Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
That nationalism has been reduced to waving flags, shouting slogans and penalising people for not chanting 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' shows "lack of confidence among those making the demand for slogans", writes Romila Thapar in her new book.
The book, titled 'On Nationalism', which she co-authored with legal expert A. G. Noorani and cultural critic Sadanand Menon, addresses one of the hotly debated topic of our times. The veteran scholar says in her article that nationalism has more to do with understanding one's society and finding one's identity as a member of that society.
While expressing displeasure with the way right-wing Hindutva forces have interpreted 'nationalism' in the light of recent events in Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Hyderabad, she says that while someone who deliberately abstains from paying taxes is not declared anti-national, someone who doesn't chant 'Bharat mata ki jai' is.
Several towns in the communally sensitive Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh shut down on Thursday, raising allegations of Hindu right-wing organisations orchestrating the unofficial bandh during Eid celebrations.
Reports said the majority of business establishments in Neemuch, Javad and Manasa in Neemuch district and Mandsaur, Shyamgarh and Sitamau in Mandsaur district remained closed and people had a tough time even buying essential commodities on Thursday.
Congress leader Umrao Gurjar said that people belonging to RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal were behind this and BJP was pressuring the administration to look the other way. "This is an attempt to create animosity between communities," he said.
State Intelligence Dept. gives clean chit to Naik; no arrest on his return to India (Jul 12, 2016, The Hindu)
The Maharashtra State Intelligence Department (SID) has given a clean chit to controversial preacher Zakir Naik, conceding there is simply no case to be made out against the televangelist for now. Sources in the special team of the SID handling the investigation ordered by the Maharashtra government said Naik will not and cannot be arrested on his return to India.
As part of his preliminary probe, the SID has studied hundreds of YouTube videos and speeches given by the controversial preacher in and out of India. A dossier of evidence has also been received and collected from the other intelligence teams in various states, including Hyderabad, where an ISIS module was reportedly inspired by Naik's speeches, said a senior official.
"There is no case to be made out against the English-speaking preacher, except maybe the possible charge of hurting religious sentiments, but even that cannot be established from his speeches. We are tracking his movements and only if he speaks out of turn, can we 'pin' him down on a charge. For now, we are closely monitoring him," said a senior police official, who on Monday conveyed the preliminary assessment of the SID findings to the 'higher-ups'.
Opposition National Conference (NC) on July 11 accused the BJP of "creating division" in the society "with an eye on the 2017 Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh".
"BJP has let down the people. Instead of solving their problems, the party is indulging in petty politics of dividing various segments of the society, not only to conceal its own failures, but with an eye on the forthcoming Uttar Pradesh elections," said NC provincial president Devender Singh Rana.
He cautioned the saffron party against "converting the state into a hate theatre" saying the "misadventure" could have serious political and strategic ramifications.
Home Ministry declines to reveal details of officer who probed Ishrat files (Jul 10, 2016, Indian Express)
The Home Ministry has declined to share details of file notings related to extension of service granted to senior IAS officer B K Prasad, who went into the missing files related to the alleged fake encounter killing of Ishrat Jahan, saying being an adjunct to proposal of a Cabinet panel it cannot be disclosed.
As the file notings in this regard are an adjunct to an Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) proposal, the same is exempted under Section 8 (1) (I) of the transparency law, it said in reply to an RTI query filed by PTI.
Prasad, a 1983 batch IAS officer of Tamil Nadu cadre, was due to retire in May end. He was granted extension for a period of two months with effect from June 1, 2016 to July 31, an official order had said without mentioning the reason behind it. The officer was recently in news for allegedly tutoring witnesses in the missing files case, a charge denied by him. The Home Ministry had recently asked an RTI applicant to prove he is Indian before disclosing details on the extension given to Prasad.
Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal said here on Monday that "some forces are working to divide the country on communal lines". Speaking at an Iftar party hosted by AAP supporters in Punjab's only Muslim-majority town, Kejriwal also rejected allegations that his party's MLA Naresh Yadav was involved in the sacrilege of the Quran that had led to violence here on June 24. Instead, he blamed Punjab's ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which is the BJP's partner in the central government too, for it.
"Akalis have stooped so low If they had to defame AAP, they could have done it any other way. But what was the need to burn the Quran?" he said at the gathering that saw scores of people and was held even after the police imposed section 144 of the CrPC (criminal procedure code) restricting assembly of more than 10 persons at a place.
Kerjiwal concluded his speech telling the people to "pray that God save the country from divisive forces that are triggering communal tensions".
