 villages were ransacked, 5,600 houses were looted and burnt, 54,000 persons rendered homeless, 295 churches and places of worship destroyed, and 13 schools, colleges and orphanages were damaged. The official death toll was 39, although unofficially the figure is claimed to be closer to 100. 30,000 people were forced to live in relief camps, and it is estimated that nearly half are still unable to return home. [...]
“Although the states of Odisha and Gujarat are located at the furthest eastern and western corners of India, separated by several thousand kilometres, the mass-targeted hate violence in both states, in 2007-08 and 2002 respectively have many striking — and deeply troubling — similarities. Each was characterised by a long build-up of hatred against religious minority residents, there is evidence of systematic advance preparation, state authorities were openly complicit in enabling the violence to persist for weeks and months, the attacks were unusually brutal and targeted women, thousands were displaced and discouraged from returning to their homes, facing organised social and economic boycott. And in both, compensation was tight-fisted and justice systematically subverted. [...]
“In Odisha, once again like in Gujarat five years earlier, the attacks were marked by exceptional cruelty. Kanaka Nayak recalls the horrific mob slaughter of her husband when he refused to reconvert to Hinduism. ‘They spat on him and started to sing and dance around him; they paraded him, and dragged him. They told him “you sing your songs and let Jesus come and save you”.’ [...]
“Women who suffered sexual violence in both massacres continue to live with the agony of memory and silences of shame. One said in confidence to the Tribunal, ‘The attackers removed their mask before they raped me. Earlier, they would respect me. I was shocked that they took revenge on me for my uncle's refusal to convert to Hinduism... Lots of things have changed in my life after that incident. I have been in hiding. I am traumatised, sad, depressed and struggling. I feel ashamed. I am unable to forget about the incident and carry on with life. But I feel I should be strong to get justice.’”
“The essay, ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas: Five examples and three thoughts on translations,’ which forms part of the B.A. History (Honours) course, had attracted the ire of Hindutva activists because it talks about 300 different versions of the Ramayana that abound in our country and beyond. And when the decision to scrap the course was put to vote at the Academic Council meeting this past Sunday, only nine of the 120 members present dissented.
“‘This is definitely not an academic decision but a glaring example of an academic institution succumbing to pressure from the Right wing. The council has severely compromised on its standards and has conveyed to our students the message that only the ideology that is supported by the majority will be accepted,’ said AC member Rakesh Kumar, who was one among the nine to express a dissenting opinion against scrapping of the essay.”
“It is a fact that there are hundreds of versions of the Rama-Sita-Ravana story. In some, Rama and Sita are not a married couple but are siblings. In others, Ravana is not an evil demon but a pious scholar-king. Folklorists know that stories are often modified in the course of geographical dispersion. For example, a folk tale of Delhi featuring a frog and a crocodile, might in Agra or Aligarh be the very same but with a rabbit and a wolf as its chief characters.”
“Are the Rama-Sita-Ravana chronicles stories spun and re-spun by human beings or do they represent historical fact?”
“The real problem lies in the way Ramanujan began his essay: ‘How many Ramayanas? Three hundred? Three thousand? At the end of some Ramayanas, a question is sometimes asked: How many Ramayanas have there been?’
“It took me some time to understand why this idea might be so threatening, because the way we were taught to deal with books or essays or ideas we didn’t like was the way put forward in the great epics: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are filled with debate, with digressions into discussions of what exactly dharma might be. Most of us are intrigued by the multiple versions of the Ramayana—the feminist version, the rough, bawdy village versions, Nina Paley’s elegant cartoon version, they all have their place.
“But if you live in a climate of intolerance, a book that questions the tenets of faith and offers a provocative re-imagining of a religious text might be considered so blasphemous that its author will be persecuted for years (The Satanic Verses). A novel that highlights an inconvenient part of the history of contemporary India, speaking openly of corruption in the Prime Minister’s office and the slow stirrings of narrow-mindedness in a once-great city will be erased from the college syllabus [Rohinton Mistry’s] (Such a Long Journey). Ramanujan’s great essay on the tradition of many Ramayanas threatens those who would prefer one version, their version, and so it is removed, and his voice is silenced.”
And see this interview with historian Romila Thapar:
“Who is he really, this new saint, this Voice of the People? Oddly enough we've heard him say nothing about things of urgent concern. Nothing about the farmer's suicides in his neighbourhood, or about Operation Green Hunt further away. Nothing about Singur, Nandigram, Lalgarh, nothing about Posco, about farmer's agitations or the blight of SEZs. He doesn't seem to have a view about the Government's plans to deploy the Indian Army in the forests of Central India.
“He does however support Raj Thackeray's Marathi Manoos xenophobia and has praised the ‘development model’ of Gujarat's Chief Minister who oversaw the 2002 pogrom against Muslims. (Anna withdrew that statement after a public outcry, but presumably not his admiration.)
