Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
Last Saturday, I went to cover the Ramadan preparations in Old Delhi. After shooting for over an hour at the adjoining markets, I went inside the 17th century grand Mughal era mosque to capture some Ramadan moments with my camera as iftar time was drawing nearer.
A woman with sindoor in the middle-parting of her hair (this along with her next question makes me believe that she was not Muslim) was asking a Muslim woman, "Kya mai bhi roza walon ke saath baith sakti hun? (Am I allowed to join these people who are waiting to break their fast?)".
The other woman asked her to confirm it with a person who was offering prayers nearby. The non-Muslim lady went to the man and asked for his permission, the man replied, "Aray app bilkul baith sakti hain; rukiye," he said, then asked a young man, "Arhey beta inko dastarkhwan pe iftar ke lie baitha do," ("You are most welcome to join us in breaking the fast," and ordered some persons who were serving Iftar to make her sit on the dining spread (Dastarkhwan)." The Lady with her two sons joined the rozadars and desisted from eating until azaan (call for prayer) announced the breaking of fast.Back to Top]
US report: Gujarat govt moved against top activist Teesta Setalvad after she sought to indict Modi in 2002 riots (Jun 26, 2015, Counterview)
The latest US government's "India 2014 Human Rights Report" has criticized Gujarat government for filing a misappropriation case against well-known human rights activist Teesta Setalvad. This, it notes, was done "after a December 2013 decision by a Gujarat lower court rejecting a protest petition "to force the state to file criminal charges against then-Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and other officials for allegedly failing to stop Hindu reprisals in Gujarat in 2002."
The report states, "On January 5, Gujarat police filed a petition against human rights activists Teesta Setalvad, Javad Anand, Salim Sandhi, Feroz Gulzar Mohammed Pathan, and Tanvir Jafri for allegedly misappropriating funds donated to construct a memorial to the 2002 riots. The petition was filed after residents of the Gulberg Society, a housing complex, claimed that Setalvad misused 1.5 million rupees ($24,000) collected to build a memorial to the 69 persons killed during the 2002 riots."
Pointing out that Setalvad, one of the accused, is the founder of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), "a Mumbai-based organization responsible for numerous cases against alleged perpetrators of the 2002 Gujarat violence", the report points to how, throughout 2014, the state government "opposed activists anticipatory bail applications submitted to Gujarat and Mumbai courts in addition to the Indian Supreme Court."
Since this new govt came, I have been told to go soft on accused (Hindu extremists): Special Public Prosecutor (Jun 25, 2015, Indian Express)
Rohini Salian, Special Public Prosecutor in the case related to the Malegaon 2008 blasts in which four Muslims were killed during Ramzan and in which Hindu extremists are the accused, has said that over the past one year, since "the new government came to power," she has been under pressure from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to go "soft" in the case.
Soon after the NDA government came to power last year, she said, she got a call from one of the officers of the NIA - the agency investigating all the alleged Hindu extremist cases - asking to come over to speak with her. "He didn't want to talk over the phone. He came and said to me that there is a message that I should go soft," Salian told The Indian Express.
Matters came to a head this month, on June 12, she said, when just before one of the regular hearings in the case in the Sessions Court, she was told by the same NIA officer that "higher-ups" did not want her to appear in the court for the State of Maharashtra and that another advocate would attend the proceedings.
After month-long investigation, Uttar Pradesh police managed to arrest a youth for threatening to trigger a blast at the May 25 public meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi held on the completion of one year of the Central government.
Police sources today said the accused identified as Ramveer was arrested yesterday. Police said the youth's mental condition was not stable as he fell ill and was admitted to a hospital immediate after his arrest.
The accused had sent a SMS to the authorities for threatening to trigger a blast at the public rally of the Prim Minister at Nagla Chandrabhan, the birth place of BJP's ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhaya.
