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Archives for : Minorities

For India’s Persecuted Muslim Minority, Caution Follows Hindu Party’s Victory


Muslim women with a portrait of Narendra Modi, the candidate from the Bharatiya Janata Party, on Friday in Varanasi. Allies say there is no reason for Muslims to fear a government led by him. CreditSanjay Kanojia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

NEW DELHI — Like real estate agents the world over, Rahul Rewal asks his clients if they have children or pets, since both limit options. But there is another crucial but often unspoken question: Are they Muslim?

“I tailor the list of places that I show Muslims because many landlords, even in upper-class neighborhoods, will not rent to them,” Mr. Rewal said. “Most don’t even bother hiding their bigotry.”

Discrimination against Muslims in India is so rampant that many barely muster outrage when telling of the withdrawn apartment offers, rejected job applications and turned-down loans that are part of living in the country for them. As a group, Muslims have fallen badly behind Hindus in recent decades in education, employment and economic status, with persistent discrimination a key reason. Muslims are more likely to live in villages without schools or medical facilities and less likely to qualify for bank loans.

“Fear is a basic part of politics, and it’s actually how politicians gain respect, but for us fear also comes from the general public,” said Zahir Alam, the imam of Bari Masjid, a mosque in East Delhi, in an interview Friday. “The meaning of minority has never been clearer than it is today.”

The B.J.P. is led by Narendra Modi, who is widely expected to become India’s next prime minister. Mr. Modi — a Hindu, like a majority of Indians — has a fraught relationship with Muslims, who make up about 15 percent of the country. He was in charge of the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when uncontrolled rioting caused 1,000 deaths, mostly among Muslims. He has also been linked with a police assassination squad that largely targeted Muslims.

But Mr. Modi ran a campaign that focused on promises of development and good governance, and that largely avoided religiously divisive themes. His allies say there is no reason for Muslims to fear a national government led by him, and in interviews on Friday, many Muslims said they believed that.

B.J.P. candidates won in 102 constituencies where Muslims make up at least one in five voters, up from just 24 of these seats in 2009, according to aReuters analysis. Mohammad Sabir, 25, who supplies parts for fans at a business in Varanasi, said that while he did not vote for Mr. Modi, he did not fear an administration led by him.

“He is now a national leader, and he needs to focus on nation building,” Mr. Sabir said. “If he cannot take everyone along, then he cannot succeed.”

Mr. Modi’s victory came in large measure from India’s aspirational urban electorate, who yearn for a better future for themselves and their children. Christophe Jaffrelot, a professor at King’s College London, said that rapid urbanization and a growing middle class were softening barriers among Hindu castes, but that the same forces had increased divisions between Hindus and Muslims.

“In the village, you are bound to meet Muslim families because it’s such a small universe,” he said. “In the cities, you have these vast ghettos.”

Mr. Modi won a huge majority in the electorally critical state of Uttar Pradesh, in part because of deadly riots last year that broke a traditional voting alliance between low-caste Hindus and Muslims. But now that he has won, Mr. Modi must reassure India’s Muslims, said Neerja Chowdhury, a political commentator.

“Many people in India and around the world will be watching whether he reaches out to minorities in the coming days,” Ms. Chowdhury said.

Tavleen Singh, an Indian author and admirer of Mr. Modi, said that critics of Mr. Modi focused on his ties to rioting and assassinations without pointing out that such violence has long been part of Indian society.

India was born in 1947 amid the blood-soaked horror of partition, which split British India into Muslim-dominated Pakistan and largely Hindu India. Riots in New Delhi in 1984 after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards led to the killing of thousands of Sikhs, with leaders of the Indian National Congress participating. Violence among castes has long been a regular feature of rural life in India.

“It’s an ugly Indian reality,” Ms. Singh said.

But that is exactly why Mr. Modi is such a poor choice as prime minister, said Siddharth Varadarajan, the former editor of The Hindu, a leading Indian newspaper. Many among India’s liberal intelligentsia see Mr. Modi as a threat to India’s secularism, which is enshrined in its Constitution. It is a characteristic that distinguishes India from Pakistan and binds a nation of extraordinary diversity.

“Many of the things that are evil about India are not going to find their solution with Mr. Modi,” Mr. Varadarajan said. “If anything, they’ll get worse.”

In recent months, residents of a well-to-do Hindu neighborhood of a small city in Gujarat have protested outside a home purchased in January by a Muslim, saying his presence would disturb the peace and lower property values — the same arguments used for decades in the United States to exclude blacks from white neighborhoods.

In Mumbai this year, a ship captain credited with helping to rescue about 722 Indians from Kuwait after the 1990 Iraqi invasion said he was unable to buy an apartment in an affluent section of the city because no one would sell to a Muslim.

Zia Haq, an assistant editor at The Hindustan Times, said it had taken him nearly a year to find an apartment in New Delhi several years ago because he kept looking in neighborhoods dominated by Hindus who refused to rent to him. He finally found an apartment in a Muslim slum.

“This is the story of every middle-class Muslim who moves to a city in India,” Mr. Haq said. “Sometimes landlords are very upfront and say they won’t rent to Muslims. Others have excuses, like they have decided not to rent the place at all.”

But some Muslims say that such experiences demonstrate that Mr. Modi is hardly unusual in his difficulties with Muslims, and that his economic credentials make him worthy of leading the nation.

At Hyderabad’s Moazzamjahi Market, a crenelated stone complex with a mix of businesses run by Hindus and Muslims, Syed Jaleel, 56, the owner of a fruit and vegetable stand that sells produce from his farm, said he was delighted by Mr. Modi’s victory.

“Riots don’t matter because they happen all the time,” he said, clutching a lemonade to help cool off in the heat. “What matters is business development — just look at how Modi developed Gujarat. They don’t even have power cuts. He’ll do the same for the country now.”

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मोदी आयो बहार लायो !

