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Narendra Modi – The candidate for PM that India does not need

modimodi
By Fr. Cedric Prakash S.J. (UCAN via CNUA)
Modi’s divisive style and shady past are not good leadership qualities.
On September 15, two days after the right wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) named Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, he addressed a public meeting.

Before a huge crowd, many of them ex-servicemen, Modi said it was he who envisioned and built the 700km Kutch pipeline, which carries fresh drinking water across Gujarat state to troops stationed on the border with arch-foe Pakistan.

The three-time Gujarat chief minister said he did it out of respect for the soldiers stationed at the border. This statement was obviously greeted with thunderous applause. But it was far from the truth.

The Kutch pipeline was initiated in 1985 by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. In January 2001, Gujarat chief minister, Keshubhai Patel, Modi’s predecessor, inaugurated it.

By May 2003, barring a small stretch up to the border, most of the work was done. Under Modi, it was finally completed on August 16 2013, more than 10 years later.

His speech demonstrates how he simultaneously takes credit for the achievements of others and glosses over his own inactivity.

Gujarat in Western India has been one of the country’s more progressive and industrialized states. Today however, there is much hype over the so-called “Gujarat development model” under Modi, who has been chief minister since October 2001.

But these are highly manipulated statistics, since Gujarat economic data for the years preceding 2001 was even more impressive.

Gujaratis are known for their entrepreneurial skills and financial acumen. And economists tell us that Gujarat would have achieved this level of economic growth with or without the BJP; with or without Congress; with or without Modi.

In fact, under Modi, Gujarat’s social indicators are abysmal. Child malnutrition has increased; the male-female ratio is widening; the status of women has declined; unemployment and poverty in general has grown. So what is being flaunted as “development” or “good governance” is essentially a sham.

On the human rights front, Modi’s performance is poor. The killing of more than 2,000 Muslims and the displacement of several thousands more during the “Gujarat carnage” of 2002 took place on his watch. Several legal cases in which he is named as the primary accused are ongoing. The National Human Rights Commission and even the Supreme Court have stated that responsibility for the protection of those citizens was definitely his.

In March 2003, Modi introduced the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act, one of the most draconian laws in India. It is clearly aimed at those who want to embrace another religion, and contravenes the Indian constitution, which guarantees Indians the right to preach, practice and propagate one’s religion.

In February 2006, at the Shabri Kumbh Mela, a Hindu religious gathering in the Dangs area of Gujarat, Modi ranted and raved against Christian missionaries and their work.

Modi has also been accused of being behind the alleged killing of several Muslim youths, in what are commonly known as “police fake encounters,” in which officials kill “armed” people in stage managed shootouts.

In a 10-page letter written on September 1, D G Vanzara, a former senior Gujarat police official who was jailed several years ago in connection with the killing of several of these innocent Muslim youths, pointed the finger directly at Modi and Amit Shah, the former state home minister. He said he and other accused policemen were following government policy.

Modi has been schooled in the ideology of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), an extremist, right wing, paramilitary organization that was allegedly responsible for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and several recent terror attacks.

The core teaching of the RSS is “Hindutva”– the formation of a Hindu nation state where minorities, particularly Muslims and Christians, are accepted only as second class citizens.

There is little doubt that Modi subscribes to this Hindutva agenda which goes against the secular, democratic and pluralistic fabric of the constitution. Thus promoting Modi as a prime ministerial candidate poses a very serious threat not only to India, but also to the whole of South Asia.

Modi’s style as a politician, besides being divisive, is also authoritarian. This style does not have a place in an era where coalition politics has come to stay in India, and which emphasizes the need and importance of collaborating with political partners across the spectrum.

National elections in India are due in May 2014. Candidates who are likely to win seats are those who best represent the interests of all, particularly the poor and the marginalized.

The ‘Modi for PM’ campaign will be on overdrive in the coming months. But the people of India will vote for a party or an individual that stands for the democratic and secular traditions of the country based on justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. Modi does not fit this bill.

Cedric Prakash is a Jesuit priest and the Director of PRASHANT (Tranquility), the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace. – http://www.ucanews.com

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Modi repairs mosques, Sonia saves Wakf land: Are Muslims amused?

 

 

by 

 

 

 

As the 2014 Lok Sabha polls draw closer, the secular-communal debate gets louder. And  uglier. While the Congress scrambles to strengthen its grip on India’s minority votes, the general despondence over the economy could just be the Bharatiya Janata Party’s best chance to beat the Congress at its own game and snap up a poll victory by deftly reaching out to non-traditional BJP voters.

In an obvious attempt to somewhat dilute his hardliner image, 11 years after the Gujarat riots, the Narendra Modi-led Gujarat government has decided to pay for the repairs of mosques damaged during the riots. The Times of India reports:

The state government’s u-turn came after close to 10 years of legal battle, during which it refused to own up responsibility for restoring and repairing the shrines damaged by marauding Hindu mobs across the state.

It is understandable that the  party would want to join the appeasement model that even regional parties like the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party have nurtured.

In the present political climate, the first step towards that end would naturally be to paint their poll campaign chief Narendra Modi as more pro-Muslim even though the Gujarat chief minister has made it evident in the past that he will  not bow so easily to populist gimmicks like Shivraj Chouhan wearing a skull cap on Eid.

Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi. Agencies.

Narendra Modi and Sonia Gandhi. Agencies.

The case of the mosques was based on a petition filed by the Islamic Relief Committee-Gujarat. In fact, the government, which had tittered and contested the Islamic body’s demands for ten long years, has assured the Supreme Court that it will come up with a credible scheme to pay for damage repairs by October this year, when the next hearing is scheduled to take place.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out the reason behind the sudden softening of the Gujarat government’s stance on repairs to over 500 mosques and religious properties across the state.

The move serves two purposes: One, it sends out a clear message that if the Gujarat CM were to take up a bigger, national role, he would be more accommodating towards Muslims than he is currently made out to be. Secondly, it doesn’t really require a very apparent stepping down for Narendra Modi’s image in the form of directly canvassing for more votes.

On the other hand, with the Congress’ policy failures fast outrunning its pro-secular reputation, the party would seek ways to tighten its grip around Muslim votes soon. As several Congress leaders have already opined, the VHP-SP government showdown in Uttar Pradesh may havepolarized votes to such an extent that UP’s electorate could  might be starkly divided between the BJP and the SP.

With the Samajwadi Party giving Congress grief on several issues, the party would need to devise ways to promote its secular image and turn votes back towards itself. In fact, Sonia Gandhi has herself intervened in a case in which  several Muslim clerics  complained that land owned by the Wakf Board was  encroached upon by contractors and land mafia.The Times of India reports:

At the heart of the controversy are two plots of land, which a number of prominent Muslim clerics alleged have been encroached upon by the land mafia. One is an eight-acre plot in the tony Jor Bagh area, which also happens to be the constituency of Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit. The second is a two-acre plot in Mehrauli in South Delhi. The approximate value of both the land parcels is over Rs 3,000 crore

The report says that at Sonia’s behest, an expert committee headed by Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit and Minorities Affairs minister Rahman Khan has been set up. On behalf of Rahul Gandhi, Digvijaya Singh has written to the leaders assuring them that their issues will be resolved soon.

However, in their hurry to grab attention of the minority population with populist measures, the national parties might be missing the shift of focus in the Muslim community itself. The political players probably fail to realise that the Muslim voters are now wary of old tricks.

As writer Abdul Khaliq points out in article in The Indian Express aptly titled ‘The same old sop story’, the community can no more be appeased or waylaid by debates on religion. Flaying the BJP, Congress and the SP for their divisive and opportunistic policies, Khaliq notes that the Muslim community doesn’t seek cosmetic sympathy. He writes:

Muslims want to bridge the distance between communities, not exacerbate it. They are sick of the politics that uses secularism as a cloak of convenience. Rather than being given nominal group privileges, they want a level playing field in education and the job market, when looking for accommodation, or when an act of terrorism takes place. 

And if that is indeed the predominant feeling within the community across classes, the big political players have got their election math all wrong!

 

 

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French Riots Intensify Debate Over Face-Veil Ban

By Hajer Naili

WeNews correspondent

July 30, 2013

Since youth riots last week over a police identity-check of a woman wearing a niqab, France has resumed debate of a 2011 law banning the face veil. Critics of the ban say it is part of a pattern of Muslim stigmatization.

Woman in niqab.

 

Credit: Steve/Baalel on Flickr, under Creative Commons (CC BY-ND 2.0)

 

 

(WOMENSENEWS)– The debate on the ban of face veils in public places in France has intensified since July 18, when police in the Paris suburb of Trappes arrested a man in connection with authorities’ efforts to check the identity of his veiled wife, triggering at least two nights of youth rioting and confrontations with police.

The Versailles state prosecutor said the woman’s husband assaulted one of the officers and tried to strangle him and was immediately taken into custody at the police station. The husband denied the accusation and said the officers were violent toward his mother-in-law who was also present during the identity check.

The police asked his wife to remove her niqab–the veil covering most of a woman’s face– in order to identify her. She agreed to do so but not in front of bystanders, according to her husband, who gave an interview to a local television station.

In the wake of the unrest, French left-wing Sen. Esther Benbassa has called for an end to the law banning the face-veil, which has led to the arrests of about 420 women since its passage in 2011, according to the Observatory of Laicité (Secularism), a Paris-based group working with the prime minister’s office. Most of the women who have been arrested are under the age of 30 and were born in France, reported Le Journal du Dimanche.

Tensions over the treatment of veiled women had been rising before the Trappes riots.

The Paris-based Collective Against Islamophobia in France found in its annual report for 2012 that 84 percent of Islamophobic acts in France were against women and 77 percent of verbal and physical attacks were against veiled women.

Each week in France, on average, two women are victims of an aggression because of their affiliation to religion, according to the report.

The Ministry of Interior estimates that the ban affects only between 400 and 2,000 women.

“We have to reconsider the law . . . what’s a law for 400 women?” Benbassa said, reported the French radio station RMC. “We cannot continue to restrict the freedom of people and expect a positive outcome.”