Tension prevailed in Tamil Nadu's Vellore district on Saturday evening after report of death of a youth from Ambur town in the district in hospital. Youth named Shameel Ahamed was allegedly taken to police station for investigation on June 15. He was allegedly kept in an unidentified location for four days and brutally attacked by Pallikonda Police Inspector Martin Premraj. On June 26, Ahamed who was admitted at Chennai Rajeev Gandhi Hospital, died.
This news created tension in Ambur as angry mob pelted stones at the police station and torched vehicles. Earlier also there has been reports of death of youth detained by police. Tameem Ansari, 14 year boy from Vettuvanggeni was taken to police station for investigation but was allegedly shot at by Chennai Neelankarai Police Inspector. Similarly, in SP Patinam of Ramanathapuram District, a youth named Syed Muhammed was taken by police for investigation but was allegedly shot and killed by Sub Inspector police Kalidass.
In Pernambut of Vellore District, Police took a boy named Riswan and had beaten him so badly that he too died at the police station. Incidentally Police Inspector Martin Premraj has been accused of killing Ahmed also. Women from Muthupettai, who went to police to lodge complain were also allegedly attacked by Traffic Sub Inspector Pitchai Muthu Kannan at Pattukottai Police Station.
Religion-based violence in Indian society "continued to be a concern," during the first year of Narendra Modi's rule as Prime Minister, according to a report on worldwide human rights abuses released by the U.S. State Department.
In its annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices unveiled on Thursday the Department said that the most significant human rights problems were police and security force abuses, including extrajudicial killings, torture, and rape; widespread corruption that contributed to ineffective responses to crime, including those against women and members of scheduled castes or tribes; and societal violence based on gender, religious affiliation, and caste or tribe.
More broadly, other human rights problems of India that found mention in the report include disappearances, hazardous prison conditions, arbitrary arrest and detention, and lengthy pre-trial detention, all exacerbated by a judiciary that "remained backlogged, leading to lengthy delays and the denial of due process."
The NDA government has set the ball rolling to correct the "errors" in NCERT history textbooks introduced by the UPA. Historians from the Indian Council of Historical Research and elsewhere perused the textbooks from classes 8 to 12 in a review meeting held by the NCERT recently.
Some recommendations that were made include adding Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose's role in history and omitting a picture of a Frenchman smoking a cigar on page 44 of the Class 10 book. There were concerns over Class 9 book giving 'greater prominence' to cricket than the French Revolution. The NCERT will take a call on the numerous recommendations made by the participants, who divided themselves on the basis of their specializations in ancient, medieval and modern history.
The present textbooks replaced the ones introduced by the Vajpayee government. BJP's ideological fountainhead RSS sees rewriting of history as crucial, as ideologies legitimize their present on the basis of the past. They believe that Marxists and other "secular" historians had written histories in ways that denied Hindus pride in their past. Critics, however, say the Hindutva agenda is to communalise history and to seek to bolster the cultural pride of Hindus through exaggerated accounts.
Maharashtra Additional Chief Secretary K P Bakshi on Tuesday submitted his report on Mumbai Police chief Rakesh Maria's meeting with tainted ex-IPL boss Lalit Modi to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, based on which the government is soon expected to take a decision.
Meanwhile, opposition Congress accused Maria of "inappropriate conduct" in meeting Lalit Modi, who is facing charges of financial irregularities and is currently under ED scanner. Former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who has earlier said he was not briefed by Maria of the meeting which happened during his tenure, said the senior IPS officer was guilty of "inappropriate conduct".
Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil of Congress said: "Maria should quit his post or be suspended from service". "It was saddening to hear Maria saying he had informed late R R Patil, who was the Home Minister then. Patil is no more. This does not behove well for a top ranking police officer as it is an administrative matter."
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has asked the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) to withdraw its claim over Ram Janambhoomi in Ayodhya, Srikrishna Janambhoomi in Mathura and Kashi Vishwanath Temple in Varanasi if it wants to "live in peace and harmony" with their Hindu brethren in the country.
