Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
Post Basirhat communal violence: In show of unity, Hindus, Muslims tie rakhis (Aug 8, 2017, Indian Express)
In a show of harmony, members of the Hindu and Muslim communities in Basirhat on Monday tied rakhis on each other, a month after the area was hit by communal violence. Violence had erupted between the two communities in Basirhat and Baduria areas of North-24 Parganas over a controversial Facebook post. In an effort to revive cordial ties, the Bangla Sanskriti Manch and Rights to Life Foundation jointly organised a Raksha Bandhan celebration at Basirhat Town Hall. Residents of Basirhat took part in the event, and lauded the effort to strengthen peace.
"It was totally an apolitical event here in which local people participated. Children danced on stage and tied rakhis on the wrists of people. They sang songs written by Rabindranath Tagore and Nazrul Islam on communal harmony. Later, they took out a rally in Basirhat and tied rakhis on local people," Mizanur Rahaman, a participant in the event, told The Indian Express.
Another participant, retired banker Nirmal Ghosh, said the show of unity should be replicated in parts of the state which have witnessed communal tension in recent times. "The message was loud and clear. People are united here. Members of both communities delivered speeches on communal harmony and vowed to stand united. We all know the tension was intentionally created by some people. But people here want to rise above that, and want to continue this show of unity against all odds," he said.…
Aadhaar will be required for death certificates from October 1, plan to prevent identity fraud (Aug 4, 2017, Indian Express)
In a bid to prevent identity fraud, the Home Ministry on Friday made quoting one's Aadhaar number necessary for the registration of death with effect from October 1. The government stated that it would be applicable for the residents of all states except Jammu and Kashmir, Assam and Meghalaya, for which a date would be notified separately.
"An Applicant applying for death certificate is required to provide Aadhaar number or Enrolment ID Number (EID) of the deceased and other details as sought in the application for death certificate for the purpose of establishing the identity of the deceased," the PIB release said.
Those not aware of the Aadhaar number or Enrolment ID Number (EID) of the deceased have to provide a certificate that the deceased person does not possess the number to the best of their knowledge. "Applicant's Aadhaar number shall also be collected along with the Aadhaar number of the spouse or parents," the release added.…
Prominent academics have come down heavily on the barrage of attacks unleashed by the RSS and the corporate media against the State of Kerala in the recent days.
Renowned historian KN Ganesh said in a Facebook post that the coming months will witness a direct conflict between the RSS on the one hand and Democratic Kerala on the other. The reason for this is not murders or attacks on party offices.
"It was Kerala which strongly resisted the "gau raksha" propaganda of the RSS. Even the BJP leaders had to keep silent about the beef festivals organised across Kerala", Ganesh said. "Kerala also stood up against the atrocities unleashed against Dalits and minorities by the RSS all across India."…
Tolerance has to become an essential national virtue to promote harmony transcending sectional diversities, Vice-President M Hamid Ansari on Sunday said. Tolerance is a pragmatic formula for the functioning of society without conflict between different religions and political ideologies, among others, he said speaking at the 25th annual convocation of the National Law School of India University here.
Yet, he said, tolerance alone is not a strong enough foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society and it must be coupled with "understanding and acceptance". In this regard, he recalled Swami Vivekananda's words, "We must, not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions."
The Vice-President said the challenge today is to reiterate and rejuvenate secularism's basic principles, including freedom of religion and tolerance. The challenge also is to emphasise that equality has to be substantive, that freedom of religion be re-infused with its collectivist dimensions, he added.…
Lafiqul Islam Ahmed killing: Eminent citizens write letter to Sarbananda Sonowal, urge him to help victim's kin (Aug 6, 2017, First Post)
A group of prominent Assam citizens have written to Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal, urging him to help the family of slain minority leader Lafiqul Ahmed.
Signed by 44 members of the Assam's intelligentsia, the letter praised the show of solidarity in Assam after Ahmed's murder, and added that the incident brought together people belonging to different communities in the militancy-ravaged state.