Boubacar Sene is the communications director for the Collective Against Islamophobia in France. “We can indeed wonder what is the aim and point of a law that addresses about 400 women if it is not to stigmatize a religion and create confusion,” Sene told Women’s eNews in a phone interview. “The majority of Muslims in France live their religion in discretion and abide by the laws and the republic’s values.”

Jean-Paul Garraud, a member of the right-wing party Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) who drafted the law, disagrees, saying the ban should be kept in place. “We are here to defend our democracy and not to tolerate treatment enslaving women,” he told the radio station RMC.

On July 23, Interior Minister Manuel Valls, from the Socialist Party (PS), also expressed support for the ban. “The law banning the full veil has nothing to do with Islam but it is a law liberating women,” Valls told the National Assembly, the Huffington Post reported.

Veiled Moms Banned

The face veil ban is not a clearly partisan debate. President François Hollande, a socialist elected in May 2012, along with several socialist politicians and intellectuals lean in favor of some kind of restraint on public veiling.

Recently, for instance, some veiled Muslim women were not allowed to accompany their children on school trips.

In 2012, former French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a memo recommending that schools preserve the “neutrality of public service” on school trips by requiring veiled mothers to remove their hijabs, the Muslim headscarf, if they want to participate. The memo leaves schools free to decide for themselves. Despite petitions from Muslim mothers, the memo has not been countermanded by the socialists, The Guardianreported.

While there is no law that specifically bars mothers in headscarves from school trips, legal experts warn that doing so would contravene European human rights legislation, added the British newspaper.

In addition to the face-veil ban, Muslim women wearing the hijab, under a 2004 French law, are also currently banned from public schools and jobs in public sector.

At the end of the 1980s, the Muslim veil or hijab, which only covers the hair, first attracted major political notice when three female students were expelled from middle school for refusing to remove it to attend classes.

Twenty years later in 2003, former President Jacques Chirac launched a group to study the preservation of secularism in France.

In 2004, a law banning the display of any prominent religious signs in public schools–except university–was passed, which included the Muslim hijabs, Jewish kippahs and the prominent display of Christian crosses.

In 2007, the law was broadened to include “minor” religious signs such a bandana that has been often worn as an alternative to hijabs by Muslim women to circumvent the ban.

There have been some attempts to extend this ban to the private sector. In March, the French Court of Cassation voided the 2008 dismissal of a Muslim nurse from a private daycare center because she refused to stop wearing the hijab. Following the court’s decision, Hollande suggested that a new law should be drafted over whether religious symbols such as headscarves could be worn by staff in private daycare centers and eventually to extend the law to other areas of the private sector.

Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, sidestepped a request for comment on such a law affecting veiled women in the private sector. “Muslims are not here to give their opinion in favor of or against a law that the government will propose,” he said in a phone interview. “We are in system where religion and state are separated. Therefore the religious cannot interfere on a decision that would be voted by parliament.”

Increasing Tensions

Yet, Boubakeur says that another law could contribute to creating more tensions with Muslims in France.

Islamophobic attacks in France increased 35 percent during the first half of the year compared to the same period in 2012, the Observatory of Islamophobia announced July 23, Le Monde reported.

Several veiled Muslim women were attacked on the streets in different parts of France over the last few months. In one of the latest incidents, a pregnant veiled woman was attacked in Argenteuil, in the suburb of Paris. She miscarried a few days later.

In April, a female Muslim student was expelled from school because she was wearing a headband hiding part of her hair and a long black skirt. The principal of the school considered her outfit a display of her faith.

The Collective Against Islamophobia in France also reports similar cases against veiled women in France. Some female students have been barred from taking exams in certain schools or were recently prevented from entering some high schools to pick up their results of the baccalaureat, said Sene, the group’s communications director.

“France sees Islam as a religion that cannot adapt to French secularism,” said Donia Bouzar, a French anthropologist specializing in Islam, in a phone interview, “that cannot live with its time, where there is no equality between men and women. All these prejudices are reinforced by fundamentalist groups, which led to this climate of aggression.”

Creating Stigma

Bouzar, in 2010, was the first to be heard by the commission in charge of drafting the law banning the face veil. She said she opposed a law that would target a specific religion but wanted to see something done because “people need to be identifiable.” She disagrees with the interpretation of the niqab as Islamic attire, saying the face veil represents a rigid interpretation of Islam by radical groups.

“But somehow the law became a stigmatization tool because of what has been said during the debates,” Bouzar said. “The commission that was in charge of drafting the bill became a place where Islam was put in trial and where more amalgams were spread.”

Critics of Sarkozy lay much of the blame for this stigmatization on the former president, who campaigned for the 2011 law banning the niqab from public places and in 2009 launched a “National Identity Debate” in which he criticized the Muslim community for their lack of “integration.”

 

 

Hajer Naili is a New York-based reporter for Women’s eNews. She has worked for several radio stations and publications in France and North Africa and specializes in Middle East and North Africa.

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Would you like India to become another Gujarat?

 

 and  July 29, 2013 |

From common man’s point of view, Governance means two simple things.

  1. Can the Government be trusted to guarantee the security of himself and his family?
  2. Was the Government capable of providing a reasonable livelihood for his family?

While we will take up the second aspiration of the common man in further details in our next article, we shall deal with the first expectation of the common man in the context of last decade of Gujarat in the present article.

Security in context of the Indian constitution means security of all and any elected Government that swears by the constitution must necessarily guarantee equal protection of law to all sections of people. Without entering into the criminal complicity in the 2002 riots, we deal with the constitutional duty of the Government in power. And we do so, not by our yardstick but in the manner in which the Supreme Court itself assessed the Governance of the Modi Government in 2002.

In the case of Zahira Habbibulla H Sheikh vs State of Gujarat (Appeal (crl.) 446-449 of 2004), the observation of the Supreme Court tells the whole story of the famed governance in Gujarat

The role of the State Government also leaves much to be desired. One gets a feeling that there was really no seriousness in the State’s approach in assailing the Trial Court’s judgment. This is clearly indicated by the fact that the first memorandum of appeal filed was an apology for the grounds. A second amendment was done, that too after this Court expressed its unhappiness over the perfunctory manner in which the appeal was presented and challenge made. That also was not the end of the matter. There was a subsequent petition for amendment. All this sadly reflects on the quality of determination exhibited by the State and the nature of seriousness shown to pursue the appeal. Criminal trials should not be reduced to be the mock trials or shadow boxing or fixed trials. Judicial Criminal Administration System must be kept clean and beyond the reach of whimsical political wills or agendas and properly insulated from discriminatory standards or yardsticks of the type prohibited by the mandate of the Constitution.

Supreme Court in conclusion of the Zahira case, transferred the matter to the State of Maharashtra and ordered a retrial. Several accused were punished and awarded life sentences. These were the very accused who had been acquitted by the Trial Court of Gujarat and upheld by the High Court of Gujarat. Soon thereafter, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) filed two cases on the basis of it’s own investigation. The highest statutory commission constituted as a watchdog for upholding the human rights of citizens, sought the intervention of the Supreme Court for the transfer of the riot related cases out of Gujarat. This included the Bilkis Bano case which involved the rape and murder of several members of the minority.

The Supreme Court had promptly transferred the Bilkis Bano case and after trial the accused have been awarded stiff sentences. So far as 9 other major cases of murder and arson, the Supreme Court made special arrangements for them being tried in special courts in Gujarat after appointing a Special Investigation Team led by Raghavan. Except for 2 cases, 7 cases have already been concluded and over 100 accused have been punished that includes the erstwhile Minister of Modi’s Government, Mayaben Kodnani and the Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. These 9 cases were those in which the mobs burnt down 1000s of houses and men and women of the minority community in different parts of Gujarat with the Government led by Mr Modi watching the pogrom. An extremely anguished Supreme Court had to therefore observe in the Zahira case as under:

The modern day ‘Neros’ were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected. Law and justice become flies in the hands of these “wanton boys”. When fences start to swallow the crops, no scope will be left for survival of law and order or truth and justice. Public order as well as public interest become martyrs and monuments.

The matter doesn’t stop there. After 10 years of riots, the Supreme Court continues to have no faith in Modi Government to deliver justice to all. In the case of Sohrabuddin in 2011 and in the case of Tulsiram Prajapati in 2012, the Supreme Court has once again ordered the trial of cases to be transferred out of Gujarat which have now been transferred to the Sessions Court in Mumbai. In the history of post-independent India, never before has the Supreme Court interfered in such a drastic manner to transfer cases for being tried outside the state where the offence has been committed. Such orders show complete loss of faith in the capacity of the Government to prosecute a case fairly and impartially. Such a loss of faith so far as the common man is concerned is a complete breakdown of his constitutional rights of equal protection of law.

It is not only the discrimination against the minorities that stares at our face, but the total injustice that is being done against all other oppressed sections of people that has become the story of the day. In Thangadh, the police in cold blood fired with AK-47 rifles into a rally of dalit villagers who were coming to protest against the murder of one of their colleagues by the PSI of the police station a few hours earlier. The Government sent a huge contingent lead by their SP who shot and killed 2 more dalit’s on the spot.

Few hundred farmer’s have committed suicide due to huge debt trap with Modi continuing to behave as Nero. The story goes on and on, but suffice is to remember that it’s not just the common man, but the highest court of this land which has lost faith in the justice delivery system in the State of Gujarat and between 2002-2012, the Supreme Court has transferred cases out of Gujarat as it believed that there was no hope for the victims to get justice in Gujarat.

Would you like India to become another Gujarat?

 

 

 

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Here is why Sharia Law has no place in Britain or elsewhere #Vaw #Religion

Nahla Mahmoud

Here is why Sharia Law has no place in Britain or elsewhere

By Nahla Mahmoud

There are many reasons why this needs to be said, starting with a personal trigger. I was recently interviewed by Channel 4’s 4thought.tv programme which was broadcast two weeks ago about my opinions on ‘What does Sharia Law have to offer Britain’. I realised that I was the only one out of seven people interviewed that was clearly against Sharia and for a secular state. Activist and gay MuslimOmar Kuddus who was also interviewed regarding the same topic, agreed that ‘Sharia’ discriminates against homosexuals and would threaten his safety and civil rights.

