Sangh Samachar

Orissa police in service of Hindutva (and POSCO)

Posted in hindu fundamentalism, hindutva, neoliberalism, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh by ravi on December 11, 2008

The Orissa police has arrested writer Lenin Kumar and two of his associates, Ravi Jena and Dhananjay Lenka, for publishing his book Dharma Naanre Kandhamalare Raktanadee (Bloodshed in Kandhamal in the name of religion). They have been charged under Sections 153A, 295A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 153A: Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony

Section 295A: Deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

Section 34: Acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention [When a criminal act is done by several persons in furtherance of the common intention of all, each of such persons is liable for that act in the same manner as if it were done by him alone]

For those who have been following recent events in Orissa, sections 153A and 295A read like a description of the Sangh Parivar’s activities. However, Lenin Kumar and his associates have been arrested for raising their voices against the Parivar. According to Pramodini Pradhan, Convenor of PUCL (Bhubaneswar Unit): The specific section of the book – pages 38 to 41 – (which has been cited by police) relates to a letter allegedly written by the RSS to its members for anti-dalit, anti-minority activities.

A report in the Indian Express has more details:

Quoted in these pages are parts from a piece written by CPI leader D Raja and first published in the June 18-24, 2000, issue of the party’s mouthpiece New Age. This piece, say the police, makes various allegations against the RSS, including that the Hindutva outfit asks followers to store firearms for use in riots, coerces Dalit Christians to chant ‘Shri Ram’ and ‘Om’ and forces Dalit, Muslim and Christian girls into prostitution.

Apparently, the same objectionable (for whom?) material has been published in various outlets in and outside Orissa. The Indian Express report also quotes a civil rights activist, Sudhir Patnaik, on violations of due process in the arrests:

The two sections under which Lenin was held warrant that police take permission from either the state Government or Centre before an arrest is made. How can Lenin be arrested for writing against communal violence while organisations like the RSS and VHP, which incited communal disharmony in Kandhamal through their writings and press statements, have not? (emphasis mine)

While the stated reason for the arrests is the printing and publishing of the said book, and the police also confiscated about 700 copies of the book and shut down the press, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Bhubaneswar) Himanshu Lal has claimed that some Maoist literature was also seized from the press and more charges will be pressed against Kumar. A confusing report in The Hindu also insinuates a Maoist connection, though the logic escapes me:

The police had swung into action and booked Mr. Kumar in the wake of the appearance of Maoist posters in different localities of the Capital city. The posters, which bore the name of Communist Party of India (Maoist), warned people against joining organisations such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The police had seized some posters and registered a case, but no one has been arrested in this connection so far.

The Orissa police seem to have taken a leaf out of their Chhattisgarh colleagues in harrassing and imprisoning dissenters as Maoists and Maoist sympathizers. This August, advocate Protima Das, anti-displacement activist Pradeep and U.S.-based educator Dave  were detained while on a fact-finding trip. Upon his return to the U.S., Pugh wrote:

At approximately 8 pm, the car transporting us was pulled over by local police for a traffic-related reason.  My translator Pratima Das, my guide Pradeep, our driver, and I were taken to a police station for questioning.  For the next eight hours, all of us were interrogated, first by the local police, and then by the chief police official of the state of Orissa.  The latter was particularly hostile, accusing me of being an “anti-government agitator.”  When I insisted that I was a teacher researching the issue of forced displacement in India, he insisted that only “communists” would be interested in speaking with villagers. (emphasis added)

These arrests triggered a debate on whether the police was seeking to muzzle the voices of anti-displacement activists by dubbing them as Maoists.  Interestingly, the police seem to have attempted to concoct a Maoist link with Lenin Kumar at that time, by placing reports in the media that the arrested suspects (whose links with Maoists were not proven) had named Kumar’s magazine Nishan. Kumar’s observations then have now proven prescient:

[Kumar] alleged that of late voice of protest against government policy or system in Orissa has been branded as an act of treason or terrorism. He referred to the Dr Binayak Sen case and noted Orissa may soon witness many more Binayak Sens being put behind bars. [source: The Statesman]

Related articles (to be updated):

Catching them young!

Posted in education, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on December 10, 2008

Fifteen years ago, Lalit Vachani’s “The Boy in the Branch” documented the recruitment of young boys into the RSS. Times haven’t changed much, if one goes by the mushrooming of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashrams, Saraswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas and Vidya Bharatis. Besides lending financial support to these (and other) Sangh Parivar projects in India, Sanghis in the U.S. have also established their own indoctrination centers such as Balvihars. I don’t know what kind of intellectual abuse Hindutva families in the U.S. subject their kids to, but the photos below suggest Hindu victimhood (and, as a corollary, Islamic/Christian aggression) ranks pretty high in their curriculum. Empathy for the victims of terrorism, to the extent that it even exists, seems masked by an all-consuming hatred for ‘Others’.

The photos are from user Savetemples’ public gallery on picasaweb, but I’ve nevertheless blacked out the kids’ faces.

Why do they hate us?

'We' are the victims. Why do they hate 'us'?

Even Gandhi opposed conversions!

Look! Even Gandhi opposed conversions, just like Togadia uncle.

Their religion is the problem

'We' are the victims. 'They' are the perpetrators, 'their' religion is the problem.

And, finally, here’s psychologist Nicholas Humphrey on WHAT SHALL WE TELL THE CHILDREN?

Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas—no matter who these other people are. Parents, correspondingly, have no god-given licence to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense. And we as a society have a duty to protect them from it. So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible, or that the planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in a dungeon.

That’s the negative side of what I want to say. But there will be a positive side as well. If children have a right to be protected from false ideas, they have too a right to be succoured by the truth. And we as a society have a duty to provide it. Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass on to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world—to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis—as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them.

Letter to President-elect Obama

Re: US Policy on Hindu Nationalist Groups in India and the US

Dear President-Elect Obama,

As Indian-Americans working for human rights, peace and justice, we are elated with your agenda on civil rights, which includes expanding hate crimes statutes, ending racial profiling, and combating workplace discrimination. And we welcome the diversity of talents in your transition team, including the appointment of several fellow Indian-Americans.

