Category Archives: South Asia Bulletin

Hindu terrorism

Call It By Its Name

India needs to legally reclassify hate crimes as acts of terror.

Written by Tanika Sarkar | Published:June 28, 2017 12:06 am

faridabad, lynching, police, haryana railway police, faridabad lynching news, india news, indian express newsThis should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital.

Two things stand out especially. First, such responses came in the wake of a series of severe Islamist terror attacks on London, and a large-scale one at Manchester, in very quick succession. Each was followed with calls for harmony — from religious organisations, from police forces and politicians, from large sections of urban publics. Second, and more important, the attack by a lone individual was immediately classified as terrorism, and is now being investigated within that format. Admittedly, this is a new departure in British civic and political life, partly shaped by the larger matrix of changes brought about by a marked leftist turn in Labour politics that Jeremy Corbyn, a long time anti-racist activist, has recently initiated.

This should lead to serious soul-searching in India where Junaid, a young man, looking forward to Eid , was first abused and then brutally knifed to death while his brother lies wounded in a hospital. The cause? They are Muslims, hence beef eaters, hence Pakistanis, and hence easy and natural target for butchery. Note the logic: All beef eaters and all Pakistanis — and by extension, therefore, all Muslims — are meant for slaughter.

Nor is it the logic of a few drunken oddballs, as it is made out to be. The killing has been preceded by so many others, of Dalits and Muslims, accused of cow slaughter or beef consumption, that we have simply lost count and memory of them. If they were calibrated by Far Right Hindu outfits in the past — nobody enquired into their possible organisational or mobilisational links — such bloodlust has now pervaded very large numbers of ordinary people, drunk or sober. It is a part of a broader pattern where a certain group proclaims something as punishable by death and torture — be it in the name of Bharat Mata, or cow or temple, or nationalism — and violence ensues. Atrocities have been naturalised in the past few years, they are a far too familiar landscape, part of the new normal.

Do we dare draw a contrast between political responses to the two deaths? At an NDTV debate, BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli remarked that our prime minister does occasionally condemn such violence. That no corrective action follows from his observations seemed, after all, a small matter to him. An exalted figure like the PM cannot possibly react to such daily trivialities. We live in strange times. Modiji embraced President Trump in the US, and we do not know that Trump abstains from beef. The Swachh Bharat campaign does not provide poor women with toilets, but when they are forced to relieve themselves in public places they are photographed by civil servants who allegedly beat another Muslim man to death when he objected to the gross abuse.

Have we had enough? Even some of us, even a few of us? Could we initiate a movement, asking that hate crimes be legally reclassified as acts of terror and be treated on par with them? May we demand that the entire Opposition — if it still deserves that name — unite under this demand immediately? After all, we have a useful precedent in a country which has, in recent times, suffered many more terror attacks than we have, and which has refused to discriminate between terror and terror.

The writer retired as professor, Centre for Historical Studies, JNU

Modi’s India

All about winning

Politics must be muscular, majoritarian with a no-holds-barred campaign to invade the minds of citizens, embedding in them the mirage of change for the better.

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing at the inauguration of the Synthetic Track of the USHA School, via video conference, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI Photo / PIB (PTI6_15_2017_000222B)I worry for my country.

The Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo are establishing new norms for both the government and politics. For Modi, the machinery of government is meant for self-propagation. Government is a vehicle to announce, through means fair and foul, new water-marks of performance, whether or not they have any reference to reality. Ends justify the means. For Shah, the new idiom of politics is to belittle all that happened prior to 2014 and to build a larger-than-life image of the BJP. For both, facts are irrelevant, only perception matters. Politics must be muscular, majoritarian with a no-holds-barred campaign to invade the minds of citizens, embedding in them the mirage of change for the better.

The duo, with these ends in mind, attempt to cajole, threaten, and, if necessary, capture the narrative that serves their political objectives. They regard the CBI and other investigating agencies, including the ED, the NIA and the state investigating agencies where the BJP is in government, the departments of the Government of India or state governments, who do their bidding. The media, particularly the electronic media, is no longer a platform for disseminating news to allow viewers the freedom to decide for themselves, but a propaganda vehicle for the government as well as the BJP. Business houses, potential recipients of beneficial government policies, sing paeans for favours. Vulnerable to proceedings by taxmen, they are susceptible to surrendering national interest by doing the government’s bidding.

The Republic has been taken for a ride. The nature of the Indian state has changed since 2014.

On the ground, we see the rise of an intolerant, aggressive majoritarian mindset. Hindutva, which has nothing to do with Hinduism, is represented by vigilantes, ready to kill human beings to save a cow. Anti-Romeo squads, love jihad and the conversation on triple talaq embolden the embers of intolerance. Consequent fires are stoked by some electronic channels and the army of soldiers on social media platforms seconded, perhaps by the BJP, who run amok with threats and abuses to silence opposition. There is no scope for discussion or debate. There is no nuanced position on any issue.

