IAMC Weekly News Roundup - December 15th, 2014

India American American Muslims

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Peace, Pluralism and Justice 

In this issue of IAMC News Digest

Announcements

Communal Harmony

News Headlines

Opinions & Editorials

Announcements

Forced conversions in Agra and call for anti-conversion bill are brazen attacks on India's Constitution say Indian Americans

Sunday, Dec 14, 2014

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC - www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos has condemned the forced conversion of Muslims in Agra as well as the government's suggested "remedy", of pushing the anti-conversion bill, currently adopted in five states across India, as brazen attacks on the nation's Constitution. News reports indicate 200 Muslims were made to participate in a ceremony, "converting" them to Hinduism. The individuals later denied having changed their faith, and referred to false promises as well as intimidation at the hands of the Hindutva militant organizations as the reason for their participation in the ceremony.

The fact that an RSS offshoot is seeking donations to convert Muslims and Christians in Aligarh to Hinduism on December 25th, also exposes the Sangh's hypocritical position on the issue of religious conversion. While genuine religious conversion is a personal choice that should be respected, the Hindu nationalist organizations have championed anti-conversion laws, ostensibly to combat the very tactics they are now adopting. In practice the laws are used to curtail conversions out of personal choice, and thus represent a further constricting of the religious freedom landscape.

The movement to forcibly convert India's minorities, mainly Christians, Muslims and Dalits to Hinduism, is being spearheaded by offshoots of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) such as the Bajrang Dal, that have been implicated in some of the worst massacres of minorities in recent Indian history. In the context of the rapid increase in violence and a sustained hate campaign against minorities, the forced conversion drive is another attempt to undermine India's secular fabric. The anti-conversion laws, on the other hand, compel the individual seeking to convert to solicit permission from the state, and represents an unconstitutional intrusion in a matter of personal religious belief. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion has referred to such laws as threats to religious freedom.

The government's duplicity on this issue is further evidence that the new administration led by the BJP, itself an offshoot of the RSS, is actively pursuing the Hindutva agenda that seeks to remake India as a Hindu nation where minorities are relegated to the status of second-class citizens. Social analysts and thinkers believe the Hindu ultra-nationalist movement is also manipulating Dalits to further their own supremacist agenda.

"Compelling individuals to adopt one faith, while actively seeking to curtail genuine conversions out of that faith, exposes the desire to impose a majoritarian agenda on the country. It is also a travesty of international norms, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which India is a signatory," said Mr. Ahsan Khan, President of IAMC. " The fissures within the NDA government are a natural outcome of the narrow and divisive agenda being pursued by BJP leaders and Hindu supremacist organizations aligned with the RSS," added Mr. Khan.

In recent years, religious conversion issues came to the fore when Swami Aseemanand, a senior Sangh leader who is currently on trial in a series of bombings in India, revealed how he spearheaded the forced conversion programme of the Sangh in Gujarat's Dangs district, that involved destruction of at least thirty churches just between mid-December of 1998 and mid-January of the following year. His fiery zeal to convert the tribal's did not involve any concern for alleviating their poverty or social status. Aseemanand was later rewarded by the RSS for his violent tactics when he was granted the annual Shri Guruji award. The bombings for which Aseemanand is currently in prison, had a combined toll of over 85 lives, and were initially blamed on Muslim youth, for which they were illegally incarcerated.

IAMC has called upon the BJP-led administration, to rethink its approach to India's resurgence. Creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation and heaping abuse on minorities will gain neither respect nor influence on the world stage. On the contrary, India's vision for development can be seriously compromised if it involves the alienation of minorities, representing a population of over 250 million.

Indian American Muslim Council is the largest advocacy organization of Indian Muslims in the United States with chapters across the nation.