Pansare murder: Bombay HC refuses bail to Gaikwad, says the crime shocked society's conscience (Jul 12, 2016, Indian Express)
Pointing out that the murder of rationalist Govind Pansare had "shocked the conscience of society", the Bombay High Court on Monday refused to grant bail to main accused in the case Sameer Gaikwad. "Looking at the enormity of charges, this is not a fit case for granting of bail to the accused," the court said.
Gaikwad, a member of controversial right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha, was arrested in Sangli on September 16, 2015 by the special investigation team of Maharashtra Police. Appearing for Gaikwad, Sanjeev Punalekar had argued that he should be granted bail as he cannot be kept in "continued pre-trial detention if the trial is not going to be completed in reasonable time".
The court also pointed to the evidence which had come to light while Gaikwad's phone was under surveillance and he had conversed with his colleagues and the woman he loved. Pointing to one conversation with his lover, which the prosecution argued showed extra-judicial confession by him, Gaikwad had said, "Pansare is done, now should I take action against Nikhil Wagle (journalist.)?"
Should board members and trustees of non-profit organisations be treated as "public servants" if they are partially funded by the government? If NGOs receive foreign funding, should their office bearers be made to declare their assets to the public?
India's non-profit sector has been grappling with these questions for more than two weeks, ever since the Union government issued a notification to bring large numbers of NGOs under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act of 2013. The notification, issued on June 20, specifies that the Lokpal law will now apply to any registered society, trust or non-profit organisation receiving annual government grants of Rs 1 crore or more, or receiving foreign funds worth Rs 10 lakh or more.
Excluding private companies from the same rules only compounds the belief that the state is attempting to clamp down on dissenting civil society organisations. "The state is encouraging the high participation by foreign entities in for-profit enterprises, but we see no attempt to institute similar measures with regard to non-profit organisations," said Mander.
Modi govt buried under carpet massive telecom scam of Rs 45,000 crore: Congress (Jul 7, 2016, Indian Express)
The Congress on Thursday accused the Modi government of burying "under the carpet a massive telecom scam of Rs 45,000 crore."
At a press conference in the national capital, Congress leader RS Surjewala said the scam aims to help Modi Govt's industrialists friends.
"Latest is a staggering 'Telecom Scam' of approximately Rs.45,000 crore plus that is being buried under the carpet by 'Modi Sarkar'," party's chief spokesman Randeep Surjewala alleged at a joint press conference with party spokespersons Shaktisinh Gohil and R P N Singh.
Four Dalits in Gujarat town beaten up with iron rods, dragged for a km with SUV for "possessing" cow beef (Jul 12, 2016, Counterview)
In a second incident of gruesome atrocity against Dalits in Gujarat's Saurashtra region in a week's time, four Dalit youths were beaten up and dragged for almost a kilometre, allegedly because they "possessed" cow beef. The incident took place in Una town of Gir Somnath district.
Belonging to Mota Samadiyara village, the Dalits, reportedly, were called to collect a dead cow. Belonging to a community of leather traders, before they could actually reach the place, where they were called, the youths were cornered by a group at the Una bus stand.
According to local sources, the Dalits were stripped half naked, tied to an SUV by chains, and beat up with iron rods in full public gaze. Though a large crowd had gathered at the place, no one seemed to forward to rescue the Dalits. A video is said to have gone viral on the social media.
Opinions and Editorials
The challenge to Indian democracy has always come from those who hate democracy as an idea, those who preach intolerance towards the country's religious, philosophical and cultural plurality. But the biggest challenge to Indian democracy now, says noted Malayalam writer K Satchidanandan, comes from political Hindutva.
It is a theme that runs through the book, a collection of essays by scholars, artists, activists, journalists, writers, intellectuals, a former judge and a former diplomat. The idea of the book followed the protests of 2015 when several writers, artists, scholars and scientists returned their awards or quit their posts in government institutions to oppose what they said was rising intolerance in India backed by administrative inaction.
It is this intolerance of the "other" that led to three murders that shook the literary fraternity. All three killings were blamed on the Hindu rightwing. The first victim was Narendra Dabholkar, a renowned rationalist who was shot dead by two men on a motorcycle in Pune in August 2013.…
Lesson from Perumal Murugan verdict: Modi could learn much from Savarkar on sex in ancient India - By Manoj Mitta (Jul 10, 2016, Scroll.in)
A Hindu tradition called Niyoga allowed a childless woman to procreate through a man other than her husband. The Madras High Court took judicial cognisance of this tradition in its verdict earlier this week, upholding the freedom of expression of writer Perumal Murugan, much to the umbrage of the Hindu groups opposed to a book depicting it.
