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Son molests Dalit girl, father sets her ablaze in Madhya Pradesh #Vaw #WTFnews

Last Updated: Sunday, May 19, 2013,
Zee Media Bureau

Bhopal: In a shocking incident, a 15-year-old Dalit girl was set afire by a youth’s father whose son was arrested by police on molestation charges filed by the victim.

Reports indicate the Dalit girl suffered 90 percent burn injuries and is battling for her life at a hospital in Bhopal.

The teenage girl was molested by the youth when she had gone out of house for some work, following which her family lodged a FIR against the accused.

Enraged with his son’s arrest, the youth’s father reached at the girl’s place on Saturday and poured kerosene on her and set her ablaze.

The police have registered attempt to murder case against the person.

 

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On The Social Fabric In Narendra Modi’s Gujarat

18 May 2013  By Shivam Vij

Narendra Modi; Pic Courtesy: in.com

Narendra Modi’s phenomenal success story is indeed very interesting; how he shaped his political victories based on to ‘the aam aadmi’ welfare concept is the real catch. Secular intellectuals of our country however blame him for creating an inhuman divide between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat. There are many such things on which NaMo gets cornered!

This is an excerpt from the chapter, ‘The Enemy Within’ in NIIANJAN MUKHOPADHYAY’s book,Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.

From the label of “Master Divider” in India Today in January 2003 to the tag of “The Great Polariser” in the Outlook in July 2012 – Narendra Modi’s image remained static: self-declared champion of one community of people. But the strain Gujarat faced in the course of his tenure has increased manifold.

Wherever I travelled in Gujarat, there was a clear distinction between “us” and “them”. This difference was articulated by several Hindus every time the conversation veered in this direction. In contrast, counterparts among Muslims denied this. The disagreement with the hypothesis stemmed not from a belief and perception that they faced no discrimination but because of a “fear” that accepting such a viewpoint could be interpreted as levelling an allegation that they were being targeted – a risk no Muslim is willing to take after the post-Godhra violence.

The ever-widening gulf that exists amongst Hindus and Muslims at a social level was unmistakable in two places: first, in Bhuj, the headquarters of Kutch district and the epicentre of the 2001 earthquake that actually began the Modi-era in Gujarat’s narrative. The second place where the tattered social fabric of Gujarat becomes evident is in an outgrown village nearly twenty-five kms away from the heart of Ahmedabad – the spiritual headquarters of a community of people who belong to the Pirana sect.

In Bhuj we are in the office of Kutchmitra – the largest selling Gujarati paper in the district. A reporter who requests anonymity, mentions that Muslims in cities and towns of Kutch no longer cook non-vegetarian food at home. Instead, they go to a few Muslim-run restaurants in colonies where only people from their community live. This was done because of social pressure from Hindus. Kutch incidentally has the highest percentage of Muslims – twenty-one per cent – in the state.

The reporter continued his narrative on changed social customs in Kutch in the past decade: whenever there is a marriage in a Muslim family and they wish to invite Hindu business associates (there are no friends across communities- rishta sirf zaroorat ka hee hai – the relationship is purely need-based) – they make a special announcement in the wedding card. There will be a separate- and sanitized- dining hall for “Hindu guests” at the wedding reception.

The second place which testifies to the dramatic transformation of inter-community relationships in Gujarat in the aftermath of the post-Godhra violence is at the shrine in Pirana, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, whose followers have ancestral roots in Kutch. This religious order was established almost five hundred years ago by Imam Shah, a deviant from Islam who has often been given the tag of a Sufi for want of another label. He set up the sect and initially drew followers from the community of Patels of Anjar Taluka in Kutch.

 

Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay; Tranquebar Press

The temporal head of Satyapanthis – as the followers were named – fused practices of Islam with Hindu traditions and evolved a code of his own. The Patels integrated with Muslim followers (Syeds) of Imam Shah who ran his religious order on democratic lines with a governing council taking all key decisions. The council consisted of ten people — seven Patels and three Syeds and the successors of Imam Shah (called Kaka) were selected by mutual consultation over the past five centuries.

Soon, the Satyapanthis — like several other communities emerged as a small little third religious group, distinct from Hindus and Muslims. The outsider status of Satyapanthis started coming under strain from the late 1980s due to several reasons: growing sentiment among Patel followers and the then Kaka to give a greater “Hindu-thrust” to the sect and convert each member into a “political Hindu” being the most significant one. Called a dargah till then, the shrine came to be frequently referred to as a temple — deifying Shri Nishkalanki Narayan Bhagwan. The tombs which lay scattered around the shrine were one-by-one adorned with Hindu motifs. Rituals inside the sanctum sanctorum — the tomb of Imam Shah — acquired Hindu characteristics. In 1997, when I visited the shrine as part of a study on inter-community relations in Kutch, I still found Syeds among the regular devotees.

This was not the case in 2012 and a lot other than this had also changed. To begin with, the main gate of the dargah had been shut — which was a typical medieval structure and had a distinct influence of Islamic architecture. The entry to the shrine was now through a huge ornate gate, typical of temples with ample resources. The gate led into the main building of what was initially an adjunct but has now become the principal shrine. Inside the old dargah, barring the graves everything has a “Hindu look”. In the past decade, the Satyapanthis witnessed their gods being taken away.

The head of the governing council, the current Kaka got agitated with my probing questions – pertaining to the virtual disappearance of Syeds from the shrine and the reasons why the original main gate was closed. Syeds may have been virtually turned away from what used to be their shrine also till a decade ago, but their “presence” still causes problems — especially for Modi.

In September 2011, Modi launched a much-publicised officially-run campaign to promote social harmony. Called Sadbhavna Mission, the name was similar to programmes initiated by several Indian political leaders in the past with the intent of invoking secular-tokenism and have been accompanied by appropriate symbolism. But Modi did not make any gesture signalling public overtures to Muslims. The Sadbhavna Mission grabbed headlines after Modi’s refusal to accept a skull cap associated with Muslims though he accepted the shawl.

Media reports called the cleric a Sufi leader – Syed Imam Shahi Sayed. But, he is one of the deposed members of the governing council of Satyapanthis. Due to this deposition, Sayed now speaks more like a Muslim and less like a believer of a rebel-sect. He told journalists that ‘Modi’s refusal to accept the cap is not my insult but an insult to Islam.’ The contention of Vijay Rupani, BJP spokesman was similar to what Modi told me in an interview:

‘Narendra Modi has clearly said that his policy is not of appeasement of a section of society unlike other parties, but our approach is development for all and treating everyone as equal.’

In less than a decade and a half, Kutch has witnessed social stratification that will be difficult to undo. Similarly, the Pirana Dargah has lost its name, its spiritual pluralism and a large section of its followers who have tragically reverted back to the faith from where the founder branched out. Though the onset of these developments pre-dates the Modi era in Gujarat, it reached acute and probably irreversible levels of disconnect in his tenure coinciding with the period when the “us” and “they” have become more antagonistic.

When I had begun working on this biography I was painfully aware that the nascent schisms which I had witnessed in Gujarat in 1997 would have been brutally prised wider. The crudeness with which the divisions in the state were amplified, I was sure, would yield multiple narratives. To ensure that I did not stray from the narrative I was in search of — my own “Modinama”– I consciously decided to restrict my visit to only Pirana Dargah (as I still insisted on calling the place) and Kutch instead of travelling to other places in Gujarat known for spiritual diversity which includes Hindu folk deities.