As a coalition representing India’s diversity, and committed to promoting the secular and pluralistic nature of its democracy, we are particularly sensitive to the status of Muslim and Christian minorities in India, who have been facing growing hostility from Hindu nationalist groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), and their various affiliates, in several states of India. Unfortunately, every terrorist incident directed against the people of India, like the heinous attack on Mumbai last week, seems to only strengthen the hands of these groups, who relentlessly propagate religious stereotypes and commit violent acts against minority communities with impunity. We are writing to you to share our deep concerns in this regard, before your administration shapes its policy priorities towards India.

The alarming rise of Hindu nationalists and the consequent increase in bigotry, violence, and violations of religious freedom have been extensively documented by human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as by the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Reports. To cite just two glaring examples:

  • RSS and VHP led widespread pre-planned attacks against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, ostensibly in ‘reaction’ to the burning of a train carrying Hindu pilgrims in which sixty people died. In the ensuing days, with the full connivance of the state, rampaging mobs gruesomely murdered over 2,000 Muslims, destroyed their businesses, gang-raped women, and expelled thousands of Muslims from their villages. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Gujarat has been widely held responsible for the worst communal violence in post-independent India. Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, who scornfully justified the massacres as a “lesson” to the Muslims, has been censured by India’s Supreme Court as a “modern day Nero” and denied entry into the US by the State Department on grounds of “particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

  • VHP and its affiliates have been orchestrating a systematic hate campaign for years against India’s tiny Christian minority, in response to what they allege are ‘forced’ religious conversions of Hindus and tribal people, despite the fact that even in states with anti-conversion laws on the book there have been virtually no complaints of coercion. The violence against Christians and their places of worship touched new heights recently, when Hindu militias in the state of Orissa (with a BJP supported government) forcibly evicted thousands of tribal Christians from their villages, molested nuns, targeted pastors/priests, and coerced people to ‘reconvert’ to Hinduism. India’s National Commission for Minorities has indicted the state government for failing to curb the violence. The central government too has done very little to prevent the spread of anti-Christian violence to other states and has ignored calls for banning the VHP and its violent street militia, the Bajrang Dal. Members of VHP have been recently accused of terrorist attacks against Muslims in 2006 in the state of Maharashtra and are being investigated by India’s Anti-Terrorism Squad, some of whose members lost their lives in the recent Mumbai attack.

We cite these two examples to underscore the role of the Hindu nationalist groups in endangering human rights and peace in India, through their insidious combination of politics and the threat of violence. When faced with the escalating terrorist attacks from within and outside India, such as the recent carnage in Mumbai, they tend to further target the most vulnerable sections of the minorities. Indeed, the two types of terror seem to constantly feed off each other. The crucial difference, however, is that violence instigated by Hindu nationalist groups against minorities often have not led to fair investigations or justice. As your administration works to strengthen US-India relations and develops strategies to combat terrorism, it is imperative that it exerts all its diplomatic leverage with the Government of India to stem the politics of hatred, through clear signals such as continuing the current policy of denying entry to Mr. Modi.

Our second concern relates to mounting evidence that Hindu nationalist groups have been receiving considerable patronage from certain Indian-American NGOs and related charities in the U.S., ostensibly for legitimate social and educational work, which brings them considerable recognition and support from the community. We are specifically concerned with organizations such as VHP America, India Development and Relief Fund, and Ekal Vidyalaya Foundation, all of which claim to be independent of RSS and VHP in India, but are indeed connected with them through shared ideology and project partnerships. We urge your administration to closely scrutinize these organizations for their linkages to forces spreading communal hatred and violence in India.

In this context, we would like to bring to your attention the case of Ms. Sonal Shah, whose appointment to the Transition Board was widely applauded by sections of Indian and Indian-American community, but who has been less than candid about her connections with the VHP. We have written a letter to her (attached) seeking answers to a number of questions raised by her recent public statement and are awaiting her response.

In the meantime, we sincerely hope that your Transition Board will put in place a process to fully vet all South Asian appointees to the new administration for any direct or indirect association with hate mongering, violence-prone groups; and, if they are found to have had such connections, to restrict their role in any South Asia-related policy matters and as interlocutors of their community (along similar lines as the ethics rules laid out for lobbyists on the team).

In closing, we would like to reiterate our full support for your plans to enhance equal opportunities at home and to end human rights abuses abroad. And we particularly hope to be of service in your efforts to further strengthen bilateral ties with India by addressing mutual national security goals in a way that safeguards civil liberties, especially those of minorities. We wish you all success in meeting the extraordinary challenges ahead and we look to working with your incoming administration.

Sincerely,
A Coalition of Concerned Indian Americans

Endorsing Organizations
American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI), Farmington, MI
American Muslim Physicians of Indian Origin (AMPI), IL (http://ampionline.org)
Association of Indian Muslims in America (AIM), Washington DC
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate (CSFH), CA (www.stopfundinghate.org)
Friends of South Asia (FOSA), San Jose, CA (www.friendsofsouthasia.org)
India Foundation, Okemos, MI
Indian Minorities Advocacy Network (ImanNet), New York
Indian Muslim Council (IMC), Morton Grove, IL (www.imc-usa.org)
Indian Muslim Education Foundation of North America (IMEFNA), (http://imefna.org)
Indian Muslim Relief and Charities (IMRC), Palo Alto, CA (http://www.imrc.ws/)
International Service Society, MI
Network of Progressive Muslims
Non-Resident Indians for a Secular and Harmonious India (NRI-SAHI), MI
Sikh American Heritage Organization, Wayne, IL
South Asia Forum, Madison, WI
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy (SANSAD), Greater Vancouver, Canada (http://sansad.org)
Supporters of Human Rights in India (SHRI), MN
The Coalition for a Secular Democratic India (CSDI), Chicago, IL
Vaishnava Center for Enlightenment, MI
World Tamil Organization, Inc., Cary, NC

