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Vedanta Sterlite Plant May Reopen As Green Court Cancels Tamil Nadu Order #WTFnews

Vedanta Sterlite plant: The National Green Tribunal or NGT also directed the company to spend Rs. 100 crore within a period of three years for the welfare of people in the area

Vedanta Sterlite Plant May Reopen As Green Court Cancels Tamil Nadu Order

NGT order came months after Tamil Nadu ordered Sterlite Copper to be shut down

CHENNAI: The country’s green court NGT court set aside today the Tamil Nadu government’s order to close Vedanta’s copper smelter plant permanently, taking the company closer to reopening its facility in Tuticorin.

The decision came months after it was ordered shut by the Tamil Nadu government over alleged pollution that led to violent protests in May, which culminated when police opened fire on protesters and killed 13.

The court directed the Tamil Nadu state pollution regulator to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent for Vedanta’s copper smelter within three weeks. It also directed the company to spend Rs. 1 crore within a period of three years for the welfare of inhabitants in the area. During the NGT hearing, the smelter’s counsel said the amount may be spent on projects like water supply, hospital, health services and skill development.

“We allow this appeal, set aside the impugned orders and direct the TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances … within three weeks from today,” the National Green Tribunal said in the order.

A panel of experts set up by the NGT last month said the authorities in Tamil Nadu had failed to comply with procedures before shutting down the smelter.

The AIADMK government in the southern state led by Chief Minister E Palaniswami and other parties are against the plant’s operation.

Tamil Nadu’s environment minister KC Karuppannan said the state would file an appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court. “Our stand is clear: we do not want this smelter to reopen,” Mr Karuppannan told reporters after the court order.

Electricity to the Sterlite plant was snapped when the plant was shut down in May this year. The NGT said power should be restored to the plant if it met certain conditions such as protection of environment under the law.

The NGT’s order is a setback for locals, environment activists say. They alleged that the Sterlite plant had been polluting groundwater and making people fall ill with serious diseases

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Maharashtra – Court extends activist’s relief from arrest

The police alleged that they had links with Maoists who had backed the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune on December 31, 2017.

Gautam Navlakha

 Gautam Navlakha

Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Friday extended till January 10, the interim protection from arrest granted to activist Gautam Navlakha, an accused in the Elgar Parishad case.

A bench of Justices B.P. Dharmadhikari and Sarang Kotwal also restrained the police from arresting activist and co-accused Anand Teltumbde till December 17. The bench said it would hear in detail the arguments on Teltumbde’s petition seeking quashing of the FIR. The court, however, refused to grant any interim relief to activist Stan Swamy who too has been named in the FIR but is yet to be arrested.

The Pune police, whi-ch is probing the case, informed the court that Swamy was still being treated as a “suspect” and not an accused. The judges said in that case he could not be granted any protection. Navlakha, Teltumbde and Swamy have moved the high court seeking that the FIR against them be quashed. Navlakha was arrested in August this year along with Sudha Bharadwaj, Varavara Rao, Arun Ferreira and Vernon Gonsalves, all left-wing activists.

The police alleged that they had links with Maoists who had backed the Elgar Parishad conclave held in Pune

 

On December 31, 2017. Inflammatory speeches at the conclave led to violence at the Bhima Koregaon war memorial in Pune district the next day, the police claimed.agencies

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Gandhi Falls in Ghana as University Topples Statue Donated by India

 

Ghanaian professor: “This is part of a greater movement for black dignity and self-respect”

ACCRA, Ghana: Dec. 13, 2018 — Ghanaians made history this week when they tore down a statue of Indian icon Mohandas Gandhi.

Installed on the University of Ghana campus in June 2016 during a state visit by then Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, the statue immediately provoked outrage from students and faculty who protested that Gandhi was racist towards black Africans. Pointing to the 21 years that Gandhi spent working as an attorney in South Africa, they claimed he repeatedly made racist remarks, campaigned for racial segregation, and even volunteered to participate in a war against African freedom fighters. In the words of Dr. Obadele Kambon, a professor at the university’s Institute of African Studies, “The start of institutional apartheid there in South Africa was because of Gandhi.”

In October 2016, the government agreed to remove the statue. However, the Ghana Gandhi statue remained in place until December 12, 2018, when, according to sources at the university, it was toppled “somewhere after 9AM.” Pictures of the removal show workers tethering ropes to the statue to pull it down as the base cracks away from the pedestal on which it stood. News reports indicate that the statue was taken to the Republic of Ghana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its final resting place remains unknown.

#gandhimustfall

University of Ghana Gandhi statue (left); Dr. Obadele Kambon stands triumphant on the empty pedestal (right)

“We hope this Gandhi statue will be relegated to the rubbish bin,” says Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “From this point in history, Gandhi’s visage should only ever be displayed to tell the story of the suffering of the African people, expose the villains, and commit ourselves to never again countenancing such criminal acts of prejudice as were perpetrated by this ardent racist. This is a truly historical moment. We will not stop pushing until the #GandhiMustFall movement goes global and we see Gandhi’s statues toppling on every continent.”

Commenting on the removal of the statue, Dr. Kambon remarks, “This is part of a greater movement for black dignity and self-respect throughout the world. The same as the National Anthem protest in the U.S., the same as #RhodesMustFall in South Africa and Oxford, the same as the protests of black students who are beaten and stabbed daily there in India by those who consider themselves upper-caste Indo-Aryans.”

With hope in his voice, Kambon adds, “Black self-respect is on the rise. In addition to that, what this means is that we have more people who care about black dignity and black self-respect than those who would like to trample on our dignity and self-respect.” However, he suggests the struggle continues as he references “our colleagues there in Malawi, who did a court injunction” against a proposed statue in the Malawian city of Blantyre.

The Malawi Gandhi statue, which has not yet been installed, has also provoked outrage. Soon after learning of the proposed statue, Malawians launched a petition opposing it and, in October, filed a lawsuit to block its installation. A high court in Malawi granted an injunction prohibiting construction from continuing until Judge Michael Tembo reaches a final decision. His decision is expected sometime this month.

In a statement issued by the #GandhiMustFall Movement in Malawi, activists opposing the statue said, “We want to congratulate the #GandhiMustFall Movement in Ghana for successfully removing the statue of Gandhi. In 2016, the government of Ghana through a petition agreed to remove the statue of Gandhi from the premises of Ghana University. Two years later, the statue of Gandhi was still standing until today — 12th December! We hope the Malawi government will also follow suit to banish the racist and irrelevant statue of Gandhi in Malawi.”

Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs, thinks there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the issue of Gandhi’s statues. “These statues have been used as propaganda tools by the Indian State for decades,” says Friedrich. “The combination of Gandhi’s self-promotional autobiography, glamorization of Gandhi by the Congress Party, and mythologizing of Gandhi by Hollywood created an ahistorical, saintly, and white-washed figure that the Indian government loves to use a mask to conceal its atrocious human rights record. People look at India, think of Gandhi, and then think of peace instead of looking at India and thinking of caste, torture, or pogroms against minorities. Deconstructing the mythical Gandhi is central to exposing the truth about human rights conditions in modern India.”

#gandhimustfall gandhi statue davis

Signs at October 2016 protest against Davis, California Gandhi statue reference Ghana Gandhi statue

Bhajan Singh, the founding director of OFMI, says the human rights advocacy group initiated some of the earliest protests against Gandhi after reading books by G. B. Singh, a former colonel in the U.S. Army. “It was Gandhi: Behind the Mask of Divinity and Gandhi Under Cross-Examination, books by Col. Singh, which first ignited this crisis that has now developed into a global agitation,” says Singh. “Since 2010, OFMI has staged protests against Gandhi statues. We have stopped installation of several proposed statues, but the statue in Ghana is the first one ever to be removed.”

Singh was joined by a number of other demonstrators at a protest in San Francisco on October 2, 2010, which marked Gandhi’s 141st birthday. As reported by The San Francisco Chronicle:

A group billing itself as the Organization for Minorities of India plans to protest today to demand the removal of the bronze statue of Mohandas Gandhi that has sat in the plaza behind the Ferry Building since 1988.

Up until this point, about the only adversity the statue has faced has been people swiping the trademark circle-rimmed eyeglasses (at least four times) and the indignity of a roosting seagull or pigeon.

But the group – which says it was formed four years ago to publicize the oppression of Christians, Buddhists, Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs and other Indian minorities considered to be on the lowest rungs of the Hindu caste system – says Gandhi was a racist who harbored violent urges.

“The popular image of Gandhi as an egalitarian pacifist is a myth,” Bhajan Singh, one of the organizers, said in a statement. “We plan to challenge that myth by disseminating Gandhi’s own words to expose his racism and sham nonviolence.”

The group plans to present Ferry Building management with a demand to remove the statue and ask for it to be replaced with one of either Martin Luther King Jr. or low-caste Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar.

In an interview with MyJoyOnline TV, Dr. Kambon offered extensive comments explaining Ghanaian opposition to Gandhi:

When the government said that they would take the statue away, it was clear that it was a move to make everything die down because people were very incensed and angry about this. Some even took [Gandhi’s] spectacles. When I looked a few weeks ago, someone had thrown mud at this statue. So in terms of the timing, we haven’t got any communication from the government or the university about why now. So I’m not equipped to answer that question.

But all I can say is that I’m very happy that this is taking place right now because what this means is a triumph of black dignity and self-respect over those who don’t care about any of those things.

Gandhi duped many great people, as a matter of fact, because it wasn’t until 1999 or thereabouts that all of his collected writings were available. So he was writing in Hindi, he was writing in his native Gujarati, in addition to what he wrote in English — the autobiography and things of that nature. So all of these people who say, “oh, wow, he is so great” — you have to put him in context of who was he in relation to black people and in relation to African people.

Who he was is that he was someone who fought against the Zulus. He was someone who fought for apartheid and the separation of the post office and the telegraph office there in Durban. He was someone who was called there in India as the worst enemy of the Dalits by Dr. Ambedkar — so the Dalits are the black Untouchables of India.

So this is someone who we have to understand that, even if he was great for his own people — meaning the upper-caste Hindus — that he was someone who was terrible to black people throughout his entire life. Both during his time in South Africa and then when he went to India he fought tooth and nail against the aspirations of the Dalits — the black Untouchables of India. Which is why to even this day, black people, African people, Nigerians, Ghanaians are there and they are beaten every day. There was a Congolese man who was beaten to death in broad daylight in India. Why? Because he gets the same treatment as the indigenous black Dalits of India.

So this is something that we have to understand. There’s a saying that, if a lie takes a thousand years to go on a journey, truth will catch up to that lie in a day. So all of these lies about Gandhi get proliferated just because people didn’t know. If you mention Mandela, if you mention Martin Luther King, if you mention Nkrumah Kwame — all these people didn’t have the opportunity to research and read his words about black people in his early life and his later life and the consistency of it. If they had that opportunity, they would have taken a different stance.

But myself, as a researcher, I am a research coordinator of African Studies, so I’m paid by the Ghanaian people to do research. I’m not guessing about Gandhi. I’m not guessing about what he stood for. I’ve read his works. I’ve read all of these different collected works of Gandhi, and books on him, and what Dr. Ambedkar said about him in What Gandhi and the Congress Have Done to the Untouchables. So me, I’m very well-informed. So anyone who has this information and comes to a different conclusion, it means that they don’t mean well for black people. But most people just are uninformed and they do not know.

He did good things, if you want to call them good, for his upper-caste. When he wrote to the British, he said that the Indo-Aryans come from a common stock and that they are partners in the colonization of black people. This is what he stood for. He stood for his caste, the Bania caste, which is those who are the traders, which is a sub-group of the Vaishyas.

So we have to again understand this. It’s not only what he said or what he wrote. He actually was a Sergeant-Major fighting against the Zulus in a war in which thousands and thousands of Zulu people were killed. He wanted to get guns. He agitated to get guns. It was only that the British didn’t consider him to be good enough to get the guns.

So we have to understand not only the words but his actions. Look at how he argued in order to separate the post office and the telegraph office there in Durban. How many people are aware that he did that? This is really, when we think about it, you can look at this as the start of institutional apartheid there in South Africa was because of Gandhi. He wanted a different entrance so he wouldn’t have to go through the same entrance as the Kaffir.

What he did, he did for his caste and he did for Indo-Aryan people.

http://www.minoritiesofindia.org/gandhi-falls-ghana-university-topples-statue-donated-india/

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Kaiga nuclear plant expansion: Expect body blow for Western Ghats biodiversity

Rich tropical forest, vibrant wildlife, water of Kali river will be in line of destruction

Nuclear Energy

The Satoddi waterfall in the Western Ghats, in Uttara Kannada district, where the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant is also located. Credit: Getty Images  The Satoddi waterfall in the Western Ghats, in Uttara Kannada district, where the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant is also located. Credit: Getty Images

The biodiversity of the Western Ghats, already under a lot of anthropogenic pressure, will suffer even more if the expansion of the Kaiga Nuclear Power Plant (NPP), which is to come up for public hearing on December 14, goes ahead. That this will be done for generating power through a technology that has several alternative and much benign options is even more ironical.