*

One of the most emotive reasons behind the pillorying of the “other” by Hindus in Gujarat has been the sustained campaign advocating that “they” are swamping “us” — it was also the underlying sentiment of Modi’s Ame paanch, Amara pachhees (we are five and we have twenty-five) speech — that echoed the old argument of rabid Hindu communalists that “Muslims breed more”. But this claim is not consistent with census data based on religion from the pre-independence period. Religious demography of Gujarat is also available in post-independent India through the various decadal census reports.

According to this, the first census in 1951 pegged Gujarat’s Muslim population at 8.9 per cent. But in 1951, the state as we know was yet to be formed and a better representative figure would be 1961 which lowered the figure by half a point to 8.4 per cent. According to census data of 1971, 1981, 1991 and 2001 the percentage of Muslims in Gujarat remained more or less similar and touched 9.1 per cent in the latest headcount for which religion-wise data has been tabulated — an increase for sure but not dramatic or alarming by any yardsticks to merit propagation of myths regarding higher breeding rates among Muslims.

The “breed more” theory also gets knocked off by data presented by the committee appointed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, to study the “social, economic and educational” status of Muslims in India. Called the Sachar Committee in popular parlance, it found that contraceptive prevalence rate among Muslim couples is almost equal to the overall state rate.

Among Christians there has been an increase of only 0.2 percentage points between 1991 and 2001, but it could be argued that in absolute terms the number is fairly high because of small numbers of Christians in the state. From a total number of almost eighty thousand Christians in 1951 the numbers had increased to more than two lakh eighty-four thousand in 2001. In absolute numbers, the data has been used as a handy tool to spread the campaign of hate and distrust with an aim to heighten paranoia.

The propagandist approach with use of distorted demographic data has often been used as a justification for anti-conversion laws in different states. Gujarat too joined the list of such states in 2003 with the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act. The most contentious part of the law was that permission has to be sought from the local administration by any person wishing to either convert personally to another faith or act as the “convertor” by virtue of being a priest, maulvi or pandit. After being notified in 2008, the law was challenged in the High Court in March 2009 but though a notice was sent to the state government, there has been little progress towards hearing the plea filed by Gujarat United Christian Forum for Human Rights and some other petitioners.

The main basis on which the law has been challenged is that it violates Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which states that every citizen is ‘equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practise and propagate religion.’ The law virtually makes inter-religious marriages effectively impossible unless it has the consent of both families. But if a couple risks bravery, then there are always some people who are forever ready with “corrective steps.”

Gujaratis account for almost five per cent of the Indian population which Modi now keeps reminding everyone, adds up to six crores. With a Muslim population close to nine per cent it almost seems that Modi has to contend with more than five million people, the majority of whom by and large feel alienated from his government. I asked Modi about this, arguing that whether we like it not, Muslims and the issue of their existence cannot be brushed aside.

I contended that since there were a large numbers of Muslims in Gujarat it was necessary to include them in the state’s political evolution and growth. Or did he think they could be kept outside?

Modi of course said that he pursued an inclusive approach to politics but did not believe that there was need for any extra thrust for any group which according to him was “appeasement”. I asked him further if he felt that there was any need for him to invite people for dialogue if there was a sentiment of disgruntlement? His reply can be interpreted in several ways and he said: ‘I am always ready (for a dialogue). My doors were open… anyone can come, everyone is welcome, I am ready anytime, every time.’

But there are critics from within his fraternity who felt that Modi had not done enough to assuage the hurt of 2002. Govindacharya is one of them. I asked him about his assessment of the progression of social tension between 2002 and 2012. In reply, he said:

The situation has not eased – instead is similar to a wound which is bandaged – no healing. On the contrary, I have noticed that whenever society cannot find any solution there is a danger of a section slipping into a phase of melancholy. This is the opposite of the violent phase. I very often find Gujarat to be going through this phase of melancholy.

I wanted him to be more specific, which section of the society did he mean? He was unambiguous: Muslims. ‘This is the reason why they are not able to uplift themselves and are not able to contribute for the growth and development of Gujarat. Now I am not sure how this stagnancy will take a turn in the future – will it become a fodder or will it take a turn of assimilating tendency – there is a huge question mark on this. Unfortunately, I see no efforts being made to turn this into an assimilating tendency. All these Sadbhavna Yatras and other similar programmes are all varnishing efforts – they are not repair work.’

 

 

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Gandhian activist arrested in MP, adivasis up in arms

Bhopal, May 17, 2013

 

Staff Reporter

 
A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.

The Hindu A file picture of Gandhian activist Madhuri Krishnaswami who was arrested for fighting against the injustice meted out to adviasis in Madhya Pradesh.
 
 

Madhuri Krishnaswamy, a leader of the Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS) – which works for health and labour rights in the south-western Madhya Pradesh – was sent to judicial custody for a fortnight, on Thursday. Ms. Krishnaswamy, popularly called Madhuri Ben, and four others were summoned by Judicial Magistrate First Class D. P. Singh Sewach in Barwani on Thursday for a 2008 case of rioting and assaulting a public servant.

The police, in fact, had filed a closure report for lack of evidence, but the court took cognizance of the testimony of plaintiff Vijay Chouhan and summoned the respondents. Only Madhuri Ben appeared and was sent to Khargone Women’s Prison after she refused to seek bail. Two of the four others are already on bail. The others are expected to be arrested soon.

In 2008, Madhuri had alerted health and police officials after a tribal woman was forced to deliver her child on the road, after been evicted from a primary health centre by the compounder Mr. Chouhan. He also filed the case against the JADS, was suspended only to be reinstated later.

JADS activists picketed at six police stations in Barwani district on Friday. Union rural development minister was also in the district for the Congress’ Parivartan Yatra. “We told him that arresting the person who exposed the government is injustice. He said he spoke to the chief secretary. We also told him that we are only getting Rs. 22 to 26 as MNREGA wages (instead of the stipulated Rs. 100). He did not say anything,” Harsing Jamre of the JADS told The Hindu.

District superintendent of police R. C. Burra told this reporter, “We had to arrest her as the court ordered it… He (Mr. Jairam Ramesh) asked about her and we gave him all the details of the case.”

Ms. Krishnaswamy is scheduled to appear before the Chief Judicial Magistrate on May 30.

She was served a show-cause notice of externment from the district administration, last year, which accused her of preventing officials from doing their duties. This came after she protested against the death of a tribal woman after 27 hours of labour without medical help. Mr. Ramesh had then too written to chief secretary R. Parasuram to intervene.

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#India – Clinical drug trials in Rajasthan claim 95 lives

STAFF REPORTER, tHE hINDU

291 cases of serious adverse events reported

Drug trials on humans in Rajasthan over the last eight years have claimed 95 lives, while 291 persons experienced serious adverse events, according to the State government’s latest deposition before the Supreme Court in an ongoing public interest litigation.

While informing the apex court of the figures, the Rajasthan government has sought to be made part of the overall monitoring and regulatory framework regarding clinical trials in order to protect the health of its citizens, deal with rogue trials and expedite the compensation process.

