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Archives for : November2018

McCarthyism in Modi’s India

Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are carrying out an audacious campaign to arrest left activists and silence dissent in India. The country is on a path toward fascism.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Hamburg Airport for the Hamburg G20 economic summit on July 6, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany. Sean Gallup / Getty

From the time the ultra-right-wing Hindu communalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in India in May 2014, the country’s pretensions of being the largest democracy in the world have been fast falling apart. Recently, the BJP mounted an all-out vicious attack on left-oriented activists, writers, and intellectuals in the country, reminiscent of McCarthyism in the United States during the 1940s. For the last four years, the party in power has been unscrupulously pursuing its communal agenda to pave the way for transforming India into a Hindu “rashtra” (nation).

The current onslaught by the state is the most daring one yet, targeting well-known activists, trade unionists, and intellectuals who have an impeccable record of public service and as defenders of peoples’ democratic rights. The strategy is to curb the voices of dissent that have gained force in the wake of the economic ruination wrought by the BJP government and its utter failure to deliver on any of its promises.

Notwithstanding that the Indian constitution is projected as one of the most liberal and egalitarian constitutions, the traditional caste system, with all its viciousness, still survives. The Untouchables, or Dalits, are discriminated against by the Hindu majority in all walks of life even today. The BJP, which wants India to revert to its “glorious” past, upholds the caste division of society, an objective that appeals to the “nationalistic” instincts of the Hindu majority; discrimination against Dalits, invariably manifesting as gory violence, has only spiraled.

The Background

January 1, 2018 marked the two-hundredth year of the historic Battle of Koregaon between the British East India Company and the Peshwa faction of the Maratha Confederacy. A 28,000-strong force led by Peshwa Baji Rao II while on its way to attack Company-held Pune was unexpectedly met by an 800-strong Company force, many of whose members were from the untouchable Mahar caste. A memorial, now known as the Vijay Sthamb (“victory pillar”) was erected by the East India Company to commemorate those who fought the battle.

The site of the battle, the small village of Bhima Koregaon in Pune district of Maharashtra, has attained a hallowed status in Dalit history. From about the time Dalits began to organize in the early years of the last century, their leader B. R. Ambedkar began observing the practice of paying respect at the Bhima Koregaon obelisk, a shrine to the martyrdom of Dalit soldiers who unwittingly brought an end to the rule of the Peshwas. It became a matter of deep pride for Dalits that their caste fellows had fought to defeat the casteist and debauched rule of the Brahmin Peshwas.

After Ambedkar’s death in 1956, he became the rallying icon for Dalits. The places associated with him, one of them being Bhima Koregaon, became congregating points for Dalits every year. This year, marking the two-hundredth anniversary of Bhima Koregaon, was seen as a special occasion, which was used by the anti-BJP forces to rally people against the communal politics of the BJP.

Elgar Parishad

Two progressive retired judges, ex-justice P. B. Sawant of the Supreme Court and ex-justice B. G. Kolshe-Patil of the Bombay High Court, conceived the idea of a large public conference on the eve of the Bhima Koregaon anniversary, leading to the convening of the Elgar Parishad (Elgar Conference), an initiative supported by around 250 organizations belonging to Dalits, Adivasis, Other Backward Castes (OBCs), and Marathas, the dominant caste in the state of Maharashtra, who have been unhappy with the loss of their political power under the current Brahmin chief minister.

The central message of the conference was to declare opposition to the Hindutva ideology of the BJP, which, in disregard of the Indian constitution upholds the primacy of Hindus and the Hindu way of life in India. The conference was the platform for the potential coming together of Dalits and Marathas against the BJP, threatening to topple the BJP’s applecart in Maharashtra, the fountainhead of both Hindutva ideology and its organization.

As a countermove, a controversy was created by two agent provocateurs of the Hindutva camp, Milind Ekbote of the Samastha Hindu Aaghadi (All India Hindu Front) and Sambhaji Bhide of Shiv Pratisthan (Shivaji Foundation), over the memorial of Sambhaji, a son of Shivaji, who is said to have been dismembered by Aurangzeb in a village called Vadhu Budruk, four km from Koregaon. The creation of the memorial is attributed to a Dalit, Govind Gaikwad, who in defiance of the diktat of the Mughal ruler Aurangzeb, cremated Sambhaji’s body in his own field and built a memorial there. Govind Gaikwad’s Samadhi, or tomb, is also near the complex that houses Sambhaji’s memorial. The Hindutva forces, disputing the role of Govind Gaikwad, upheld the supposed claim of upper-caste Marathas to the memorial.

On December 29, 2017, the memorial of Govind Gaikwad was found damaged, creating a minor communal clash between Dalits and Marathas. This clash was to be escalated by the goons marshaled by Bhide and Ekbote so as to derail the Elgar Parishad.

Unfortunately for them, the villagers of Vadhu Budruk resolved the dispute locally the next day. The surrounding villages and even Pune city, about thirty km away, knew about the secretive preparations of the Hindutva forces as confirmed by a “secret” report. The eight-page report, submitted on January 20, claimed that Hindutva activists Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote had allegedly roped in Hindutva ultras to create unrest. The document further stated that Ekbote’s men had announced the conspiracy on social media and were aware of the “proposed” clashes since December 16, 2017. Yet the government did not take any steps to prevent any such clashes, such as deployment of adequate police force, to thwart the imminent communal clashes.

The Elgar Parishad took place on December 31, as had been planned. It was attended by activists from all over Maharashtra. Among the invitees were Jignesh Mewani (a young upcoming leader and member of legislative assembly [MLA] from Narendra Modi’s state, Gujarat), Umar Khalid (a PhD scholar from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, who was arrested on false charges of sedition at the instance of the Hindutva forces), and mother of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar from Hyderabad Central University who was driven to suicide by the circumstances created by the BJP, the central government, and university authorities in 2016. The conference ended peacefully, with a collective pledge taken by all the delegates that they would protect India’s constitution and democracy and fight the BJP’s pro-Hindutva tactics.

As feared by the Dalits, the Hindutva marauders, flying saffron flags and hailing the victory of Ekbote and Bhide, struck at the congregation. Scores of innocent Dalits were beaten up, their vehicles damaged, and their stalls burnt as the inadequate police force looked on. In the melee a Maratha youth lost his life. A Dalit woman, also a victim of the rioting, registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the culprits, naming Ekbote and Bhide. Dalits observed a statewide “bandh,” or shutdown, on January 3 to condemn the attack and demand the arrest of both Ekbote and Bhide. However, the government stayed silent, refusing to act. On the contrary, it began attributing the riots to the “inflammatory” speeches made in the conference on the previous day.

The conference proceedings were, in fact, recorded not by the people but by the police and could have been easily verified. But the police made a deliberate allegation against Mewani and Khalid and got an FIR lodged against them, further infuriating Dalits and progressive forces.

As the demand for the arrest of Ekbote and Bhide scaled up, the government decided to resort to its pet plan of insinuating that there was Maoist infiltration, hoping to kill many birds with one stone: it would spread terror and weaken the demand for the arrests of Ekbote and Bhide; it would breach the potential unity of Dalits and Marathas; it would consolidate the Hindus and isolate radical voices from among Dalits. The FIR against Mewani and Khalid would not serve these purposes, however, and hence it was shelved. The police began to insinuate that the Elgar Parishad was funded by Maoists. On the eighth day, one RSS functionary, Tushar Damgude, lodged a FIR with Pune police alleging Maoist involvement in the organization of Elgar Parishad. The Pune police promptly picked it up to develop a full-fledged attack on the noted activists and intellectuals known to be critical of the Modi government.

Computers and the Evidence Factory

The Maoist funding theory provided the pretext for the police to conduct raids on the houses of activists and to confiscate computers and digital devices, which come in handy to declare that “conclusive” evidence had been recovered to arrest some of them under the dreaded Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), under which the police can arrest anyone on mere suspicion; the arrestee does not have any defense. The modus operandi of the police is to indiscriminately confiscate from activists’ books that have any key words like “Marx,” “Lenin,” “Mao,” or “revolution,” any pamphlets or leaflets in their possession, and any kind of digital device. These are enough to establish the victim’s connection with Maoists.

The police have other ways, too, to forcibly extract confessions or requisite statements from the arrestees against anyone they target. In the case of Arun Ferreira, the police had confiscated his thumb drive, portraying it in the media as a deadly weapon (taking things so far that they became a butt of public jokes). They claimed to have unearthed a Maoist plot to blast the stupa at Deekshabhoomi, the memorial where Ambedkar had converted to Buddhism along with half a million followers and which attracts millions of Dalits who congregate at this place to observe the anniversary of their conversion to Buddhism.

The details of the “plot” were released to the media to create hatred in the minds of Dalits about Maoists. None of these fantastic claims were raised officially in the court. Arun Ferreira was subjected to the Narco Analysis Test, during which he interestingly revealed that Maoist activities were funded by the founder of the Hindu right-wing Shiv Sena party, Bal Thackeray. The police did not of course act upon this “narco” evidence; they simply discarded it.

The harassment of the activists began by the police on a low key in April 2018. They raided the homes of Pune-based Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) activists (Rupali Jadhav, Jyoti Jagtap, Ramesh Gaichor, Sagar Gorkhe, Dhawala Dhengale) and a Republican Panther activist (Harshali Potdar) — all of whom spent varying lengths of time in jail for their alleged Maoist connections, without any justification as their subsequent acquittal proved.

