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Archives for : July2018

Open Letter to Mumbai Mirror on Aadhaar Public Hearing

The report in Mumbai Mirror on 1 July titled Did Police stop the Aadhaar hearing? had many wrong

1. The venue was wrongly stated as corporate office; it was the Peasants and Workers Party office

2. Ramu Ramanathan was misquoted as saying, Permission is needed for the event, when he had said “no permission” is needed

The question mark in the title is irrelevant. Having said that, the fact is had the police not stopped the event, why were they present at the venue of the re-scheduled meeting at the Peasants and Workers Party office wherein uniformed cops and plain clothesmen from CID were seen in attendance. (picture attached).

So, what transpired?

On Saturday, 30 June, a #BreakAadhaarChains event was held at the Peasants and Workers Party Office in Mahim’s Fisherman Colony. Attended by about 100 people, the event demonstrated the people’s exasperation and angst over the shoddy implementation of the Aadhaar scheme. As pointed by ????, the mandatory linking of Aadhaar to multiple services was the most visible complaint. The panelists, representing informed, erudite voices – on law and legality if not Aadhaar per se – also voiced opinions about how Aadhaar had curtailed citizens’ fundamental liberties, resulted in rampant intrusions upon their privacy, and altered their relationship with the state and the government agency.

The testimonies were presented from across the Maharashtra State Shailesh Vikhle from Jan Swastya Abhiyan  ,Ulka Mahajan from Ana Adhikar Abhiyan, Taruna from Ration Kriti Samiti, Mahesh More from Raigad Janhit Parishad, Shehnaz Shaikh from National Hawker Federation, Virar, Shabbir Sheikh from Movement for Peace and Justice, Jalgaon and Sudhir Badami  Activist on Transportation engineering and urban issues spoke on the occasion , your report did not reflect this at all

  The event’s preparations were not without controversy. The original venue for the event was: the National College Auditorium on Linking Road. It became unavailable at the eleventh hour. The organisers had been offered use of the auditorium thanks to the kindness of a patron who also happened to be an ex-Principal of the said college. It has been reported in the media that the organisers neither sought permission properly nor paid the necessary charges for the auditorium. In truth, the organisers never got a chance to meet the Principal to make their case, having been preceded by Bandra’s finest enforcers of public law and order. What law and order issue the law and order authorities saw in a public hearing, and organised privately in a private venue, is a question they have to answer in the larger public interest. Clearly, they believe they can get away by avoiding media queries on the matter.

This sort of administrative high-handedness is, ironically, one of the main themes in Aadhaar’s implementation. Governments at the centre and in the states, as well as the Unique Identification Authority of India, have never offered a shred of transparency about their operations. It has become routine practice for RTI queries to be blocked under the pretext of national security. It has also become commonplace for all concerned agencies to deny that any breaches of Aadhaar security – “#AadhaarLeaks” – have occurred, while issuing FIRs to researchers and journalists who have thrown a light on these instances.

The reason for organising #BreakAadhaarChains events in Chennai, in Bangalore, in Delhi, in Kolkata, or in Mumbai is so that citizens need to be aware that their concerns and complaints against government agencies and officials. These concerns cannot be whimsically waved away – if an individual demand is ignored, a collective demand must be made. That is a Constitutional promise made to the citizens. Any and all officers serving the Constitution of India are duty-bound to respond – and if they fail to do so, we must ask why.


Kamayani Bali Mahabal,

Raghu Godavar,

Ramu Ramanathan ,

Shaina Anand.

Vickram Krishna,

J T Dsouza ,

 Prof R Ramakumar,TISS

 Rushikesh Aravkar.

Vidyut,  for Break Aadhaar chains campaign

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Punjab – Dalit movement to embrace Dravidian identity

JALANDHAR: When E V Ramaswamy started the Self Respect Movement or the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu in 1925, it was as much ‘anti-North India’ and ‘anti-Hindi’ as it was about fighting the caste system and superstition and inculcating self-respect among all. Periyar, as Ramaswamy was better known, would perhaps never have imagined that the Dravidian movement would one day manifest in northern India.

Now, more than 90 years later, many dalits in Punjab have started embracing what they call their ‘Dravidian identity.’ Many of them don’t even know about Periyar and the movement in the 1930s, but say they feel the need to define themselves differently. At nearly 32%, Punjab has the highest percentage of dalits among all states in the country.

This new assertion is finding maximum traction among members of the Valmiki community (traditionally involved in scavenging and considered lowest in the caste hierarchy). Although initial attempts to create such an identity in Punjab go back almost 50 years, it was mainly confined to a few activists. The recent Supreme Court order, which many saw as dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, however, led to a renewed interest on the issue among Punjab dalits. They now wear this new identity on their sleeve and describe themselves as ‘Dravidian’ or ‘Anarya’ (non-Arya).

Many of them have also started taking on last names like Daitya, Danav, Achhoot and even Rakshas. Even Dravid is being adapted as surname. Given that it is cumbersome to change ones name officially, they do it informally and prefer to be identified by their new names.
“The Supreme Court order and the clash between dalit activists and right-wing Hindu groups at Phagwara on April 13, in which a Valmiki man was killed, have triggered interest in this regard,” says Aadi Dharam Samaj (ADS) founder Darshan Ratan Raavan. His organisation has been at the forefront of spearheading the movement.
“Youngsters from our community want to start Raavan Sena units in their cities and towns,” said Lakhbir Lankesh who heads Raavan Sena. “When they become our members, we give them last names like Lankesh, Danav and other names from Mahatma Raavan’s clan,” he says.