The 95 deaths include those caused due to the trials, besides deaths due to the natural history of the disease and other unrelated health events.

Four cases of death were deemed fit for compensation by sponsor companies out of which two had been compensated, while the process of compensating the other two was on.

This information was revealed in an affidavit submitted earlier this year by Rajasthan Chief Secretary C.K.Matthew to the Supreme Court, hearing a public interest litigation petition. A committee appointed by the state government came up with these figures after collecting data from 60 principal investigators regarding 213 clinical trials, conducted between 2005-2012.

However, the total number of deaths could be much higher as a total of 326 trials were conducted in Rajasthan during this period.

Some of the drugs for which trials were conducted include Talactoferril, Kremezin, Aliskirel, SU011248 (code name), Prasugrel and Clopidogrel.

In line with responses from other State governments in the case, the Rajasthan government too, has argued for higher powers to the States in the overall monitoring and regulatory framework regarding clinical trials.

“Certainly, the State government needs to be part of the whole process or else how are we to know what steps are to be taken [to deal with rogue trials],” Mr. Matthew told The Hindu .

In its deposition, a copy of which is with The Hindu , the Rajasthan government argued that while the Drugs and Cosmetic Act 1945 was a Central legislation, the State government was primarily responsible for the health of its citizens.

“The data would clearly reveal that sometimes clinical trials have significant adverse impact on the health of patients…existing rules need to be amended accordingly, especially with regard to immediate care for persons suffering SAEs and…with respect to compensation [in case of mortality],” the State government has argued.

It has also called for the strengthening of the existing framework “with sufficient safeguards…with penalties as well as adequate compensation”.

The government argued in favour of an online monitoring system for persons undergoing trials and a proper accreditation system for the selection of principal investigators in which the State government should have a role to play.

Since almost all Ethics Committees overseeing the propriety of the trial process are in-house bodies of sponsor hospitals of which Principal Investigators are also members, the government has called for Ethics Committees to be detached from trial sponsoring sites/institutes.

According to information submitted to the court by the Union Health Secretary in the case, a total of 2,644 deaths and 11,972 SAEs were reported during clinical trials in India between January 2005 and June 2012.

 


  • State government seeks higher powers in overall monitoring, regulatory framework
  • Government argues in favour of online monitoring system

 

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Madhuri from Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghathan Arrested #Stateoppression #Vaw #Tribalrights

– Anubha Rastogi

Madhuri from Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sanghatan has been arrested today afternoon in a case that was filed against her and others as a result of protests for forcing a pregnant woman i.e. Baniya Bai who was in a critical condition and was in labour to deliver in full public view just outside the Menimata PHC.
The case was filed against Madhuri, Baniya Bai’s Husband, Basant and others by the compounder and was registered as FIR No 93 of 2008. Madhuri and others had received a court notice to appear in the Court of Shri D.P. Singh Sewach, JMFC on 16th May. Madhuri appeared and was informed that the police had filed a closure report (khatma) but had not stated clear reasons for the closure and therefore the report was refused. Madhuri was arrested from the court complex. She has been remanded in JC till 30th May 2013 and will be placed in Khargone women’s Jail.
This case of baniya Bai is also part of the writ petition filed in the High Court Of MP, Indore Bench in which the status of maternal health services was raised in light of 29 maternal deaths recorded in a span of 9 months in barwani DH.
Details of the case are as follows:
 
A ST resident of of village Sukhpuri, Barwani. Baniya Bai was taken to the Menimata PHC for delivery by her father-in-law, Dalsingh, on the night of 11 November 2008.  They made the 15 km journey on a bullock cart because no other transport was available.  After admitting and taking a cursory look at her, the compounder, V.K. Chauhan, and nurse, Nirmala, left the PHC and went home.  
 
The next morning, Baniya was forced by the compounder and the nurse to leave the hospital.  Her family was asked for Rs. 100, which they did not have and so Dalsing immediately went to get money from their village.  Despite attempts to re-admit Baniya Bai to the PHC, the compounder flatly refused saying that they could not manage the delivery so she would have to go to Barwani DH or Silawad Hospital. 
 
Baniya’s relatives tried to get the Menimata hospital compounder, nurse and staff to call for the Janani Express, but were unsuccessful. The family was told to make its own arrangements to refer to a higher hospital.  When forced to leave the PHC Baniya Bai crawled out of the labour room, on to the road outside the PHC, where she lay down in severe pain.  
 
Eventually, Baniya’s mother-in-law, Suvali Bai, went looking for a Dai in the marketplace and found Jambai Nana, who had come to market collect her wages. After hearing about Baniya Bai’s situation, Jambai agreed to assist her, and at around 12PM, conducted a normal delivery on the road outside the hospital. The father-in-law gave his dhoti (loin cloth) to provide cover for Baniya Bai during delivery. Following this incident, a crowd gathered outside the health centre. 
 
Madhuri was passing by, inquired about what was happening. She then called up the Silawad CHC, the Silawad Police Station as well as health officials from Barwani. Upon being informed, senior officials from the health department ordered for a vehicle to be sent immediately to the Menimata PHC. After being denied emergency obstetric care and being forced to deliver in public view, Baniya Bai’s and her child were taken to the Silawad Hospital for admission. The compounder was suspended after repeated demands for action from JADS, but was soon reinstated.

 

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Paid news pandemic undermines democracy

May 10, 2013

P. Sainath, The Hindu

Top civil society bodies are challenging the government’s ‘counter-affidavit’ in the Paid News case which seeks to gut the Election Commission’s powers

In a major twist to the Ashok Chavan vs. Madhav Kinhalkar legal battle (more notorious as the “Paid News” scandal), leading civil society organisations and eminent individuals have approached the Supreme Court to implead themselves into the case.

Their intervention application, moved by advocate Prashant Bhushan, minces no words on their reasons for doing so. They are disturbed by “the stranglehold of money power on our electoral politics.” And by a recent move of the Union Law Ministry which could destroy the Election Commission of India’s power to disqualify candidates filing incorrect or false accounts.

The applicants for intervention hope to defeat “the nefarious design” of the Union government which seeks to “undo all the good work done by the Election Commission of India.” And which further seeks, to “unsettle the law already settled” by the Supreme Court of India. They wish to ensure that the ECI “retains the plenitude of its power and authority to safeguard the purity and integrity of the electoral process.” Which includes holding candidates to account on poll expenses.

This action follows the Union Law Ministry filing a counter-affidavit on behalf of the Government in the Ashok Chavan case. That affidavit, first reported by The Hindu on March 20, asserts that “the power of the Election Commission to disqualify a person arises only in the event of failure to lodge an account of expenses and not for any other reason, including the correctness or otherwise of such accounts.” Simply put: the government claims the ECI has no right to disqualify a candidate even if his accounts are found to be improper or fraudulent. If accepted, this would virtually gut the powers of that Constitutional body. (However, the Court is yet to give any ruling on the matter.)

Those seeking to intervene include Common Cause, a public interest body. Its legal activism on electoral matters had a role in the Supreme Court’s ordering that political parties had to file regular returns of income or invite possible penal action. Also in the line-up is the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a group at the forefront of many battles for electoral and political reforms. Vital among those, a public interest litigation (PIL) of ADR in 1999, which later saw the Supreme Court order candidates to disclose their criminal, financial and educational background prior to the polls.