That was perhaps a trial run. Early on the morning of June 6, 2018, raids were conducted simultaneously on the homes of noted women’s rights activist Professor Shoma Sen, head of the English Department at Nagpur University and executive member of Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR); Advocate Surendra Gadling, General Secretary of the Indian Association of Peoples’ Lawyers (IAPL), who has fought the cases of hapless victims of police excesses; Sudhir Dhawale, the editor of the Marathi magazine Vidrohiand founder of the Republican Panthers, who spent forty months in jail before he was acquitted; human rights activist Rona Wilson, a former research scholar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, and Secretary of the Committee for the Release of Political Prisoners (CRPP); and anti-displacement activist Mahesh Raut, an alumnus of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, and a former prime minister’s Rural Development Fellow, who is working with “gram sabhas,” or village legislative bodies, in the mining areas of Gadhchiroli district, Maharashtra.

The police arrested all of them in connection with the Bhima Koregaon riots. Except for Sudhir Dhawale, who took active part in the Elgar Parishad, none of the others had the remotest connection with it. But the police had got hold of the personal computers of all the arrested activists, so it would be easy to create any evidence they wanted.

And the police came out with their initial claim that the Elgar Parishad was organized and funded by the Maoists. Justice Kolshe-Patil, the chief organizer along with Justice Sawant, insisted in every possible public forum that the idea of organizing the conference was entirely their own and that even Sudhir Dhawale had come in later. But to no avail.

The computers provided the police the full scope to script the conspiracy. It became easy for the police to declare Rona Wilson, well known for taking up the cudgels for political prisoners and a thorn in the government’s side, to be the node of the Maoist network. His computer yielded a huge load of documents, all in English, in the form of elaborate essays that mentioned the names of activists and intellectuals critical of the government. There were all kinds of names, including that of Prakash Ambedkar (a grandson of B. R. Ambedkar, three-time Member of Parliament and leader of the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh) and Rahul Gandhi (president of the Indian National Congress), clearly showing political overkill. Again, Justice Kolshe-Patil’s anguished explanation that they did not require a single penny for organizing the conference would be ignored.

Mother of Conspiracies

The arrests of the noted activists, who were unconnected with Bhima Koregaon or any other violence, sparked protests all over the country. Bhide and Ekbote were at large, the former arrested after his interim bail application was rejected by the Supreme Court only to be soon bailed out; the latter received a clean chit from the chief minister. Meanwhile, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Karnataka uncovered a plot to kill four rationalist intellectuals —Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M. M. Kalburgi, and Gauri Lankesh. Subsequent raids at the headquarters of Sanatan Sanstha, a Hindutva outfit that openly propagates hatred against rationalists and progressives and has spoken of killing them, led to the recovery of huge stocks of arms and ammunition. But the government has been reluctant to investigate the activities of the Sanatan Sanstha. To divert public attention from the demand to ban the outfit, it needed to come out with the ultimate bogey of the “Modi assassination plot.”

This plot has had many earlier runs in Gujarat in the period 2001–2014 when Modi was the chief minister of that state. In order to create a psychosis among people about “terrorists,” show that a particular community was out to destabilize the country, and project Modi as a courageous leader unafraid to tackle “terrorism,” many innocent people were killed in fake encounters. The SIT under the oversight of the Supreme Court had exposed those responsible for the “encounter” killings. But the change of the guard at the Center in 2014 neatly pushed all investigations and their outcomes under the carpet, freeing those who were implicated. Even the 2002 carnage of more than two thousand Muslims remains unpunished.

The script writers forgot that such a plot for the assassination of an individual is not the Maoist method. Communist ideologue Charu Mujamdar’s theory of “annihilation of class enemy,” which endorsed the killing of individuals, was discarded by the leaders of his own party soon after it was propounded. Any book on the history of the Indian communist movement would corroborate this fact.

While it is true that the Maoists, mainly ill-fed and ill-clad Adivasis in the jungles of central India, believe in armed revolution, they know they are light years away from it. Interestingly, the successive governments have projected the poor Adivasis as the “biggest threat” to the internal security of the country, and they have been unleashing the might of the state against them for more than a decade. The Adivasis have not even issued a simple rebuttal of the police claims. Notwithstanding these facts, by projecting such a threat, the police can target well-known activists and intellectuals and systematically break the back of dissent.

Establishing the Urban Naxal / Urban Maoist

After establishing the Maoists as violent and bloodthirsty, it became easy for the government to suggest that there was a Maoist conspiracy in the genuine grassroots movements of Dalits and Adivasis. In 2006, when spontaneous Dalit protests against the brutal Khairlanji massacre broke out in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, the then home minister of the state alleged that Naxalites were involved and gave the police a free hand to deal with the protestors. The atrocities that were unleashed on the protesting Dalits were termed by our fact-finding report as worse than the Khairlanji murders.

In the current labeling game played by the state, an urban Naxal, or urban Maoist, is anyone who works for the poor, fights for their rights, and, inevitably, criticizes the government. Labeling and maligning is a convenient weapon to be used summarily against anyone. There is also of course the dangerous weapon of UAPA under which innocent people can be incarcerated for years on the basis of mere suspicion. Indeed, over 99 percent of those who were arrested because they were believed to be Maoists in recent decades have been acquitted after serving time for an average period of four to five years. It is a different story that in many of these cases, the police would rearrest an acquitted person for a much longer period by slapping a new set of charges on them.

It is easy to see how computers and other digital equipment confiscated from the arrested activists could have easily been used to provide material to construct a “Maoist Modi assassination plot” and link the names of activists and intellectuals to the “plot.” On August 28, 2018, early in the morning, the Pune police launched simultaneous raids on the homes of a number of people (activists, priests, writers, and lawyers), including the present author, in Mumbai, Delhi, Ranchi, Goa, and Hyderabad. By the end of the day, five prominent rights activists — Sudha Bharadwaj, Vernon Gonsalves, Varavara Rao, Gautam Navlakha, and Arun Ferreira — had been arrested for their alleged links to Maoists and for indirect involvement in the supposed Modi assassination plot. However, the FIR the arrests were based on related to the violence that followed the Bhima Koregaon event.

The five have been charged under several sections of the UAPA as well as under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC): Section 153a (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony); Section 505 (making statements conducive to public mischief); Section 117 (abetting commission of offence by the public or by more than ten persons); and Section 120 (concealing design to commit offence punishable with imprisonment) and

The mala fide intention of the state has been exposed in every instance where activists have been accused of having Maoist connections, most significantly in 2007 when the well-known public health specialist and activist Binayak Sen was arrested for sedition. In India, draconian laws, the ease of producing fake evidence, and a tortuous judicial process are enough to keep an innocent “suspect” in jail. Despite international indignation and protest, Sen was held for nearly two years in jail, awarded a life sentence, and only with the exceptional intervention of the Supreme Court, managed to get out on bail.

Sen serves as an example of what the state can do to anyone despite their impeccable background and public support. Professor G. N. Saibaba, almost completely disabled and wheelchair-bound, can serve as an extreme example. Through a hodgepodge trial, which has been severely faulted by legal luminaries, Saibaba, along with four other co-accused, has been awarded a life sentence. These are not stray cases: there are 293,000 such undertrials in Indian jails.

The unprecedented crackdown on dissenters in India is a sinister strategy of the government to cover up its total failure. It also portends a horrific future for this country should the BJP again come to power in 2019. India would certainly then be a Hindu nation. Modi has almost fully prepared for it in terms of hegemonizing most institutions and legitimizing his demagogic leadership. The current arrests clearly point the way to an ultra-fascist Brahminical future for the country — a frightening prospect not only for Indians but the rest of the world.

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Chandigarh: Rape convict’s land auctioned for Rs 91 lakh, money to go to survivor #Vaw

 

On August 31, Punjab and Haryana High Court had passed a decision that Rs 90 lakhs compensation should be given to Faridkot rape victim and her family and the same can be done by auctioning convict Nishan Singh’s properties.

Land for rape victim, land belongs to rape convict, Haryana high court, revenue department of Faridkot,

THE REVENUE department of Faridkot has got four acres of land belonging to rape convict Nishan Singh auctioned for Rs 91 lakhs as Rs 90 lakh compensation has to be given to rape victim and her family as per the Punjab and Haryana High Court orders.

Despite Nishan Singh being in jail, no bidder came forward, hence Red Cross Department came as the only bidder, depositing Rs 25 lakhs as advance amount, with the rest to be deposited within 3 days, revealed information.

On August 31, Punjab and Haryana High Court had passed a decision that Rs 90 lakhs compensation should be given to Faridkot rape victim and her family and the same can be done by auctioning convict Nishan Singh’s properties. Auction had to be done by November 29 as per High Court orders.

Though October 29 was kept as the day of auction earlier, but it had to be postponed as revenue department’s concerned officer had gone on leave on that day. Besides, Nishan Singh and his mother Navjot Kaur had challenged the HC decision in Supreme Court, but so far the case has not come for hearing in SC. Meanmhile as per HC orders, Rs 50 lakh has to be given to the minor girl while Rs 20 lakh each to both parents.

It needs to be mentioned that on September 24, 2012 Nishan Singh along with his friends had abducted a minor girl of Faridkot. Both were traced to Goa a month later and the minor girl was pregnant at that time. He was sentenced to double life imprisonment and his mother Navjot Kaur and uncle Dimpy Samra were sentenced seven years each imprisonment in May 2013.

Before abducting minor girl, there were 21 more cases pending against Nishan Singh. The minor girl had been kidnapped in June 2012 but returned home after a few days. She was kidnapped again in September. Presently, the girl has been sent out of the country by her family, revealed sources. Faridkot minor rape victim sangrash committee had taken up the case after minor girl’s abduction in September 2012 and even a bundh was also observed in Faridkot. Deputy Commissioner Rajiv Prashar, confirming today’s auction, said that the report about the auction will be submitted to the High Court within the stipulated time period.

