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Sunday, 26 February 2012

A decade of Gujarat Carnage 2002

By Ram Puniyani

India has witnessed many an acts of communal violence. Starting from the Jabalpur riot of 1961 to the last major one of Kandhmal (August 2008). Many an innocent lives have been lost in the name of religion. Amongst these the Gujarat carnage is a sort of marker. It came in the backdrop of massive Anti Sikh pogrom of 1984, the anti Muslim violence of post Babri demolition and the horrific burning of Pastor Graham Steward Stains in Kandhmal. It was a quantitative and qualitative departure from the other major carnages which have rocked the country.

To begin with the burning of Sabarmati S 6 coach was cleverly projected to be an act done by neighboring Muslims and in turn the violence was directed against the Muslim population of Gujarat, on the ground that the Hindu sentiments are hurt. The section of Hindu community was deliberately incited by the decision of state to take the burnt bodies of victims in a procession, against the advice of the collector of the city. The Bandh call given by VHP created the ground for violence. Here the social engineering was at its display, and dalits and Adivasis were mobilized to unleash the violence against the hapless innocent Muslims, accompanied by the propaganda which demonized the Muslim community as a whole. While in earlier acts of violence, the state police have been an accomplice and the silent onlooker to the violence, here a sort of active collusion of state machinery and the communal forces was on display.

The BJP ruled state Government had unrestricted run in the state as the Central Government was being ruled by BJP led NDA and the other allies of BJP were too enamored by the spoils of power to spoil the broth by speaking out. Modi had already instructed the officials to sit back when the Hindu backlash will take place. The leading light of socialist movement, George Fernandez, went to the extent of taking the violence against minority women in the stride by saying that rape is nothing new and it happens in such situations. What more was needed for the rioters to run amuck and to central BJP leadership to let the things go on. The pattern of violence against women was particularly horrific, targeting at their reproductive organs and shaming them to no end.

While the architect of Gujarat pogrom Narnedra Modi kept saying that violence has bee controlled in three days, and central BJP leadership patted him for this, the matter of fact was that violence went on and on painfully for a long time, uncontrolled and unrestricted. The attitude of the BJP controlled state was pathetic and showed the religious bias in relief and rehabilitation work. The compensations given to minorities were abysmally low, state quickly retreated from the refugee camps on the ground that the refugee camps are ‘child production centers’, hitting the minorities where it hurts most. The biases against them were on full display. The atmosphere was created by communal forces in such a manner that the riot victims could not go back to their houses as the people in their areas demanded a written undertaking from them, that they will withdraw the cases filed in the context of violence and that they will not file any cases. Most of the police as machinery either refused to file the FIRs or if registered they kept enough loopholes for the criminals to get away. It was in this atmosphere that the process of getting justice became a close to impossible task. The communalized state apparatus, the attitude of police and judiciary led the Supreme court to direct the shifting of cases away from Gujarat.

The investigation against Narendra Modi by the state police was an impossible task and so the Special Investigation team was constituted. Unfortunately, that also did not help the matters. Accompanying all this violence and attitude of state government the minorities started feeling extremely insecure. They were boycotted in trade and other social spaces. The result is the sprawling slum of Juhapura as the symbol of polarization of communities along the religious lines. The total dislocation of the monitories created multiple problems at the level of education and sources of livelihood for the minorities.

The religious polarization and section of media has created a Halo around Narendra Modi, while strictures against him are coming by, about his failure to protect places of religious worship of minorities, the malafide intentions of state in filing cases against social activist Teesta Setalvad, many another cases are still pending, crying for justice for the victims of Gujarat. Having consolidated the section of majority community behind him, assured of their ongoing support, Modi started the high profile propaganda about development and has been trying to distract the attention from the havoc which he has wrought in the state. The big capitalists are finding the state of Gujarat as a happy hunting ground for massive state subsidies, so the media controlled by them is singing praises and modulating popular opinion in his favor, creating a larger than life size image, development man, in order to suppress his role in the violence against minorities.

In this dismal scenario, there have been many an examples of victims and social activists standing for the cause of justice and doing the practically impossible task of getting justice for violence victims despite all the efforts to turn them hostile and protect the guilty of the communal crimes. While the massive propaganda and state policies are trying to turn the minorities into second class citizens, there are efforts which have gone on simultaneously to retrieve the democratic values in the face of such adverse intimidating situation created by the communal forces. Lately, apart from Court judgments, the civil society response has been picking up and the civil society is trying to overcome the stifling situation and trying to make its voice louder. While we are nowhere close to what should ideally be there in a democratic set up, the responses of civil society and social action groups are noteworthy in the matters of getting justice for victims and in the matters of recreating the liberal space which has been undermined by the communal forces. Times alone will tell if democratic values will be successfully brought in this ‘Hindu Rashtra in one state’

Can the horrific violence Gujarat 2002 happen again ?