“Despite the din, sober journalists have gone about doing what journalists do. We now have the back-story about Anna’s old relationship with the RSS. We have heard from Mukul Sharma who has studied Anna’s village community in Ralegan Siddhi, where there have been no Gram Panchayat or Co-operative society elections in the last 25 years. We know about Anna's attitude to ‘harijans’ [Gandhian term for untouchables]: ‘It was Mahatma Gandhi’s vision that every village should have one chamar, one sunar, one kumhar and so on. They should all do their work according to their role and occupation, and in this way, a village will be self-dependent. This is what we are practicing in Ralegan Siddhi.’ Is it surprising that members of Team Anna have also been associated with Youth for Equality, the anti-reservation (pro-‘merit’) movement [that opposes affirmative action on the basis of caste]? The campaign is being handled by people who run a clutch of generously funded NGOs whose donors include Coca-Cola and Lehman Brothers. Kabir, run by Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia, key figures in Team Anna, has received $400,000 from the Ford Foundation in the last three years. Among contributors to the India Against Corruption campaign there are Indian companies and foundations that own aluminum plants, build ports and SEZs, and run Real Estate businesses and are closely connected to politicians who run financial empires that run into thousands of crores of rupees. Some of them are currently being investigated for corruption and other crimes. Why are they all so enthusiastic? [...]
“At a time when the State is withdrawing from its traditional duties and Corporations and NGOs are taking over government functions (water supply, electricity, transport, telecommunication, mining, health, education); at a time when the terrifying power and reach of the corporate owned media is trying to control the public imagination, one would think that these institutions — the corporations, the media, and NGOs — would be included in the jurisdiction of a Lokpal bill. Instead, the proposed bill leaves them out completely.
“Now, by shouting louder than everyone else, by pushing a campaign that is hammering away at the theme of evil politicians and government corruption, they have very cleverly let themselves off the hook. Worse, by demonising only the Government they have built themselves a pulpit from which to call for the further withdrawal of the State from the public sphere and for a second round of reforms — more privatisation, more access to public infrastructure and India's natural resources. It may not be long before Corporate Corruption is made legal and renamed a Lobbying Fee.”
“Questions were raised about the dangerously authoritarian character of the bill they were backing, with its creation of an unaccountable, unelected body that would have the power to tap phones, intercept emails, and remove every government functionary from the Prime Minister and Chief Justice to the lowest peon. Access to judicial review for those targeted by this all-powerful body would be meaningless, given its power to remove judges it did not like. By defining corruption as the disease rather than seeing it as merely a symptom of a deeper disease–power without accountability, power to commit crimes with impunity–the JLB was a formula to introduce a new source of corruption rather than eliminating it. It was also, potentially, an assault on India’s democratic institutions, one heightened by the demand that either the law should be passed by parliament by August 30, or the government should quit. [...]
“The enthusiastic participation of the RSS and other members of the Sangh Parivar also disturbed many.”
“Maqbool Fida Husain was India’s most celebrated painter, and his death in London last week was front-page news across the subcontinent. However, toward the end of his life, Husain had trouble finding galleries willing to show his work. He lived in Dubai, Doha or London for most of the last two decades because he couldn’t paint in peace in his own country, even becoming a Qatari national last year.
“Husain’s story says much about modern India. The troubles started in 1996, when the magazine Vichar Mimansa (‘Discussion of Thoughts’) published a decades-old sketch that showed a nude Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of learning. That discovery electrified Hindu activists, who began filing lawsuits against the painter for hurting their sentiments.
“These activists were able to persecute Husain by taking advantage of laws intended to prevent the incitement of religious hatred. Though the Indian constitution guarantees freedom of expression, it allows ‘reasonable restrictions’ to safeguard ‘the interests of the sovereignty and integrity’ of the country and ‘public order, decency or morality.’ The penal code makes it a crime ‘to outrage religious feelings’ and also outlaws ‘promoting enmity’ between different groups on the basis of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language—and the all-inclusive ‘etc.’
“Fringe Hindu groups claimed to have been offended by the artist's work, and pressured the authorities to initiate proceedings. Indian courts often throw such cases out, but there were multiple cases against him. When a few of them reached the Delhi High Court on appeal, it ruled in Husain’s favor. So did the Supreme Court in a similar case.
“But the court judgments did not stem the tide of vitriol. Vigilantes continued to file cases against him, attacked his works and damaged the studio of a television network that polled its readers on whether Husain should be given India’s highest civilian honor.
“An artist with weaker convictions would have stopped painting altogether, but Husain continued to portray the many colors of this pluralist democracy. Born around 1915, he got his artistic start painting cinema posters. Formally trained at the prestigious Sir Jamshedji Jeejeebhoy School of Art in Bombay, he was an integral member of the Progressive Artists’ Group, which brought together leading modernists soon after India’s independence in 1947. He painted horses all his life; his other recurring themes included celebration of Indian music, Sufi art and the Sanskrit epic Mahabharata. Since 1996, he continued to paint Hindu deities as well as paintings inspired by Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit, whom he called his muse.
“But he couldn’t go on very long. At one count last decade, there were hundreds of cases pending against him across India, and some death threats too. Instead of defending Husain’s right to express his imagination, the authorities did nothing, actually adding to pressure from activists. In 2006, several state governments decided to prosecute him for outraging feelings after he painted ‘Bharat Mata’ (Mother India) in the nude. The controversy scared those who otherwise would have been happy to exhibit his work, including the organizers of the 2008 Indian Art Fair in Delhi, which had the works of 300 artists but not Husain’s.
“Exasperated by the lack of support from the Indian state and the continued harassment—both physical and legal—Husain gave up. He was living outside India anyway, and last year he publicly renounced his Indian citizenship.
“Hindu nationalists justified their attacks on Husain’s art by noting that the Indian state has allowed other faiths to block literature that has offended them. India was the first country in the world to ban Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses. Muslim activists last year chopped off the hand of T.J. Joseph, a university professor in Kerala, because he gave an exam question that was deemed insulting to Muhammad. Christian groups have protested films like The Da Vinci Code and The Last Temptation of Christ.