Demonetisation was successful because the prime minister was decisive in his intent to target black money, even though millions lost their jobs and more than 100 people died in queues. Its impact is still felt by sectors of the economy which are struggling to recover. Surgical strikes epitomised nationalistic fervour and the commitment to punish those who seek to intrude across the border. This one-off was projected as a panacea, ensuring that Pakistan dare not foray across the border again.

We are told that the entire opposition is corrupt and the government is scandal-free. Three years of a BJP government, the duo says, have transformed India. There is hope for the common citizen. Shah says that what the BJP has done in three years, the Congress did not do in 70. The BJP, we are told, got rid of nepotism and caste-based politics, yet Yogi Adityanath provides soap and sachets of shampoo to Dalits before he visits them. Dalits at Una are flogged but that has nothing to do with caste.

The inauguration of the Dhola-Sadiya 9.15 km bridge, connecting Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, construction of which began in 2010, and the longest road tunnel (9.2 km) inaugurated on April 2, 2017, cutting the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 km, for which construction started in May 2011, are photo-ops for Modi. They claim that GDP continues to grow above 7 per cent and the Sensex being at a record high are achievements of this government. The people, according to the duo, must celebrate every day for the transformation of India as it moves to be a $20 trillion economy in the near future.

It is as if the history of India started in 2014 and all the years before that, since Independence, were a washout. That there are no jobs for the 12 million kids who move out of school will never make headline news; nor will these be topics to rant about in a channel which is perceived as the alter ego of the government. That only 1.35 lakh jobs were created in 2015 and over 2 lakh jobs in 2016 is a matter of little concern because Shah now says that it is not for the government to create jobs. That a world moving towards automation will leave millions jobless in India is of no relevance since the duo’s politics is to win the next election. Thoughtless rollbacks in the education system will disempower our children. We need to prepare our children to compete in a global environment. That is not a matter of much concern, both for the media and government. That institutions of government are being saffronised with RSS pracharaks being selectively picked in utter disregard of the quality and culture of our constitution is disheartening.

Healthcare is for the rich; public health facilities for the poor are shoddy. The real estate market has collapsed; interest rates are down and the economy is stagnant. The offtake of bank credit is negligible and inventories in factories have dampened the prospects of enhanced productivity. The small and medium-scale sector, the backbone of our economy, is dormant and needs hand-holding. Black money is back in circulation along with fake notes. Demonetisation has not deterred terrorists. GDP numbers, no longer relied on, are for academics to debate. Yet the government keeps on patting itself on the back.

Both government and politics in India are far removed from the concerns of the common person. The brazen attitude of establishments to take their partisan agenda forward is disquieting. The state’s constitutional commitment for bringing peace and tranquillity is not a priority. This exclusive duo wants an exclusive India. That is their hope. We must get together to challenge the duo and ensure that in 2019, we start afresh.

The writer is a Congress leader and former Union minister

Fascism in progress

Across the aisle: That sinking feeling – 2

Secularism is derided. Liberalism is challenged. Dissent is sedition. Questioning the government (or the Army Chief or the RBI governor) is anti-national.

Written by P Chidambaram | Updated: May 14, 2017 5:18 am

 That Sinking Feeling, dissent, freedom of speech, sedition, anti-national, maoism, terrorism, intolerance, aadhaar debate, vigilates, indian express

Representational Image. (Express Photo: Oinam Anand)

 

Everyone has likes and dislikes. They concern food, clothes, books, friends, neighbours, politics and practically everything else. That is why it is said ‘one man’s food is another man’s poison’.

Family, culture and religion have a profound influence on one’s likes and dislikes. One may argue for what one likes (“vegetarian food is sufficient for a strong body”), or one may argue against what one dislikes (“English must be replaced in the conduct of official business”), but one cannot kill or cause injury.

Violence Everywhere

India has become a killing field, not only because of militants and Maoists, but because of likes and dislikes. There is actual killing, taking a life, an act that the law describes as murder. Akhlaq, a poor farmer, was killed by a mob because the mob believed that he had kept the flesh of a cow — beef — at his home. Pehlu Khan, a dairy farmer, and his sons had bought two cows and were transporting them to their farm. They were stopped by a group of self-appointed gau rakshaks (protectors of the cow), beaten and Pehlu Khan was killed. In both cases, the mob or the group did not like the idea that someone may be eating beef.

There is violence short of murder as well. A crowd led by an elected representative defied the law, took out a ‘religious’ procession, was stopped by the police, went on a rampage, vandalised the home of the superintendent of police and terrorised his wife and small children. In this case, the crowd and the elected representative did not like the fact that another religious group had a long custom of taking out a procession.

There is vigilantism. A young couple (not married) rode a rickshaw to a cinema. The police apprehended them, took them to a police station, questioned them for hours, and finally let them off with a severe ‘warning’. The police personnel belonged to a group officially designated as ‘anti-Romeo squad’ and they were tasked to prevent young couples from using public streets or spaces. Non-police groups did the same thing in Kochi and elsewhere. An outfit called the Hindu Yuva Vahini became the enforcer of morals in Uttar Pradesh.