                                           Feb 28, 2002 Nightmare on an Ahmedabad street
From OutLook
gujarat riots
A Beast Asleep?
Ten years after Gujarat 2002, Outlook asks if we’re likely to witness such horror again
Saba Naqvi , Smruti Koppikar
India is a nation that was born in the bloodshed and displacement of the Partition riots. In its DNA, it inherited the schizoid gene of being a large Hindu nation with one of the world’s largest Muslim populations. It was a historical faultline that was exploited for politics time and again. Ahimsa was the Gandhian ideal we paid lip service to but the reality far too often was mass violence. In urban ghettos, in the old cities across the land, small riots were part of the cycle of life. A religious procession would be taken out, a skirmish would take place, curfew would be clamped, a minor riot would have just taken place or been barely averted.

But the Gujarat riots of 2002 marked the apogee of communal hatred. Ten years after the Sabarmati Express coach was set afire in Godhra on February 27, and after the bloodbath that followed, we must pause and ask: can it happen again? Many would argue that it cannot because, in the long term, Narendra Modi has had to pay a price for presiding over a bloodbath after the advent of 24-hour television. In the immediate aftermath of the riots, however, he gained enormously. Modi ran a communally charged election campaign six months after the violence, when he would famously use “Mian Musharraf” as a rhetorical term for the entire Muslim community. Modi had been sent to Gujarat in October 2001, at a time when the BJP under Keshubhai Patel was doing badly and had lost a byelection. He began his first term as CM on Oct 7, 2001; five months later, the carnage happened; later in the year, in December 2002, he won the state election with a huge margin and began his second term. He has now been the longest-serving chief minister of Gujarat and will contest later this year for a fourth term.
Bombay 1992-93 Babri demolition sparks off first phase in Dec. A rampaging Sena fans flames through incendiary articles and inciting attacks on Muslim localities. (Photograph by Sherwin Crasto)

He most famously used communal polarisation as a political technique and it worked within the boundaries of Gujarat. Sociologist Ashis Nandy says that the problem also arose because for “months afterwards, Modi celebrated the riots. He appeared to be showing off”. Even the Shiv Sena, which had a decade before Gujarat orchestrated vicious riots in Mumbai, looked like relative amateurs at the riot technique compared to the systematic method that was applied and revelled in inside Gujarat. Nandy points out that the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 actually claimed the largest toll. But it’s a blot the Congress always tries to live down and not celebrate. “The whole psychology was different as Sikhs were a prosperous community that people admired and envied,” says Nandy. The Hindu-Muslim equation is another story.
As for Modi, he has become the development man, the business-friendly leader, but his image makeover as an acceptable national figure has not worked. Even BJP president Nitin Gadkari says, “What happened in Gujarat was an unfortunate incident. I don’t think it can or should happen again.”

“I don’t think it can happen again, not because of any growth in ethics but because the political costs of riots have been rising since 1984 and after 2002, Narendra Modi has blown any chance of ever being PM.” Ashis Nandy, Sociologist “Riots are regular occurrences at low levels of national income. With rising incomes, communal discontent does not fully disappear, but it begins to take the form of hi-tech terrorism as opposed to low-tech mass riots.” Ashutosh Varshney, Author and academic

“The possibility of a big riot happening cannot be ruled out. We cannot forget that there is no preventive law in place and those guilty of orchestrating riots are not punished. But we have faith in majority, civil society and the media.” Mahmood Madani, MP and cleric “Aggressive Gujarati middle class believes in hard Hindutva; elsewhere middle class at best believes in soft Hindutva. The only place I can see it being replicated is Karnataka but the middle class there is more diverse.” Achyut Yagnik, Author and historian

“A Gujarat-type riot can happen only if there’s complicity between the Centre and state government. Which is what happened in ’02. The Sangh has not given up on that kind of mobilisation; they are trying it in Karnataka.” B.K. Hari Prasad, Congress leader “1992-93 won’t happen in the same way in the near future because the potential of that particular anti-minority track has been temporarily exhausted. Majority and minority communities have become more self- reflexive.” Kamala Ganesh, Sociologist