Courtesy: The Indian express

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Bhima-Koragaon clashes: Fadnavis must appear before panel, says BBM chief

 

Holding Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and top police officials responsible for failing to prevent the January 1 Bhima-Koregaon clashes, Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM) chief and lawyer Prakash Ambedkar on Tuesday demanded that Mr. Fadnavis and other officials be examined as witnesses before the two-member inquiry commission set-up to probe the clashes.

Representing a witness, M.N. Kamble, who had filed a petition in this regard, Mr. Ambedkar said that the Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick (who was part of the inquiry commission), Guardian Minister Girish Bapat, the State Director General of Police, and the heads of the intelligence sections among others must appear before the inquiry commission to explain why they had failed to prevent the violence despite several intimations of the same.

“One of the terms of reference for this commission is to establish the failure of the government machinery and secondly find out who were responsible. If failure must be established then all top authorities from the Chief Minister downwards must be examined and their statements recorded. Otherwise, the truth will never come out,” said Mr. Ambedkar, who was the grandson of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

He further demanded that written and audio records in form of official government documents, police records, police diaries, minutes of government meetings after the clashes and the Chief Minister’s directives to the police and administrative authorities with regards to the clashes be presented before the commission.

“There was lot of tension in the lead-up to the actual clashes. Hence, the sequence of events from December 20 to January 1 including the Elgaar Parishad, and the riots of January 1 and the government and police actions thereafter need to be examined thoroughly,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

Instead, he said that the government was going in the opposite direction with its investigation, with Chief Minister Fadnavis and the probe agencies casting aspersions on the ‘Elgaar Parishad’ of December 31 and erroneously linking it with the riots that erupted the next day.

Mr. Ambedkar further submitted the report prepared by a coordination committee set-up on January 9 and comprising of leaders from major Dalit outfits to assist the police investigations.

He noted that the report clearly proved that the Bhima-Koregaon incident was not a riot, but ‘a pre-planned attack’.

On December 29, a fierce dispute had broken out between upper caste Marathas and Dalits in the village of Vadhu Budruk (around 4 km from Koregaon -Bhima) over a rudimentary board erected near the tomb of Govind Ganapat Gaikwad, a Dalit from the Mahar community.

The Dalits had accused the Marathas of wantonly desecrating the ‘samadhi’ of Gaikwad, who is held by the Mahars to have performed the final rites of the slain Maratha King Sambhaji (Shivaji’s son). A complaint was filed by Dalit activists against 49 persons of Vadhu Budruk village under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act, for damaging the board.

Recounting the Vadhu Budruk dispute, Mr. Ambedkar further pointed out that five Gram Panchayats, including those of Bhima-Koregaon and Vadhu Budruk, had called for a shutdown on January 1 to protest against the dispute and the complaints lodged against them by the Dalit community.

“Why were such events not taken seriously despite several warnings about eruption of possible violence on January 1. At precisely 9:05 a.m. that day, a mob assembled at Vadhu Budruk and later attacked the humungous congregation gathered at Bhima-Koregaon to celebrate the bicentenary of the 1818 battle,” Mr. Ambedkar submitted.

In response to Mr. Ambedkar’s submissions, the commission headed by Justice Jai Narayan Patel, former Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court said that if the commission felt the need to summon the Chief Minister, it would do so should the occasion arise.

“However, it would be improper to direct Mr. Fadnavis to appear before the commission at the present moment,” said (retd.) Justice Patel.

Courtesy: The Hindu

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When The Farmers Go Marching In……

Lakhs of farmers to bring their protest to New Delhi on Nov 29


 NEW DELHI: Some say this world of trouble
Is the only one we need
But I’m waiting for that morning
When the new world is revealed

When the revelation (revolution) comes
When the revelation (revolution) comes
Oh lord I want to be in that number
When the farmers (saints) go marching in

The old Louis Armstrong number could have been written for India’s farmers who have been on the road for the past few years – from protests to arrests to police firing and deaths to long marches – for rights and justice. A waiver of the crippling loans that have added to the numbers of farmers’ suicides across the country and remunerative prices as per the Swaminathan Committee recommendations are the two demands that the government at the centre has dismissed as a state subject, regardless of the fact that the states do not have the inclination or the resources to alleviate deep agrarian distress.

The struggle has coalesced into a joint forum, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) bringing at least 200 farmer organisations together. And under this aegis lakhs of farmers will be marching to Delhi from all corners of India, collecting at four different points in and around the city, and then proceeding to the Ramlila grounds on November 29. Here they will be joined by as many farmers joining in directly, and will stay the night, with several artists participating in a cultural programme to do with the agrarian crisis, and the farmers demands.

On November 30, the farmers will march in unity from the Ramlila grounds to the Boat Club lawns. Permission for the same has been sought; if denied the farmers will go instead to Parliament Street. But march we will, the organisers said, and make those in power feel the pressure from the agrarian sector that has been severely discriminated against by the government and policy planners.

Farmers in fact are emerging as the bulwark of unity, for not just the opposition parties but those who want to preserve the Idea of India based on democracy and secularism. The movement has been linked to democratic values with the farmers standing for unity, regardless of religion and caste. All India Kisan Sabha president Ashok Dhawale told The Citizen that the emphasis would remain on farmers’ demands, which they know can be realised only through unity. “They know they have to reject the politics of divisiveness and come together en masse,” Dhawale said.

Enthused by the recent convention in Mumbai where opposition leaders including the Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar came together on one platform, Dhawale said that political change is crucial for farmers. On November 30, the farmers will be addressed by a host of activists, scholars and others working on agrarian unrest in the first session. The second will see all opposition parties who support the farmers’ demands come together, in what will clearly be the first positive glimmerings of unity in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls.

In that sense the unity will be agenda based, with all those participating in the Kisan Mukti March agreeing to make the agrarian crisis central to their agendas and campaigns.

Interestingly, as many as 21 opposition parties have already declared their support for two private member bills introduced in the Lok Sabha by farmers’ leader Raju Shetty, and in the Rajya Sabha by CPI-M MP KK Ragesh. The first bill is titled Liberation from Death, and the second would mandate remunerative prices at one and a half times the cost of production. And, as Dhawale said, the opposition has agreed to discuss all other issues to do with the “unprecedented” agrarian crisis, asking for a special three-week session of parliament to focus on the farmers in the specific and larger context of their existence.

A charter of demands will be released on November 30 with the political message, Dhawale added, that Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the most anti-farmer and pro-corporate government since India gained indendence. At the same time it will make “a spirited appeal to all farmers to unite against communalism and casteism and be warned of competitive communalism, such as the Ram Mandir ploy, to divert attention from corruption as in the Rafale deal and the adverse impact of measures like demonetisation.”

The coordination committee has approached all farmers’ organisations, including the Bharatiya Kisan Union which has yet to respond. Recently farmers under the aegis of the BKU from western Uttar Pradesh were stopped at Delhi’s borders amidst anger and some violence.

Farmers have been very active in organised protest in Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu to name just a few states. On August 9, the anniversary of the Quit India movement, over five lakh farmers courted arrest in 410 districts of India demanding justice and rights. The All India Kisan Sabha was at the forefront of this movement.

It has been estimated that approximately Rs 15,000 crores are required to waive all farmers’ loans.

https://www.thecitizen.in/index.php/en/NewsDetail/index/2/15525/When-The-Farmers-Go-Marching-In

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Wooplr Found My Boss Guilty Of Sexually Harassing Me- #MeToo in corporate India

 But I Felt Pushed To Leave, Survivor Speaks Out

: Even when companies act against promptly male offenders, women still pay a heavy price.

AJIJCHAN VIA GETTY IMAGES

NEW DELHI — In October 2015, a Bangalore-based start-up acted swiftly after a female employee accused her boss of sexual harassment. Once the complaint was filed, the company’s Internal Complaints Committee (IC), set up in compliance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, also known as the POSH Act, took up the case.

Five weeks later, the IC found that the allegations of sexual harassment against Arun Raj, then Vice President of Growth and Marketing for Wooplr, an online shopping app, were true. Wooplr demoted Raj to Senior Marketing Manager, suspended him for seven days, and docked his pay.

Yet it was Raj, who ended up staying and growing at the company. He won back his position through successive promotions and is Wooplr’s VP Growth and Marketing once more.

The woman who complained against him, however, felt compelled to leave. The environment in her office felt hostile, she said, and she did not want to face her harasser every day.

“I really thought they would fire him. I didn’t expect them to be okay with having a sexual predator working in the place,” the woman told HuffPost India. “It is a man’s world.”

The woman’s experience at Wooplr offers an insight into a little-discussed aspect of the pernicious problem of sexual harassment and assault at the workplace in India: the deck is so stacked against women employees that even when companies act against promptly male offenders, women still pay a heavy price.

While male employees are treated as if they themselves are victims of the process, the women complainants find their careers stalled despite doing their best to act like professionals.

Today, India’s MeToo moment is forcing a conversation beyond the acknowledgement of widespread sexual harassment at the workplace to a far more uncomfortable conversation about what constitutes commensurate punishment for the offender, and the steps needed to ensure that complainants still feel valued at their workplace.

 

At Wooplr, the woman said, she felt that the company did not do enough. When HuffPost India sent specific queries to the company, Woopler responded suggesting that the fact that the company acted on the complaint was evidence enough that the company acted in good faith.

“Life went on for him as if nothing happened, but nothing worked out for me. I was driven out of there,” the woman said. “I was the one who had to find another job and get a pay cut. I’m the one who has nightmares every day. I’m the one who is diagnosed with PTSD.” PTSD refers to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“I was in Nepal when the #MeToo movement happened, and since then it has been trigger, trigger, trigger,” she said.

I really thought they would fire him. I didn’t expect them to be okay with having a sexual predator working in the place.

Wooplr did not send specific replies to a detailed email HuffPost India sent regarding the incident and the events that followed, but offered the following statement as a response:

“It is unequivocally asserted that the manner in which the complaint of sexual harassment was dealt with by the Company was entirely in accordance with the law.”