To understand this, an overview of the related issues is necessary.

In May 2017, the Union government decided to commission ten nuclear power reactors of the type Pressurised heavy-water reactor (PHWR) of 700 MW capacity each in different parts of the country. Two of the ten PHWR type reactors are proposed at the Kaiga NPP, in Karnataka’s Uttara Kannada district.

Let us first consider the terrain around Kaiga NPP. It is made of undulating hills covered with thick forests as an important part of the Western Ghats (WGs) on the west coast of India. According to a 2011 report by the Union Ministry of Environment & Forests, the forests around Kaiga NPP, a World Heritage site, are considered to be some of the best tropical forests in the world with very high ecological value, rich tropical bio-diversity and many kinds of unique species. The hill ranges of the WGs, of which these forests are critical parts, are  considered as the backbone of the ecology and economy of South India, and are also very good carbon sequestration systems in addition to being the water fountains of Peninsular India.

In view of the fact that the existing transmission lines (4 lines of 400 kV rating) to evacuate power from Kaiga NPP will not be adequate for the new capacity of 1,400 MW, there will be a need for additional transmission lines to evacuate the additionally generated electricity. These new lines may require the clearance of a 75 metre-wide corridor for more than 100 km for the right of way. This means the destruction of many sq kms of thick tropical forest of very high ecological value not only for the WGs, the state of Karnataka, and the country, but to the global environment itself because of the good Carbon sequestration capability of the thick forests in the tropics. The total cost (both direct and indirect costs) of such a destruction of tropical forests will be incalculable from the ecological perspective to India, whereas the benefits of the additional electricity from the expanded project will be negligible from the country’s projected power sector capability by 2030 (year by which the two reactors may get commissioned).

The forest cover in the Uttara Kannada district, where Kaiga is located, has come down from a high of about 70 per cent of the land area in the 1950s to less than 25% now due to various ‘development projects’ including the Konkan Railway, Sea-Bird naval base, national highways, industries, many dam-based hydel projects, and the Kaiga NPP since 2000. As against the National Forest Policy (adopted in the 1980s) target of 33 per cent land cover by forests & trees, Karnataka’s forest & tree cover at present is less than 20 per cent for which the forests of Uttara Kannada district are major contributors. Any further loss of such rich forests in the WGs can spell doom not only to the drought-prone state of Karnataka, but to the whole of Peninsular India, for which the WGs are considered as water fountains.

As per the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) IV Assessment Report, “the emissions from deforestation are very significant—they are estimated to represent more than 18 per cent of global emissions”. It also says, “Curbing deforestation is a highly cost-effective way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

At a time when the mitigation aspects of climate change have occupied the minds of global leaders, it is a moot point to consider how rational it will be to loose many sq km of thick tropical forest around Kaiga NPP for the sake of a technology, for which there are many benign and much less costly alternatives. While the nationwide efforts to plant tree saplings are laudable, the same cannot replace the rich original tropical forests. It would be unacceptably destructive.

The increase in nuclear power capacity by 2.6 times at Kaiga NPP should also mean an additional fresh water demand on the Kali river, which is flowing adjacent to the project, by a similar magnitude. If this also leads to an increase in the temperature of the discharged water from the project back to the river, it should be a matter of concern from the perspective of the creatures dependent on that river.

Due to the increased volume of the used-water discharge from the project, the pollution level of the river water downstream of the project is likely to go up, despite the claims of project authorities on water purification processes to be deployed. It is a moot point as to what impact will this distorted quality of river will have on the concerned stakeholders. It is impossible to imagine that it will be beneficial from any perspective.

The impact of the vastly increased radiation density (because of the 2.6 times increase in nuclear reactor activity?) on the bio-diversity and the people working and living in the project area cannot be anything but negative. Additionally, the risk of any unfortunate nuclear accident can only multiply because of the need to store on site the vastly additional quantity of highly radioactive spent fuel for hundreds of years (India has no policy as yet to store the spent nuclear fuel and other associated wastes away from the nuclear reactor site).

In summary, the expansion of Kaiga will be catastrophic for the biodiversity of the area, which in turn will have effects on Karnataka, India and even the world. It will be a travesty of social and environmental justice, and the violation of the provision of the country’s Constitution to allow the diversion of more than 54 hectares of dense forest land of very high ecological value, and 6,346 cubic metre per hour of fresh water which can meet the daily needs of more than a million people to this enormously risky project.

Clearly, Karnataka and India can do without so much destruction. The costs of the expansion of Kaiga are unacceptable and just not worth it. The government should give serious thought before taking any further decisions on the project.

Shankar Sharma is a power policy analyst and professional electrical engineer with over 38 years of experience in India, Australia and New Zealand

ciurtesy- down to earth

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Writing A Book On The Gujarat Riots Taught Me Hate Can Be Rejected, Says Revati Laul

‘The Anatomy of Hate’ attempts to get into the minds of the perpetrators of the 2002 violence, and the ones who celebrated as human beings lay dying around them.

This famous photo from 2002 shows a Bajrang Dal activist who, years later, called the Gujarat riots a "mistake" and apologised for his role in them.

SEBASTIAN D’SOUZA VIA GETTY IMAGES
This famous photo from 2002 shows a Bajrang Dal activist who, years later, called the Gujarat riots a “mistake” and apologised for his role in them.

Many books have been written about the Gujarat riots of 2002 in the years since then—these include hard-hitting investigations that exposed holes in the official version of events and poignant narratives that examined living in the aftermath of violence. Now, a new book by journalist and filmmaker Revati Laul attempts to get into the minds of the perpetrators of the violence, and the ones who celebrated as human beings lay dying around them.

The Anatomy of Hate, published by Context/Westland, has three protagonists—a man who rejected the hatred he grew up with when he began working with Muslims, one who was part of some of the most heinous crimes committed by the mob, and another who burnt down houses belonging to Muslims in 2002 and later rebuilt them.

“We all live in the company of stories that validate us. But there are no stories that describe the guilt and fear of having been part of a crime,” said Laul, who is based in New Delhi.

In an email interview with HuffPost India, Laul spoke about why she wanted to understand hate and how she realised that “extreme prejudice” could be unlearned.

Edited excerpts:

It’s been 16 years since the Gujarat riots. What drew you back to write about them?