“There was a context to riots and places where riots were habitual. Today there are different concerns, the human rights industry has emerged, media is more intrusive; consequently administrations have to be more responsive.” Swapan Dasgupta,
Right-wing ideologue
“Mumbai is even today a tinderbox and vested interests can still play with
people’s emotions. The scale of violence may be difficult but not impossible because people who order such riots sit safe somewhere and stand to gain.” Julio F. Ribeiro, Ex-police chief, Mumbai

“There were always political motives to the riots in Hyderabad. Sometimes Bajrang Dal, sometimes MIM, sometimes the Andhra lobby. Now things have changed because of the media and Hyderabad’s expansion.” Amir Ali Khan, Siasat, Hyderabad “No riot can happen without tension being built up by parties and outfits. Average citizens and party workers react out of insecurity, not animosity. That insecurity not only still exists in Mumbai, at times it’s even sharper.” Asghar Ali Engineer, Islamic scholar

“Riots can happen again in Mumbai.
The rhetoric against north Indians is similar and we have also seen sporadic violent attacks against bhaiyyas although Mumbai moves on our finance and enterprise.” Sanjay Nirupam, Congress MP
“The poorer people of Mumbai have moved northwards which means fewer paradoxes exist. The spoils of power and office are now distributed among the parties, which means all shades of politicians are busy getting wealthy.” Aroon Tikekar, Historian

Modi is stuck with the taint because Gujarat was the first mega riot in the age of 24-hour TV. There were victims in Mumbai, Surat, Bhagalpur, Jamshedpur, Hyderabad, Moradabad, Bhiwandi, earlier riots in Ahmedabad, a city that actually recorded one of the first big post-Partition riots in 1969. But they were just numbers, death tolls, the faceless victims of communal carnage.
Flash points The Dec 6, 1992, Babri Masjid demolition; Sabarmati’s burning coach

But in Gujarat 2002, the stories were documented in heart-wrenching detail and etched in our collective memories. How Bilqis Bano’s daughter was snatched from her hands, flung against a rock, killed, and the pregnant woman raped repeatedly; how Zahira Sheikh survived the grisly burning of the Best Bakery in which her family was roasted alive; how limbs of children were hacked and little boys flung to their death in Naroda Patiya; how Ehsaan Jafri begged for the life of those who had sought his protection in Gulberg Society; how his widow Zakia Jafri still fights for justice and says her husband called the CM’s residence for help. The photograph of Qutubuddin Ansari begging for his life epitomises the plight of an entire community in Gujarat; thankfully, Ansari survived.
The 2002 Gujarat riots also marked the coming of age of anti-communal activism. Several citizens, activists and lawyers who live within Gujarat have consistently fought against a state administration determined to block any probe. On the national stage, individuals like Teesta Setalvad have never relented, losing one legal battle to come back with another. Although Modi has been able to stay one step ahead of the legal snare, he is certainly bogged down by it. Outside Gujarat, he may have appeal for the BJP cadre, but regional parties want to keep a distance from him. If the big players of any regional front in the future are to be Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar, the CMs of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar would not like to share a platform with Modi even if realpolitik were to force any sort of arrangement with the BJP. Indeed, one can argue that the political price of riots is now too high. Modi is quite stuck.
The perpetrators of riots are long-term players in the political landscape. The Thackerays have again bounced back in the local polls in Maharashtra. But the city of Mumbai has changed under their watch. The ferocity and cruelty of the violence that ripped right through Bombay (which became Mumbai later) in the aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition, in two phases in December 1992 and January 1993, came to symbolise the worst face of a seemingly inclusive city. Till then the city would be described as a cosmopolitan megacity where caste, class and religion were not the dominant markers of public life. Bombay was the city of dreams, its streets offered anonymity, its pavements could turn into homes, its constant whirring machine of enterprise and entrepreneurship played the great equaliser. Surely, such a place could not be derailed by communal violence? This belief turned into a shattered myth in those two spans of ’92-93 when nearly 850 people were killed, 575 of them Muslims; over 2,000 injured and nearly 1,00,000 displaced.
After that, Bombay became Mumbai and no one really calls it a cosmopolitan place any longer. Resilient, yes, but not cosmopolitan. Bombay had its Hindu- and Muslim-dominated neighbourhoods but they were not community-insulated as has happened in the post-riots era. The ghettoising effect of 1993, which continues even today, has made the divisions sharper. In fact, it’s easier now to target this or that community and in many areas the “other” is not welcome at all, says Farooq Mapkar, who was witness to five namazis being shot in Hari Masjid by policemen, was wrongly accused of rioting and acquitted after 16 long years. A bank employee now, he says, “There is now a Muslim Mumbai and a Hindu Mumbai.”