Modi chalisa 


चारो तरफ सब झूम-झूमकर नाच रहे है. गा रहे है मोदी आयो बहार लायो, तो सोचा थोड़ा हमहू नाच लें, गा लेंजी… अच्छा ही हुआ! ‘भानुमति का कुनबा फूटा,’ माता-पुत्र को भी आराम का मौक़ा मिला. आप तो बिलकुलनौजवान ताजा-ताजा! देश को तरोताजा करेंगे गुजरात के अमूल दूध-दही-मठा व हनी से. मक्खन-घी से जनताअब स्नान किया करेगी. पैरों से कुचलेगी घी को, जैसे गुजरात के एक मंदिर में पांच लाख लीटर घी को उड़ेलकरपैरों से मथ दिया था. पर ये अमूल वालों को आपने अपने खाते में क्यों डाल रखा है? इसे तो कांग्रेस वालों नेबनबाया था?


आपने कहा है, ‘हम भारत को विश्व का गुरू बनायेगे तो समझिए भारत गुरू बन गया. मंगलग्रह पर यान भेजा तोसमझिए भारत अंतरिक्ष का भी गुरू बन गया. परन्तु; एक बात हमरे मगज में समझ न आयो…अभी-अभी आपनेकहा, काशी को राष्ट्रगुरू’ बनाएंगे…


मने, हम ता अबतक यही जानत रहल बा की हमार राष्ट्रगुरु रवीन्द्रनाथ टैगोर साब जी है.” अब अगर भारत काराष्ट्रगुरु’ बनाना ही है तो कोलकाता को बनाओ ! ई काहे का ‘काशी-काशी’ ले देके रटत हाउ भैया मोदी जी? जोकुछ काशी वाशी से मिलना था सो मिल गया. अब काहे का फिर से काशी?  ब्राह्मण ने शूद्रों को ठगने के लिएलाल– पत्रा लिखा, औ तू चला अब ब्राह्मण को ठगने?


सौ चूहा खाके बिल्ली चली अब हज करने

मने, ‘कांग्रेस-मुक्त’ भारत का नारा लगाते लगाते सारे कांग्रेसियों को भाजपा में घुसा लियो है. को नहीं जानत हैइस जग में… कि, नई लोकसभा में भाजपा के सौ (१००) से भी ज्यादा सांसद खांटी कांग्रेसी’ है. इन सांसदों में से हरतीसरा सांसद आपराधिक ह्त्या, बलात्कार, लूट, जैसे गंभीर मामलों में आरोपी है. चुनाव जीतकर आए  541सांसदों में से 186 के खिलाफ कोई न कोई आपराधिक केस दर्ज है. असोसिएशन ऑफ डेमोक्रेटिक रिफॉर्म(एडीआर) रिपोर्ट के अनुसार; ऐसे सांसदों में 98 बीजेपी के, 8 कांग्रेस के, 35 एआईएडीएमके के, 18 शिवसेना केऔर 7 तृणमूल कांग्रेस के हैं. 8 सांसदों पर मर्डर के आरोप हैं, जिनमें 4 बीजेपी के हैं. करोड़पति सांसदों की संख्यामें अकेले बीजेपी के 237 सांसद हैं. तो क्या, इन्हीं अपराधियों के बूते भारत को विश्व गुरू बनाने निकले हो? क्याइन्ही के बूते देश में बहार लाओगे?


हमरा विचार मा ता ई हाउ की, रूठल श्री आडवाणी को अपना उप-प्रधान, हारल जेटली को अपना प्रधान सचिव, औ रूठी बहन सुषमा को प्रधान सलाहकार बनाय लो जी…बाँकी काम देखे खातिर ता अमितबाबू, तोगड़िया साहेब है ही. सबकुछ संभल जाई.


reecieved in email by Karl Marx

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Hindutva and Minorities #NOMOre_2014

Flag of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a na...

Flag of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a national political party in India. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Irfan Engineer


(Secular Perspective March 16-31, 2014)


Rajnath Singh, the BJP president while addressing the Muslims on 25th February 2014 sought to bridge a trust deficit between his party and Muslims by saying that he was ready to apologize for any mistakes committed by the party in the past and urged the community to give his party at least one chance. Singh’s political secretary Sudhanshu Trivedi clarified that “The BJP president said if Muslims feel that wittingly or unwittingly, there have been mistakes on our part, he is ready to make amends.” While campaigning during the state elections in Delhi, Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh, in rallies addressed by Narendra Modiburkhas and skull caps were distributed to signify that Muslims too were attending the rally and would vote for the BJP. Will the Muslims be wooed by such insincere moves? The BJP leaders appear to reach out to the Muslims as elections approach, not to address the needs of minorities nor make any attempt to understand them, but to confuse the Muslims about intentions of the BJP. Their objective is to mobilize Muslim votes if possible and ensure that they (Muslim votes) do not get consolidated against the BJP in any case.


Hindutva ideology always considered the Muslims and the Christians as aliens and foreigners as their holylands are outside the geographical area of “Akhand Bharat”. The saffron party’s attitude towards the Muslims and Christians is reflected from the slogans their cadres often shout on the streets like “pehle kasai; phir Isai” (first the Muslims and later on Christians will be taken care of during the riots.) They further stigmatized Muslims as terrorists, violent and aggressive, practicing polygamy and breeding (sic) so rapidly that they would outnumber Hindu population. Aggressive stigmatization of Muslims leads to periodical outbreak of communal violence and ghettoization of the community. 40,000 innocents have been killed in communally targeted violence since independence. In order to stigmatize Muslims as terrorists, the security agencies had a free hand in Gujarat to periodically murder Muslims youth and after killing them proclaim them to be terrorists killed in encounter. Sohrabuddin and Ishrat Jehan are a few examples of this. Some of the slogans against Muslims are so unparliamentary that they cannot be reproduced here. Yet Rajnath Singh is not even categorically accepting that it made any “mistake” by following Hindutva ideology.