Individual Endorsements
George Abraham
Girish Agrawal
Habeeb Ahmed, Long Island, NY (member Long Island Peace coalition)
Rasheed Ahmed
Dr. Syed S Ahmed, Chicago, IL
Dr. Waheeduddin Ahmed, Milwaukee, WI
Shahid Ali M.D, Chief, Dept of Medicine, Schuyler Hospital, New York
Aliuddin Azam, Binghamton, NY
Khalid Azam
Dr. Chinmoy Banerjee, Secretary, SANSAD
Dr. Angana Chatterji, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, California Institute of Integral Studies
Nasir Chippa
Gautam Desai
Shalini Gera
Sapna Gupta
Ammar Husain
Nishrin Hussain, Daughter of congress MP Ehsan Jafri killed in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogroms in Gujarat
Mohammad Imran
Imtiazuddin, D.I.C. London, Consultant and Social Activist
Dr. Pushpa Iyer, Assistant Professor, Monterey Institute for International Studies, CA
Kaleem Kawaja
Attaulla Khan
Hyder M. Khan, MD, Ph. D.
M. A. Muqtedar Khan, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and International Relations, Director of Islamic Studies, University of Delaware
Wasim Khan, MD, MPH
Dr. Alex V. Koshy, Founder General Secretary of World Malayalee Council and Board Member of MLK Commission of New Jersey
Thillai Kumaran
Khursheed A. Mallick, M.D.
Anu Mandavilli
Gulamrasul Mansuri, Former President Gujarati Muslim Association of America, Chicago, IL
Biju Mathew, Associate professor of Business, Rider University, NJ
A. R. Nakadar, M.D.
Saeed Patel
Shrikumar Poddar
Raju Rajagopal, Entrepreneur and Social Activist
Ravi Ravishankar
Shaik Saad, Long Island, New York
Dr. Sornam Sankarapandi, Ellicott City, MD
Dr. Shaik Sayeed, Milwaukee, WI
Dr. Svati Shah, Postdoctoral Fellow, Duke University
Dr. Hari P. Sharma, Professor Emeritus of Sociology, Simon Fraser University and President, SANSAD
Ramkumar Sridharan
Raja Swamy
Syed Azmatullah Quadri, Founding Chairman, ImanNet, Chicago, IL
Dr. Shaik Ubaid, Founding President, ImanNet, Chicago, IL
Firoz Vohra

CSFH statement on Sonal Shah

Posted in hindu fundamentalism, hindutva, Sangh Parivar, Vishwa Hindu Parishad by ravi on November 14, 2008

[read the original statement at stopfundinghate.org]

A virtual melee has ensued in print and digital media over the selection of Ms. Sonal Shah, an American of Indian origin to the Obama transition team’s advisory board. Shrill accusations of Ms. Shah being a “racist and Hindu chauvinist” are being reciprocated by equally shrill attempts to portray anyone who raises serious questions about the selection as being anti-India, anti-Hindu, anti-progress, and recently, as against “liberal civility.”  We condemn such baseless and unfair statements.

At the outset we wish to acknowledge that Ms. Shah has had a record of being a visible and an important face of the “desi American” community – a successful professional, and a politically and socially engaged citizen.

We are also happy to note at least one positive effect from this debate. Even as this issue gets played out on public fora, the din of militant Hindutva drumbeats has suffered some dampening.  Almost all participants, including those who have come out in support of Ms. Shah, have said that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) — both integral to the Hindutva movement, are part of the “politics of hate” that must be resisted. We wish such statements had come much earlier, such as the time when people were being butchered in Gujarat, or when Indicorps (an organization Ms. Shah co-founded) was felicitated by Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Ms. Shah has become something of a point of pride for many Americans with origins in India.  But Ms. Shah does have feet that leave tracks, has written words that have been archived, and has occupied offices of responsibility. We wish to explore this material record below by examining two of the most persuasive claims made by supporters of Ms. Shah. These are:

  1. That accusations of Ms. Shah being a closet Hindutva ideologue amount to “guilt by association“, a reference to the fact that her father Mr. Ramesh Shah has well documented leadership roles within the Sangh Parivar (Collective Family, the name for the set of organizations of Hindutva).
  2. That Ms. Shah’s only association with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America (VHPA) was in the context of the Gujarat earthquake; surely, she cannot be faulted for not picking the right organization when urgent action was the need of the hour.

Our claims of Ms. Shah’s Hindutva associations are not based on guilt by association. Instead, we ask: What organizational and ideological work did Ms. Shah perform for and as part of the VHPA?

We have archived records demonstrating that Ms. Shah was a part of VHPA’s leadership group–the governing council and chapter presidents/coordinators. She participated in strategy discussions with prominent leaders of the Sangh Parivar. Ms. Shah was not just a bystander, she was considered important and trustworthy enough by the Hindutva leadership to be included in a core group with Ajay Shah, Gaurang Vaishnav, Mahesh Mehta, Yashpal Lakra, Vijay Pallod, Shyam Tiwari, and others.  Does Ms. Shah deny that she played such a role? Even in light of the recent public statement by Gaurang Vaishnav, General Secretary of the VHPA, that Ms. Shah was made a member of the governing council as she came out of college?

We are glad to hear Ms. Shah assert that her “personal politics have nothing in common with the views espoused by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), or any such organization“, and that she does not “subscribe to the views of such Hindu nationalist groups.” However, in view of her close association with VHPA, as summarized above, Ms. Shah’s claim to have “never” subscribed to such Hindu nationalist views strains credulity.

Ms. Shah’s participation in the VHPA Governing Council predates by a few years her position as National Coordinator of VHPA’s Gujarat earthquake activities in 2001. The position of earthquake relief coordinator doesn’t seem to be an easy one to ascend to — VHPA’s website states that “national projects are executed by a committee of members drawn from the Governing Council and the various chapters.” Thus, Ms. Shah’s coordination of VHPA earthquake relief seems to have built upon her earlier leadership role within the VHPA. We do not know when/if her affiliation with the VHPA ceased, but VHPA media secretary Shyam Tiwari has recently claimed: “Sonal was a member of VHP of America at the time of the earthquake. Her membership has [now] expired.”