For more information, please visit http://www.iamc.com

CONTACT:
Ishaq Syed
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REFERENCES:

Groups Linked to RSS Claim Conversion of 200 Muslims into Hinduism in Agra
http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/groups-linked-to-rss-claim-conversion-of-200-muslims-into-hinduism-in-agra-632305

Lure of ration cards led to Agra 'reconversion'?
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45443004.cms

RSS body seeks donations to fund Christmas 'conversions' in Aligarh
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45484672.cms

Woman booked under anti-conversion law
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/30164030.cms

UN Official: India's 'Conversion' Laws Threaten Religious Freedom
http://blogs.wsj.com/indiarealtime/2014/03/10/un-official-indias-conversion-laws-threaten-religious-freedom/

MDMK's exit sets NDA thinking
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/mdmks-exit-sets-nda-thinking/article6674139.ece

Indian Agra Muslim fear conversions to Hinduism
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-30429118

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Communal Harmony

Workshop by minorities commission to spread communal harmony (Dec 12, 2014, The Hindu)

Chairperson of Karnataka State Minorities Commission, Balkhees Banu, on Friday said the Commission has planned to hold workshops across the state to inculcate among people the values of communal harmony, love among human beings and other issues.

Speaking to presspersons here during her visit to the district, Ms. Banu said no religion preaches hatred and violence. Referring to recent communal violence in Udupi and Dakshina Kannada, the Chairperson said she has urged people belonging to minority communities to walk a mile forward in extending friendly gesture towards others and live harmoniously.

The workshops, Ms. Banu said would either be held at district headquarters or at taluk headquarters if people belonging to minority communities live in such places in large numbers. This is one of the several steps being envisaged by the Commission to ensure peace in society, she said. …

http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Mangalore/workshop-by-minorities-commission-to-spread-communal-harmony/article6686428.ece

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Agra: Muslim families deny changing faith, slam Hindu groups (Dec 9, 2014, Hindustan Times)

About 57 Muslim families contested on Tuesday hard-line Hindu groups Dharma Jagaran Manch and Bajrang Dal's claim that they have switched to Hinduism, saying they were tricked into a conversion event couched as a "homecoming ceremony" in Agra. "We were not aware that it was an exercise to convert us to Hinduism. We are Muslims and would continue to be so," said Noor Mohammad, one of the people who alleged that the two Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh offshoots had lured them into Monday's programme to collect BPL and ration cards.

The Bajrang Dal said the families "reconverted to their original faith" at the event after having embraced Islam some 25 years ago. Such reports stoke fears of the rise of the Hindu right fringe which has shown signs of assertiveness since the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The so-called new converts, who eke out a living by picking rags and doing odd jobs, live in the Ved Nagar area on Devri Road of Agra. This colony of poor people is inhabited mostly by Hindu Dalits and the Muslim families, comprising 300 members, who had migrated from Bengal and Bihar. …

The rebuff caught many off guard because they saw Ismail Siddique, popular as thekedar (contractor) change to Raj Kumar on Monday and pledge to worship Hindu deities. The new converts were apparently given an idol of Kali after a ritualistic purification prayer. Ismail on Tuesday denied having changed his faith. "We are Muslims and never converted to Hinduism." Red-faced organisers of the function promptly blamed "pressure from outside to reverse their reconversion".…

http://www.hindustantimes.com/StoryPage/Print/1294852.aspx

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Conversion row: RSS man booked (Dec 10, 2014, Times of India)

Tension prevailed in Agra and both district administration and police came on front-foot when hundreds of people from Muslim organizations and senior Muslim clerics came on roads and staged demonstration against the alleged forced re-conversion in Mantola on Wednesday. An FIR under section 153 B (Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration) and 417 (punishment for cheating) of IPC has been registered against Kishore Balmiki, member of Jan Jagran Manch of Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in the re-conversion case. This came even as Bajrang Dal leaders claimed they had proof that the re-conversion was not forced.

Talking to TOI, SSP Shalabh Mathur informed that a police team who visited the spot on Tuesday night took the version of the slum people. Their leader Ismile son of Yakoob resident of West-Bengal have given a written complaint to the police claiming that he has been cheated by Kishore Balmiki who converted him and 200 people of his slum to Hindu fold in the name providing them BPL and ration cards.