Politically, the BJP opposes every move of the government to ensure inclusion of marginalized groups, particularly the minorities and to ensure that they too have equal opportunities. Modi claimed that his secularism meant India first. When only certain sections of the society are in a position to grab opportunities because they are socially privileged, proclaiming India first policy would work to the advantage of the privileged (e.g. majority community, upper castes and males). India first privileges the corporate sectors which are grabbing the resources of the country like the 2G spectrum, coal and mining, water, environment and have become millionaires unjustifiably enriching themselves. The marginalized sections, like the dalits, adivasis, women and minorities continue to be excluded and denied their fair share in opportunities and common resources of the country as mandated in the directive principles of the Constitution.


The BJP in the past has often opposed any measures that afford religious minorities their cultural space and cultural specificities. For example, they are opposed to separate family (or personal) laws on bogus ground that it breeds separatism in minorities. They have opposed any encouragement to Urdu language. BJP’s political project is to obliterate cultural diversity and homogenize culture by imposing upper caste culture and turning the state into guardian of upper caste culture – what they call as cultural nationalism. Thus making saraswati vandana and teaching of Bhagwat Gita, yoga compulsory in the schools where BJP rules. Series of stringent anti-cow slaughter legislation and campaign against inter-religious marriages falsely accusing such marriages particularly of Hindu women with Muslim men as a conspiracy to out populate Hindus.


The BJP is opposed to cultural diversity and particularly against protecting the cultural space for minorities. It has never stood for security of minorities and never raised a tiny figure against discrimination of minorities in jobs, education, government contracts, bank loans etc. which has resulted in their backwardness. This has now been well documented by the Sachar Committee report and other studies.


The BJP has also demanded in the past that the Church and Islam should “Indianize”. What does Indianizing mean? Muslims in India are as diverse as believers of any other religion are. They speak the same language as other Indians like Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Konkani, Gujarati, Kutchi, various dialects of Hindi, Marwari, Kashmiri, Urdu, etc. They eat the same food that people of the region eat and by and large wear the same dress and even follow the same customs and traditions and participate in the festivals of believers of all religions. For lack of space here, we are not going into instances and other details. Volumes have been written on shared culture, customs and traditions between believers of all religions. The famous Poet Iqbal called Lord Ram as Imam-e-Hind. Mazhar Jana Jana, the Sufi saint termed Ram and Krishna as Prophets of Allah and Saint Nizamuddin would begin all his mornings by singing bhajans (Hindu devotional songs) of Ram and Krishna. When he saw a Hindu woman performing surya namaskar (worshipping sun), he told his disciple Khusro that she too was worshipping Allah! Baba Farid Ganj-i-Shakkar composed all his devotional songs in Punjabi and many of them are included in the Guru Granth Saheb, the Scriptures of Sikh community. The Church too embraces rituals and culture of the people of India which it calls acculturation. What more can one expect? Muslims and Christians in India are so Indianized that they even follow the caste system, which they should not!


By calling upon to “Indianize” Islam and Christian Church, the BJP and RSS want two things – 1) The Church and the Islamic Madrasas should be cut off from the rest of the world, to insulate themselves from any religious thoughts and theology from “outside” in this global age and time, while Hindutva would continue to be global and receive its life blood and funds from Hindus who have become citizens of US or European or other countries.


2) Muslims and Christians should accept Hindu supremacy. These “foreign” religions have equality as its foundational concept and universality in its approach. The bhakti saints like Mirabai, Kabir, Ravidas, Tukaram, and many others belonging to the Siddha, Nath, Tantra traditions too propagated equality and universality. Hindutva on the other hand is based on notions of race and nationalism which privileges the already privileged. RSS and BJP’s prescription for the Muslims and Christians is that they too should accept the concept of race and nationalism and hierarchies of privileges according to the “race” or “nationalism” one belonged to. The then RSS Sarsanghchalak K S Sudarshan addressing the meeting of RSS sponsored Muslim Rashtriya Manch (MRM) on 24th December 2002 wondered “as to why Muslims in India accepted the minority status when they belonged to this land by birth and shared the same culture, race and ancestors with the Hindus?” Concept of race and ancestors is alien to the Constitution as well as Hinduism of Kabir, Islam and Christianity! Indresh Kumar, the Margdarshak of the MRM prescribed the path of Muslims and Christians embracing Hindu nationalism or in other words, Hindu supremacy. Indresh Kumar wants the Muslims to realize this as the spirit and soul of India and promised the Muslims that all barriers would vanish if they did so. It is not Islam or Christianity that needs to Indianize as may be evident from the foregoing. It is the RSS and Hindutva ideology that needs to Indianize and give up Hindu supremacist positions of race and embrace the Constitutional morality of equality of all citizens irrespective of caste, gender, creed, race, religion, language or place of birth.


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ATS will recruit from minority community: Himanshu Roy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014 – 06:00 IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

Himanshu Roy, who is going to take over the charge of the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on Tuesday, said he would change the misconception among people that a certain community was being targeted.

Roy also said he would rope in more people from the minority communities in the ATS. This, he said, would help in bringing about the change and also aid investigations. Currently, there are hardly any policemen from the minority communities in the ATS. Their recruitment would also help in understanding various documents written in Urdu.

Roy is filling in the post left vacant by Rakesh Maria, who has been appointed promoted to the post of the Mumbai police commissioner.

Replying to a question about the not so good equation between the ATS and the crime branch, Roy said that the two are sister agencies and they work together. Roy had the longest tenure at the crime branch. “My crime branch tenure will definitely give people confidence while I am in ATS,” he added.

Roy also said that he would take all preventive steps, including human and technical intelligence, to avert any untoward incident. He added that frequent public meetings would be conducted to hear citizens’ problems and solving them would be their priority.

Measures will be taken to improve relations with all the intelligence agencies working in the country as terrorism is a problem that has to be dealt with together, he said.


