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Modi sworn in as PM – Mobs clash in Ahmedabad, shops and vehicles burnt

AFP  Ahmedabad, May 26, 2014

First Published: 16:05 IST(26/5/2014) | Last Updated: 16:20 IST(26/5/2014)
 Modi chalisa

Ahmedabad: Police fired tear gas to break up clashes between Hindu and Muslim mobs in Narendra Modi’s heartland of Gujarat on the eve of his swearing in asPrime Minister, officials said on Monday.

Angry crowds set fire to several shops and vehicles and pelted stones at each other during the clashes in western Gujarat state’s main city of Ahmedabad on Sunday night, police and fire officials said.

Ahmedabad joint police commissioner Manoj Shashidhar said officers fired tear gas to halt the violence which left four people injured.

Ahmedabad: Hindu-Muslims mobs clash on the eve of Modi's swearing-in

Angry crowds set fire to several shops and vehicles and pelted stones at each other during the clashes in Ahmedabad on Sunday.

Shashidhar said an investigation was under way into the clashes which appear to have started when two cars from the different communities crashed in an accident during a marriage procession.

“The incident flared up following a petty argument between people of twocommunities on Sunday night in Gomtipur area of the city. The situation was immediately brought under control,” Shashidhar told AFP.

The incident escalated when mobs set property on fire, Ahmedabad chief fire officer M.S Dastur told AFP.

“Some three shops, one mini-bus and a couple of two wheelers were burnt during the incident,” Dastur said.

The clashes came as Hindu nationalist Modi, chief minister of Gujarat for 13 years, was set to be sworn as premier on Monday after a landslide victory at elections as head of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Modi has pledged national unity as he attempts to revive the faltering economy, but he remains tainted by anti-Muslim riots on his watch in Gujarat in 2002 that left at least 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, dead.

Modi has denied wrongdoing and a court investigation found he has no case to answer.

But some members of religious minorities fear a rise in communal tensions under a Modi government and warn they will be sidelined at the expense of the Hindu majority.

 Read mor ehere

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“Worse Than Reagan”: Meet the Violent Chauvinist Now Leading India, Narendra Modi


By Elias Isquith, Salon

23 May 14


arlier this month, India, the largest democracy in the world, held its national parliamentary elections. As was widely expected, the result was a clear and potentially epochal victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the country’s leading right-wing party, and its leader, the pugnacious, nationalistic and neoliberal Narendra Modi, whom the Economist — in a somewhat unprecedented anti-endorsement — recently described as “a man who is still associated with sectarian hatred.”

In an effort to better understand Modi and what his ascension might mean for the future of the second-most populous country in the world, Salon recently spoke with Thomas Crowley, a Delhi-based researcher who has written of “myriad reasons to see [Modi] as embodying fascistic tendencies” and who’s argued that the rise of Modi and the BJP signals the full embrace of neoliberalism by India’s elites. Our conversation follows, and has been edited for clarity and length.

So, what just happened with India’s election?

The results were announced on May 16 after all the phases [of the election] were complete. And, basically, May 12 was the last phase of voting … So after all the phases of voting ended, the exit polls suggested that [Modi’s] BJP — or the Bharatiya Janata Party — would have the most votes. And then when the results were announced, four days later, [BJP] got a majority that was way bigger than any of the polls had predicted … It had been the main opposition party for the past 10 years, and everyone was kind of expecting that they’d win, but they thought they’d get a plurality of votes because there are a ton of regional parties in India that generally have a lot of power and eat into the larger national parties … So this was the first time since 1984 that one party has had a majority of seats in the parliament, it’s generally a plurality that falls short of a majority.

What’s the generally accepted identity of the now-ruling BJP?

There are two main tenets of [their ideology], and they kind of emphasize different ones at different times, depending on which audience they’re addressing. During this election a big emphasis was on development. And development seen in a very neoliberal way, of opening up the markets, allowing more foreign direct investment, reforming the tax code, that kind of thing —

By “reforming the tax code,” what do you mean? Does that mean the same thing in India that means in America — i.e., lowering taxes on corporations?

Yeah, something very similar to that …

Anyway, you were saying about the BJP?

Narendra Modi has built a reputation — and very consciously built up this reputation — as someone who is a friend of business but also … that that kind of development benefits everyone. The facts on the ground are quite different, but that’s the kind of rhetoric [he uses]. So there’s that kind of neoliberal development, so that’s one of their main platforms.

Sometimes in the background — sometimes it comes to the front — is this very strong Hindu nationalism, and a kind of Hindu nationalism that is very exclusionary and is at times violent against religious minorities, which is mostly Muslims but also Christians and a few others.

During the campaign, was the BJP pretty consistently focused on this idea of development, or did they emphasize Hindu nationalism in front of some audiences and downplay it with others?

I do think, generally, that [development] was the dominant theme. But like in American politics, they talk about these dog-whistle things that, say, Republican politicians use to refer to race without referring to race? I think similar things went on in this campaign. For example, [Modi] made some comment that infiltrators from Bangladesh should be kicked out of the country. It’s very clearly understood that that means illegal immigrants of Muslim origin; Hindu refugees from Bangladesh are considered “refugees” but if they’re Muslims, they’re considered “infiltrators.” So very slightly veiled language was used, and sometimes it was more odious: One of Modi’s key aides, he went to an area that had suffered from religious riots, where Muslims had been the main ones to suffer, and … was talking to the Hindu community, and said, “You should vote for our party and it will be a vote for revenge.” It was very clearly “We’ll help you get revenge on the Muslims.”

One of the things you see a lot in Western media when it comes to Modi — especially from left-wing sources — is references to fascism. Is he a crypto-fascist?

I would say that he definitely has fascistic tendencies — and actually just a quick side note on that: There’s this magazine that recently … fired two editors, replaced them with two editors who are very sympathetic to Modi, and just recently they came out with a kind of commemorative edition of the magazine, to basically celebrate Modi, and the name of it was “Triumph of the Will.”

Oh, I saw that, but I didn’t understand that that was from people who were supporting him. I thought that was a not-so-subtle dig. That’s scary.

I would say that there are definitely fascistic tendencies, that [BJP leaders] have. And I think a lot of people who are saying, “No, he’s not a fascist,” are also people who are trying to defend him and say, “Oh, he’s not that bad, he’s gotten more moderate,” and people who are emphasizing the business-friendly side. Personally, I think for various other theoretical reasons, whether to think of a fascist formation is the most useful, I’m not sure; but I think there are very strong authoritarian tendencies and if you look at how he rose within the party, consolidating power, brooking no opposition, he’s definitely very consciously created a cult of personality around him. One of the famous — or one of the much-quoted statistics — is that the BJP, it’s estimated they have spent 5 trillion rupees on advertising. And I was actually just looking this up, what that actually is in dollars, so that’s $85 million. That’s a massive, massive budget put into revamping Modi’s image.

Which was so gravely damaged by the riots in 2002. Could you tell us a bit about those riots?

Modi was the chief minister of this western state of Gujarat, and … these Hindus were returning on a train from celebrating the 10-year anniversary [of the disassembling of the Babri Mosque], and the train caught on fire … The police story was that a Muslim mob had set the train on fire, but people have questioned that account … but there was a fire and people died. In response to that, there were these widespread riots — although I think calling them “riots” suggests it was two-sided, when it was really a pogrom against Muslims in Gujurat. There’s a lot of debate about whether Modi was personally responsible, but what seems very clear [is that] he didn’t do much to stop it. Even when he knew what was going on, he didn’t seem very keen on slowing it down or reining it in. There are interviews with people who are close to him anonymously saying that he was telling the police, “Let the Hindus let their anger out; they need to let their anger out, so let it happen.”

Assuming Modi didn’t plan it, but did let it happen and didn’t do anything to stop it, would that be outside the norm of Indian politics?

It is but … I mean, there are similar cases. There were anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and at that time it was the [longtime ruling party] Congressgovernment who was letting it go on longer than it should have. [But] this was unusual because it was unusually violent, and unusually widespread, and unusually severe.