Calling Ahmed a "progressive youth leader", the letter acknowledged the slain leader's contribution in raising critical issues such as child marriage, polygamy, dowry and domestic violence plaguing the Bengali Muslim community.…
The Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking framing of a national yoga policy and making the practice compulsory for students of classes 1-8 across the country.
A bench headed by Justice MB Lokur dismissed the plea and said it is for the government to take a decision on such issue. "We are nobody to say what is to be taught in schools. It is none of our business. How can we direct that," the bench said.
The apex court said it was not possible for it to grant the relief as sought by petitioners - Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay, a lawyer and Delhi BJP spokesperson and JC Seth. "What is to be taught in schools is not a fundamental right," it said.…
Smriti Irani pulls up PTI news agency for posting 'Modi-Nitish' image, gets photo removed (Aug 8, 2017, First Post)
After recently getting additional charge of one of the more prestigious ministries in the Cabinet, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Smriti Irani is making sure that she continues to take controversial decisions. On Monday, this took the form of pulling up the news agency PTI which provides news stories and photographs on a lot of issues in India.
The important issue which caught the IB minister's eye was a tweet PTI had put out which showed men in Narendra Modi and Nitish Kumar masks celebrating Friendship Day. The link between the image and the story it accompanied was tenuous at best as it was about Nitish Kumar urging the Centre to allocate funds for the lower judiciary in Bihar.
Irani took umbrage to the photograph and shot off a tweet expressing her displeasure and questioning PTI's "official stand". PTI quickly reacted and deleted the tweet. They had also released the photograph separately to media outlets but later issued a 'kill' alert which is media jargon for withdrawing a picture. They also issued an apology and said that they had withdrawn the picture.…
Newly-appointed Delhi Minority Commission Chairman Dr Zaffarul Islam Khan on Friday issued notice to Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik over threat calls received by social activist Shabnam Hashmi. Hashmi runs the NGO 'Pehchaan', in addition to giving lessons to women school dropouts and teaching them sewing in Jaitpur in south east Delhi. On July 14, a person, who identified himself as a Delhi Police sub-inspector Sandeep Malik, reportedly called one of her students' husband and asked him to come to Lajpat Nagar police station.
When Hashmi called the person to inquire the reason, he started abusing her and threatened her. The man claimed that a plan to "surround and kill" those who did not have an Aadhaar card or other identity proof had been launched. The conversation was recorded by Hashmi on her mobile phone, which she handed over to the police.
Meanwhile, the Chairman of the Minority Commission also expressed his anguish over the hate crime taking place in the national Capital in the name of cow vigilantism. He said that any type of hate crime is intolerable in a civilised society. Khan said that the Commission is a "quasi-judicial body", but it can take notice about mishap occurring to any person from a minority.
Bail to Haryana BJP chief's son: Questions over police action in stalking case (Aug 7, 2017, Hindustan Times)
After Haryana Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president's son, Vikas Barala, arrested for stalking and drink driving, was released on bail on Saturday, politicians and social media users are accusing Chandigarh Police of buckling under pressure and going soft against the accused.
Vikas, 23, a law student, and his friend Ashish Kumar, 27, were arrested from the Housing Board light point late on Friday night. The woman, a disc jockey, who was driving from Sector 9, Chandigarh, towards Panchkula at 12.35am, alleged that the two men followed her in their Tata Safari Storme. Both were drunk, she alleged, and at one point the SUV blocked her way and the person in the co-driver's seat started walking towards her vehicle.
As the case was registered for stalking under Section 354-D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code, which is a bailable offence when a person is booked the first time, the two walked free for the time being. Congress leader and former Union minister Manish Tewari said on Sunday that the police have "completely diluted" the case under pressure.…
Rape charge & twin attacks shatter peace of Himachal village Khushnagri (Aug 8, 2017, Indian Express)
Khushnagri, which translates as happy place, is a picturesque village at the foot of the Himalayas in Chamba of Himachal Pradesh. Over the last two weeks, however, the village has been struck by communal tension, following allegations that a 15-year-old Muslim girl was raped by a schoolteacher.