In a brief conversation with HuffPost India, Ankit Sabharwal, co-founder of Wooplr, said that the e-commerce startup did its best to deal with the situation.

Sabharwal and another co-founder of Wooplr were members of the committee, along with two female employees and one external member.

“We set up a committee, which made a recommendation of demotion, and we acted on it. We didn’t even take a moment to ask anyone, to delay or to negotiate, and we acted swiftly,” he said.

We didn’t even take a moment to ask anyone, to delay or to negotiate, and we acted swiftly.

HuffPost India reached out to Nirmala Menon, CEO of Interweave Consulting, who has been part of several ICs in her 30-plus years as an HR professional, to gauge if Wooplr had decided on an adequate punishment in the case.

As an external person it is impossible to comment on the decision of any IC, Menon said.

“The specifics of every case is so different and only the IC members are privy to it. We just have to trust the process to do justice to a complaint,” she said. “It is a moment for truth for the company and what it is willing to tolerate.”

Menon added, “The punishment must be a balanced one keeping the gravity of the offence in mind and in most cases, we give the person a chance to reform. It would be unfair to punish someone over and over again for the same crime”.

 

Sexual harassment and assault

The woman’s recollection of the incident illustrates how seemingly routine workplace rituals—such as getting a drink with a colleague after work—can quickly turn into a fraught situation for female colleagues, with their male counterparts interpreting mundane social interactions as an invitation for sexual advances. The incident’s aftermath brings home how women must then choose between speaking out and safeguarding their careers.

“I may have been friendly with him but nothing more than that. I could never imagine he would attack me in that way,” the woman said. “I thought it would be okay to be friends with my boss.”

On the intervening night of 10 and 11 September 2015, the woman and her boss left Prost brewery in Bangalore and made their way to her house in her car. While watching videos that night, Raj put his hand on her back, the inquiry committee subsequently established, but removed it when she objected.

The next day, on the intervening night of 11 and 12 September, the woman and her boss left Prost brewery and went to her house in her car. The woman, who was 28 at the time, wanted Raj, then 30, to drop her off and take a cab back to his place.

The woman said that she had asked Raj to wait in her house for the cab. While watching videos on her laptop, she said, he started playing pornography and then forced physical contact with her, not once but twice.

Later in the day, on 12 September, Raj sent her a text saying, “Sorry about yesterday. Kinda got a little pushy now that I think.”

SCREENSHOT OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE WOMAN AND HER BOSS.
Screenshot of the conversation between the woman and her boss.

Speaking to HuffPost India, the woman said, “I simply did not have the balls to throw him out of the house because I knew that I had to go back to the office and see him. I didn’t even do anything for the first two weeks when it happened. I decided to let it go,” she said.

At a gathering at a colleague’s house on 16 September, four days after he had harassed her at her home, the woman said that Raj spent the evening staring at her.

The next day, he sent her a text saying, “Hope I did not make you uncomfortable in anyway yesterday. Sorry if I did. It’s just that your eyes are fucking mesmerizing….”

SCREENSHOT OF THE CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE WOMAN AND HER BOSS.
Screenshot of the conversation between the woman and her boss.

The woman said she was willing to forget all the incidents for the sake of her career.

“I was really kicked about the kind of work that I was doing and that I was good at it. I didn’t want anything to get in the way of it,” she said. “He was my immediate boss. If we had a weird equation I thought it would be very difficult for me to work with him.”

But over the course of the next two weeks, the woman said she felt a drastic change in how she was being treated as a professional, which led her to file a complaint of sexual harassment against Raj.

“He started ignoring my suggestions at work, wasn’t taking me seriously, and was slowly taking away the responsibilities I was assigned. All because I wasn’t willing to sleep with him,” she said in an unpublished written account shared with HuffPost India.

Raj did not respond to HuffPost India’s request for comment on the case.

IC and Due Process

The woman filed a formal complaint on 8 October 2015, following a verbal discussion with the HR representative and two of the four co-founders in her company. The IC was constituted on the same day, and over the course of the next few weeks, the woman and her boss shared their recollection of the two incidents which had occurred the previous month.

The IC found Raj’s conduct was unprofessional, and also not befitting of a relationship between a manager and his subordinate.

Once the IC process was underway, the woman felt the company did not stand by her.

After the incident, the first thing which bothered the woman was having to sit next to the man she had accused of sexual harassment.

Raj had moved his seat next to hers a week or ten days before the incident, and it was only after the woman insisted that his seat was changed.

“After I filed the complaint, they did not change his place. I had to go sit next to him every day. I just didn’t feel like going to office. So, every day, I would make up an excuse, so many excuses to not go or to go late,” she said. “I had to tell them explicitly to please change his place.”

The woman believes the management of Wooplr could have given her the option of working from home or asking him to do so for the duration of the investigation.

“Why should I have to work from home? Why not him? Why could they not have empathized a little bit?” she asked.

I had to tell them explicitly to please change his place.

Instead of making her feel like she was in a safe space, the woman said, the management turned on her and eventually forced her out.

Her two-week leave, which she had applied for much before the incident and which Raj had granted, was cancelled. Arjun Zacharia, the CEO of the company, she said, told her there was no guarantee that her job would be available if she chose to go on vacation. The woman said that Zacharia asked her to speak with Raj and confirm whether he had granted her leave even though he knew that she had accused him of sexual harassment.

Wooplr did not respond to HuffPost India’s questions on the woman was not granted her leaves.

The woman resigned on 9 November, but served out a notice period till 20 November. A day before she was leaving the company, the woman said the company asked her if she wanted to rejoin work after a two-month sabbatical.

The woman believes the company just wanted to get it right on paper.

“Did they expect that I would go away for two months and then come back and be okay seeing his face? The onus is on the company to make the victim feel safe,” she said. “Why was the workplace not made safe for me? Why was it made safe for a sexual predator?”

While the IC found the allegations against Raj to be true and demoted him, him was subsequently promoted back to his original position over three years.

In a brief conversation with HuffPost India, Sabharwal, the co-founder, sought to justify the promotions which Raj had received.

“As a company, we acted on what was done at the time,” he said, adding that Raj’s promotion was based on his work in the company.

In its statement, the company said, “It may be specifically noted that the POSH Act and associated rules prescribe a range of punishments (such as warning, censure, withholding of promotions, withholding of increments etc.) therefore, the law does not mandate that every instance of sexual harassment, regardless of the factual circumstances, should result in termination of employment of the accused.”

Wooplr did not respond to HuffPost India’s query about whether Raj is paid more today than he was in 2015.

In response to HuffPost India’s query on whether female employees at the company were warned of Raj’s past behaviour, Wooplr said, “Also, your expectation that the women workforce at large should be informed about the details of a sensitive sexual harassment matter is misplaced and has no basis in law or market practice. In fact the law mandates that the identity of the respondent be maintained confidential.”

Yet Section 16 of the POSH Act, it is worth noting, contains a the caveat that the name of the respondent may be revealed as long as it does not compromise the identity of the woman, or any witnesses.

Your expectation that the women workforce at large should be informed about the details of a sensitive sexual harassment matter is misplaced…

READ: An Army Officer Molested Me In A Garrison In Kashmir, The Inquiry Made It Worse: Survivor Speaks Out

What happened after

A former female employee of Wooplr, on the condition of anonymity, said that the management never informed female employees that Raj was found guilty of sexual harassment even as he continued working with them.

The farewell email which the complainant sent to all employees, explaining why she was leaving the company, was the only source of information for female employees. For a brief spell, the former employee said, it led to Raj getting isolated within the company.

The former employee also said that the management did not inform employees that Raj had been demoted, and it was treated like a change in designation.

Then, said the former employee, the company’s HR officer called female employees for a meeting and they were told that the company had “not found anything” against Raj and that was why he had been retained as an employee.

In fact, female employees were told that it was unprofessional to isolate Raj. “We were told that if you have any issue with him then talk about it now, but not to treat a fellow employee unfairly,” she said.

Another former female employee, who spoke with HuffPost India on the condition of anonymity, confirmed that female employees were summoned to such a meeting.

“He (Raj) was treated like a prince,” she said. “He was forever cocooned.”

“He was treated like a prince. He was forever cocooned.”

Female employees who told HR that they were not comfortable speaking with him, this employee recalled, were brushed aside.

CEO Zacharia, she said, told them, “If it is such a problem for you then why are you here? We feel that we have taken the measures that we feel are right.”

In response to HuffPost India’s query as to whether female employees were told not to isolate Raj, and whether Zacharia had made the above-mentioned remark, Wooplr said, “We note that a number of your questions also insinuate impropriety by the Company’s CEO, HR etc. These have no basis in fact, and appear to only have the intent of harassing and defaming the Company and the individuals concerned.”

Within a few months, the former female employees said, the matter was forgotten.

The woman who had complained against Raj said, “His life was unaffected in the larger scheme of things. Who in Wooplr remembers what he did?”

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/11/13/metoo-in-corporate-my-boss-was-found-guilty-of-sexually-harassing-me-but-he-is-still-vp-at-the-company_a_23587540/

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Patient’s Aadhaar sought for H1N1 test, govt says it’s not mandatory

Hospital Says Lab May Have Asked For It, Will Look Into Matter

Bengaluru:

A patient with high fever was allegedly asked to produce her Aadhaar card at a Bengaluru hospital in order to get tested for H1N1.

The 78-year-old woman was taken to Bangalore Baptist Hospital on Sunday evening, where staff sought her Aadhaar card to send her throat swab sample for the H1N1 test. According to them, submission of the details was mandated by the government, the woman’s relatives claimed.