Turning back to the recent election, you note that BJP has been the longtime leading opposition party. So why did it have its big breakthrough now instead of previously? Why now?

I can only give conjecture. One important thing, just to qualify that [is that] the way the electoral system works in India, as in the United States, is “first past the post,” winner-takes-all. So … the BJP won 30 percent of the votes, say, but they have about 50 percent of the seats in Parliament … [But] the fact is 70 percent of voters voted against BJP.

The other side of it is also what Congress has done wrong. Congress actually lost more votes than the BJP gained. And in some ways, it’s easier to say where Congress messed up [than where BJP succeeded]. Part of it is external economic crises that have happened that have been kind of blamed on Congress, whether fairly or not. There’s also been a lot of very widespread corruption scandals that have really hit the Congress, and also extremely high inflation. That was the context of it.

But BJP … picked up on the aspirations not only of the middle class and the upper class that traditionally voted for BJP, but also aspirations of lower middle classes or even some of the urban working class, the upper tier of that. There really was this idea that a Modi or BJP government can create, can fulfill, these aspirations.

The other side definitely is the … Hindu-Muslim polarization that they’ve capitalized on. The Hindu community is so large, and … is very internally differentiated. You have different religious traditions within Hinduism, and also the hierarchies of caste. I think where the BJP was successful was in forging this idea of a united Hindu community against the Muslims, or against religious minorities.

Now, Modi himself isn’t from a higher caste background, right?


Is he sort of a Nixon-style scrabbler, the kind of guy who rose to the top through hard work and determination and grit and resentment and all that? Or is the class disconnect between his base 


Or is the class disconnect between his base and his background less pronounced?

No, I think he is. There is that kind of rags-to-riches element of his story. When he was a kid, he was selling tea on a railway station platform. From a caste perspective, he’s not from the very-most marginalized castes. He’s from the lower, middle castes. So he didn’t face the most extreme caste suppression, but he certainly wasn’t from a very privileged caste. And from a class background, he did come from a less privileged background. The other side of that is that he had, from seemingly a young age, a vicious sense of what-he-wants-is-what-he’ll-do. And he was extremely ambitious and seeking power in a very single-minded way.

This is a big question — and you could devote your whole career to trying to answer it — but what is the relationship between ascendant neoliberalism and, at the same time, Hindu nationalism?

Maybe the simplest way, or the most basic way, to see it is that both are rising with the failure of the kind of development project in India. After Independence, [there was] this idea of building a … socialist state (in a social democratic kind of sense, a strong welfare state idea) … That failed, and why that failed is also a very complicated story. But with the failure of that, that kind of strong welfare state model, that social democratic model —

I know it’s a complicated story, but what are the manifestations of the failure you’re talking about? What does it mean to people that it failed. For example, in America, people would claim Carter’s presidency was proof of liberalism’s failures and they would point to stagflation. So for people in India who think the old Congress model failed, would it be a similar explanation?

Yeah, part of it is that. There was just a series of economic crises throughout the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, often having to do with the current account deficit … There were these economic problems, and it also failed in the sense that it didn’t alleviate poverty to a great extent. You still have horrendously low levels of human development index throughout that period. You’d eliminated famines but you still had widespread hunger and malnutrition. So, even on its own terms, it failed …

OK. Anyway, you were saying that the failure of that model buoyed both neoliberalism and Hindu nationalism, I assume because the Congress model was not only social-democratic but also secular?

Yeah, so the first prime minister was Jawaharlal Nehru, the Nehruvian consensus people talk about, the cornerstones of it were secularism, democracy and socialism. You can argue that that was all just rhetoric, and to a great extent it was just rhetoric … but at least those were the ideals they were aspiring to, even if politicians were using those ideas in a cynical way. And that consensus … started breaking in the ’60s, was really broken in the ’80s, and in the ’90s onward there was a new turn toward both [neoliberalism and Hindu nationalism].

It was a slow process, though. If it started in the ’90s at the latest, that means it took at least 20 years.

It was a slow process. And what’s interesting also … is that both the neoliberal ideology and the Hindu nationalism are old. Hindu nationalism is very, very old. And even those kind of liberalization policies [are old, too]. But I think it’s because these old ideas — and you can call it old wine in new bottles — but it has an appeal now because of the current social and economic situation in India.

Considering the idea that he’s risen from the ruins of a long-standing consensus, that he’s bringing back old ideas and packaging as if they’re new, and that he’s mixing a kind of laissez-faire economic model with more reactionary social ideas, would it be wrong to describe Modi as sort of India’s Reagan?

Since I don’t like Reagan, I’d say there’s some truth to that. One thing that’s just true about both of them is this thing of Teflon, I mean, being able to just — criticism just sliding off of them. After the BJP won the elections, there were two mosques that were attacked by BJP party members. And this … was barely reported, and Modi didn’t suffer from that happening. From my view, Modi is worse [than Reagan] because he’s been directly implicated in these riots and that kind of violent nationalism … I think why Modi is scary is because of that kind of direct involvement with violence, and personally being extremely authoritarian.

The implication from that answer is that Modi’s close relationship with religious violence is a break from the norm of the modern independent India, right?

Yes, that’s definitely correct … that is very unusual. And, actually, when the BJP was in power, the only other time they had a full term in governance was 1999-2004, and at that time … their candidate was one of the more moderate leaders of the BJP, and they put up that more moderate leader because they thought if they put one of the more extreme politicians, that he wouldn’t have a national appeal. And the fact that now, 10 years later, they feel they can put someone like Modi forward, and he does get this kind of support, it does show a disturbing trend.

Looking forward, now that the BJP and Modi are going to have a level of power that they’ve never had before, are you worried that the kind of sectarian violence that they get associated with will continue or increase? Or do you think there’s a chance that was a very cynical electoral maneuver, and that once they’re actually in power they’ll be interested in economics rather than religious division?

It may actually go against their interests to have riots … Now they want to prove they’re kind of responsible rulers, and they can also terrorize minority communities in other, more subtle ways. So if you see the case of Gujurat, what Modi’s supporters say is that after 2002 there hasn’t been a riot in Gujurat, which may be true, but the Muslim population in Gujurat has been terrorized into submission. Hindus and Muslims don’t live in the same neighborhoods, there are hardly any schools in Muslim areas, there are very few economic opportunities for most Muslims. So I think in that sense the riots may have done their job, and they may not be necessary anymore. Even if they’re not inciting riots, I don’t think that necessarily means they’re stepping back from their religious agenda.

How optimistic or pessimistic are you that Modi represents a new normal for India, or that this is kind of an anomalous moment?

My short term is very pessimistic. With the BJP having an outright majority, they basically have a free hand on the neoliberal front and also on the communal front. Not necessarily to incite riots, but to change personal laws. And there’s a lot of other ways that they can really tinker with the makeup of society. So, in the short term, the prognosis isn’t good. But I also think that, at some point, the BJP will run up against the falseness of its propaganda — and the kind of promises they’ve made, the aspirational claims that they’ve made, sound plausible because Congress has done such a terrible job, but I think it will be very clearly evident very quickly that they can’t deliver on those promises, that what they’re actually promising are advantages that accrue to a very small segment of the population. So I’m a pessimistic in the short term, but I don’t think this necessarily means that the BJP is the dominant power for the next several decades.

So this is not the end of India as we know it?

No, I’d say it’s a very low point, and it’s a very disturbing prospect, but it was moving in this direction [before], and it’s not a radical break or anything like that with the Indian political scheme.

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Could a Hindu Extremist Become India’s Next Prime Minister?

Zahir Janmohamed on May 13, 2014 – 0:36PM ET

Narendra Modi
Narendra Modi (second from right) waves to his supporters in Varanasi (Reuters/Adnan Abidi)

Ahmedabad—In a recent interview, Narendra Modi, the man likely to be India’s next prime minister, was askedby a news agency why he long avoided questions by journalists about his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. Despite YouTube videos showing Modi refusing to answer questions on this topic, Modi insisted, “I was not silent…. I answered every top journalist in the country from 2002 to 2007, but noticed there was no exercise to understand the truth.”