"An FIR has been lodged under section 153 B and 417. Administration have also placed a Local intelligence Unit (LIU) officer in the slum to keep a tab on the developments," said CO Sadar, Asim Chaudhary adding that no arrest has been made in the matter and investigations are still going-on. …

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45460388.cms

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Forced conversions and call for anti-conversion bill are brazen attacks on India's Constitution say Indian Americans (Dec 14, 2014, Milli Gazette)

The Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC - www.iamc.com), an advocacy group dedicated to safeguarding India's pluralist and tolerant ethos has condemned the forced conversion of Muslims in Agra as well as the government's suggested "remedy", of pushing the anti-conversion bill, currently adopted in five states across India, as brazen attacks on the nation's Constitution. News reports indicate 200 Muslims were made to participate in a ceremony, "converting" them to Hinduism. The individuals later denied having changed their faith, and referred to false promises as well as intimidation at the hands of the Hindutva militant organizations as the reason for their participation in the ceremony.

The fact that an RSS offshoot is seeking donations to convert Muslims and Christians in Aligarh to Hinduism on December 25th, also exposes the Sangh's hypocritical position on the issue of religious conversion. While genuine religious conversion is a personal choice that should be respected, the Hindu nationalist organizations have championed anti-conversion laws, ostensibly to combat the very tactics they are now adopting. In practice the laws are used to curtail conversions out of personal choice, and thus represent a further constricting of the religious freedom landscape.

The movement to forcibly convert India's minorities, mainly Christians, Muslims and Dalits to Hinduism, is being spearheaded by offshoots of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) such as the Bajrang Dal, that have been implicated in some of the worst massacres of minorities in recent Indian history. In the context of the rapid increase in violence and a sustained hate campaign against minorities, the forced conversion drive is another attempt to undermine India's secular fabric. The anti-conversion laws, on the other hand, compel the individual seeking to convert to solicit permission from the state, and represents an unconstitutional intrusion in a matter of personal religious belief. The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion has referred to such laws as threats to religious freedom.…

http://www.milligazette.com/news/11410-forced-conversions-and-call-for-anti-conversion-bill-are-brazen-attacks-on-india-s-constitution-say-indian-americans

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Protest in Rajya Sabha over eulogising Gandhi's killer Godse (Dec 11, 2014, Times of India)

The Rajya Sabha witnessed protests on Thursday as opposition leaders raised the issue of Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse being eulogised in Maharashtra.

"Nathuram Godse 'shaurya divas' (bravery day) is being observed in Maharashtra," said Congress leader Husain Dalwai, raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha. He alleged that two legislators were also in the list of invitees.

"They are deliberately observing the 'shaurya divas' of the man who killed the father of the nation. There was forced conversion in Agra, and now this…," Dalwai said, alleging that groups associated with ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were responsible for this.…

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/45471862.cms

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Arms lessons at temple: RSS faces the heat (Dec 10, 2014, Deccan Chronicle)

Devaswom Ombudsman Justice R. Bhaskaran has filed a report before the Kerala high court stating that he has received complaints against Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for using the premises of Thrikkadavoor Mahadeva Temple, Kollam to impart arms training and to store arms and explosives.

The court initiated suo motu proceedings on the basis of the report and issued notices to the Travancore Devaswom Board and the Temple Advisory Committee. A division bench comprising Justice P.N. Ravindran and Justice P.B. Suresh Kumar issued the notices.

Retired high court judge Justice R. Bhaskaran, the current ombudsman, submitted that he had received complaints from two local residents and several others alleging that the RSS was using the temple premises for imparting arms lessons.…

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/141210/nation-current-affairs/article/arms-lessons-temple-rss-faces-heat

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Ram Naik is fit case for removal as Governor (Dec 14, 2014, Sabrang)

Former President Peoples Union for Civil Liberties and former chief justice of Delhi High court Rajindar Sachar said that statement of U.P. Governor Ram Naik is a gratuitous insult not only to the biggest Minority in the country but to overwhelming population of the country who are against creating a religious divide.

In a statement issued here Justice Sachar said, "I am shocked at the constitutional impropriety of Uttar Pradesh Governor Shri Ram Naik statement publically calling for the early construction of Ram Temple. His describing it as a desire by everyone is a crude partisan political statement. Surely he knows that this disruptive action of RSShas already done immense damage to the secular face of India."

