Peace, Pluralism and Justice
In this issue of IAMC News Digest
Opinions & Editorials
Children dressed up in different religious garb kept a display of various faiths outside CWC school in Versova, where 20 years of the Mohalla Committee Movement Trustcelebrations were kick-started on Monday. More than 2,000 people witnessed the inauguration, including Mumbai Police commissioner Rakesh Maria, as the police have collaborated with the trust for the event.
Formed by locals in 1994 after the riots in Mumbai, the trust tried to bridge the gap between communities as well as between the police force by setting up committees in sensitive areas of the city. The trust today organises various community events, especially during festivals, to promote peace and religious tolerance. …
This is the third communal harmony week organised by the trust after 2011. "We earlier had peace committees right after the riots to establish better police and public relationship and get all communities together. We keep devising interactions between the youth and women through public meetings," said Ajay Kaul, the principal of the school, who too has been a facilitator of the trust since its inception.…Back to Top]
No riot can take place without complicity & incompetence of administration, Guj was no exception: Rajdeep Sardesai (Nov 21, 2014, Twocircles.net)
No riot can take place without complicity or incompetence, or both, of the local administration and the 2002 Gujarat riot was no exception, said senior journalist Rajdeep Sardesai while responding to a question whether he has absolved (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi - who was then the Gujarat chief minister - in his book.
Sardesai was at the Jamia Millia Islamia to promote his book '2014: The Election That Changed India'. Sardesai, in conversation with another senior journalist Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, said his book is not about 2002, but about 2014 and although he deals with the 2002 riots and how he himself was once caught among the rioters while returning from Gandhinagar after interviewing Modi then.
He has, in his book, suggested that Modi was still not in full control of Gujarat and that the cadres of the VHP led by Pravin Togadia were leading havoc in the state in 2002 in the aftermath of the Godhara train burning and thus he might not have been complicit in the riot, but incompetent as he had taken charge of the state just four months ago. Modi should have accepted this, said Sardesai, adding, but he will never do this as it is not in his nature to accept his shortcomings.…
Gujarat IPS officer who took on govt over 2002 riots seeks retirement (Nov 21, 2014, Times of India)
Locked in a running feud with the Gujarat government over 2002 communal riots, IPS officer Rahul Sharma has sought early retirement from service citing personal reasons, but said his decision was not "inspired" by government action initiated against him.
"I have sought retirement from service due to personal reasons and have given three months' notice to the state government on November 19," Sharma, who is currently deputy inspector general (DIG) of armed units at Vadodara, told PTI.
According to rules, an IPS officer can seek early retirement after attaining the age of 50 by giving a notice of three months.…
A Delhi Police constable was chargesheeted by the special investigation cell probing the riots at Muzaffarnagar in cases of rioting, arson and loot. The constable, identified as Anuj Kumar, and 12 others were chargesheeted in the case under sections 395 (dacoity), 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house) and 153A (promoting enmity between different groups) of IPC.
According to Manoj Jha, superintendent of the cell, "Kumar was initially absconding. He was found to be guilty after a number of eyewitnesses placed him as one of the rioters in Lisadh village on September 8. He later came and surrendered at the court a few months ago and was eventually given bail."
Lisadh and it's adjoining village Lakh were the worst-effected villages during the riots.
Mumbai court acquits 9 Muslims accused of illegal 'SIMI' activities in a 13-year-old case (Nov 21, 2014, Twocircles.net)
In a strong refutation to the Mumbai police, a metropolitan magistrate court in Kurla here acquitted nine Muslims from charges of being involved in illegal activities and being members of banned organization Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
Dr Tanveer, Ehtesham Siddiqui, Irshad Khan, Mohsin Mirza, Rahil Shaikh, Altaf Ahmed, Mouzamil, Faisal and Ahmed were acquitted on Thursday due to lack of evidence and failure of prosecution to prove the case against them.
Two out of these acquitted persons Dr Tanveer and Ehtesham Siddiqui are also accused in Mumbai's 7/11 serial train blasts case, judgment for which is due to come in near future as the trial court has listened to all the prosecution and defense witnesses in the case.…
Burdwan blast part of BJP's 'devious gameplan approved by RSS', TMC says after Jaitley questions Mamata (Nov 23, 2014, Times of India)
The Trinamool Congress on Sunday called national security adviser Ajit Doval a known RSS sympathizer and alleged that the Burdwan blast was a part of a "devious" master gameplan of the BJP that was "conceived, drafted and approved by RSS".