In Manoj Mitta’s new book The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra, published by Harper Collins India, Mitta argues that if there has been no real attempt to get to the truth of Modi’s actions during the riots, it’s because of the “cavalier” approach to justice. Through extensive documentation, Mitta shows that Modi might be on trial today, as opposed to campaigning for prime minister, if only he had been asked the right questions about his role in the riots.

Mitta is a senior journalist with the Times of India who specializes in human rights reporting. His first book,When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, examined the investigation into the anti-Sikh pogrom in India’s capital of Delhi, when about 3,000 Sikhs were killed after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard. It was co-written with H.S. Phoolka, now a senior advocate with the Supreme Court, who fought for over a decade, to little avail, to get justice for the victims of the 1984 massacre. Mitta has said that his third book will examine India’s problem of caste violence.

In his latest book, Mitta focuses his attention on Modi. The timing could not be better. India’s elections began on April 7 and conclude on May 12, with results to be announced on May 16. Modi, who has been the chief minister of Gujarat since 2001 and is running under the banner of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, has a 78 percent favorability rating, according to the Pew Research Center. His key opponents are Rahul Gandhi of the left-leaning Indian National Congress Party and Arvind Kejriwal of the anti-corruptionAam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party. Many of India’s 814 million voters view Modi as capable of rescuing India from the economic slump it has been in under the incumbent Congress party, which, with the Nehru-Gandhi family, has ruled India for most of its sixty-seven-year post-independence history. But a major cloud still hangs over Modi’s head: the 2002 Gujarat riots.

The violence was sparked after a train was set on fire in the Gujarat city of Godhra. Fifty-nine Hindus were killed, most of them known as kar sevaks, who were on their way back from Ayodhya, in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh. The kar sevaks were helping to build a temple to the Hindu deity Lord Ram on the site of the religiously contested sixteenth-century Babri mosque, which was razed by tens of thousands of Hindus in 1992.

Retaliatory violence broke out in Gujarat soon after the Godhra arson, resulting in the death of over 1,200, most of them Muslims. Human Rights Watch said in its 2002 report, “The attacks against Muslims in Gujarat have been actively supported by state government officials and by the police.” Particularly gruesome was the scale of violence against women. “Among the women surviving in relief camps, are many who have suffered the most bestial forms of sexual violence—including rape, gang rape, mass rape, stripping, insertion of objects into their body, stripping, molestations. A majority of rape victims have been burnt alive,” a report by a collection of India-based NGOs said. In 2005, the US government denied Modi a visa, the first time in history Washington has blocked entry because of religious freedom violations.

Modi, who was born in Gujarat in 1950, has been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, since his childhood. The RSS was started in 1925 as a paramilitary Hindu nationalist group and today it runs around 45,000 camps where Hindus are trained in various physical activities ranging from yoga to evenweapons training. In 1948, one of its members, Nathuram Godse, assassinated India’s nonviolent independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi. Modi remains an ardent follower of the RSS and a champion of Hindu nationalism, which argues that non-Hindus may live peacefully in India so long as they accept the superiority of Hindu culture. It is this belief that led a young Modi to join the senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, who became India’s deputy prime minister in 2002, on a procession across India to build support for the destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya.

For many, including the Indian sociologist Ashis Nandy, Modi’s proclivity toward ultra-religious nationalism has always been visible. Remarking in 2002 about his meeting with Modi in the early 1990s, Nandy wrote, “I had met a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer.”

How, then, did Modi transform himself from a human rights pariah to being cleared by India’s legal system? Mitta begins by probing the Godhra train tragedy. Within hours after the attacks, dozens of Muslims were arrested, despite the fact that there was scant evidence of their involvement. That afternoon, the dead bodies from the Godhra incident were handed over to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an extremist Hindu nationalist group, and placed on display eighty miles away in Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s most populous city, where Hindu-Muslim clashes erupted in 1969, 1985 and 1992. And that night, Modi called the arson a “terror attack,” before any investigation had begun.

P.C. Pande, then the Ahmedabad commissioner of police, was critical of the decision; he “feared serious repercussions because Ahmedabad was a communally sensitive city… like a tinderbox.” Mitta challenges the belief that Modi showed respect for the legal system and called for calm. If anything, the opposite was true, Mitta argues, suggesting that it may have been the Gujarat government’s decision to bring the bodies to Ahmedabad and place them on display.

One of the most shocking things Mitta reveals is that the forensic team that was assigned to examine the burnt train coach arrived only two months later, and the train coach had been left out in the open. Whether this was a case of incompetence or willful neglect, Mitta reminds us that the best way to memorialize the Hindus who died is to seek answers about their killing through a proper investigation. “The casualties in the Godhra arson deserved better fact-finding, especially under a government that derived so much political mileage from their tragedy,” Mitta writes.

Nine years later, thirty-one Muslims were convicted in 2011 of a “pre-planned conspiracy” to attack the train. But what of the sixty-three Muslims who were acquitted, including the alleged mastermind? Mitta writes, “These false arrests were a measure of the prejudice likely to have been caused to the investigation by Modi’s hasty declaration on the first day that the Godhra incident was a terror attack.”

The bulk of Mitta’s book, however, focuses on the violence that followed the train arson. On February 28, 2002, a day after the train fire, a mob gathered in the affluent Muslim neighborhood of Gulbarg in Ahmedabad where Ehsan Jafri, a member of India’s Parliament, lived along with other Muslim families. Jafri made frantic calls for help to the police commissioner and to the chief minister’s office, but no one responded. When the mob surrounded his home, Jafri fired a gun in hopes of dispelling it. In 2007, the Indian investigative magazine Tehelka reported the testimony of one of Jafri’s assailants: “Five or six people held [Jafri], then someone struck him with a sword… chopped off his hand, then his legs… then everything else… after cutting him to pieces, they put him on the wood they’d piled and set it on fire… burnt him alive.” Jafri was 73.

Several years later, India’s Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by R.K. Raghavan, the former head of India’s Central Bureau of Investigation. Mitta brings Raghavan’s impartialityinto question. Not only was he indicted for the security lapses that led to the assassination of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, a Congress party leader, in 1991, but Raghavan’s career was resuscitated in 1999 by Modi’s party, the BJP.

The SIT questioned Modi in 2010, asking him seventy-one questions, including about the Jafri case. Modi claims he did not know about the incident until five hours later, though he admitted that as chief minister of Gujarat, he was in constant contact with his police officers, who were monitoring that day’s events. Police officers have also come forward and claimed that Modi instructed them to “let Hindus vent their anger,” although the veracity of this has been contested.

Nonetheless, Modi’s claim to not have known about the killing does not square with his infamously autocraticstyle of rule and his tendency to know every detail about Gujarat’s events. In this election, Modi has boasted that as chief minister, he is one of the most efficient and attentive leaders, but these are two qualities Modi did not show on the day of Jafri’s killing.

Unfortunately, the SIT’s questioning of Modi was of little help in discovering the truth: “At no point did AK Malhotra [a member of the investigating team of the SIT] make the slightest effort to pin Modi down on any gaps and contradictions in his testimony,” Mitta writes. Furthermore, Mitta believes that “had the SIT not balked at asking questions on issues of far greater consequence, Modi would have most likely been facing a trial.”

Modi, however, has emerged unscathed, while others have been convicted in the Gujarat riots cases, including Maya Kodnani, who led a mob in Gujarat at the bloodiest incident during the violence, the Naroda Patiya massacre, where ninety-seven Muslims were killed. Kodnani was BJP legislator at the time and in 2007, Modi promoted her to Minister for Women and Children Development, despite pending charges against her for inciting the worst violence during the 2002 riots. (She was convicted and sentenced to twenty-eight years in jail in 2012.)

