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The Asia Bibi Case In Pakistan Should Serve As A Warning For Us In India

 

– Brinda Karat  

Novenber 10, 2018

Recent developments in Pakistan on the Asia Bibi case should serve as a warning for us in India. Although in entirely different circumstances, the relevance for us in India of the Pakistani case is that it was triggered by blatant defiance and opposition to a landmark Supreme Court judgement by zealots operating in the guise of defending religion and religious sentiment.

The leader of the TLP (Tehreek -i-Labback), leading the violent protests, said: “They want our country to become secular.” For these extremist forces across the border, secularism is the worst that could happen to Pakistan.

Here in India, with a secular constitution, we should be conscious of the implications of hate speeches against the principle of secularism by powerful people.

We also see in India open defiance and threats by top leaders of the ruling party against the Supreme Court when judgements such as in the Sabarimala temple case are not to their liking.

 

In Pakistan, extremist fanatic forces protested against the Supreme Court judgement acquitting Asia Bibi of charges of blasphemy. They called for the killing of the judges, used hate speech and foul language, and organised violent protests throughout the country, paralyzing Pakistan for three whole days.

 Prime Minister Imran Khan’s address to the nation was welcomed by progressive citizens. He said “it is the duty of the central government to implement the top court’s order” and warned protesters of stern action if they tried to confront the state.

 

But far from any action, within three days of the protests, his government capitulated, surrendered before extremist forces and signed a questionable five-point agreement with the TLP.

 

The government assured that it would not challenge any review of the Supreme Court judgement and that it would start the legal process to put Asia Bibi on the “Exit Control List”, which would prevent her from leaving the country in spite of the court ruling.

 

Commentators have pointed out that earlier, as an opposition party, the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-i-insaaf) had supported many of the extremist positions and actions of the TLP and even now, many in the ruling party continue those links.

 But at least some protested – such as Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari, who said “appeasement to avoid bloodshed sends a dangerous message to non-state players and undermines the very principle of democratic protest.”

 

Asia Bibi, an agricultural worker most probably of Dalit origin, a Christian and a 40-year-old mother of two girls, was accused of blasphemy under Section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code in June 2009.

 

 This section reads ‘whoever… defiles the sacred name of the Holy prophet.. shall be punished with death or life imprisonment..” Critics of this law in Pakistan have pointed out the wording leaves it open to easy misuse – for example “defiles including by innuendo, imputation, insinuation”.

 Asia was charged before a sessions court and sentenced to death by a trial court a year later. The punishment was confirmed by the Lahore High Court in 2014. She appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

Her case invited nationwide attention with extremist religious organisations demanding that the death sentence be implemented.

The extent of hatred generated by their campaign was reflected in the brutal murder of then Punjab Governor Salman Taseer by his security guard in January 2011, because he had defended Asia and opposed the blasphemy law. Asia had been incarcerated for eight years, much of it on death row in solitary confinement.

 

It was in this charged background that the Supreme Court pronounced its judgement on October 31. It was given by a three-member bench of Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and his fellow judges Asif Sayed Khan Khosa and Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel.

 

The judgement, which is worth reading, extensively quotes from the Quran and also upholds the basic principal – presumed innocent until proven guilty “irrespective of caste, creed and colour.” The judges criticized a “mob” deciding whether a person is guilty or not.

 

 The judgement held that there is no credible evidence, the prosecution’s case against Asia is full of contradictions and the seven witnesses have made conflicting statements. The court basically upheld the statement of innocence made by Asia Bibi when she was first charged.

 

She had shared a most moving account of what had happened that day. She was working in a field along with 25 to 30 women. Two sisters who were her fellow workers wanted water.

 She offered to get them water when the two women insulted her. Asia said: “They refused saying I am Christian, they will not accept water from me. Over this the quarrel started and some (angry) words were exchanged between me and the two.”

 

She also argued: “My forefathers have lived in this village before the creation of Pakistan. There was never any complaint like this…I’m ignorant of any Islamic thought… how can I use such clumsy and derogatory words?”

 

The judges noted that none of the other women present during the fight, other than the two sisters, testified against her. While all three judges concurred on her acquittal, Justice Khosa made additional comments. “Insulting the appellants (Asia’s) religion by her Muslim co-workers was no less blasphemous.. she was more sinned against than sinning,” he said.

 

With the shameful stand taken by the government, Asia’s future is uncertain. Her lawyer has already had to leave the country because of threats and has been given asylum in the Netherlands. Asia has been released from a jail in Multan and has been taken to an undisclosed place in Islamabad.

 

 The government has announced she is “being given security.” Legally, even though she is at liberty to leave Pakistan if she so wishes, as is her family, the hurdles are obvious.

 

Democratic voices, women’s movements and citizens groups in Pakistan have strongly protested the government’s attitude, and continue to defend the Supreme Court judgement at great risk to their personal security.

We salute them. We too must raise our voices in solidarity with Asia Bibi to demand that the Pakistan government ensure her safety and security and if she so wants, ensure her safe exit from the country.

 

https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/the-asia-bibi-case-in-pakistan-should-serve-as-a-warning-for-us-in-india-1945150

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India – False allegations against Human rights Defender, Degree Prasad Chouhan

Following the arrest of human rights defender Sudha Bharadwaj and four others on 26 October 2018, there is an imminent threat of false charges being brought against Dalit activist and human rights defender, Degree Prasad Chouhan. The police have already implicated the defender by name in a fake letter produced by them on 31 August 2018, which they claim was written by advocate Sudha Bharadwaj. There is a clear attempt by the police to smear the human rights defender as a Maoist militant and draw a false link between Degree Prasad Chouhan and the Bhima Koregaon violence which took place in January 2018.
About Degree Prasad Chouhan

 Degree Prasad ChouhanDegree Prasad Chouhan is a human rights defender and a law graduate in Chhattisgarh’s Raigarh District. He is the convenor of Adivasi Dalit Majdoor Kisan Sangharsh, a community group set up by Adivasi villagers to respond to the alleged unlawful dispossession of their land by two companies. He also serves as Vice President of the Chhattisgarh chapter of the of People’s Union for Civil Liberties, one of India’s oldest human rights organisations. Over the past 15 years, Degree Prasad Chouhan has advocated for justice for the human rights violations committed against Dalits and the Adivasi community, including illegal land grabbing and forced displacement of indigenous people by state agents, security forces and corporate business interests. He has also worked on extra judicial killings, illegal detention, torture and attacks on minorities.

 

View or Download Urgent Appeal

At a press conference on 31 August 2018, the Maharashtra police read out a fake letter allegedly written by Sudha Baradhwaj. The letter purports inter alia that “Comrade Degree Prasad Chouhan, who was sent into the interiors by me, has returned on successfully completing the said operation. As promised, he has to be paid his reward now”. This is a clear

attempt to smear and implicate the defender, paving the way for his possible arrest under the regressive Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). Sudha Baradhwaj through her lawyer has refuted the claims of the Maharashtra Police and expressly stated that the allegations against Degree Prasad Chouhan are baseless.

Sudha Baradhwaj and four other activists have been in police custodyunder the UAPA since 26 October 2018, when a Pune Sessions Court denied bail to the activists and also refused to extend their house arrest. On 6 November 2018 they were sent to jail..

Degree Prasad Chouhan believes that he faces an imminent threat of being falsely implicated as a Maoist militant or of instigating in some way the Bhima Koregaon violence, which occurred on 1 January 2018 during the commemoration of the 200 year anniversary of a battle the Dalits had won against the Peshwas (upper caste rulers). The current spate of persecution of human rights defenders through surveillance, threats, arrests and judicial harassment, is an attempt to curb the growing movement for Dalit and Adivasi rights, which has over the years achieved some successes in their fight to preserve their land and rights.