My interview has triggered a debate in the Sudanese media, both at home and in the diaspora, from which campaigns have emerged inciting people against me calling me a ‘Kafira’ (infidel) and ‘Murtadda’ (left Islam) . I guess Sudanese government officials have time to watch Channel 4 because the Sudanese Armed Forces’ Facebook page posted my picture declaring me an infidel and apostate. Who knew that my private beliefs could denigrate a country’s government, religion, and armed forces?!

Focusing on Islam and Sharia as such here is mainly because of my experience living under an Islamic regime. However, I strongly oppose Sharia law as well as any other religious based laws because I deeply believe in secular, humanist values which put each human being on an equal basis with every other individual. International human rights are a testament to that principle and stand directly opposed to the discriminatory practices enshrined in and justified by Sharia law.

It is important that we secularists demand not only a secular Britain, but also a secular Middle East, North Africa, and world. Sharia as such is a law of a religion with state power in many regions around the world. We have also witnessed in the last two years a grand hijacking by Islamists of the achievements of civil society in the Middle East. Not only that, but here in Britain there are now 85 Sharia councils implementing Sharia law on the streets of London, Birmingham, Bradford and elsewhere.

It is important for me to clarify what I mean by Sharia. To be precise, I am discussing the laws and legislation which are already in practice in the UK and abroad, not theoretical or utopian ideas that only exist in the minds of those who defend and are usually in favour of Sharia. The examples below include Islamic laws in countries around the world that claim to be implementing Sharia — the right Sharia — and are legislated based on the main sources in Islam, the Quran and Hadith, and sometimes in Fatwas. What is clear from an anthropological perspective is that these interpretations are performed by those in power and as a result the application and punishments associated with Sharia vary dramatically around the world.

One: Women
Sharia discriminates against women (and Muslim women specifically): compared to feminist victories elsewhere, women are still not considered equal in most Islamic settings. A woman’s testimony is worthy half a man’s in Islam. She gets half the inheritance of her male siblings; a woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation using the word “Talig”, whereas a woman must give specific reasons, some of which are extremely difficult to prove. Child custody reverts to the father at a pre-set age, even if the father is abusive. Women who remarry lose custody of their children.

These are real issues of inequality and discrimination that Muslim women face every day. I have personally experienced some because according to the Sharia constitution in Sudan, I am only eligible for half of my brothers’ share of our inheritance and I need at least two women to one man to testify in court cases. Other brutal examples end in punishment by stoning crimes such as Iranian Sakineh Ashtiani who was accused of having a relationship outside of an ‘Islamic contract marriage’, or the public flogging of Sudanese Lubna Hussein for her un-Islamic dress.

Another issue is marital rape, honour killings and domestic violence: in Pakistan, there are 300 cases of acid burnt women with no charges pressed against their husbands. Here in the UK, a study reported by the One Law for All campaign shows that 4 out of 10 women in Sharia court cases were party to civil injunctions against their husbands. The One Law for All campaign as well as other groups like Secularism Is a Women’s Issue are among the frontline defenders campaigning against Sharia courts, fighting for women’s rights and demanding gender equality.

Two: Children
Sharia discriminates against children. Not only does it affect children when they are young, but the implications will last their entire life. Top of the list is child marriage. Under Sharia law, a girl is eligible for marriage as soon as a girl begins her first period. This makes it difficult to maintain a minimum age for girls to be married. Considering there were at least five cases recorded in the London Borough of Islington (including girls of only 9 years old), I wouldn’t bother to count the number of child marriages in Islamic states where it is legal.

Other discrimination against children that must be considered is the lack of exposure to different ideas and thoughts. Children from an Islamic background are often taught to close their minds to new ideas and some are brought up to hate their Jewish, Christian and Hindu classmates, as well as any gay students in their class.

In addition to my own experiences at school in Sudan, one can grab any school curriculum from an Islamic state see how it restricts critical thinking and any questioning of religious doctrine. Evolutionary theory is banned from most educational systems in Islamic states, as it contradicts the creationist story in the Quran. Sudanese professor, Faroque Ahmed Ibrahim, stated in his open letter that teaching evolution at University of Khartoum was among the main reasons he was tortured and imprisoned by the Sudanese government. Moreover, little girls are often taught from birth that they are ‘lesser’ human beings, which results in lower self-esteem and lack of confidence later in life. It is however, the case with most other faith-based schools and education including Christianity and Judaism which, sadly, have the same ‘holy-centralised’ ideology.

Three: Homosexuals
Sharia discriminates against homosexuals. On this particular issue, Islam, as well as Christianity and Judaism, hold the same intolerant view. Homosexuality is forbidden in most Islamic states with punishments ranging from a fine or public flogging to life imprisonment. Ten Islamic states impose a death penalty for homosexuals, including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and some states in Malaysia. In 2011, governmental driven gangs have been killing gays across Iraq.

Four: Non-Muslims
Sharia discriminates against non-Muslims, including other sects within Islam such as Bahia’s, Ahmadia’s, and Shia if under Sunni ruling government or the reverse. Under Sharia law, no one is allowed to force someone to convert to Islam, however, someone who is born into an Islamic family will grow up with extreme social pressure from their family. If this person wishes to convert to another religion or be an atheist, they are often considered an apostate, which can be punishable by death. Non-Muslims are subjected to extra taxes (‘Jezya’) and are afforded fewer rights in civic and family matters. For example, non-Muslim men (except Jewish and Christians) cannot marry Muslim women, while children of non-Muslim women cannot adopt their religion. Serious violence has occurred targeted at non-Muslim minorities in Islamic countries, such as the bombing of Coptic in Egypt or the attack of eight churches in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2011.Although some of these groups operate as separate fundamental extremists who don’t necessary represent mainstream Islam or the ruling Islamic governments, these same groups operate in their territory and are protected by the local governments.

Five: Non-Believers and Atheists
Sharia discriminates against non-believers, atheists and apostates. It truly disgusts me that apostasy and blasphemy laws are still in practice in some regions of the world. Did you know that free thinking and freedom of speech are a crime punishable by death, public flogging and imprisonment in the 21st century? I have seared in my memory the brutal persecutions and executions of many atheists and scientists for the simple crime of critical thinking.

Cases such as Iranian Ali Ghorabat for apostasyJafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haji Aghaee for enmity against GodSudanese theologian Mahmoud M. Taha for his progressive Islamic views and Egyptian Nasr H. Abu Zaid for his critical views on the Qur’an show the widespread persecution of people who dare to question blind belief.

This is not a thing of the past: just this month Kuwait jailed Abdel Aziz Mohamed Albaz for criticizing Islam, Saudi Arabia jailed Raif Badawi for his liberal views, Tunisian artist Nadia Jelassi is facing prison for her ‘un-Islamic’ artistic pieces. Countries like Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen implement the death penalty for those who renounce or criticize Islam, but they also punish anyone who is progressive, liberal or wishes to think freely and live a modern, 21st century life.

Being an atheist and an ex-Muslim should have been a private matter for me under a secular state. However, under an ‘Islamic Inquisition’ as fellow secular campaigner Maryam Namazi describes, it became necessary for dissenters, especially those who are persecuted, to publicly air our views and call for equal treatment because this persecution will not end until we stand together and speak out. I chose to speak out on Channel 4 and in many other venues in the UK because I cannot stand by and watch others suffer the same discrimination and persecution that I faced. The current persecution of the five groups I discussed above, both here in the UK and around the world, provide a duty for everyone to stand up for the simple principle: all humans are equal.

For me, my atheism holds this broader meaning because I am taking a political stand to oppose mythology and advocate for evidence-based science and critical thinking. My stand is a way of supporting freedom of expression, freedom of religion or no-religion. I stand, indeed, for human rights in order to support equal rights for all citizens despite our gender, age, sexuality, religion or ethnicity.

I believe this is everyone’s battle, including progressive, secular and liberal Muslims. The right to live, think and express freely your opinions is one of the great achievements of human civilization. These values belong to all of us regardless of our background or geographical regions. We cannot limit these achievements to ‘western values’ or ‘cultural sensitivity’.

We must each strongly and unequivocally demand one equal law for everyone – both in the UK and abroad. Let’s make sure the next generation of freethinkers does not have to suffer condemnation online or offline, face jailing, public flogging or death.

Nahla Mahmoud is an environmentalist and human rights activist originally from Sudan. She works with a few campaigns in the UK including One Law for All and Secular Middle East and North Africa. She leads the Sudanese Humanists Group. This article was originally published on Left Foot Forward and is reproduced with permission of the author.

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The Modi Card and the Muslim Ace

Indian Muslims are disenchanted with the Congress. But with Narendra Modi pitched as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, they are pulling out all stops to block him, reports Ajit Sahi

Ajit Sahi
2013-03-30 , Issue 13 Volume 10

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Ballot power: The Muslim voter’s No. 1 priority will be to tactically defeat the BJP, Photo: AP

India’s Muslims, goes the conventional wisdom, are a votebank. That bank is now working aggressively towards becoming the central bank of Indian politics with a view to dominating its future political currency. If conversations, events and initiatives of the past four weeks are an indicator, Muslim social and political organisations as well as prominent Muslims have evolved a one-point agenda: to deny the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongman Narendra Modi a shot at becoming India’s prime minister after the 16th General Election that is due in a year. Their tactic: defeat the BJP and its potential allies in every Lok Sabha constituency where the Muslim vote can sway the result.

“Narendra Modi is the No. 1 enemy of India’s Muslims,” says Salman Hussain, a fiery Islamic scholar who teaches at one of India’s most influential Islamic seminaries, the 19th-century Darul Uloom Nadwatul, at Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. “If Modi becomes prime minister, more Muslims will be massacred, more mosques demolished.” While that may be rabble-rousing at its worst, there is no denying that the anti-Modi sentiment among India’s nearly 180 million Muslims has deepened since a cry went up in the BJP last month to name Modi the party’s top prospect for the Lok Sabha election.

