Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
About 500 people who had gathered in Mumbai's Dharavi to protest against the institutional murder of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad Central Univeristyi were attacked Sunday evening by RSS goons.
Ajmal Khan who injured his head in the attack posted on his Facebook page: We some 500 protesters gathered in Dharavi to demand justice for Rohith Vemula were beaten up by workers believed to be affiliated to Rashtra Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS). The protest march was organised by Nationalist Forum Dharavi, a collective of Vizhithezhu Iyakkam, Jai Bhim Foundation, Andhra Karnataka Dalit Varg Sangh - Dharavi, Republican Panthers along with students from the umbrella forum - "'Justice for Rohith-Joint Action Committee Mumbai'. They were demanding justice for Rohith Vemula of University of Hyderabad who committed suicide on January 17th due to harassment from the university administration.
During the protest, casteist remarks were made by the attackers against the participants of the protest raising slogans of "Jai Bhim". A poster with Dr Ambedkar's photo was torn and stamped upon by RSS workers. Though several police officers were present on the spot during the attack, they did nothing to stop the goons and instead pushed the protesters away. To lodge a complaint against the attackers, the protesters had to camp outside the Dharavi police station. The police was negotiating with BJP MLA Tamil Selva from Sion Kolidwada constituency and RSS themselves took out a rally against the protesters in Dharavi with slogans of "Jai Shri Ram". We said we will not go away from the police station until police register case under atrocities act. After a big protest and demand SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989 was filed against the people who attacked us.
Rohith Vemula's mother: Don't want your Rs 8 lakh or Rs 8 crore, Tell me why my son died (Jan 24, 2016, Indian Express)
"When a girl named Nirbhaya was brutally raped and killed, did anyone question her caste? Then why is Rohith's caste under question here?" Radhika Vemula asked this on Saturday amid claims that her son Rohith, whose suicide is being seen as the fallout of caste discrimination, was not a Dalit.
The 49-year-old who is divorced from Rohith's father and raised him and his two siblings working as a tailor also refused the Rs 8 lakh ex-gratia offered by the University of Hyderabad. "We do not need your money. Not Rs 8 lakh, even if you give Rs 8 crore, we do not need it," Rohith's sister Neelima said.
Radhika, accompanied by Neelima and son Raja, was on the campus to meet the seven students on the fourth day of their fast at the university's protest venue. She told them, "You are all like my sons. If you need anything at all, I will help you. I will be here to support you, help you." "My question is why I am being asked all these questions instead of being given the reasons why Rohith was suspended?" Radhika said. "Why is the issue being diverted?"
Modi as CM failed to protect Muslims, his Buddha model held in suspicion by Dalits: Shripal Sabnis (Jan 21, 2016, Indian Express)
Shripal Sabnis, president of the 89th Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Sahitya Sammelan whose remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi triggered a row before the start of the literary meet, on Wednesday reiterated that Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister had failed to protect the lives of Muslims and win their confidence.
Sabnis, who was speaking at the Idea Exchange at The Indian Express on Wednesday, also said Dalits in the country were looking with suspicion at Modi's "Gandhi-Buddha" model which he is parading worldwide.
"I do not agree with Modi who was the Gujarat chief minister. He had failed to protect the lives of Muslims and win their confidence. There has been no punishment. He has got the clean chit from the apex court, but the blot remains , he had to face the prosecution," Sabnis said, when asked to elaborate on his remarks.
Do Hindu Swabhiman 'terror camps' have govt approval, asks retired Mumbai ACP (Jan 23, 2016, Ummid.com)
Wondering why no action has been taken against the 'terrorist training camps' reportedly run by an NGO Hindu Swabhiman even after vidoes surfaced in the media, Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Shamsher Khan Pathan asked if the camps have government approval.
"The government should have immediately closed these tratining centres. But, far from taking action, not a single word has been so far uttered by the state or the central government against these terrorist camps", he said.