Front Line Defenders expresses grave concern regarding the smear campaign and attempts to falsely imply Degree Prasad Chouhan is a Maoist militant or terrorist, as it strongly believes that they are directly linked to his peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights.

Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in India to:

  1. Immediately cease any harassment against Degree Prasad Chouhan, including attempts to smear his name through the media and to criminalise him.

  2. Ensure that Degree Prasad Chouhan is protected within India and the Chhattisgarh state and permitted to continue his human rights work without hindrance or harassment.

  3. Immediately and unconditionally release the five human rights defenders, including lawyer Sudha Baradhwaj, as their arrest is directly linked to their peaceful and legitimate work in defence of human rights.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/false-allegations-against-degree-prasad-chouhan

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Haren Pandya: Banquo’s Ghost in Search of Macbeth!

The deposition by gangster Azam Khan, implicating the then top cop DG Vanzara, has brought unanswered questions on Pandya’s murder to the fore again.
Haren Pandya

In Act 3, scene 4, Macbeth causes chaos at a celebratory banquet at his castle when he suddenly starts to behave very oddly. Everything starts quite normally. The guests are greeted and they all sit down ready for the meal. One man is absent: Macbeth’s old friend, Banquo. The reason why he is absent is very simple – Macbeth has just had him murdered.

Where Banquo should be sitting at the banquet, Macbeth sees instead his ghost. ..

Will we ever know who really killed Haren Pandya — a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat — who also happened to be its Home Minister in late 1990s and early years of 2000? Or will it always remain, to quote police parlance, a “cut-out murder” in which it is not possible to establish the link between the victim and the conspirator or motivator of the crime. (From Hermitude To Holography”. Outlook. April 8,2013. Retrieved 20 September 2016)

The deposition by a gangster Azam Khan — who is at present lodged in the Udaipur jail — in the alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Shaikh and Tulsiram Prajapati has brought the issue to the fore again. According to him, the contract to kill Pandya had been given to Sohrabuddin and two others by DG Vanzara, former top cop of Gujarat.

Azam Khan, a one time associate of Sohrabuddin and Prajapati “[a]lso said that while he had told the CBI investigator about it in 2010, the officer had refused to record it as part of his statement.” Interestingly, one can even refer to newspaper archives which point towards similar conclusions quoting sources in the state police.

The gravity of the charges levelled by Khan can be gauged from the fact that he is directly implicating the top cop — who himself was very close to the ruling dispensation in the state then and was discharged from the fake encounter case of Soharabuddin only last year after spending a few years behind bars. Till date, many lower level officials of the police department are still languishing in jail in the fake encounter case.

Forget rejecting outright what Khan has told the court, few in-depth analyses have appeared in Hindi /English publications explaining this 15- year-old case 3 and providing enough hints about the mastermind.

Can we then say that the fresh allegations would prompt the people in power to revisit the case and help untangle few more leads in this unresolved murder mystery of a senior politician, who had started his social-political journey from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh?

With the ups and downs which the Pandya murder case has witnessed, it is impossible to make any such prediction. But, to begin with, we can at least recapitulate the turn of events:

One, Pandya had allegedly testified before a Concerned Citizen’s Tribunal headed by former Supreme Court judge V K Krishna Iyer about the Gujarat 2002 carnage and the details were definitely not soothing to the ruling dispensation then. Less than three months after the riots, he made similar startling revelations before a leading news magazine, Outlook, which he repeated a few months later as well. What is disturbing to note is that he feared for his life if his identity was revealed.

So, the question arises as to why such a senior state leader of the ruling dispensation feared for his life? And within six months of expressing this fear, he was dead.

Two, Pandya was killed (March 2003) while he was on a morning walk and his body kept lying in his car for around two hours. The persons  who were accused of his murder were released by the Gujarat High Court and the courts heavily criticised the Gujarat police and probe agencies for a botched investigation. (2011). As of now, an appeal is lying before the Supreme Court, challenging the acquittal.

Three,  Pandya’s father, Vithabhai Pandya, always maintained that it was an insider job. Pandya’s wife, Jagruti, was also of the opinion that it was a political murder.  Mukul Sinha, the fearless civil liberty activist and lawyer, had even provided details of how ‘late Shri Vitthal Pandya had gone from pillar to post asking for a free and fair investigation. Despite being a BJP member, he showed complete lack of confidence in the CBI investigation which was at that time under the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government…’ Sharing other details about his several applications praying for ‘re-investigation before the POTA Court in 2006, which were not entertained’ it also tells us how the widow of  Pandya later strived to reopen the investigation and had ” ..even approached the High Court vide the Sp. Cr. Appl. No.2327 of 2011 seeking re-investigation but it was not entertained as the Supreme Court is seized with the appeal of CBI.’

Perhaps it needs to be mentioned here that Ms Jagruti Pandya, widow of Haren Pandya later joined BJP and is now head of the Child Rights Commission.

Whatever happens in the case — whether Khan’s testimony is rejected once again or a re-investigation is undertaken at the behest of Pandya’s own party people — one can at least revisit the period post-2002 riots on our own, which is dotted with the assassination of  Pandya, a spate of encounter killings, arrest of senior as well as junior-level police officers — the number reached 32 at one stage — and leading politicians from two neighbouring states for their role in these fake encounters, formulation of a ‘counter terrorism plan’ with special focus on religious minorities, etc.

DG Vanzara and Encounters

Any close watcher of the Gujarat police would tell you that the top cop (now retired) Vanzara, who is  under the spotlight once again, was DIG of Gujarat police and head of its Anti Terrorist Squad, and till his arrest, he had been privy to the entire goings on in Gujarat since 2002, which included the 2002 riot investigations which were handled by the crime branch, the Pandya murder case and the Akshardham attack, apart from the fake encounters.

It was the same period when Gujarat witnessed a spate of encounter killings that saw 15 deaths. All these killings followed a very similar pattern. Be it the case of Ishrat Jahan, the student from Mumbai, or Sameer Khan Pathan or, for that matter, Soharabuddin, all these encounters took place at night wherein none from the police force received any injuries, despite the ‘terrorists’ being armed with ‘latest automatic weapons’ (as was announced later). The rationale provided for these killings was that they had come to kill Modi and his other colleagues, and had Pakistan connections.

Focusing on one such encounter case, that of Sadiq Jamal Mehtar, who died in police encounter in January 2003, Mukul Sinha had exposed the modus operandi:

How did Sadik become ‘the dreaded terrorist’? The story is better told by Journalist Ketan Tirodkar who admitted to have profiled Sadik as a terrorist on the request of Daya Nayak, the real life Ab Tak Chappan hero, the then PSI of Crime Investigation Unit (CIU), Andheri. Ketan Tirodkar, a confidante of Daya Nayak,  had filed an affidavit in the writ petition (SCrA No. 963 of 2007) filed by Shabbir seeking a CBI investigation into the ‘encounter’ of Sadik. We quote here in below paragraphs 3 and 4 of his sworn affidavit.

3. I say and submit that in my aforesaid complaint in paragraph nos. 7 and 8, I have specifically stated about the manner in which Sadik Jamalbhai Mehtar was deliberately profiled as being a member of Dawood Ibrahim gang by Shri Daya Nayak and me, and further profiled as if he was to go to Gujarat as a contract killer of Lashkar-e-Toiba for eliminating the Chief Minister of Gujarat Shri Narendra Modi.

One can also recall the ‘revelations about the counter terrorism plan of the Gujarat police’ (The Rediff Special, Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad, How Gujarat plans to counter terrorists, July 15, 2004) shared by Vanzara himself. It was the same period when the saga of fake encounter killings was unfolding itself.