"There have been enough fights; there is now a need to rewrite history. The AIMPLB can make new history by withdrawing its claims on these places," the VHP leader said. "Hindus and Muslims can live in harmony in the country only when the latter hand over these three places to Hindus," Singhal added.
"The Ayodhya issue is currently pending in court and we will abide by the court's judgement," said AIMPLB member Zafaryab Jilani. The oldest litigant in the Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid title suits Hashim Ansari also rejected the VHP's demand, saying that Muslims will accept the court's verdict in the matter. There have been attempts by a section of Hindu seers in Ayodhya to arrive at an out-of-court settlement but they have not yielded any result.
Hitting out at Bharatiya Janata Party leader H. Raja for his reported comments on Muslim students wearing 'purdah' while going to school, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi leader and MLA M. H. Jawahirullah demanded his arrest under National Security Act (NSA).
In a statement issued here on Saturday, he said that the BJP leader had demanded that Muslims should be prohibited from wearing 'purdah' as they "misused" it for copying during examinations.
Condemning the remarks, he said that girl students wore 'purdah' as a fundamental religious duty and it was ridiculous on the part of Mr. Raja to make the disparaging comment. The students enjoyed the Constitutional right to wear 'purdah' and skull cap and the BJP leader should know that no Muslim student was caught copying with 'purdah.' As Mr. Raja was making such derogatory and provocative remarks, the State government should detain him under the NSA, he said.
A BJP worker was allegedly molested by a party leader and his four associates, police said on Sunday. The woman in her complaint alleged that BJP leader Anup Tiwari molested her on June 20 in his car on the pretext of dropping her home, Station Incharge of Railbazar police station Shravan Yadav said.
The woman complained about the incident to local party authorities and the next day Anup and his four associates reached party office and molested the complainant and tried to strip her too, he said. She again reported both incidents to local party leaders and then to state leadership but when no action was taken by them, she approached Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur. Following the SSP's order an FIR was registered on Friday night against the accused, he said.
An investigation is on in the case, the Station Incharge said, adding that soon the accused would be arrested. Meanwhile, a local BJP leader, requesting anonymity, said that its an internal matter of the party and an investigation report over the issue would be sent to state leadership.
Opinions and Editorials
The main reason the BJP is afraid of saffron terror probes: they seem to point to the RSS - By Ipsita Chakravarty (Jun 26, 2015, Scroll.in)
Rohini Salian, special public prosecutor in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, has blown the cover on an open secret - the state's reluctance to prosecute saffron terror. In an interview to The Indian Express, Salian said that, soon after the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government came to power last year, she was instructed by the National Investigation Agency to "go soft" on Hindu extremists accused in the case. This month, just as the case was to come up for a regular hearing before the Supreme Court, she was reportedly told another advocate would appear for the proceedings. The message, Salian says, was that state agencies did not want "favourable orders".
In a raft of terror cases that emerged in the 2000s and implicated Hindu extremists, state responses followed a familiar pattern, of denial, cover-up and delay. As they swung into action after each blast, state agencies seemed to operate on the assumption that terror, by definition, has a Muslim face, is propelled by jihadist agendas and must be "anti-national". Malegaon, 2006, Samjhauta Express, 2007, Mecca Masjid, 2007, Ajmer Sharif, 2007, and again Malegaon, 2008, all tell the same story - Muslims rounded up and arrested in a reflex reaction, fingers pointed at terror outfits like the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, and then the appearance of an amended list of suspects, mostly Hindu.
The institutional resistance to proceed against Hindutva terror suspects, in a police force and among intelligence agencies that have few Muslim personnel, did not stop there. In the 2006 blast in Nanded, which killed two people suspected of making bombs for a Hindutva terror network, the Central Bureau of Investigations diluted the charges, initially framed under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, and the terror trail went cold as initial leads were allegedly not followed up.