But assessing Modi’s guilt is not the purpose of Mitta’s book, and Mitta deserves credit for his restraint. At times the book is dense and bogged down with technical details, which can be daunting for a non-specialist audience. I do also wish Mitta had zoomed out a bit more to examine broader issues, such as the culture of impunity that is so widespread in India as well as the role of the Indian bureaucracy in religious riots. That said, given how emotionally charged these elections are, Mitta deserves credit for not making any bold proclamations about Modi, and he deserves praise for his lack of rhetorical bombast, something rare in these discussions.

Coming in the middle of these elections, Mitta’s book is also an important corrective to the way Modi speaks about the 2002 riots today. In a recent interview, Modi said, “I have taken it [moral responsibility for any person killed in Gujarat] since day one.” This past December, Modi claimed he was “shaken to the core by the riots.”

The reality is quite different, Mitta reminds us. On the day of the Godhra train attack, Modi traveled eighty miles to visit Godhra but did not initially visit any of the relief camps in Ahmedabad, an hour away from his residence. A few months after the violence, Modi was dismissive of those camps, where tens of thousands of displaced Muslims lived for as long as ten months. “Do we go and run relief camps? Should we open child-producing centers?” Modi said.

These stories are well known, at least in India, but it is the lesser-told stories that make his book stand out. For example, on February 28, 2002, the Gujarati newspaper Sandesh ran a headline that said, “Avenge Blood with Blood.” On March 1 Sandesh featured a story that, as Mitta writes, “taunted Hindus for [their] absence of reprisals.”

The Editors Guild of India, one of the nation’s most respected journalist associations, condemned the paper, along with another Gujarati publication, as a “notable offender” of media freedom. Modi saw the coverage differently, and on March 18, 2002, Modi wrote to Sandesh praising its coverage. “I am happy to note that your newspaper exercised restraint during the communal disturbances.” While India’s English print and TV journalists were sharply critical of Modi during the riots, the vernacular press contributed to the anti-Muslim fear in Gujarat—and earned Modi’s compliments in the process.

By focusing on Modi’s response and the subsequent investigation into his actions, Mitta is able to raise a larger question: why does the Indian legal system so often exonerate its political leaders? Mitta offers one explanation. “When it came to the high and mighty, the system betrayed a deep-seated inhibition to take the evidence to its logical conclusion. This is a commentary on how little the Indian legal culture has evolved where it really matters,” Mitta writes.

In 2012, on the tenth anniversary of the riots, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch said: “Modi has acted against whistleblowers while making no effort to prosecute those responsible for the anti-Muslim violence. Where justice has been delivered in Gujarat, it has been in spite of the state government, not because of it.” Indeed, when the Gujarat government pursued cases relating to the 2002 riots, it resulted in a paltry 5 percent conviction rate, but when the Supreme Court examined these cases, the rate was 39 percent.

The Gujarat government is not alone in being lackadaisical in its commitment to human rights. Across India, too often the legal system privileges the politically connected, the majority communities, the high castes and males. Gender violence is rampant in India, for example, because there is little political will to tackle the culprits. Addressing this topic, Harvard Law School’s Jacqueline Bhabha said, “Reducing impunity is imperative: more effective arrests, more police accountability, speedier trials, consistent and appropriate sentencing policies, adequate criminal justice resources so that gender justice is not only delivered, but seen to be delivered.”

Another problem is that the accused are too often favored. “The rates of judicial attrition continue to be high. The criminal justice system is not victim friendly and focuses on the rights of the accused alone,” said Indira Jaising, Additional Solicitor General of the Supreme Court of India, speaking on gender-based violence.

This is one of the strengths of Mitta’s book. He reminds us that even if there were irrefutable evidence of Modi’s guilt, the history of the Indian justice system shows that it seldom pursues those at the top.

* * *

In this election, Modi has tried to convince voters that he was pained by the riots, unaware of the riots, helpless in the face of the riots. It is a useful campaign strategy, as Modi wants to convince voters he is capable of leading a country as diverse as India. But Tanveer Jafri, whose father Ehsan Jafri was killed, is not convinced. “When there was a bomb blast at Modi’s rally in Bihar, he went to comfort the victims. But Modi has never once reached out to my family. Instead he has tried to blame us,” Jafri said.

This is a tactic commonly used by Modi: to stigmatize the complainant. As he told his biographer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, “There is one conspiratorial group which keeps this emotional hurt business alive by digging up the wounds. When that group stops their work, the wounds will automatically get healed.” But as Mitta reminds us, society can only reach closure when it confronts—rather than denies—its problems.

Modi would rather the critics remain silent. It is through our acquiescence, he believes, that India will advance. This may be the biggest tragedy. Many in India are no longer able to find the space to question Modi. Journalists have reported that they are under pressure to mute their criticism of him. Publishers are fearful too: a biography of Modi by French scholar Christophe Jaffrelot, one of the world’s leading experts on Hindu nationalism, has been delayed because many are weary of releasing anything critical on Modi at this time.

For the Indian-born novelist Salman Rushdie, a Modi victory would be to “risk everything that is beautiful about a free society.” In a speech delivered on April 28 at the Pen World Voices Festival, Rushdie observed, “A disturbingly high percentage of the Indian electorate wants a strong man leader, is willing to turn a blind eye to his past misdeeds, even if those include genocide, believes that dissenting intellectuals should be put in their place, critical journalists should be muzzled, and artists should behave themselves.”

Indeed, here in Gujarat, the victims of the 2002 riots are all but silent. On the morning of February 28, Justice Akbar Divecha, a Muslim, saw a Hindu mob gathered outside his house in Ahmedabad. He called Modi’s right-hand man at the time, Ashok Bhatt, for help, but Bhatt said he could not do anything. Divecha and his wife managed to escape to the all-Muslim ghetto in Ahmedabad known as Juhapura. A few hours later, his house was burned down. “Even the car the government provided me was attacked,” Divecha said. “My wife lost it. I don’t think she has still accepted that this could happen.”

One of Modi’s defenses is that the Gujarat government was not aware of the violence that day. Divecha sees it otherwise. “The [Gujarat] government was responding all day to my calls. They were just not acting,” he said. He wrote a chilling letter of complaint to the Gujarat government and thought that as a retired high court justice they would sympathize with him. No such compassion was shown. His house burned down, they told him, because he should not have left his home.

This has been a tendency of all Indian political parties and indeed of Modi’s government: the fingers always point outward. Tragedies happen because the victim did or did not do something. Jafri was blamed for staying home and firing a gun; Divecha was blamed for leaving his home.

Today Divecha lives a few blocks from my apartment in Juhapura, where around 400,000 live with with limited government provided schools, roads, and sewage lines. All throughout Divecha’s house are chains hanging from the ceiling that he uses to stabilize himself when he stands, one above his chair, another above his breakfast table, another by the door. He is 80 years old and when we met, he sat in front of a coffee table full of medication.

“I am tired,” he said. “I served India all my life. Is this any way to treat a high court justice?”


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#India – If Modi Becomes The PM….


Irfan Engineer

It is unlikely that Narendra Modi will be elected as the PM of such a diverse and vast country like India. In his election campaign, Modi’s PR machinery’s objective seemed to be to reach out to the electorate with the ideology of Hindutva and deepen and widen the politics of Hindu nationalism. It did succeed to an extent in this objective. However, Modi’s electoral campaign did not remain limited to the core agenda of Hindutva. The other strategy was to unite Hindus even while confusing and dividing the minorities by making them wear skull caps in burkhas in their rallies, meeting their religious leaders and trying to confuse the community that a section was supporting the BJP, particularly the Shia sect. Finally the campaign also tried to hard sell the image of Modi as a strongman, who would talk tough with Pakistan, and would bring lot of development and jobs to the economy. Modi’s campaign made many contradictory and insincere claims before different sections of the populace with the sole intention of garnering votes. People are likely to see through these contradictory claims and vote wisely. Modi’s camp has also begun to display the nervousness betraying its lack of confidence in winning in 300 plus constituencies. It is now willing to break bread with Mamata and Mayawati after attacking them bitterly during the campaign.