I think the violence of 2002 formed the base, the new saffron roots for our current politics. And while we’ve talked endlessly about the rise of the right, the lynch mobs and the politics of hate, we don’t really know much about the people who made up those mobs. We know the effect of the hate crimes, we know the politics and surround sound of it because now we are all living with it. But we don’t know what makes a mind turn,the emotional Richter scale of someone growing up in the 1980s and 1990s who is drawn to the Sangh. We don’t know what makes that person take part in the massacres of 2002. And we also don’t know what happens to this individual after. And until we can step into those shoes or try and look closer, we don’t really understand hate. So how can we expect to change it?

But this is gyan that came to me in the course of my research and reading on the subject. The reason I am writing this started out as a story that fell into my lap by sheer coincidence, 15 years ago. I was NDTV’s Gujarat correspondent in the year 2003, one year after the riots. And everywhere I went, everyone amongst the Hindu middle class would say to me over and over – “Behn, aapko samajh me nahi aayega ki humney bawaal ka support kyun kiya (You will never understand why we supported the mob violence)” That made me stop in my tracks and ask myself this: ‘What is the point of all the work I do as a journalist if I am always preaching to the converted?’ But on the other hand, how do I reach out to the other side—to people who don’t think like me, without preaching from a pulpit, without talking down to them or being patronising?

The answer fell into my lap a year later, when I met a man who made me change almost everything I knew about mass violence. He was finishing a master’s in social science when the riots happened. And he went around town as Gujarat burned with his friends voyeuristically, to watch the action. He said to me, “All of Gujarat was cut into two halves during the riots—those who were being cut and killed and those who were out celebrating. I was on the side of those who were celebrating.” Once the violence abated, this man had finished his degree and started to look for a job. With a social science background, the obvious choice was to look in NGOs since this was a sector that was just opening up—international NGOs and the possibility of a decent salary. So after cheering on the destruction of Muslims, this man got a job in an NGO that was rehabilitating them. And that’s when his whole world came apart. He started to see how the diet of hate he had been brought up on was built on entirely false pretexts. He was confronted every day with Muslims that did not fit the description he had carried around with him—the Satanic people who did everything upside down. And this confrontation with reality was terrifying. When I met him, he was undergoing a metamorphosis. And this meant he had to tell himself that everything he was brought up with was a lie. Rejecting that was almost impossible. It meant cancelling out everyone from his life. When I heard his story I was transfixed. Why had I never imagined that hate and extreme prejudice was not fixed? That it could change. And in describing it as fixed, was I guilty of fixing it?

We all live in the company of stories that validate us. But there are no stories that describe the guilt and fear of having been part of a crime. So where does the middle class that isn’t proud of what they’ve done go? To the politics that says it’s okay to forget, it’s okay to pretend everything is fine. And we aren’t allowing for any other conversations either. Most of all, this man answered the question I had asked myself. How do you reach out to the other side? By telling them their own stories, with all the attendant guilt and fear and uncertainty. Certainty is a fascist space. It is absolute, it leaves no room for openness, for conversation.

When I heard his story I was transfixed. Why had I never imagined that hate and extreme prejudice was not fixed? That it could change. And in describing it as fixed, was I guilty of fixing it?

But it took me ten years to convince this man to let me tell his story. Because it means stoking the pain, opening up the wounds that had healed. Finally, he let me in to that world and I knew this was it.

Your book focuses on the lives of three perpetrators of the riot. What did their stories reveal to you?

So having stumbled onto the light end of the spectrum that made up the mob, and got the first of three protagonists to agree to let me tell his story, I moved to Gujarat in 2015 to find other stories. I had to see what the other end of the spectrum looked like. Which led me to the story of Suresh. His story attracted me for two reasons. He committed some of the most heinous crimes from 2002. He raped women and children and was part of the mob that pulled out the foetus from a pregnant woman. But for me, what was key in Suresh’s story was to look past the hideousness of his crimes to what lay underneath. He bragged about his crimes to an investigative journalist. The bragging was my clue to the real story. Suresh wasn’t just a singular entity. He represented the collective fantasies of a large group of people who wanted him to do what he did. His bragging gave him popular support. It fulfilled the group’s fantasies. So what was that group that supported Suresh? And why? And there was another equally bewildering reason to write about Suresh. He committed these crimes against Muslims while being married to a Muslim woman. By the time I finished researching Suresh’s story, what I found was this. It disturbed me not because I didn’t understand where he came from, but because I did.

How do you reach out to the other side? By telling them their own stories, with all the attendant guilt and fear and uncertainty

In between the man who underwent a metamorphosis and Suresh, is the story of a third person. He came from an extremely underdeveloped part of Gujarat and is from the Bhil tribe. He burned down houses of Muslims in 2002. And later rebuilt them. Through him, I ask the question—if the only way for this man to move out of extreme poverty and the drudgery of farming in a time of diminishing returns was to associate with the Sangh, with the umbrella of Hindu right wing groups, what was he supposed to do? If we want people to act differently, are we creating alternatives for them to support themselves? And most of all, what gave him his sense of self?

By the time I finished researching Suresh’s story, what I found was this. It disturbed me not because I didn’t understand where he came from, but because I did.

Tell us a little about the reporting and writing process that went into the making of your book.

Much like my protagonists, I did all my research and writing from a place of great fear. I didn’t think I could get this done. I didn’t have the resources to stay in Gujarat for three years, I didn’t think I had the nuance or the writing skills. I had to battle my way through each of these and it was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It was the biggest emotional churn I have ever put myself through. Let me illustrate this with one example. I realized towards the end of my writing that I was writing about violence because it is also the pivot around which my own life revolves—professionally and personally. I have lived in fear of my father growing up, he was a scary man to be around. Wonderful and intimidating with an underlying anger and latent violence that was always present. In asking my protagonists to empty themselves out, I had to empty myself out. I had to turn the gaze on myself in order to let go of my fears one by one, draft by draft, until, I think, the eighth and final one that is now the book. Serious food binges, outbursts with friends, lovers and family, meltdowns were all in the mix and if I knew that this is what I had signed up for, I may never have done this. On the other hand, I am a masochist.

The Gujarat riots are, thus far, one of the last widespread acts of mass violence spanning many cities in the state. Since then, the model seems to have changed to smaller, more localised conflicts that still seem to have similar social, political, and economic effects—the sole exception being a lower immediate death toll.

The Gujarat riots changed the course of our political history. It brought the politics of hate from the fringe to centrestage. Having achieved that, it was perhaps only possible for this model to sustain itself as a national model in a mutated form. But this suggests that the entire political trajectory was planned or that the Sangh is a singular, cohesive unit, which it’s not. It tries to be but nothing in this country can ever be a singular conversation, not even this. So the way I see it is this: the Sangh is both hyper-planned and very arbitrary. They have probably become much more cautious about supporting or enabling mobs where there is the possibility of legal tangles and court cases slapped on them. We seem to have moved into a similar space as Pakistan was under Benazir Bhutto. Where she came in on the strength and support of various non-state actors and warlords and had to give into their arbitrariness ever after.