"It is still more shocking to people like us that it should have been spoken at Avadh University named after Dr. Lohia the socialist leader, who throughout fought for communal harmony", said Justice Sachar. Constitution-expert Justice Sachar said, "The Governor is expected to have an even handed approach to all the citizens of the State. But when Governor Naik makes a statement which will inevitably cause grave alarm to 18% Minority Population of U.P., I have no doubt that at the minimum it is a fit case where the least that Central Government is expected to do is to transfer him to another state though frankly it is a fit case for removal of the Governor."

http://www.sabrang.com/news/2014/14dec14.htm

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Muzaffarnagar riots: Six accused in Kutba killings arrested (Dec 14, 2014, Indian Express)

Six persons have been arrested in connection with communal killings at Kutba village during Muzaffarnagar riots last year, police said. The accused were arrested yesterday and have been identified as Deshpal, Chatra, Buresh, Jitender, Guddu and Shoki, police said, adding they had been absconding since last year.

They were produced in court here and sent to judicial custody till December 25, police added. On December 8, one person was arrested in connection with the case. Eight persons, including a woman were killed and 20 others injured during riots in Kutba on September 8 last year. Police had registered cases against 110 rioters.

According to the Special Investigation Team (SIT), which was set up to probe the riots, more than 50 people were allegedly involved.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/muzaffarnagar-riots-six-accused-in-kutba-killings-arrested/

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"Communal tensions, riots efforts at Hindutvisation of public spaces in Delhi" (Dec 10, 2014, Twocircles.net)

Pointing out at a "definite pattern and imprint in the violent incidents and designs to keep the minds of minorities agitated", scores of concerned residents, activists and thinkers from across Delhi on Wednesday said they had no hesitation in saying that the members of the ruling party and their patron organisations are responsible for this state of affairs.

Poet-essayist, cultural and art administrator and former civil servant Ashok Vajpeyi; former member of the Planning Commission and writer Syeda Hameed; writer-publisher Urvashi Butalia and former civil servant and writer Harsh Mander are among the concerned residents of Delhi who have come together to fight communal hatred in the national capital under the banner of Nagrik Ekta Manch (NEM). …

In a statement NEM said: "From the narratives in the report it is evident that we are faced with communalism in power. We deduce that these processes are being utilised to produce a Hindutvisation of public spaces and the public sphere. Communalism in India has entered a new phase and we feel an urgent need to understand the uniqueness of this ruling Hindutva communal project." NEM believes that an approach is needed to be adopted in defending the secular character of the public sphere.

http://twocircles.net/2014dec10/1418220477.html

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Common prayer norm irks AMC Urdu medium schools (Dec 15, 2014, Indian Express)

Discontinuing the decades old practice of conducting separate prayers during the morning and afternoon assembly sessions by municipal schools in Urdu and Gujarati medium, the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) School Board has asked the Urdu medium schools sharing the campus with Gujarati medium schools to have a common prayer.

This decision has irked parents of Urdu school students who are largely Muslims. They have also submitted a memorandum to the AMC School Board authorities questioning the intention behind this change and have demanded the authorities to allow the old practice to continue in Urdu municipal schools.

"If the intention of the authorities in removing this age-old practice is honest then why have they not passed any written orders but verbally asked the schools to conduct their prayers with the Gujarati medium schools. We do not want our children to follow anti-Islam prayers in schools," said Mohammad Ayub, the president of Jamalpur-based Social Edification and Welfare Association, in his representation submitted on December 8 to the Administrative Officer L D Desai.…

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/common-prayer-norm-irks-amc-urdu-medium-schools/

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Don't want a religion that only rejects us, say the Aligarh Dalits on RSS list (Dec 14, 2014, Indian Express)

…Messi believes that for the Dharam Jagran Samiti, he is little more than a "target". All his life as a Dalit Hindu, he adds, "I felt like an outcaste and rejected. Teachers at school failed us deliberately and beat us repeatedly. I left studies in Class V. My parents would tell me this was our fate and I should not feel bad. But I decided that religion and caste would not bog me down. When my children faced the same problem in school, I decided to switch religion," he says.

Since the conversion, Messi adds, his colleagues allow him to sit next to them. His daughter, a Class XI student, says schoolmates no longer avoid her.