Aligarh, 1990 125-150 people died in riots set off by killing of Muslims near a mosque by PAC. Misreporting, rumours, partisan PAC kept flames alive for nine days. (Photograph by HT (From Outlook, March 05, 2011)

The Shiv Sena in 1993 called itself the “defender of Hindus”. The Srikrishna Commission report famously indicted Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray and said that “like a veteran general, he commanded his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims, especially in January 1993”. The Mumbai police registered four offences against him for a communally provocative editorial exhorting such violence, but the go-ahead to prosecute was not given by the state government; then CM Sudhakarrao Naik famously said if certain leaders were arrested, Bombay would burn; it escaped his notice that the city had already burnt.
Riot After Riot
  • Fifty-eight major communal riots in 47 places since 1967
  • Ten in South India, 12 in East, 16 in West, 20 in North India
  • Ahmedabad has seen five major riots; Hyderabad, four; Calcutta, none since ’64*
  • The 1990s saw the most riots in the last five decades: 23
  • The 1970s saw seven riots, the ’80s, 14; the 2000s have seen 13
  • Total toll: 12,828 (South 597, West 3,426, East 3,581, North 5,224).
* In ’64, a wave of rioting in Calcutta, Jamshedpur and Rourkela killed 2,500.
Note: Only riots with a toll of five or more included; deaths due to bomb blasts not included
Data: Alka Gupta