While the woman’s daughter submitted other ID cards, the hospital allegedly insisted she produce the patient’s Aadhaar. “The woman was suffering from high fever and her daughter had to go back home to fetch the Aadhaar card. What has her Aadhaar number got to do with her health condition? What’s the point of such absurd rules which cause inconvenience to patients,” asked the woman’s relative.

Dr Sindhuja C, microbiologist at Bangalore Baptist Hospital, said patients have to submit an ID proof and it doesn’t necessarily have to be Aadhaar. “Since May 2018, we have been sending samples to Dr Lal PathLabs on St John’s Road. To make sure that the patient gives an authentic address, the lab may have asked for the ID and we followed the procedure. The objective is not to inconvenience the patient. We will re-examine the issue if it has caused any trouble to the patient,” said Dr Sindhuja.

A total of 1,130 H1N1 cases have been reported in the state since January 2018.

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TM Krishna concert organisers face threat #FOE

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Mysuru:

Organisers of a TM Krishna event in the city have received threats against hosting the Carnatic vocalist to uphold “dharma” and the honour of “shastriya” music.

Krishna, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, has received threats from right-wing outfits in the past for singing Christian hymns and songs on non-Hindu themes. Hitting back, he had vowed in August to release a Carnatic song on Jesus or Allah every month.

In Mysuru, he is to hold a concert and workshop on ‘Rare Kritis of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar’ on November 22 and 23. The events, hosted by Ganabharathi, will be held in Kuvempu Nagar.

Over the past few days, however, social media is rife with messages urging opposition to the event. “This we must do as a duty to defend dharma and honour of shastriya (classical) music,” read one.

One user who forwarded the messages said Krishna had brought disrepute to Carnatic music by singing in praise of gods of different faiths. “Carnatic music was developed to praise Hindu gods, goddesses, environment, life and people. But he has used the same ragas and music for adharma,” he said.

Event organisers confirmed that they had received many such messages and one call on Tuesday. “If anyone has any issues, they must come and talk to us. Why these messages and calls?” one of the organisers said. CR Himamshu, former syndicate member of the Karnataka State Dr. Gangubhai Hangal Music and Performing Arts University, said the allegations levelled against Krishna are false.

Music afficionados have urged police to initiate action against those attempting to create fear ahead of the event. “India is known for its liberal values. By spreading this kind of venom, these anti-social elements are distorting our values,” said Saraswati Devi, a music  lover

TOI

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India – People being starved to death by the Govt. in the name of Aadhaar and DBT

Samvidhan Samman Yatra after travelling through 11 states in 31 days entered into third phase, starting from Jharkhand

 

People being starved to death by the Govt. in the name of Aadhar and DBT

 

The Land of Aadivasi getting looted by the state in the name of Mines, Industries and Land Bank

 

NAPM condemns the state repression on Pathalgarhi movement and Human Rights Defenders and asserts the Constitutional rights of Gram Sabhas

 

Govt. on spree to kill Democracy, Dissent, and Diversity in the state; People of Godda resisting against Adani Power Plant

 

Another starvation death of an Adivasi in Dumka today; Application for Ration Card still pending in the Govt. office

 

Ranchi, Jharkhand: After successfully completing Yatra in two-phases, 11 states, Samvidhan Samman Yatra begins Phase 3 Yatra from Jharkhand State and will travel through Odisha, West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, and finally culminate in Delhi on 10th December on International Human Rights Day.

 

People of Jharkhand have witnessed aggravated state oppression in the last 2-3 years, where adivasis of the state have been fighting against loot of natural resources, against land acquisition, dilution of CNT-SPT act, fighting against hunger deaths, human trafficking, and many more such issues.

 

Since last two days, Yatra has travelled to Malhar Toli, Ramgarh, Badakagaon, Ranchi, Nagri, Ulihatu, Khunti, Angrabari, Lachragarh, Simdega to listen to people’s plight facing forced displacement, starvation deaths, industrial pollution, imposition of Aadhar based Direct Benefit Transfer, atrocities unleashed in Adivasis areas, human rights violations etc.

 

Malhar Tola, Ramgarh

On 11th November, Yatra started from Ranchi taking leaders from different parts of country to Malhar Tola, Ramgarh. Basant Kumar Hetamsaria, NAPM Convener from Jharkhand, briefed the activists about the issues recalling the fact-finding done by the NAPM few months back. Chitaman Malhar died due to lack of food security and a complete failure of social welfare schemes in the village. The village shows the true face of state govt towards importance of people’s lives. A very few people are covered under any social welfare schemes. Majority of families do not have ration cards, NREGA cards, pensions etc. It was after the fact-finding organised by NAPM, we got to know that the situation is far worse and death of Chitaman Malhar is not due to his inability of availing social security schemes but a complete failure of administration and neglect towards people by the state.

 

Samvidhan Samman Yatra reached the village and interacted with the villagers. People in large number welcomed the activists and vowed to organize and struggle for their rights.

 

Prem, Chitaman’s son, told the activists that the death of his father was only due to hunger and nothing else. Govt. tried all means to subvert the reasons and just after his death, officials rushed to the village and distributed ration cards to few families. We are facing starvation since long but never any govt. officials paid any attention to our village.

 

Santoshi, another villager, shared that they have to walk more than 2 Kms to fetch water. We don’t have basic amenities, deprived of food, water, and shelter and Govt. How can we even imagine about cooking gas or electricity? We don’t have resources to make toilets and Govt. never paid any attention to this. They may be claiming that Ramgarh is a model in Swacch Bharat but you all can see the realities we are facing.

 

Activists expressed solidarity with the people and assured to raise the issues in national platforms. Team also noted that Supreme Court directions on Right to Food are being grossly violated by the state in this region and is highly condemnable.

 

 

Jugra Village, Badkagaon, Hazaribagh

Badkagaon in Hazaribagh district is an epicenter of intense land struggle in coal-rich state. Since more than a decade, farmers and India’s largest power producer, NTPC have been locked in a conflict here. While the NTPC wants to take over the land and mine coal for its power plant, the people in Badkagaon refused to sell their land and move away.

 

The yatra visited some of the families, whose members were brutally gunned down around 2 years back. Mithilesh Dangi from Karanpura Bachao Sangharsh Samiti, said the struggle is to save the land and livelihood of 295 villages in the valley which are endangered by coal mining by NTPC and other corporations.

 

Devdas, a local activist, said that RSS and sangh organisations distribute weapons to increase conflicts, and we distribute thoughts, and peaceful ways of struggle for our constitutional rights.

 

People can easily see the spread of coal dust on the standing crops, devastating the local agriculture and ecology of the region. The environmental regulations are being violated at each and every moment. The area witnesses the presence of wildlife species which were not even considered before the allocation of coal blocks. The Govt. is sold to corporates and not seeing anything beyond their profits.

 

Majority of elders from the village along with young members joined the meeting. Yatra expressed deep concerns and lend solidarity to their struggle.

 

Public Meeting in Satya Bharti, Ranchi

In the evening, a public meeting in the context of Constitutional rights, systems and ground realities was organised, where NAPM released a book edited by Basant Hetamsaria on hunger deaths in Jharkhand in the presence of well-known activists like Fr. Stan Swamy, Jean Dreze, Dayamani Barla, Aloka Kujur, Gabriele Dietrich, Suniti S R, Basant Hetamsaria, Rajendra Ravi, B. S. Rawat, Meera Sanghamitra and many others.

 

Meera Sanghamitra introduced the activists travelling with the yatra and briefed people on how the constitutional rights are being violated across the country. The state is hell bent on creating a private government ruled by corporates and hate mongering communal forces. The secular, democratic, diverse frame of the country is under grave threat and we all need to fight back to regain peace, natural resources, and our rights. 

 

Basant Hetamsaria after the release of book said that there have been more than 61 deaths due to hunger since 2015. Among those 18 were happened only in Jharkhand. The Govt. have been denying the constitutional rights to the people by not ensuring food security to the people. The people do not have ration cards and who have those are being denied in the name of Aadhar, and DBT. Nothing can be more heinous than this where the govt. whom we elect to ensure our constitutional rights is starving people to death and violating the article 21 of Right to Life outrightly.

 

Dayamani Barla, a well-known leader fighting against atrocities on Adivasis and land acquisition, said that the state has always been ignorant towards aadivasis and dalits. They have only one motive to facilitate the corporates in amassing their wealth and appropriate the natural resources in aadivasi areas.

 

“Hunger deaths are an issue across the nation and not just in Jharkhand. It is a failure of the government. Almost half of the deaths happened as their ration cards were not linked to Aadhar and other technical issues. It is also a failure of society, where we see in one case that a dalit person died due to hunger”, said John Dreze, a well-known economist and social activist.

 

Aloka Kujur shared her experiences on how governments are chasing human rights defenders and putting false charges to put them behind bars. Since 2017, the governments have been hyper actively creating an atmosphere of terror. State came down heavily on Pathalgarhi Movement, where people write down their constitutional rights on stone and place that at important places in their villages for awareness and assertion of their rights. State government was in fear of losing the control over resources and under the pressure from corporates, accused many leaders of Pathalgarhi movement with false police cases to suppress the movement.

 

The government does not want to implement pro-people laws which guarantees and protects people’s rights and claim over resources. The constitution needs to have provisions to defunct such governments or representatives.

 

Gabriele Dietrich, a social activist and well-known academician from Tamilnadu said that we were hopeful of adivasi leadership in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. We are up against corporates which are appropriating the resources and livelihoods of people. As we saw in Thoothukudi, they are also turning murderous, it is high time we all unite and expose the corporates hiding behind state governments.

 

Fr. Stan Swamy reflected that in the present time, we may be going through increased repression on adivasis and activists, but there is also an increase in intensity of struggles and movements. People are fighting for their rights more strongly and at many places. We will fight and we will win.