A note about Ms. Shah’s earthquake relief work.  Calamities such as the 2001 Bhuj earthquake often bring out the best in humans, but the Sangh Parivar is notorious for using such moments instrumentally and cynically for advancing its violent ideological agenda. An ordinary donor or fund-raiser can be excused for not knowing the Sangh agenda, but for someone like Ms. Shah, who grew up in a family deeply rooted in the Sangh Parivar, it is more than a little disingenuous to claim that such fund-raising was apolitical or neutral. There are numerous documented instances of the Sangh Parivar’s religion- and caste-based discrimination in doling out relief. Therefore we are shocked that Ms. Shah has expressed pride in coordinating relief work (under the ambit of VHPA) following the Gujarat earthquake of 2001. The relief work coordinated by the VHP is known to have rebuilt villages in the Kutch region exclusively for caste Hindus while marginalizing lower caste Hindus and Muslims to the periphery. The VHP thus took the opportunity of the earthquake to re-create multi-ethnic villages into exclusive Hindu spaces. In addition, given the pivotal role played by the VHP and other Sangh organizations in the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom, we fear her pride is entirely misplaced.

Although we appreciate the positive influence Ms. Shah has had on many second-generation desis, we have a hard time forgetting the many victims of Hindutva. If Ms. Shah really wants to dispel doubts about her linkages with the VHPA and other Sangh Parivar outfits, we urge her to  be more forthcoming in her condemnations of the Sangh Parivar, especially its branches in the United States since that has been the site of her involvement. Some ways for Ms. Shah to do this would be to:

  1. acknowledge her past organizational associations with the Sangh Parivar
  2. distance herself from the public reception reportedly planned by the RSS in her native village in Gujarat
  3. categorically condemn the role played by Hindutva forces in anti-minority violence in India, and the facilitation of this violence by funds sent through various Sangh Parivar affiliates in the United States

In Peace and Justice
Campaign to Stop Funding Hate

Update: Sonal Shah on the VHPA Governing Council

Modi fomenting hatred — Citizens for Peace and Justice

Posted in Bharatiya Janata Party, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by ravi on December 6, 2007

December 5, 2007

To,
Shri N. Gopalaswami,
The Chief Election Commissioner,
New Delhi

Dear Sir,

The present chief minister, Gujarat, Shri Narendra Modi has reportedly used a blatantly communal angle in his speech at Mangrol in South Gujarat on December 4, 2007, saying that “Sonia Gandhi spoke of terrorism. But she has no right to talk of this the Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But it should explain what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms?? You tell me what should be done?” and the crowds reportedly shouted back, “kill him kill him”.

Sir, we believe that this is an open exhortation to violence, an illegal act by a person seeking re-election to a powerful and responsible position in the state. It also amounts to an Unconstitutional and Unhealthy attitude in a leading politician in a polity. We also believe that this amounts to blatant misuse of religion for political ends and is violative of the Election Code of Conduct since indirectly Shri Modi is only referring to ‘Sohrabuuddin’ a Muslim was killed and not of the manner in which his wife, Kauserbi, an innocent was killed as also was Tulsiram Prajapati, and Mahendra Kadhav, Ganesh Kunthe (in other incidents of encounters) . In any case, an illegal act by agents of the state (Modi and his chosen policemen) is illegal regardless of who the victim is and which community he/she hails from. To equate and justify a criminal act with a particular community is nothing short of introducing communal politics in the electoral arena and fomenting hatred against a section of our people.

Sir the Election Code of Conduct, Rule 1 (2) and 1 (3) in General Conduct clearly mentions this.

Thirdly, the crude stance of Shri Modi is contrary to what the state of Gujarat has stated on affidavit admitting the illegality of the killing of Sohrabuddin (the rape and) killing of his wife, Kauserbi and the similar illegal encounter killing of Tulsiram -all by policemen commandeered to do so!! in the Hon’ble Supreme Court indicating that Shri Modi is resorting to both desperate and unhealthy measures to garner votes. It also means that either the state of Gujarat is misleading the apex court, or the chief minister is so far veering from the truth to make cheap electoral forays!!

Fourthly, of the officially admitted 21 encounters in Gujarat between 2003 and 2007, in which 5 Hindus were also killed it is emerging that grossly unlawful and unconstitutional means have been used. Therefore, can the CM of a state justify illegal murder lawlessness and extrajudicial killings?? Does his speech not just violate the rule of law enshrined in the Indian constitute but criminal law and the election code of conduct?

We urge that action should be demanded and taken against him for fomenting hatred and violence against a particular community . We urge action by the Election Commission in this regard.

Sir, Gujarat has had a legacy of sever communal strife and polarisation since 2002 when one of the worst ever post Partition genocidal carnages took place. Even today victims live like refugees in their own land. There have been no attempts by the state to re locate them with dignity. Today’s blatantly crude, desperate and communally surcharged speech of Shri Modi is an attempt to bring Gujarat back to the dark abyss of violence and polarisation yet again. It is also an attempt to win an election by foul means if not fair!! As the Constitutional body in charge of the state we urge the Election Commission to step in sharply and clearly in this regard.

In anticipation,
Yours Sincerely
Teesta Setalvad
Secretary

December 6th in Nagapattinam

Posted in Bharatiya Janata Party, hindu fundamentalism, hindutva by raja on December 6, 2007

December 6th, a day that will live in infamy. Fifteen years after the Sangh Parivar demolished the 16th century Babri Masjid aided and abetted by those in power, and goaded on by those who went on to become deputy prime ministers and the like, the event remains a scar on the body politic. It marks the violent entry of the Sangh Parivar and its fascist project into the corridors of political power culminating in the rise of a BJP led government six years later. December 6th and the organized killings that followed in Bombay and other cities throughout North India, made the pogroms of Gujarat 2002 possible – from the relative margins of the political consciousness, an ethic that valorizes fascistic brutality, hate-filled visions of power, and an aggressive desire to dominate and crush those demonized as cultural others came to center stage where it continues to exist despite temporary setbacks. Three years into supposedly ‘secular’ UPA rule, and there is still no hope for justice for either the victims of 2002, nor those of 1992.