Stating that these training camps are dangerous for national security, and peace and harmony, Pathan demanded from the state and the union government to close these training camps and arrest the members of Hindu Swabhiman.
You have a long beard, no passport for you: Cop allegedly tells Najmul Huda (Jan 23, 2016, Times Headline)
A day after sleuths of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Najmul Huda in a predawn raid at Permude village in Mangaluru taluk, an eerie silence prevailed in the entire neighbourhood.
The engineering student's helpless parents and three young sisters, who have already rubbished the allegations made against him by media, have no clue of the terrible rumours being spread on WhatsApp and other social media, as all of their mobile phones have been confiscated by the NIA.
Najmul Huda's parents hail from Uttar Pradesh and they had settled in Mangaluru over 25 years ago. The family has no enemies in the locality and those who knew Najmul Huda closely including the neighbours openly praise his kindness and humbleness.
A group of Muslim organisations today accused the NDA government of raking up the issue of status of Aligarh Muslim University and Jamia Millia Islamia for "gains" in the upcoming Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls and sought immediate reversal of the Centre's stand that they are not minority institutions.
Speaking during a briefing organised by Students Islamic Organisation (SIO) here, the outfits asked why political parties, otherwise vocal on issues of minorities, are silent at a time when the tag of the two prestigious institutions is "being played with".
"This looks like an attempt to polarise votes ahead of West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh assembly polls. This move is aimed at creating division.
In a veiled attack on the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), former Chief Justice of India A M Ahmadi today asked Muslims to not vote under "intimidation" of those who wear half-pants and carry lathis", the conventional dress code of the organisation.
"Do not get frightened from those who come out on roads wearing half-pants and carrying lathis in their hands. They come out during elections only to inject fear among people. It is part of the election process," Ahmadi said without taking name of RSS while addressing a function organised by state Congress here in the Muslim-dominated Sarkhej on the outskirts of the city.
Ahmadi requested Muslims not to vote out of fear. "After elections get over, they disappear. But, in between that election process do not get intimidated by them. It will be a problem if you give your vote out of fear," said Ahmadi who had served as CJI from October 1994 till March 1997.
In a statement issued on Saturday, the Editors Guild of India strongly condemned "the blatant acts of intimidation and threats to Siddharth Varadarajan, Editor of The Wire, by student members of the ABVP in Allahabad University that forced the police to intervene to escort him to safety."
Varadarajan had been invited to deliver a public lecture on 'Loktantra, media aur abhivyakti ki svatantrata' (Democracy, the Media and Freedom of Expression)" by the president of the Allahabad University Students' Union and the event was scheduled to be held at the university's Senate Hall on January 20, 2016.
The Editors Guild statement notes that after students belonging to the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) - the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party - threatened violence, the university's vice-chancellor withdrew permission for the programme and got the district administration to prohibit it from being held anywhere else on campus. As a result, "Varadarajan was forced to deliver the lecture at a hall near the campus."
The Supreme Court on Friday sought a response from the Bombay High Court and the Maharashtra government after Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy argued that criminal contempt proceedings initiated against her for publishing an article on the jailed Delhi University professor G.N. Saibaba amounted to choking dissent and produced an "intense chilling effect" on the fundamental right of free expression.
A Bench of Justices J.S. Khehar and C. Nagappan asked the writer to have no fear and appear before the High Court on January 25 in response to the notice by a single judge. "Now we are there," Justice Khehar observed.
The Bench admitted her plea along with the bail petition of Professor Saibaba, a paraplegic lodged in the infamous 'Anda' cell of the Nagpur prison on the allegation that he had Maoist links. It directed the Maharashtra government and the HC to respond in two weeks.
A Kashmiri Pandit couple is back in the Kashmir Valley. What makes the return of Omkar Razdan (70) and Vijay Bazaz Razdan (65) unique is they refused to take the Prime Minister's package. Instead, they preferred to move to a Muslim neighbourhood.