“The BJP is fundamentally an anti- Muslim party and Modi proved that with his role in the massacre of Muslims in Gujarat,” says Arshad Madani, who leads a faction of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, an influential sociopolitical organisation of clerics. Five months after Modi became chief minister, more than 2,000 Muslims died in February-March 2002 in violence by Hindu zealots of the BJP-RSS after a train fire killed 57 Hindu passengers. “Muslims know that if the BJP comes to power, their troubles will worsen.”

Indeed, the chant of Modi-as-PM that shot up in decibels at an all-India meet of the BJP in New Delhi in early March set the cat among the pigeons. Until then, the Muslim electorate across India was widely disenchanted with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s United Progressive Alliance (UPA) for unkept promises in its nine-year-rule. They were miffed as the UPA has failed to introduce reservations for them in jobs and educational institutions, a pre-election promise. They were also angered by the sudden hanging in February of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri who had been on death row for years after being convicted as a conspirator in the 2001 Parliament attack.

Muslim leaders have long slammed the Congress for what they see as its failure to improve the Muslims’ lot after a panel led by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajinder Sachar reported in 2006 that Muslims were one of India’s most neglected social groups in terms of education, employment, poverty and health.

Disappointment has also been rife among the Muslims at the refusal of the Congress-led UPA to declare the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), the premier Muslim educational institution set up in the 19th century, a minority institution as the Muslims have long demanded. “AMU had hoped Congress President Sonia Gandhi would make the announcement in her telephonic address at the university’s last convocation,” says political commentator Hafiz Nomani. “But she referred to such a major issue only in passing.”

But with Modi’s name to the fore, the foremost concern among Muslims now is to stop the BJP from returning to power in New Delhi at any cost.

The clamour for Modi has also upended efforts within the BJP to draw in Muslim support, chiefly through a Muslim-only ‘morcha’ under the aegis of its parent, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), as well as by Modi’s efforts in recent months to mollycoddle Muslim clerics as well as ordinary Muslims in his state to dust up his image. The demand for Modi so worried BJP stalwart LK Advani, who was the party’s prime ministerial candidate in 2009, that he had to caution his party at the March meeting that it will have to find ways to attract Muslim voters if it truly wants to regain power at the Centre.

“It is true that some Muslims have supported the BJP in recent years,” admits Qasim Rasool Ilyas, a functionary with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, a 40-year-old community outfit that oversees the implementation of the civil laws. “By putting Modi forward, the BJP runs the risk of losing even that little support.”

From Lucknow in the north to Hyderabad in the south and Kolkata in the east, the dominant discourse among the Muslim community is as follows: coalition governments that have run India unbroken since 1996 will continue as the norm. Over the past 14 years, the BJP and the Congress party have led two coalition governments each. Whichever of the two parties wins more seats at the next General Election would team up with the floaters to notch a majority and form the government.

Except for those political parties that are direct opponents of the Congress in their regions and would, therefore, never join hands with it, or the Communists who would never pair up with the Hindu sectarian BJP, all other regional parties are capable of going either way. Hence, Muslims should vote against the BJP, its allies and the fence-sitters who fail to unequivocally clarify before the elections that they would have no truck with the BJP.

“Wherever a party’s relationship with the BJP is suspect, it would lose the Muslim vote,” says psephologist Yogendra Yadav, who has joined the recently launched anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party. Says Ilyas: “The Muslim is no more attached to any one party. He now votes tactically to defeat the BJP and this is how it will be in 2014.”

The Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, a social and cultural outfit of which Ilyas has been a member for decades, is currently preparing an extensive advisory to guide Muslim voters across most of the Lok Sabha’s 543 constituencies. It will be released before the next elections to help Muslim voters decide the best way to utilise their vote in defeating the BJP and its allies. Jamaat volunteers and its affiliate outfits, such as its student, women and youth wings, would be pressed into disseminating the message among Muslims so that “secular” candidates may enter the Lok Sabha.

Several other organisations, such as the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, a body of Muslim intellectuals, too, plan to release similar guides on supporting “secular” candidates. “We aim to educate the Muslim voters on the best candidate in their constituency who is secular,” says Mushawarat chief Zafarul Islam Khan.

Elsewhere, efforts have been launched by scholar Salman Hussain of Lucknow along with Lok Sabha MP Badruddin Ajmal from Assam, whose fledgling political party, the All India United Democratic Front, has made rapid strides in that state. The two have now called a meeting in Delhi where they aim to assemble disparate elements from smaller Muslim political outfits to chart out a common strategy, much like Hussain had tried in the 2012 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, to little success.

Muslim leaders reckon the community’s vote can make and unmake pretenders to 100-150 Lok Sabha seats. These seats are not to be confused with those that Muslims win. Today, there are only 30 Muslims in the Lok Sabha, just 5.5 percent of its 543 seats. As per the 2011 Census, Muslims are nearly 15 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people. But although Muslims in the Lok Sabha are barely a third of their share in the population, their arc of electoral influence is far greater. In 35 seats, they number around one in three voters or more. In 38 other seats, Muslims are 21-30 percent of the electorate. If the 145 seats where they are 11-20 percent are added to this, Muslim voters have the ability to influence the outcome in a whopping 218 seats.

‘Muslims have woken up. Those who have always opposed the Muslims are now saying they can’t imagine taking power in Delhi without the support of Muslims’ Arshad Madani President, Jamiat Ulema-E-Hind

Ironically, until now, the Muslim vote has been most effective where it is around 10 percent of the electorate, big enough to sway the result in a multi-cornered contest by going all in for a single candidate, but too small to raise alarm in the BJP or its allies to trigger attempts at a counter-polarisation of non-Muslim votes. On the other hand, wherever their numbers are 20 percent and above, Muslim votes have mostly been ineffective because of a multiplicity of Muslim candidates divvying up their support, often handing victory to the BJP on a platter.

“The challenge before the Muslim community is to make sure it votes as a block for a single candidate even if multiple Muslim candidates are in the fray on a given seat,” says Yashwant Deshmukh, who has run opinion polls in national and state elections across India for two decades.

Muslims have shortlisted Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal as their key battleground states because their results would most impact who leads the next government: the Congress or the BJP. Next in importance for the Muslims are Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Maharashtra and Karnataka, where the more seats in the kitty of the Congress the less likely would be the BJP’s chances to form the government. Indeed, the selection of the primary battleground states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar is based on their experience of coalition politics since 1998, when the BJP formed its first stable national government heading a multi-party coalition with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as prime minister. The key to the BJP’s victories in the 1998 and 1999 Lok Sabha elections lay in its wins in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. These back-to-back victories jolted the Muslims, who are around 20 percent in these states’ overall population.

Chastened, the Muslims voted tactically in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in the 2004 Lok Sabha election, giving the BJP fewer seats and bringing the UPA to power. Although the BJP did better in 2009 in Bihar due to its alliance with Janata Dal (United), which virtually wiped out Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, it still fared poorly in Uttar Pradesh, thanks to the voting by Muslims there that gave the UPA a second term.

Indeed, the Muslim vote has dictated the last two poll cycles in Uttar Pradesh. In the 2007 Assembly polls, Muslims massed behind the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), giving it a clear majority, ending 15 years of unstable coalition politics. In 2012, Muslims deserted the BSP leader, Chief Minister Mayawati, turning to the Samajwadi Party (SP) and providing it with a majority. “Eight out of 10 Muslims voted for the SP,” says Rajya Sabha MP Mohammad Adeeb from Uttar Pradesh, an independent who campaigned with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav last year, but now accuses him of turning his back on the Muslims. “They won because of the Muslims.”

That no political party can take the Muslim vote in Uttar Pradesh for granted is clear from their divergent patterns of voting for the Lok Sabha and the Assembly polls. Despite backing a clear-cut winner in the 2007 Assembly election, the Muslim voters showed another hand in the 2009 Lok Sabha election, dividing their allegiance roughly equally among the SP, the Congress and the BSP, depending on who was strongest to beat the BJP, which then crashed to the bottom of the heap.

Until Modi’s name suddenly leapfrogged to the headlines in March as a prime ministerial contender, political watchers were generally of the view that the failures of the UPA at the Centre and of the one-year-old SP in Uttar Pradesh would benefit the BSP at the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

‘Muslim politics is undergoing a very progressive paradigm shift reflected at multiple levels where they are not hostage to any one political party. Now they have multiple choices’ Yogendra Yadav Psephologist

Muslims leaders say Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, the eldest son of Mulayam, has failed their community, which comprises a whopping 40 million of the state’s nearly 200 million people. Dozens of incidents of sectarian violence have caused a loss of Muslim life and property across Uttar Pradesh. While the SP promised to free Muslim youths arrested earlier for their alleged roles in terror plots, no such action has yet been taken. The state government has also stonewalled calls to disclose the contents of an independent inquiry it commissioned into the disputed arrests of the youths.

“This government (of Akhilesh Yadav) is refusing to govern,” says Maulana Zulfikar, a cleric connected with India’s most influential Islamic seminary of Darul Uloom at Deoband near Muzaffarnagar city in west Uttar Pradesh. Muslims are also angry with Akhilesh as he has failed to nominate heads for statutory organisations that cater to the Muslims, such as the Minorities Commission, the Urdu Academy and the Sunni Central Waqf Board, which administers the massive properties deemed to be jointly owned by the Sunni Muslims in the state. This might drive them to the Congress party, especially if Modi is a prime ministerial candidate, says Zulfikar.

Abdul Bari, a veteran of the Jamaat-e-Islami, is candid: “Muslims are dominant in over 36 Lok Sabha constituencies in east and west Uttar Pradesh. They will explore alternatives to the SP.”

And yet, there is grudging acceptance that with Modi as a frontrunner, Muslims can’t move away from either the Congress or the SP. “It’s no longer a secret that Modi is the BJP’s PM candidate,” says Abdul Khalik, a retired bureaucrat in Lucknow. “Muslims may be unhappy with the Congress but they have no other option to vote for.” Indeed, both the Congress and the SP now believe they are in the play for Muslim votes once again, as BSP’s Mayawati has a history of tying up with the BJP.