That is, by filing an affidavit with the ECI. Common Cause and ADR are joined by five other civil society bodies in this application.

The line-up of distinguished individuals includes veteran journalist and editor B.G. Verghese, former Chief Election Commissioners of India (CEC) N. Gopalaswami and J.M. Lyngdoh, and former adviser to the ECI, K.J. Rao.

The immediate beneficiary of the UPA government’s attack on the ECI’s powers is the disgraced ex-chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan. As former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami has pointed out: “The government has joined Mr. Chavan in challenging the Election Commission’s power to disqualify a candidate under Section 10A of the Act for his failure to submit a correct and true rendering of his election expenditure” (The Hindu, April 17, 2013). The former CEC clearly sums up the impulse for civil society action: “The case before the Supreme Court is no longer one of Dr. Kinhalkar and others vs Ashok Chavan. It concerns every individual and institution that is uneasy about and opposed to the sway of money power in elections.” — See “Doublespeak on electoral reforms, April 17, 2013, The Hinduthne.ws/gopalaswami

Mr. Chavan not only lost his post in the fallout of the Adarsh scam, but also earned notoriety in the “Paid News scandal,” a story broken by The Hindu(See: “Is the ‘Era of Ashok’ a new era for ‘news’”, thne.ws/era-of-ashok, November 29, 2009).

Destructive

The applicants for intervention in the case note there is “a growing concern that the pandemic of Paid News is eating into the vitals of our democratic polity by compromising the purity of the elections and destroying the credibility of the print/electronic media.” They cite the case of Umlesh Yadav, MLA from Uttar Pradesh, who was disqualified by the ECI for three years. Ms Yadav had failed “to account for an expenditure of Rs. 21,250 on an advertisement that had appeared in the disguise of a news item in the Dainik Jagran,” of April 17, 2007.

They note that “Umlesh Yadav pales into insignificance in comparison to the media blitzkrieg” launched in support of Ashok Chavan’s 2009 Assembly election campaign. And that the Government of India which had ostensibly taken a strong public position on Paid News and praised the ECI’s efforts to curb it, “has filed a counter affidavit which reveals its true colours.”

The Election Commission is also likely to file an affidavit opposing the government’s pro-Chavan counter-affidavit.

[email protected]

 

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Narendra Modi – Manual Scavenging is a Spiritual Experience #WTFnews

MAINSTREAM, VOL LI, NO 18, APRIL 20, 2013

On Modi’s Social Engineering

Subhash Gatade

 

The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables?

Dr B.R. Ambedkar

Can shit collection or cleaning of gutters—which has condemned lakhs of people to a life of indignity since ages—be considered a ‘Spiritual Experience’? Definitely not. Everybody would yell. Well, Mr Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, has a different take on this, which he mentions in the book ‘Karmayog’ (publication year 2007).

The book is basically a collection of his speeches to high-profile IAS officials. Herein he discusses the age-old caste-based vocation of the Valmikis as an “experience in spirituality”. He writes: “I do not believe that they have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after gene-ration…. At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible to believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.”

Looking at the fact that a section of the Dalits themselves—especially its upwardly mobile and more articulate section—has joined the Hindutva bandwagon, it was expected that there would be no angry reaction to his utterances within the State. A section of the Ambedkarite Dalits and many human rights activists did protest but their voices got drowned in the cacophony of voices of Modi supporters. It is a different matter that when Modi’s remark got published in The Times of India in mid-November 2007, which was later translated in a few Tamil news-papers, it resulted in a massive reaction of Dalits in Tamil Nadu. Not only did they stage protests for calling their menial job a “spiritual experience” but Modi’s effigies were burnt in different parts of the State. Sensing trouble Modi immediately withdrew 5000 copies of the book, but still stuck to his opinion. Two years later, addressing 9000-odd safai karmacharis, he likened the safai karmacharis’ job of cleaning up others’ dirt to that of a temple priest. He told them: “A priest cleans a temple every day before prayers, you also clean the city like a temple. You and the temple priest work alike.”

One was reminded of these ideas of Mr Modi when news came in that the Budget for the coming year passed by the Gujarat State Assembly has allocated a sum of Rs 22.5 lakhs for giving training in karmkand (rituals) to the safai kamdars themselves. The idea is to train them in scriptures so that they can perform puja. It is clear that the ‘new scheme’, as it was presented before the people, was just a revised version of its earlier version wherein members of the Scheduled Castes were given training to become ‘Gurubrahmins’ so that they could also perform pujas. Insiders can also share with you that the said scheme has miserably failed and people who were trained to perform pujas are still searching for jobs.

It could well be asked that if Modi values safai karmacharis so highly, why is it that he has begun outsourcing all the menial jobs for a very low pay, between Rs 3000 and Rs 3500 per month per worker? Why are they not being employed on a permanent basis? A leading Dalit poet raised an altogether different question: “Why didn’t it occur to Modi that the spirituality involved in doing menial jobs hasn’t ever been experienced by the upper castes?”

It is worth emphasising that when the Gujarat Government declared its intention to train safai kamdars in karmkand, supposedly to integrate them into the mainstream of the Hindu society, it also happened to be the period when the anti-Dalit stance of the people in power was very much evident in two clear examples: the manner in which the State officials tried to cover up the social boycott of Dalits in a village, and the way they tried to save the guilty police officials involved in Dalit killings; both of these had already hit the headlines.

Not very many people would have heard about the village Galsana, Dhanduka tehsil, Ahmedabad district, which is around 100 kms from the city. The Dalits in the village, who are about 500 in number, are not allowed entry into any of the five temples in the village. The younger generation of Dalits protested this ban which resulted in their social boycott. When the news last came in, the boycott was already a few months old. Incidentally when officers from the Social Justice Department visited the village, they did not even acknowledge that Dalits are facing social boycott, forget asking the police to take action against the guilty.

The other news concerned the arrest of guilty police officials involved in the gruesome killings of Dalits at Thangarh. (September 2012) After four months, cop Jadeja and two other accused police officials in the Thangarh Dalit massacre case were arrested on February 23, 2013. It is reported that the killings at Thangarh were the fallout of a minor clash between Dalits and Bharwads over auctioning of stalls at an annual fair organised by the Thangarh municipality. When the Dalits filed a complaint against the Bharwads at the police station, the police refused to take any action; the anger of the Dalits spilled over onto the streets the next day which saw the participation of Dalits in large numbers and the police resorting to strong-arm tactics resulting in the killings. Despite knowing the fact that the infamous police officer had on an earlier occasion also fired upon the Dalits without any provo-cation, the administration tried every trick in its kitty to save him and his colleagues. It was only because of judicial intervention that they were ordered to be arrested.

