Category Archives: South Asia Bulletin

Letter to the President of India from Admiral L Ramdas (Retd.)

Admiral L Ramdas (retd)

PVSM AVSM VrC VSM

Former Chief of the Naval Staff

Gaurav Puraskar

Magsaysay Awardee for Peace

LARA-‐RAMU FARM

Village Bhaimala

P.O.Kamarle.

Alibag,402209

Maharashtra

Tel

02141-°©‐248711/

248733

Mob

9860170960/

9422383930

lramdas@gmail.com

29 July 2017

Honorable President Shri Ram Nath Kovindji,

Let me at the outset congratulate you on assuming office as the 14th

President of the Republic of India.

The Armed Forces of India – of whom you are the Supreme Commander,

have a different and special relationship with their President and I was

especially struck by your unambiguous reference to the fact that it is

your duty to “protect the Constitution and uphold its values.”

Yes, you are now every Indian’s President, and I deeply appreciate that

you have pledged to work for the oppressed and downtrodden. In your

acceptance speech you spoke of your own experience of poverty and

exclusion and have pointed out that it was your commitment to the spirit

of service, in the great traditions of our country that has brought you

from your village of Paraunkh, to Rashtrapathi Bhavan in the capital.

You have also stated that “my election to the post of President reflects

the greatness of Indian democracy”, and stressed that you will “serve

the Nation in the spirit of ‘Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah’ (May all be

happy)”.

Like you, we in the armed forces too are also sworn to defend our

Country and also to protect and defend the Constitution of India. And it

is on this important aspect sir, that I, as one of the senior most retired

servicemen in the country, would like to share some of my thoughts and

concerns with my Supreme Commander today.

I am proud to have served my country for nearly 45 years in uniform. I

retired as the Chief of the Naval Staff on 30 September 1993, after

joining the first course of the Joint Services Wing – the forerunner to

todays NDA. I too come from a humble background – my grandfather was

a village postman in the small South Indian town of Palghat, and our

family joined many of those who migrated from a rural area to then

Madras- and eventually to Bombay and finally to Delhi. It was also there

I was personally witness to the terrible violence and savagery of

partition and proud to also see men like my father, shelter his good

friend Ghulam Mohammed and his family in our home – telling the mobs

baying for his blood that they would have to kill him first. These were

the formative years as I grew up – a child of Independence.

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In many ways, my life in the service parallels our trajectory since

Independence. The compelling reason that attracted many of us to join

the services in those days was the powerful motivation that we would be

laying the foundation and helping to build this new, free and

independent country.

Although the country has achieved a lot and made progress in certain

areas, in many others we have remained backward, and stuck in our age

old blind beliefs, regressive social mores, and in recent times have

allowed the forces of religious hyper nationalism to endanger the

fundamental constitutional provisions and promises of a tolerant,

equitable nation where there would be dignity for all and freedom of

thought, speech and expression. I fear our Constitution is under attack

and faces grave threats from the forces that have been let loose.

Sir, we in the Defence Forces are a microcosm of India. We have people

of all faiths, denominations, castes and creed to make up our very

professional military force. We work as a team, do not discriminate or

shower largesse on any one class, caste or community, and in the Navy

especially, believe in the age old saying that “We swim or sink

together”. The emphasis in the Services has always been on

inclusiveness and camaraderie.

Alas these values and traditions, built and nurtured over nearly seven

decades, are today threatened as never before.

The increased intolerance at all levels, the shocking assault and

treatment of our minority communities – especially Muslims, the growing

tendency to take the law into their own hands by lynch mobs and Gau

Rakshaks – and the continuing impunity with which your own community,

Dalits, as also OBCs, Adivasis and women, are targets of physical,

sexual and verbal abuse and attacks brings no credit to our proud

heritage and tradition.

The age old principles of dignity and respect for all, have almost totally

given way to a barely concealed right to those with money and power to

do as they will – and corruption in all these many forms has increased

across the board.

While in uniform we are governed by our respective Army, Navy and

Airforce acts to which Servicemen have to conform. One foregoes the

Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Constitution. However this is not

so with retired personnel who revert to their primary role as citizens.