Omkar Razdan and Vijay Bazaz Razdan, son-in-law and daughter of the widely-read Kashmiri Pandit, Prem Nath Bazaz, have constructed a three-storey house in the Muslim-majority Humhama colony of Srinagar to dispel the myth that the two communities cannot live together.
"It was a conscious decision not to live in a separate settlement or colony, as it goes against the idea of Kashmiriyat. Kashmir was an abode of communal harmony when the minorities were attacked in 1947 in other parts of India. Not a single Pandit was killed or displaced then," said Mr. Razdan. Mr. Razdan said he grew up listening to folklores on Hindu-Muslim harmony. "We travel by public transport in Srinagar. We get a warm feeling. I leave my keys with my Muslim electrician when I travel to New Delhi," said Mr. Razadan, who has authored the book, Trauma of Kashmir and Untold Realities.
Opinions and Editorials
As the nation celebrates the 125th birth anniversary of B.R. Ambedkar, Rohith Vemula's suicide is a reminder of the void between Ambedkarite aspirations and Indian modernity - more precisely, Hindu modernity. Rohith was an Ambedkarite. To add to his woes, he gained admission under the "general" category.
If political interference and aggressive Hindutva intrusion on campus had not led to Rohith's suicide, maybe Ambedkar did. The practice of Ambedkarism calls for a sincere challenging of caste, patriarchy and religious bigotry - some of these remain the essence of being a modern Hindu in present times. What is ironic is that elements of Hindu practices that are regressive continue to be celebrated and these get worse when hindutva ideologues link such practices to the ideals of nationalism and nationalist sentiments.
If one digs beyond the farcical surface of Ambedkarite rhetoric in the BJP/ RSS circles, both Ambedkar and the Ambedkar Students' Association (ASA) at the Hyderabad Central University seem to be anti-national to Hindutva groups. Bandaru Dattatreya's letters to the HRD ministry show us how Hindutva naturally portrays Ambedkarism as anti-national. Arun Shourie was rather aggressive about calling Ambedkar a stooge of the British - someone who was also anti-Hindu and never participated in the so-called independence struggle.…
Modi Regime Forces President Mukherjee To Take Note Of Intolerance, Violence - By Samar (Jan 26, 2016, Countercurrents)
Mature republics must take note of problems plaguing them. Alas, they do not always do so. It is heartening to see, therefore, the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, taking note of some of the biggest problems plaguing India at the moment - problems that can unravel despite gains the country has made in 69 years of its existence. He observed, profoundly, that the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason do not harm individuals, they rather hit the very core of nationhood.
To quote him: "Our finest inheritance, the institutions of democracy, ensure to all citizens (sic.) justice, equality, gender and economic equity. When grim instances of violence hit at these established values, it is time to take note. We must guard ourselves against the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason."
Things reaching this point so that the President has to take note of them on the joyous day, the eve of Republic Day, must worry every citizen of India. They must think what has brought a country that should have been worried about continuing hunger, the biggest humiliation as the President had noted in his acceptance speech, that forces millions of their compatriots to go to sleep on an empty stomach every night. They must have been thinking about ways to tackle malnutrition that leads to the stunting and wasting of a huge section of its children and has been referred to repeatedly, as a National Shame.…
Three favourite icons sought to be appropriated by proponents of the Hindu Rashtra (Hindu Nation, the Hindutvawaadis) are Sardar Vallabhai Patel, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh. Shamsul Islam's research reveals however that this appropriation is problematic. Bose, attempted to organise a military campaign to force the British out of India. This cause was betrayed by the Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Savarkar who also happened to be a mentor of the RSS.
There is a mine of contemporary documents available to show that while the Netaji during World War II was trying to secure foreign support for liberation of the country and trying to organise a military attack on the northeast of the country with the help of 'Azad Hind Fauj' (Indian National Army), it was Savarkar who offered full military co-operation to the British masters.