Galsana and Thangarh can be said to be tip of the iceberg as far as Dalit deprivation and denial of justice is concerned. In fact much has been written about the way the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Atrocities Prevention) Act, 1989 is implemented in the State. One finds that the rate of conviction of cases under the Prevention of Atrocity Act against SCs/STs in Gujarat is a mere 2.5 per cent while the rate of acquittal is 97.5 per cent. A 23-page confidential report submitted by the State Social Justice Department to the State Chief Secretary and Legal Department provides glaring examples of ‘mishandling of cases registered under Prevention of Atrocities Act against SCs/STs’. (The Indian Express, September 15, 2006)

The report provides details of how cases are not investigated properly by the police and the hostile role played by public prosecutors during the time of trials.

• The Act clearly stipulates that offences which are registered under this Act cannot be investigated by an officer below the rank of DySP but more than 4000 such cases have been investigated by the Police Inspector or Police Sub-Inspector.

• Acquittal of the perpetrator because the victim not identified as a member of the SC or ST community. Reason: not attaching caste certificate of the victim with the case papers.

• Public prosecutors’ false claims before the courts that the Act has been modified by the State Government although it is known that it is a Central Act.

• Granting of anticipatory bails although there is no such provision in the Act. Interestingly, the Parliamentary Committee on SC and ST affairs had also expressed concern over such anticipatory bails granted ‘in atrocity cases in the State of Gujarat’.

In this backdrop it is worth underlining how little Mr Modi knew about this important law and its implications. One could rather say that in Gujarat the Chief Minister is directly responsible for the non-implementation of the Atrocity Act. As Raju Solanki, the famous poet and Dalit rights activist, writes in his blog:

It was on April 16, 2004, that a question was asked to Chief Minister Modi in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly: “Honourable Chief Minister [Home] may oblige us to tell, is it true that the DSP is responsible for the appointment of an officer not below the rank of DySP as investigating officer in the offences under the Atrocities Act?” The answer of our Chief Minister was shocking. He said: “No, but there is a provision under rule 7 (1) of SC/ST Act, 1995 to appoint officers not above the rank of DySP to inquire into all cases booked under atrocities act. It is not the responsibility of the DSP.”

The officer not above the rank of DySP” means he may be a PSI or PI and in most of the atrocities cases courts acquit the accused because the investigation officer is either a PSI or PI. Over 150 such judgments collected by the Council for Social Justice revealed that in 95 per cent of the cases, the accused have been acquitted because of negligence on the part of the authorities. In a number of these cases, while the accused has been convicted under the IPC section for murder and attempt to murder, he has gone scot-free on the atrocity charge.

In the end, one would like to put on record the way the presence of Dalits in records is being obliterated without any qualims. During the panchayat elections, Nathu Vadla, a small village of Gujarat with hardly 1000 population, had suddenly hit the headlines. The panchayat election in this village was to have been conducted on the basis of the 2001 data. The village has at least 100 Scheduled Caste people and one seat was to be reserved as per law, but the census data has not been modified since in 2001 the SC population was nil in the village; the election in 2013 was to have been conducted on the basis of the 2001 census. Here also the courts had to intervene to stay the election in the village. The Gujarat High Court stayed the election in the village saying that the electoral exercise in the circumstances would be a ‘mockery of democracy’.

 

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#India -Why Narendra Modi should not be the PRIME MINISTER

T.K.ARUN.MODI1 TNN, T K ARUN
Narendra Modi should not become the prime minister, because that would destroy the idea of India as a nation that celebrates unity in diversity, where multiple identities prosper in harmony and dignity. Equally, democracy and the rule of law would be casualties under Modi. For the BJP, Modi’s ascent to the top would mean a hasty end to any hope of evolving into a centre-right party minus a Hindu majoritarian agenda.

The tutored rants of a pseudo-secular hack who cannot see the glory of growth, prosperity and social harmony achieved in Gujarat under Modi’s leadership? That, of course, would be the typical reaction of Modi’s fan following, whose ardour only grows with every objection to their leader’s elevation to the pinnacle of power. But passion and protest are no substitute for the analysis of hard facts.

Gujarat has indeed prospered under Modi. Modi is an able administrator, gives scope for innovative ideas from bright sparks in the bureaucracy to be deployed on the ground. He has been able to curb petty corruption at the retail level. The state has a viable power sector and everyone pays his bill. All this is true.

Much of it is true for other states as well, except for the success story in power. Bihar has grown faster than Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra more or less match its growth rates. And Gujarat lags in reducing poverty, showing that the growth it achieves is rather lopsided. Women have a raw deal, with high levels of anaemia and low levels of college education, compared to several other states.

Gujaratis are an enterprising people, have been the most enthusiastic in taking advantage of liberalisation and globalisation and have propelled economic growth in their state. The chief minister certainly can take credit for not standing in the way but even more certainly cannot take credit for the Gujarati business acumen accumulated over history.

But Modi’s vaunted achievement is not just to have led growth. There is no denying his charisma as a leader, the conviction and force with which he speaks and his ability to move his audience with oratory.

Leadership power, unfortunately, is not an automatic argument in his favour. What he leads his followers to becomes all the more important, the more inspirational he is as a leader. And this is where the rub is. What he believes in, what he has practised, is extremely divisive, inimical to liberal democracy.

Modi is not on the best terms with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. This is not because the Sangh suspects him of any ideological deviation. Rather, Modi personifies the Sangh’s belief system. The problem is that Modi is too authoritarian to accept the discipline even of the Sangh. This authoritarian streak has manifested itself as quashing of dissent and fostering of leaders like Amit Shah, prime accused in encounter killings, extortion rackets.

It is not factually true that there have been no attacks on Muslims in Gujarat after the pogroms of 2002, but there has been relative peace. Under his government, the Sangh Parivar has taught the Muslims of Gujarat to live as second class citizens, their safety and security guaranteed not so much by the commitment of the state to protect the rights of citizens as by patronage conditional on good behaviour. This, indeed, was the ideal laid down by the Sangh’s Guru Golwalkar, who strongly believed that India should be the land of Hindus and followers of other religions should live here not as equal citizens under a secular constitution but as second class citizens enjoying truncated rights. The Sangh no longer says this openly but nor has it repudiated its most influential leader’s teachings. The Sangh and all the organisations it has formed and/patronised, including the BJP, propagate the myth that Hindus are an oppressed, exploited group in India while the minorities are coddled with undue benefits. This myth is used to fan hatred towards non-Hindus and to unify Hindus on the basis of such hatred.

This attempt is inimical to democracy and peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths. It is also inimical to the traditional Hindu ethos. At the level of theology, Hinduism recognises no deviance in the pursuit of spiritual equilibrium, tantric sex and austere, ascetic, intellectual pursuit of the ultimate and everything in-between being all equally acceptable. With a pantheon that has more gods than there were Hindus at the time of Independence, Hinduism has no problem accepting a few more gods, whatever their names.

Inclusiveness with regard to multiple paths of spirituality is not the same thing as tolerance. Hindus have little tolerance when it comes to caste trespasses. That honour killings continue even today stands testimony to this form of intolerance. Yet, the philosophical core of Hinduism, advaita, lends itself to radical interpretations that negate caste and see universal humanity across nations, races and other divisions. One such interpretation was espoused by Vivekananda, whose views have little in common with the sectarian vision of the Sangh and its acolytes like Modi. For Vivekananda, all religions lead to spiritual realisation, just as all rivers lead to the ocean. For the Sangh and Modi, Muslims and Islam are anathema. This has nothing to do with Vivekananda or his thought.