In just two weeks in March, four public meetings focussing exclusively on the Muslims were called at Lucknow, three of them bringing out tens of thousands of Muslims on the streets. While one meeting, on 2 March, was directly called by Mulayam, he also occupied centrestage at another rally that Arshad Madani of Jamiat Ulema- e-Hind called on 17 March.

On the same day, the Congress party’s Muslim face, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who hails from Uttar Pradesh and once headed the party’s state unit, descended on Lucknow at a town hall sort of meeting with Muslims, exhorting them to break free from the SP’s grip. Earlier, on 3 March, MP Adeeb led a huge rally of Muslims jointly with the Communists to demand that Muslims arrested in terror cases be released. “Muslims in Uttar Pradesh have the capacity to make and unmake national governments,” he says. At that rally, the Muslims hooted Ashok Vajpayee, the SP candidate from Lucknow for the 2014 polls, and refused to let him speak.

‘Muslims want to come out of fear and the choice of Modi will drive them towards the Congress even though the Congress, too, has done nothing for them’, Mohammad Adeeb Rajya Sabha MP

Of the 80 Lok Sabha constituencies in Uttar Pradesh, Muslims number over 20 percent of the electorate in two dozen seats in west Uttar Pradesh, including Bareilly, Badaun, Pilibhit, Rampur, Sambhal, Amroha, Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Saharanpur, Bijnor, Amroha and Moradabad. In east Uttar Pradesh, Muslims play a decisive role in at least eight seats — Azamgarh, Bahraich, Gonda, Srawasti, Varanasi, Domariyaganj, Gonda and Balrampur.

The various Muslim outfits are now in a dialogue with each other to ensure that the experience of Azamgarh in 2009 is not repeated. At that time, a chunk of the Muslim votes, which are nearly 13 percent for that seat, was eaten away by a fledgling Muslim outfit named Ulema Council, leading to a win by the BJP. Now an influential section of the Muslims is making efforts to rally support for the SP. Says Salman Khan, a leader of the Azamgarh traders’ association: “If the BJP projects Modi as PM, it would lead to a sectarian polarisation.” Two other candidates that the Ulema Council fielded in 2009 ate away Muslim votes in Lalganj and Jaunpur.

That a fight between the Congress and the SP may actually benefit the BJP is worrying Muslims a lot in a constituency named Domariyaganj that borders Nepal. It is currently held by Congress’ Jagdambika Pal. The SP has named Assembly Speaker Mata Prasad Pandey to take him on. Troubled Muslim religious leaders have held several meetings to decide whom to support. “Modi is the most talked about issue here among the Muslims,” says local businessman Malik Mohammed Shabbir. “He has to be stopped.”

In Bahraich in central Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims are over 30 percent of the electorate, they are weighing other options as the incumbent MP, Kamal Kishore of the Congress, who was once a commando detailed to protect former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, is considered to have frittered his political capital.

In Bareilly in west Uttar Pradesh, where Muslims are 34 percent, a new Muslim political outfit floated by the brother of the most influential Muslim in the region, the caretaker of a centuries’ old Sufi mausoleum, is causing trepidation among those who don’t want to see BJP strongman Santosh Gangwar recapture a constituency he lost in 2009 after five straight wins since 1991. The toss-up for the Muslims here is between the Congress and the SP, which has given the ticket to a greenhorn named Ayesha Begum, the daughter-in-law of Taukeer Raja Khan, the man behind the new Muslim political outfit.

In states other than Uttar Pradesh where the Muslim voters may be willing to go against the Congress, Modi is haemorrhaging support from the allies of the BJP. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has crafted a political miracle by fetching up Muslim votes even for the BJP because it was aligned with him in two Assembly elections. In the 2009 Lok Sabha election, his JD(U) won 20 of the state’s 40 seats and the BJP 12. But his aversion to Modi’s name is now legion. Says Yogendra Yadav: “For three years, Nitish has been telling the Muslims of his state that ‘when you vote for me, you vote for me’.” Adds MP Adeeb: “Nitish knows that if he backs Modi, the Muslim voters in Bihar will quickly move en masse to Lalu.”

Indeed, Yogendra Yadav believes that West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, too, would need to clarify her position on the possibility of backing the BJP in forming the next government at the Centre to her state’s 27 percent Muslim population. “She will have to do something before the Lok Sabha election, which would make her position clear vis-à-vis Modi,” he says. The Muslim voters’ disenchantment with the 34-year Communist rule contributed in no small measure to bringing Banerjee to power in the state in 2011.

For the same reason, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, once a BJP partner, and former Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu, who was a kingmaker in the BJP-led coalition government of 1999 but has been in political wilderness since losing power in the state in 2004, are keeping miles away from the BJP.

“Although the BJP has no presence in Andhra Pradesh, no party here can dare to openly align with it now that Modi’s name has come up,” says Zahid Ali Khan of Hyderabad, a veteran activist and editor of a leading Urdu daily newspaper, Siyasat.

That, in effect, is true of virtually all political parties in the country wherever the Muslim votes count. The sprawling residence of India’s prime minister at New Delhi’s upscale 7, Race Course Road, may well turn out so near and yet so far for Narendra Modi.

With inputs from Virendra Nath Bhatt in Lucknow, Imran Khan in Bengaluru and Ratnadip Choudhury in Guwahati

[email protected]

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Letter to President Obama from India’s Parliamentarians demands continuation of Modi visa ban

Narendra Modi is on Time Magazine Cover: News

 

–    Coalition welcomes broad consensus on the role of Narendra Modi in continued violations of human rights and religious freedom in Gujarat

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Coalition Against Genocide (CAG), a broad alliance dedicated to justice and accountability for the Gujarat pogrom of 2002, hailed the letters signed by 65 members from both houses of India‘s Parliament, calling on President Obama to maintain the ban on a US visa for Mr. Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the Indian State of Gujarat [1].The letters, written in November and December 2012, and released to the media today by the Coalition Against Genocide, represent a broad consensus among 15 political parties from across the ideological spectrum that Mr. Narendra Modi is culpable for violations of human rights abuses and religious freedom in Gujarat and should continue to be denied entry to the United States [2].

The letters represent an unprecedented move by MPs from various parties belonging to both houses of Parliament, in writing a candid missive to the US President on gross violations of human rights violations committed within India’s borders.

In 2005, in the wake of a campaign spearheaded by the Coalition Against Genocide, Mr. Modi’s US visa was revoked and his entry to the US was banned by the State Department, under the provisions of the International Religious Freedom Act, which makes any foreign government official who “was responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom” ineligible for a visa.

 

“We wish to respectfully urge you to maintain the current policy of denying Mr. Modi a visa to the United States. Given that legal cases against the culprits including many senior officials in Mr. Modi’s administration are still pending in the court of law, any revoking of the ban at this juncture would be seen as a dismissal of the issues concerning Mr. Modi’s role in the horrific massacres of 2002,” the letter stated. “It would legitimize Mr. Modi’s human rights violations and seriously impact the nature of US-India relations by sending a message that the United States values economic interests over and above the universal values of human rights and justice,” added the MPs in their joint communiqué to Mr. Obama.

 

The letter gains added significance in the light of BJP President Mr. Rajnath Singh’s visit to the US, with the intent of lobbying in Washington DC for Mr. Modi’s US visa. The party had long maintained that Modi had not applied for a US visa and was not eager to have one.

“The fact that 65 MPs from 15 political parties across 15 states chose to write a joint letter to President Obama about Narendra Modi’s US visa, is a stark reminder that Modi and the divisive ideology he represents continue to be anathema to a cross section of Indians,” said Raja Swamy, spokesperson for the Coalition Against Genocide (CAG). “After having long denied any desire on the part of Mr. Modi to acquire a US visa, Mr. Rajnath Singh’s visit to the US, to lobby lawmakers here for Modi’s visa reeks of hypocrisy,” added Mr. Swamy.

The letter draws the President’s attention to the fact that Mr. Modi had engaged in systematic obstruction of justice and failed to even provide rehabilitation to the victims of the 2002 pogrom. The letter also called the conviction of Maya Kodnani, a sitting BJP MLA and then minister in Mr. Modi’s cabinet, “a damning indictment of the Modi administration, and proof that the pogrom was planned and executed at the highest levels of the state government. [6]”

 

The letter also refers to the ban as “consistent with US law and the shared values of the United States and India,” and calls on Mr. Obama to “stand in solidarity with the survivors, human rights activists and all those who value justice and freedom of religion.”

 

In a further sign of growing unease over Mr. Modi’s ambitions to become prime minister, Nobel Laureate and influential economist Amartya Sen pointed out recently that Mr. Modi’s terrible record against religious minorities makes him an unworthy candidate for India’s premiership [7].

 

The Coalition Against Genocide includes a diverse spectrum of organizations and individuals in the United States and Canada that have come together in response to the Gujarat genocide to demand accountability and justice.

 

CONTACT:

  1. Mr. Raja Swamy

Phone: 864-804-0216

 

  1. Mr. Shaik Ubaid

Phone:  516-567-0783

 

  1. Coalition Against Genocide

Phone/Fax: (443) 927-9039

Email: [email protected]coalitionagainstgenocide.org

http://www.coalitionagainstgenocide.org

 

REFERENCES:   

  1. Text of Joint Letter by India’s Parliamentarians to President Barack Obama
  2. Deny US visa to Narendra Modi, Indian MPs from 12 parties urge Barack Obama
  3. Panel on religious freedom urges US to continue visa ban on Modi
  4. 25 Congressmen urge Hillary Clinton to continue denying visa to Narendra Modi
  5. Narendra Modi’s re-election a black mark for Gujarat: Martha C Nussbaum
  6. Naroda Patiya massacre: Court convicts CM Narendra Modi’s former minister Maya Kodnani
  7. Amartya Sen: As an Indian citizen, I don’t want Modi as my PM

 

 

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#India – Narendra Modi was at the wheel when Gujarat burnt

modi

Modi’s concern for puppies: With his inappropriate analogy, he has opened up the  wounds of Gujarat afresh

BRINDA KARAT | Jul 16, 2013, TNN

 In defence of the insulting and repugnant ‘puppy’ analogy he used when asked in an interview about the 2002 pogroms in Gujarat, Narendra Moditweeted “In our culture every form of life is valued and worshipped.” Except, he could have added, if you are a Muslim or a Christian.From another angle, his concern for puppies is as touching as was Hitler‘s love for his dog. In 1933, the German government enacted one of the most comprehensive animal protection rights legislations in the world, as a first step in a series of laws to protect animals – ranging from anaesthetising fish before they were cut up, to ensuring that lobsters were killed swiftly rather than having to experience the pain of being slowly boiled, before being served up as special delicacies to those accustomed to fine dining.
In the moral hierarchies born and bred in Nazi minds, there was no conflict between care for animals and genocide of Jews, since, in the Nazi reading, Jews were subhuman beings lower than most animal species, comparable to vermin.