Coming close on the heels of prime minister, Narendra Modi's move to de-classify 100 files related to Netaji Bose's life and struggle, these revelations could pose a severe embarrassment to the government. The history of the Hindutvawaadi rightwing is replete with documents establishing its collaborations with British rule. A close reading of the Hindu Mahasabha and RSS publications and documents of that period exposes this shocking duplicity.…
…In India, the mob has a veto on speech; and an example of this veto occurred on January 20 at Allahabad University, when bully-boys from the ABVP - the Baby-BJP on campus - forced the cancellation of a speech by my brother, Siddharth Varadarajan, on 'Democracy, Media and Freedom of Expression'. (Siddharth, editor of The Hindu before being ousted in a squalid internal putsch, is now founding editor of The Wire.)
It's hard not to chuckle over the irony of a lecture on free speech being silenced by unruly dissenters. One chuckles, also, over the ABVP leaders' descriptions of leftist Siddharth as 'anti-national' and 'communal' - the latter because of its incongruity, given the saffron source of the utterance; and the former because of the bizarre phenomenon of hyper-nationalist student protests. Whatever happened to the days when idealistic kids protested against nationalism, not at its behest?
The ABVP's actions are part of an unlovely trend in which anyone who's not inclined to paint the rosiest picture of India is deemed unpatriotic. Witness the ideological lynching of Aamir Khan recently, when the actor had the temerity to suggest that all isn't perfect in this Motherland of ours.…
Framed as a terrorist: Mohammad Aamir Khan's 14 years behind the bars - By Harsh Mander (Jan 26, 2016, Hindustan Times)
Imagine being wrongfully charged and jailed after 14 years of torture, never knowing if you will ever walk free. This is Mohammad Aamir Khan's harrowing story, of unspeakable injustice which stole from him the best years of his youth. But his story is also one of endurance, love and hope. In two years that I have known him, I found him a gentle person, free of bitterness and anger, and convinced about justice, democracy and secular values.
In a deeply affecting book he has written with Nandita Haksar, Framed as a Terrorist: My 14-year Struggle to Prove My Innocence, he describes how when he was 20, one late-winter evening in February 1998, in a by-lane of Old Delhi, close to his home, he was picked up by plainclothes policemen, and driven to a torture chamber. He recounts his days and nights of torture: Stripped naked, his legs stretched to extremes, boxed, kicked, subject to electric shocks, anti-Muslim abuse and threats to frame his parents. He finally succumbs, and agrees to sign numerous blank sheets and diaries. As a result, he is charged in 19 cases of terror crimes.
From here begins a nightmare that lasted nearly 14 years. Housed often in solitary confinement in Tihar and Ghaziabad jails, his only encounters with the world outside are his innumerable court hearings. No judge asks him about the torture, nor do doctors record his torture wounds. He is acquitted in one terror case, only for another to begin.… But I wonder if anything, anything can indeed compensate Aamir for all that he has lost.
Notwithstanding Justice A.P. Sen's pertinent observation in Lilly Kurian versus Sr Lewina and others (1978), "the protection of the minorities is an article of faith in the Constitution of India", this principle has been under continuous attack. Earlier this month, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi submitted before the Supreme Court that Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was never intended by Parliament to be a Muslim university.
This rekindles a sensitive and old controversy about the minority character of this historic university. Setting aside the political fury generated by this controversy, it is time to pause and ponder over this issue dispassionately, as it not only involves many legal questions of great significance but is also intrinsically linked to the sentiments of India's largest minority.…
Tara Chand, an eminent historian of modern India, once succinctly remarked, "it will be a falsification of the history of India if it is asserted from any quarter that the AMU was not established by the Muslims and primarily for the educational advancement of the Muslims of India". It is the duty of the government to ensure that the rights guaranteed to minorities are not turned into a "teasing illusion and promise of unreality".