Police claim that Tek Chand, a science teacher at the Government Model Senior Secondary School in Khushnagri, has confessed to sexually exploiting the girl for over a year. Chand was arrested on July 27 and is in judicial custody. The girl, who hails from the Muslim-dominated village and used to study at this school, is now in class XI at the Government Senior Secondary School in nearby Tissa.…
The violence in the school was followed by three days of retaliatory violence in Tissa, where a number of shops were vandalised, allegedly selectively. The Congress alleges that the attackers were RSS and VHP men, while the BJP says they were common citizens.…
Condemning the increasing atrocities on Dalits and minorities across the country, the district unit of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) organised a divisional-level rally from the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Chowk to Jagat Circle here on Monday against the inaction of the Union government.
The protesters addressing the rally stated that the Union government has failed to put an end to attacks and atrocities being unleashed across the country against Dalits and Muslims in the name of protecting the cow.
BSP district president Hanumanth Bodankar accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of maintaining silence on the Una incident in Gujarat, where a group of youths belonging to the Dalit community were beaten up by cow vigilantes alleging that they had killed a cow. The Union government had failed to take action against its Ministers for making objectionable statements against Dalits.…
Opinions and Editorials
The Rajya Sabha election has once again brought to the fore what political unanimity means in India. I first encountered it in early 2001, when the Union of India filed an appeal in the Supreme Court (SC) against a decision of the Delhi High Court requiring candidates contesting elections to disclose pending criminal cases. Political unanimity was on display when several parties intervened in the case in support of the government. But the SC upheld the HC judgment.
Thereafter, 22 political parties joined hands against the SC judgment. The Representation of the People Act (RP Act) was amended unanimously in Parliament to render the SC judgment ineffective. The amendment of the Act was declared "unconstitutional" and "null and void" by the SC and finally, candidates had to submit affidavits disclosing pending criminal cases. This was in 2003.
In 2007, an application under the Right to Information Act was filed to the Income Tax department, requesting copies of Income Tax Returns (ITRs) of political parties. When the request was denied, first appeals under the RTI Act were filed. When these were rejected, a second appeal was filed before the Central Information Commission (CIC). Parties, without exception, argued that their ITRs must not be made public. The CIC, however, decided otherwise.…
Nitish Kumar's choice of words to describe his return as Chief Minister of Bihar at two different junctures in the past 20 months is a study in contrast. In November 2015, immediately after the Mahagathbandhan… the Chief Minister sought to place the electoral triumph in a larger sociopolitical context with ideological overtones.… Approximately a year and a half later, when Nitish Kumar broke up the Mahagathbandhan and revived his erstwhile alliance with the NDA and once again took oath of office as Chief Minister, political and ideological formulations were conspicuous by their absence.…
Many smaller political groups representing a wide range of ideological shades and opinions and non-political groups have highlighted points for an opposition action plan that seeks to focus on the BJP's own corruption and its aggressive pursuit of diversification of land use to favour BJP-friendly corporate groups, including the Adanis. However, this too has remained in the conceptual stage for a long time.
The unmistakable message of the Nitish Kumar manoeuvre and its follow-up plans is that the BJP and its top two leaders, Modi and Shah, have already started a no-holds-barred campaign for the 2019 elections. And, as in many instances in the recent past, they have taken by surprise the opposition which is floundering about for a tangible and effective counter-plan.
The Indian Public: Spellbound by False Promises and Roused by Misdirected Hatred - By Sumanta Banerjee (Aug 5, 2017, EPW)
The electoral victory of the rightwing, Hindu communal-fascist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh (UP), and its nomination of the most violent anti-Muslim rabble-rouser, a Hindu pseudo-sadhu called Adityanath (against whom criminal cases are pending) as the chief minister of UP, will remain etched forever on the pages of modern Indian history, as a register of the aggressive march of Hindu communal fascism, supported by a substantial and vociferous section of the people, and of the shameful subordination to it by the rest.