Yes, December 6th, 1992 is remembered all over India by Sangh Parivar supporters as a day when their repressed feelings of inadequacy got a small jolt of feigned manhood. But it is also remembered by Muslims and secular Indians, as a day that will live in infamy, and a day in which the quest for justice and equality should be energized.

A brief report on a demonstration led by TN Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu.

Around mid-day, it began. A stream of autos, motorbikes, and scooters with large black and white flags brought about a hundred slogan-chanting people from Nagore, a largely Muslim town, to the bus stand area in Nagai’s town center, in front of the courthouse. Here the caravan joined a couple of hundred people already assembled in front of the courthouse, as minivans and cars also brought in more people from other places. There were a large number of women who assembled on one side. Slogans were chanted, and after the loudspeaker jeep managed to navigate its way to the front of the demonstration at the polite urging of the organizers, the proceedings began. Several speeches followed interspersed with slogans.

Speakers reminded the demonstrators that their anger was against the Sangh Parivar and not Hindus. One speaker said Muslims sacrificed so much to bring freedom for the country and were yet treated worse than second class citizens in today’s India. There were several chants denouncing Advani, MM Joshi and Modi. There were also calls for rebuilding the Babri Masjid, and bringing the Sangh Parivar leaders and their foot-soldiers to justice.

picturetemp-014.jpg

A large police presence did not deter the demonstrators, and some of the police were also polite to demonstrators; one cop chatting with a man holding a TN-MMK flag smiled and asked him to raise the flag higher! After several speeches, the demonstration ended. From the intense passions visible in this demonstration, it is clear that December 6th will continue to be remembered as a symbol of the marginalization and oppression of Muslims throughout India.

Conspicuously absent was any contingent of leftist and liberal voices in solidarity. Nagai has a CPIM MLA, and the CPI has a strong, historical presence in this region and Thanjavur. Neither did the powerful DMK have any presence at the demonstration. Why did these parties not think it necessary to stand in solidarity with a significant part of their own constituency on an issue that they all theoretically agree on – the defense of secularism? It is this indifference that strengthens the view among Muslims that nobody but Muslims give a hoot about what is happening to them in this country.

The Death Merchant reveals his true colors, yet again!

A TOI report (reproduced below) hypothesizes on why Modi justified the killing of a Gujarati Muslim businessman, Sohrabuddin, and his wife, Kauserbi.

On Monday, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi owned up to killing Sohrabuddin, saying he “got what he deserved”, to packed crowds at a rally in Mangrol, in south Gujarat. Within 24 hours, on Tuesday, the issue — an emotive one and seen as a return of the communal agenda — vanished from his speeches as he addressed rallies in central Gujarat, including Godhra.

But, this was no aberration: There is a method in Modi’s apparent madness. While in rebellion-ridden Saurashtra or Surat, where he has failed to cast a spell, he threw the Sohrabuddin bait; but once out of rebel strongholds, he bypassed Sohrabuddin and talked in general terms about terrorism.

In short, Sohrabuddin was the rallying point in places where Leuva Patels have risen in rebellion against Modi, and which didn’t see much bloodshed, post-Godhra. He resurrected Sohrabuddin, the man his government branded a terrorist and killed in a fake encounter, according to its own admission before SC.

Sohrabuddin’s dead wife Kauserbi has become Modi’s biggest weapon to fight the Congress/ rebels with, who are now fighting on Congress tickets mainly from Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Modi knows only too well that development won’t sell in these parts because the rebels have already burst his development bubble.

Places like Visavadar, in Junagadh, where a Keshubhai Patel man is fighting on a Congress ticket; Wadhwan in Surendranagar where rebel BJP MLA Dhanraj Kella is contesting as an Independent; Jamnagar and Mangrol in South Gujarat, are the places where Modi has told the crowds how his police killed Sohrabuddin. His speeches usually end with a submission: “The Congress is ruling at the Centre, it can hang me!”

But watch him in Panchmahals — where the intensity of riots in 2002 has ensured a clear polarisaton and there’s no sign of dissidence — and Modi is back with his tirade against terrorism, aimed a wooing back the estranged VHP members.

Social scientist Achyut Yagnik seems to concur:

In the 2002 elections, Hindutva forces were united. But during the past five years, three shades of Hindutva emerged — hardline, Modi’s own brand and soft Hindutva. Modi carried on with Gujarati pride factor for a long time, but he has now realised that his development plank is not working and he would have to speak the language of the hardliners. After all the cadre are mostly hardliners.

A few weeks ago, the Tehelka expose shocked many when Baju Bajrangi enthusiastically described slitting pregnant Muslim women. Now, by justifying the cold-blooded murder (archive) of a Muslim couple, Modi has once again shown himself to be no different. More suave than Bajrangi, of course, but that’s about it.

While the Arun Jaitleys of the Sangh would rather have Modi fulminate on Mohammad Afzal, Modi understandably preferred something local that he could take credit for. With the likes of Uma Bharti calling him a pseudo-Hindu, what better way to buttress his Hindutva credentials than asserting that his hands are bloodied? And now that he has been forced to back-track by the Election Commission, he has volunteered to hang Afzal!

Blood and gore are constant companions of Hindutva, more so in election times.