The Sunday Times report had deep and widespread reverberations in India, giving rise to the first major and concrete crisis for the Modi government. There were several components to this crisis. To start with, it raised serious questions about the continuance in positions of power of two senior BJP leaders, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje. Both of them were seen to have misused their powers to facilitate the operations of controversial cricket organiser Lalit Modi, a fugitive from due process under Indian law.
It also emerged that the leaders and their family members had familial ties with Lalit Modi that led to allegations of conflict of interest and that some of them had got into questionable financial dealings with him. The emergence of these questions also unravelled other unseemly goings-on in which many top leaders of the BJP were involved and continue to be so.
It is feared that all this might impact the BJP's chances in the forthcoming Bihar Assembly elections. Amidst all this, the RSS is seeking ways and means, rather agitatedly, to maintain the balance of power in its political arm. Modi's free-flowing articulation has been replaced by dead silence. Clearly, the carefully groomed sheen around the supreme leader and his government is getting corroded fast.
Do you stay in Delhi? If so, it's time to recall all the mobile phone conversations you had with friends, family and associates. It's time to recall the private messages and pictures you shared on WhatsApp and other social networking sites.
It's time to remember the sensitive data meant for your close associates, your lawyer or chartered accountant. If you believe that the secrets you share electronically remain between you and your partner, you are probably wrong! All this while, shadowy figures have been tracking each and every detail you shared, and they work for agencies of the Government of India itself.
Taking a cue from the United States National Investigation Agency (NSA) clandestine surveillance project PRISM, the central government has developed a Central Monitoring System (CMS) in India. The project is designed for 'lawful interception and monitoring communication' over phone and internet.
This past March, a group of community activists in Aurangabad, an industrial city in central India, convened a morcha - a demonstration - to protest a series of blatantly anti-Muslim measures taken by the state government in Mumbai, which is controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The leaders of the demonstration then walked up a long driveway to formally present their demands to the district commissioner, who promised to relay them to the Maharashtra state authorities. The humble folk stayed back in the tent so as not to block traffic. Quite a few of them were qureish - cattle butchers - who had lost their jobs when the government had banned the consumption of beef the week before.
India has survived, and thrived, as a multiconfessional, multicultural nation because of a shared faith in secular principles enshrined in the country's constitution. But India's Muslims, who have worn that secular identity as a suit of armor in Hindu India, now feel more vulnerable than they have in many years.
The past week and more has not been a good advertisement for either India or the United States, the largest and the oldest democracy, respectively. On 17 June, a white supremacist killed nine people at a church in the US. The victims were all African-American. Four days later, on 21 June, a few Hindu supremacists called into question the credentials of the Vice President of India.
The victim in this case was a Muslim by the name of Mohammad Hamid Ansari, who holds the second highest constitutional office in the country. Though dissimilar, the two events highlight how pernicious race and religion could be for multicultural, multi-ethnic and multireligious societies such as the US and India.…
The unsavoury episode is a hark back to 2002 when Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, targeted the then Chief Election Commissioner, James Michael Lyngdoh, for delaying Assembly election in the state. It had earned Modi the opprobrium of the then Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who censured him for making indecorous insinuations at Lyngdoh's religion, Christianity.…
It is becoming more and more apparent that the Central government under the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is determined to paint every government institution in the country saffron. The latest victim is the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune. Gajendra Singh Chauhan, who played Yudhistir in the television serial Mahabharat, has been appointed president of the FTII and chairman of its governing council.
FTII students have gone on strike in protest against the ad hoc selection of governing council members. The post of the chairperson lay vacant for six months after the previous incumbent Saeed Mirza's term was over, but the students are not prepared to accept Chauhan.
Vikas Urs, a final-year student and member of the FTII's student association, explained why Chauhan's appointment was unacceptable: "He does not have the credentials to run a place like this. Putting aside that he is a supporter of a right-wing party that has proved it has little respect for freedom of expression, Chauhan has absolutely no experience other than acting in television shows and some very ordinary films."…