Having expressed our sincere doubts about victory of Modi at the husting, in the unlikely event that Modi is able to form the government, what would be the scenario and what would be the options available to the liberal democratic forces? The answer to the aforesaid question depends on the strength of BJP in the Govt.

If BJP on its own is able to get 272+ we will have aggressive leadership and an authoritarian Govt. with little respect for democratic institutions, neo-liberalism and market ideology will be the dominant discourse and the corporate sector that was the major contributor to Modi’s Rs. 50 billion campaign would want to get its pound of flesh. Hegemony of the north Indian, patriarchal upper caste would further strengthen and benefit most from the governance largesse. Sexual minorities, dalits (not the political elite Ram Vilas Pawans and Ramdas Athawales and Udit Rajs but the landless rural and urban unorganized labouring dalits), adivasis, women, workers and religious minorities would be further marginalized and face increased violence. Hindu Nationalist discourse would try to obfuscate this process of marginalization. As Mahatma Phule put it – hegemony of shethji-bhatji alliance would be strengthened. Among the agendas that would be pushed are rethinking on article 370 of the Constitution giving special status to J&K, (this would require 2/3rd majority in Parliament – very unlikely), rethinking on the nuclear doctrine of “no first use”, Uniform civil Code and Anti-cow slaughter legislations too may be on the cards. The Sangh Parivar cadres would be less fearful of law and rogue elements among them would be more intolerant and intolerable. Individual liberties under the Constitution would be restrained even more than the present under the pretext of national security and offensive to the faith of the “majority” community. Many creative work of art and expressions would have to pass the test of whether it is critical of and/or threat to the hegemony of upper caste and patriarchy and if it is, the doctrine of it being offensive to the beliefs and culture of the majority community / nation could be invoked to suppress such expressions.

If BJP gets 200+ and the NDA not more than 250, it would be relatively easy for the NDA to win over new partners but lack of absolute majority will make Modi’s leadership a little vulnerable to pulls and pressures and force him to engage with other stakeholders. However, he would be able to by and large push his important agenda – shethji-bhatji hegemony – albeit a little weakened, as it will have to negotiate with other stake holders. In both the situations, the RSS backed agenda would be to keep key ministries of Human Resource Development (as through it, it could recognize Sangh Parivar run schools, re-write the textbooks and curriculum with Hindu nationalist perspective as they had done under Vajpayee and large budgets of govt. grants for research etc. would flow to organizations with Sangh Parivar affiliation or subscribing Hindutva ideology). School textbooks in Rajasthan (during BJP’s earlier term) and Gujarat praised Hitler to be a nationalist. In MP school curriculum include compulsory teaching of Geeta, Yoga, Saraswati Vandana.

The other ministry that Sangh Parivar normally bays for is Ministry of Defence and Home Affairs. That is to give prime postings for its points persons in security forces. We have seen the use of security forces in Gujarat during Sohrabuddin, Kauser Bano, Ishrat Jehan and other encounter cases where Modi was lionized as heroic fighter of terrorism while his security forces were killing ordinary Muslims and control over the security forces was crucial during the 2002 pogrom. Regular news of terrorist is a good diversionary tactic while the wheelers and dealers operate for financial benefits and it helps present Muslims as a disloyal and anti-national community as a pole to mobilize the Hindus against. Ministry of Information and broadcasting, cultural ministry are other key ministries the RSS would be eyeing and controlling.

If BJP is able to win less than 170 seats and is the largest party, Modi’s leadership will be considerably weakened. Other regional parties would set their terms and conditions to form a coalition Govt. which may force the BJP to elect another leader to run a more inclusive government on the basis of consensus.

Role of Civil Society:

Struggle for secularism is not an isolated struggle from all other issues of people. It is a struggle for more liberties and for a society that embraces diversity. Secularism and democracy affords some space to even the weakest sections of the society to get organize and influence policy making. Our foremost task will be to organize the workers, landless labourers, marginal and small peasants, fisher folk, for security of their livelihoods. These are the spaces where people belonging having varied identities of caste, language and religion come together and share common plight of marginalization. Implementation of MNREGA is one example of a space that affords opportunity to organize the labourers.

Even in the unlikely event of a NDA Govt. being sworn in after 16th May 2014, the struggle for democracy, accountable state, defence of Constitutional liberties, communal harmony, pluralism and defence of secular values, social justice, economic justice, environmental justice, gender justice and equality will be continued by the civil society organizations. In fact the democratic struggles would, if anything, have to be intensified. While carrying on these struggles, our strength would be the Constitution of India and the legal framework.

Women, dalits, adivasis, workers, landless agricultural labourers, fisher folk, marginal and small peasants and religious minorities are likely to face further marginalization, dispossession and violence. There will be increased resistance to marginalisation of these sections. The state will be more repressive than hitherto as it will be prompted by the Hindu nationalist cadres and Hindutva ideology. Therefore we will have to be prepared to struggle for justice for those resisting marginalization through engagement with criminal justice system. This will require strong and easily accessible network of legal aid clinics, para legal workers and awareness among the community about their democratic and constitutional rights.

Documentation of discrimination, marginalization and resistance is an important task that we will have to undertake. We also need to document hate propaganda and the processes of building prejudices against the marginalized sections of the society. We often lack proper and meticulous documentation which can be an important weapon in our fight against hatred. We need to train activists willing to document.

Right to Information could be extensively used to get information from various government departments and that could be a tool to educate the people on governance issues, including discriminations being practiced. Civil society organizations working on right to information and making the government more and more transparent would have to organize more trainings and network of activists using the Act. We could have national, regional and zonal centres having experiences of using the Act and strategies to guide those who want to use the legislation.

Solidarity from international networks defending human rights and working for gender, environmental, social and economic justice would be crucial. Those linkages would have to be strengthened.

Judiciary with all its limitations of delays and the dominant class-caste, rich and powerful being able to influence the outcomes more in their favour, will be another institution to fall back upon as it still commands respect among the citizens of the country. Judiciary has the constitutional role of being a watchdog of Constitutional guarantees of liberties and freedom of faith. Judiciary still enjoys its independence from the executive wing of governance.

With all our limitations, the civil society organizations have always been working towards rectifying the prejudices against the religious minorities, dalits, women and adivasis. The prejudices against these sections are growing in spite of efforts of the civil society organizations. Our efforts to rectify the prejudices will have to continue but we need to evolve strategies for better communication and wider outreach. For wider outreach, various forums will have to be used, including the social media, educational institutions, social gatherings and festivals, community forums etc. Short and crisp messages are communicated more easily than long ones. Our work in education and awareness will finally have to be sustainable through a chain of sustainable institutions.

Democratic struggles for justice, inclusion and empowerment of the marginalized are launched to address issues of different sections in isolation. For example, dalits mobilize for atrocities on them, while other marginalized sections are laid back and likewise, Muslim organizations fight when Muslims are targeted, Christians for Christians and so on. Expressions of solidarity are either non-existent or a weak voice. The solidarities will have to be strengthened and participation in each other’s struggles. The solidarities though not easy, the challenge is how do we convey that violence against or targeting one section/community is threat to the Constitutional guarantee of equality itself and will affect all marginalized sections with same intensity. We will have to learn to deepen democratic values of respecting diversity and ensuring social justice.

Culture is another area that we will have to increasingly engage with. Progressive and democratic cultural movement creates its own symbols and helps deepen the values of liberty, diversity, equality, justice, human solidarity, human dignity and love. Critiquing feudal culture symbols and traditions that justifies all forms of birth based hierarchies – whether caste, class, gender or communal, and promoting progressive literature, fine arts, documentary and fiction films, theatre, and organizing such platforms in various towns, cities and rural areas could help us reach wider sections.