Trinamool's reaction came hours after finance minister and senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley slammed West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee over her reaction to Saradha scam and Burdwan blasts.
"The NSA is a known RSS sympathizer, these plans are hatched at RSS headquarters," TMC leader Derek O'Brien said on Sunday reacting to Arun Jaitley's comment on Mamata Banerjee. Calling it a part of a larger BJP gameplan, the TMC leader said they will come out with more facts in the next 48 hours.…
Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and may even have been using cosmic weapons 5,000 years ago, according to the chairman of India's leading historical organisation. Professor Y. Sudershan Rao, the head of the Indian Council of Historical Research, has been criticized by fellow historians for comments that Hindu epics are adequate to understand the ancient world, rather than relying on evidence or research.
The Hindu nationalist government appointed Rao to the prestigious academic post soon after winning the biggest landslide in three decades, fuelling concerns of a push to teach the superiority of Hindu values and mythology at the cost of academic rigour, and cutting against the grain of secularism that runs through multi-faith modern India. …
Many academics are horrified by such views, and describe his appointment as a blow for the history organisation set up four decades ago to guide research and hand out grants. They point to signs of a broader plan to bring more Hinduism to the classroom through changes to the curriculum.…
A First Information Report (FIR) has been filed against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national convenor of the sport's cell, Ashok Aggarwal, on Friday in Aligarh allegedly for trying to hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslim community by posting a photo of 'Kaaba Sharif' (Saudi Arabia) on his Facebook page on Thursday wherein he has added a Shivling and an idol of Lord Shiva.
While Mr. Aggarwal claims he has "never posted anything to the effect," Jasim Mohammad, secretary of the Millat Bedari Muhim Committee (MBMC), Aligarh, has lodged an FIR at the Civil Lines Police Station, demanding legal action against him. The FIR has been registered and the police are investigating the case.
"Mr. Aggarwal, a resident of Rajpura Road, Civil Lines, Delhi, through this post, which has been shared and commented upon, has hurt the Muslims' sentiments. Kaaba Sharif is a holy place for Muslims where each year, lakhs go there for performing Haj and Umrah. The photo may damage the communal harmony and peace not only in the country but worldwide," said Mr. Mohammad.…
Six years later, Christians in India await justice for Kandhamal massacre (Nov 18, 2014, Catholic News Agency)
Last August marked the six year anniversary of the brutal 2008 Kandhamal, Odisha massacre in India, but for Fr. Thomas Chellan, the memories have not faded.
Even after all that time Christians in the region are still waiting for justice. Although most of the instigators have been caught, they have still not gone to trial, the priest said.
"The local community utterly failed to protect the lives and property of their Christian neighbors," he told international charity Aid to the Church in Need. He hopes the government will seriously investigate the massacre, and others like it.…
Police arrest 'Godman' Rampal, find five women and a child dead in his ashram (Nov 20, 2014, Indian Express)
Ending the nearly two-week standoff between his supporters and security personnel, which escalated into violence and high drama on Tuesday, Sant Rampal was arrested from his Barwala ashram on Wednesday night. Rampal was taken in an ambulance to Chandigarh and is likely to be produced before the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Thursday morning.
Rampal's arrest came hours after thousands of his supporters staged an exodus from the ashram. Police confirmed that six bodies - five women and an 18-month-old child - had been found. Earlier in the evening, Home Minister Rajnath Singh discussed the situation with Haryana Chief Minister M L Khattar. Mounting pressure on Rampal, the police also booked him on charges of sedition and waging war against the government.
"No injury marks were found on any of the bodies. The cause of death will be clear only after the post-mortem. So far, two persons are confirmed to have died a natural death. The cause of death of four other women, whose bodies were handed over by the ashram to the district administration this morning, has not been determined yet," said Haryana DGP S N Vashisht.
2G scam: Special public prosecutor's report indicts Ranjit Sinha on three counts (Nov 21, 2014, Times of India)
Supreme Court-appointed special public prosecutor Anand Grover indicted CBI chief Ranjit Sinha on three counts - having 'undesired visitors' linked to 2G scam at his residence, seeking to get the CBI to echo the defence of those accused in the case and delaying chargesheet in the Aircel-Maxis case.
Sinha's counsel, senior advocate Vikas Singh, contested the SPP's findings, arguing that the director had acted in a bona fide manner without any intention to scuttle the probe and prosecution. "His decisions may not be the best but there is no substance that he had taken a motivated stand to derail or interfere with the prosecution," he said.