Similarly, the Gujarat chief minister, brought up in schools of thought that preach hatred towards the minorities in theory and in practice, can find it easy to express sadness for a puppy run over accidentally, but cannot bring himself to directly express sympathy for the thousands of Muslims, including women and children, who were butchered under his watch in 2002.

The analogy is inappropriate for another reason too. There was nothing accidental about the carnage. Incontrovertible evidence is now available in the voluminous records of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to show the culpability of the state. It is this SIT set up by the Supreme Court, and headed by former CBI director RK Raghavan, that gave Modi the ‘clean chit’ he now flaunts.

The records were inexplicably kept secret by the SIT and have come into the public domain only recently, through the Zakia Jafri petition in the Gulbarg Society case. The petition is to reject the SIT’s clean chit to Modi and has been admitted by a court in Ahmedabad where arguments are being heard.

A reading of the material would lend support to the legitimacy of such a petition. Details of the post-Godhra transcripts of frantic police messages to headquarters provide a blow-by-blow account of the build-up to the massacres and the role of various players like the Vishwa Hindu ParishadBajrang Dal and Modi himself.

They reflect the puzzlement of the police why no action was taken on their reports. Why did the government not act in time in spite of warnings? Nor was it a question of being temporarily overwhelmed by unforeseen circumstances. The transcripts of state intelligence reports prior to the kar sevaks leaving for Ayodhya, from a week before the horrific Godhra crime, also describe the highly communal public slogans that were given by their leaders.

Was it good governance not to take any preventive steps? Was it good governance to allow the post-mortem of the Godhra victims on a railway platform in full public view, as Modi did? According to SIT records, he was present at the Godhra station at the time. Was it good governance to then hand over the bodies to precisely those organisations like the VHP, who the police warned, were out to create a communal conflagration?

Or were these the actions of a self-described Hindu nationalist whose very idea of India has more in common with Hitler’s Germany than Ambedkar’s Cons-titution? Or is this an example of the decisiveness that Modi boasted of as a sterling quality for his claim to leadership in the same controversial interview?

The question to be asked is decisiveness in whose interest. Certainly not in the interests of justice. Only recently Modi decided to send to UP as his proxy Amit Shah, a man chargesheeted in a fake encounter case, while defending others involved in the cold-blooded murder of Ishrat Jahan. And here it is not only a question of taking swift decisions against justice for the minorities, although that is the paramount issue in the context of the Gujarat model.

It is the lack of concern in decision-making for justice to the poor, the undernourished, those deprived of the right to literacy. As analysts of the Gujarat model have convincingly shown, the indicators of social inequalities remain very high in Gujarat, even as corporates have benefited enormously from the quick decisions taken by Modi. Decisiveness without a moral compass is of little use to India’s working masses.

Those who have experienced the sorrow of an untimely death of a loved one know only too well the importance of moving on, of finding some kind of closure, essential for the process of healing the wounds of grief. But for loss inflicted by deliberate policy, by design, by the illegal use of power, closure only comes when those responsible are held accountable and punished.

Modi was at the wheel when Gujarat burnt. In the face of his recent defiant justification, the wounds bleed afresh and force us once again to remember the horror of 2002. And to ask the question, is this the model that India needs?

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and politburo member of the CPM.

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The Flying Sikh and the Meaning of Milkha Singh #SundayReading

THE FLYING SIKH

The meaning of Milkha

Siddharth Saxena | Times Crest

 

THE BLAST OFF: Milkha Singh (above) bursts off the blocks during one his many winning runs in the 1950s, (( below) a news report announces the Flying Sikh's track exploits

THE BLAST OFF: Milkha Singh (above) bursts off the blocks during one his many winning runs in the 1950s, (( below) a news report announces the Flying Sikh‘s track exploits

From seeing his family being massacred during the Partition to begging for food at the Delhi railway station as an orphaned refugee to arguably India‘s greatest-ever individual sportsperson, Milkha Singh remains a story that will be told over and over again. The relevance of this legend will only be more pronounced with time.

Milkha Singh continues to hold sway in the mindspace of independent India in a manner that few can match. What is it about this tall, gaunt runner from our past that always manages to hold our attention even today?
Three years ago, when it was announced that a film was being planned on the man’s extraordinary life, TOICrest visited him at his Chandigarh home. The following interview is the result of a day-long chat where he told us his story – of his race against death, hunger and then the rise where he touched the skies. 

Even over half a century since you last ran, whenever they have to take a sportsperson’s name in India today, ‘Milkha Singh’crops up first. What could be the reason for this enduring recall?

Tere ko maloom hain, Milkha Singh kahan se aaya, kahan sey khada hua? (Do you know where Milkha Singh came from? How did he manage to stand on his feet?) Hum to zameen se uthey, aur zameen se utth key humne aasmaan ko chhua hain. (I rose from the soil and managed to touch the skies).

Milkha Singh ko daude hue 50, 60 saal ho gaye. In those 60 years, in a population of 100 crore, you have not been able to produce another Milkha Singh. Ask the old-timers why? They would see me train at the National Stadium. Ek poori bucket paseene ki nikala karta tha roz. I have vomited blood, and we were so intense in training that there are numerous occasions when I had fainted and had to be carried home from the track. In the months of May, June, if you stood next to me, you could actually see the heat coming from the sweat from my body. It would be unbearable. Can the kids today do the same?

I had won three Asian Games gold medals, and on my return I slept on the floor inside the National Stadium. Cockroaches roamed the place. We drank warm water that came from the taps, we hadn’t heard of ice. This, I’m talking of 1951.

The current generation needs to know of Milkha Singh’s history, the world and the circumstances he rose from. Kaise Partition hui, kaise uske maa-baap uski aankhon ke saamne katal kiye gaye.

Those people, sitting in those cool offices in Delhi decided on dividing India, making a Pakistan and making an India, but it was the poor man who suffered. The rich took their cars, or got into flights or buses and crossed sides, but it was the poor man who got slaughtered. I come from that world. 

Do you remember the first time you ran?

I ran for the first time when I was in army. Ussey pehle kabhi nahi. My school was around 10km from my village (Kot Addu, in the district, Muzaffargarh, near Multan). Beech mein do nehre aaya karti thi. Us zamaane mein hummey maloom hi nahi tha ki maut kya cheez hoti hain. We used to cross it daily, which helped in building stamina.

I studied in a mosque from Class One to Four. Then I joined the city school which was 10 km away. Only two children used to go there from our village. We used to go barefeet and our feet had become extremely firm by then. We used to go running and then cool our feet down by standing on grass.

After a year, my father realized how tough it must be for us to be barefeet, so he got my brother and me shoes made of bhains ki chamdi (buffalo hide). Those shoes used to hurt a lot so we stopped wearing them. Soon we were back to going about bare feet. Har roz 10km jaana aur 10 km aana, in a way, it prepared me for my life that lay ahead. 

Do you remember the other boy’s name?

Yes. His name was Sahib Singh. He was murdered by the Pakistanis during Partition. 

Tell us about your family.

Ours was a family of farmers. My father was very strict. Bahut hi zaada sakht. His name was Sampooran Singh. Gaaon mein bacche badmaashi toh karte hain. They tend to bunk school, spend time elsewhere, but if he ever go to know toh bahut maarta tha. We would be so scared that we’d wet our pants.

My parents were illiterate, but they had had this modern outlook that the children should be well educated. He made my brother, Makkhan Singh study till matric (Class 10). Makkhan was the only man in the area who had passed matric and people from nearby villages would come to him so that he could read them their letters. My brother was well known in the village because of this. 

Your son Jeev is a world famous golfer, making you the most successful father-son pair in Indian sport. There must be a strong sporting gene in your lineage…

Makkhan used to play kabbadi. At my time, people in my village used to play kabbadi or wrestling. We did not have weight lifting, but there was this game of lifting heavy rocks. And the whole village used to applaud the person who managed to life those heavy rocks. Those who were good at kabbadi and wrestling were praised a lot. Other than these games, we were not even aware of other sports such as hockey, football, volleyball or gymnastics. 

Tell us about the Partition…

Main woh raat nahi bhool sakta. Jab meri aankhon ke saamne mere maa-baap ko katal kiya gaya, mere bhai, behen ko maara gaya, hamara joh gaon tha, poora ke poora ko khatam kar diya gaya. Toh maine toh talwaar leke galiyon ke upar pehra diya hua hai. I was just 17-18 at that time. How can I forget it.

But Muslims and Hindus had co-existed peacefully before this…

The relations were perfect. Our Muslim neighbours, even those in the neighbouring villages, they didn’t say anything. But what proved the flashpoint was that those trains which left from there into India and those which came back, all contained corpses. It immediately aggravated the issue.

Pakistan key andar woh Hindus aur Sikhs ko dhoond rahe they. Jahan bhi milte they woh maar dete they. The Musalmaan said, that if you embrace Islam you can stay here. You will have to cut your hair and start eating cow meat. Lekin, agar aapne apna dharam rakhna hain to phir aap yaha nahi reh saktey.