The implicit understanding (as per the Gujarat government) behind this plan was that the ‘state has become a haven for terrorists’ (read Islamic terrorists)’. In an interview to the same e-mag, the additional CP of Ahmedabad, Vanzara, hammered this point home in no uncertain terms plainly stating that “..After the Godhra carnage and the subsequent riots terrorists of a variety of types and shapes are aiming at Gujarat. Gujarat has become the destination for terrorists.”(The Rediff Interview July 27,2004) .

As a precursor to this plan a detailed survey of the number of mosques, madrasas at the state-level was done and the various Islamic organisations active inside the state and their alleged linkages with other national-international organisations was noted. As per the plan, every policeperson from the constable level upward had been instructed to keep a close watch on the situation at the ground level. S/he had been asked to keep tabs on meetings at masjids and the goings on in the madrasas. Activities of the Tablighi Jamaat were also going to be keenly watched under this plan.

It was then clear to even a layperson that the neatly designed ‘counter-terrorism plan’ of the Gujarat police at the behest of the state government stigmatised the whole minority community in uncertain terms. The most ironic part seems to be that it did not even bother to mention the extremist elements within the Hindu community and the need to keep a close watch on the controversial activities of the plethora of organisations of the Hindutva Brigade and its leaders. It was during that period only that the ‘intelligence bureau people overseeing the national scene had warned the central government to rein in Hindutva leaders like xx and xxx if ‘[i]t was keen to nip the fresh sources for terrorist activities in the bud.’ (Jansatta, Sep 5, 2003, Delhi, ‘Intelligence bureau warns the government about xx and xxx .)

Interestingly, in his resignation letter – which he wrote from jail after remaining there for around seven years – Vanzara had in an indirect way expressed how he and his police officers were just implementing the diktats of the policy formulators in every possible way.

Through his 10-page resignation letter, Vanzara had made some important points. Expressing no regrets over these encounter killings for which he and his associates/juniors were in jail, he maintained that because of these killings only Gujarat remained free from similar terror attacks. According to him the trumpeted success of the ‘Gujarat’s model of development’ was only possible because of the ‘sacrifices made by me and my officers in thwarting the onslaught of initial disorder in the state’. Commenting on the unprecedented situation wherein more than 30 officers working with him were now in jail — which included few officers of the IPS rank also — he maintained that between 2002 and 2007, he and other officers of his ilk “simply acted and performed their duties in compliance of the conscious policy of this government” and yet his political bosses betrayed him.

According to him

..the CBI investigation officers of all the four encounter cases of Sohrabuddin (Sheikh), Tulasiram (Prajapati), Sadiq Jamal and Ishrat Jahan have to arrest the policy formulators also as we, being field officers, have simply implemented the conscious policy of this government, which was inspiring, guiding and monitoring our actions from very close quarters”

It is worth underlining that despite Vanzara’s focussed attack on what he called ”policy formulators’, and despite demanding that they be similarly ‘sent to jail’, the state government had rejected the said resignation by not forwarding it to the Central government.

Why was the government keen to retain him in service — despite receiving enough opprobrium because of these encounter killings? Was it because the accused officer wasprivy to secrets which the government did not want to divulge in public?

https://www.newsclick.in/banquos-ghost-search-macbeth

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India – Calls for Ayodhya temple law mean it’s Ram bharose again in 2019

The growing clamour for a law to build the Ram temple in Ayodhya is reminiscent of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s 1849 satirical aphorism: “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” The carefully constructed public symphony we have seen in recent days on the possibility of an overriding law to build a Ram temple means that as we head into election season in 2019, our politics is galloping back to the future in a deja-vu rerun of the halcyon days of the Ayodhya movement in the early 1990s.

The clarion call was first sounded by RSS sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat in his Vijay Dashami speech on October 18 when he asked the Modi government to “expedite the decision regarding the ownership of Ram Janmabhoomi” and to clear the path for the construction of a temple “through appropriate and requisite law”. Bhagwat was drawing a line in the sand, as if almost anticipating the Supreme Court’s decision on October 29 to defer a call on hearing dates on the matter to an “appropriate bench” in the first week of January 2019.

The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha then raised the pitch, announcing a “private member’s bill” in Parliament for a Ram temple, along with an emotive political dare to Rahul Gandhi, Sitaram Yechury, Lalu Yadav and Mayawati to oppose the idea. Then came the carefully calibrated statement by RSS sarkaryavah Bhaiyyaji Joshi, asking the Supreme Court to “rethink the matter” of the Ram temple as Hindus were feeling “insulted” that it was not on its “priority list”. As he put it: “Society should respect the court and the court should also respect society and its sentiments.” The RSS has put the ball firmly in the Modi government’s court, making it clear that it favours a Ram temple ordinance “if all other options run out”.

So, what does all this amount to? First, on legislation: BJP has a brute majority in the Lok Sabha but simply doesn’t have the numbers in Rajya Sabha to push such a law through. That is why a private member’s bill (legislation introduced in Parliament by any individual MP who is officially not acting on behalf of the government) has been mooted. Of course, the last time a private member’s bill became a law was in 1970.

The beauty of this stratagem is that it allows for a great deal of posturing. It raises the emotional pitch and political temperature on the Ram temple as we head into 2019, allowing BJP to ask the simple reductionist question: who is for Ram, and who is against?

For a party that has sworn by the Ram temple as an article of faith for almost three decades now — including in its 2014 manifesto where it promised to “explore all possibilities within the framework of the Constitution” to facilitate its construction — the inability to move on it despite the majority it has enjoyed in Parliament since 2014 is politically problematic when faced with its core ideological constituency.

While BJP spokespersons have been careful in their responses to the private member’s bill, reiterating their commitment to building the Ram temple within the constitutional framework, they have also made pointed allusions to the 1989 Palampur resolution when the BJP first formally committed itself to the Ayodhya project.

The relevant text of the Palampur resolution, passed by BJP’s national executive in June 1989, bears repeating: “The BJP holds that the nature of the (Ayodhya) controversy is such that it just cannot be sorted out by a court of law…. The BJP calls upon the Rajiv Gandhi government to adopt the same positive approach in respect of Ayodhya that the Nehru government did with respect to Somnath. The sentiments of the people must be respected, and Ram Janmasthan handed over to the Hindus — if possible through a negotiated settlement, or else by legislation. Litigation certainly is no answer.”

It is in this context that we must see BJP president Amit Shah’s clear line on Sabarimala that his party “stands like a rock” with devotees opposing Supreme Court’s verdict on the entry of women and that government and courts should “issue orders that can be implemented”, not those that “break the faith of people.”

Let us be clear: Sabarimala is also a cipher for Ayodhya. The same logic on the primacy of faith as a fundamental right that works for the south Indian shrine, works for Ayodhya too.

If legislation fails, the temptation may be for a Ram temple ordinance — in a variation of what Rajiv Gandhi did to overturn SC’s verdict in the Shah Bano case — even if that route would be legally challenged.

Either way, the debate would firmly resurrect religiosity in politics, resetting the political chessboard. At a time when the government is facing questions on multiple fronts, it’s back to Ram as the dominant narrative for 2019.

TOI

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Toronto’s Consul General of India Keynotes Hindu Nationalist Event

Toronto’s Consul General of India Keynotes Hindu Nationalist Event

 

“Dinesh Bhatia’s presence at an RSS event inspires fear,” say Indian minorities

ONTARIO, Canada: Oct. 31, 2018 — Some minorities of Indian origin are asking for Dinesh Bhatia, the Consul General of India’s Toronto consulate, to resign after he appeared as the keynote speaker at an Oct. 19 event which was hosted by Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the international wing of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the world’s largest paramilitary.