We will also have to reach out to the middle classes and win their hearts and minds and draw them into the struggles for defending democracy, liberalism and secularism. One way of achieving this is going to the schools and colleges and use the institutional fora like debating societies, literary societies, film clubs, extracurricular activities, lectures etc. to inculcate, convey and deepen the values of liberalism.

Though this may appear like a laundry list of tasks before us, collectively we will have to work towards a common goal of deepening democratic and liberal values irrespective of who wins in the elections.

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Five reasons why Modi should not be crowned the ‘King of Hindustan’ #NOMOre_2014

He has had a controversial 12-year record as the chief minister of Gujarat, a state his mentors in RSS proudly flaunt as a Hindutva laboratory where Muslims, Christians and tribals have been systematically persecuted in pursuit of a diabolic agenda to ‘purify’ it of non-Hindu population
By Bobby Naqvi | Special to Gulf NewsPublished: 20:00 April 2, 2014Gulf News

Image Credit: Ramachandra Babu/©Gulf News

India is inching towards a near inevitability liberal Hindus and Muslims have long dreaded. Right-wing hardliner and Hindutva poster boy Narendra Damodardas Modi is widely believed to be the next prime minister. A change of guard in Delhi will take place on May 16 when a decade-long rule of centre-left Congress ends and a right-wing dispensation assumes power. Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party draws ideological strength from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, an umbrella organisation of hardcore nationalists who seek a majoritarian Hindu rule anchored on a rigid, myopic uniformity — not necessarily a representative of religious, cultural, linguistic and geographical diversities gelled together by a glue called the Republic of India.
Modi is the most hated politician in India. He is arguably the most popular as well. He has had a controversial 12-year record as the chief minister of Gujarat, a state his mentors in RSS proudly flaunt as a Hindutva laboratory where Muslims, Christians and tribals have been systematically persecuted in pursuit of a diabolic agenda to ‘purify’ it of non-Hindu population. A career RSS leader, Modi rose through the ranks to become the head of government in 2001. The launch of his political career coincided with the burning of a train in which 56 Hindu pilgrims died on February 27, 2002 in Godhra. The train incident triggered a chain of events — mostly controlled, directed by his party and government — leading to widespread communal violence in which up to 2,000 people died, mostly Muslims. Soon after the violence ended, Modi launched a Gaurav Yatra to restore the ‘pride’ of Hindus, who, ironically, were the perpetrators in those anti-Muslim riots. A rabid orator, Modi went around the state creating an atmosphere of hatred and distrust between Hindus and Muslims in areas left untouched by riots. Later that year, elections held in a surcharged atmosphere resulted in his predictable victory. With Modi at the helm, Gujarat’s Muslims were beginning to face a powerful enemy: state-sponsored and state-designed systematic persecution that continues till date.
Since his election in 2002, dead bodies of Muslims appeared at alarming intervals. Between 2002 and 2008, a number of innocent Muslims were killed by Gujarat police under the guise of fighting terrorism. Most of these killings have turned out to be fake or staged encounters, carried out by eager cops either to impress this Hindutva Samrat (Hindu emperor) or to win bravery medals. Each encounter had a pre-written script: Muslim terrorists out to assassinate Modi were challenged and killed in controversial circumstances. Even the first information reports — a document police must file after each encounter — were identical in plot, language and content. Almost three dozen cops, including six high ranking officers are in jail for cold-blooded murder of innocent Muslims.
Today, the issue is not whether Modi will become the prime minister. The bigger question is should he become the prime minister of 1.25 billion people of this secular nation? Should Modi be crowned the ‘King of Hindustan’. Here are five reasons why he should not:

1. Mass murder and justice denied

On April 11, Gujarat High Court will hear a petition of Zakia Jafri seeking charges of criminal conspiracy to murder her lawmaker husband Ehsan Jafri and 68 other Muslim men, women and children in a horrific incidence of violence now known as Gulbarg Society massacre. She wants Modi and 59 others to be tried for murdering her husband and others who had taken shelter in her Ahmedabad home when anti-Muslim violence broke out on February 28, 2002. This incident and Jafri’s subsequent struggle to seek justice through India’s archaic judicial system forms a narrative of hopelessness Muslims face under Modi’s watch and guard. Ten years after Jafri was hacked and burnt alive at his residence, a Special Investigation Team or SIT appointed by Supreme Court ruled that it had no prosecutable evidence against Modi. The Supreme Court, without commenting on the report, sent it to a trial court. In December 2013, around a month after Modi was anointed BJP’s PM candidate, a magistrate in Gujarat accepted the SIT closure report, an order challenged by Zakia in the high court.
Since the SIT closure report in 2012, Modi and his supporters have cited this so-called ‘clean chit’ to argue that Modi’s detractors have carried out a campaign to tarnish his image. However, their suggestion that the Supreme Court gave Modi a ‘clean chit’ is far from the truth. The fact remains that the Supreme Court only supervised the SIT investigation and after following the judicial protocol, referred the report to a trial court. What is also conveniently overlooked by Modi supporters is that the Supreme Court had appointed an amicus curie or friend of the court to study the SIT closure report. The amicus curie, Raju Ramachandran, an eminent human rights lawyer, challenged the SIT report and recommended prosecution of Modi under various sections of Indian Penal Code. On April 11, the high court will consider both the SIT and Ramachandran’s report while hearing Zakia’s petition.

2. Clean-chit cover up

It is important to understand how the SIT, comprising of high-ranking serving and retired cops, concluded its investigation in Modi’s favour. A damning exposure of this SIT cover up was made in a recent-published book written by celebrated investigative journalist Manoj Mitta, an assistant editor with Times of India. Mitta’s book has accused the SIT head RK Raghavan of shielding Modi and disregarding a battery of circumstantial evidence against him. Raghavan was in charge of Rajiv Gandhi’s security when he was assassinated in 1991. More on him later. The book makes a compelling case that Modi was aware of the build-up of a mob outside Jafri’s residence in the middle-class Muslim neighbourhood of Gulbarg Society. A large number of Muslims had taken shelter in Jafri’s home when the riots broke out. Jafri contacted several top officials and even rang the chief minister Modi’s residence pleading for help. The build-up happened over a period of several hours on February 28, 2002 and emboldened by the absence of any police action, the mob began attacking Jafri’s house late afternoon.
By 4pm, 69 people were killed. First to die was Jafri who was hacked to pieces before he was burned. In his testimony to the SIT, Modi claimed he was informed about the killings in a routine law and order meeting at 8:30pm that day. What is baffling is that the SIT failed to challenge Modi on this claim that he was informed five hours after the killings had taken place. The SIT also failed to ask Modi if he took any action against officials who withheld information about Gulbarg Society. During Modi’s questioning on March 27, 2010, the SIT asked him 71 questions. But a transcript of this grilling shows that the SIT did not ask even one question to challenge his replies, most of which appeared to be lies.
Also baffling is SIT’s inability to challenge Modi’s account on what happened a day before in Godhra where 58 Hindus died when a train was burned by a Muslim mob. A court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others. The court, while accepting Gujarat prosecutors’ conspiracy theory, ironically acquitted the ‘chief conspirator’, a Muslim priest. A controversy remains on whether the burning of Sabarmati Express was a pre-planned Muslim conspiracy or a spontaneous act of mob violence, an incident cited by Modi to justify subsequent massacre of Muslims. On the day of this incident, a low ranking officer approved handing over of 58 bodies to Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP, a rabid outfit affiliated to Modi’s party and RSS. The transfer of bodies was cleared by the Modi administration and evidence of this lies in phone records proving close co-ordination between officials and VHP leaders on that day. The VHP then paraded these bodies through Ahmedabad, an act that inflamed passions and triggered attacks on Muslims. Mitta says the SIT chose not to pursue these phone records.
So why did Raghavan save Modi? Raghavan was Rajiv Gandhi’s head of security when he was blown up by a Tamil suicide bomber on May 21, 1991. Raghavan, who was only ten feet away from Rajiv moments before his death, admitted that a security breach resulted in the assassination and that the bomber managed to penetrate the ‘sterile zone’. This admission pushed him to relative obscurity and years later his career was resurrected by BJP government that came to power in 1999. He subsequently became the chief of India’s top investigative agency CBI and eventually the head of SIT. The SIT closure report and Zakia’s struggle is a telling commentary on how Modi has managed to subvert India’s criminal justice system. The SIT report is yet to pass judicial scrutiny of higher courts, Zakia’s only hope now.