“To be sure, a large number of books get published in India, hundreds of films get made and galleries hold many exhibitions without incident. But artists like Husain inhabit speech at the edge of acceptability, speech that challenges conventional thought. The controversial sketch of Saraswati, for example, is an elegant white-on-black line drawing, which makes the viewer reflect on the old Indian tradition of nirakara, or formlessness. Yet instead of questioning themselves when provoked, extremist Hindus, like extremists from other faiths, have reacted with anger.”
“[T]he very multiculturalism of his paintings was unacceptable to Hindu communalists, especially Shiv Sainiks. They objected to his depiction of goddesses in the nude, claiming this was an insult to Hinduism. They threatened to rip his paintings apart, making it difficult to exhibit his paintings without fear of damage.
“Now, anybody visiting ancient Hindu temples at Khajuraho or Konark can seen dozens of nude sculptures of goddesses and apsaras, which are intrinsic to Indian art. Husain's style was one of skilful distortion and smudging, so his nudes had no erotic detail or prurience. Why then did his paintings create such an uproar and not Khajuraho?
“Because he was a Muslim. Had he been a Hindu, there would have been no protest. The anti-Husain campaign was always an anti-Muslim campaign, and not about art or justice.”
“Husain’s death has left India face-to-face with one of its greatest shames — its cowardly surrender to violence that cites religion as its pretext. When politicians mouth banalities about the ‘national loss,’ they conveniently gloss over the disgraceful fact that the nation did nothing for Husain except hound him out. The persecution of the artist was a direct attack on his right to freedom of expression. His nude paintings of Saraswati and Bharat Mata were the source of Hindutva-soaked nationalist anger, and gave rise to a series of criminal cases against him. But organized thugs have never waited for the law, and they attacked his home, his exhibitions here and abroad, vandalized his paintings and threatened his person. The cases against Husain remain; the thugs go free.
“By not coming down heavily and unforgettably on the hordes of criminals who organized the attacks on Husain and his work time after time, two successive Indian governments, one of which claims a ‘secular’ tradition, have demonstrated a compliance with deep-seated religious intolerance and divisiveness that makes nonsense of India’s ‘inclusive,’ ‘tolerant’ culture. Even a hint of religious ire can tear rights and values to shreds, be it the freedom of thought or expression, the value of an artist’s work and contribution, or even the fundamental right to live. What happened to Husain can happen again; there has not been a peep from the government — it made no effort to bring him back and let him live and work in safety — to suggest that things will be different. Social pressure may have changed that, but Indian society revels in its own prejudices. In complete irrationality, it would rather see a ‘Muslim’ artist penalized for painting a nude Hindu deity than feel shame at the violent suppression of guaranteed rights. It is no wonder that intolerance and persecution have become institutionalized in India. No one is allowed the courage to express himself in ways or speak truths that cause discomfort to those in power, whether socially or politically. So Binayak Sen had to languish in jail for months at the behest of a government that wished to silence him, and M.F. Husain must die abroad because pseudo-religion and false patriotism must be appeased. What is ominous is that such an ethos perverts all institutions: law and religion become handmaidens to the agents of oppression.”
Not as Old as You Think (…nor very Hindu either. There is telling evidence to debunk this nationalistic myth) by Meera Nanda (Open Magazine)
“Lately, Hindus in America have started flying the saffron flag over American-style yoga, which consists largely of yogic asanas and stretches. The leading Indo-American lobby, Hindu American Foundation (HAF), has recently started a vocal campaign to remind Americans that yoga was made in India by Hindus. Not just any ordinary Hindus, but Sanskrit-speaking, forest-dwelling Brahmin sages who learned to discipline their bodies in order to purify their atman. The purist Hindu position, articulated by the HAF, is that all yoga, including its physical or hatha yoga component, is rooted in the Hindu religion/way of life that goes all the way back to the Vedic sages and yogis.
“There is only one problem with this purist history of yoga: it is false. Yogic asanas were never ‘Vedic’ to begin with. Far from being considered the crown jewel of Hinduism, yogic asanas were in fact looked down upon by Hindu intellectuals and reformers—including the great Swami Vivekananda—as fit only for sorcerers, fakirs and jogis. Moreover, what HAF calls the “rape of yoga”, referring to the separation of asanas from their spiritual underpinning, did not start in the supposedly decadent West; it began, in fact, in the akharas and gymnasiums of 19th and 20th century India run by Indian nationalists seeking to counter Western images of effete Indians. It is in this nationalistic phase that hatha yoga took on many elements of Western gymnastics and body-building, which show up in the world-renowned Iyengar and Ashtanga Vinyasa schools of yoga. Far from honestly acknowledging the Western contributions to modern yoga, we Indians simply brand all yoga as ‘Vedic,’ a smug claim that has no intellectual integrity.”
“India’s treasured painter Maqbool Fida Hussain officially handed over his Indian passport and became a Qatari citizen yesterday. He is never returning home and Indians should not have let him go.
“Forced into exile five years ago due to death threats from Hindu hardliners, Hussain told interviewers that Qatar is his home now. While he loves India, the 94-year-old artist said, the country didn’t need him or want him. All over Bharatmata, the Mother India painting.
“I wonder if the Hindu fundamentalists who made death threats and lodged criminal complaints against Hussain had actually seen the painting in question. It is a stunning piece of art that does everything a great work should–it inspires and provokes; offers a point of view and forces you to question yours; it offers a window to the painter’s psyche; most of all, it is quite beautiful.