“Thousands of Indians fled religious and ethnic persecution in India to find refuge in Canada,” says Ram Mohan, an activist with Canadian Minorities of India (CMI). “Many refugees, including Christians, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs have endured persecution at the hands of the RSS. The moment Consul General Bhatia spoke on a stage featuring photographs of RSS leaders, he discarded his diplomatic credentials. Bhatia’s presence at an RSS event inspires fear in the hearts of many Canadians from Indian minority communities. He must resign.”

Bhatia was joined at the event by Ved Nanda, Sanghchalak (Leader) of HSS North America, and Saumitra Gokhale, International Coordinator of HSS. Garlanded photos on the stage included K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar. Hedgewar, who founded the RSS in 1925, 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.”

“The RSS calls Indian Christians ‘foreigners’ and murders them,” says Bill Rogers, a U.S.-based observer of international Christian persecution. “One horrible example is the 2008 Odisha Pogrom, where the government of Odisha is on record saying that it was the RSS and its affiliates who massacred dozens of Christians and made so many tens of thousands refugees in their own country. A diplomat who claims to represent a secular country has no business going anywhere near an RSS event.”

The RSS is the parent of a family of organizations known as the Sangh Parivar. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, “Sangh Parivar entities aggressively press for governmental policies to promote their Hindu nationalist agenda, and adhere in varying degrees to an ideology of Hindutva, which holds non-Hindus as foreign to India.” In June 2018, the CIA labeled the RSS as a nationalist organization and its affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), as a religious militant organization.

“The RSS, VHP, and HSS are supremacist groups which spread hatred against non-Hindu Indians,” explains Pieter Friedrich, an analyst of South Asian affairs. “The RSS and VHP are implicated in pogroms against Indian minorities, assassinations of journalists, and terrorist acts. They share ideological affinity with white nationalists. White nationalists want a whites-only nation while the RSS wants a Hindus-only nation. Both are anti-Semitic. Both glorify Aryanism. Both lynch minorities. Horrifying events like the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh are regularly replicated in India by Hindu nationalists who invade churches, mosques, and gurdwaras.”

Friedrich notes, “The goals of the RSS are very clearly indicated in the writings of Golwalkar and of Savarkar — the originator of the term Hindutva. Both suggested that Indian minorities should be treated the same way as Nazi Germany treated the Jews.” He identifies a selection of quotes from both figures taken from the 1920s to 1960s.

“We are Indians because we are Hindus and vice versa,” wrote Savarkar. He said that, “India must be a Hindu land, reserved for the Hindus.” Asserting that “so far as the Moslem minority is concerned… we must watch it in all its actions with the greatest distrust possible,” he concluded, “If we Hindus in India grow stronger, in time these Muslims… will have to play the part of German-Jews.”

“Conversion of Hindus into other religions is nothing but making them succumb to divided loyalty in place of having undivided and absolute loyalty to the nation,” wrote Golwalkar. He demanded, “Muslims and Christians here should give up their present foreign mental complexion and merge in the common stream of our national life.” Claiming that “the first Semitic religion was Judaism — an intolerant faith,” Golwalkar declared,

“To keep up the purity of the race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races — the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.”

Bhatia courted controversy earlier this year when his office protested the presence of a Punjab pavilion at the July 2018 Carabram multicultural festival in Brampton, Ontario.

According to Brampton Mayor Linda Jeffrey, consular officials threatened to “go to the highest office in the country and cancel this festival.” Their objection was that the Sikh community wanted to host a Punjab pavilion apart from the India pavilion. “This type of unwarranted interference by Indian officials in a local cultural festival in Brampton was shocking,” said Jeffrey. The office of Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland stated, “Interference in domestic affairs by foreign representatives in Canada is inappropriate.”

Meanwhile, RSS Sarsanghchalak (Supreme Leader) Mohan Bhagwat and HSS Sanghchalak Ved Nanda have both sparked protests in the U.S. over the past year.

In September 2018, Bhagwat faced relentless resistance when he keynoted the VHP-organized World Hindu Congress (WHC) in Chicago. African-Americans, Buddhists, Christians, Dalits, Muslims, and Sikhs united in two days of street protests. Several U.S. politicians who were scheduled to attend dropped out, some issuing statements.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu elected to U.S. Congress, was confirmed to chair the WHC but dropped out after protests against her sharing the stage with Bhagwat. She stated, “Due to ethical concerns and problems that surround my participating in any partisan Indian political event in America, effective immediately, I respectfully withdraw myself.” Ram Villivalam, a nominee for Illinois State Senate, was scheduled to appear but also dropped out. Citing the presence of “nationalist individuals and organizations affiliated with WHC 2018,” he stated, “Therefore, I cannot participate in this convening…. I do not support any group and/or an event arranged or led by organizations that intimidate minorities, incite discrimination and violence, commit acts of terror based on race or ethnic background, promote hate speech, and/or believe in faith based nationalism.”

In November 2017, Nanda stirred controversy in California when the Uberoi Foundation for Religious Studies, an organization he chairs, sponsored demands to revise school curriculum. A broad spectrum of Indian minority groups — including Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and Ravidassias — protested proposed revisions which included removal of the word “Dalit,” insertion of language claiming that the caste system created “social stability,” insertion of language suggesting that Dalits (formerly known as Untouchables) chose to do “dirty work” which made them untouchable, insertion of references to the mythical Saraswati River as a geographical reality, removal of references to Sikh Guru Nanak’s opposition to Brahmanism (the philosophy holding the highest caste, Brahmans, as superior) and the caste system, and labeling of U.S. Congressman Dalip Singh Saund as an Indian instead of a Sikh.

“Nanda directly modeled his efforts to revise American curriculum after efforts by Bhagwat and his predecessors to rewrite Indian curriculum according to the whims of Hindu nationalists,” notes Arvin Valmuci, a spokesperson for Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI). “We have seen solidarity among diverse communities protesting the California curriculum changes as well as the WHC in Chicago. Indians in Canada, including freedom-loving Hindus, should also unite, speak out, expose, reject, and eject Consul General Dinesh Bhatia’s affiliation with the agenda of militant religious nationalism.”

Toronto’s Consul General of India Keynotes Hindu Nationalist Event

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India – #MeToo Is A Crucial Moment to Revisit the History of Indian Feminism

In the wake of #MeToo, the time is ripe to revisit the history of Indian feminism, in particular the idea of “waves.” Throughout this history, we see how Indian feminism has emerged as an object of internal contestation, with disputes about issues becoming grounds to question and redefine feminism itself.

Feminism in India is newly relevant. The past month has seen an explosion of online testimony to sexual harassment, in a watershed moment in India’s #MeToo movement. The beginnings of the latter can be traced to a list of sexual predators in the academy that circulated online in 2017 and produced a range of responses, but little by way of actual redressal of harm. In its current iteration, there have been major repercussions in the media and entertainment industry where named sexual offenders have faced losses that were social, even if not legal. The resignation of a union minister in the wake of multiple charges of sexual harassment was a concrete victory for the movement. Not since the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in New Delhi at the end of 2012, has India witnessed such a surge of mainstream concern with sexual violence, rape culture, and patriarchy.

At the same time (and as with the previous one in 2012), the current moment has laid bare deep disagreements and divides amongst feminist voices and publics, revealing, in turn, the contested nature of Indian feminism itself. If, for some, feminism is about legal redress and due process, for others, it requires an extrajudicial set of interventions given the repeated limits and failures of the law to bring gender justice. For some others, it is ultimately the voices of middle class and metropolitan women, journalists, actors, and other professionals that constitute the “me” in India’s #MeToo. When, they ask, will the struggle be an intersectional one rooted in the multiple vulnerabilities faced by most Indian women?[1]

Here, the Indian case is evocative of a more general and global predicament that contemporary feminism seems to find itself in. Across the north and the south, there is a new visibility, potency, and legitimacy to feminist knowledges, affects, and struggles, but there is also an intensification of internal contestation, charge, and conflict. If feminists are unable to respond in a unified voice to sexual violence, then they are also faced with an increased backlash from patriarchal forces, not to mention the threat of “co-option” from external agents, such as the state, the market, neo-liberal capitalism, and right-wing nationalisms (Farris and Rottenberg 2017). In short, whether in India or elsewhere, this is a conjuncture in which feminism and ideals of gender equality enjoy more widespread legitimacy than ever before, but paradoxically, at the same time, the fundamental contradictions of feminism as a political project have also never been more visible and obvious.