Hypocrisy, intolerance and authoritarianism will become instituted in the central government, if Modi were to become prime minister. For any other BJP leader, such institutionalisation would be a risk, countered by the system’s inertia. With Modi, that would be a certainty.

India’s prosperity depends on voluntary unity of its constituent diversity. Attempts to subordinate some sections will inevitably lead to schism. The deep alienation induced by the bloody campaign to demolish the Babri mosque is still playing out as occasional terror strikes. The point is to create integration and inclusion, not further alienation that descends into civil war.

 

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Whose side are you on?

 

By Javed Anand

Leaders and the led from a host of rightwing Indian Muslim organisations – Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JEI), All India Muslim Majlis-e Mushawarat, All India Milli Council, All Bengal Minority Youth Federation, West Bengal Sunnat Al Jamaat Committee included – have not been sleeping well in the last several weeks. Their angst is on two counts. One, the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT) set up by the ruling Awami League in 2009 to investigate and prosecute suspects for the genocide committed in 1971 by the Pakistan army and their local collaborators, Razakars, Al-Badr and Al-Shams during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971. Two, the “atheist conspiracy” to banish Islam from Bangladesh that is supposedly behind the lakhs who have been thronging Shahbagh. 

So far, nearly a dozen men including nine currently top-ranking leaders of the Jamaat, the largest Islamist party in Bangladesh, have been held guilty and served stiff sentences. According to the sleepy-heads, the ongoing trials are a sham, a mere cover for the ruling Awami League’s “vendetta politics” against the Jamaat and its youth wing, Islami Chhatra Shibir. That the Jamaat had any hand in the genocide is news to them.

“Islamists are the most principled, pious, god-fearing and kind people on the earth… It’s far beyond their high moral standards to rape or kill someone,” claims a JEI spokesperson in an email. This is news to me. Are the Jamaat-Shibir supporters in India ignorant, wilfully blind, or do we smell theological affinity here to a totalitarian ideology parading as Islamic?

Keep the genocide of 1971 aside for the moment and take a look at what the “most kind” have been up to in recent years.

April 26, 2011: “A judicial commission has concluded that over 200 Hindu women were raped following the 2001 parliamentary election, forcing many terrorized families to flee the country. The acts were allegedly committed by cadres of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its ally Jamaat-e-Islami who won the 2001 polls, the report said, citing the involvement of many top leaders and lawmakers of the alliance that is now in the opposition… It lists 3,625 incidents of major crimes, including killing, rape, arson and looting”. (IANS report from Dhaka published by the Muslim news portal, Two Circles).

 September 26, 2005: Syed Najibul Bashar Maizbhandari, international affairs secretary of the ruling Bangladesh National Party (BNP) resigns from the party protesting “the government’s failure to act” against the Jamaat-e-Islami (part of the then ruling coalition) which he said had direct links to terrorist activities across the country. The Daily Star published from Dhaka, quoted police records that the over 100 militants who were arrested during 2005 in connection with the bombings (including the simultaneous bomb blasts at 459 spots in 63 districts across Bangladesh on a single day – August 17 – aimed at establishing Islamic rule in the country) either belonged to the Jamaat or its various wings, or had worked with them previously.

November 24, 2005: The BNP expels one of its MPs, Abu Hena, from the party for blaming a section of his own government and party for patronising militants. What’s more, he charged that two ministers “are doing everything for the militants”. Hena further alleged that the Jamaat was directly involved in the emergence of the outlawed Jamaatul-Mujahedeen Bangladesh. His expulsion notwithstanding, BNP’s standing committee member and former minister Oli Ahmed and BNP whip Ashraf Hossain also spoke out, implicating the Jamaat-e-Islami in the rise of militancy in the country.

March 6, 2013: “Over the past week, individuals taking part in strikes called by Islamic parties have vandalised more than 40 Hindu temples across Bangladesh. Scores of shops and houses belonging to the Hindu community have also been burned down, leaving hundreds of people homeless… Survivors told Amnesty International that the attackers were taking part in rallies organised by the opposition Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami (JIB) and its student group Chhatra Shibir. JIB has publicly denied any involvement in violence against the Hindu community”. (A press release by Amnesty International)

April 20, 2013: “Despite High Court directives to the government to protect religious minorities and their places of worships, criminals continue their attacks on minorities across the country. In the latest such crimes, a group of criminals torched a 200-year-old Hindu temple in Rajoir upazila of Madaripur (on April 19)… at least 94 attacks were carried out in March (2013) on minorities, mainly on the Hindus. In total, 187 houses, 162 businesses and 89 temples were attacked and looted and 133 idols were vandalised, according to the statement of a writ petition jointly filed by six rights organizations”. (Daily Star, Dhaka). As always, the JIB will no doubt deny any role in the recurrent targeting of Hindus.

As for “atheist conspiracy”, an entire galaxy of maulanas affiliated to the Imam Ulema Somonnoy Oikyo Parishad, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (Bangladesh) and other religious bodies in Bangladesh have publicly alleged that the Jamaat-Shibir is linked with terrorist Islamist organizations. “People who believe in Wahabism and Moududism (Maulana Abul Ala Maududi was the founder of the Jamaat-e-Islami) are enemies of Islam as they misinterpret Quran and Sunnah”, thundered Ahle Sunnat (Bangladesh) secretary general Syed Muhammad Masiuddoula at a Sunni Ulema-Mashayekh Conference on March 17. (Daily Star).

On one side are the Jamaat which has never polled more than four per cent of total votes and extremist Islamist outfits dreaming of an Islamic state andshariah law. On the other side is the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshi Muslims love “their Islam” but would like it to stay far away from politics. It’s as simple as that. That’s what Shahbagh is all about.

Whose side are you on? The question is addressed in particular to Indian Muslim supporters of the violence-promoting Jamat-Shibir outfits in Bangladesh as much as to the Left Front and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, both of whom seem to have granted to local Muslims the right to hold the state to ransom as often as they please.

(Javed Anand is co-editor, Communalism Combat, and General Secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy).

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Koodankulam: THE HINDU’s Bias Stands Exposed #Censorship #Medua

 

newspapers-biasWhile the THE HINDU newspaper gave 2 full pages for Dr. Abdul Kalam’s justification of the Koodankulam project, it maintained a complete silence on the revelation about vulnerability of equipments in Koodankulam and the corruption of the Russian supplier, despite the issue being flagged by the former chief of the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board Dr. A Gopalakrishnan himself.Below is an email conversation between Shri M G Devasahayam, the former IAS and Convener of the independent expert committee on Koodankulam and A S Paneerselvam, the Readers’ Editor of THE HINDU. This conversation happened in the context of a recent column by Mr. Paneerselvam titled From Cynicism to Trust.

The response by the Readers’ Editor reveals the self-righteousness of this prominent media house and the newspaper’s bias. Here is the full correspondence:

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

To,
The Readers’ Editor
THE HINDU

I have been a regular and avid Reader of THE HINDU for several decades and therefore has a right and duty to write this letter that has specific reference to what you wrote in your column ‘From cynicism to trust’ on 08 April 2013.