Sir, I feel it is important to point out that during my nearly 25 years in

retirement I have engaged with a large number of issues and struggles

of the people of this land. I was part of a seven year long struggle to

save farmers including myself,being evicted thanks to SEZ; Muslims,

3

Dalits and Adivasis targeted as either terrorists, anti nationals or

Maoists; the indiscriminate application of Armed Forces Special Powers

Act (AFSPA) and the trampling of all norms to protect environment. To

add to all of these has been the increasing use, by this and earlier

regimes, to be quick to use the allegation of sedition and label people,

incuding myself, as anti-national merely for expressing dissent or a

point of view which is different from the mainstream – be it on nuclear

matters,or promoting dialogue for peace with our neighbours, including

Pakistan. I have on several occasions pointed out that the hydra headed

monster of religious intolerance is causing permanent damage to our

plural, syncretic and secular democracy.

Last week I watched with deep distress a dalit woman and Bezwada

Wilson, a recent Magsaysay award winner like me, spoke of the

continued indignity of their lives as manual scavengers. And every day

we are reading and hearing of unwarranted attacks on our Muslim and

even Christian minority. It would be tragic if we allowed all the

struggles of our freedom fighters to undertake this unique task of

building a secular, plural and rainbow nation of faiths, creeds,

communities, languages and gender, to end up in an un-democratic,

intolerant, Hindu Rashtra kind of structure, when our neighbours are

striding in the opposite direction – be it Bangla Desh, Nepal or Sri

Lanka.

India has always followed the path and shown the way towards non

violence and tolerance – essential pre-conditions for Peace in our

region. People still speak of our contribution to the dynamic idea of

Panch Shila . We are looking to you Sir to use this historic mandate and

extraordinary opportunity of being the second Dalit to occupy the

highest office in the land, to steer this nation away from the narrow path

of violent hyper nationalism towards the concept of Dharma and

Righteousness in the grand tradition of all our Saints, Sufis and Gurus.

I believe that the President and Supreme Commander is in a unique

position to wield his power and authority wisely and creatively.

As the Supreme Commander and President – you have it in your hands to

outline and chart a totally new direction for our people and to advise the

Prime Minister and his cabinet accordingly. You have only to call on the

millions of foot soldiers, the women and the men who are yearning to

see a very different India, to work with you to realise the vision of all

those women and men who have contributed to building our vast and

amazingly rich and plural heritage.

As a former Service Chief, I can confidently say that the spirit of service

and camaraderie and a nationalistic impulse which is tolerant and

inclusive, still obtains in our armed forces. If you show the way and give

the call – believe me our years of discipline because of which we have

honoured the principle of civil control over the military and have never

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veered towards any kind of Military takeover as in our neighbourhood –

we veterans are ready to contribute towards national development in

the best sense of that word. Let us always remember though that civil

authority does not mean civil service or bureaucratic control. As

Supreme Commander you also have the privilege of ensuring that the

genuine demands of the service and ex service men and women are

studied and honoured .

We are inhabiting an India where there is growing discrimination, and

also growing alienation of our youth and unrest in the temples of

learning – our universities. There is also growing fear and insecurity.

And given that our comrades in the armed forces – our sailors, airmen

and jawans – come from villages and towns across the country – they

cannot but be affected deeply by what they are seeing around them.

Their morale and self esteem is constantly under threat. How does a

sergeant in the Air Force feel when his own father, Mohammed Akhlaq is

made a target of utterly irrational mob behavior and killed – merely on

the suspicion of keeping beef in their home?

In the long run this will affect their own professional performance and

therefore our National Security.

I have written several letters over the years to several Presidents, and

Prime Ministers, sharing my thoughts and fears. Some have responded

and some have not. I believe it is not just our right, but our

responsibility as senior citizens who have held the highest positions in

the country, to bring some of our observations and concerns to you and

it is in that spirit that I write this letter.

I look forward to hearing from you Sir- and also to meeting you when I

next travel to Delhi. I have every reason to believe that you will rise to

the occasion as our Supreme Commander and will not fail us in this

critical hour.

With highest regards,

Jai Hind

L.Ramdas

Honorable Shri Ram Nath Kovind

President of India

Rashtrapati Bhavan

NEW DELHI

110011

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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