But, our Muslim neighbours didn’t say this, it was those who came from outside who incited our neighbours. ‘Aap ney kaafiron ko yahan rakha hua hain. Humaare bhai musalmaan wahan sey mar key aa rahe hain, fir aapne kyun inhey yaha rakha hua hain? Maaro inko, bhagao inko yaha se’. It was only then that they turned against us. At least 4, 000-5, 000 people were massacred in the area including my family and my village.
I heard sometime ago, that about four women survivors are still in the village. They say, ‘Milkha Singh humare gaon ka hain aur woh humme mil key jaaega…’

Had all this not happened, it is possible it would not have given birth to the legend of Milkha Singh…

Sawaal hi paida nahi hota. Milkha Singh ko toh yeh maloom nahi tha ki 400m kya cheez hoti hai, ye maloom nahi tha ki daud kya cheez hoti hain, competition kya cheez hota hain. National Games, Asian Games aur Olympics kya hote hain.
Our village was in a remote area of Multan. We didn’t know anything about the outside world. We didn’t even know what a bicycle was. Bus jaati hi nahi thi wahan. In fact, cycle maine pehli baar ’47 mein dekha, jab main Multan aaya tha apne bhai ke British Army ke station mein. 

It may sound strange, but had the Partition not happened which Milkha Singh would you have preferred to be – today’s or the one you were when growing up in Kot Addu?

I can’t answer that. That’s because I remember how it was when I reached Delhi. Takleef hoti hai. Jitne bhi log wahan sey refugee ban key aaye, unko jo takleef hui hai, mujhe maloom hain. Jab hum puraani Dilli railway station pahuche – I’m talking of ’47 – toh dekha ki log marey pade hain cholera sey, laashein padi hain, people had urinated and defecated on railway tracks and the platform, roti khaane ko nahi hain, log ro rahe hain. The rich Laalalog would bring poori-chhole and distribute it among us refugees. Yeh kabhi bhooli hi nahi ja sakti.

I was in search of a job after I got here. Three-four times I went to the recruiting office at Lal Qila, tried to get get inducted. Lekin wahan pe tabhi paisa chalta tha aur sifaarish chalti thi. There used to be 10 posts and a1000-men would be waiting in a line for a job. Anyone who came with a recommendation got the job.

How many times were you rejected?

I was rejected three, four times by the army. And when they took me, they realised that this boy could run. Had I not joined the army, my talent would never have been recognised. I would have had no idea.

milkha

How did the journey start?

We had people from all states and when we were told about this 5-mile cross country race the next day, all of us were eager to try it. Five hundred people ran the race and when it ended, I saw I had finished sixth. Stamina toh pehle sey hi tha jab hum daud ke school jaaya karte they and so I managed to finish sixth.

In all, they had to select 10 people and when they took us to the barracks, we were highly praised and congratulated: ‘Shabash, aapne to kamaal kar diya’. And then we were told that the 10 of us would be specially trained.

I was surprised, shocked and inspired at the same time when I got so much praise. That really motivated me. I thought I was getting so much respect and praise because of this, so why not give it my everything. I thought, ‘I have seen death from very close and was nearly killed, to phir yeh kya cheez hain, yeh to kuch bhi nahi’.

Next month there was another cross-country race and I came second. Some inspector came first. But I understood that you have to stand out from the crowd. Whatever you do, whether you are a photographer or a writer, people should think there is no one like him. Tab mazaa waali baat hai. Otherwise there are thousands like you. It was a survival guide that I had understood for myself.

When people started recognising me and taking my name, it motivated and inspired me even more. I told myself ‘Milkha aur ragda lagao’. 

You have a knack for story-telling. Can you describe that time between when you cheated death and began getting recognition for your speed and stamina. Where did you feel life was taking you?

Mere bachche jab meri kahani sunte hain to who roh padte hain, especially about the time when I was arrested and put into jail for travelling without a ticket. Ek aana ticket lagta tha Shahdara se Delhi. Today, Shahdara is a part of Delhi. But back then, it cost us a ticket of one anna from the railway station to get to Delhi.

One paise contained two pai. In our time, we used to carry one pai and leave home. When we went to school, toh hamare baap ney ek pai deni, who itni si hua karti thi (makes tiny sign with fingers). It was minted from tamba (copper).

One paise contained two dhele. The Britishers had a larger coin, uske upar angrez ki photo chapi hoti thi aur uske andar do dhele hua karte the. One dhela contained two paiya. Ek pai mein itni humme revadi mil jaati thi, moong phalli mil jaati thi ek paayi mein (Cups his hands to signify generous volume). Dhela to hamare liye bahut badi baat hua karti thi agar dhela baap de deta tha.

Rupaiya to kabhi dekha hi nahi tha, suna hi tha. Chaandi ka rupaiya hua karta tha. 

Toh Shahdra se Delhi aap aa rahe they…

Jamuna bridge pey checking ho gayi. Checking mein without ticket pakde gaye. Mere saath aur bhi bahut refugee they. Paisa hi nahi tha toh train pey chad jaate they. Pakde gaye to unhone kaha ki 15 rupaiye jurmaana do. Arre ek dhela nahi hain jeb mein to 15 rupaiye kahan se de dein? Uthaya, rassi se baandhey haath, woh magistrate wahin baitha tha… Usne order kar diye ki 15 rupaiye jurmana aur itne din ki saza. Tihar jail chale gaye. Meri ek behen joh Shahdara mein thi, jinke yahan main tha, usne apne kaanon ki baaliyan bech ke mujhe chudaya. Chaandi ki baaliyan thi.
She got a sound thrashing by her in-laws for this act of hers. “How could you sell your silver earrings to get him released without telling us,” they thundered.

Jail ke andar rehkey humne yeh faisla kiya tha ki hum daaku banenge. Roti khaane ko nahi hain, naukri nahi hain, kuch bhi nahi hain to kya kare? Wahan pey daaku they jinhone murder kiya hua tha, loot-maar ki hui thi.

When a youth of 17 realizes there is no hope, no job, no way to earn bread, then it is a simple way out – ya chori karenge, ya daaka daalenge.

It was my brother Makkhan Singh’s initiative that got me into the army, else the question of an honourable life did not even arise. Padhaayi chhooth gayi, ma-baap aur bhaibehen maare gaye, ab akela aadmi kya kare. Aisa zamana humne dekha hain.

Once you were drafted into the army, how did the thought-process change for you?

I used to look at myself in the mirror and say, “Kya tha tu aur kya ban gaya”. I remember Tokyo (1958), my first Asian Games – the Japanese insisted that I be at the forefront of the Indian delegation. The Maharaja of Pataila, Ashwini Kumar out delegation manager all were pushed into the background.

When I reached the team hotel, I saw the mirror and couldn’t help a big grin. “Tu kahan se utha aur kahan pahuncha. Dilli railway station pe bheekh maang ke roti khaaya karta tha. Aur ab…” 

You have made a successful crossover, socially and economically. Today, you play golf, enjoy a round of rummy and your evening drink. How did you prepare yourself in your private time. Where does the confidence come from?

Confidence to aapko apne aap hi aa jaata hain, jab aapke paas koi sahara na ho. Main akela tha, toh confidence to apne aap aana hain, apni life banani hain. I always say that the army saved me.

I didn’t even know one word of English. When I went to the army they said you are not a matriculate, you cannot be commissioned. I had only studied till Class 8 when I came from Pakistan.

So, when I joined the EME Centre in Secunderabad in 1951, they provided me with a nurse who was instructed to teach me English. So each day, after my training, I attended a two-hour class of English. She told me that I had to speak to her only in English.

I could understand a little bit as to what was she saying, lekin jo gaon key BA pass bhi hote hain, unko bhi English bolna nahi aata. Likh sakte hain, bol nahi paatey. I completed my matriculation so that I could be commissioned in the army.

At my first Olympics in Melbourne 1956, I didn’t know English. The American boy who came first, I followed him during his victory lap. I took a colleague of mine to ask him ki yeh training kis tarah sey karta hain, iska schedule kya hain. Usne saara likh key diya. Toh waapas aane ke baad, I followed that schedule like a man possessed. All these things helped me gain in confidence. 

All this, by excelling in the basic of all sports – running.

You are a soldier, you win a race, you get ahead of the rest of the jawans. You grow a little bigger among your peers. Then I won another race, and I realised “ki race jeetne pey jab saara kaam ho raha hain, toh mar jao ya kuch bhi ho jaaye, dekha jaega.
I became Havaldaar, then Junior Commission Officer. Where once I used to salute the world, now they were saluting me. It was a new world all of a sudden.

Yet, there are two things I can never forget. Number 1, Jab meri aankhon ke saamne mere maa-baap, behen-bhai ko maara gaya. I can never forget that day.
No. 2, Jo maine Rome Olympics mein, medal miss kiya.

(Interview transcribed by Rohan Puri)

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Lies, Damn Lies and NaMo : Why I do not support Modi and why you shouldn’t either

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M Akhil says he will never support Narendra Modi for the post of Prime Minister of India because he is just an enormous bubble, which his supporters claim to be full of righteousness, but is actually inflated with divisive communal politics, anti-people neoliberal policies, false development claims and a deeply patriarchal worship of the dominant male.


Listen to the flourish. The stage is set, the side-kicks are in place and the sycophants are scampering tirelessly to welcome their emperor. Narendra Modi has started his journey to the high seat of Indraprastha.

Curiously enough, his current ride is being celebrated as a victory lap by his ardent supporters. A bit too quick, don’t you think? Especially for a man who was only a few years ago, in terrible danger of being convicted for one of the most gruesome state-sponsored genocides in the history of independent India. Of course, he hasn’t been convicted yet, but many of his ministers and close aides have been. Babu Bajrangi’s confessions on record must be more than enough proof for Modi’s culpability. 1 Alas! Facts get twisted in the most unimaginable ways as they threaten to blow away an edifice carefully built by a dominant plutocracy with immense help from the ‘State-Temple-Corporate Complex’. 2 Here, I shall attempt to bust the Modi bubble which is being ridiculously pumped up by the holy nexus, even as you are reading this. After all, the BJP is possibly the party with the highest following among Indian netizens and the online publicity team of the current supremo is meticulous. An alternative view will be stark, but hopefully it will serve as food for thought for those among us getting nauseated by the dominant narrative.