Suggesting that the Newspaper is ‘Living its Values’ just because it did not endorse statements by some advertisers is indeed far fetched after carrying the advertisements itself on full front-page, which is a commercial practise in violation of editorial ‘values and codes’.

Furthermore, giving huge news and edit-page space almost every day to one individual just because he is in a position of power is certainly not maintaining high editorial standards, particularly so because most of these appear to be egotistic, highly opinionated and loaded with hypocrisy. For instance yesterday’s (09 April) edit-page promotional article on a borrowed idea from US for setting up ‘Court of the Last Resort’ is harebrained to say the least written by an elite arm-chair critic who has no relationship with ground realities and has always sat on a pedestal having no concern for the pathetic victims of the heartless justice system till this worthy was upbraided for suo motto pleading for the pardon of highly-connected, super-rich Sanjay Dutt who actually was given a mild punishment compared to the offences he had committed.

While on the subject I would like to state that in the run up to the Tamil Nadu Assembly elections in 2011 some of us including two former Chief Election Commissioners, Chief Electoral Officers, senior civil servants, advocates and activists had initiated and pursued a movement for Electoral Integrity with the purpose of reining in money-muscle power in elections and went to grass-root levels addressing hall meetings and large groups of students in colleges. We also worked closely with Election Commission of India. Your Newspaper hardly took notice of it except for some odd reports that too emanating from the mofussil towns. We want to revive it now for the forthcoming Parliament elections, but are not sure of any media support for this initiative that can combat the ‘mother of all corruption’. I don’t think THE HINDU will even consider publishing an edit-page article on this subject if I write it!

Much more than publishing self-conceited opinions, what is important for the Readers is fair and unbiased understanding of burning current issues. In this I am afraid THE HINDU is wanting. There are severe flaws in the impartial / unbiased / objective reporting of current issues as well as selecting and publishing edit-page and op-ed articles. The Newspaper is also exhibiting reluctance in reporting mal-governance in Tamil Nadu while writing about these from other parts of the country. THE HINDU has also not observed the core values of fairness and impartiality in reporting on issues that vitally affect the sentiment, honour, life and livelihood of vast sections of the Tamil People who have been nurturing and sustaining the Newspaper for over a century. Though there are many I will confine myself to just three instances:

1. Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant: Coverage by the Newspaper of the long people’s struggle against KKNPP, which is being suppressed and oppressed through draconian measures like sedition/treason laws, Goondas Act, curfew, lathi-charge and tear-gas has been perfunctory and heavily loaded in favour of the state despite the fact that all environmental and safety norms and rules have been blatantly violated in the setting up of the plant and presently there are huge safety issues involved in the desperate attempts by the nuclear establishment to commission the plant through bluff and bluster.

Hearing a Special Leave Petition on this issue, Supreme Court in October/November 2012 had made a pointed observation: “We are concerned more about people’s safety than the money spent on the project.” As if to reinforce this concern Dr. A. Gopalakrishnan, doyen of India’s nuclear establishment and former Chairman, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has categorically stated that the plant is not safe because sub-standard material has been used in the construction of the nuclear reactor itself and many critical types of equipment are suspect. He strongly demanded an immediate investigation by an independent experts group into the safety of KKNPP as it was Podolsk, the Russian company whose CEO was arrested for corruption, that had supplied the components for the reactor. He also said that China, where similar equipments have been supplied has already started inspecting the quality of its nuclear reactors and India too should do so without delay. This and many other things he said at a press interaction in this very city on 06 April 2013.

From what Dr. Gopalakrishnan said, as a corruption and non-transparency scandal nuclear-power in general and KKNPP in particular are far bigger and more serious than that of CWG, 2G Spectrum, Coalgate or Augusta Westland because it has direct and serious bearing on the life, safety and livelihood of millions of people. Yet THE HINDU completely blacked out this very important news event that happened right in Chennai and instead gave space to irrelevant and banal issues. This has deprived the public of getting to know an expert view on this vital matter that could have helped them to arrive at an informed opinion. This has violated the basic editorial code of the ‘right of the readers to know differing views’!

On the other hand the insincere assurances given by the Prime Minister to the President of a foreign country, vague and empty words repeatedly spoken by Mr. Narayanaswamy, and evasive statements made by NPCIL/AEC/AERB officials are given huge importance. Recently the sales-pitch made by a Russian engineer Y N Dudkin that ‘Kudankulam reactors are safest in the world’ was given fulsome and prominent coverage as if it was ‘Gospel truth’. So were all the earlier articles written (one more than half-page) and statements issued by the nuclear-illiterate APJ Abdul Kalam. Is this the kind of ‘independence’ the Newspaper boasts of?

On this burning issue that has been suppressed by your Newspaper you may read these Links:

2. Sri Lankan Tamils Issue: The anti-Sri Lankan Tamil stance taken by THE HINDU is so well known and talked about with revulsion that nothing more need to be said. But one bitter truth is that on this issue, that has huge bearing on the honour and dignity of Tamils as a race, the prejudiced and single-tracked position taken by your Newspaper without giving space to any counter-view is an insult to the institution’s hoary 134-year-old history with the legacy – liberty, justice and human rights – of its distinguished founders.

3. Coverage of the Tamil Nadu power crisis: Despite the fact that the crisis has been going on for years, basically due to gross mismanagement and rent-seeking, not once did the Newspaper highlight these maladies and offered viable and workable solutions available if only they were sought for. Instead the Newspaper has been content with some odd crisis-reporting and publishing long-winded handouts containing wrong diagnosis and false information thereby misleading the gullible public.

As I understand, the function of Reader’s Editor is to collect, consider, investigate, respond to, and where appropriate come to a conclusion about readers’ comments, concerns and complaints in a prompt and timely manner, from a position of independence within the paper.

According to the terms of reference the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu is a Board of Directors appointment. “He is independent of the Editor, the editorial personnel, and the editorial process. The key objectives of the appointment are to instititionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability, and transparency; to create a new visible framework to improve accuracy, verification, and standards in the newspaper; and to strengthen bonds between the newspaper and its millions of print platform and online readers.”

Accepting the appointment as Readers’ Editor, you had said: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust autonomous system of redress. The Readers’ Editor’s Terms of Reference provide a clear mechanism to ensure accountability of the editorial team to its readers; and to retain and enhance readers’ trust in the newspaper. I will strive to do my best to be an effective interface between The Hindu’s readers and the 134-year-old institution.”

The credibility of this century-plus institution is at stake and it is time for you to do your duty as per your calling. Mine may be a small and insignificant voice. But if it is not heeded promptly it may not take long for this to resonate far and wide.

Awaiting appropriate action and early response.

Yours Truly,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 10, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I appreciate your efforts to express your opinion of the paper in general and my role in particular. There seems to be conflation of few issues in your mail, and this response is to disaggregate these and address each one of them based on their own merits.

1) Carrying jacket advertisements is not a violation of the values and codes. In fact, the article 6 of Living our Values says this very clearly: The Company recognises that good journalism cannot survive, develop, and flourish unless it is viable and commercially successful. Fair business practices are vital. What I said in my column was the paper’s commitment to resist the power of advertisers in resorting to unfair practices. Can you honestly point out another media outlet which has maintained such high standards? Of course, you have every right to differ from the stand taken by the paper on some crucial issues.