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India – Political Silence Over Lynchings is Sanction by Another Means

The sheer frequency of the lynchings staggers the mind while the saner elements shudder at the prospects of India relapsing into medieval barbarism.
Lynchings in India

Over the past four years, parts of India have begun to resemble the lawless south of the United States of the late-19thcentury. Lynch mobs have killed and maimed men and women—in the seeming absence, and failure, of the police—in ways that would shock the sensibilities of perhaps even the most benighted savage. In these years, the governments at the Centre and in the states where the lynchings occurred have turned against the welfare of the society.

In the least, the lynchings are evidence of both governmental depravity, and a demoralised state of society which is being taken back to a time when India was synonymous with medieval barbarity. The silence of the people in power, when mobs thirsted for human blood and then shot, hacked, burned or bludgeoned their victims to death with impunity and visceral disregard for the law, have made them complicit in the despicable acts. They have eyes, but see not; they have ears, but hear not; they have tongues, but speak not. Their silence is sanction.

When lynching is defined as an “extra-legal group assault and/or murder motivated by social control concerns”, the graphic images of police officers leading a UP mob carrying the body of one of its victims after he was beaten black-and-blue reflect that there is, in the nature of the vile and inhuman act itself, the essence of a crime that is more far-reaching, dangerous and deadly. It bespeaks a collapse of the law-and-order machinery and of criminal justice system that is a model of inefficiency.

Ever since Yogi Adityanath, a man whose very rise to power has been scripted by acts of criminality, assumed power in Lucknow, UP has plunged into yet another phase of lawlessness in which the police have been a convenient, if not willing, instrument in extrajudicial killings of alleged criminals who are said to have prospered in the regime of Akhilesh Yadav. We are, of course, familiar with violent mob behaviour in other states such as Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. Each time a Muslim or a Dalit was lynched, the act was invariably recorded on mobile phone cameras and disseminated and distributed across social media, or unrelated videos have been doctored or faked.

More recently in Tripura, the chief executive has proven his imbecility beyond all reasonable doubts, and in Gujarat and Maharashtra, men and women have been killed because of social media-propelled rumours that they are child-lifters. These and other past horrors—killing of Muslims and Dalits—may not reflect a Hobbesian “state of nature” or “all against all”, but they doubtless throw up the twin question – how have we come to this sorry pass and why are mobs on the loose only in BJP-ruled states?

When the first series of killings by so-called gau rakshaksbegan in the name of “protecting the cow-mother”, it was designed to create terror in the hearts and minds of Muslims (who were identified with beef-eating) and Dalits (who were identified as skinners of dead cattle). As the frequency of such barbaric acts went up, the killings served to deepen prejudice and hatred that could then be harnessed to reap electoral benefits. The employment of such barbaric methods is a relatively new phenomenon, in which the prolonged silence of the political party in power is interpreted by a mass of jobless youth as a licence to commit gratuitous acts of violence on people who follow a religious faith different from the perpetrators or are supposedly lowly situated in the caste structure.

The Muslims and Dalits were targeted to turn passive to the violence and bloodshed by which they were—and continue to be—pursued, because directing aggression against such helpless individuals and groups comes with the belief that that they will be unable to retaliate or to persuade government authorities to take severe action on their behalf. On the other hand, the lethal form of delivering death by vigilante mobs served to cause group cohesion, consensus and sanction among the Hindus, irrespective of their social or economic standing. It is as if, in the last four years, lynching and collective violence have been written into the fabric of a Hindu India.

In the context of the lynchings in America’s Deep South in the late years of the 19thcentury and the first three decades of the 20thcentury, historical sociologists attributed the mob killings to “economic threats” as perceived by the majority white communities in those states. Lynchings, the scholars have argued, were more “prevalent when and where whites’ economic power was challenged”. In India today, typically, egregious violence leading to the killing of Muslims and Dalits has occurred mostly in the northern states which suffer from high to moderate levels of unemployment and especially when they found their targets to be relatively better off in private trades such as sale and purchase of cattle and skinning dead animals.

While the causal relationship, if any, between unemployment, which has, by all accounts, gone up in recent years, and lynching is more intuitive than based on solid empirical evidence (for the lack of any sociological study so far), what brings the crimes into sharp relief is the simple question – why have lynchings not occurred in southern Indian states? While the southern Indian states are relatively well placed in terms of employment, the political variable perhaps better explains the prevalence of lynch mobs in the northern states where the BJP is in power.

First, political silence serves to keep the lynchings as localised incidents. By not paying due attention—willing or otherwise—that the ghastly and revolting incidents deserve, the political establishment has sought to maintain deniability – “our men are not involved; these acts are the handiwork of a fringe”. Secondly, the lynchings, while serving to polarise communities, also contribute to diverting people’s mind and attention from other pressing problems resulting from inept and tardy governance. Thirdly, embedded in the practice of lynching are a variety of “symbolic messages”, including terror, for the minority community, with each act of “ritualised violence” representing an attack on an entire minority.

The sheer frequency of the lynchings staggers the mind while the saner elements shudder at the prospects of India relapsing into medieval barbarism. It has been argued that vigilantism and lynch mob murders are an expression of the legally marginalised trying to “communicate their grievances against the inadequacies of the state’s official legal order”. But this does not hold true for India where the lynch mobs belong to the politically empowered majority. And in the face of the rising social criminality, the narrative of official and political silence itself is a message that the Hindu majority is not inclined to protect the minority.

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