Also read: That sinking feeling – 1

Wither Secularism?

There are communal clashes. There are caste clashes. Leaders jumped into the fray, not to condemn the clashes or to make peace, but to find ‘reasons’ why the clashes were justified.

There is fear. Places of worship are desecrated. Religious minorities live in fear. Dalits live in fear. A Dalit is damned if he does (skins a carcass) and damned if he doesn’t (refuses to skin a carcass). Rohith Vemula wrote “My birth is my fatal accident”. Girls live in fear of harassment if they are seen with boys or wear jeans or have a drink at a bar. Tribals live in fear that they will be deprived of their land and forest rights.

There is polarisation. Without a shred of evidence to support the implied charge of discrimination, it was declared “if land is given for a kabristan, equal land must be given for a shamsan” and “if there is electricity for Eid, there must be equal amount of electricity for Diwali”.

Rise of Intolerance

There is intolerance of dissent.

Mr Sitaram Yechury was dis-invited to a scheduled lecture in Nagpur. My talk at IIT Delhi was cancelled a day before it was scheduled. Ms Priya Pillai was stopped from boarding a flight to London where she was due to address British Parliamentarians on human rights. Lest they become too vocal, non-government organisations are threatened with investigations or cancellation of registration under the FCRA or the Income-tax Act.

There is ideological profiling. RSS swayamsevaks were appointed as governors. Heads of educational and cultural institutions were selected from a small group of right-wing, conservative intellectuals. Text books in Haryana were screened by a committee headed by a self-confessed Hindutva ideologue.

There is insult. Some religions and their followers were ridiculed. Agents were paid to troll journalists and columnists. There is little or no counter-argument, only abuse in the filthiest language.

There is the spectre of an Orwellian state. Aadhaar has transformed from voluntary to mandatory. It was conceived as an aid to Direct Benefit Transfer schemes, it has become a precondition to exercise legal rights such as travel or buying property or paying taxes. Citizens’ data is collected by numerous agencies without a law on data security or data privacy. Data-leak is commonplace.

The government brazenly told the Supreme Court that no person has an absolute right over his or her body!

In the ranking of 198 countries on religious intolerance, India stands at fourth from the bottom. In the World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries, India’s rank has dropped from 131 to 140.

It would be foolish to attribute all of the above to the period after the NDA government assumed office in May 2014. These ills were indeed present before. A hierarchical society is inherently authoritarian and intolerant. The difference is this: then, when these ills manifested themselves, persons holding positions of high authority condemned them and the nation bowed its head in shame; now, there is scant condemnation and absolutely no shame.

Secularism is derided. Liberalism is challenged. Dissent is sedition. Questioning the government (or the Army Chief or the RBI governor) is anti-national. The path to sabka saath, sabka vikas is paved with authoritarianism, uniformity and implicit obedience to the will of the rulers.

As that sinking feeling deepens, there is more.

Website: pchidambaram.in, @Pchidambaram_IN

 

Bilkis Yakub Rasool’s Statement to the Press

All Accused in Bilkis Bano Case, Including Police Officers Finally Convicted

BOMBAY HIGH COURT REJECTS APPEALS OF THE 11 CONVICTED ACCUSED, UPHOLDS LIFE IMPRISONMENT

Sets Aside Acquittals of 7 Gujarat Cops & Doctors Convicts them of Evidence Tampering & Cover Up

 Mumbai, May 4, 2017

 Through all of you, friends in the media, I wish to say to all my fellow Indian citizens, my fellow Gujaratis, my fellow Muslims, and to women everywhere – I am grateful that this verdict delivered by the Honorable Judges, has, yet again, vindicated my truth, and upheld my faith in the judiciary.

 My rights, as a human being, as a citizen, woman, and mother were violated in the most brutal manner,  but I have trusted in the democratic institutions of our country. Now, my family and I feel we can begin to lead our lives again, free of fear.

 I am happy that the State and its officials who emboldened, encouraged, and protected the criminals who destroyed the life of an entire community, are no longer unblemished, but today stand convicted of tampering with evidence and cover up. For officers of the state, whose sworn duty it is to protect citizens and enable justice, this should be their great moral shame, to bear forever.

 To fellow Indians, I appeal to all of you, at a time when we hear news everyday of people being attacked and killed because of their religion or community – please help affirm their faith in the secular values of our country and support their struggles for justice, equality, and dignity. For this verdict does not mean the end of hatred but it does mean that somewhere, somehow justice can prevail. This has been an long, seemingly never ending struggle for me, but when you are on the side of truth, you will be heard, and justice will be yours in the end. 

The close friends, who have stood with me through it all, know how much me, my husband Yakub and my family owe to them for their instinting support and love throughout this battle. For journeys like mine cannot be made alone. I am deeply grateful both to the CBI and to my lawyer who represented me during this appeal process in the Honorable Bombay High Court.