2) Your opinion on Justice Katju’s piece need not necessarily reflect the opinion of others. And, the opinion articles need not necessarily reflect the opinion of the paper.Your opinion is valid as much as Katju’s opinion. After all the newspaper is site for democratic debate.

3) On Nuclear power and Sri Lankan Tamil issues, I do see both change and continuity in the paper’s position over the time. The areas of continuity are: 1)Nuclear power remains an option for addressing the energy needs of the country, 2) Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity shall not be disturbed. The areas where the change has taken place are: 1)report on the protest against the nuclear power, give space to critical voices. (See M V Ramana’s book review yesterday and the space given for it). 2) constantly flag the failings of the Sri Lankan state both on the political front as well as the post war reconciliation front. It will be unfair on my part not to acknowledge these changes though these may not satisfy some who have a strong opinion on these matters. My personal opinion on nuclear establishment is well known but I do not expect that to be the opinion of the paper.

My personal working credo as the readers’ editor is to recognise that there are many points of convergence as much as points of divergence between the newspaper and its myriad readers and not to be torpedoed by ideological prism.

I do share the readers opinion to the editorial and the editorial’s stand point to readers on a regular basis so that one can know exactly where the paper stands on various issues. I do get much more strident criticisms from the Hindutva brigade. I do not expect the paper to soften its stand on secularism. The same principle extends to other issues too.

Hope I have explained my role rather clearly.

Regards,

Panneer

[A S Paneerselvam, Readers’ Editor, THE HINDU]

Mr. Devasahayam’s Letter to Mr. Paneerselvam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Panneerselvam,

I have pondered over your rapid-fire response and was wondering whether it would be of any use to waste time on these interchanges when the mind-set of the Newspaper management in general and Reader’s Editor in particular appear to have been hermetically sealed with a preset agenda on most burning public issues. Hence the delay. Nevertheless I thought I should write because as they say ‘silence is consent’.

First to the jet-speed reply: Email containing my letter was sent at 10.34 AM on 10 April 2013 and your reply was received by me in exactly 52 minutes at 11.26 AM. Conceding that you received and read my mail instantly, in all of 52 minutes you had collected information on the major issues raised by me, considered them carefully, investigated into the factual veracity of the issues raised, came to a conclusion about my comments, concerns and complaints and responded to me ‘from a position of independence within the paper’ trashing all the points I had raised. Indeed, a fabulously efficient way of treating your Readers as interlopers and riff-raffs.

Your instant reply to my detailed well-deliberated letter, indicates that you have not given even scant attention to its contents. As the Readers’ Editor of The Hindu, you were expected to institutionalise the practise of self-regulation, accountability and transparency; and to ‘strengthen the bonds between the newspaper and its millions of Readers’.

Your vague response does not indicate that you are in a position of independence within the paper to strengthen the bonds between the readers and the paper. On the contrary, yours is an attempt to rationalise the one-sided coverage and blacking out of news relevant to the readers but may not be in the interest of the ruling regimes in the centre, the state and in some other country!

For instance Dr. Gopalakrishnan’s expert view was not on the desirability or undesirability of nuclear energy. Though he is a pro-nuclear man he had clearly highlighted the fact that Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is unsafe in its present form because sub-standard material has been used in the reactor and quality of many key equipments are suspect. He was of the considered view that commissioning the plant under these circumstances could in all likelihood lead to accidents if not immediately, at least in the near future resulting in major disaster for the life and livelihoods of millions. Is it not the duty and responsibility of THE HINDU to report this view of one of the top most nuclear experts in the country so that your Readers know of the truth and the project proponents also can respond appropriately to clear the air of all doubt and suspicion.

Heaven forbid, if something untoward happens after the subservient nuclear establishment, which is under immense Russian and PMO pressure to commission the plant goes ahead at any cost, will not THE HINDU and other media that deliberately blacked-out this news be not accused of suppressing the truth? In the event it is inappropriate to equate this to giving space to M V Ramana’s book review which is a scholarly work whereas what Dr. Gopalakrishnan did was to warn of clear danger.

On accepting the onerous responsibility of Readers’ Editor, you yourself wrote: “The efficacy and credibility of self-regulation depends on a robust, autonomous system of redress.” What happened to those brave words?

Your own position on the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is well known. Did not your conscience prick when the Editor gave such prominence to Kusal Perera’s article on the op-ed page and denied space for my well-reasoned counter? My response did not challenge Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity because that was not the issue here. Yes indeed, there is real good continuity in what your Newspaper has been doing on the SL Tamil issue. Perhaps despite your good intentions and inside knowledge you are unable to break this continuity!

In passing all I would request is that after being captive to several interests please do not preach us about ‘Living our Values’, which your 134-year-old institution with a hoary past is certainly not adhering to.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

Mr. Paneerselvam’s Letter to Mr. Devasahayam: April 12, 2013

Dear Mr. Devasahayam,

I feel really sad that you have drawn a different set of conclusions from my sincere effort to promptly address your concerns. If someone is familiar about the subject, does it really warrant a long duration to ponder and respond to queries? I beg to differ. The two issues you had touched–Nuclear and Sri Lankan Tamil– have a very strong emotive elements.

My role as the readers’ editor is not that of a pre-censor, but a post-publication evaluator. As a former IAS officer, I believe that you will appreciate that to make my role to be effective it not just enough to be truly independent and bold but also not to overreach. Some of your complaints are about the editorial policy, which is defined by the editor and his editorial team, really fall under the category of overreach for a readers’ editor. I can explain their policy but cannot interfere with it. I believe it is vital to support the independence of the editorial. The acid test for this is how I conduct myself when the paper’s opinion is different from my own. Can I exhibit the same level of tolerance when articles that are opposed to my views appear in print? Can I expect from our political leadership and the corporate houses to be tolerant if I do not posses the same?

I do not expect the paper to share my world view on all issues but that does not mean I can work for any publication in the country. The shared positions between the Hindu and myself outweighs my differences with the publication. The shared areas are: steadfast commitment to secularism, democratic values, to take the difficulties faced by poor and marginalised and finally a fine balance between public interest and what public is interested in.

I generally refrain from expounding on my personal political understanding as I believe they are evident in my writings as a journalist. I am also very, very clear that my views, ideology and politics, will not colour my role as the Readers’ Editor. This explanatory note is primarily because I value your work on JP and the Emergency, your personal contribution to his well-being during his days of arrest under your charge in Chandigarh. I think my strength lies in not conflating issues, but in my ability to disaggregate and see each one of them in their own light.

We can agree to disagree.
Regards,

A S Panneerselvan

Mr. Mr. Devasahayam’ Letter to Paneerselvam’s: April 14, 2013

Dear Mr. Pannerselvam,

Thanks for your prompt response. You have really been candid and I appreciate that. Under the circumstances there is nothing more to write except reproducing a letter received from PMANE, Struggle Committee, a short while ego which is self explanatory. The inference in the letter (in bold/large letters) is foreboding and ominous and clearly reflect the kind of coverage by THE HINDU in this extremely sensitive matter that has bearing on the lives and livelihoods of millions.

I have said what has to be said and if it is not heeded it is the Newspaper’s burden.

Regards,

M.G.Devasahayam

 

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