In the case of Sohrabuddin et al, the Gujarat government had admitted (archive) in the Supreme Court (on March 23, 2007) that there was prima facie evidence to suggest that the encounter in which alleged LeT operative Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed in November 2005, was a ‘fake’. Two months later, Gujarat Inspector General of Police Geetha Johri’s report on the fake encounter pointed to the collusion of [the] State government in the form of Shri Amit Shah, MOS for Home and noted that the episode makes a complete mockery of the rule of law and is perhaps an example of the involvement of [the] State government in a major crime. (Also see the Wiki page and the chronology on NDTV)

Modi’s audacious claims on Sohrabuddin need to be seen against this backdrop:

“What should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition ?” Modi reportedly said. “You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin ?… Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”

It’s almost as if Muslims are guilty until proved innocent, and if killed, guilty by definition. That he could whip up communal frenzy portends an ominous future for Gujarat:

He managed to whip up such a communal frenzy with his words that the crowd begin to chant “kill him, kill him” in response to Modi’s question on what should have been done to Sohrabuddin.

And when the people shouted “kill him”, Modi said: “Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission to do this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”

As the elections approach, NRI sanghis have sought to aggressively market Modi as a visionary leader who has been subjected to malicious propaganda. The more enterprising ones even wear Hindutva as a badge of honor. Unfortunately for them, the likes of Modi and Bajrangi continue to reveal the seamy side of Hindutva. Ratan Tata might want to invest in Gujarat — You are stupid if you do not invest in Gujarat, he allegedly said (archive) — but can Muslims live free from fear in Gujarat?

Modi’s friends in need

Even as Modi continues to stoke the Hindutva fire in the run-up to the Gujarat Assembly elections, his Sanghi buddies seem to have put behind their differences and ensure his re-election. A VHP press release dated Nov 21, 2007, which surprisingly has not made it to the Net yet, reads:

The Standing Committee of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, in a meeting held at New Delhi, on November 21, 2007 declared the position of VHP with regards to the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

The meeting was presided over by Shri Ashok Singhal. Also present in the meeting were Shri Vishnu Hari Dalmia, Acharya Giriraj Kishore, Shri Vedantamji, Dr. Pravinbhai Togadia, Dr Maheshbhai Mehta (Global Coordinator) and 35 other members. All the members present in the meeting expressed unequivocal support to Hindu forces in the coming elections leading the pro-Hindu candidates to a landslide victory, giving crushing defeat to all anti-Hindu candidates.

The VHP further emphasized the need to keep Hindu votes undivided ensuring stable governments in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh and give a befitting reply to the anti-Hindu and “So-called Secular” forces.

Mahesh Mehta, listed as Global Coordinator of the VHP, is a founder and past President of the VHP-America (archive). That the VHPA works in close coordination with the Sangh in India should come as no surprise, despite VHPA’s claims to the contrary (archive):

Though inspired by the same ideals as those followed by Vishwa Hindu Parishad of Bharat, VHP of America is distinct, legally separate and operationally independent Non-Profit organization in its own right within the USA.

Hmm, operationally independent perhaps means the contrary in Sangh-speak. All said, I think VHPA still has some wiggle room left. It’s not clear whether Mahesh Mehta is still a VHPA officebearer, so it could possibly — if need be — distance itself from the PR (and Modi). Of course, it’s not as if the media is keeping tabs on the VHPA, so this instance of cross-border Sanghi coordination will most likely go uncommented.

Meanwhile, besides being a Global Coordinator of the VHP, Mehta is also listed as the National Coordinator of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (archive).

The Displaced of Ahmedabad

[Excerpted from an article in the Economic and Political Weekly by Neera Chandhoke, Praveen Priyadarshi, Silky Tyagi, Neha Khanna]

In his pre-election speeches, chief minister Narendra Modi repeatedly makes two firm statements. The first of these statements codes the suggestion that any comment or criticism, which continues to harp on the communal carnage that was visited upon the heads of the Muslim community in 2002 by members of his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other allied organisations of the Hindutva brigade, should be abandoned. These comments/criticisms, alleges Modi, remain far too preoccupied with the past. Apparently the past, for Modi, is another country. Observers of the Gujarat scene, he proposes, should rather look to the future, which promises to be a luminous one for an already “Vibrant Gujarat”, provided he is elected to power once again.

At stake here is a rather barefaced denial of history, particularly of the history of communalism in the state. This is simply bad politics, because as any first year student of political science knows, good politics is always constructed upon an awareness of history. Does Gujarat really want to hand over its future to a man who has such a lamentably short memory?

The second of Modi’s comments completely denies the existence of a rather deep Hindu-Muslim divide in the state. Modi insists that he himself speaks for, and represents all people in the state of Gujarat. However, “representation” happens to be a deeply problematic concept, and Modi who is in the business of politics, should be conscious of this. We as citizens of India, of which Gujarat is a part, must ask this question: can Modi even begin to represent the interests, or more precisely the pressing needs of that category of the population which his government has refused to recognise, or cater to – Muslim families who were displaced by communal violence in 2002? Are these interests fated to be unrepresented just because they do not fit into the self-representations that have been formulated and disseminated by Modi and his ilk for electoral purposes? In effect, Modi not only wants people to forget that the communal carnage of 2002 ever happened, he does not want to acknowledge that five years after the pogrom, the victims of violence still continue to suffer through the production and reproduction of different sorts of violence. Surely this is not the section of society that he represents, because if he was representing this section of society, as the chief minister of a state that ranks first in the country in terms of per capita income, he would have done something to ameliorate the terrible and inhuman conditions that these people live in.

Victims of Violence

Though a considerable amount of research has gone into documenting and analysing the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002, little work has been done on what happened to the people who survived. Where did they go? How have they reconstructed their lives? With the help of which agency? What has the state done for them? These are some of the anxiety ridden questions that our research team has sought to address, through an investigation of the resettlement colonies of Ahmedabad into which the victims of the 2002 violence have been herded. The answer to the last question is easy to negotiate. The government of Gujarat has done practically nothing for the people who might have managed to survive the pogrom, but who lost their family members, livelihoods, hearths, and their homes in the process.