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India: Beaten and arrested for defend the rights of Christians Dalits

On Dec. 11, 2013 Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi was part of a large protest march in India’s capital, with demonstrators demanding equal rights for low-caste Christians and Muslims, known as dalits, or “untouchables”. They account for more than 65 percent of India’s 27 million Christians. Approaching the main road the peaceful march became victim of police brutalities, with police beating numerous protestors, including priests and nuns, and blasting people with water cannons loaded with muddy water. Archbishop Couto—alongside other members of the country’s Catholic hierarchy, as well as top Protestant and Muslim leaders—was among more than 400 demonstrators who were detained by the police.

Archbishop Couto was interviewed on the 18th December by Joop Koopman from the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

(Archbishop Anil Couto of Delhi © Aid to the Church in Need)

Q) What prompted the protest at this particular time?

A) We have been holding regular protests demanding equal rights for Christians and Muslims for many years. Plus, Dec. 10 marked the 2013 UN Human Rights Day. This is also a time when the Indian Parliament is in winter session. Our hope was to get the attention of the Government and some political leaders who sympathize with the cause so that the issue might be raised in Parliament, thus building pressure on the government.

Q) How do you explain the highly aggressive response of authorities to the protest—the first time in more than 15 years that such violence was used to quell protests on behalf of Christian and Muslim dalits?

A) The aggression on the part of the government was triggered because we actually violated the security barrier leading to the Parliament. Protests beyond that barrier are halted by the police with sticks and water cannon. Had we persisted the police might have used even more violent means. But we felt we had to make this push because otherwise nobody would pay any attention. We had to do something drastic, even if it meant breaking the law. We had to take the risk.

Q) How significant is the fact that this is a cause that unites Christians and Muslims? Could it have positive ramifications for Muslim-Christians in India and Pakistan, for example, or even in the Middle East?

A) I do not know what kind of impact our joint efforts would have beyond India. In Pakistan, Christians are a tiny community faced with many fanatical groups. Of course, I hope this relationship in India between Christians and Muslim can have an impact beyond the country. But here, of course, Christians and Muslims are both minorities that are suffering discrimination. That makes for a very particular situation and we generally enjoy a good relationship with each other.

Q) In 1950 Hindu dalits were granted their rights, which were subsequently granted to Buddhists and Sikhs. How do you explain the resistance of so many successive Indian governments to bringing justice to Christian and Muslim dalits?

A) That resistance stems from the Hindutva ideology that India must be strictly Hindu and eventually become a Hindu theocratic state. They propagate the view that Islam and Christianity came from outside the country; that these religions were not born here. Adherents of faiths that originated in India find greater toleration—such as Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists. Christians in particular are discriminated against because there is a fear that if Christian dalits are granted their rights many Hindu dalits might convert to Christianity. That certainly is the concern on the part of rightwing Hindu nationalist parties.

Q) Does Christianity hold out something special?

A) Yes, the Christian faith upholds in a particular way the dignity of the human person. There is enormous power and strength that flows from the relationship with Christ and the Gospel. The Lord died for us! We are saved by His sacrifice! Besides spiritual nourishment, the Christian Churches also provide great social benefits and they work hard for social and political reform. This holds great appeal for people—and hence some right wing Hindu factions worry about a great exodus from Hinduism toward Christianity.

Q) There are some reports that some Christian dalits, though practicing their faith privately—publicly present themselves as Hindus in order to get government benefits. Is this a big issue for you?

A) There is an injustice—Christians are denied their constitutional rights, and this is a way to get around the law. I am not aware of a great number of people doing this, however. There are many people who stand up for their faith, and are willing to forego economic and social privileges.

Q) On Dec. 12 you and other Christian leaders were able to meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. What came out of your conversation with him?

A) We met for only 10 minutes, but we were encouraged. When we apprised him about the beatings and the violence his response was: “I am very sorry about it”. He assured the delegation that he will put the matter before his cabinet and that he will make further efforts to put it before Parliament. But promises have been made so many times before. The issue is currently in the hands of the Supreme Court, which is waiting for the government to say yes or no to the granting of rights to the Christian and Muslim minorities. The Court is acting in accord with the recommendation of a special commission set up by the Government for this purpose. It is known as the Ragunath Mishra Commission. It had urged the government four years ago that affirmative actions be made religion-neutral. Our question to the government is why they have not said either yes or no to the Supreme Court—the country’s leadership has been silent. But it must act!

Q) What is your view of Gujarat’s chief minister, NarendraModi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) candidate to vie in next year’s elections. He is linked to anti-Muslim violence that left 1,000 dead in 2002. Does he have a chance of becoming Prime Minister? What would the return to power of the Hindu nationalist BJP mean for your cause?

A) I am not sure if he has a chance. The media are picking him as a winner. There is a hype going on. Going by his track record, he would clearly not be good choice for us. It could in fact be very dangerous for minorities if the BJP is back in power, even as part of a coalition government. They would again start agitating against conversions to Christianity—blaming the Christians for aggressive proselytizing. That is a false claim.

Christian missionary work is going on, but within the provisions of the Constitution. We are free to confess and propagate our faith; and people have the liberty to choose their religion. But the BJP would want to create this kind of psychosis, this public paranoia with the charge that every conversion is a forced conversion and would have to be reported to authorities. Hindu nationalists would find many of the media at their side.

Q) What are the next steps for you and other Christian (and Muslim) leaders in India?

A) We are trying to come together in this ecumenical effort. We are considering our next steps. We have not yet developed a joint strategy. The Bishops’ Conference is working with the National Christian Council of India and with the Evangelical Fellowship to encourage people to vote for parties with secular credentials and which will uphold the secular nature of our Constitution; yet we are not sure which party, though secular, will openly espouse the cause of dalit Christians (and dalit Muslims). The Congress had the best chance of doing it decades ago when it was in absolute majority but has dillydallied on the issue to the detriment of justice.