 

During the late evening, activists gathered at Bagaicha where Fr. Stan Swamy briefed about the history of Jharkhand and betrayal by those in power after the formation of state. Govt. have not been able to distribute land pattas to the people. They are calling Pathalgarhi movement, a criminal conspiracy. More than 3000 adivasi youth are behind bars when they stood for their rights and development in their areas. We also know how the government is framing the activists from other regions in Bhima Koregaon incident when the Hindutva groups are enjoying the free pass from the police and the governments. This cannot continue for long. Adivasis will stand strong and will reject the state repression. The state is unleashing violence on all kinds of movements, be it against displacement by dams, against land acquisition for corporates, for land rights under FRA, against changes in pro-people, pro-adivasis laws like CNT-SPT act and many others. Police opened fire on a meeting of more than 5000 adivasis opposing displacement by a dam. The corporate greed has corrupted the government to such extent that people are merely being treated as an object. Movements across the state are coming together and making efforts to fight against the money and muscle power of state and corporate nexus. We need such yatra more in today’s context which is making people aware about their constitutional rights, sharing experiences from other parts of the country, and listening to the people’s issues.

 

November 12, 2018

On 12th November, the Yatra reached Chette village in Nagri. Basant Hetamsaria briefed activists about the struggle. The people opposed Direct Benefit Transfer successfully and in doing so set an example for others. The people had to travel to Ranchi to get the money from the banks and then purchase the ration, which used to take at least a day or two.

 

Birsa, one of the villagers, shared that majority of the people are workers and thus incurred a huge loss while doing all this. People protested and fought a successful struggle against the imposition of DBT.

 

Suniti S R from the yatra, said that as the people of Chette village has fought and won, we need to take inspiration and share the experiences with each other. We need to know about how we won in Lavasa, and still fighting in Narmada Valley.

 

After interaction with villagers, Yatra moved ahead and a team of leaders joined the press conference organised in Ranchi. Basant Hetamsaria, NAPM Convener, Jharkhand briefed the journalists about the yatra. He said that we have seen the realities of Govt. claims in Ramgarh. People are being deprived of basic necessities forcing them to die due to hunger and abject poverty.

 

“We are raising our voices against the destruction happening in the name of development. There is a wave of corporate loot of natural resources, communal harmony is being meddled with. We firmly believe that Samta, Sadagi, and Swavalamban can only be the true face of development”, said Suniti SR from NAPM Maharashtra. She also reflected on the aspirations of people during formation of Jharkhand state. People thought of land distribution and receiving livelihood but now we can only see the betrayal from the government and leaders of the state.

 

Gabriele Dietrich from NAPM Tamilnadu said that there is a contestation over land between companies and local people on a wider scale. People are being denied ration and they are dying of hunger. This is quite shocking in a country where more than 40% of crops are getting wasted.

 

“The government has been trying to dilute protections provided under the schedule areas and land acquisition act of 2013. If the government continues the repression, then we are also standing strong and will continue to resist”, said Meera Sanghamitra from NAPM Andhra Pradesh – Telangana.

 

In the evening, Yatra was welcomed in Khudda village of Khunti district in local adivasi tradition. Adivasi Moolnivasi Astitva Raksha Manch and Netarhat Firing Range Sangharsh Morcha together organised the public meeting in the village and briefed the activists about the issues.

 

“We have a tradition of resisting any kind of oppression and fight for our rights and dignity. Our leader Birsa Munda and others fought against the Britishers and East India Company’s repression. Taking inspiration from our leaders, we also successfully fought against Arcelor Mittal steel company. The language and adivasi culture are closely linked with Jal, Jangal, Jameen. CNT-SPT Act proved to be protecting our rights over resources”, said Dayamani Barla.

 

She also said that the current Govt and corporate nexus is trying hard to change the laws and grab our land and our resources. They have created land bank system which is actually a direct appropriation of our lands. In the name of Digitalisation of land records, our commons are getting lost. A 3-kms wildlife corridor is proposed here, through which the government is trying to evict people and destroy the symbiotic relationship between the community, forest and wildlife. Village leaders and adivasis are being put in jail and being blackmailed to part away from their land. How is the East India Company, Britishers, and Indian Govt is different? They were against aadivasis before and still doing the same.

 

Meera Sanghamitra said that the government is taking the wealth of the common people and letting the rich and corporate to accumulate. They are violating the directive principles of our Constitution which talks about working towards reducing the economic disparity. Raghubar Das, chief minister of the state, has wrongly made himself the head of the tribal council and is misusing the position to handover the tribal lands to corporations. Adivasis have lived in harmony with the nature since centuries. Govt. is letting the company to intrude in the forests conserved by the people here and destroy the dense and diverse forests along with rivers. The government has still not ready to recognize the rights of Gram Sabha in truest sense giving them the autonomy to decide for their own development. Our constitution has empowered Gram Sabhas higher than the Lok Sabha, which is still a distant dream in reality.

 

The government is taking route of communal conflicts. We must resist these attacks and fight to assert the peace and harmony again. We reject any kind of domination over the people by the state. The state must work with the people recognizing their rights over resources, over their own lives and livelihood.  

 

Lachragarh, Simdega

In the late evening, yatra visited the Lachragarh village where an 11-year old girl, Santoshi, died of starvation. Her family were denied the ration after making Aadhar mandatory for availing the PDS. Koyli Devi, mother of Santoshi, was also present in the meeting and expressed solidarity to the yatra.

 

Taramani, a Right to Food Campaign activist, said that she had been raising the issue of starvation deaths in the area since long time with the district administration but the government did not respond in time. Santoshi would have been alive if they would have listened to her and taken measures to provide food security to the villagers.

 

Prafulla Samantara from Lok Shakti Abhiyan said that industrialization is not going to solve our problems of hunger and poverty. We have to protect land and livelihood from corporate giants. Wherever the land has been taken for industries, it has never benefitted local people. Youth are still waiting for employment promised to them.

 

When Santoshi died, mother in law of Medha, a villager from Lachragarh village, was suspended on the false allegations that Santoshi had malaria and not treated by her. State have been brutal first in killing people in various ways and then subjecting others on false allegations.

 

Yatra is going to travel through various places in Odisha till 15th November and interact with movements in Niyamagari, Jharsuguda, Sambalpur, Bhuvneshwar etc. Leaders like Prafulla Samantara, Lok Shakti Abhiyan, Odisha; Gabriele Dietrich, Penn Urimay Iyakkam, Madurai, NAPM Tamil NaduRajendra Ravi, National Cyclists Union, NAPM DelhiAmitava Mitra, Transport Workers Union, NAPM West BengalSuniti SR, Tata, Lavasa, Wang Marathwadi Struggles, NAPM MaharashtraBhupendra Singh RawatJan Sangharsh Vahini, NAPM, DelhiSunita Rani, National Domestic Workers Union, New DelhiMeera Sanghamitra, NAPM Andhra Pradesh – TelanganaRohit, Narmada Bachao Andolan, Madhya PradeshVijay, Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), Araria, BiharDoli, Jan Jagaran Shakti Sangathan (JJSS), Araria, BiharZainab, Humsafar, Feminist group, Lucknow, Uttar PradeshAfroz Jehaan, Yuva Tarang, LucknowYuvaraj Gatkal, Activist, NAPM MaharashtraAbhishek, Student Activist, Vidrohi Group, KolhapurAkshit, Guhaar, New DelhiAman, Guhaar, New DelhiAnup, Dynamic Action, Kerala;Sameeksha, Activist, MaharashtraMashusudan, Social Activist, Ganjam Dist, OdishaAryaman, New DelhiAryan, Chandigarh, Punjab are travelling in the yatra.

In Jharkhand, Fr. Stan Swamy, Adivasi Rights and Human Rights Defender, BagaichaDayamani Barla, Adivasi Moolnivasi Astitva Raksha Samiti; Vasvi Kiro, Independent Journalist and Former Member, Jharkhand Women’s CommissionBasant Kumar Hetamsaria, NAPM JharkhandAshok Verma, NAPM JharkhandPrem Prakash Verma, Jharkhand Alternative Development ForumLeo Singh, Social Activist, RamgarhRaju Vishwakarma, Social Activist, JharkhandAloka Kujur, Independent Activist, WSS and NAPMVishwanath Azad, Hazaribagh; SharikBalram SinghSatish GuptaManjuAnnaAkash; and many others joined the yatra and extended their support and solidarity to the objectives of Yatra

 

Samvidhan Samman Yatra

 

We are standing at crossroads and passing through a critical juncture in India’s history and have a historical responsibility to save and salvage the ethos of this country, to fulfill the dreams of social, economic and political justice that Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar envisioned. There is an overwhelming urgency to come together, beyond diversity of perspectives, to safeguard the constitutional values and principles of humanity, based on social justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, scientific and rational thinking in the social psyche to deal with all these political, economic, social, cultural challenges. The need of the hour is to create understanding and tolerance in society, by peaceful, democratic and constitutional means. It is equally vital to aim for economic equity, social parity, environmental protection, sustainable development, establishment of people’s rights over access of resources and annihilation of caste and patriarchy.

 

It is with this urgency and spirit that National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) has, after numerous discussions,  planned to embark on a Samvidhan Samman Yatra – a nationwide tour to restore and protect the core values of our Constitution and democracy, at a time when there is an all-out attack on the Constitution, people’s rights, livelihoods, environment and the spirit of diversity in the country, even as massive scams, resource loot and dilution of laws are taking place and farmers, workers,

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Binny Bansal quits Flipkart after Walmart investigated a sexual-misconduct complaint #MeToo

Six months after Flipkart, India’s largest homegrown e-commerce firm was acquired by the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, both its founders have left the building—one more unceremoniously than the other.