He adds: "Hindu hamein insaan nahin samjahte hain (The Hindus don't see us as human beings). We don't want anything to do with a religion that doesn't give us love but only rejection. They are ready to hold animals on their lap but don't have any place for us. Even if they call us for the havan, we will not go." …

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/dont-want-a-religion-that-only-rejects-us-say-the-aligarh-dalits-on-rss-list/99/

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Opinions and Editorials

RSS' reconversion project - By Bharat Bhushan (Dec 13, 2014, Asian Age)

…The Hindutva activists, who so brazenly converted 57 families of poor migrant Muslims of Agra with the promise of Below the Poverty Line (BPL) ration cards and water supply to "return home" (ghar vapsi) to Hinduism are unlikely to be deterred by debates in Parliament. …

The Dharam Jagran Samiti, an RSS body, is seeking donations for conversion Rs 5 lakh to convert a Muslim and Rs 1 lakh to convert a Christian to Hinduism.…Moreover, foreign funds for conversion are used just as Christian missionaries are said to do. The activities of the RSS in tribal areas have been funded by a US-based body, International Development Relief Fund (IDRF). According to the Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, also based in the US, 82 per cent of all IDRF funding goes to the RSS in India and 70 per cent of the monies are used for "Hinduisation/tribal/ education" work, aimed at spreading Hindutva ideology among tribals. …

It is part of the ideological expansion of Hindutva politics that we are witnessing in the banning of German from school curricula and making Sanskrit compulsory in some states and schools, providing a historical "date" for the Mahabharat war and demanding that the Bhagavad Gita be declared a national scripture.

The response to the RSS expansion has been tremendous, with everybody and his uncle trying to project some real or imaginary family connection to the RSS. Spearheading this expansion of Hindutva ideology are men who wear non-Vedic khaki short-pants and broad military style belts, borrowing their militaristic ideology from the Brown Shirts of Mussolini, clearly a product of Kalyug.

http://www.asianage.com/columnists/rss-reconversion-project-899

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Will Narendra Modi Speak Out? - Editorial (Dec 13, 2014, EPW)

Each week brings a fresh instance of poison against minorities, a better phrase to describe the old phenomenon of communalism which now expresses itself more in one direction than in both. Last week, it was a union minister of state using vile language to describe non-Hindus; this week it has been the Dharma Jagran Manch using the promise of access to welfare schemes to get a group of very poor Muslims in Agra to convert to Hinduism. One fears what next week's programme of the Manch calling on donations to help convert Christians to Hinduism in Aligarh ahead of Christmas will lead to. …

Narendra Modi and his team had learnt the "right" lessons from the organised communal killings of 2002 in Gujarat. The first lesson was that a sharp communal polarisation, often founded on the fear and confusion created by the threat of violence, was itself enough to provide handsome electoral dividends. The second lesson was that localised or low-key communal mobilisation also pays off. Organised violence too pays dividends, but it creates political baggage that takes years to shed as Narendra Modi learnt in Gujarat. …

Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot ride two horses at the same time, one of communal mobilisation and the other of "development". The Prime Minister of India must explicitly come out against the growing anti-minority sentiment in the country. When will he speak up against the spreading poison? Does he want to do so?

http://www.epw.in/editorials/will-narendra-modi-speak-out.html

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Silence, please! - By Indira Balaji (Dec 12, 2014, Hindu Businessline)

You would think a government that takes over at a critical time would plunge into work immediately. From what we see, it's not to be. In the party's list of priorities, some things - such as writing essays in Sanskrit and deciding after over six decades of Independence which among a million books ought to be the national 'holy book' - appear more critical than feeding malnourished babies or at least letting them live if they happen to be female. …

But between Modi and his mission comes a bunch of ministers, MPs and party leaders who appear unaware of the concept of talking sensibly. From Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who said a few weeks after coming to power that "small incidents" such as rape are ruining the nation's tourism potential, to Minister of State Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who informed the country's non-Hindus that they're actually the progeny of Lord Rama, the BJP folks could well use a crash course in diplomacy. If that is too tall an order, the least they can do is keep quiet.