That the victims of violence were herded into poorly funded and grossly inadequate relief camps is well known. In a short time, these camps were rapidly wound up, and the inhabitants, after being given pathetically inadequate funds as “compensation”; funds sometimes as low as Rs 1,200, were now on their own, thrown onto the mercy of a society that had proved complicit in the carnage, either actively or through studied silence. The state government, recognising neither the plight, nor the needs of the victims of communal violence, simply refused to take any action which would help these people to rebuild their shattered lives. At this point a few civil society organisations, predominantly the Islamic relief committee, stepped in to help people relocate and resettle. Some land was acquired on the outskirts of the city, and the victims were resettled in four pockets – Juhapura, Ramol, Vatva and Dani Limda. All of these “colonies” are on the periphery of Ahmedabad, and are poorly connected to the city where most of the jobs are generated. The 729 households that have been relocated in 15 such colonies in Ahmedabad have been displaced mainly from eastern Ahmedabad, from areas such as Naroda Patia, Gomtipur, Daria Pur, Gomti Pur, Saraspur, Bapu Nagar Jamal Pur, Rakhial, and other inner city areas that have repeatedly suffered from periodic outbursts of communal violence right since 1969.

But the legal status of the land upon which these shanty towns have been constructed is contested, because much of it is agricultural land. This has instilled dread among the residents that they still live in temporary settlements, which can be easily mowed down by the bull dozers of the Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC). Not only are most resettlement colonies remotely located from the city where jobs are to be found; they are far away from schools and health clinics that are an indispensable prerequisite of living a life free of oppression. In sum these displaced Muslim families are fated to remain outside the reach of all the amenities that a vibrant Gujarat might perchance offer to those who form an integral part of society and the polity.

It is clear that for the present government these families just do not form an integral part of Gujarati society and politics; they have been expelled both spatially and socially to the margins of the city. In these bare, stark, inhospitable areas, civil society organisations constructed rickety one room tenements, without water supply, without electricity, without access to internal roads because there were none, and without sanitation and sewerage for families. And it is here, in these barren spaces, that the victims of the carnage in Ahmedabad have been settled, and expected to begin their life anew, amidst even more deprivation that they faced in their original habitats.

[snip]

Role of NGOs

Since the state government continues to be in the denial mode, non-governmental and other civil society organisations have stepped in to support the victims of communal violence. Notably whereas a small group of such organisations has done a commendable job in resettling victims of communal violence, and it is because of their concerted effort that these people have been able to survive, a majority of civil society organisations have proved indifferent to the cause. The cloud of Hindutva obviously hangs heavily on civil society organisations. Post carnage, the relief work was carried out predominantly with the help of the resources of the Islamic Relief Committee (IRC) along with few more agencies such as Action Aid.

The role played by some of the civil society organisations has been highly commendable, and the victims are all praise for them. Organisations like Aman Biradri and Jan Vikas, for example, have waged a long battle against the indifferent attitude of the state agencies towards the victims of communal violence, and the issue of the relocation of these victims. The documentation carried out by some of these organisations has gone a long way in exposing the callous attitude of the state towards victims of violence, and in fixing responsibility. It is with the help of these organisations that displaced families have been able to press for their rights, and put their demands before the government at the local level. That the plight of these victims has not been subsumed completely in the state-sponsored din about “Vibrant Gujarat” and the benefits of globalisation is due entirely to these organisations.

For instance, on February 1, 2007, the Antarik Visthapit Haq Rakshak Samiti, Centre for Social Justice and ANHAD, along with some other organisations conducted the “Convention of the Internally Displaced” in Gujarat. Thousands of internally displaced households gathered in the convention, and demanded “recognition, reparation and rehabilitation”. Discussions on several issues and problems such as livelihood of the internally displaced, discrimination, exclusion, and economic boycotts, police intimidation, the problems of the children, youth and women of this category highlighted several crucial issues. The convention was successful in exposing the lie of the state government’s claim that the rehabilitation of “riot” victims had been accomplished. The convention also provided the victims with a forum where they could share their troubles and come together to fight these predicaments. Apart from the demand for the provision of basic amenities and livelihood, the convention suggested forcefully that there should be a national policy for rehabilitation for people displaced due to communal violence.

One positive outcome of this convention was that the Election Commission recognised that the inhabitants of these colonies should get election cards even though they could not establish residence, simply because they have not been given the required documents by the agencies that have relocated them. The second positive outcome is that there is hope that these families will be given BPL ration cards, even though they cannot render proof of residence, such as sale deeds, rental receipts or electricity bills.

No Substitute

However, private initiatives in resettling such massive numbers of the displaced cannot substitute for state action. For one, given the limited resources at the disposal of these agencies, relocation has been partial and insufficient, and falls well short of the requirements of the residents. Neither the poorly constructed houses, nor the pathetic state of facilities and services, can give the victims a sense of security, or a feeling that they are being compensated for a major lapse of justice. Secondly, since the colonies are a product of initiatives by non-governmental organisations, they are obviously not in accordance with the “city plan”. The victims of communal violence continue to pay for the sins committed by others in 2002, because the status of these colonies as unplanned or unauthorised, gives the civic agency a pretext to deny basic amenities to the inhabitants. Thirdly, the land on which colonies are constructed is privately bought, in most of the cases by the Islamic Relief Committee. This does not help either. According to city authorities these lands are “not for residential purposes”, and purchase of this land for residential use is not legal. This breeds trepidation and uncertainty among people, who have lived amidst fear most of their lives.

Two more consequences should be noted here because these are of some import. One, the manner in which the victims of violence were relocated, and the non-response of the state when it came to the pressing problem of looking after citizens who have been rendered jobless and homeless for no fault of their own, has led to new kinds of conflicts and tensions within colonies. Bagh-e-Aman in Vatva area is witness to one such tension. Here 12 families were relocated from various parts of the city which had witnessed intense violence. Rehabilitation was accomplished through the collective efforts of the Islamic Relief Committee, private initiatives, and the people themselves. However, some people who belonged to this area had rebuilt their lives after the communal violence, mostly on their own, and without any external support. Now they face the odd problem of not being recognised as “relocated” in the same way as the 12 families, which have been rehabilitated with outside help. Even as the state agencies have been forced to take cognisance of the 12 relocated families because of litigation in various courts, they refuse to recognise other affected households as displaced. As a result about 100 households are deprived of government schemes or compensation. Consequently these households do not even have voter identity cards.