Origins of Indian Feminism 

One might already discern a generational undertone in my telling of the story of feminism in India. Indeed, as in the West, this story is told in a decade-specific manner or as occuring in “waves of change.” And, even as we might employ the tripartite division of first, second and third wave, we need to be aware of the implications of employing such generationally inflected narratives, what they might leave out, and what the dangers are of a single story (Adichie 2009).

The anti-colonial and reform movements of the 19th century remain foundational to feminist politics in the region, constituting, for some, the first wave of Indian feminist organising. While this was a remarkable period for women’s rights and Indian women in general—effecting far-reaching changes to women’s education, employability, political participation, development, and “modernisation”—it was also instrumental in attaching the “women’s question” to nationalism (Chatterjee 1989; Sarkar 2001). Thus, even as middle-class Indian women modernised, becoming “new women” of the nation-in-making, their primary affiliation was meant to be to the family, the private sphere, the purity of nation and “culture.” Well into the postcolonial period, feminists drew on a culturally specific and nationalist repertoire of Indian womanhood to reinforce their anti-Western and indigenous credentials.

The autonomous feminists of the 1970s and 1980s—educated, middle class (if not elite), and urban—worked solidly on recognisable constituencies of poor, grass-roots women, with the nation state as their main point of address (John 1999). They shifted the left-led focus on women’s “practical” gender interests around material inequality (and the subsuming of gender under class) to more “strategic” gender interests such as violence against women. The custodial rape of a 14-year-old Adivasi woman named Mathura epitomised, for these feminists, the manner in which sexual violence could not be separated from the logic and workings of the patriarchal state. The Mathura rape case was also significant for inaugurating a slew of successful legal reforms around violence against women and orienting Indian feminism itself towards legal strategies (Kapur 2005).

Even as the autonomous women’s groups of the 1970s–80s constituted a very small percentage of the Indian women’s movement (IWM), they gave it its most abiding legacy, especially in the qualities of radicalism and autonomy that have become normative to feminism as such. Even after the demise of these groups, autonomy, from both political parties and external donors, remained a cherished political ideal and goal amongst Indian feminists (Roy 2011). Beyond that, the 1970s have come to mark a point of origin for the post-independence IWM as a whole, given the public nature of feminist protest action during this period, as well as its success in effecting actual legal change. Even the 2012 anti-rape protests were compared to (and judged as falling short of) this golden age of activism (Tellis 2012).

Liberalisation and Indian Feminism in the 1990s

If the 1970s mark the beginning of the IWM, then the 1990s constitute a “turning point” (Tharu and Niranjana 1994). This was the decade of the opening up of the Indian economy and the introduction of neo-liberal economic reforms. Economic liberalisation not only had far-reaching political and social effects, but also had at least two significant consequences for the IWM. The first of these was the rise of state feminism. Feminists came to be directly implicated in the expansion of state logic and governance, through effecting legal reform, in government-initiated women’s development programmes (such as Mahila Samakhya), women’s commissions (the National Commission for Women set up in 1990), and reservations in panchayats. Yet, the mood among Indian feminists was far from congratulatory, with Menon (2009) suggesting that state feminism could domesticate gender even as it opened up unexpected possibilities for women to participate in public political life.

Concerns around the implications of state feminism were most evident in legal reforms to combat violence against women. Besides the fact that very little was achieved in the realm of law enforcement, feminists argued that such reforms inadvertently increased the power of the state, while reinforcing not just patriarchal, but also class–caste norms and normativities. Take, for example, the case of Bhanwari Devi, a poor rural development worker, who was gang-raped by five upper-caste men in a village in Rajasthan for daring to contest the practice of child marriage in 1992 (Pandey 2017). A lower court acquitted the men, citing age and caste differences between the accused and the victim. Even as this case was instrumental in formulating guidelines for sexual harassment at the workplace, Bhanwari Devi is yet to receive justice. More recent instances of legal reform, namely the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 that followed the 2012 gang rape, have also done little to stop the relentless war on women’s bodies. This was more than evident in the case of the eight-year-old girl in Kathua, where sexual violence was employed to terrorise an entire community of nomadic Muslims in the Kashmir valley (BBC 2018).

Together with state feminism, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and “NGOisation” emerged as a second area of concern in the 1990s. A majority of the autonomous women’s groups that were formed in the 1980s transformed into funded NGOs in this period, given the expansion of work and need for sustainability. It was, moreover, the NGOs with full-time professional or trained “staff” and not grass-roots political organisations, that were seen to be taking important decisions on behalf of the entire women’s movement. While the first national-level autonomous women’s conferences in the country were attended by autonomous feminist groups, by the time of the last conference in Kolkata in 2006, it was overrun by NGOs, suggesting that “the women’s movement is a hugely funded affair today” (Biswas 2006).

The NGOisation of feminism evoked, in the Indian context, anxieties similar to those that have been documented elsewhere (Roy 2015). While a majority of these had to do with the sacrifice of political autonomy to external and especially global funding imperatives (NGOisation and transnationalisation have been twin processes), others had to do with changes to the internal culture and functioning of feminist struggles, as moving away from mass-based ones to professionalised and bureaucratised modes of engagement. These anxieties spoke to larger concerns about the neo-liberal turn in development centred on releasing the hidden entrepreneurial capacity of poor women of the global South as the answer to systemic issues of poverty and underdevelopment.[2] The fact that women’s groups were now part and parcel of such a neo-liberal, market-oriented, and professionalised development sector led to allegations of “9–5 feminists.”

One consequence of this critique was the manner in which contemporary feminist formations like NGOs were not evaluated on their own terms, but for their failure to live up to the past, idealised standards. It is fair to say, instead, that there is great diversity in NGO practice, including their emergence as a major source of employment for lower middle-class women as well as their promotion of issues that earlier women’s groups never touched, such as female sexuality (Roy 2011; 2015).

The 1990s also saw a fracturing of the nationalist framing of the women’s question in the face of internal critiques by minority feminists. After all, this was a decade of deepening caste- and religion-based cleavages in India, especially through the rise of an aggressive Hindu nationalism as well as caste-based politics; factors that have irrevocably changed the nature of Indian politics (Ray and Katzenstein 2005). In the face of such complex identity politics, the existence of the IWM as a singular, cohesive entity was questioned, as was its claim and ability to speak on the behalf of all women (Menon 2012). This period also saw the remaking of feminist practice in concrete material terms via, for instance, the establishment of a distinctly Dalit feminist position with its own “autonomous” political platforms, such as the National Federation of Dalit Women (Rege 1998). While, for some, such internal critiques of feminism heralded its fracturing and possible death, for others it paved the way for a more intersectional and self-reflexive feminist politics and practice (Sen 2014).

New Feminisms

The 2000s signified a new visibility and direction for Indian feminist activism, a third wave if you want. At the start of the decade, there were a number of spontaneous public protests and vigils led by middle-class youth in urban areas in response to high-profile cases of violence against elite women. An example is that of protests against the murder of model Jessica Lal (Dutta and Sircar 2013). There were also campaigns with explicit feminist agendas, like an Indian version of the international SlutWalk marches in 2011, and the 2009 Pink Chaddi campaign, which encouraged Indian women to mail underwear to members of a right-wing group that had attacked women drinking in a bar for being “un-Indian.” These two events were important forerunners of new feminist interventions into issues of public safety, street sexual harassment, and wider rape culture (epitomised by the anti-rape protests of 2012).