Why Modi has failed to rein them in is what is surprising. Not a man known for mildness of manner with colleagues and subordinates, you would think a frown from him would effectively clam up his party men. Either the frown has not surfaced, or is going unnoticed. Modi may recall that this time around, the masses specifically voted for him, not his party. He, therefore, bears a personal responsibility to his electors.…

http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/opinion/silence-please/article6686587.ece

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Distorting history, manufacturing culture - By Suhit K. Sen (Dec 26, 2014, Frontline)

The recent cultural blowback we have seen from the Hindu front line in the form of the absurdly precipitous move to introduce Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalayas midway through an academic session should not occasion any great surprise. To be fair to the Hindutva pedlars, they have never made any secret of their allegiance to what they are pleased to call cultural nationalism, never mind that by riding roughshod over the cultural diversities of the “nation”, they imperil its integrity, to which they are rhetorically wedded.

Before and after Independence, what lay behind the ideological postures of the Hindu Right - comprising, at different points of time, several combinations of a section of the Congress party, the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), the Hindu Mahasabha, the Jan Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), and a raft of sundry organisations-was the notion that the Indian subcontinent and “nation” had some kind of an inherent “Hindu” essence and those not prima facie Hindu had to absorb and inculcate it to be truly Indian.

Since logical consistency, rational thinking and a desire to acquaint oneself with empirical knowledge were never the forte of the Hindutva merchants, what was never appreciated, in the first place, was that there was no such thing as a Hindu essence, primarily because, at the least in the social and sociological senses, Hinduism as a way of life was too protean to admit of such a pigeonholing. The obvious reason for eliding this was that the project adopted by the Hindu Right was not exactly academic, nor was it theological or moral; it was primarily political. Reference to reality or old-fashioned facts would dilute the political content of the ideology.…

http://www.frontline.in/cover-story/distorting-history-manufacturing-culture/article6672209.ece

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One book for India - Editorial (Dec 10, 2014, The Hindu)

Union Ministers and senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party seem to thrive directly or tangentially on controversies related to religion. In proposing that the Bhagavad Gita be declared a 'national scripture', External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was not setting off a debate on what, if anything at all, should be India's national scripture. She was, instead, trying to prepare the stage for a communally polarised political debate on a Hindu religious scripture. As a secular democracy, India cannot possibly adopt as its national scripture a book revered by any one religion. …

To argue, as BJP vice-president Dinesh Sharma did, that the Gita is not a religious book, but is meant for the whole of humanity, is rather disingenuous. Irrespective of the extent of its secular appeal, the Gita, a part of the Mahabharata, is a Hindu text associated with Lord Krishna, and cannot qualify as a national book. …

Freedom of conscience that is guaranteed under the Constitution includes the right to practise any or no religion, and seeking to elevate a sacred scripture of any one religion as India's national scripture is tantamount to undermining the secular basis of the Constitution.… That not just junior ministers but even a senior leader should make such a communally divisive suggestion is disturbing. If indeed there is a felt need to hold up one book as a national book, then it should be the country's Constitution, and nothing else.

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/one-book-for-india/article6676859.ece

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No Safe Spaces - Editorial (Dec 13, 2014, EPW)

Two years and 10 days apart in the same city, Delhi, a woman is raped, not in a bus but in a private taxi. On 16 December 2012, a 23-year-old woman was brutalised by five men in a moving bus and did not survive. On 6 December 2014, a 27-year-old woman was attacked by the driver of a private taxi she had hired. She managed to record the licence plate of the taxi, went to the police, got a medical examination done and informed her family and friends. Within two days, the driver was apprehended and is being charged.

In 2012, there was a massive outcry, demonstrations across the country and demands for justice for women. The government was compelled to respond. The Justice Verma Committee produced in record time an excellent report recommending changes in the law. And as expected, the government cherry-picked the recommendations. Yet, the law was changed and made more stringent. Women perhaps had a false sense of confidence that they would be safer from sexual predators, that a stronger law would be a deterrent. That unreal expectation has once again been shattered. …

Women in India will never feel completely safe in the public space, in public transport, in private transport, in their homes, in the fields, at their place of work or in a known neighbourhood so long as men believe they can assert their power over them by using the weapons of rape and assault. Men's sense of entitlement over women, arising out of the institution of patriarchy, is at the root of this violence. We need to address how to dismantle patriarchal mindsets and institutions rather than divert energy and attention to subsidiary questions such as privatised transport systems.

http://www.epw.in/editorials/no-safe-spaces.html

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