Troubling Development

Secondly, our research team discerned a rather troubling development in these colonies. Since the state has refused to step in to rehabilitate the displaced, Islamic organisations have provided the major chunk of resources for the purpose. For example, the land on which victims have been relocated was mostly purchased by these Islamic organisations. But the land deeds remain with the IRC, even after families have started to live in these colonies. As no land entitlement has been given to the victims, people believe with good reason that they live in semi-permanent relief camps, that they are dependent upon other agencies, and that they have not really been rehabilitated. There have also been instances where the IRC has put its own set of conditionalities on people, if they want to live in these colonies.

Most of these problems emanate from the conflict of priorities of the victims and civil society organisations on the one hand, and the IRC on the other. Residents told us that the IRC prefers the construction of mosques to health clinics, madrasas to schools, and that the organisation insists on dress codes for women, read purdah. The residents, on the other hand, are more concerned about incomes, health, and education for their children. In general, there is some evidence that the IRC has been trying to influence people to abandon their traditional life practices, and follow rigid and doctrinaire versions of Islam. This is the natural outcome of state fundamentalism and neglect of religious minorities; for when religious civil society organisations step into the vacuum, they are likely to extort their own price for helping people. Fundamentalism always breeds counter-fundamentalism, and it is the lives and the futures of ordinary people that are at risk here.

Vibrant Gujarat, For Whom?

The plight of riot victims in Ahmedabad, and in Gujarat in general, raises some very critical questions about the state of democracy in Gujarat, and the capacity of the present leadership to represent the concerns of the ordinary people, irrespective of their religious denomination. As the state prepares for yet another assembly election, the pathetic condition of the majority of people who were hit by communal violence in 2002 begs many questions. For one, can Narendra Modi speak of a “Vibrant Gujarat” when a substantial numbers of its citizens live in want and despair? Secondly, why have political parties such as the Congress not taken up this issue? Is this due to the fear that they will lose the “Hindu” vote? Will the Congress Party that proclaims copyright over secularism really make common cause with BJP leaders who led the communally charged mobs in 2002? And if so where do people who have been wronged for no fault of their own, go? Do any of the political parties who are contending for power in Gujarat, but who are supremely indifferent to the plight of minorities, have an answer? It is election time in Gujarat, and elections are meant to hold the ruling classes accountable for their acts of omission. It is time that the electorate in the state judges the government for what it has not done for the marginal sections of society, and not what for it has done for the already privileged.

[This study forms part of the Cities Component of the Crisis States Programme of the London School of Economics and Political Science.]

Anhad et al statement on the Tehelka Sting

It has been proved beyond doubt by the Tehelka investigations into the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat that Narendra Modi, the then Home Minister Gordhan Zadaphia, the then Ahmedabad Police chief P. C. Pandey actively colluded in killing Muslims and planning their mass murder and destruction of the property. The Chief Minister, Home Minister and their whole administration not only planned, provoked and encouraged the massacre of Muslims and destruction of their property but also ensured that mass murderers and rapists got a safe hiding.

Active subversion of the fundamental principles of secular governance is a continuous and running theme in the Gujarat governance as has been comprehensively demonstrated on camera that all the arms of the state of Gujarat willingly abdicated their constitutional responsibility to safeguard the life, liberty, dignity and property of the citizens even after the killings, rapes, loot and destruction subsided. What is even more reprehensible is that the whole system of Judiciary stands exposed as it has been claimed by the government counsels that the judges at different levels were actively subverting the course of justice.

The Tehelka tapes present incontestable evidence of the involvement of state machinery in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. It captures several confessions including that of:

  • The state prosecutor Arvind Pandya who stated that the mass killings of Muslims in Gujarat should be celebrated every year as a victory day and that Every judge was calling me in his chamber and showing full distance… the judges were also guiding me as and when required… how to put up a case and on which date… because basically they are Hindus sympathy for me… giving full cooperation to me, but keeping some.
  • Maza aata hai na, saheb [I enjoy it]… I came back after I killed them, called up the home minister and went to sleep Babu Bajrangi
  • Another confession came from Babu Bajrangi who stated that to get me out of jail, [Chief Minister] Narendra Modi changed judges thrice.
  • Yet another MLA acknowledged that Modi gave him three days to do whatever violence they wanted.

We the undersigned endorse the above statement are calling upon the The President of India, The Chief Justice Supreme Court, The Election Commission and The Prime Minster of India:

  1. The immediate dismissal of the Narendra Modi administration and imposition of President’s rule in Gujarat.
  2. Cancellation of the present election dates as elections cannot be held in Gujarat in the present circumstances.
  3. Requesting the Election Commission to ask the Supreme Court to constitute a CBI probe under a supreme court judge and if there is prima facie case then BJP should be barred as a political party.
  4. Govt of India should sign the Genocide convention and Modi needs to be tried by a tribunal
  5. The immediate arrest of the all criminals who have confessed their crimes in the Tehelka tapes.
  6. RSS, VHP , Bajrang Dal and Shiv Sena be declared unlawful organizations and a high level enquiry under the aegis of the Supreme Court of India be set to uncover the designs of these organizations whose top leaders have proudly claimed on camera that they were involved in rapes, looting, making of bombs, rockets.
  7. Re-investigate Nanded bomb blast case and following bomb blast cases where activists have pointed out the involvement of the RSS. Now there is clear evidence on tape that the Sangh is involved in large scale Bomb making exercise and killing innocent people.

It is a test case for the Indian state and if the Supreme Court and the Central Government fail to act they would sow a seed of destruction of secular polity.

Apoorvanand
Gagan Sethi
Shabnam Hashmi
and many more