Yesterday (Nov. 13), Flipkart group’s CEO Binny Bansal resigned with immediate effect in the wake of a probe into an “allegation of serious personal misconduct.” (Sachin Bansal, the other co-founder and former CEO, moved out in May.)

While the joint statement was somewhat ambiguous, several insiders at Flipkart and some of its current and former investors told Quartz that the “personal misconduct” refers to a case of alleged sexual harassment by Binny Bansal.

Emails to both companies seeking details remain unanswered.

Lapses in judgment

In May this year, US-based Walmart acquired a 77% stake in Flipkartfor $16 billion (Rs1 lakh crore). Just a couple of months later, in July, Walmart decided to probe the allegation against Bansal, sources said.

The complainant had in the past informally taken up the matter with Flipkart’s leadership but it made no headway, a current Flipkart employee told Quartz, requesting anonymity.

While the complainant had left Flipkart before the acquisition, the US giant decided on a probe, appointing a law firm to look into the allegations.

“His decision (Binny Bansal’s resignation) follows an independent investigation done on behalf of Flipkart and Walmart into an allegation of serious personal misconduct,” the Nov. 13 statement said, without providing details. Bansal continues to deny the allegation, it said, and while the probe has not found much evidence against him, it has revealed “other lapses in judgment, particularly a lack of transparency.”

But unlike Sachin Bansal, who completely moved away from the company and even sold his estimated 5.5% stake, Binny Bansal will retain his estimated 5% stake in Flipkart and remain on the company’s board.

In a Nov. 13 email to Flipkart employees, which was reviewed by Quartz, Bansal said:

The allegations left me stunned and I strongly deny them. The investigation, however, did bring to light lapses in judgement, particularly a lack of transparency, related to how I responded to the situation. These have been challenging times for my family and me. I am concerned that this may become a distraction for the company and the team. In light of these circumstances, I feel it is best to step away as chairman and group CEO.

Accelerated decision

Bansal’s sudden departure has left Flipkart’s employees stunned. At least two current employees in the Bengaluru headquarters said it was business as usual for the 37-year-old even until last week.

“I was a part of one of his meetings just last week and things looked pretty normal,” one of the employees said, requesting anonymity. “But on Monday (Nov. 12) nobody saw him in office. In fact, some people even said they were trying to reach him on email but had not heard back. It was pretty unusual for him to not respond.”

Flipkart was founded in 2007 as an online bookseller by Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi friends Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal. Within a decade, the company went from operating in the living room of an apartment in suburban Bengaluru to becoming the world’s third-most-funded private firm.

Given the massive success of their venture, the two Bansals were celebrated as the poster boys of new-age entrepreneurship in India.

Following Sachin Bansal’s exit, there was speculation that Binny Bansal was also on his way out of Flipkart to allow the new owner full freedom in running the company. But during the several internal meetings and town halls since then, he had denied any such plans, according to many Flipkart employees who anonymously spoke to Quartz in recent months.

In his Nov. 13 email to Flipkart staff, however, Bansal wrote:

For some time, I have been mulling over the right time to step away from an operating role at Flipkart Group…My plan was to continue in my current role for a few more quarters to continue the transition after closing the deal with Walmart. However, my decision to step down has been accelerated by certain personal events that have taken place in the recent past.

For the past few weeks, the #MeToo movement has roiled India’s social and political circles, even leading to the resignation of a minister in the Narendra Modi government. Several other men in powerful positions across industries have had to quit in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct.

https://qz.com/india/1461985/flipkarts-binny-bansal-quit-after-a-sexual-harassment-complaint/

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Over a Dozen Indian Diplomats Collaborate With RSS’s International Wing

 

Diplomats in at least nine countries speak at Hindu paramilitary group’s events

New Delhi: Nov. 12, 2018 — Following news that the Consul General of India’s Toronto consulate recently keynoted a Hindu nationalist event, evidence is emerging that over a dozen Indian diplomats in nine countries have participated in similar events over the past few years.

Consul General Dinesh Bhatia sparked outrage in some sections for sharing the stage with garlanded pictures of K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar, the first leaders of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Known as Sarsanghchalaks (Supreme Leaders), Hedgewar and Golwalkar wanted India to be a Hindu nation and formed the RSS into a paramilitary to propagate Hindu nationalism. However, an investigation by Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI) reveals that a number of other consular officials have also recently participated in their official capacity in similar Hindu nationalist events.

“From North America to Europe and Asia to South America, Indian ambassadors and consuls have appeared as honored guests, keynote speakers, and even co-hosts of events organized by the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh — the international wing of the RSS — as well as events organized by the RSS’s religious wing, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, and occasionally even by the international wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party,” reports OFMI spokesperson Arvin Valmuci. “We have compiled evidence that 15 Indian diplomats in nine countries have spoken at 24 different Sangh Parivar events since 2013, most in just the last two years. On at least two occasions, a diplomat joined a top RSS executive at an event — on another two occasions, a diplomat joined a top executive of the VHP. Our data is not comprehensive and we are certain that Indian diplomats are collaborating with the RSS on a far larger scale than even what we’ve uncovered so far.”

Most recently, on November 4, 2018, High Commissioner Venkatachalam Mahalingam of India’s Guyana commission spoke at an event organized by the HSS in Georgetown. He shared the stage with HSS Sanghchalak (President) Ravi Dev.

On October 27, 2018, Consul General Swati Kulkarni of India’s Atlanta consulate was the chief guest at an HSS-organized event commemorating Hedgewar’s founding of the RSS. She shared the stage with keynote speaker HSS International Coordinator Saumitra Gokhale. According to a biographical sketch of Gokhale, “He worked as a Pracharak (full-time worker) of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) for 4+ years in India. Since 1999 onwards, he has been working as a Pracharak of HSS (Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh) in Caribbean countries, Canada, and the United States of America. Based currently in the USA, he is the global coordinator for HSS activities.”

consul swati vijay kulkarni and hindu swayamsevak sangh - georgia

Consul General Swati Kulkarni, Atlanta consulate, listed on HSS event invitation

On September 29, 2018, Consul General Puneet Agrawal of India’s Hong Kong consulate was the guest of honor at an event jointly organized by the HSS and VHP. “It’s both an honor and a privilege for me to present here today,” said Agrawal as he shared the stage with HSS Sanghchalak (President) Jaiprakash Goel.

On June 30, 2018, Honorary Consul Bhav Dhillon of India’s Auckland consulate was the chief guest at an event jointly organized by the HSS and Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP). He shared the stage with HSS President Pravin Patel. It was Dhillon’s third time this year collaborating with the OFBJP. Previously, on June 1 and on May 19, he coordinated meetings between OFBJP leaders and visiting BJP politicians; the May meeting occurred at the consulate.

consul puneet agrawal - consul bhav dhillon - hindu swayamsevak sangh

Consul General Puneet Agrawal, Hong Kong (left) and Honorary Consul Bhav Dhillon, Auckland (right, pictured center)

On June 8, 2018, Consul S. Vivekananthan of India’s Munich consulate spoke at an HSS-organized yoga day event.

On November 19, 2017, just one month after Dhillon was appointed to New Zealand consulate, he attended an HSS-organized symposium in Sandringham which featured RSS Joint General Secretary Manmohan Vaidya as its keynote speaker. During the event, Vaidya stated, “India is not just a country; rather it is a way of life based on spirituality.” Besides Vaidya, Dhillon joined Saumitra Gokhale.

On October 15, 2017, Commissioner Mahalingam spoke at an HSS-organized event for the third time that year, sharing the stage with Saumitra Gokhale.

On October 8, 2017, Consul General Nagesh Singh of India’s Atlanta consulate was the special guest at an HSS-organized event in Atlanta where garlanded pictures of Hedgewar and Golwalkar were displayed. The consul general performed obeisances to the photos. According to NayaFace.com, “The program was clubbed with Gurunanak Jayanti [celebration of Sikh Guru Nanak’s birthday].”

nagesh singh - hindu swayamsevak sangh - atlanta

Consul General Nagesh Singh, Atlanta, doing obeisance to Hedgewar and Golwalkar photos

Also on October 8, 2017, Ambassador Sujan Chinoy of India’s Tokyo embassy was the keynote speaker at an event celebrating the birth centenary of RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya. Greeting “friends of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (Japan),” he said, “It’s a great opportunity for me, once again, to be present here.” Commenting on how the event “met the high standards of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh,” he stated, “It is very important, therefore, to recall the thoughts, the ideals, the teachings of Pandit Deendayal, whose hundredth birth anniversary we mark today. Pandit Deendayal was a visionary.”

“Upadhyaya advanced the same concept of Hindu supremacy, or Hindutva, which was originated by V.D. Savarkar in 1923 and institutionalized by Hedgewar when he founded the RSS in 1925,” explains South Asian affair analyst Pieter Friedrich. “Just like Savarkar, who claimed that ‘we are Indians because we are Hindus and vice versa,’ Upadhyaya said, ‘Our nationality is none other than Hindu nationality.’ He worked to exclude non-Hindus from India’s national life, claimed that the ‘center of loyalty’ of Christians and Muslims is outside India, and insisted that it was an attack on the ‘soul of India’ to declare it a secular nation.”

Friedrich points to a particular quote by Upadhyaya where, discussing “the solution of the Muslim problem,” he stated that it “can’t be solved unless and until Muslims are politically defeated.” Friedrich says this echoes Nazi rhetoric. “Savarkar and Upadhyaya both talked about the ‘Muslim problem,’ but on an international level we’re most familiar with such language being used to discuss the ‘Jewish problem.’ Just like in Europe under the Nazis, the RSS’s solution to the so-called ‘problem’ manifests in pogroms against minorities.”

At least two other Indian diplomats attended HSS-organized celebrations of Upadhyaya in 2017.