“The right-wing rebellion against Hussain boils down to a single and tragically polarising factor: MF Hussain is a Muslim painter portraying nude Hindu goddesses. How dare he?”
“In November last year, newly-elected Maharashtra state legislator Abu Azmi was assaulted by members of the right-wing Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) for insisting on taking his oath in Hindi. MNS chief Raj Thackeray, the now-estranged nephew of Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray, had earlier written to all 288 state legislators of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, urging them to take their oath in Marathi. Azmi was slapped, pushed and punched by MNS politicians when he rose to take his oath in Hindi—hooliganism in the country’s high offices that was broadcast live on TV for the nation to see.
“The incident followed the controversy a few weeks earlier that erupted after a request by the first-time Member of Parliament from southern Tamil Nadu state, Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers M. K. Azhagiri, to speak in his mother tongue in the Lok Sabha (the Indian Parliament’s elected house) was turned down. Tamil speakers were outraged, arguing the speech could easily have been translated into Hindi and English for the rest of the House. They also claimed the decision violated their rights and was an insult to Tamil, which they see as much a national language as Hindi.
“The Tamil-Hindi tussle has a long history. Over the decades, many non-Hindi speaking states have opposed the imposition of Hindi nationwide. However, southern Tamil Nadu’s resistance has always been the most sustained and most vociferous, while anti-Hindi campaigns in Tamil Nadu saw mass mobilisation both before and after India’s independence was secured in 1947.
“Although seemingly omnipresent, in part due to its cultural reach through Bollywood (the Hindi film industry), Hindi is not actually a national language. According to the 2001 census, Hindi and its various dialects are spoken by about 422 million people or just over 41 percent of the national population.
“India has no legally-defined national language, and although Article 343 of the Constitution declares Hindi and English to be the official languages of the union of India, to be used for administrative, judicial and legislative business in Parliament and other central bodies, there are 18 official languages that states can use to conduct their intra-state affairs.”
“India’s 1961 census recognised 1,652 languages and dialects, while the 2001 version broke it down into a slightly more manageable roster of 29 that are spoken by a million or more people, and 122 that have more than 10,000 native speakers.
“At the time of independence, the constitution recognised 14 official languages, but the growth of regional politics soon resulted in a flood of demands for further additions.
“Sindhi was added in 1967, three others in 1992 and four more in 2004 to make up the current total of 22, and the Home Ministry is currently considering 38 new requests for inclusion.”
“The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a 126-year-old landmark institution that has undertaken pioneering wildlife conservation and research in the country, on Thursday became the latest victim of the campaign for the Marathification of Mumbai being undertaken by the Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.
“Around 50 Shiv Sainiks marched into the premises and, using hammers and a chisel, vandalised the society's sign by taking off the ‘B’ from ‘Bombay’ in the name. They then put a ‘Mumbai’ over the ‘Bombay’ in the Devanagari part of the sign and erected a banner proclaiming the organisation as the 'Mumbai Natural History Society' in Devanagari.”
"Around 100 survivors of communal violence, who have been staying in an abandoned NAC market complex at G. Udaygiri of Kandhamal district after the forcible closure of relief camps by the government, have been asked by the local administration to vacate the place. With the news of visit of a European Commission team to the region, the government have ordered to remove the people again as a part of its attempt to project that government had brought back normalcy in Kandhamal and violence affected people are living at their villages peacefully without any threat.
"‘The BDO has asked us to vacate immediately and if we refuse police force will be used,’ said the worried survivors of Kandhamal violence. When the violence broke out on August 23, 2008, they were forced to leave their villages and their houses were burnt down. They had to take shelter in relief camps, but they were forced to leave from there also after the new BJD government come to power. Hence they had taken shelter in the market complex like beggars.
"‘Where can we go with these two babies?’ asked a crying mother Ms. Menaka Nayak (25). Her youngest baby was born in the camp itself. ‘We can not go back to our village, because they will not allow us to live there if we do not convert to Hinduism. The government is not prepared to provide security and necessary help. On top of it they are trying to throw us out from here also.’"
"The destruction of the Babri Masjid, far from being 'spontaneous,' as bigwigs of the Bharatiya Janata Party have claimed, was systematically planned, 'tailor-made'—as revealed by the mode of assault, the small number of kar sevaks (with faces hidden) assigned to the job of demolition, the easy availability of the instruments of destruction, and other preparations onsite. A whole range of sangh parivar organisations under the hegemony of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh as well as the Shiv Sena were involved. All this is well known and it is only the detail, the nuances, and the specifics of the evidence presented on the actual perpetrators and the enablers of the vile and barbaric act that will be of fresh interest. Several second-rung BJP leaders have reportedly been indicted by the Liberhan Commission. But what about the role of the top-rung BJP leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lal Krishna Advani, and Murli Manohar Joshi? This part of the Commission's report probably has the most political punch. The judge has reportedly held them culpable in the matter of creating communal discord, for being party to the fateful decisions, and for lacking the capacity to stand up to the RSS, which used them as pliable 'tools.'"
"There is a phrase in Hindustani—khoda pahad, nikli chuhiya—to describe the underwhelming outcome of an exercise over which one has laboured long and hard.
"Justice M.S. Liberhan worked diligently for 17 years through more than 40 extensions of his initial three-month brief to produce a 1029-page report full of facts and details about the events and circumstances leading up to the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992. His conclusion is unsurprising but unequivocal and bold: the demolition was part of a well-thought out plan—a 'joint common enterprise'—hatched by the top leadership of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Shiv Sena and the Bharatiya Janata Party, the last organisation correctly described as a 'front organisation' of the RSS.