Aug ’67 Hatia, Ranchi 183
Mar ’68 Karimganj, Assam 82
Sep ’69 Ahmedabad 512
May ’70 Bhiwandi, Mah. 76
May ’70 Jalgaon, Mah. 100
Oct ’77 Varanasi 5
Mar ’78 Sambhal, UP 25
Sep ’78 Hyderabad 20
Oct ’78 Aligarh 30
April ’79 Jamshedpur 120
Aug ’80 Moradabad 1,500
Apr ’81 Biharsharif 80
Sep ’82 Meerut 12
Dec ’82 Baroda 17
Feb ’83 Nellie, Assam 1,819
Sep ’83 Hyderabad 45
May ’84 Bhiwandi, Mah 146
Oct ’84 Delhi 2,733
Apr ’85 Ahmedabad 300
Jul ’86 Ahmedabad 59
Apr/May’87 Meerut 70
Mar ’89 Bhadrak, Orissa 17
Oct ’89 Indore 27
Oct ’89 Bhagalpur 1,161
Oct ’90 Ahmedabad 41
Oct ’90 Jaipur 52
Oct ’90 Jodhpur 20
Oct ’90 Lucknow 33
Oct ’90 Chandni Chowk, Delhi 100
Oct ’90 Hailakandi, Assam 37
Oct ’90 Patna 18
Oct ’90 Hyderabad 165
Nov ’90 Agra 31
Dec ’90 Hassan, Mandya, Mysore 60
Dec ’90 Hyderabad 200
Dec ’90 Aligarh 150
May ’91 Baroda 28
May ’91 Meerut 40
Oct ’92 Sitamarhi, Bihar 44
Dec ’92 Surat 152
Dec ’92 Malpura, Andhra 24
Dec ’92 Kanpur 254
Dec ’92 Bhopal 143
Dec ’92/Jan ’93 Bombay 872
Nov/Dec ’97 Coimbatore 20
Feb ’98 Coimbatore 60
Dec ’98 Surathkal, Karnataka 12
Mar 2001 Nalanda, Bihar 8
Mar ’01 Kanpur 14
Oct ’01 Malegaon 13
Feb-May ’02 Gujarat 1,267
May ’02 Marad, Kerala 9
Apr ’06 Aligarh 6
May ’06 Baroda 6
Dec ’07 Kandhamal 12
Oct ’08 Bhainsa, Andhra 6
Sep ’09 Miraj, Karnataka5
Sep ’11 Bharatpur 10
Till ’92-93, the city police was seen as a proud force in khaki, worthy of being compared to Scotland Yard; their brutality and vehemence during the ’92-93 carnage turned them in the public eye into a force that did not hesitate to display the saffron beneath the khaki. As police officers and constables told the Indian People’s Tribunal in the immediate months, they “were Shiv Sainiks at heart and policemen of a supposedly secular state by accident”. As many as 32 policemen, including then joint commissioner R.D. Tyagi, were severely indicted by the Srikrishna Commission (SKC) for acts of omission and commission during the riots. None was punished; in fact, Tyagi was promoted to the post of city commissioner during the Sena-BJP regime in Maharashtra soon after.
Senior Sena leaders refuse to discuss the riots but point to the “thousands of illegal Bangladeshi migrants and Pakistani sympathisers” who live in the myriad lanes of the metropolis and “sometimes need to be put in their place”. If at that time the Muslims were the target, today the “other” is the bhaiyya or migrant from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
Though political organisations may have found it increasingly difficult to stoke such large-scale, mind-numbing violence in recent years, Mumbai is still a tinderbox and vested interests can still play with people. Besides, the question of justice can’t be forgotten when we talk of riots. It rankles the victims that justice has still not been done; not only is justice a prerequisite for reconciliation, it’s also a necessary signal to those who believe they stand to gain by engineering such violence, victims say. The bomb blasts that followed in March 1993, killing 257 and injuring 800, have resulted in convictions, but no one has been punished for the ’92-93 riots except former Sena MLA Madhukar Sarpotdar who was convicted in July 2008 and let off on a Rs 5,000 bail. When the Shiv Sena-BJP came to power in Maharashtra in 1994, barely a year after Bombay burned, the administration withdrew as many as 3,000 cases registered against their workers. The subsequent Congress governments did not drop cases against Muslims that even the SKC concluded were false.
This one-sided justice has exacted its price. The Muslims in the ghettos are angry and often justifiably so. Every bomb blast and terror attack since has meant comb-and-search-and-arrest operations in their mohallas. Now after every major and minor terror attack on Mumbai, mohalla committees mobilise their peace soldiers in bastis, community elders come out requesting calm and peace, Muslims display their patriotism through solidarity marches in case they’re perceived as anti-nationals. The peace is kept but the tensions simmer.
Still, the cycle has been broken in other cities. Hyderabad, for instance, has moved on. The old city is still a hothouse, but communal violence no longer pays. Amir Ali of the influential Urdu daily, Siasat, recounts this brief history of his city’s riots. Before 1994, he says, violence took place every year over processions of Ganesh Chaturthi, Moharram or Bonalu (an Andhra festival). The violence stopped in 1994, when the TDP came to power, though one could not pinpoint an exact reason. Then, in 1998, a poster appeared in the old city of Hyderabad depicting Ganesh with Kaaba under one foot and Medina under the other. Police investigations revealed that the poster was the handiwork of a Hindu politician and former mayor of Hyderabad. He was in fact a member of the Majlise-e-Ittehadul-Muslimeen run by the Owaisi family that still has a grip on sections in the city! The linkages are circuitous, to say the least.
What this story illustrates is that an attempt to trigger a riot is a political tactic. Paul R. Brass, author and political scientist from the University of Washington, who’s studied India’s communal tension and violence, calls it the institutionalised riot system or IRS. This IRS, he says, was created largely in northern and western India and it can be activated by politicians during political mobilisation or elections, and “the production of a riot involves calculated and deliberate actions by key individuals, like recruitment of participants, provocative activities and conveying of messages, spreading of rumours”. There are frequent rehearsals until the time is ripe and the context is felicitous and there are no serious obstructions in carrying out the performance. Does such an IRS still prevail in Mumbai, or Bhiwandi, Malegaon, Aurangabad, Nashik, Moradabad, Ahmedabad?
Recently, activists of the Hindu right were arrested in Karnataka trying to raise a Pakistan flag in a Muslim area. They presumably hoped they would trigger a riot and blame it on Muslims. One must conclude that small riots can and in all likelihood may continue to happen (there was recently a Gujjar-Muslim clash in Mewat not far from Delhi), but it would take a certain conjunction of politics, intent and regime to trigger anything on the scale of the Gujarat riots.
Meanwhile, the political saga of Modi continues, with his national ambitions all too obvious. As things stand now, he can be a national player only if the BJP gets a majority on its own. As that currently seems unlikely, Modi can perhaps examine his predicament from a philosophical, moral or literary viewpoint. He could ruminate over that quote of Lady Macbeth’s who kept washing her hands. “Out, damn’d spot! out, I say”!