But I also look at this another way. The writing of this book has made me acutely aware of the fact that we are a non-normative society. We don’t do anything by the book. Therefore power also lies outside officially mandated spaces. So it would be a mistake to look only at what the Sangh says and not at how people often use them selectively and disregard some of what they sign up for and pay obeisance to what they must. Therefore, the large factory of hate, having been built in 2002, does not need to replicate itself whole. But enable start-ups and franchises and also overlook the misdemeanours of rogue elements that are also their supporters.

The writing of this book has made me acutely aware of the fact that we are a non-normative society. We don’t do anything by the book. Therefore power also lies outside officially mandated spaces.

It would, therefore, be instructive to look at the mutating forms of hate in terms of what they do to disrupt their original model. Does the splitting away of Pravin Togadia from the VHP mean anything? Are there various political rivals working at cross-purposes in the BJP? And what does the average person do after voting for the BJP in an election? Does the MLA in a Gujarat state assembly have the same real power today as she did in 2002? Or has the political perception shifted to a much more centrist space where state assemblies may see themselves as beholden to the centre more now than two decades ago? If this is even partly true, then why do we often write about these elections as if it’s the same kind of power game when the power centres may have shifted?

What are your thoughts on this present moment we are living through—where then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi is now Prime Minister, and a Bajrang Dal leader is the prime accused in the killing of a cop?

I think this is a time for all of us in the middle class—you who reads this piece, me who is speaking to you, to look closely at the everyday that makes up the anatomy of hate. If we choose not to talk to people like ourselves, are we condemning ourselves to shrinking the liberal space? Are we perpetuating what we don’t want despite ourselves? What sort of conversations do we need to have that are different if we want a different politics? And that must start by looking past Modi at what he is standing on. At the politics we have willed ourselves into. And the various disaggregated and shaky parts of the edifice this establishment stands on.

What’s one other book—related or unrelated—that you would urge our readers to pick up?

Please do read Mahmood Mamdani’s When Victims Become Killers—Colonialism, Nativism, and the Genocide in Rwanda, published by Princeton University Press in 2001. He bends all previous writing on genocides and mass violence and explains how the ordering of people into categories of ‘us’ and ‘them’—original inhabitants and settlers—is a colonial phenomenon. Colonisers could only see people as outsiders and insiders because they were outsiders. So they used this gaze to create and re-order people they conquered further into categories of us and them. And it has led to the kind of post-colonial polarization, mass violence and re-ordering of histories from the Hutus and Tutsis of Rwanda to the Hindus and Muslims in India. He also gave me the talisman I used as the reference point for my writing. It appears right at the start of the book, on page 8, in fact. And it is this. “We may agree that genocidal violence cannot be understood as rational; yet, we need to understand it as thinkable. Rather than run away from it, we need to realise that it is the “popularity” of the genocide that is its uniquely troubling aspect.” It isn’t the individual crimes in 2002 or in the singular act of a tiny mob in Bulandshahr this week that needs explaining as much as the group aspect of it.

https://www.huffingtonpost.in/2018/12/13/writing-a-book-on-the-gujarat-riots-taught-me-hate-can-be-rejected-says-revati-laul_a_23616959/

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SC Slams Centre for Keeping Names of Applicants for Information Commissioners’ Post Secret; Asks it to Make Them Public

The Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Centre to publish names, criteria and other details of search committee’s work so far for appointments to the Central Information Commission, under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The case pertained to the inordinate delay in filling up the vacancies of crucial posts of Central Information Commissioners (CICs) and Information Commissioners (ICs), The SC order is a big boost for activists, who have campaigned tirelessly for transparency in selection of information commissioners.
The SC directive follows an affidavit submitted by the central government in court today. The Government had earlier committed to decide on vacancies even before a  public interest litigation (PIL) for appointment of Commissioners was filed. It told the SC today that it had received 65 applications for the post of the Chief Central Information Commissioner and 280 applications for the four posts of Information Commissioners. The affidavit states that the government has shortlisted names for the post of CIC. However, after the latest SC directive, the government will have to publish these names on its website, before selects the chief information commissioner.
As for the eight other States that were also asked to file an affidavit, the Telangana government has said that it was busy with elections so the SC has given it two more weeks to file its affidavit. The petitioners bought it to the notice of the court that there were 10,000 second appeals pending with this State Commission. The Odisha government’s affidavit states that a selection committee has been formed to fill up four vacancies for ICs.
It may be recalled that a writ petition was filed by activists Anjali Bharadwaj, Amrita Johri and Commodore Lokesh Batra (retd). The reason for this petition was that “under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, the Central Information Commission (CIC) and State Information Commissions (SIC) have been created as statutory bodies to decide appeals and complaints against public authorities, for non-compliance with the RTI law. The proper functioning of these institutions is essential for effective implementation of the RTI Act. The RTI law provides that the CIC must consist of a Chief Information Commissioner and ten information commissioners.”
In an earlier hearing on 27 July 2018, the SC had directed the central government to file an affidavit stating how many posts it proposed to fill, based on the advertisement issued, the time schedule for filling the posts, why appointments were not made subsequent to a 2016 advertisement and measures to ensure transparency in the process of appointment – all this  was highlighted in the PIL. In addition, eight state governments, who are respondents in the case, were also directed to file affidavits enumerating the steps they are taking for filling up vacancies, the time frame within which these will be filled and the procedure of appointment.
Incidentally, Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur, and three Central Information Commissioners – Prof M Sridhar Acharyulu, Yashovardhan Azad and A Bhattacharyya, retired in the last week of November 2018. That makes for eight vacancies in the Commission.
Besides the legal intervention sought, former Central Information Commissioner, Prof Acharyulu too kept up the pressure on government by writing a letter to the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, last week regarding the inordinate delay in appointing information commissioners.
Prof Acharyulu in his letter stated: “…the Government of India should have completed process of appointing the Chief Information Commissioner before the retirement of Shri Radha Krishna Mathur,  to be ready to take over the administration of the Commission without any gap, because the RTI Act has not envisaged any vacancy in that high position at any point of the time. The Commission has experienced absence of administration for several months as the Government did not appoint Chief Information Commissioner, three years ago, after retirement of the then Chief. Unfortunately now also that position is left vacant since 22nd November 2018. Similarly leaving seven positions of CICs also will lead to increase in the pendency of second appeals/complaints. The delay in information amounts to denial of information and delay in information justice also means its denial.”
During the hearing on the 3rd December, the petitioners had pointed out that at present there were vacancies in the Central Information Commission, including that of the Chief and the backlog of appeals/complaints had risen to more than 26,000. They also pointed out that the advertisement issued by the central government for the posts of information commissioners and the chief information commissioner did not specify the salary and tenure, even though these are specifically defined in the RTI Act & therefore, the advertisements were not in keeping with the RTI law. All previous advertisements for the posts specified the salary and tenure. Upon being questioned about the anomaly in the advertisements, the counsel for the central government stated that the government was intending to amend the RTI Act.
Prof Acharyulu, former central information commissioner has appealed to President of India for appointment of eminent persons from fields other than Administration to the CIC. His letter says:
“I would like produce the text of Section 12(5) of RTI Act 2005 for ready reference, at this juncture:
The Chief Information Commissioner and Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance.”
“In this context, as a person who worked as Central Information Commissioner for five years till recently, I request your Excellency to consider following suggestions:
1.    As the Chief Information Commissioner in all these 13 years was selected from the field of Administration only, at least, this time an eminent person from the field other than Administration may be selected; and if for any reason, the Government decides to select a retired bureaucrat once again, it should ensure that he had credentials of integrity, commitment towards transparency and has never supported or promoted any kind of secrecy in administration. The people have a right to know this kind of background of the Chief and other Commissioners. The Government should also commit itself to appoint next Chief Information Commission from other than bureaucrats.
2.    As mandated by section 12(5) of the RTI Act, the Government of India has a statutory duty to select at least one person of eminence each in public life with wide knowledge and experience from the fields of (1) law, (2) science, (3) technology, (4) social service, (5) management, (6) journalism, and (7) mass media. As the Government has already appointed three eminent persons with experience in administration, who are working now, the Committee, as a principle, should not consider the persons from this field for this time.
3.    Whenever the Selection Committee convenes, from now onwards, it shall select one eminent person of experience each from these fields necessarily for making the Central Information Commission representative of multiple fields of public activity and truly democratic.  With experts from various fields, there will be no scope for bureaucratic majority or domination in its administration besides accommodating different view-points.  If the Government selects more number of former bureaucrats for these posts, it will in breach of letter and spirit of transparency law and more particularly that of Section 12(5) of RTI Act, which may not stand the scrutiny by the Judiciary.
4.    The Selection Committee should also ensure that the new Commissioners appointed shall have the complete independence with regard to the term, status and salary as provided by the RTI Act. Their term, status and salary shall not be ‘as prescribed’ by the Central Government’ as contemplated by the present Government in the proposed Amendment to RTI Act.
5.    The Government shall ensure that it will not interfere in the functioning of Central Information Commission and also to insulate the office of Chief Information Commissioner or individual commissioner from direct or indirect pressures or interferences from any of its offices such as PMO or the Ministry of DoPT.
6.    The Government shall not introduce the RTI (Amendment) Bill, 2018 and shelve it permanently, in the interest of transparency of administration and good governance.
7.    Hereafter, the Government shall fill every vacancy promptly so that a new Chief/Commissioner takes over the charge from the retiring Commissioner without any gap
https://www.moneylife.in/article/sc-slams-centre-for-keeping-names-of-applicants-for-information-commissioners-post-secret-asks-it-to-make-them-public/55914.html

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Central Government Ensnares Itself In Northeast and Kashmir

First the Bhartiya Janata Party led government in Delhi was very enthusiastic about conducting the National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam on the premise that this process will identify all the illegal migrants from Bangladesh who entered Assam after 24 March, 1971, the date of creation on Bangladesh, who could then be sent back to Bangladesh. The assumption was that most of these illegal immigrants would be Muslims. However, the government developed cold feet after it realised that among the 40.07 lakhs people who have been left out of NRC the majority are not Muslims but Hindus. Now it is trying to push the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill which will allow non-Muslim citizens from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who arrived in India on or before December 31, 2014 to acquire Indian citizenship easily. This Bill is facing stiff opposition from the Assamese society. Akhil Gogoi, leader of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti, along with 70 other organisations has launched a frontal attack on the government. What the BJP central leadership doesn’t realise is that Assamese society is not divided on communal lines like in Gujarat, Maharashtra or portion of the Hindi speaking heartland. For Assamese people bigger fear is linguistic and cultural domination by Bengalis. Assamese society itself is a product of assimilation of locals with outsiders from diverse backgrounds. It is not just being born into some homogenous community. But they clearly make a distinction between people who came before 1971 and those who came afterwards. Assamese nationality is as assertive as the Tamil or Bangali nationality with a distinct identity.

Meanwhile, in Assam itself All Bodo Students’ Association under the leadership of Pramod Boro is demanding a separate statehood for Bodoland. After a long struggle Bodoland Territorial Council was created in 2003 comprising four districts of Chirang, Buxa, Kokrajhar and Udlagiri. Out of 40 government departments all except Home and Finance were transferred to BTC by the Assam government. However, Assam government continues to maintain its stranglehold on BTC as all resolutions passed by BTC are subject to final approval of the Assam assembly, which is against the spirit of Schedule VI of Constitution as part of which BTC was created. So far except for one out of 28, all Bills passed by BTC have been stuck at the Assam assembly level. Even though the population living in abovementioned four districts is 12% of Assam population only 2% of the state budget is allocated to BTC. Schools are being starved of teachers and textbooks in Bodo language. Same is the situation with other departments. Rampant corruption prevents whatever little benefits can reach people. Hence Bodo people are now disillusioned and feel only as a separate state they can prosper. In recent talks with Home minister it is believed that Indian government has offered a Union Territory status to Bodoland but that is not acceptable to the Bodos.

In the neighbouring Nagaland the popular demand is for autonomy. Peace talks have been going on with the Government of India of various Naga groups for the last 21 years without any resolution. The latest rounds of talks with the Modi government seem to have reached some conclusion. But Naga people are very clear that they want a separate Constitution and a separate flag. They see themselves living not under the Indian Constitution but in a peaceful coexistence with India. The Nagas have never considered themselves to be part of India. They feel they were first divided into two countries – India and Myanmar – by the British and then by India into different states like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Assam and Mizoram. They aspire for a separate sovereign identity.