3. Ishrat and stalking saga

On June 15, 2004 a 19-year-old Muslim student Ishrat Jahan was killed in an encounter by Gujarat’s notorious anti-terrorist squad or ATS. Ishrat, the ATS claimed, was part of a terrorist gang heading to Ahmedabad to assassinate Modi. Subsequent investigations have proved that she was not a terrorist and that she was killed in cold blood before automatic weapons were planted on her body by the ATS officers. A number of high ranking Gujarat police officers have been charge-sheeted and jailed, pending a trial. Leaked investigation reports have suggested that Modi’s closest aide and former home minister Amit Shah supervised Ishrat’s murder. Strong circumstantial evidence unearthed by investigators has found that Shah was in touch with the accused police officers minutes after Ishrat was killed. Shah, who is an accused in another fake encounter killing of a Muslim, has since become Modi’s election campaigner manager. Several reports have suggested Shah used ATS to stage these encounters in an attempt to create a perception that Modi was on the hit list of Muslim extremists. It is hard to believe that Modi was not aware of what his home minister was doing.
That Shah brazenly misused Gujarat’s ATS and top cops to further Modi’s political agenda and for his personal motives was clear when a news portal revealed last year he ordered stalking of a young woman architect because his ‘Sahib’ or master was interested in her. The portal released audio recordings of Shah directing his ATS officers to mount an illegal surveillance on the woman who had no criminal record. On a number of recordings, Shah was heard telling his officers that his master Modi was interested in knowing all about her: where she went, whom she dated, which restaurant she ate in and which movie she watched. The ATS cops even followed her on flights, an indication of Modi’s unexplained obsession with the woman.

4. Mirage of development

After attempting to wash off the stain of Gujarat riots, Modi has launched a campaign to project himself as a messiah of development. Modi has argued that under his rule, economy of Gujarat state grew by leaps and bounds, a claim widely contested by internationally-acclaimed economists. While it is true that Gujarat recorded an impressive economic growth, even his supporters agree that Gujarat ranks low on social, health and education parameters. On the FDI, other states have done better than Gujarat. Moreover, his idea of development is opposed by many who accuse him of granting undue favours to corporates, often at the cost of the poor and the state exchequer. For example, he took land from farmers and gave it to industrial houses for pittance. In recent months, Modi has attacked Congress’ failure to tackle inflation, rising unemployment, shrinking of economy but has said little on what he would do if he becomes the PM.

5, The idea of India

Early last year, Modi unleashed an unprecedented campaign on social networking websites, newspapers, TV and other media. This American style campaigning has created a large army of Modi bhakts or followers in several states of India. But critics have sought to puncture Modi’s popularity claims by pointing out that his campaign managers sourced Facebook approvals from ‘like farms’ in other countries. They have also pointed out that a significant majority of his 3.6 million Twitter followers are either fake or inactive. They argue that Modi has carried out a massive con job to deceive Indians into believing that he is the answer to all the ills this nation is facing today.
It is well accepted that an overwhelming majority of India’s 150 million Muslims consider Modi as their ‘enemy number one’. Also, he is disliked by the nation’s another minority — Christians who make up for 2.3 per cent of India’s 1.25 billion strong population. Most importantly, he is despised by a significant number of liberal Hindus, who, despite his Hindu nationalist stand, find him against the very ‘idea of India’. For the first time since independence, a man so many Indians hate may become the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, a possibility that looks increasingly certain.
Bobby Naqvi is the Editor of XPRESS, s

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PRESS RELEASE- NAPM urges PM not to attend CHOGM in Sri Lanka

English: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the ...



New Delhi / Chennai, November 6: We are disturbed that the Indian position regarding participation in the CHOGM in Colombo November 15-17,2013 is still quite unclear. There has been a strong demand to boycott the conference because of the rampant human rights violations in the last phase of the civil war and since then, continuation of army occupation, land alienation and continuous rape in the Tamil homelands. The Indian finance minister, Mr. Chidambaram, (who as home minister had a strong desire to bombard adivasi villages in Bastar) has been advocating participation for “international considerations” like good neighbourly relationships and competition regarding spheres of influence between China and India. He even played the card that the conflicts of Indian fishermen harassed by the Sri Lankan army, could only be resolved by dialogue. Such dialogue need to be brought about between the respective fishing communities in the first place and this is desirable, but it does not require participation in the CHOGM to fructify.


The consideration that if Mr. Vigneshwaran, the new Chief Minister of Jaffna, belonging to the TNA, can attend the opening function, why not the Indian Prime Minister, holds no water. Mr. Vigneshwaran has taken the plunge into electoral politics for the very same reasons, which are at the heart of the demands of the people who want the boycott of the CHOGM.


We all want :


  • Withdrawal of the army from the Tamil homelands

  • Return of the lands to the Tamil owners and safeguarding of livelihoods

  • An end to displacement, ethnic cleansing and rapes


  • An end to suppression of public opinion and disappearances

  • An independent investigation in to the rights violations by the State and non-State actors during the last period of war.


In other words, we want an end to violence and instead, implementation of democracy. Elevating Mr. Rajapakshe to a pivotal position in the Commonwealth would be highly counterproductive to democracy in south Asia as a whole. Mr. Rajapakshe must be put on trial by the International Criminal Court in The Hague.


NAPM after a national meeting in July launched a campaign tour across Six states on this issue from October 15-22, 2013 and held meetings, press conferences at Chennai,  Puducherry, Cochin, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Mumbai with the support of people’s movements and organisations.


We encourage all democratic forces to join our appeal and urge the Prime Minister to not attend the CHOGM in order to strengthen democracy in South Asia and use our diplomatic ties to restore rights and dignity of Tamils in Sri Lanka.


Medha Patkar, Gabriele Dietrich, Geetha Ramakrishnan, Sister Celia, Prafulla Samantara, C R Neelakandan, Ramakrishnan Raju, K Balakrishnan, Sudandiran, Rajendra Ravi, Madhuresh Kumar, Seela M 




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South Block lectures journalists on junket etiquette #mustread

Tripti Nath ,

Indian journalists traveling abroad as part of media delegations with the President, Vice President and Prime Minister are notorious for their unseemly behaviour. Haggling endlessly with shopkeepers, getting into drunken brawls, complaining about food or making a fool of themselves in red-light districts has been known to happen with embarrassing frequency.

External affairs ministry officials say journalists by and large behave themselves when traveling to Western countries but seem to think they have a license to do as they please when in Asia and Africa. MEA officials have been a tad nervous on this count as they planned for the PM’s October 9-12 visit to Brunei and Indonesia.

A wary MEA has included a list of behavioural ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ for journalists accompanying the PM. The list generally comprises information on weather and the recommended clothing. But this time the list has some interesting behavioural tips for the accompanying media delegation.

The booklet distributed to journalists traveling with the PM states how “traditional Indonesian cultural mores emphasize the importance of living in harmony. Open displays of anger – shouting, rude looks, etc are all highly offensive behaviour. Indonesian method of dealing with differences is to strive towards consensus.”

If that isn’t all, the list advises journalists to keep their penchant for haggling at marketplaces under control. “Bargaining in traditional markets is acceptable though not by a huge margin. Do not expect this in shopping malls where prices are fixed,” the list says. There have been instances in the past of journalists getting into arguments with local shopkeepers and worse by taking delivery of the goods only to leave the city without paying up, leaving harried Indian mission officials to cough up the money.