Riot Triggers
  • Social: The feeling of being left out of the discourse. Especially prevalent among minorities who are excluded, deliberately or otherwise, from mainstream events and activities, leading to ghettoisation.
  • Economic: The feeling of being left behind. Poor education, unemployment lead to marginalisation of the have-nots. Heightened by sense of deprivation and sight of conspicuous consumption.
  • Political: Parties and politicians play on the emotions of votebanks, often to expand it, by mobilising mobs and whipping up passions and fears over illegal immigration and demographic change
  • Administrative: The feeling of being targeted and/or ignored by the immediate touchpoints of government—the police and civic administration. Denial of rights and harassment spawn sense of injustice.
  • Religious: Perceived slights to sentiments. Can be sparked by a procession in a ‘sensitive’ area; a loud prayer, a road blocked for prayers, or an animal’s carcass thrown into a place of worship
  • Commercial: Rivalries sparked off by encroachment of traditional areas of business and economic activity
  • Verbal: Provocative speeches that stereotype and instigate the intended target on the basis of language, religion and sexual habits. Rabble-rousing about ‘appeasement’. Sporting events as a test of patriotism and nationalism.
  • Global: Rumours and whispers that travel across the wired world about defacement or denigration of holy scriptures and holy figures in books, movies, newspaper articles, posters, cartoons.

By Saba Naqvi in New Delhi and Smruti Koppikar in Mumbai

Friday, 17 February 2012

Saffron brigade halts Muslim realty deals in Gujarat

            (The saffron brigade is using Ram dhuns and Ram Darbars to thwart all deals in towns where    Muslims are buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas.)

BHAVNAGAR: Six months ago, a doctor was all set to make a killing by selling his posh bungalow 'Chaitanya' near Crescent Circle to a Muslim family. As soon as the news spread, a group representing the saffron brigade reached his house and tried persuading him to call off the deal. When the doctor did not agree, the group held a sit-in outside his house and started chanting Ram Dhun. The agitators refused to budge till he assured them that he would scrap the deal. Finally, the bungalow was sold to a Hindu.

Saffron brigade is using Ram dhuns and Ram Darbars to thwart all deals in town where Muslims are buying properties in Hindu-dominated areas.

The brigade's modus operandi is simple: on getting information about a Hindu planning to sell his property to a Muslim, they squat in front of his house and chant or conduct Ram Darbars. They don't move from the place till the seller caves in.

The group has managed to get 10 such property deals cancelled over the past six years.

A six-year-old group 'Setubandh Mitra Mandal' - consisting of VHP, Bajrang Dal, RSS and Shiv Sena members - is wary of Muslims buying properties in Hindudominated areas. The group members said that earlier, Jogivad ni Tanki and Sandhiyavad were traditional Muslim ghettos but now the community is buying properties, both residential and commercial, in posh Hindu-dominated area like Shishu Vihar, Ghoga Circle, Crescent Circle, Vadva and Kalanala.

 Bhavnagar was the only place in Saurashtra which saw communal riots in 2002. "Over the past five years, Hindus have started migrating from the localities where they have been living for generations after selling the property to Muslims,'' said Kirit Mistry, a VHP leader.

"We have written about it to the state government to demand the implementation of the Disturbed Areas Act in order to stop this activity."

However, Arif Kalva, a community leader, said, "Muslims in the city have progressed and become prosperous. They too aspire to live in areas where they can become part of mainstream society."

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Karnataka: Intimidated by Hindutva goons Jesuit priests forced to appologise

Led by Freddy D'Silva, vice-president of the Karnataka Jesuit Educational Society,
a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting

Jesuit priests forced to tender apology at peace panel meeting
From The Hindu
One of them was ‘manhandled' by ABVP activists

A group of Jesuit priests apologised at a peace committee meeting here on Thursday to those who allegedly attacked one of the priests on January 27.
The meeting was called by Anekal tahsildar S. Shive Gowda in connection with an incident on January 27 where ABVP activists allegedly barged into the St. Joseph's Pre-University College in Bahadurpura and shut the institution down. They were agitated over the fact that the Jesuit priests who run the institution had not hoisted the national flag on Republic Day.
Television footage of the incident shows the activists manhandling and berating college principal Melwin Mendonca in the presence of the tahsildar and the police. Mr. Mendonca was then paraded in full public view and taken to the police station by the activists. This was not contested by the activists of various right wing groups who attended the meeting. When the priests tried to present this evidence to the tahsildar, one of the Hindutva leaders stood up and said, “Show all of this to your friends in America. Over here, we make the rules.”
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Shive Gowda said, “The Christians want to take out a rally and file a police case. I have called them here today to convince them that there is no need for anything like that. If they decide to withdraw their [proposed] protest and do not press charges, will you trouble them further?”
When the room, consisting largely of Hindutva ideologues, erupted in agreement, the tahsildar continued, “Then, let us end the matter here and leave the room as friends.”
He admonished the Jesuits for failing to hoist the national flag on Republic Day and advised them that they should do more to prove their allegiance to the flag and the nation.
Led by Freddy D'Silva, vice-president of the Karnataka Jesuit Educational Society, a group of priests tendered an unconditional apology at the meeting. “As citizens of India and as heads of educational institutions, we have made a mistake,” Mr. D'Silva told the gathering.
As he was leaving the meeting, Deputy Superintendent of Police A. Kumaraswamy told The Hindu, “The matter ends here. The ABVP activists have agreed to withdraw their complaint.” Asked about the “complaint” filed by the Jesuits, he said, “They have not filed anything. Anyway, there is no need for all that.”
However, Fr. Mendonca said that a complaint was filed with the police on February 4, but it was not accepted.
Later, Mr. D'Silva said, “The focus of the meeting should have been on the ‘illegal act' where one of us was ‘harassed and detained'. I was pushed into a corner and I apologised. It is not illegal to not hoist the flag but it is illegal to attack and harass somebody.”
Fr. Mendonca has also written to the Karnataka State Human Rights Commission and the Governor seeking justice. “Our future course of action will be decided at the meeting of our governing council,” Mr. D'Silva said.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Learnt in Godhra, forgotten in Jaipur