Unwittingly, however, the verdict also put in perspective Narendra Modi's tacit denial of this tradition in the context of its best known symbol, Kunti, the mother of the legendary Pandavas in the Mahabharata. Modi famously claimed, at a corporate hospital in Mumbai in October 2014, that Karna, whom Kunti begot before her marriage, was testimony to the advances made by ancient India in genetic science.…
Savarkar and Ambedkar could not have got away with such irreverence to tradition in today's India, as evident from the harassment suffered by Perumal Murugan at the hands of state and non-state actors. Hence the value of the Madras High Court judgment goes beyond upholding the freedom to deal with taboo subjects. It has served to expose the corrosive link, however unintended, between Modi's attempt to glorify Niyoga as genetic science and Murugan's declaration of his demise as a writer three months later.
On June 16, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order cancelling the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010, (FCRA) registration of the Sabrang Trust, of which the chief trustees are the activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband, Javed Anand. The order means that the Sabrang Trust will not be able to receive foreign funding anymore.…
In April 2014, just before the general election that returned Modi as the Prime Minister, the well-known columnist and Gujarat commentator Aakar Patel warned: "Like all tyrants, Modi has a fundamentally primitive view of criticism. Those who oppose him, write against what he says and does, are enemies and he must fix them before they harm him. They should watch out."
In the same piece, he commented on Teesta Setalvad: "She is a genuine heroine who is being slowly martyred and tortured by Modi, as a disinterested nation looks elsewhere. This is the sort of third-rate pettiness Modi likes descending to because as a nation we allow him to. This constant mischief from Modi keeps Setalvad away from the work Modi is afraid of."
Malegaon Blast Case: Modi Government Has Much to Explain After Pragya Thakur's Bail Order - By Ajoy Ashirwad Mahaprashasta (Jul 12, 2016, The Wire)
Soon after a special court in Mumbai rejected the bail petition of Pragya Singh Thakur in the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast case on June 28, the BJP's spokespersons raised a storm against the order, calling it an example of 'judicial oligarchy'. Party leaders even went so far as to criticise the court for not taking into account an earlier report by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
In May this year, the NIA had called the original Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) investigation led by the slain officer Hemant Karkare 'dubious', rejected all the confessions in the case and dropped all charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) against the ten accused, including Thakur.…
While reviewing the case, the judge concluded that Thakur'prima facie connection with the motorcycle used in the blast could not be ruled out. He also concluded that the NIA and ATS reports both said that Thakur was present at the controversial meeting in Bhopal, in which the plan to bomb the Muslim-majority locality of Malegaon was allegedly hatched. These two factors became the primary basis for denying bail to Thakur.…
…There are several provisions in the Constitution which are transitory, such as the number of years of provision for reservation of seats for representation in the Parliament and the Legislative Assemblies (Article 334), the time frame when Hindi will substitute English as the lingua franca for official purposes (Article 343), and the special status to Jammu and Kashmir (Article 370).…
The Uniform Civil Code, if brought in now, will be perceived as an apology for hegemony of the Hindu laws over the personal laws applicable to Muslims and Christians, and justifiably so. To B.R. Ambedkar at the time of initiating the dialogue and finalising the draft of the Constitution, it was the obvious choice, for he saw no merit in the role of religion in its application to personal laws.
The truth is that personal laws are what we confront in our personal lives from birth to death, viz. laws of marriage, maintenance, adoption, custody, guardianship of children and succession. Religion is the first affinity at birth and it is carried through at one's will through the laws that we recognise as personal to him/her. If we withdraw the personal laws by force, we trench upon the most intimate emotion of an individual.…
… The AMU is a 96-year old institution, but it was only in 2005 that the university provided for 50 per cent reservation for Muslims of India. Since 1958, when it delivered its verdict in the Kerala Education Bill case, the Supreme Court has consistently held that minority institutions are primarily for minorities and there shall be "only sprinkling of outsiders" in such institutions.
The observation was reiterated by a 11 judge bench of the apex court in the T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka case: The court lifted the upper limit of 50 per cent minority reservation, which it had fixed in St. Stephens College v University of Delhi. Since minority institutions can be established by religious as well as linguistic minorities, there is no communal angle to such reservation. Moreover, religion-based reservation is prohibited only in state institutions under Article 15(1) and is permissible under Article 30(1).
Article 30 gives minorities the right to "establish and administer educational institutions of their choice" and the Supreme Court has held in the infamous S. Azeez Basha and the Union of India case that the expression "educational institutions" includes university. This repudiates the argument that minorities cannot establish universities. Similarly "governmental aid", under Article 30(2), does not change the character of a minority institution. Thus the chorus of criticism against AMU's 2005 reservation policy is flawed.…