"Unfortunately, the recommendations which emerge out of his daring excavations are so mousy that they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the forthright conclusions which precede them. After having indicted 68 individuals for bringing the country to the brink of communal disaster, Justice Liberhan doesn’t call for the filing of charges against those that have escaped being arraigned so far in the demolition case, nor does he speak of expedited criminal proceedings."
"The common element visible in the ‘communal’ confrontations in Sangli, Maharashtra in September and Shahpur, Gujarat, a few weeks earlier was been the uniformly formulaic and superficial coverage by the English press.
"English dailies predictably resorted to shorthand versions of the violence: ‘communal clashes erupt’, ‘mob fury breaks loose’, ‘police intervention’, ‘tense but under control’ and finally ‘limping back to normality.’
"The standard narrative for Sangli was that an arch depicting the Maratha warrior Shivaji killing the Mughal general Afzal Khan as part of the Ganesh Chaturthi decorations, had provoked Muslim outrage. But the media ignored a press conference held by various Muslim organisations where leaders categorically stated that Afzal Khan was unrelated to the teachings of Islam. Their request to avoid simplistic explanations remained unheeded.
"The fact that the arch was erected by workers of the Shiv Sena-BJP combine, despite warnings from the police, was similarly brushed aside. People’s Democracy was the only publication that drew attention to the polarising designs of a debilitated BJP under the guidance of the RSS.
"It is no coincidence that the violence in Shahpur, Gujarat too was centred on a procession. The most common ‘story’, sourced to the police, was that a temple had recently been constructed in close proximity to the Nagoriwad mosque. Despite police warnings a Janmashtami procession, coinciding with namaz timing, was taken out on the ‘irregular’ route before the mosque, leading to the clashes.
"A few follow-up reports noted the arrests of some of the ‘trouble-mongers’. None of them mentioned that among the arrested were BJP workers, who had initiated the move to construct the roadside temple adjoining the mosque.
"The average reader could therefore safely assume that some ‘communities’ in this country are mutually antagonistic; composed of mobs always on the verge of violence and that the slightest spark can raise a communal fire.
"But is this really the case?
"Rejecting the trope of ‘spontaneity’ over a decade ago anthropologist Peter van der Veer wrote in ‘Riots and Rituals: The Construction of Violence and Public Space in Hindu Nationalism’ (1997): 'However, riots in India I have witnessed or read about were more often than not well-planned and had well-defined targets and rules'. In ‘Writing Violence’ (1996), he notes: 'Communal violence in India has to be understood in the context of the politics of sacred space. Riots and rituals have come to be linked in the construction of communal identities in public arenas. Ritual processions through "troubled" areas often end in full-scale riots. Often one is confronted here with "rituals of provocation".'
"Veer’s work has revealed the nation and religious communities to be cultural constructs, most evident in his extensive analysis of the Babri Masjid dispute. The reflection of the Shahpur and Sangli violence in Veer’s words is stark. The seemingly innocuous procession suddenly represents a well-researched move, fine-tuned over the years in the conducive environs of the Hindutva laboratory."
"During a lecture in London in 2003, Doniger escaped being hit by an egg thrown by a Hindu nationalist apparently angry at the 'sexual thrust' of her interpretation of the 'sacred' 'Ramayana.' This book will no doubt further expose her to the fury of the modern-day Indian heirs of the British imperialists who invented 'Hinduism.' Happily, it will also serve as a salutary antidote to the fanatics who perceive — correctly — the fluid existential identities and commodious metaphysic of practiced Indian religions as a threat to their project of a culturally homogenous and militant nation-state."
"As the BJP activists warmed to the discussion, one young leader told me that the scale of the violence had been exaggerated and that many Christians had burnt their own 'toota-phoota,' or dilapidated, homes in order to get government compensation. 'You have to understand that they are lazy,' he said. 'If they stay in camp instead of going home, they get free food and relief. They don’t have to work. And then they know the money they are getting from America will stop the minute they leave the camps.'
"Ashok Sahu, a young RSS activist (not to be confused with the BJP candidate currently in jail for hate speech) then listed out a number of sins that he said the Christians were guilty of. These included falsely accusing Hindus of committing crimes, abducting Hindu girls, grabbing adivasi land and reservation quotas, and, of course, engaging in religious conversion."
"Recently the Archbishop Cheenath of the state said that the elections in the Kandhmamal district should be postponed as the refugees living in the camps are not able to return. The reason is that many of them who returned were threatened by the local Bajrang Dal workers and associates. They were told to renounce Christianity, convert to Hinduism, pay the fine, withdraw the cases and vote for the candidate who they will be told to, obviously BJP candidate. Many of those who tried to return with such hostile conditions awaiting them if they return, came back, some to the camps others to unknown destinations."
"More than seven months after Orissa’s tribal-dominated Kandhamal district experienced widespread anti-Christian violence, 3,100 people belonging to the minority community are still living in relief camps being run by the administration.
"About 25,000 people took shelter in 19 relief camps when communal violence was at its peak in the district in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four others on August 23 last.
"The number of people living in the camps has decreased slowly but the 3,100 people in six camps are not willing to leave as they are being told by the communal forces that they can return to their homes only as Hindus."