Rather than wait for state authorities to make Indian cities safer for women, new city-based feminist campaigns encouraged women to claim public spaces by and for themselves. They emphasised women’s desires for unconditional freedom in the public domain, including the freedom to access and occupy public spaces without fear, and even to indulge in “risky” behavior like “loitering” (Phadke et al 2011). Alongside local and national feminist campaigns like Why Loiter?, Blank Noise, Take Back the Night Kolkata, and Pinjra Tod, urban women challenged the stigma of menstruation, fought to enter Hindu temples, and broke taboos around speaking out on rape and rape culture.[3]

The primarily middle-class and metropolitan character of these movements influenced both the kinds of issues they were taking up, as well as how they were choosing to do so (via social media). While activists in the IWM had always been middle class, the anti-colonial and socialist roots of the movement meant that class was privileged over all other social variables. By contrast, new feminists were unapologetically mobilising around issues that had particular relevance to them, but they also argued that addressing these issues would have wider implications across class. Their activism seemed to emerge out of and respond to the deficiencies of the feminism that came before them such as a legal feminism focused on women’s victimology alone (Kapur 2005).

The “third wave” also emerged in a time and place of neo-liberalism, enabled by its specific material configurations such as the growing activist use of social media, transnational links with feminist struggles elsewhere, increased education and employment options for women, and rising right-wing efforts to curtail these new freedoms, mobilities, and opportunities. Economic liberalism created, in other words, spaces for Indian women to politically intervene in ways that might not have been possible for previous generations.

For some critics, “new feminisms” were problematic for these very reasons. They were seen to embody and reflect the consumer-oriented, individualistic, and entrepreneurial dispositions of metropolitan middle-class Indian women; in short, “neo-liberal feminism” (Gupta 2016; Gilbertson 2018).[4] Their mainly middle-class composition and their over-reliance on social media as an activist tool also raised concerns of exclusivity and limited reach besides inviting accusations of elitism and Westernisation.

For younger feminists who were part of the SlutWalk, such criticisms were perceived as less to do with elitism or Westernisation than with deep-seated anxieties around the public expression of sexuality (Borah and Nandi 2012). Pink Chaddi and SlutWalk campaigns, according to Borah and Nandi, centred questions of women’s sexual agency, pleasure, and desire in ways that mainstream Indian feminism never had. Generational divides thus intensified in the third wave and in ways that produced monolithic accounts of contemporary feminisms (as being elitist) as well as those preceding them (as being anti-sex).

A Hall of Shame

Towards the end of 2017, the Indian feminist community was riveted by an unexpected and ferocious controversy, following on the heels of the global #MeToo movement that brought these generational conflicts to a head. Raya Sarkar, a graduate student of Indian descent at the University of California, Davis, published (on Facebook) a “list” (hereafter the List) of sexual predators in Indian academia. The cautionary list contained, in the first instance, 60 prominent male academics, located in premier Indian institutions as well as in North America. No context, incidents, details or explanation of crimes were provided. The “public secret” (Baxi 2014) of sexual harassment in the academy exploded in the creation of this digital archive—a hall of shame.

As the List gained traction on social media, a statement was issued by 12 established Indian feminists on the popular political blog, Kafila. It expressed deep discomfort with the act of anonymously naming men as sexual aggressors “with no context or explanation,” and even argued that this could “delegitimise the long struggle against sexual harassment, and make our tasks as feminists more difficult” (Menon 2017). It asked for this initiative to be withdrawn while emphasising the importance of “due process, which is just and fair.” Many felt this was a particularly ironic call, given that an Indian court of law had only recently acquitted a well-known Indian writer and filmmaker who had been convicted of raping an American research scholar. The woman’s “no” to oral sex was converted, by the judge, into a “feeble no,” or, into consensual sex (Safi 2017).

What followed was a veritable split within the feminist community and one that appeared to be along generational lines. Younger feminists were positioned as ungrateful daughters vis-à-vis a feminist vanguard that had paved the way for them and older feminists, as naïve, if not reactionary, in their belief in due process and the law. What started as a generational debate, however, rapidly became one about caste-based differences and hierarchies. Just as it emerged that Sarkar was Dalit, the signatories of the statement on Kafila were identified as Savarna or upper-caste feminists. While the upper-caste politics of metropolitan feminists of the 1990s was called out, these internal differences reached a critical point in this controversy, with Dalit Bahujan feminists accusing upper-caste feminists of subjugating their efforts.

With the List, Dalit Bahujan Adivasi feminists decentered Savarna feminists, and disrupted, perhaps for the first time, nationalist framings of Indian feminism by revealing a vast terrain of multiple contestations and power relations. Rejecting their description as “millennial feminists,” minority activists framed the controversy around the List in terms of the power imbalances between Savarna and Dalit, Bahujan and Adivasi feminists. They made evident that contestations around caste cannot be understood in generational terms alone; they had persisted over time and within every generation of Indian feminists. By placing the voices of minority feminists, many of whom were also “younger” feminists, into the mainstream, the List also nuanced the overdominance of middle-class and upper-caste voices in Indian feminism’s “third wave.” In all these ways, Dalit Bahujan feminists disrupted conventional genealogies of Indian feminism.

Conclusions

Feminism in India has emerged as a subject of contestation, with many asking at several junctures: What is feminism? Who gets to define it, speak on its behalf? Who does it belong to? What is its proper place? Contestations about sexual violence, for example, have invariably become contestations about feminism. These moments are deeply pedagogical in the sense that they teach us how feminism is thought and made sense of, and how there are multiple, competing and even conflictual stories about feminism, and that too, from within its own fold. Such forms of internal critique and contestation are often concealed, if not flattened out, in generational narratives that tend to fix our gaze on differences across time, but not on the problematics of our present. Framed in generational terms, the present is marked by feminist loss, even failure, such as the failures of legal feminisms to provide gender-based justice and the failure of upper-caste Indian feminists to centre the politics of caste (thereby reproducing Brahminical supremacy). Framed in other ways, we could see such moments of feminist failing as pregnant with several possibilities, including greater self-reflexivity, appreciation of hybrid legacies, and the propelling of “Indian feminism” into new directions.

Srila Roy ([email protected]) teaches at the Department of Sociology, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa.
22 October 2018
This article is based on a public lecture that the author was invited to deliver at the Australia India Institute, Melbourne in September 2018. The author would like to thank their hosts, especially Amanda Gilberston, and the anonymous referee at EPW for comments and suggestions
https://www.epw.in/engage/article/metoo-crucial-moment-revisit-history-indian-feminism

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India – Amit Shah’s Blatant Defiance Of Supreme Court Order

BRINDA KARAT

BJP President Amit Shah’s speech in Kerala using, typical of his style, the language of a school bully, should be seen as a direct assault on the Supreme Court of India.

 He said that courts should not give orders which cannot be implemented. Although he was speaking on the Sabarimala judgement reversing the ban on women’s entry into the temple, what he said has wider implications.

For example, this week the court is to hear a petition concerning the Ayodhya issue. Is this an “advance” ominous warning to the apex court: do as we want or face the consequences of your orders being flouted?

 

Following his party chief, Adityanath, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, has already commented that if the court can rule on Sabarimala, it can also for Ayodhya. The link is clear enough.

 

In the years of the Modi Government with Amit Shah at the helm of the ruling party, this country has witnessed leaders of the ruling party and government leading the charge against the constitution of India, against the autonomy of institutions and the subverting of even constitutionally-mandated bodies to the interests of the ruling party.