The electoral verdict in UP is an echo of what happened in the 2014 parliamentary elections, when the chief proponent of violent Hindu communalism became the Prime Minister. Although we may say that only 30% to 40% of the electorate voted for Narendra Modi and Adityanath, let us face the facts. Quite a large number of Indians are increasingly gravitating to the politics of a concoction of Hindutva, militarist nationalism, and dreams of individual prosperity - a populist potpourri that has been successfully cooked up by Prime Minister Modi, and is being sold through both his Sangh Parivar's organisational network and the channels of a salivating mass media.
We thus find the urban and rural youth seduced by dreams of upward mobility promised by Modi; the middle classes attracted by the Modi-manufactured concept of national pride that revives their faith in a nationalism that conflates with their traditional beliefs in Hindu rituals; and sections of Dalit and tribal youth in interior villages, educated respectively in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-run Saraswati Vidya Mandirs and Vanvasi Ashrams which have indoctrinated them into aggressive Hindu nationalism (for example, the Dang tribals were deployed by the Sangh Parivar to kill Muslims in Gujarat in 2002.…
In a civilised society, even one lynching is too many. But India has seen a spate of them of late. The data website IndiaSpend has compiled instances of cow-linked violence from 2010 to 2017. It found that during this period, 28 people were killed in 63 such incidents.
An overwhelming 97% of these attacks took place after Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government came to power in May 2014. About 86% of those killed were Muslims. In 21% of the cases, the police filed cases against the victims/survivors. Cow-related lynchings rose sharply in 2017, with 20 attacks in the first six months. This marks a 75% increase over 2016, which had been the worst year for mob lynchings since 2010.
The groundswell of public disgust at the lynchings crystallised under the banner of the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching (NCAML), which has initiated a campaign for a law against mob lynching. Also known as 'Masuka', short for Manav Suraksha Kanoon (law to protect humans), a draft of the proposed legislation is currently up on the Internet, awaiting suggestions from the public.…
No Indian needs an introduction to the 12-digit number that is now as vital to our lawful existence as the air we breathe. The Unique Identification Number (UID) or Aadhaar, as we know it, has quietly sneaked in upon us, taken centre stage and anchored our very existence to itself, all without us quite realizing it.
As Mukul Rohtagi, Attorney General of India has very well elucidated, "Even if you want to be forgotten, the state is not willing to forget you." From children availing their midday meals to students taking entrance tests, from patients taking TB treatment to erstwhile employees getting pensions, from the poor availing LPG subsidy to the commoner filing taxes, everybody has been neatly netted in the ubiquitous Aadhaar fold.…
The central government is slowly but surely incorporating the Aadhaar as an undisputed footprint of our official identity by making it mandatory for vital public transactions. Though it can check misuse of public amenities and illegal transactions, is it worth the omnipresent government shadow on personal identities? It would be difficult to answer in the affirmative before India has appropriate privacy laws in place.
The financially illiterate middle class may encounter chartered accountants around the dreaded season of tax returns - as the self-pitying definition goes, they are people we pay to tell us if we are broke and by how much. Auditors are higher up the angels' hierarchy, known only to businesses.…
The higher realm of big auditing firms seemingly moves to a more refined, institutional rhythm - till things crack and the light comes in. As former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A.P. Shah recently pointed out, auditors (and often the same firms as consultants) certify documents that help bag contracts which use up subsidies, export incentives, grants, a share of government revenue and taxes and of profits in PPP projects.
The Satyam case is where the auditors, famously, made a mess (and some of the individuals paid the price too). But we saw a wilful repeat of the same series of missteps by the same auditor (and, later, another multinational auditing firm) in the Vijay Mallya/United Spirits Ltd (USL) cases. This organisation - PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) - also works as consultants on several projects where public money and projects are involved. Its audit firms are collectively called PW India and the consultancy arm PwC.