“We did not convert because we are poor. If I am poor but accepted by my community, there is no [social] terror in that poverty.... We did not convert for money. We converted because of the society that saw us as lesser, not worthy. We were ‘lower caste’, ‘untouchable’, ‘lowly’. Now we are Christian. Our god wants us. We can walk into his temple. We are worthy. You understand?” [Spoken by a Dalit convert in Orissa.]
from the publisher:
"This pioneering research was conducted between 2002-2008 in urban and rural settings in the eastern state of Orissa, a primary arena for the onslaught of organized Hindu majoritarianism. Through situated reflection, storytelling, and ethnographic accounts, this genealogical excavation examines Hindutva/Hindu supremacist proliferations in manufacturing imaginative and identitarian agency for violent nationalism."
From Kandhamal to Karavali: The Ugly Face of Sangh Parivar (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee, Human Rights Forum,
Organisation for Protection of Democratic Rights, Peoples Democratic Forum, Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) Karnataka State Unit, Federation for Peoples Rights, Committee for Protection of Civil Liberties, Peoples Union for Human Rights, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights)
"This is a report prepared jointly by a number of Rights Organisations and individuals on the large scale violence against Christians in Orissa and Karnataka during August-September 2008. The violence was committed by Sangh Parivar organisations, mainly the Bajrang Dal. Their political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) happens to be in power in both the States, and that has ensured that the police watched benignly as the arson and murder took place in public. The ideology and the organization of their mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), pervades the media in both the States to such an extent that with a few honorable exceptions, the Press has reported the violence in a manner that puts the onus on the victims: they were at fault and had it coming."
In a February 16 interview for TwoCircles.net, the director of an Ahmedabad-based NGO called the Islamic Relief Society of Gujarat reports:
"Of 1.5 lakh [150,000] people uprooted during the pogrom, around two-third are still not in position to return to their homes. About 50,000 people are still living in relief camps and there has been no proper arrangement for their rehabilitation. About 650 religious places were destroyed or desecrated but the government has not done anything to restore them. The central government has given its share of the compensation package for the riot victims but the state government is silent about its share."
A February 14 commentary for IANS praising some recent actions by the courts against a deputy police superindendent and a government minister in connection with their roles in the masacre, along with the ordered retrial of a couple of the most notorious atrocities, notes:
"More than 4,000 of cases relating to the outbreak were closed by the police either for lack of evidence or because the culprits could not be traced or because the cases fell through as the witnesses turned hostile, evidently on being threatened by the criminals, while the police failed to provide any protection."
The Gujarat High Court ruled on February 12 that the 80 or so Muslims still imprisoned in connection with the alleged burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra under the now-abandoned Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), which provided for the indefinite detention of suspects charged with terrorist conspiracy, were eligible for bail because POTA does not apply to their case. According to this report posted on TwoCircles.net, the court said, "POTA is being lifted from the accused because no concrete proof could be found against them showing that train incineration was a part of any planned terrorism."
"The young customers at Amnesia: The Lounge were enjoying a Saturday afternoon of drinking and dancing in one of the hippest spots in the city of Mangalore when a mob of 40 Hindu radicals barged in.
"The activists from Sri Ram Sena (SRS) – or Lord Ram’s Army – screamed abuse and attacked several dozen men and women, mostly students, and smashed up the bar.
"They chased the girls into the street, slapping them, pulling their hair and pushing at least two to the ground. The incident was recorded on CCTV.
"Their reason? 'We are the custodians of Indian culture,' said Pramod Mutalik, the founder of SRS, who claimed responsibility for the assault.
"The incident, which was broadcast across India, was one of many recent cases of Hindu moral policing that has also focused on Valentine’s Day, kissing in Bollywood films and cheer-leaders at cricket matches.
"The attack shocked middle-class India and prompted one Government minister to decry the 'Talebanisation' of the country. It has also brought attention to the links between violent Hindu militants and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)."
"If India Inc had its way, Narendra Modi might well be the country's next prime minister. A day after Tata Sons chairman Ratan Tata hugged the Gujarat chief minister and showered praise on his leadership, holding Modi and his state up as an example for the rest of the country, corporate bigwigs Anil Ambani and Sunil Bharti Mittal added their voice to the growing chorus."
"By the time Tata was through, the industrialist found himself locked in a hug with Modi who strode across the podium with open arms.
"'I have to say that today there is no state like Gujarat. Under Modi’s leadership, Gujarat is head and shoulders above any state,' Tata, who last year moved his small-car project from Bengal to Gujarat, told the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit in Ahmedabad."
As Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat and a leader of the fascistic Hindu-right BJP party, Modi presided over the 2002 Gujarat massacre, a state-sponsored paramilitary assault on the Muslim population of Ahmedabad led by Hindu-right organizations. Two thousand were killed, tens of thousands maimed, hundreds raped or sexually tortured, and as many as 100,000 made homeless.
"Parliament - meeting under the shadow of the November 26-29 attacks on India’s commercial hub resulting in close to 200 deaths - approved the legislations on Thursday with no considered debate and the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushing them past amendments tabled by several parliamentarians.
"One law, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act, seeks to establish a new police organisation to investigate acts of terrorism and other statutory offences.
"The other, the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment (UAPA) Act, radically changes procedures for trying those accused of terrorism, extends the periods of police custody and of detention without charges, denies bail to foreigners, and the reverses the burden of proof in many instances.