 The shocking and shameful developments regarding the CBI and the blatant steps taken to protect not the organisation, but to subordinate it to political requirements of those in power, shows that this government is arrogant enough to believe that it can get away with all such transgressions.

 

Earlier, in an unprecedented press conference, four senior justices of the Supreme Court had voiced their concern about the need to protect the independence of the judiciary, precisely because of government interference. Now Amit Shah has taken this a step further by directly threatening the court.

 

The hypocrisy and double standards as far as respect for elected governments are concerned is equally evident.

While Arun Jaitley makes a veiled criticism against the court intervention in the CBI matter saying that decisions of elected governments have to be respected on the principle of accountability, on the same day, his party president Amit Shah threatens the elected government in Kerala that it will be thrown out because it is defending the Supreme Court judgement.

 

In fact, the present central regime has taken steps which undermine the rights of states and elected non-BJP governments which inflict serious damage to the constitutional framework of a federal structure. Amit Shah’s threats in Kerala should be seen in that context.

 

He likened the situation in Kerala to the Emergency. He was reacting to the arrests of 2,000 persons against whom the police have credible and direct evidence of being involved in the forcible prevention of women who wanted to go to the temple.

 

 Amit Shah himself has openly admitted that these are BJP workers. So there should be no misunderstanding that ordinary devotees are being arrested.

 

 A sample of some of the highly provocative statements made by those who Amit Shah defends is from the leader of the so-called Ayyapa Dharma Sena, Rahul Easwar.

 

Out on bail, he announced at a press conference, “There is provision to close the temple if there is a failure in rituals. We also need a Plan B and Plan C…

 

 I am saying this openly. If any one woman between the ages of 10 and 50 tried to enter the temple with the help of the police, about 20 people were ready to make a cut on their hand and shed blood.

 

If that happens, the temple would have to be closed for three days (on account of desecration). There is no need to open it no matter who says so…

 If blood or urine falls on the temple, it has to be closed.” He is the grandson of the main Tanthri (priest) of the temple and he declares that he is prepared to desecrate the temple with urine and blood to keep women out. These are the criminal anti- temple activities being defended by Amit Shah.

 

He is mistaken if he thinks the Kerala government is like the one he runs in Maharashtra. In Maharashtra, after the violence connected with Bhima Koregaon events, the ring leaders belonging to right-wing Sangh Parivar organisations were exonerated and hundreds of Dalits were arrested using draconian laws against them.

 

In contrast, the Kerala government has identified the organised trouble makers, none of whom are ordinary devotees, and is taking action against them.

 

Since the BJP president is against the judgement of the Supreme Court, why does he not go to the Supreme Court in a review?

 

Instead, when the president of the ruling party incites violence against a court judgement and against a government led by an opposition party which upholds the court judgement, is this not the real face of authoritarianism? And these are not just words.

 

The violence and hooliganism directly encouraged and supported by the BJP-RSS saw men attacking and burning the ashram of Swamy Sandeepananda Giri because he has differed from the BJP-RSS and taken a stand in support of the SC judgement.

 

This attack on a widely-respected Swamy also exposes the reality that for the BJP-RSS, it is only the RSS’ Hindutva which is to be promoted and other men and women of the Hindu faith who differ from them will be attacked.

As far as the Sabarimala temple is concerned, keeping women out is not “an ancient practice” since “the deity is celibate” as claimed by Amit Shah and the BJP.

There was no blanket ban on women of fertile age going into the temple until 1991 when the Kerala High Court, acting on a complaint by an individual named S Mahendran, gave an order that henceforth, no woman aged between 10 and 50 can go to the temple.

However, the judgment itself gave examples of how women, including the then Maharani of Travancore in 1940 and others, had not only worshipped at the temple but participated in many temple ceremonies.

 The judgment said: “There was thus no prohibition for women to enter the Sabarimala temple in olden days, but women in large number were not visiting the temple. That was not because of any prohibition imposed by Hindu religion but because of other non-religious factors.

 

 In recent years, many worshippers had gone to the temple with lady worshippers within the age group 10 to 50 for the first rice-feeding ceremony of their children (Choroonu).

 

 The Board used to issue receipts on such occasions on payment of the prescribed charges.” Yet a ban was imposed.

 

When the Supreme Court overturned this ban, the RSS spokespersons in Kerala had actually publicly welcomed it. This makes it clear that the subsequent opposition and u-turn has nothing to do with religious belief.

 Once the RSS-BJP combine saw the protests of one section of people against the judgement, it felt it could utilize this to hit several targets.

The Supreme Court is one. The LDF government in Kerala which has stood firm against the combine’s attempts to inject its communal poison into the polity is another target.

 Progressive forces across political, caste and religious lines who stand for social reform and against Manuvadi ideologies are another clear target of this RSS-BJP’s opposition.

 Amit Shah says that women’s entry into temples cannot be considered a question of equality. This is similar to the upper caste reasoning which has kept Dalits out of many temples even today and which has led to violence against all those Dalits seeking to worship there.

The understanding against women’s entry is based on the Manu Smriti concept of purity/impurity which holds menstruating women and untouchables equally impure.

 

A Dalit may choose to worship in a temple or not, that is an individual choice. Similarly a woman believer may or may not want to go to the Ayyappa temple. A woman in her menstrual cycle may choose not to visit any temple at that time. Again, these are personal choices.

 

But to prevent Dalits forcibly from worshiping at a temple or to ban women from entering a temple because she is of fertile age is, as noted by the Supreme Court, against the fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.

 

The people of Kerala and indeed the people of India need to help teach constitutional values to Amit Shah and the party he leads.

***********************************************

Brinda Karat is a Politburo member of the CPI(M) and a former Member of the Rajya Sabha.

 

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Ayodhya Hearing – “We Have Other Priorities”: Supreme Court Pushes Ayodhya Case To January

Ayodhya hearing: Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi said an appropriate bench will fix a date and adjourned the hearing till January

The Ayodhya temple-mosque dispute will be taken up in the first week of January, the Supreme Court said in a four-minute hearing today that left the ruling BJP facing calls from its leaders as well as hardline Hindu affiliates for an ordinance or special order to facilitate a Ram temple at the site.

“We have our own priorities,” said Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, rejecting an urgent hearing as the Uttar Pradesh government argued that it was a 100-year-old dispute that should be taken up on priority.

The chief justice also said that an “appropriate bench” would decide when to take up daily hearings, indicating that he may not even be one of the judges deciding on the dispute.

The court ruling spurred loud demands for an ordinance within the BJP and various groups linked to its ideological mentor RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh).

Some 14 petitions have challenged the Allahabad High Court’s 2010 verdict partitioning the land into three, between the Sunni Waqf Board, the Nirmohi Akhara and Ram Lalla (infant Lord Ram, a party to the case).

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Ayodhya dispute: In 2010, the Allahabad High Court divided the land three ways between Muslim and Hindu parties

In a cataclysmic event that divided Indian politics forever, the 16th century Babri mosque was razed in December 1992 by Hindu activists who believed it was built on the ruins of an ancient temple marking the birthplace of revered god-king Ram. For the BJP, which has treaded carefully between its promise of development and its core Ayodhya temple agenda, an early hearing could mean a chance to go to its loyal voters with extra credits.

“There should be no debate on this…The court is also not needed. I am worried that Hindus are losing their patience, I don’t know what will happen then,” said Union Minister Giriraj Singh, reacting to the rescheduled hearing.

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said many in the country wanted the case to be heard quickly.

The Press Trust of India quoted the RSS as saying the Supreme Court should take an early decision and if there are hurdles in the path of a temple at the site, the government should bring a law soon.

