IAMC Weekly News Roundup - January 26th, 2015

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Peace, Pluralism and Justice 

In this issue of IAMC News Digest

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Communal Harmony

Hindu widow saved 10 Muslims in Bihar riots (Jan 21, 2015, Times of India)

A Hindu woman who saved lives of 10 Muslims in this village in Bihar's Muzaffarpur district during the recent clashes in which five people died is being hailed as a hero, officials said. Shail Devi, a frail widow in her early 50s, risking her own life, gave shelter to her Muslim neighbours when a mob of more than 5,000 people attacked Azizpur Bahilwara village after a 20-year-old Hindu boy's body was found Sunday. …

"I provided shelter to my Muslim neighbours to save their lives because the mob could have killed them," Shail said Wednesday morning. Shail, a poor woman fighting for her survival like many others in this village, told IANS that she along with her two daughters stood guard outside her house when a mob was targeting Muslims in the village. She told them that it was a house of a 'Mallah' (fisherman). …

Shail, widow of late Jaglal Sahni, has become a household name in the village and neighbouring villages for her rare example of communal harmony. "She has proved again that humanity is still alive, we are proud of her," Arvind Kumar, a villager, said. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45967155.cms

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Tripura CM Manik Sarkar asks people to uphold communal harmony on 66th Republic Day (Jan 26, 2015, Economic Times)

Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar today appealed to people to come forward to build a prosperous state and to protect and uphold the spirit of communal harmony and secularism.

Unfurling the tricolour at the Assam Rifles ground here, he said a small section of people in the state was trying to foment communal tension between the tribals and non tribals to divide the state and this menace could be contained with the united force of all sections of the people.

"We must uphold and protect the spirit of communal harmony, peace and secularism which can build up a strong and prosperous state as well as the country," he said.…

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46019082.cms

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'My sin was I could not do anything during 2002 riots' (Jan 22, 2015, The Hindu)

"My sin was I could not do anything during the 2002 riots," Sahitya Akademi Award winner Esther David said at the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival which began here on Wednesday.

Participating in a discussion on "Seven Deadly Sins in Our Time," Ms. David said Ahmedabad became divided between Hindus and Muslims then and it still continues to be so under the cover of Vibrant Gujarat. …

She said communal riots were not new to Gujarat. Recalling her association with Ahmedabad, Ms. David said that between 1955 and 1995, people lived together but now there are 'identified' areas. Esther David's forthcoming book is A City with A Past: Ahmedabad.

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/my-sin-was-i-could-not-do-anything-during-2002-riots/article6809065.ece

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IAMC writes to President Obama to bring attention to attempts of communalisation in India (Jan 24, 2015, Twocircles.net)

In the wake of the visit of the US President Barack Obama to India, the Indian American Muslim Council, the largest advocacy group of Indian American Muslims, has written a letter to him to bring to his attention attempts of vitiating the social fabric of India.

IAMC President Umar Malick expressed his happiness on the trip and hoped that the visit will bring two countries together.… He, however, reminded the President that as signatories to the UN Declaration of Human rights, both India and the US have a shared commitment to religious freedom and human rights; and noted, "It is in this context we wish to bring to your attention deeply disturbing developments in the world's largest democracy, that are having a profoundly negative impact on millions of religious minorities in India, including Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis."

Even before the present administration came to power, concern over the situation of minorities in India had been expressed by the US State Department as well as the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) consistently over the last several years. While the present administration under Mr. Narendra Modi was elected to office based on a stated agenda of development and good governance, events of the last six months have alarmed everyone concerned with preserving religious freedom and protecting human rights in India.…

http://twocircles.net/2015jan24/1422097344.html

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Petition filed in US court to designate 'Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh' as terror group (Jan 22, 2015, Indian Express)

A Sikh rights group has filed a lawsuit asking a US court in New York to designate RSS as a "foreign terrorist organisation". The federal court in the Southern District of New York issued summons for US Secretary of State John Kerry to respond to the suit within 60 days.

Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) in the declaratory lawsuit asked the court to designate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a foreign terrorist organisation, accusing it of "believing in and practicing a fascist ideology and running a passionate, vicious and violent campaign to turn India into a 'Hindu' nation with a homogeneous religious and cultural identity."

SFJ said the RSS is making headlines for its campaign "'The Home Coming' to forcibly convert Christians and Muslims to Hindus." The declaratory lawsuit requests the court that "RSS along with its affiliates and subsidiaries be designated as Foreign Terrorist Organisation…and designate RSS as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity (SDGT)".

Accusing the RSS of targeting minorities, the petition alleged RSS involvement in the "demolition of Babri Masjid", "instigating" army operation in Golden Temple, "burning of Churches and rape of Christian nuns" in 2008 and the Gujarat riots in 2002.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/petition-filed-in-us-court-to-designate-rashtriya-swayamsevak-sangh-as-terror-group/

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Muzaffarpur riots: Samaj Bachao Aandolan alleges Bajrang Dal, BJP hand (Jan 22, 2015, Twocircles.net)

Samaaj Bachaao Aandolan, a city based social service group, has alleged direct involvement of Bajrang Dal and the BJP in the recent communal riots at Azizpur in Muzaffarpur district. "Bajrang Dal leader Ram Pravesh Sahni and BJP MLA Ashok Singh are the main players behind Muzaffarpur riots," alleged chief convenor Md Kashif Yunus of Samaaj Bachaao Aandolan, who had led a delegation to Azizpur on Wednesday, January 21.

The Samaaj Bachaao Aandolan delegation visited Azizupur village, stayed there for the whole day and interacted with a large number of people including some eye witnesses. "What locals are revealing is shocking because the real story of the conspiracy is not coming out in the media," Yunus said in a release here. At least six persons were dead and scores of others injured in a communal riot that broke out at Azizpur earlier this week. The incident also saw houses of scores of people from the minority community burnt down rendering them homeless in harsh winter.

"According to locals, Bajrang Dal leader and mukhiya of Chakma, who is the right hand of local BJP MLA Ashok Singh, called a meeting in his house on January 17 in which more than 100 people participated. The very next day, body of the young boy was recovered just metres away from the house of Wasi Ahmed in Azizpur village," Yunus said, adding, "The question arises: from where did thousands of people, mostly belonging to a specific caste, gather in Azizpur within 30-40 minutes of recovery of the boy's body? Bahilwara Roopnath, the village to which the boy belonged to, is just two kms away from the Azizpur village from where people of a specific caste came to attack the minority population of Azizpur."…

http://twocircles.net/2015jan22/1421950061.html

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Court rejects bail plea of 12 accused in Muzaffarnagar riots (Jan 23, 2015, DNA India)

The bail plea of 12 people, accused of attacking a police rescue team during 2013 Muzaffarnagar riots, was on Friday rejected by a court.

District and Sessions Judge Vijai Laxmi rejected the bunch of petitions observing that there is no case for bail in connection with attempt to murder and rioting, said Anjum Khan, District and Assistant government counsel.

Police had registered a case against 200 unidentified people and named 14 accused after the attack on a police team which had gone to rescue people stuck in Kutba village of Shahpur area of Muzaffarnagar on September 8, 2013. Eight people were killed and 20 others injured during the riots in Kutba village.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-court-rejects-bail-plea-of-12-accused-in-muzaffarnagar-riots-2055201

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Christian villagers living in fear after Hindu nationalists burn down village church (Jan 23, 2015, Christian Today)

It was just a simple structure made of bamboo and palm thatches, but it was a place of worship for the village's population of Indian Christians. Despite action by the police and the fire department as well as members of the church, in Tadur, Telengana state, the fire destroyed everything inside the structure. These included the church's musical instruments, carpets and prized literature.

Attacks against the Christian minority in India have escalated over the past few months as the current Indian government appears sympathetic to Hindu fundamentalism. The ICC said that attacks range from actual physical attacks against Christians, to torching properties that are owned by Indians who are known to be Christians, and to allegations of forced conversions of the local population.