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#India – The Communal Violence Bill must become a Law

Priyanka Chaturvedi
Tuesday, 22 October 2013 18:49

In 1989, Rajiv Gandhi government brought the Scheduled Castes and Schedules Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act to prevent atrocities against scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.  The Act was passed because the normal provisions of the existing laws such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 and Indian Penal Code were found inadequate to check these atrocities against Scheduled Castes and Tribes. The Act, which has been hailed by the Supreme Court, is an example in our legal system of special legislative provisions for vulnerable groups in response to social reality and experience. In a case challenging the necessity of the Act, the Supreme Court in fact went on to say that, “The offences of atrocities are committed to humiliate and subjugate the SCs and STs with a view to keep them in a state of servitude. Hence, they constitute a separate class of offences and cannot be compared with offences under the Indian Penal Code.”

Also read: Why does Jaitley feel communal violence bill is anti-majority

A similar argument is again being raised against the draft Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence(Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill (PCTVB)which has been prepared by the NAC. After the recent Muzaffarnagar riots, there has been a demand from many quarters that the government introduce this bill. You can read an analysis of the draft Bill by PRS Legislative Research.

The basic tenets of the Bill are to ensure accountability of public officials, rights of victims and uniform standards for the affected in case of communal violence. The Bill is based on the reality that in cases of targeted identity-based violence against a non-dominant group at the state level (defined as linguistic or religious minorities, SCs and STs in a state) there is incontrovertible evidence of bias by local state law enforcement and administrative machinery. NAC’sExplanatory Note further clears the misconceptions about the Bill. Every episode of communal and targeted violence has been followed by a political and public call for measures to equalise this institutional bias; to correct discrimination by the state in applying laws of the land equally for all, including in prevention of violence as well as in unbiased, impartial investigation and prosecution if violence occurs, followed by comprehensive relief, reparation and compensation afterwards. The Bill therefore proposes correctives to restore equality in the working of the law for these non-dominant groups everywhere.

The Bill does not seek to give additional powers to the state. This is because the administration already has adequate powers to prevent and control communal and targeted violence when it chooses to do so, and thus it is not considered necessary to further enhance any powers. Communal and targeted violence spreads mainly because the public officials charged with protecting and preventing, either fail to act or act in a biased manner.

The purpose of the Bill is to end this “tradition of impunity” which produces riots. By not curbing it, the state ensures that such violence continues. It has been as true of post-Babri riots in 1992 as of the Gujarat riots in 2002. One of the conclusions of a study by Dr. Vibhuti Nariain Rai, a Police officer, was that no act of communal violence can go on beyond 48 hours unless the administration is complicit in the violence. Academic studies of riots in India by Ashutosh Varshney and Steven Wilkinson have also arrived at similar conclusions. This Bill attempts to address this delicate area of our political and administrative reality.

This is the major highlight of the Bill—to ensure the accountability of the officials whose act of commission and omission are at the root of the continuation of the targeted violence. Often, these officials are acting at the behest of the political leadership. While it is important to hold officials accountable, communal violence cannot be prevented without holding those political players who encourage and practice communal politics, accountable. The attempt of the Bill is to hold the political leadership accountable for its acts. Another significant point in the Bill is action against the Hate propaganda against the vulnerable communities, and their economic and social boycott.

It is nobody’s case that this Bill will end crime against minorities or riots in one go. But it will raise the certainly cost of administrative and political inaction during riots. This will prevent the repeat of another 2002 Gujarat riots elsewhere in the country.

Those opposing the Bill have made the argument that it impinges upon the federal structure of the country. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The proposed National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation (NACHJR) is like the National Human Rights Commission, in that it does not take over any existing powers of any public official or institution, nor supersede the existing law enforcement machinery. The advisories and recommendations of the NACHJR are not binding on state governments. Law and order remains entirely with the state government. All powers and duties of investigation, prosecution, and trial remain with the state governments.

Another fear voiced against the Bill is its likely misuse to threaten and blackmail other communities. The same argument was made against the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Act of 1989 but those fears have been largely unfounded. Yes, misuse of any law does remain a possibility but the way out is not to throw the proverbial baby with the bathwater. And if misuse of a law was the reason for not enacting it, how does the BJP justify its constant demand for reenacting the POTA, a law proven to have been misused repeatedly against minorities? 

In any case, the draft Bill has to be debated in the parliament before being promulgated as an Act. As with any other law, the best place for major political parties to raise objections and shape the Bill is the parliament. That is how mature democracies function. Let us hope that the Communal Violence Bill is brought in the next session of parliament and becomes an Act. After the RTI, NREGA, RTE, Land Acquisition Act and Right to Food, it would be the culmination of another promise made by the Congress-led UPA.


Read original article here-

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Prabhjot Singh, Sikh Professor, Responds To # HateCrime Attack With ‘Gratitude’ #mustread

A Stranger on Lenox Avenue


Michael Appleton for The New York Times

Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor of international affairs at Columbia University, at a press conference in New York on Monday.


Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor of international affairs at Columbia University, at a press conference in New York on Monday.

On the evening of Sept. 21, Prabhjot Singh, an assistant professor in the International and Public Affairs program at Columbia University in New York and the co-director of a community health care program in Harlem, was walking near his house in Harlem. Mr. Singh is a Sikh man of Indian origin and wears a long flowing beard and a turban. Around 8 p.m., a group of young black men on bicycles confronted Mr. Singh on Lenox Avenue and shouted racist slurs at him, shouting, “get Osama” and “terrorist.” The young men proceeded to punch his face and upper body.

Some people nearby intervened and the attackers rode off. They then attacked a Somali Muslim woman wearing a hijab. Mr. Singh and the Somali woman were taken to the same emergency room at Mount Sinai hospital and treated for their injuries. The assault had displaced several of Mr. Singh’s teeth and caused a fracture to his jaw.

On Monday, Mr. Singh, while discussing the assault at a press conference, thoughtfully contextualized the hatred projected against him as a reflection of ignorance rather than malice. He vowed to continue his community work in Harlem.

“If I could speak to my attackers, I would ask them if they had any questions about me, the Sikh faith,” Mr. Singh said as he emphasized his commitment to bettering the social world around him. “I would invite my attackers to the gurdwara, make sure they have an opportunity to learn who we are, get to know us. So that they too can get past this.”