“The Sangh believes that a Ram Temple should be constructed early at the birthplace and should get land for temple construction at the birthplace. The Supreme Court should take an early decision and if there is any difficulty, the government should make a law to remove hurdles in the construction of the Ram temple to grant land at the Ram Janmabhoomi site,” RSS chief spokesperson Arun Kumar said in a statement.

The Congress and other parties opposed the ordinance route. Former union minister P Chidambaram said: “This is a familiar story. Every 5 years, before the election, the BJP will try to polarise views on Ram mandir. The Congress believes everyone should wait until the Supreme Court decides. I don’t think we should jump the gun.”

28 COMMENTS

Hyderabad lawmaker Asaduddin Owaisi, the chief of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM), dared the government to put out an ordinance “if it had the courage”.

On September 27, the top court had declined to review a 1994 ruling that the government can acquire land that a mosque is built on as a mosque is not integral to Islam. Many believed that decision meant the temple-mosque dispute can be taken up without any delay.

NDTV

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Mumbai University to collaborate with a communal religious entity Adab-e-Islami?

To The Leader of Opposition Maharashtra,
Mumbai, 29 Oct 2018
Dear Sir, Greetings,
I’m a Urdu novelist, Rahman Abbas, hereby desire to bring in your attention that the Depart of Urdu of Mumbai University has organized a poetry reading session on November 2018 but unfortunately, the event has been organized with the collaboration of ‘Adab-e-Islam’, which either a wing or works under the influence of the fundamentalist religious organization Jamat-e-Islami.
I believe that the religion is a personal matter of an individual and the state institutions shouldn’t collaborate with the hardcore fanatics groups be it Jamat-e-Islami or Sanathan Sanstha, however the former group has been accused of silencing the opponents of its ideologies with the use of violence and you have recently taken position against it.
Knowing your courage to expose the fundamentalist and your struggle to uphold the values of the constitution I would request you to raise the issue with the concerned official of the University and the Urdu department.
The Urdu department should be held accountable for establishing collaboration with the organization known for its sectarian ideology and communal nature.
Yours sincerely,
Rahman Abbas 

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‘People Were Standing and Provoking When 8-yr-old Azeem Was Beaten to Death

Madarsa teachers and students said police paid no heed to complaints about drinking and gambling by some Balmiki Camp youth inside the premises.
Begumpur Killing
Mohamamd Azeem, a seven-year-old boy studying in a madarsa in Begumpur locality of South Delhi, was beaten to death by some minors on Thursday evening. Azeem, who hails from Rithath, Haryana, used to study hifz (memorised Quran) at Jamia Faridya Jama Masjid in Malviya Nagar. The incident took place around 1 p.m, during the lunch break, when some students were playing inside the premises.
Nearly, seven youth, including four minors from the Balmiki Camp, allegedly attacked and killed Azeem. They reportedly repeatedly attacked him with a stone, punched him and later, threw him on a bike where he collapsed and died on the spot. Azeem was rushed to hospital where he was declared dead. Five other students  sustained injuries. The Balmiki camp is adjacent to the madarsa and shares the same boundary wall
Azeem was the youngest in his family and had left at a very early age to pursue his education in a madarsa. After the incident, Newsclick went to the spot and talked to people from both sides. As per eyewitness accounts, the people who killed Azeem were the ones who used to barge into the madarsa and would use its premises for activities like gambling, drugs and liquor. “They used to even throw liquor bottles in the compound. It wasn’t once or twice but a daily affair now,” said one of the eyewitness.

As per the madarsa teachers and students, since a very long time, the people of  madarsa had complained to the police about the ill behaviour of some youth from the Balmiki Camp. “The police has not been taking any action, has been trying to dodge the matter and was completely negligent til this grotesque incident took place,” said a man from  the madarsa on the basis of anonymity.
Speaking to Newsclick, Mohammad Mustafa, Azeem’s elder brother, who also studied in the same school said, “At least seven people beat my brother to death. They have a problem with our dress (kurta-paijama), they would taunt us for wearing skull caps. They always used to disrupt the namaz.”
Recalling Thursday’s incident, Mustafa said in a choked voice: “They always used to threaten Azeem that one day they would kill him. The controversy erupted when our teachers and madarsa head asked them not play cards and drink inside the premises. They said ‘Sab karenge, jo ukhdna hai ukhad’ lo (we will do whatever we wish to, do whatever you want to) .People who lives around the are also asked them not to indulge in these activities, but they wouldn’t pay heed and mentally harass us.”
Azeem’s senior and close friend, Mohd Anas told Newsclick,“Whenever we go to the Balmiki Camp to buy our daily stuff, they would tease us, taunt us for our religion and threaten to kill us. After drinking, they would throw the empty liquor bottles inside our hostel. Our campus is open, so it’s very risky at night. Even our principal had complained to the Delhi Police but there was no action. I don’t know why they do not like us. Do we look different?,” he asked.
Newsclick also spoke to the madarsa‘s head, Mohammad Aizaj Ali. Here is what he said, “This madarsa was established in 1880 but is functioning full-fledged since the past 30 years. Such an incident has never happened. Azeem was very bright student. In this early age, he was doing hifz  He was enrolled in the school in 2016,” he said alleging that “some people have been targeting our madarsa since long. When they were beating Azeem, many people were standing and provoking them to kill him. A lady, Saroj, also threatened us with more such cases. This is utterly shocking. We are concerned about the security of our students more than ever. Such an incident has ingrained fear among our students.”

Maulana Mohammad Ali Jauhar, who supervises the madarsa and also looks after the mosque which is in the same compound, said, “I am living here since the 40 years. More than 50 students from different states study here. Three-four children were playing inside the campus and cleaning the shrine, when a lady named Saroj, who lives in the Balmiki Camp, came with four youth and started pelting stones at our students. What I learnt is that they pressed Azeem’s neck and threw him at a bike. He died on the spot. This lady Saroj also threatened us and said that we can’t do anything to them.”
Jauhar added that during Dussehra, a few people from the Balmiki Camp accompanied by Saroj had barged inside the premises and had forcefully burnt the effigy of Ravan.
Here is the picture of an old police complaint registered in 2000 where people from the madarsa and the Balmki camp had signed a paper where it was written that they would no longer throw liquor bottles inside the madarsa campus and both the communities would behave cordially.
Begumpur%20Killing.jpg
Meanwhile, at late night around 3 a.m, four minor boys allegedly involved in the lynching  were arrested under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section 302 (punishment for murder).  The police is also examining the CCTV footage.
Here is what the other side has to say:
One of the arrested minor’s mother, who works as a domestic help, told Newsclick, “I don’t know who did it and what had happened, I was at my job and have no clue about what transpired.”
A visibly shaken Kamlesh, another arrested minor’s mother, said: “I don’t know who killed Azeem. What I have learnt from others is that it started with a fight. The rest I can’t comment as I wasn’t there.”

The parents of the accused had gathered inside the Malviya Nagar police station and not a single parent of the minors was aware of what transpired that day.
Azeem’s Father Khalil, tears rolling down his face, told Newsclick, “Azeem was very close to our hearts as he was the youngest. I don’t know when I will go back to Mewat. How will I console his mother? I have lost my son for nothing. How can someone kill a kid?”
Newsclick also talked Amar, a resident of Balmiki Camp, who was born and brought up in the camp . He said, “I don’t know who has killed Azeem but I have witnessed how some people from our camp used to barge inside madarsa compound and use its premises for drinking alcohol and abusing madarsa students. Muslim brothers were really upset due to their behaviour. I also asked them not drink inside. But they would not listen.”
https://www.newsclick.in/people-were-standing-and-provoking-when-8-yr-old-azeem-was-beaten-death

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