On September 25, 2017, Consul Agrawal was the guest of honor at an Upadhyaya event in Hong Kong which was jointly organized by the HSS, VHP, and OFBJP. He shared the stage with keynote speaker Swami Vigyananand, a Joint General Secretary of the VHP who has stirred controversy for supporting distribution of trishuls (small tridents) despite reports that the weapons have been used in anti-minority pogroms in India.

consul puneet agrawal - hindu swayamsevak sangh & vishwa hindu parishad

Consul General Puneet Agrawal, Hong Kong, listed on HSS event invitation

Also in September 2017, High Commissioner Mahalingam attended a Upadhyaya event in Guyana.

On September 25, 2017, Consul General Nagesh Singh hosted a celebration of Upadhyaya at the Atlanta consulate. While it was not an HSS-organized event, the consul general did attend at least two Hindu nationalist events within the next two weeks.

On October 7, as reported by Khabar magazine, “Consul General Nagesh Singh and Consul D. V. Singh attended” a Cumming, Georgia event jointly organized by the VHP and HSS. Nagesh spoke alongside VHP Atlanta Chapter President Kusum Khurana. The next day, October 8, as previously mentioned, the consul general again attended an HSS-organized event.

consul nagesh singh, atlanta - vhp - deendayal upadhyaya

Consul General Nagesh Singh, Atlanta, speaks at VHP event (left) and does obeisance to Upadhyaya (right)

On June 25, 2017, High Commissioner Mahalingam spoke at an HSS-organized yoga day event, stating, “I am thankful to Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh for organizing the celebration of the International Day of Yoga for the third year in succession. I would like to particularly thank Mr. Ravi Dev and his devoted colleagues including Priya Sukhdeo, General Secretary of HSS (Guyana).”

On February 23, 2017, Consul General B. Vanlalvawna of India’s Sydney consulate was the guest of honor at an event jointly organized by the VHP and HSS to commemorate Hedgewar’s founding of the RSS. He joined HSS Sanghchalak Nihal Agar, Saumitra Gokhale, and Manmohan Vaidya of the RSS. Photos of Hedgewar were displayed throughout the venue.

On January 29, 2017, Consul General Nagesh Singh and Deputy Consul Surendra Adhana of India’s Houston consulate appeared at an HSS-organized yoga day in Sugarland, Texas. “I congratulate the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh,” said Nagesh.

On October 9, 2016, Ambassador Sujan Chinoy spoke at an HSS-organized Upadhyaya event in Tokyo. “Ever since the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh commenced its activities in 2014, it has undertaken many activities for which I congratulate you,” he said. “You have not only tried your best to promote Indian culture, yoga. You also partnered with the Indian Embassy in celebrating the 2nd International Day of Yoga…. We must do what the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is already doing.”

sujan chinoy - hindu swayamsevak sangh japan

Ambassador Sujan Chinoy, Japan, speaks at HSS event

On May 29, 2016, Consul General Anupam Ray of India’s Houston consulate spoke at an HSS-organized Hindu Sanghathan Divas (Hindu Unity Day) where he was joined by HSS Sanghchalak Vinod Ambastha. “I am extremely impressed by the work that the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is doing in Houston,” said Anupam. “For me, my being Indian is inextricably linked with my being Hindu.”

consul anupam ray - hindu swayamsevak sangh houston

Consul General Anupam Ray, Houston, at HSS event (center, white t-shirt and grey pants)

On August 30, 2015, Vice Consul Shambhu Amitabh from India’s New York consulate attended an HSS-organized Hindu Sanghathan Divas. He was joined by keynote speakers Subramanian Swamy — a senior BJP leader who was not then in office — and Rajiv Malhotra. According to India West, Malhotra stated, “The notion of Dalit-Christian has been developed to convince the Dalits that they are non-Hindus and that Hinduism is a system of exploitation for which Christianity is the solution. It is, therefore, necessary that evangelist-left nexus and media mediocrity be fought.” Also joining the event were HSS Coordinator Jagdish Sewhani, Rajesh Shukla of OFBJP, and the late Narain Kataria, a former executive of the VHP and Organizing Secretary for HSS’s New York chapter.

On June 21, 2015, Consul General Nagesh Singh spoke at an HSS-organized yoga day where he was joined by HSS Sanghchalak Ved Nanda and Swami Vigyananand, the controversial VHP executive. The same day, Consul General Venkatesan Ashok of India’s San Francisco consulate jointly organized a yoga day with HSS.

consul general nagesh singh - ved nanda - hindu swayamsevak sangh

Consul General Nagesh Singh, Atlanta, speaks at HSS event alongside Ved Nanda (left) and Swami Vigyananand (right)

Also on June 21, 2015, High Commissioner Ravi Bangar of India’s Cyprus embassy jointly organized a yoga day with HSS. According to reports from the Cyprus embassy, “The Cyprus branch of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) participants also participated in the event…. The HSS held the function at Falcon School premises at 820 am. The High Commissioner, at the invitation of the HSS, inaugurated by lighting the traditional Indian lamp and also addressed the participants.”

On September 14, 2013, Consul General N. Parthasarathi of India’s San Francisco consulate spoke at an HSS-organized “Dharma and Yoga Fest” alongside Saumitra Gokhale and Ved Nanda.

On September 7, 2013, Consul General Harish Parvathaneni of India’s Houston consulate spoke alongside Gokhale as well as several other key leaders of HSS’s local and national branches, including HSS Vice President Ramesh Bhutada, HSS Public Relations Chief Amit Misra, and HSS Houston Chapter President Subash Gupta.

consul Harish Parvathaneni - hindu swayamsevak sangh houston

Consul General Harish Parvathaneni, Houston, speaks at HSS event

While the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is not officially linked to the RSS, many of its branches note that they are “ideologically inspired” by it. According to the India Herald, HSS founder Jagdish Sharda was a “dedicated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh worker” who spent a “lifelong journey with the RSS or Sangh.” His formation of the HSS in Kenya in 1947 “marked the beginning of RSS abroad.”

A survey of recent Vijaya Dashami celebrations hosted by HSS chapters throughout the United States also reveals the intimate links between the HSS and the RSS. Garlanded pictures of Hedgewar and Golwalkar were prominently displayed at over a dozen such events around the country, as seen in posts shared by HSS-USA’s official Facebook page. Locations included Houston, Los Angeles, North Carolina, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, San Jose, and suburbs of Chicago and Washington, D.C.

As OFMI noted in its press statement about Dinesh Bhatia’s appearance at the Toronto HSS event, Hedgewar said his intention was “to put in reality the words ‘Hindustan of Hindus.’” He stated, “Hindustan is a country of Hindus. Like other nations of other people (eg. Germany of Germans), this is a nation of Hindu people.” Golwalkar, who was the RSS’s longest-serving leader, stated, “We repeat: in Hindustan, the land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation.” Both described Christianity and Islam as “foreign” religions.

“The Indian government is dominated by RSS members,” comments Friedrich. “Prime Minister Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, and Vice President Venkaiah Naidu are all RSS members, as are at least a third of the Central Government’s Union Cabinet. When Indian diplomats appear at HSS, VHP, and OFBJP events, they send the message that they are prejudiced representatives of a supremacist ideology rather than emissaries representing the Indian people as a whole.”

Indian consulates in the U.S. have repeatedly courted controversy as they have openly opposed efforts by Sikh-American communities to have the 1984 Sikh Genocide recognized by their local governments.

In 2015, the California State Assembly passed a resolution recognizing Indian government involvement in what it called “the November 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms and massacre.” Consul General Venkatesan Ashok responded, “I am very surprised by the fact that they have chosen to make a comment on this so long after the incident.” In 2016, when the City of Fresno sought to pass a resolution declaring the 1984 violence as a “genocide,” the consul general lobbied the city council in opposition, accused “extremists” of supporting it, and asked, “Why is it now necessary again to rake it up and relive the whole thing?”

Similar opposition was offered in November 2018 when the State of Connecticut proclaimed November 30 of every year as “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day.” In a November 5 letter to Connecticut State Senator Cathy Osten, Consul General Sandeep Chakravorty of India’s San Francisco consulate wrote:

“There was no persecution of Sikhs in India…. There has been no Sikh Genocide in India…. If one is looking for pre-cursor of the anti-Sikhs violence of November 1984, it was violence and terrorism in India perpetrated by Sikh separatists/terrorists…. The fringe/radical elements of the Sikh community in Connecticut appear to be oblivious of what has happened in the past…. These fringe elements have taken benefit of your trust and made you support this Bill with the help of not only distorted facts but also the divisive narrative.”

Senator Osten, in remarks at the November 10 release of the proclamation, responded, “As in any case where genocide has happened, the perpetrators of that genocide say ‘it wasn’t me.’ And they often blame the victims, saying that ‘it was what they did that brought this about.’ I would liken this to the Holocaust when people said that ‘the Holocaust did not happen’ and people today would still say ‘the Holocaust did not happen,’ ‘those people did not really die,’ ‘the death camps were not real.’ But they were real and this was real. And I would expect that the Government of India would recognize that.”

Balbir Singh Dhillon, president of West Sacramento Sikh Gurdwara, asks, “Why is the BJP government so desperate to suppress remembrance of our suffering in 1984? It seems to be evidence of the involvement of Hindutva elements in the genocide committed against our community. It is also a sign that the thousands of Sikhs who found refuge in free countries like the USA need to work more closely with the governments of our countries to resist foreign interference by India. One way we can do that is by exposing the hypocrisy of India’s diplomats when they support Hindutva violence by joining RSS events but attack Sikh-Americans for our work to remember the 1984 Sikh Genocide.”

sandeep chakravorty - 1984 sikh genocide - connecticut

Letter from Consul Chakravorty opposing 1984 Sikh Genocide remembrance

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