I live a few blocks west of the street where Mr. Singh was attacked. I often walk along the same street. I have a beard, I am also brown, and theattack on Mr. Singh scares me. I can imagine being singled out as a brown, bearded male and being asked to atone for the sins of Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein.

I am scared because the attack occurred in Harlem, a few blocks from Malcolm X’s mosque. Mr. Singh, who seemed to have been mistaken for a Muslim, was attacked in a part of the New York that has welcomed black and brown Muslims since at least the turn of the last century. Neither turbans nor beards have been out of place in Harlem for generations. One need only think of R&B crooners like Chuck Willis or Rudy Ray Moore or visit the Sunday services led by Edgar Kendricks.

Harlem has hosted Muslims from Middle East, from South Asia, and most recently from West Africa. In Harlem, the black mosque and the black church have stood next to each other for decades, filled at all times with immigrants new and old.

The daily beat of life in Harlem remains the most life-affirming swirl of color and smiles. Harlem is a place where we come together. It is precisely because of this – this deep history and present – of solidarity within the various communities in Harlem that this attack on Mr. Singh is so jarring. What has changed in Harlem? Is it the dreaded gentrification?  Is it this arrival of more monied classes pushing aside the long established nooks and crannies of immigrant life?

On Aug. 5, 2012, Wade Michael Page, a white supremacist gunman, fatally shot six Sikh worshippers at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisc. A few months later, a series of hate crimes against Muslims occurred in New York. On Nov. 19, Bashir Ahmad, 57, a man of Afghan origin, was stabbed outside a mosque in Queens.

A few days later, on Nov. 24, Ali Akmal, 72, was beaten up and bitten on his nose during his morning walk by two men after he answered in affirmative their question about whether he was a Muslim. In early Jan. 2012, a mosque was firebombed in Queens and a house used for worship by local Hindus was attacked on the suspicion of being a mosque.

Throughout last winter, I walked nervously into New York subway stations where the controversial group American Freedom Defense Initiative, led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, had bought space and placed advertisements that showed the photograph of the burning Twin Towers with a verse from Koran next to it.

Malcolm X, the former Nation of Islam leader, left, at a rally at Lennox Avenue in Harlem, New York in 1963.

Robert Haggins/Associated Press Malcolm X, the former Nation of Islam leader, left, at a rally at Lennox Avenue in Harlem, New York in 1963.

After The Associated Press reported earlier in the year that the New York Police Department was engaging in widespread surveillance of mosques, playgrounds, and eateries frequented by Muslims, the New York Post ran a cartoon by Sean Delonas depicting hook-nosed, big-bearded, turbaned Muslims with bombs strapped on their bodies, calling The Associated Press to complain about surveillance.

The hate directed against Muslims lies at the heart of the assault against Mr. Singh. His Sikh religious identity, visually marked with his uncut beard and the uncut hair wrapped underneath a tightly wound headscarf, constitutes the bigoted sketch of a Muslim. “Rag head,” “towel head,” “Hadji,” and “Osama” may be the verbal equivalents, but the visual manifestation of this hate speech remains remarkably consistent.

In the public discourse, the question of Islamophobia is considered either too diffuse or geographically elsewhere. It is diffuse in the sense that Islamophobia is given to contain factual roots of misconduct by Muslims, which determine a fair and judicious surveillance of their actions and motives.

In that sense the critic asks Muslims – all Muslims – to either defend against the actions of their co-religionists or assert some other way of combating them. It is geographically elsewhere, because if there is indeed an Anders Behring Breivik or a Wade Michael Page, the mainstream press can sequester and cordon attention.

An exclusionary politics that defines and demonizes a minority group can only lead to mass violence, with or without the sanction of the government. The anti-Muslim rhetoric in America has led to Oak Creek and numerous other attacks on Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and other people of color.

Hate crimes follow when the role of a minority within the larger majority is demonized in public discourse – their bodies and their compartments are put under legal and cultural scrutiny and their intentions and their motivations are openly questioned.

Is the attack on Mr. Singh an event that bears a relationship to incidents of violence against minorities around the globe? His is, after all, a singular story. Yet, all the other cases of crimes against minorities are also unique. Each represents a member of a community chosen as a target and then subject to annihilation – legal or physical. To resist such erasure, to speak out against the attackers, to educate the community, to build networks of support, are all necessary acts that depend on proper contextualization of the crime.

It is important, as many speakers including Mr. Singh have suggested, that the attackers be made aware of the peaceful nature of the Sikh faith. Similar attempts needs to be made with respect to Islam in the United States.

Given the history of 9/11, that might seem an ambitious demand to make. Yet the hundreds of thousands of practicing Muslims in New York would want us to engage in that activity, to raise our voices in their support just as we are doing for Mr. Singh.

Manan Ahmed Asif teaches history at Columbia University in New York



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Modi’s Claim of Gujarat as a Model State, is Suppression of Facts

Published: August 12, 2013 , The Hindu

Staff Reporter

Shabnam Hashmi, human rights activist, is surprised at the talk of Central forces
descending on the State capital.
Shabnam Hashmi, human rights activist, is surprised at the talk of Central forces descending on the State capital.

The Gujarat model of development which is being hailed in mainstream media as the model to be replicated countrywide is built on a careful suppression of facts, human rights activist Shabnam Hashmi has said.

She was delivering the Dr. T.K. Ramachandran memorial lecture on ‘Modi-ism and Challenges to Religious Diversity,’ organised by the Secular Collective and the Keluettan Study and Research Centre, here on Sunday.

“The vibrant Gujarat summits have been projected all across the national media as bringing in lakhs of crores of investments. But only 8 per cent of the MoUs signed between 2003 and 2009 were implemented. The growth rates of Gujarat have been steadily declining in the Modi years compared to the two decades before that. The pattern is similar if you look closely at the human development indices and all other parameters in which Gujarat pales in comparison to many other States in the country,” she said.