"'The UAPA Act is particularly vile, and will have the effect of turning India into a virtual police state,' says Colin Gonsalves, executive director of the Delhi-based Human Rights Law Network. 'It basically brings back a discredited law, the Prevention of Terrorism Act of 2002 (POTA), except for admitting confessions made to a police officer as legal evidence.'
"POTA was an extremely unpopular law, which the UPA government abrogated upon coming to power in 2004 in response to innumerable complaints of its selective and discriminatory use against India's Muslim minority, and its cavalier and irresponsible application to offences not even remotely connected with terrorism.
"In its desperation to be seen to be taking a tough stand against terrorism, the Manmohan Singh government also tabled the NIA Bill earlier this week. The new agency will specifically investigate offences related to atomic energy, aviation and maritime transport, weapons of mass destruction, and Left-wing extremism, besides terrorism.
"Significantly, it excludes Right-wing terrorism, which has become a greater menace in India.
"POTA and its predecessor, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), were extensively abused. They typically targeted the religious minorities, specifically Muslims, and allowed for their harassment and persecution.
"The TADA story is especially horrifying. Some 67,000 people were arrested under it, but only 8,000 put on trial, and a mere 725 convicted.
"Official TADA Review Committees themselves found the law’s application untenable in all but 5,000 cases. In 1993, Gujarat witnessed no terrorism, but more than 19,000 people were still arrested under TADA.
"Religious minorities were selectively targeted under both Acts. For instance, in Rajasthan, of 115 TADA detainees, 112 were Muslims and three Sikhs.
"Gujarat had a worse pattern under POTA, when all but one of the 200-plus detainees were Muslims, the remaining one a Sikh.
"The passing of the two new laws is certain to increase the alienation of India's Muslims from the state. They have been the principal victims of India's anti-terrorism strategy and activities in recent years.
"Muslims are first to be arrested and interrogated after any terrorist incident, even when the victims are Muslims, and although strong evidence has recently emerged of a well-ramified pro-Hindu terrorist network, in which serving and retired army officers were found to be key players."
"A survey of TADA cases reveals many instances of false arrests, police excesses, and extortion. People were imprisoned under the act for matters entirely unconnected with violent political acts. In 1987, six workers of Reliance Industries Limited in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, were arrested under TADA for legitimate trade union activity."
"Maqbool Fida Husain, India’s most famous painter, is afraid to go home.
"Mr. Husain is a Muslim who is fond of painting Hindu goddesses, sometimes portraying them nude. That obsession has earned him the ire of a small but organized cadre of Hindu nationalists. They have attacked galleries that exhibit his work, accused him in court of 'promoting enmity' among faiths and, on one occasion, offered an $11 million reward for his head.
"In September, the country’s highest court offered him an unexpected reprieve, dismissing one of the cases against him with the blunt reminder that Hindu iconography, including ancient temples, is replete with nudity. Still, the artist, 93 and increasingly frail, is not taking any chances."
A Muslim Artist and Hindu Images: It's a Volatile Mix (New York Times (June 16, 1998)): "Early last month, members of the far-right Bajrang Dal, upset at a stylized portrait of a Hindu goddess, slipped into Mr. Husain's Bombay apartment, destroyed one painting and mauled several canvases before being arrested by the police."
It's time to stop harassing M F Husain by Shashi Tharoor (Times of India (July 29, 2007)): "The question of why Husain doesn't paint Muslim figures in the nude is a red herring. The Islamic tradition is a different one from either the Hindu or the Western; what causes offence in one is different from what causes offence in another. Islam, after all, prohibits any visual depiction of the Prophet, whereas visualising our gods and goddesses is central to the practice of Hinduism."
"Five people died in one of the explosions, in a crowded market near a mosque in Malegaon, 175 miles north-east of Mumbai, while a teenager lost his life in Modasa, in neighbouring Gujarat, when a bomb exploded in a predominantly Muslim area.
"Both came after a wave of deadly bombings apparently directed at middle-class Hindus in Indian cities and claimed by Islamists."
"The wave of forced conversions marks a dramatic escalation in a two-month orgy of sectarian violence which has left at least 59 people dead, 50,000 homeless and thousands of houses and churches burnt to the ground. As neighbour has turned on neighbour, thousands more Christians have sought sanctuary in refugee camps, unable to return to the wreckage of their homes unless they, too, agree to abandon their faith.
"Last week, in the worst-affected Kandhamal district, The Observer encountered compelling evidence of the scale of the violence employed in a conversion programme apparently sanctioned by members of one of the most powerful Hindu groups in India, the 6.8-million member Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) - the World Hindu Council."
"The incident happened in Shantipura village located in Balehannur Taluk in Chikmagalur district when Mr Kunji Moidu, a Muslim resident of the village, brought beef to his house. Beef, which is not available locally, was brought from Chikmagalur town by Mr Moidu and was kept in his house.
"As the news reached the Bajrang Dal activists, about 10-12 people entered the house and locked the women of the household and beat up Mr Moidu. They also dragged Jayaram a Dalit farm hand who was plucking chillies from the garden of Mr Moidu’s residence and Mr Bava, another Muslim, who was present and beat them all up, they three said. Jayaram said he was dragged to the village circle where he was stripped and the raw meat was stuffed into his mouth.
"'It has actually become a usual thing these days in Karnataka to find those transporting cows being held and harassed by activists with the police looking the other way. In Mangalore, for example, whenever cows are taken to the slaughter house they are stopped on the way and the driver of the van is beaten up. The police usually lodge a complaint against the driver of the van and hold him in custody under some pretext or the other,' Mr Deepu said."