From LiveMint
Mob mentality: A scooter is set on fire in Ahmedabad in November 2003. Photo: AFP

 This month is the 10th anniversary of the incident at Godhra and the events in Gujarat that followed. When the violence began, it was said that the media had made the violence worse. Often this was by its innocence and sometimes by its malice.
Was this true? The Editors Guild of India sent a team to investigate. Dileep Padgaonkar, B.G. Verghese and I were the three men on this team. We visited Ahmedabad, Gandhinagar, Vadodara, Anand and Godhra. We went in March. The smell of roasted flesh had not yet gone when we entered the burnt Sabarmati Express compartment.
It had been detached from the train and kept just off the platform at the station in Godhra. The bodies had been sent onward by train where at every station they stopped, passers-by gawked and were angered. The Vishva Hindu Parishad called for a bandh. The slaughter began the next morning.
I learnt a few things in working on that report for the Editors Guild. For what it is worth I reproduce them for you, because in the wake of the Salman Rushdie affair it is important we understand freedom of speech in India.
The critical learning was that freedom of speech in India must be regulated. To illustrate why, let’s look at our meeting with the owner of Gujarat’s second largest newspaper Sandesh, Falgunbhai Patel. Here is what he told us for the record: “Hindus were not temperamentally prone to starting riots. Gujarat had known worse disturbances (for example in 1969). But this time Hindu anger ‘irrespective of class’ was inflamed by the burning of innocent women and children at Godhra. Even Hindu women felt ‘theek hai, salon ko maro (it’s right to fix them)’.
“The English media had sided ‘out and out’ with the Muslims and the Gujarati papers were, by and large, pro-Hindu.”
This is the approach of someone who owns and runs a newspaper read by 3.2 million people. Sandesh led with a report that the breasts of women had been sliced out in Godhra. The government said this wasn’t true, but Sandesh had a policy of not publishing retractions. Such stories became truth for its readers.
This was the sort of journalism that the Gujarati papers were doing.
When in Anand, I noticed the front page of a newspaper called Madhyantar. I read out its headlines to Padgaonkar and Verghese. One read: “Musalmanon-e puravo aapvo padshe ke te kharekhar Hindustani chhe (Muslims must prove that they are true Indians).”
How were they supposed to do this? That the paper did not say.
We met the collectors administering Gujarat’s districts. Many of them good and decent men and women trying to put out the fire. Some were in their 30s and in over their heads. Time and again they told us that the media was doing damage. That information put out during an episode of violence usually caused more violence. A blackout was best, and they tried to get the cable channels off air.
A principled argument on free speech would find fault with this, true. But having seen what free speech does in India, I take their side.
Article 19 (1)(a) of our Constitution guaranteed free speech to Indians on 26 January 1950. Fifteen months later, Nehru backed down from this guarantee and imposed restrictions.
Half a dozen laws restrict freedom of speech in India. These have to do with provoking religious violence, promoting enmity, insulting a religion and wounding religious feelings. But these laws aren’t new.
Our laws curbing free speech were drafted in 1837. When he was only 33, Thomas Macaulay began producing the Indian Penal Code. It has continued in more or less the same form for 175 years. It shows what a remarkably unchanging culture we are despite living amid the trappings of modernity. The code, a colonial set of laws, remains in force in free India. This is because an Englishman accurately assessed us, and predicted our behaviour and our reaction to external stimulus. This makes Macaulay a very great man. He could tell with confidence in 1837 how Gujaratis would go bestial in 2002. The Constitution made great and universal promises, but then succumbed to the reality of India’s communal violence.
The words “communal violence” are misleading, because they indicate a skirmish between equal communities. Violence by civil society in India is one-sided. The Muslims of Gujarat and the Sikhs of Delhi were recipients. The Hindus dished it out. The second aspect is that the participants are usually known to those they kill, maim and rape. The two most violently communalized cities of India are Ahmedabad and Vadodara. In both, it is neighbourhoods that go to war, with outsiders in supporting roles.
On a later visit to Ahmedabad (a depressing, segregated and oppressively vegetarian city), I was driven through its upper-class neighbourhoods. Here the homes and offices of Muslims had been neatly picked out and burnt. Muslim colonies, what Gujaratis call societies, still had their entrances barricaded as forts. The compound walls had been raised and the gates were blocked, reinforced with metal, wood, whatever was at hand to protect them from their neighbours.
The third aspect of the Indian riot is that the state steps aside and lets the aggrieved party avenge itself.
A few weeks later, at a session hosted by Gujarat’s finest scholar of Islam, Asghar Ali Engineer, we tried to make sense of this. The former IAS officer, Harsh Mander, said the British system of administration and policing was so designed that the state could bring its wild citizenry to heel inside two days. That this had not happened in Ahmedabad and Vadodara showed the intention of the state.
When vengeance is taken, there is a swift return to neighbourhood normalcy and the hatred vanishes. Where did it go? I found this disturbing because I could not understand it, and still don’t.
Vadodara’s physics professor J. S. Bandukwala, whose house was vandalized, observed something about the 2002 violence. There is still an absence of remorse and absolutely no regret among Gujaratis.
No truth and reconciliation commission for Gujaratis, or the barbarians of Delhi who cut down 3,000 Sikhs.
When confronted with their behaviour against Gujarati Muslims, the snarling response of Gujarati Hindus, and I include my friends and family in this, is, “Ae loko-e sharu karyun (They started it).”
One cannot argue against this because chronologically it is true. The use of “they” convicts all Muslims for an incident in which some individuals participated.
It is difficult to explain to Indians the wrongness of collective punishment. This is because our identity is collective, and so is our behaviour. The understanding that this is wrong comes mainly to those who speak English. Individuals are more easily produced by English because it opens access to the world outside the tribe. It is able to place us outside the narrow definitions assigned to us by Gujarati and Hindi.
But for most Indians, if they started it then they must suffer for it.
This mindset is something we have to accept. The focus must be on how to limit its damage.
The damage is done by a Hindi-medium world view. Trying to fight it with English-medium tools will end in frustration. This is why a debate about free speech here has no meaning. All these things dissolve to nothing in the knowledge that a real price is extracted for this freedom.
The men who read Rushdie aloud in Jaipur and fled after lighting the fuse were neither brave nor considerate. Such deliberate mischief has consequences.
Aakar Patel is a director with Hill Road Media.