There had been no increase in the number of jobs in the State at a time when the Government was speaking highly of its job fairs. There were 10 lakh educated youth who were jobless in the State at present and thousands of small-scale industries were shut down in the past decade. The State ranked twelfth in average wages among all the States, she said. Ms. Hashmi said corporates wanted Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister as he was ready to give them largesse in the form of land at throwaway prices.

“Large tracts of land have been given at low prices to all the big business groups who have now started singing paeans of Modi. Many farmers and fishermen were deprived of their land. The compensation rates of land have also come down drastically under his rule. At the same time, the figures of farmer suicide in the State are alarming,” she said.

Pointing to a less-discussed fallout of the Gujarat riots, she said it gave an opening to conservative minority organisations in the State. “Before the 2002, the Muslims of Gujarat were never conservative.

But the State led pogrom provided a fertile ground for such organisations to take root,” she said. She said that post the riots, fake encounters had been used as a tool to project Modi as a figure who had been under constant attack of the terrorists.


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In Gujarat What You See –is not What You Get #NarendraModi #Sundayreading

By Badri Raina,

This is a story that beggars belief, and puts into the shade everything we have thus far known of Narendra Modi’s  prowess at chicanery and subterfuge.

Indeed, had a report on this not appeared in so impeccable a Daily as  The Hindu, even my first instinct might have been to say  “surely, this can’t be.”

Let me cite in extenso from the write-up authored by  the reputed Manas Dasgupta,  issue of August 13 from :

“Talking to journalists here, Mr.  Patel (once the redoubtable chief minister of Gujarat, and scion of the puissant Patel community, now fallen out of the BJP, and head of  the new Gujarat Parivartan Party) and Mr. Mehta (Suresh Mehta, another erstwhile chief minister, equally disaffected with Modi and the BJP and partnering Patel in the new party)  alleged that several thousand Muslims who greeted Mr.Modi during the fasts (reference to Modi’s  motley  ‘Sadbhavna ‘  campaign some months ago in ostensible pursuit of social harmony)  were in fact Hindus.”  Emphasis added.

Lest you think this a piece of disingenuous verbal engineering without basis of any sort  in evidence, here is the stunning bit:

“Mr. Mehta said that through a Right to Information plea he had got reply that on the direction of Mr.Modi, the Navsasri District Collector had purchased 28,000 skull caps, used by Muslims, and distributed them among BJP workers.  He said the  BJP workers wearing the skull caps and dressed as Muslims had thronged the ‘Sadbhavna’ venue.”  Emphasis added.

Need one add any sort of gloss to the  meaning of this story?

I have looked closely at subsequent editions of The Hindu and have not found any  repudiation of the report, or the least disclaimer.  Conclusion:  Manas Dasgupta knew what he was talking about. And kudos to the Collector of Navsari who has had the courage and integrity to say it like it is. Yet another Gujarati  braveheart.

At a time when  “corruption”  is so much a part of  “civil society” angst and discourse  in India, with campaigns led by the likes of Anna Hazare and  Baba Ramdev, both  Modi admirers,  one might ask whether  this  despicable fancy-dress transmogrification of identities referred to in the  story  comprises  corruption more corrupt than anything we have known, or whether this ought to be lauded as a piece of transcendant maya  authored by god himself.

To think that the authoriser (“on the direction of Modi,” says the RTI reply)  of such a cynical, and perhaps criminal, sleight-of-hand, as reported above, should be the BJP’s preferred candidate for the country’s  highest executive office!  Hindutva at its most creatively unethical yet?

What does seem intriguing, though, is the fact that three whole days since the report appeared in The Hindu (August 13)  not a squeak seems on the cards from any media outlet or public platform.  Even after one concedes the reality that a majority of India’s  electronic channels are Modi acolytes in line with overt and covert corporate interests, the deafening silence thus far seems to tell its own story as well.

In the meanwhile,  it is hard to say  how much of this was known to those vested Muslim groups in Gujarat who have been advocating  the desirability of rapproachment with Modi.  Ah, the lures of commerce.  But now that the cat is out of the bag, it may be harder for the Sangh Parivar  to fast forward the  interested untruth that  Muslims are not only so happy in Gujarat but are waiting to go over in droves to Modi, come the state elections this year.  Just as the revelation must also have its own fallout among the electorate in other parts of India, Bihar included.

The most important speculation must be whether this latest of Modi’s reported shenanigans  dents the awed loyalty that  his  support base among  well-meaning, piety-ridden  Gujarati  bhadralok (educated middle classes) bear to him.  After all, even they may rethink  their position about someone whom they have so venerated, but who  is now reported to have stooped so crassly low.

If not, then god alone may help Gujarat.


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An Aarti From Time, A Brookings Chalisa- a Response to Times Cover on Narendra Modi

Are they drowned in Modi’s magnetism? Is this worship exigency?

Narendra Modi is no doubt a successful politician. There is almost a special kind of luck that accompanies him in the public domain, luck that can be explained in two decisive electoral victories and the attraction that follows such success. He is constantly in the news and a set of those who fear and adulate the man suggest that the more the institutions of justice berate him, the more his TRP soars. News constantly props up the picture of a decisive chief minister. Last week, Time had him on the cover and Brookings Institution had a favourable report on him. There is a curious timing behind these reports. They hint that he is prime ministerial material and that a realistic sense of politics demands that one engage with the emerging Indian future.

One can match statistics with statistics to show that Modi’s achievement is exaggerated, that other states have done well or that GNP and GDP could take contrary turns in Gujarat. One can say, for instance, that in the five years between 2004-05 and 2009-10, Gujarat’s per capita income nearly doubled from Rs 32,021 to Rs 63,961. In the same period, neighbouring Maharashtra, the perceived laggard, saw its per capita income grow from Rs 35,915 to Rs 74,027. Several states besides Gujarat have shown double digit growth in their GDP in recent years, and Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have bigger economies. Gujarat now runs a revenue deficit—it spends more than it earns—and its surplus has disappeared. Several other states have improved their fiscal positions meanwhile. Reforms? Five states passed the Fiscal Responsibility Bill before Gujarat did in 2005, and 20 states preceded Gujarat in implementing VAT. Surplus power? Facts on the ground and increasing protests show this to be an exaggerated claim. Human development indicators? Gujarat lags behind in access to primary and higher education, is high on the percentage of population prone to hunger and starvation, access to fiscal credit among the marginalised is low, girl child schooling shows poor figures. State and central government figures support all this.