"In the case of Taslima Nasreen it was the CPI(M) and not any religious or sectarian group who first tried to ban her book Dwikhondito some years ago. The ban was lifted by the Calcutta High Court and the book was in the market and on best-seller lists in West Bengal for several years. During those years Taslima Nasreen lived and worked as a free person in Kolkata without any threat to her person, without being the cause of public disorder, protests or demonstrations.
"Ironically, Taslima Nasreen’s troubles in India began immediately after the Nandigram uprising when the people of Nandigram, mostly Dalits and Muslims, rose to resist the West Bengal government’s attempt to take over their land and tens of thousands of people marched in Kolkata to protest the government’s actions. Within days a little known group claiming to speak for the Muslim community asked for a ban on Dwikhondito and demanded that Taslima Nasreen be deported. The CPI(M)-led government of West Bengal immediately caved in to the demand, informed her that it could not offer her security and lost no time in deporting her from West Bengal against her will. The Congress-led UPA government has condoned this act by holding her in custody in Delhi and refusing, thus far, to extend her visa and relieve her of her public humiliation. They have once again played the suicidal card of pitting minority communalism against majority communalism, a game that can only end in disaster.
"Inevitably, hoping to make political capital out of the situation, the BJP is publicly shedding crocodile tears over Taslima Nasreen, going to the extent of offering her asylum in Gujarat. It seems to expect people to forget that the BJP, VHP and RSS cadres have been at the forefront of harassing, persecuting, threatening and vandalising newspaper offices, television studios, galleries, cinema halls, filmmakers, artists and writers. Or that they have forced MF Husain, one of India’s best known painters, into exile.
"Meanwhile, in states like Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka, away from the public glare of press conferences and television cameras, journalists are being threatened and even imprisoned. Prashant Rahi from Uttarakhand, Praful Jha from Chhattisgarh, Srisailum from Andhra Pradesh, P. Govind Kutty from Kerala, are a few examples. As we speak, Govind Kutty, who is on a hunger strike in prison, is being force-fed, bound hand and foot. Scores of ordinary people, including people like civil rights activist Binayak Sen, have been arrested and held illegally under false charges."
Christians in India are, with very few exceptions, untouchables or oppressed tribals. They take Christianity at least in part in order to escape their outcaste status, if only in name.
The Hindu right has been on a campaign since the late 1990s to intimidate and forcibly convert this small, vulnerable religious minority. The pattern of violence includes incidents of murder, rape, and arson. In one widely reported case in 1999 an Australian missionary and his two young sons were burned to death while sleeping in their camper.
That was in Orissa, and it is in that backward state, where nearly half the people live below the official poverty line, that the worst attacks ever against Christians in India were carried out last week. They took place in the district of Kandhamal, where Hindu-right activists have been organizing among the majority Kandha tribals, encouraging them to take up orthodox Hindu practices and exploiting their petty rivalry with the untouchable Panas, ninety-five percent of whom are Christians.
In Kandhamal's Bharakama village on the days leading up to Christmas celebrations, Hindu-right activists staged provocations against Christians and vandalized decorations. On Christmas Day a Hindu-right mob of thousands systematically destroyed Christian homes, churches, and institutions, killing several people and leaving thousands more homeless.
"The Congress didn't mount a half-way credible challenge to Modi. It did its utmost to duck issues pertaining to the violence of 2002, whose victims continue to be excluded, discriminated against and re-victimised. It carefully avoided any reference to the pogrom, to the state's culpability in planning and executing it, and to the BJP's failure to deliver justice to the victims.
"Right since it came into power nationally, the Congress hasn't lifted its little finger to secure justice for the victims. In Gujarat too, it refused to take a clear stand against Modi's brazenly communal political mobilisation strategy. It adopted a 'soft Hindutva' posture, and competed with Modi on his own terrain. Each time Modi cited Godhra, the Congress would talk about the Akshardham temple attack.
"Even worse, the Congress recruited anti-Modi BJP rebels, many of whom deeply implicated in the 2002 carnage, such as former junior home minister Goverdhan Zadaphia. It gave tickets to many, thus damaging its own credibility and undermining the possibility of projecting itself as secular."
"There are still 81 relief camps with around 30,000 refugees across Gujarat. The campsites do not have basic amenities like water or electricity, even though its residents are paying municipal taxes. In Modasa, refugees pay Rs.30 a month for water from a local contractor. 'There are no gutters, no place to wash clothes, so fights break out often. But at least we are safe,' Mumtazben Sheikh, a widow, told me.
"Muslims have been pushed into ghettos. Juhapura, Ahmedabad's biggest ghetto, has a population of over 300,000 people but no civic amenities. Only recently, it was made part of the city's municipal area. Many elite Muslims — judges, doctors, lawyers, businessmen — have been forced to move to Juhapura. No one in a `Hindu area' will sell a flat to a Muslim, even if he or she is willing to pay a premium. There is not a single bank in Juhapura, not a single State transport bus passes through here.
"After the 2002 violence, many other mini-ghettos emerged in cities and even small towns like Modasa. Places where refugees have been settled are now growing into Muslim colonies. In Ahmedabad, some survivors of the worst massacres of 2002 live on the edge of the city's dumping ground. They are living on the margins amid the smoke from smouldering garbage, crows circling above, and fumes from the small workshops nearby."
No bail for Godhra accused by Teesta Setalvad: "Eighty-four Muslims Denied Personal Liberty in the Godhra Case for Nearly Six Years"