While Gujarat is not ranked among the top five states even in economic indicators, its performance in most social and human development indicators is simply abysmal. Yet, Modi aficionados claim Gujarat to be a free-market capitalist haven even for the poor and the oppressed, much different from the rest of India.

In a recent article, Mr. Avay Shukla, 3 a former IAS officer from Himachal Pradesh, has argued why he shall support Modi in 2014. Leaving aside all queries of personal affiliation, it is worthwile to look at his arguments seriously. The author starts off with worries about the current state of the nation at near-apocalyptic proportions. The economic slowdown, the falling rupee, the Naxalite (Maoist) threat and the appeasement of minorities by the state are among his top concerns. The people of India cannot possibly agree more with the reality of these problems. But, he goes on to say ”it is time for a change”. Of course, he is within his rights to borrow Obama’s famous slogan for change in the United States, even if it is for Modi. But let’s think, what change is he hoping for? It’s not the case that the BJP is a party of young turks, about to revolutionize governance, once they get power. The NDA government at the Centre from 1999 to 2004 could be unfamiliar to relatively recent political observers, but it is well-remembered by others. That too as a painful experience at best. Nothing exemplifies the failure of that regime as neatly as the failed ‘India Shining!’ campaign. At a time when the common people were tormented by pretty much the same catastrophe as it faces now, the NDA decided to project India as an ’emerging global force’. The backfiring of that shameless campaign is well-documented in the media as well as in popular imagination. The Left parties offered outside support to UPA I, led by Congress (a major political opponent of the Left in all the three major states under its influence) just to put an end to the crippling NDA rule at the national level. This is because under NDA, India witnessed the worst anti-people, neoliberal policies till date. For instance, it was the NDA which first moved towards 100% FDI in retail sector in 2002, 4 its anti-labour policies invited critcism even from the then BMS general secretary Mr.Hasmukhbhai Dave, 5 it kick-started 6the policy of disinvestment of major PSUs which is still being blindly followed by the UPA and so on. These are in addition to the various embarrassing scandals such as the erstwhile BJP president Bangaru Lakshman’s acceptance of a Rs.100,000 (US$1,700) bribe for supply of fake weapons and the Kargil coffin scam. If this is the change that you wish us to embrace, Mr. Shukla, then – no, thank you. You have argued that the “crucial add-on” that you speak of, Narendra Modi, makes all the difference. Sorry to disappoint you sir, but he is analogous to a cancerous growth on an already frail body, which I shall explain.

Narendra Modi is not the kind of organic nationalist that at least some among the secular sections of the society found in A.B.Vajpayee, the first and only PM from the NDA so far. Modi started his career as a pracharak of the RSS and as recent events prove, still enjoys the full support and blessings of the Sangh. His image as a hardcore follower of Hindutva (sometimes even Hindu fundamentalism 7) falls in sharp contrast with many ordinary members of the BJP itself, let alone the rest of the country. Also, his brand of nationalism is the fake kind, in the sense that he has been fairly outspoken in his support for global capital and has relied on the U.S.’ comments on him whenever it was favourable. 8 These are crucial factors in understanding the hollowness of the argument that Modi is going to be the winning factor for NDA in the 2014 general election. It might be true that Modi has not yet been convicted for the 2002 pogrom in Gujarat, but he remains a deeply polarising figure in Indian politics. Proof of this came instantly when JD(U), a long-standing NDA partner which even had its president as the convener of the Alliance, left the coalition after explicitly pointing out the divisive character of Narendra Modi. If anything, Mr.Modi is only going to pull the NDA away from power and down with him. So, unless you are an orthodox Hindutva purist, there is hardly any reason for you to support him, which is the case for an overwhelming majority in India.

Another argument an ordinary middle-class Indian finds being thrown at her all the time is the claim that Modi is the most ‘development-oriented’ politician in India. Indeed, the author cites statistics from an article 9 which came in the Hindustan Times as proof of this. But merely a cursory look at this article itself will reveal the shamelessness of this claim. The article is a data-analysis of Gujarat’s socio-economic and human development indicators which clearly show that the image of ‘development-oriented NaMo‘ is nothing but a bubble. The contradiction between the claims of Modi-supporters and actual data has been unveiled quite authoritatively in the past. 10

Status of Gujarat as per selected development indicators

Number Indicator Gujarat India Rank among States/UTs
1 % GSDP Growth rate at constant prices, average 2004-05 to 2011-12 10.08 8.28 8
2 % BPL 2009-10 (2004-05) 23.00 (31.06) 29.80 (37.2) 18
3 Sex ratio (Females per 1000 Males [2011]) 918 940 20
4 % Households living in houses with concrete roofs 43.9 29.1 9
5 Literacy rate 79.31 74.04 15
6 Avg person days per household getting job under MGNREGS 2011-12 34 34 7
7 Infant mortality rate 2010 44 47 18
8 Maternal mortality ratio 2007-2009 148 212 5

[Sources : 1, 2, 3 – Planning Commission; 4 – Census 2011; 5 – Census 2011 and Planning Commission; 6 – Annual Administrative Report MoRD, 7 – Planning Commission; 8 – Census 2011]

While Gujarat is not ranked among the top five states even in economic indicators, its performance in most social and human development indicators is simply abysmal. Yet, Modi aficionados claim Gujarat to be a free-market capitalist haven even for the poor and the oppressed, much different from the rest of India. Mark Twain must be quite outraged at these damn lies.

The patriarchal overtones of the personal appreciation of Modi are unmistakable. The author cites the fact that Mr.Modi has no family as an important credential in his possible candidature (even though Jashodaben Chimanlal Modi, a woman hailing from Modi’s native village has claimed to be married to him since she was 18; but she was apparently ignored later by the rising politician 11). Having no immediate family might erase some doubts about nepotism. Barring that, what does the author mean by mentioning it? It is here that we really sense the deeply male-centered and patriarchal sentiments behind the hero-worship of Narendra Modi. His apparent machismo and daring have been praised endlessly by his devotees. By this what they actually do is to elevate Modi to the status of a modern-day Sri Rama, while ignoring the obvious lack of redeeming qualities of Rama that one may find in the story of Ramayana. Blatant testosterone-fuelled hooliganism at its best!

At least 17 scams about the Gujarat government have been brought under public scrutiny in 2011 and the Krishna-Godavari gas deal scam of 2002 could be even bigger than the 2G scam.

Avay Shukla, in his article, goes on for several paragraphs about the ‘virtues’ of Narendra Modi. He says, “Modi has had the courage to raise these questions and is therefore being reviled by those political parties whose apple carts he is threatening to upset”. No one doubts that Mr.Modi has courage. The question is whether he has too much courage. To successfully lead a coalition one needs a little more than courage – the ability to arrive at a consensus. Even if Modi tries to transform himself into a unifying figure in the next year, this will only cause an erosion in his fundamentalist vote bank. Therefore, in all probability Modi will either remain as a Hindutva trumpeteer or harden his extremist credentials. The article also praises Modi’s integrity with a claim, “I am not aware of a single major scam unearthed during his term.” Well, that is quite unfortunate. At least 17 scams about the Gujarat government have been brought under public scrutiny in 201112 and the Krishna-Godavari gas deal scam of 2002 could be even bigger than the 2G scam. 13The author also says, “we are looking for someone who can restore our identities as INDIANS and not merely as Brahmins or Scheduled castes or Muslims or Backward castes”. But if the person you found for that is Narendra Modi, best of luck!

To be fair, Shukla does criticize the BJP- “That leaves only the BJP, with its historical baggage of the RSS, Hindutva, Ramjanmbhoomi (by the way, this baggage also includes five years of exemplary governance under Vajpayee from 1999 to 2004) -perhaps enough baggage to dissuade me from voting for the party.” But he goes on to say, “Except that this time the BJP has an add-on: Narender Modi.” I believe it must be clear now that far from being a saving factor, Narendra Modi exacerbates the possibility of supporting the NDA led by BJP. I agree with his comment, “In any case, who in the country would lead the Congress- a reluctant dynast, or an ageing economist who has discovered his true skills lie in politics, or a backroom puppeteer? Or, God forbid, all three? (Seriously, this is a possibility- after all not one of these three want to shoulder sole accountability, and they may reason that if a dual power centre can ensure two terms, a triple may be good for even more!) No, to my mind the Congress is not an option”[sentence in parentheses also by Mr.Shukla]. But it is too early to say that there is no third option, as he claims. Alliances are still being forged.

Mr. Shukla’s article, however, conveniently fails to mention the recent adventure that Mr. Modi embarked upon in Uttarakhand. One must welcome any positive action in the face of such a calamity. But must we also welcome political profiteering that makes use of people affected by the disaster? Modi’s PR firm, APCO Worldwide 14 staged a media stunt 15 making him the hero in the rescue of over 15,000 Gujaratis from disaster-affected areas. This quickly earned him the title ‘Rambo Modi’ among his critics as well as supporters. Unfortunately for him, neither the number nor the mesmerizing manner in which he supposedly saved the distraught pilgrims (claims of Modi-sponsored choppers air-dropping rescue personnel were abundant in the immediate aftermath of the disaster) turned out to be accurate. How myths fill up the blanks in a popular hero’s story even when he is alive!

To sum up, I will never support Narendra Modi for the post of Prime Minister of India because he is just an enormous bubble, which his supporters claim to be full of righteousness, but is actually inflated with divisive communal politics, anti-people neoliberal policies, false development claims and a deeply patriarchal worship of the dominant male. Considering how it is impossible for the common people of a country as diverse as India to imagine such a person as their Prime Minister, it follows quite easily that most of us would not end up supporting him despite the highly professional publicity team serving Modi’s interests. Let us remain hopeful for a NaMo-free political environment after 2014 at the national level.


M Akhil is an Integrated Master of Arts (Economics) student at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, IIT Madras.

Author’s note: I would like to thank Pratheesh Prakash for his help and solid encouragement throughout the making of this article. Also thanks to Binny Alexander for some crucial links and comments regarding the erroneous interpretation of statistics used in support of Narendra Modi. Shared effort is strength!

 

 

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