"Christians here are living as second class citizens," Telangana Christian Joint Action Committee State Chairman, Rev. Ronald John, said to ICC. Aside from the attacks, Christians in India have another reason to worry - legislation meant to encourage "reconversions" to the Hindu faith of Christian Indians.…

http://www.christiantoday.com/article/india.christian.villagers.living.in.fear.after.hindu.nationalists.burn.down.village.church/46626.htm

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NIA absolves Liaqat Shah of all terror charges (Jan 24, 2015, Times of India)

In an embarrassment to Delhi Police, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has given a clean chit to Liaquat Shah who had been arrested by it and labelled as a terrorist two years back. The NIA, instead, named absconder Sabir Khan as the main accused who had allegedly planted weapons on Shah to project him as a militant of the banned Hizbul Mujahideen.

Ironically, according to chargesheet filed by NIA in a special court, the address of Khan alias 'Pathan' as mentioned in a lodge in old Delhi as well as for his SIM card was "Barrack NO. 2, Special Cell Niwas, BG 21, Lodhi Colony, New Delhi".

The NIA, while absolving Shah of terror charges, has also submitted the report to ministry for home affairs seeking permission for carrying out investigations against two Delhi Police officials for allegedly "conspiring" to target Shah.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/46002659.cms

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Sohrabuddin encounter case: Raje govt promotes accused cop as IGP (Jan 25, 2015, Indian Express)

IPS officer Dinesh M N, accused in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, has been promoted by the Rajasthan government to the post of Deputy Inspector General and thereafter Inspector General with effect from May 9, 2014. A notification to this effect was released on January 23.

Dinesh has served seven years in jail in connection with the case and was released on bail four days before being reinstated. Sources said due to a favourable BJP government and particularly Home Minister Gulabchand Kataria, who too was named by the CBI in the chargesheet, at the helm of affairs, Dinesh's return to the service and promotion became possible. …

Dinesh MN, a 1995-batch IPS officer, was arrested on April 24, 2007 for his alleged role in the fake encounter of Sheikh on November 26, 2005. He was suspended from the post of Udaipur SP since then till October 28, 2007. From October 29, 2007, to February 21, 2008, he was kept on awaited posting order (APO). Later, he was yet again suspended by the previous government.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/sohrabuddin-encounter-case-raje-govt-promotes-accused-cop-as-igp/

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Urdu medium schools in a fix over Saraswati puja circular (Jan 24, 2015, The Hindu)

A circular directing municipal schools to perform Saraswati puja to mark Vasant Panchami, a festival that falls on Saturday, has left Urdu medium schools here in a quandary. L.D. Desai, officer of the school board, Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, issued the circular on January 19.

It states: "All municipal schools are hereby informed that the festival of 'Mahusud Pancham' or 'Vasant Panchmi' is celebrated in worship of Goddess Saraswati…. With a view to instilling the importance of learning in students, schools should perform 'Saraswati puja' and 'Saraswati Vandana' [incantation] during the prayer session. Information on how 'Vasant Panchami' is celebrated in different States should also be given."

A few of the 60 Urdu medium schools in the city, catering chiefly for Muslim children, and their parents are worried that the circular is incompatible with their faith.…

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/urdu-medium-schools-in-a-fix-over-saraswati-puja-circular/article6816972.ece

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Days after he talked of a survey of Muslims in jail, Maharashtra minority panel chief is on way out (Jan 16, 2015, Indian Express)

Days after he announced plans to commission a survey to find out the number of Muslims in Maharashtra's jails, State Minorities Commission Chairman Munaf Hakim is set to be replaced. Sources said the Chief Minister's Office on Wednesday took the decision to appoint a new chairman.

While the government is yet to issue an official order, a formal Government Resolution on the dissolution of the current board and the appointment of a new chairman is expected on Friday.