However, the experience of Kashmiris with a separate Constitution has not been very good. All the promises made by the Government of India at the time of signing of Instrument of Accession by the Maharaja Hari Singh have been violated. The separate flag is still there but it doesn’t have the sanctity the flag of a sovereign state should have. It is difficult to even obtain a copy of the Jammu and Kashmir Constitution now. Articles 370 and 35A of Indian Constitution which grant a special status to J&K are there only for namesake. Famous literature personality Zareef Ahmad Zareef described it as a lock on a door to a room which doesn’t have anything inside. People of Kashmir feel cheated by the GoI. According to initial agreement except for Defence, Communications and Foreign Affairs in the matter of other subjects sovereignty was supposed to rest with J&K Government. The will of the people of J&K which was to determine its future has been given a short shrift. The use of pellet guns on people of Kashmir was the ultimate inhuman treatment meted out to them. It is unthinkable that GoI could have used these pellet guns on any unruly crowd anywhere else in the country. It is an example of the step-motherly treatment towards people of J&K. People pelting stones at security forces were accused by GoI of having accepted money from Pakistan. There can be nothing more ridiculous than this. This is admitting the fact that Pakistan is able to control each and every individual in Kashmir. Question arises what were the security forces and intelligence agencies doing? And if religion is the basis on which Pakistan has been able to steer people towards its side why isn’t India able to convince people of Nepal of its point of view. It is an open fact that Nepalese people harbour an anti-India feeling, especially after India blockaded supplies to Nepal when Nepal refused to budge to the Indian wish of making amendments in their new Constitution to favour the pro-India Madhesi people. During the Modi regime situation has worsened in J&K. Even people who had moved closer to integration with India position from a position of autonomy are now finding it difficult to accept the Indian hegemony. The GoI has hurt the sentiments of people of Kashmir beyond repair.

(Note: This article has been written after the visit of ‘Protect and Honour Constitution’ yatra of National Alliance of People’s Movements to Assam, Nagaland and Jammu & Kashmir)

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NWMI Statement – “Desist from harassing journalists in Tamil Nadu”

The Network of Women in Media, India (NWMI) strongly condemns the efforts of the Tamil Nadu police and the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP to harass and intimidate journalists Sandhya Ravishankar, D Anandhakumar and M Sriram from Chennai by falsely accusing them of “espionage” and “anti-national activities” in Kanyakumari.

Sandhya Ravishankar, a veteran journalist and member of the NWMI, is being falsely accused by the BJP’s state unit of being “a criminal mastermind” while Anandhakumar and Sriram are being accused of “aiding and abetting French spies”, a ridiculous and untenable charge thrust on journalists who were merely doing their job.

These are the facts of the matter: Sandhya Ravishankar, a journalist who has filed several investigative reports into illegal beach sand mining in Tamil Nadu, was contacted by the accredited French journalists Jules Giraudat and Arthur Bouvart, who were looking to follow up her reports for ‘Forbidden Stories’, non-profit project founded by Freedom Voices Network which focusses on investigative stories. Since it was too dangerous for Ravishankar to travel to the region in the light of the continuous harassment she has faced from sand miners, she put them in touch with Anandhakumar, who met them with Sriram, to act as translators.

While in Kanyakumari, the two French journalists, accompanied by a local priest who had invited them, went to visit Indian Rare Earths Limited to meet the priest’s acquaintance working there. None of the Indian journalists accompanied them. On being asked to leave since they did not have the requisite permissions, the French journalists did so immediately. There was no filming on the premises at any point.

While the French journalists left the country soon after, their Indian colleagues have been victims of a barrage of false charges and accusations, both from the police and the BJP. Anandhakumar and Sriram were illegally detained by the Kanyakumari police for two days and labelled as “anti-nationals”, a term loosely used these days to intimidate and threaten people. Ravishankar believes she is being targeted because of the extensive investigative work she has undertaken to expose the illegal beach sand mining in the region. It is condemnable that the state, instead of protecting a journalist who has revealed rampant corruption and losses to the government, is instead harassing her. Two of the journalists have had to secure anticipatory bail to protect themselves against harassment by the police.

Even more shocking is that a Union Minister of State for Finance and Shipping and Shipping, Pon Radhakrishnan, is propagating the fake news that they had “arrived by sea to spy on the Kanyakumari port” and were “traitors” to the country and had “stolen national secrets”. See video here.

The NWMI calls upon:

·         The Tamil Nadu police to desist from harassing journalists and stop the witch-hunt to which they are being subjected.

·         The BJP to ask its members to cease false propaganda and innuendo against journalists who were doing their job.

Journalists need the freedom to investigate and report on stories of public interest –whether illegal sand mining or corrpuption– and hold those in power accountable – a free press, is after all, one of the cornerstones of a democracy, without which it would be reduced to a farce.

We stand with the journalists in their fight for the truth.

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Mumbai – 1,362 Mahul residents livid after names go missing in voters’ list #WTFnews

Locals fear that about 30,000 project-affected persons could lose their voting rights for lack of official documents; activists claim they are being victimised

Mahul residents have been in the news for their battle against air and water pollution. But they now have another fight up their sleeve, as the names of 1,362 citizens from the area have been excluded from the voters’ list.

A few Mahul residents received notices on Wednesday that their names had been excluded, making them ineligible to vote. Many of them moved to the area after being relocated from slums in Mumbai, and said they their new documents were yet to be drawn up. The residents feared that if their exclusion from the voters’ list continued, then about 30,000 project-affected persons shifted to Mahul could lose their voting rights.

The residents had received a letter under RTI, which was written by the local office of the Election Commission to the BMC in March 2018. It said the EC was in the process of excluding the names of 1,362 from the voting list.

Anita Dhole was a resident of Ghatkopar, and her house was demolished in the Tansa pipeline project. She was asked to go to Mahul, but refused. On Wednesday, she received a letter from the election officer of Ghatkopar informing her that her name had been excluded from the list. “This office [Election Commission] has started a process of excluding the names of slum-dwellers who are rehabilitated to Mahul. The ordinary residence Bhimanagar is shut and hence the name cannot be kept in the voters’ list,” the letter said.

“This is injustice. We are fighting against the Mahul accommodations as the conditions are bad. The Election Commission could have retained our name in the old list. Many of us do not have sufficient documents to include our names in the new voters’ list. You cannot take away our voting rights like this,” Anita said.

Ashok Maskar, who used to stay near SNDT College, Ghatkopar, said over 1,065 names had been removed from the old list. “I am staying on rent after I refused to accept the Mahul room. My name, too, was excluded from the list. We already have issues related to the poor conditions at Mahul, and now this new problem has cropped up,” Maskar, who works for a private company, said.

Social activist Medha Patkar is set to lead a protest march to Azad Maidan on December 15, to highlight the various issues Mahul residents face.

Bilal Khan of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, who has been helping the residents, said, “The government has just excluded the names of all the dissenters from the voting list. In this way, 30,000 project affected will lose their voting rights. Is this a punishment for protesting against human rights abuse and being dumped in Mumbai’s toxic hell, which is what Mahul is?”