Journalists literally caught with their pants down and with no money to pay in a red-light district has also known to have happened. Here again fellow journalists or the Indian mission officials have pooled in money to rescue them from the clutches of bouncers or police. The list also has a word of advice on the correct etiquette to be observed when interacting with women in Brunei and Indonesia. “Even though handshaking is deemed appropriate between men and women, bear in mind that a number of Muslim women prefer to introduce themselves to men by nodding their head,” the ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ state.

In 2010, two senior television journalists, who accompanied then President Pratibha Patil to China, outdid many others when it came to trashing the dignity of the Indian journalistic corps. The two literally came to blows at a hotel in Beijing. The drunken brawl left behind shattered glass panes, broken furniture and a broken nose. The Indian embassy in Beijing picked up the tab for the broken furniture and worked the phone lines to keep the hotel staff from reporting the matter to the police. The matter was reported to the Prime Minister’s Office and the respective channels. The two gentlemen aren’t allowed on official trips abroad ever since.

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#India – Dilution of Nuclear Liability: Open Letter from Admiral Ramdas to the PM #mustread



My dear Prime Minister,


It is only on matters of vital national concern that I address a letter to my Prime Minister. We appear to be facing such a situation today. I refer to the reported move to authorise NPCIL, to sign a preliminary contract with the US multinational WESTINGHOUSE, for setting up nuclear power reactors in Mithi Virdi, Gujarat, prior to your forthcoming visit to the USA next week.

As you are well aware I am not a proponent of Nuclear Energy, for reasons I have outlined to you in several letters over the past few years, and particularly since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011. If anything the subsequent developments in Japan have only reinforced my opinion that India is best positioned to find her energy security from several other renewable sources.

However it is with shock and dismay that I have read the report in the Hindu today, and listened to the morning’s debates on our TV channels, which, if true, imply the following:

1. It dilutes the Nuclear Liability Laws, primarily to accommodate the commercial interests of US Nuclear business corporations. This is unacceptable and violates the sanctity of Parliament, and is totally against the interests of the Indian people.

2. If true, the leaked note to the CCS [Cabinet Committee on Security] to authorise NPCIL to sign the above mentioned contract and to make an initial payment of Rs 100 crores [US$ 15 million], shows a regrettable by-passing of the designated authority, namely the AEC [Atomic Energy Commission]. Any reference of the matter to AEC should normally have been preceded by a comprehensive Viability Study indicating the environmental, human, safety, technical and financial situation – in addition to a security assessment, given that Mithi Virdi is located close to the border with Pakistan. That this approval is now being sought from a body like the CCS, with no expertise in any of the foregoing, is shocking.

3. I am constrained to add that all of the above actions smack of both undue haste, and surrendering to pressures from outside. There is no reason for India to be bending over backwards to meet the business demands of America, or France or Russia. The nuclear industry in each of these c

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#India – Rising medicine prices make citizens remind PM of ‘forgotten’ I-Day vow

Tuesday, Aug 13, 2013, Agency: DNA
Pic for representational purpose.

Pic for representational purpose. – Shutter Stock

A year after prime minister Manmohan Singh promised free medicines at government hospitals, citizens and health groups are coming together to remind him of the forgotten promise.

Last year’s Independence Day promise is yet to see the light of day.

The letter, to be posted to the prime minister’s office on August 13, states: “As you are preparing to address the nation on yet another Independence Day, we would like to remind you of the promise you made to the people of India, exactly a year back…”

Dr Abhay Shukla, convener of Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a national health movement, said the promise had raised an expectation.

The Centre provides a limited quota of medicines for reproductive and child health, tuberculosis, HIV, malaria among others. Medicines for most illnesses are procured by states, said Dr Shukla. “Maharashtra spends Rs300 crore a year on medicines,” he said.

To streamline supply of medicines for states, it was proposed last September that the Centre would set up a one-point agency for bulk procurement. Also, union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had said that Rs1,300 crore would be allotted to buy medicines for states.

Dr Shukla says this was inadequate. “The planning commission has estimated that an extra Rs6,000 crore would be required a year to procure 700 medicines required at hospitals and health centres in India,” he said.

A report by Praja Foundation, a non-governmental organisation, says an average Mumbaikar spends 7.1% of his/her annual income on health care.

A Mumbai-based health researcher, Ravi Duggal, says that in the 1980s, up to 68% people in India sought treatment at public hospitals. “Now, it’s less than 40% due to lack of facilities and non-availability of medicines. People have to buy medicines privately,” he said.

Various surveys have reported that the average Indian household spends 70 per cent of its health care budget on buying medicines. This chunk is pushes at least 5crore people below the poverty line every year, estimates the Planning Commission.


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Open Letter To Prime Minister Of India: Dr. Manmohan Singh seeking endorsements

Jan Swasthya Abhiyan (JSA) is seeking your endorsement for the open letter to Prime Minister which is given below. The letter reminds him of his promise made during the last Independence Day speech that free medicines would be distributed through government hospitals and health centres. If you or your organisations are planning to endorse, please let us know your name and affiliation by Monday (12th August). The letter will be send with endorsements on  AUGUST 13th evening and will also be released to media in different parts of the country
(on behalf of JSA national secretariat members)
English: A screenshot from a Video posted by w...

Dear Prime Minister,
Your announcement during last year’s Independence Day speech that free medicines would be distributed through government hospitals and health centres raised expectations in many quarters. A year since your announcement, we, representing the public health community are concerned that realisation of this declaration has made no progress. Developments over the past year suggest that the programme will be silently shelved.
Following your announcement, in September 2012, the Health Minister had promised to provide Rs.1,300 crores to states for the purchase of medicines and setting up of a Central Procurement Agency for bulk procurement of drugs. Unfortunately, these promises have not been realised. Instead, the budgetary allotment for the current year on the medicines scheme was a mere sum of Rs.100 crores, though a realistic estimate would show an actual requirement of at least Rs.6,000 crores.
While your announcement was widely appreciated and highlighted in the national and international media, we in the public health community had specific reasons to welcome the announcement as a promising initiative. Various surveys have reported that households in India spend significant amounts on medicines, and expenditure on medicines account for 70% of out of pocket expenses incurred by families on medical care. Expenditure on buying medicines, thus, is a major portion of private expenditure on health care. The Planning Commission estimates that out of pocket expenditure, which accounts for 70% of all health care expenditure in India, is responsible for pushing over 5 crore people below the poverty line every year. Even though India is the world’s third largest producer of medicines and exports medicines to over 200 countries, an estimated 65% of its population is not able to access all the medicines they need. Medicine prices have shot up phenomenally in India over the past decade and this has been one of the main drivers of the multiplying cost of medical care.
While millions of Indian households have limited access to medicines, several state governments have decreased fund allocation for the procurement of medicines over the last few years. Only a tenth of government spending on health is currently set aside for drug procurement, with some states spending less than five percent. A significant increase in the allocation for public procurement of medicines from current level to around 0.5% of GDP over the next few years will improve access to essential drugs in public facilities and will greatly reduce the burden on out of pocket expenditures and increase the financial protection for households.
The scheme that you had announced, if implemented, would have significantly changed the healthcare scene in India. Availability of medicines will contribute to the image of public healthcare institutions and will renew interest among public in these institutions. We have experience within our own country that such a scheme can make a huge difference to health outcomes. Significant progress has been achieved in states such as Tamilnadu, Kerala, and more recently in Rajasthan, where free medicines schemes have been implemented. The experiences of these states show that medicines procured in bulk by their generic names cost 40-4000% less to that of the market rates. Reports from Rajasthan suggest that the scheme has led to considerable increase in the number of people accessing public health centres in the state.
In this backdrop, as you are preparing to address the nation on yet another Independence Day, we would like to remind you of the promise you made to the people of India, exactly a year back. We urge you to redeem this promise of making available free medicines in all public facilities and take immediate steps to implement such a scheme across the country. This has a potential not only of ensuring people’s right over access to essential medicines, but also in strengthening the public healthcare system as well as in tackling poverty.





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