Hakim, who was appointed by the previous Congress-NCP government in August 2012, has completed only half of his five-year term.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/days-after-he-talked-of-a-survey-of-muslims-in-jail-maharashtra-minority-panel-chief-is-on-way-out/

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Opinions and Editorials

What was Gandhi's Evaluation of RSS? - By Ram Puniyani (Jan 21, 2015, Countercurrents)

With the new ruling dispensation, Modi Sarkar, attempts are being made to present Gandhi in a light which is favorable to the RSS combine. First, the Swachata Abhiyan (Cleanliness drive) was inaugurated on Gandhi Jayanti 2nd October, then it was claimed that RSS had nothing to do with Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse. Now; efforts are on to extract a certificate from Gandhi on the lines which should mean that Gandhi thought 'RSS very good'. In this direction a multimedia program is being shown in 'Dandi Kutir' which was inaugurated by the Prime Minister Mr. Modi recently, (January 2015).

In this multimedia presentation in the exhibition it is claimed that Gandhi had come to RSS camp in Wardha in 1930, along with Ghanshyamdas Birla. Gandhi was very impressed by its functioning of RSS and wanted to meet Dr. Hedgewar, the founder of RSS. As per these claims Mahatma did meet the RSS founder the next day.

Irrespective of these claims the definitive knowledge is something else. On one side what is known is that RSS was very critical of Gandhi's politics, his broadening of the national movement to include the average people of the country in the non-cooperation movement. This movement was the major event which awakened the people of India and linked them with anti British movement. This was the major landmark in the step towards 'India as a nation in the making'. This major phenomenon of Indian nationalism came under heavy criticism from RSS leadership. RSS founder was critical of Gandhi for his efforts in the direction of 'Hindu Muslim unity' and this mass movement, non-cooperation movement.…

http://www.countercurrents.org/puniyani210115.htm

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Greater Economic Burdens Instead of Ache Din - Editorial (Jan 25, 2015, Peoples Democracy)

…This invitation to President Obama by the Modi government conveys a strong signal to the world that India is cementing its position as a 'subordinate ally' of US imperialism. This is a significant shift that will shape the demise of India's long held faith in pursuing an independent foreign policy.

While India has and shall continue to develop friendly relations with all countries in the world, India's foreign policy must always be dictated by its 'enlightened national interests', the crux of which is the solidarity with the developing world in resisting global domination by any power. Often, in the past, India had taken courageous, morally upright positions with regard to people fighting against national oppression.

The Indian ruling classes, however, ever since they embraced neo-liberal economic reforms, argue that it is in India's interests to be irreversibly tied to the apron strings of US imperialism. Given this, Indian policy direction is increasingly one of providing greater opportunities for international finance capital to maximise profits in India while, at the same time, permitting India Inc. (who so generously 'donated' towards the Modi PM campaign) to maximise profits as the junior partner of US imperialism.…

http://peoplesdemocracy.in/2015/0125_pd/greater-economic-burdens-instead-ache-din

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Untold stories from Muzaffaarpur - By Dr Mohammad Sajjad (Jan 24, 2015, Twocircles.net)

Violence broke out in Azizpur-Bahilwara village near Saraiya in Muzaffarpur district in north Bihar on January 18. It killed at least five people and almost all the 56 Muslim (Pasmanda) households were looted and burnt. The immediate provocation allegedly was an inter-faith love affair: to the Hindutva zealots, was it a case of 'Love-Jihad' in reverse, or a case of 'Honour Killing'?

A Hindu (by caste Mallah, fishermen) boy named Bhartendu Sahni, 20, (reportedly in love with a girl from Pasmanda Muslim community, both belonging to the same village, and both studying in the same L S College of Muzaffarpur), was missing since January 9. A report about his kidnapping was lodged against a Muslim, nicknamed Vicky Ansari, and his father Wasi Ahmad, of the same village with the Saraiya police.