Singh proceeded to trash the SPP's findings, terming it as selective reading of the file notings. However, a bench of Chief Justice HL Dattu, Madan B Lokur and AK Sikri took a different view. "It appears to us that all is not well," the bench said after the SPP took the court through the notings to justify his inference.…
Opinions and Editorials
Sangham: How the RSS is charting out changes in education - By Shyamlal Yadav (Nov 23, 2014, Indian Express)
On the 30th of October, Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani had a meeting with a group of 22 at Delhi's Madhya Pradesh Bhawan. Though this was the sixth meeting between her and RSS leaders in six months, that group was the largest to meet her. The guests represented 11 outfits of the RSS involved in education, who offered their suggestions to Irani over a six-hour meeting, with the understanding that there would be many such meetings in the days to come. Nine days later, a former RSS pracharak, Ram Shankar Katheria of Agra, joined Irani as Minister of State, HRD.
The Sangh's "role" in the Narendra Modi government may now be no more than a matter of academic debate, but a sphere where it is more or less settled is education. It is also one area where Modi's "development agenda", both when he was chief minister of Gujarat and now in the Prime Minister's chair, is quite at peace with the Sangh's.
To interact with the government and the BJP, the RSS has divided its frontal organisations into six groups, namely Arthik Samooh, Sewa Samooh, Shiksha Samooh, Suraksha Samooh, Jan Samooh and Vichar Samooh.… The choice of Katheria as MoS is being seen as dictated by the RSS, to advise Irani on "Sangh interests" and to keep her "in tune" with them. However, Katheria's start too has been wobbly, shadowed by the charge that he forged his graduation marksheet.…
'Sant Rampal': Farmer's Son Challenges Hegemony of Arya Samaj, An RSS Ally In Haryana - By Jaspal Singh Sidhu (Nov 20, 2014, Countercurrent)
The arrest of former public servant-turned-godman 63-year-old Rampal from his Barwala (Hissar) ashram seems to have ended the two-week long much publicized drama enacted by the Haryana police, but it has, rather, widened social and religious gulf among the people of the area.… The Barwala event signals much more than what one gathers from the media. Rampal's abortive defiance appears to be (consciously or unconsciously) challenging the hegemony of the Sangh Privar ideology based on Aryans and non- Aryans divide which uses the Vedic literature as manifestation of the Aryan race.
Reverently his disciples call him 'Sant Rampal' who, too, seemed to have raked up that old historical religious-cultural conflict by challenging the hegemony of Arya Samaj, now a close ally of RSS that commands over the state power, directly in Haryana through BJP chief minister Mohan Lal Khattar. Mr Khattar, is a Hindu Punjabi whose family had migrated in 1947 to Haryana from the core area of Arya Samaj now in Pakistan's Punjab. Of late, Arya Samaj, particularly after 1947 Parition, virtually merged into the Sangh Privar expressing itself through the RSS ideology.
As per the prevailing religious ethos in the area, Rampal was an ardent devotee of Lord Hanuman and Lord Krishna for 25 years. However, his meditating for hours and following religious practices, Rampal could not attain spiritual peace he was hankering for. This former junior engineer with Haryana's irrigation department came in contact with Swami Ramdev Anand, a follower of Saint Kabir, a 13th century Saint, hailing from the low caste and who had preached strict monotheism. … In 1994, he was ordered by Ramdev Anand to initiate other people into taking 'naam', and he quit his government job in 1995. …
Rampal's direct clash with Arya Samaj came up as he had begun criticizing their set-beliefs. He questioned and challenged the origin and ancestry of gods (devi-devtas) and the popular interpretations of Hindu scriptures. At his congregations, Rampal has been using aggressive language claiming that "real truth" has been hidden from the people by gurus and intellectuals who have interpreted scriptures in the past. He has been drawing people from the lower middle-class as well as those who have been persecuted within popular religions including dalits and anti-Jaat castes backward castes. …
"Is baar agar vote maangne yahaan koi bhi aaya toh chappal uthake marenge (If anyone comes here asking for a vote this time, we will hit them with slippers)," she screamed, angry tears well¬ing up in her eyes. The men and women surrounding her shake their heads in agreement. She looks up with her bloodshot eyes and says, "All of you want to come here and see our wounds, where we got beaten, how badly we are bruised. You'll take pictures and leave, but we'll continue to starve."