We think there is also a different way of responding—by asking what is the criteria for decency and well-being? One has to go to the structural roots of the argument, move beyond a gasping portrait of Modi already basking in a future at Lutyens’ Delhi. Time magazine’s two-page picture of Modi on the lawns is suggestive of that. It is as if the props are there, the script is also there, the players are waiting, and all one needs is an auspicious time. The Brookings essay on Modi goes one better and writes him a certificate of good conduct that would help revoke the ban on his US visa. For Brookings, banning a future prime minister would be bad politics.

Why the unholy haste by the brookings institution and time to glamourise a glamour-hungry modi who could well face charges of mass murder?

Time cites a social scientist in a preemptive act, a jumping of the gun proclaiming a once and future king before the democratic and legal process is over. Indian courts are yet to assess whether the evidence collected by investigators and assessed by the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court can make out a case to prosecute Modi, his cabinet colleagues, ideologues, administrators and policemen. The charges are criminal culpability to conspire to commit mass murder, subvert the justice process and destroy critical evidence and records. Why then, we may ask, the unholy haste by Time magazine and the Brookings Institution when courts are seized of the matter, Modi could (or may not) be charge-sheeted for criminal offences, when general elections are nearly two years away?

The analysis presented states that Muslims are voting for Modi as the Congress is too weak to do anything for them. The question one has to ask is: Is such a lazy social science enough? Which section of Muslims is voting for Modi? Two, is a vote for Modi a legitimation of Modi or is it a shotgun wedding of a community that is desperate to survive and see that its people still wrongfully locked in jail are released?

Anyone who watched the Sadbhavna festival would realise that the Muslims who came were paying court to a king. There was no rapprochement, no forgiveness. If anything, the ritual expressed its distance from Muslim life. The Sadbhavna yatra was more a power game like ancient times where people swore fealty to the lord. The state government, in the ultimate display of control, has refused activists access to accounts of the public monies spent on an autocratic chief minister’s personal agenda.

One has to read the metaphors of the Time report. Modi is presented as wearing the white of a penitent embarking on fasts. The writer, Jyoti Thottam, suggests it’s an act of purification,
humility and bridge-building. To read Modi’s Sadbhavna fasts in this way insults the idea of fast as a moral weapon and confuses it for a strategic tool. White, anyway, is the most hypocritical colour of politicians. The question one has to ask before one uses words like humility and purity is: What is the moral nature of the act?

But Modi should not be seen only a personality. He is a Rorschach inkblot set before society, provoking basic questions. Modi, in terms of civic indicators like investment, rule of law and governance is scoring high. These statistics have been rigorously contested in the public domain, by the Gujarati media, by the opposition, even the state government’s own figures. And what about the CAG reports on Sufalam Sujalam project, the Kutch melas and the public disinvestment scams? A dispassionate assessment exposes the Modi makeover for the brazen public relations job it was meant to be.

The question that needs asking is whether modi fits into a vision of a society where the minorities have a place, where dissent has a place.

And then how does one look at and talk about his institution-building? He has refused to allow the Lokayukta to function freely. He has silenced the bureaucracy with threats, incentives of plum posts, juicy extensions that let senior bureaucrats retain power and visibility. His privatisation of medicine has to be independently assessed in terms of ethics, care, cost and well-being. Ahmedabad, home to at least four universities and some of the finest institutes, still cannot produce a critical debate on him, as many institutes have quietly imposed a gag order on dissenting intellectuals. The Congress, though weak as an opposition, has highlighted a major issue. Land is being bequeathed to major corporations like Tatas and Adanis on easy terms, transforming public lands into private goods. At the Gujarati taxpayer’s expense.

The Brookings narrative adds a second halo to Modi. It converts him tacitly from a politician to a statesman receiving courses on climate change and even writing a book on it. Behind both essays is an even more tacit semiotics. It is what we must call the Americanisation of Modi. It creates a political palatability to his reception abroad. Leave aside the American’s love of the Asian dictator with a keen and ready investment plan, there is first the Horatio Alger syndrome, portraying him as a self-made man, as a protestant ascetic, a journey Time portrays in the from-smalltown-boy-to-CEO-of-Gujarat, succeeding without family connections or fancy education. He seems very different from the young Congress elite, with their pampered backgrounds. Unlike other Indians, he keeps his family at a distance. There is no family coterie hanging around him, unlike around Laloo Prasad Yadav or Karunanidhi or Yediyurappa. The Brookings report then steps in by showing Modi to be a keen student of American politics, wondering whether Indian states can have the sort of freedom states in the United States do. He is entrepreneurly, eco-friendly, and all in all, a global man awaiting his time, open to World Bank reforms and yet a home-grown nationalist. Modi is also presented not just as prime ministerial material but as the Indian answer to China, a note that will play deep into the American and Indian psyche, presenting them a streamlined politician for the future.

The question one is asking is not whether Modi is a future prime minister. The logic of Indian electoral politics will answer that. The question is: Where does Modi fit into a vision of decent society in which the minorities and those in the margins have a place, in which dissent has a place? Is Modi’s future a participative future and a pluralistic one? His technocratic credentials are not in doubt, but his vision of democracy needs to be examined. Oddly, Modi might fail by the norms set by his own hero, Swami Vivekananda. Modi has failed to provide a civilisational answer to the crisis of Gujarat. Investment and development, even with the distorted statistics bandied around, are poor substitutes for such a vision. In Americanising him, the reports reveal the modernist flaw deep within his programme.

(The authors are trustees of Citizens for Justice and Peace) in the Outlook,Magazine

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