The local police is alleged to have remained rather lethargic on this report of kidnapping despite the fact that this issue did carry a very high degree of communal volatility and sensitivity, given the fact that the accused of kidnapping were the Muslim girl's brother, Vicky Ansari and the father Wasi Ahmad, and that the marriage of the two was being resisted at least by the girl's family.…

http://twocircles.net/2015jan24/1422102950.html

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The Muslim population: No cause for paranoia about religious demography - Editorial (Jan 25, 2015, Business Standard)

Among the three countries that once constituted undivided India, Pakistan in 2001-11 had a decadal population growth rate of about 20 per cent, India's Muslims (it has now been revealed) 24 per cent, andBangladesh slightly more than 14 per cent. If India's Muslims had witnessed Pakistan's population growth rate of 20 per cent, the country would have had about five-six million fewer Muslims in 2011. And if Bangladesh had experienced the same 20 per cent population growth rate, it would have had seven million more Muslims. So does the explanation for the higher growth rate in India and the lower rate in Bangladesh lie primarily in the migration of Bangladeshis to India? It might seem so, given that the growth of the Muslim population in the border districts of West Bengal and Assam has been the highest (which is not to say that illegal immigrants don't settle in more distant parts of India, including Delhi).

Even at 20 per cent, the growth rate of the domestic Muslim population would be higher than for all non-Muslims (17 per cent). The difference though would be smaller than the census numbers have recorded, and would be explained by two factors: the lower socio-economic status of Muslims in India (the poor tend to have more children), and the greater resistance of Muslims to family planning. This latter is evidenced by the higher growth rates in the population of both Pakistan and Bangladesh in the period since Partition.

But there is no cause for the paranoia in some circles that "Hindus will be reduced to a minority" in India. More reasonable projections suggest that the Muslim population at its peak may be 18-19 per cent of the population. That would be a significant change from the 10 per cent of 1951, and it is just as well that the government has released the religion-wise census numbers (the previous government had no business hiding them, as though they contained a dirty secret). But one must understand the numbers in order to be able to deal rationally with the issues they raise.…

http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/the-muslim-population-115012500722_1.html

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The silencing of Murugan - By V Geetha (Jan 20, 2015, Indian Express)

It has been a week now since writer Perumal Murugan chose silence and literary death. Protests continue in Tamil Nadu - some directed at local government officials and the police - for allowing organisations of the intermediate Kongu Vellala or Gounder caste to threaten and intimidate Murugan into silence. Some protests are directed at Hindu ideologues of the far right, including the local RSS functionaries who started it all.

Left groups, Dalit groups, anti-caste groups, writers, journalists, teachers and lawyers have been at the forefront of these protests. Rather late in the day, the DMK upheld Murugan's right to speech, invoking a long history of Tamil "tolerance", a virtue that is in short supply at the moment for a host of reasons. …

Incidentally, Murugan's novel, Kanganam, is an apt fable of the alienated small peasant. It is about a peasant's search for a bride he does not ever find. Increasingly disenchanted with the harsh conditions that define peasant life, Gounder women and Dalit men flee that universe. The Gounder peasant is left bereft of productive labour and conjugal certainty. …

http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/the-silencing-of-murugan/99/

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Women's Safety & the Sangh Parivar - By Archana Prasad (Jan 25, 2015, Peoples Democracy)

This week Kiran Bedi joined the Delhi BJP as its star campaigner, and declared in the first very statement that in Delhi "women's safety is the main issue and not Statehood". She said that if she wins elections than she would ensure that there was better policing including community policing in order to ensure women's safety. Almost immediately in response to this, Sharmishtha Mukherjee, the Congress candidate from Greater Kailash, stated that the main issue for her constituency is women's safety and she would use her MLA funds to do community policing if she won.

It is clear that the arrival of high profile campaigners in the Delhi BJP has propelled a competitive war of words in case of women's safety. However the whole debate, as triggered off by the BJP nominee has got focused on issues of policing and law and order rather than on the larger issues that have been earlier raised by the women's movement.

The perspective of women's safety as a law and order problem is designed to ignore the social and political causes that aggregate violence against women. These causes are engrained in patriarchal and socially conservative attitudes that are today characteristic of the Sangh Parivar.…

http://peoplesdemocracy.in/2015/0125_pd/women%E2%80%99s-safety-sangh-parivar-comment

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