Tejas Samel, deputy district collector for the area, said, “As per guidelines from the Election Commission of India, no voters should remain in the list who are shifted from their permanent residences. Their slums were demolished a year ago, and hence their names were excluded. They were asked to give proof of residence if they were staying there on rent. They can even submit the rent agreement to get their names added to the list. At present, my office is in the process of issuing letters to the Electoral Registration Officer of Mahul to add their names in the Mahul list.”

Mahul resident Anita Dhole is among voters whose names are missing

IIT Bombay report cites ‘low liveability’ of Mahul Village

An interim report by IIT Bombay, released on Wednesday, highlights the low liveability of Mahul Village, where several project-affected persons (PAP) have been shifted over the last. The report says the water in drinking tanks in the area was found to be contaminated, “possibly due to pollution”. It also cites extreme air pollutant concentration levels, blaming them on the area being close to a petroleum refinery and industrial units.

The report said the SRA buildings in Mahul were characterised by their closeness to the BPCL refinery, inaccessibility from the nearest railway stations, and poor neighbourhood planning.

“The buildings have been designed on the principle of occupancy maximisation, ignoring liveability parameters like good air quality,” the report said.

The Bombay High Court had tasked the institute with preparing the report, and the urban development department of the government of Maharashtra. Based on surveys of the Mahul project-affected persons’ township near Trombay, the interim report, focussed on public health, hygiene, impact of human habitation on mangroves, disaster preparedness and structural and architectural issues.

The inception report of the institute on the subject was released in October and focussed on environmental hazards. The final report is expected to be out by the end of the month.

Talking about drinking water, the report said, “The drinking water storage tanks revealed a thin oily film on the water, as well as brownish colour, indicating contamination.”

About the BPCL refinery, the report observes that the pollutants emitted from the combustion process in the refinery may contaminate the site. Observing that the area severely lacked hygiene, the report said this made residents prone to contagious and epidemic diseases.

The report said the drainage system was found broken and leaking in various places, leading to fecal matter lying on the streets.

Bilal Khan, of the Ghar Bachao Ghar Banao Andolan, which has taken the matter to the High Court said, “This report only reiterates what the residents have been telling the government for a year now. This should be enough for them to relocate the residents and provide them with better housing.”

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India – Myth of nation and religion

A recent judgment projects incorrect views about Indian history and makes it a religion-caste narrative

In a 37-page judgment of the Meghalaya High Court, discussion about the merits of the judgment begins at the 23rd page. The first 22 pages take your breath away, in the same sense as the pollution in New Delhi and not like the backwaters of Kerala.

An astonishingly incorrect and incomplete telling of India’s history pervades these pages. The sermon on India’s history begins with: “As we all know, India was one of the largest countries in the world and there was no Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan…” (The generosity in excluding Nepal and Sri Lanka must not go unnoticed). Truth is, there was no “India” even till the early 1940s. There was no Meghalaya till 1972. Millions of Indians and founding leaders of India—Tagore, Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, Savitribai Phule, Sarojini Naidu— and countless others made India the social-coalition long before ‘India the nation state’ was created. The judgment also makes the blunder of neatly dividing India’s history into three stages—a united geographical unit ruled by Hindus, followed by the one ruled by the Mughals and then ruled by the Britishers.

This narration is laden with myths which real historians have spent their entire life countering and which can be filled into dozens of books. For instance, was Nagaland Hindu during the imagined Hindu period of this narrative of ‘history’ and was it Muslim during the Mughal part? What about Mizoram? Was the relation between ‘Mughals’ and ‘Hindus’ only one of conversion and plunder? (Hint to all questions: No). This narration rests upon the deletion of caste identity and violence, the circumstances surrounding the origin of Buddhism, the countless histories and stories of India and more.

Even as historians continue to enquire if history is supposed to be about an enquiry and conversation with the past about the past, all this finds no place in the judgment. Inaccuracy is not the only problem with the judgment. It appears, at least to me, a mis-telling. Sample the following sentence: “It is an undisputed fact that at the time of Partition, lakhs and lakhs of Sikhs and Hindus were killed, tortured and raped and forced them to leave their forefathers’ property and compelled them to enter India”… Did Muslims not get butchered during the Partition? Is this omission from the judgment accidental?

“Pakistan was declared an Islamic country and India should have been declared a Hindu country but it remained a secular country”, the judgment rues. Pakistan defined itself with, and chained its identity, to a religion and India and Indians refused to do the same. India has a unique place in the history of the world because of this. For India and Indians, “unity in diversity” was not an empty phrase or a national pep-talk; it was an extraordinary and unprecedented accomplishment and endeavour.

The judgment quotes Tathagata Roy, the current governor of Meghalaya. Roy is reportedly infamous for bigoted utterances. His tweet about the 26/11 terror attack allegedly said, “slaughter of innocents (except Muslims)”. He later deleted this tweet. He has endorsed pseudo-scientific claims such as there being internet during the time when Mahabharata allegedly happened. I wish that the hon’ble judge authoring the judgment had cited real historians.

But leave aside history. The judge continues with the espousal of ideas, which when implemented, would certainly bring India to a standstill. The judgment observes: “Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhist, Parsis, Christians, Khasis, Jaintias and Garos who have come from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to live in this country peacefully and with full dignity without making any cut-off year and be given citizenship without any question or production of any documents”… Again, ignoring the obvious bigotry, how will the identities of these supposed people be verified without documents? What it means is this: that anyone who turns up and claims to belong to any of the aforementioned identities must be declared an Indian citizen without any documents or any verification process whatsoever.

The judgment charitably states, to avoid any confusion, that “I am not against my Muslim brothers and sisters who are residing in India for generations and abiding Indian laws, they should also be allowed to live peacefully”… Note the phrasing in “allowed to live”. As it happens, no court in this country has the right to decide which religion should be allowed in India and which should not be.

The judgment adds: “I am confident that only this Government under Shri. Narendra Modiji will understand the gravity, and will do the needful as requested above and our Chief Minister Mamataji will support the national interest in all respect.” Why is a judge expressing confidence in x politician or y political party? India, as the judge himself noted, existed long before either of these politicians came at the helm of affairs.

Most importantly, the fact that a judge with incorrect views about Indian history is sitting over any case, much less cases involving grant of domicile to people, is terrifying. By this time, the judgment, which amplifies myths about India and Indians, must have found its way on millions of WhatsApp messages. But one hopes that the apex court will take note and condemn the aforementioned observations.

https://epaper.timesgroup.com/Olive/ODN/MumbaiMirror/#

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