Govt for banning “made snana”

From The Hindu
Karnataka Government is moving in the direction of banning the “made snana,”a ritual where people roll on plantain leaves left by Brahmin priests after partaking lunch in some temples, Minister for Religious Endowments V.S. Acharya told the State Assembly.

“The issues pertain to a belief of people. It is being practised for more than 500 years. It cannot be banned forcibly. We have to educate people. The government is moving in this direction to ban the practice”, Mr. Acharya said when opposition Congress sought a ban on the practice.

Mr. Acharya said three types of ‘made snana’ are being practised in the State and added “this year also the government made efforts to ban it in Kukke Subramanya temple in Dakshina Kannada district, but was forced to allow it in the wake of protests against the ban.”
Hitting back at Congress Deputy Leader T.B. Jayachandra, who criticised the BJP government’s failure to end the “obnoxious” practice, Mr. Acharya said “the country got independence 64 years ago. Congress ruled the state for about 60 years. Why Congress governments did not think of banning the practice? ‘Made Snana’ is an annual ritual held in Kukke Subramanya temple and at another temple in Pavagada taluk of Tumkur district.

The House later passed The Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments (2nd Amendment) Bill, 2011 which seeks to remove certain difficulties faced in implementing the provisions of the Act enacted in 1997 and to omit certain overlapping provisions in the act.

The JD(S) staged a dharna for a brief while and later walked out after the Speaker rejected its demand for deferring the passage of the bill to February six as its members wanted to offer their suggestions.