Before she can finish her rant, another women takes over and says, "When our neighbours open the grocery shop shutters a little to give us something to eat, the police mercilessly lathicharge us. If we tell them that we are starving, they say, "Jao roze rakho (Fast like it's for roza)". "They aren't even allowing us to use the common toilet across the road. 'Ghar me peshaab karlo' (Pee in your houses), they tell us when we go there," says 57-year-old Sultana, pointing to the Sulabh Shauchalay across the road.
Nearly 10 of them belonging to block No. 27 in riot-afflicted Trilokpuri drag me to their homes and point to the broken locks, windows and exhaust fans and eventually to the black-and-blue welts from the police beatings. The block is less than a three-minute walk away from block No. 20, where an insignificant brawl between two young¬sters on the night of Diwali, October 23, spiralled subsequently into violent riots between two communities.…
Fixing Responsibility For The Dying Women In India's Sterilization Camps - By Kandathil Sebastian (Nov 18, 2014, Countercurrents)
Death of women in the sterilization camps in India is not new phenomenon. As per the official data, between 2003 and 2012, there are at least 12 post sterilization deaths on average, per month. Unofficial estimates of such deaths put the mortality figure even higher. We routinely see umpteen debates and 'blame games' after such sterilization induced deaths. Some people blame the poor quality of services, while some others blame the carelessness of the service providers, some the contaminated drugs, and some others the dilapidated buildings where the surgery was conducted.
In the recent incident in Chattisgarh state where 14 women died has also resulted in such serial blame games. The final responsibility of the latest event is likely to be placed on some impersonal entity like the inanimate 'building' where the sterilization camps held or the rat poison which was found near the stock of drugs used by the women victims. …
Any strategy to avoid the continuing deaths of women in the sterilization camps should consider the fundamental realities of the existing power structures today. It would perhaps need several years of grass roots level mobilization of woman and resistance against patriarchy to finally end the phenomenon of dying woman in Indian sterilization camps.
The buzz in Australia is that the long-awaited environment clearance for Adani Mining's Carmichael coal mining project came through with clear signals emanating from India about group chairman Gautam Adani's closeness to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The promise of multi-million dollar investments and creation of hundreds of jobs at a time when mining giants like bhp Billiton and Glencore are recasting and even shelving their new coal mining projects in Queensland was by no means a small inducement. Especially with the state going to polls next year.
The desperation is apparent when one considers how Queensland's action is contrary to the G20 resolve to cut down on subsidies. Given the "low coal prices and the dubious economics of the project", Michael West of the Sydney Morning Herald tells Outlook, "I hear the local banks here are not jumping at the opportunity to provide funding to Adani, etc. The project may become viable if coal prices rise significantly." The trend in the last five years indicates no such northward trend. …
Even as the Adani Group is targeting starting the first coal exports from Australia to India in 2017, much can change in the interim as the greens have not given up their fight, the political scenario in Queensland may change and even the commodity market may spring surprises. Here's hoping India will at least get assured coal supplies and consumers affordable power for all the political patronage to the Adanis.
Chief minister Raman Singh projects smug efficiency and good governance in state publicity ads. But a deep and widespread malaise is gnawing at Chhattisgarh from within. Negligence, corruption, large-scale defalcation from funds meant for disbursement-these ills affect not just the health department, blamed for the recent death of 14 women who underwent tubectomies at a sterilisation camp in Bilaspur. Across departments it's the same story. There's another ominous fallout, even more shocking perhaps than the camp deaths: the tribal population in the state has declined.
BJP MP Nandkumar Sai raised the question in Parliament: when every section of the population is registering growth, what could be the reason for the decline in the tribal population of Chhattisgarh? Only one of the women who died at the sterilisation camp was a tribal, belonging to the protected Baiga tribe. But more than a hundred tribals turned up to protest the sterilisation camp deaths outside health minister Amar Agarwal's house. Many tribespeople are angry and nurse an underlying fear that the BJP government will let them dwindle away.
Fear may be running wild among some tribal groups but the reasons are easy to spot. For one, how is it that sterilisation drives cover protected tribes at all, even unwittingly? Then, the deaths raise disturbing questions about the BJP's claims of good governance. The health department, accused in the past for negligence leading to loss of eyesight at eye camps, has been receiving awards, some conferred by the Centre, for meeting targets. The state had awarded Dr R.K. Gupta - who led the medical team at the sterilisation camp - a medal on Republic Day this year for conducting 50,000 sterilisations. Ten months on, he has been held responsible for the deaths and sacked. At the time of writing, he is absconding.…