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Archives for : Narendra Modi

Sikhs demands declassification of documents relating to Operation Bluestar

Jun 2, 10:08 pm


Amritsar, June 2 (ANI): Sikh intellectuals as well as Sikh radicals maintain that the scars followingarmy action in Golden Temple, code named Operation Bluestar, are deep and could not be easily forgotten but they want government to declassify the secret documents related with army action.



Senior professor in Guru Nanak Dev University, Kuldeep Singh, said there were certain things which travel from one generation to another and 1984 could not be forgotten as it was something that happened toSikhs in independent India.

He said that it was unfortunate that in India information on Operation Bluestar was being given by a third country.

Spokesperson of Sikh radical organization, Dal Khasla Kanwarpal Singh, said that thirty years had passed but the wounds were still simmering as they were deep inside. He said the Operation Bluestar had collectively hurt the Sikh psyche and justice had not been delivered as yet.

He demanded that the newly elected BJP government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modimust return all the Sikh artifacts, which were taken away from Sikh Referecnce Library during Operation Bluestar. He also sought intervention of UN and international community for justice. By Ravinder singh Robin


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An Open Letter to Narendra Modi from Irom Sharmila Chanu

An Open Letter from Irom Sharmila Chanu forwarded by the Asian Human
Rights Commission (AHRC)

Honourable Prime Minister

Shri Narendra Modiji,

South Block, Raisina Hill, New Delhi-110011

Phone +91-11-23012312+91-11-23012312 Fax +91-11-23019545, 23016857

Dated: 27th May, 2014

INDIA : An open letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Dear Honourable Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modiji,

A hearty congratulation from a young woman demanding for Right to
Life under the Constitution of India to the newly elected Prime
Minister of India!

First of all, I seek your pardon for any lack of etiquette in
addressing you as the Prime Minster of India. I, Irom Sharmila Chanu,
the lone hunger striker for repeal of the AFSPA, 1958 from the whole
of areas in the country that come under the purview of this act, would
like to draw your kind attention to my humble appeal for getting, the
innocent people numbering around 4 Crores, free from the injustice,
meted out by the Parliament of India.

Why should the Indian Parliament treat us, the inhabitants of the
North East Region of India differently from the rests of people in
different states of India at large by declaring our region as
disturbed areas, under which the Constitution provides, the Armed
Forces, even to the rank of a Havildar, the power to kill with full
impunity, torture and rape anyone on mere suspicion of being an
insurgent in their eyes? Why should so many women be exposed
helplessly to their sexual pleasures? Holding with such Licence to
kill under the AFSPA, 1958, the Government of India has been
committing thousands of the killings and enforced disappearance of
innocent people over the last few decades. This has resulted into same
number of surviving widows and thousands of lamenting parents for
their love ones leaving behind thousands of women headed families!

The Chiefs of the Indian Army remain strongly against the repealing
of the AFSPA only because they are too scared and insecure in their
movements without excess power provided by this Act. As the
consequence of their barbaric acts towards the innocent people, who
are considered inferior and wild stupid beings in their eyes, and are
very likely to retaliate suddenly and stealthily against the
inhumanness of the Indian Armies, out of rage amongst the masses. With
such mindset of the army chiefs’ tactics of controlling the
insurgency and upholding AFSPA in the north east states of India and
the state of Jammu and Kashmir has only been helpful in begetting more
and more insurgent parties in the long run. I consider, the only
solution to the liberation or separation movements in the north east
region of India will be none other than changing of the mindset of the
mainstream masses and power holders in politics at large to stop
discriminations and step-motherly treatments meted out to at the looks
of Mongoloid features.

Please, do provide us with the basic right of being a human so that
we can live with self-respect and dignity. Under the disturbed areas
status the State has exploited our tourism industry by restricting any
tourist from abroad which should provide us large income in exchange
of our traditional manual products with which we would also expand our
knowledge and horizons from such interactions with advanced countries
of the world.

Please don’t see me as a supporter of any insurgent party by the
only notion of the way I protest against. Instead, please do see me as
conscientious human being who doesn’t want to have a permanent home
and food nor adopt any particular religion or citizenship like the
birds in nature so that I am accessible, wherever and whenever needed.
I want to wonder around in the world as long as my body and soul are
in union. And, I want nothing from this mundane earth, except enjoying
the feeling of Importance with my birth as a rational, social animal
to the following generation after my departure from the world, In that
case, the future generations who would be born after me and whose
knowledge about my living past would also be from the history, only
will surely be want to transform the bad side of my own being into
good, owing to the glory of my good actions of which I had meted out
during my living space In this world.

Do prevail over the nation with the practice of nonviolence under
your leadership and ensure democracy takes roots in the country by
repealing AFSPA from the whole areas inhabited by around 4 Crores of
people in the North East and elsewhere. Crores of rupees which is
allocated every year to eradicate insurgency can be utilized
productively for the uplift of the poor peasants who feed the Crores
of Indians by transforming all the armed recruiting centres and
barracks in every nook and corner of our states into fertile paddy
fields that once it were for the farmers so that we can live a
contented and peaceful lives. Now, that you are not only the head of
the State but popularly elected leader by the whole of the nation for
a change, holding with the greatest power to command in your hands.
Like the enlightened emperor Asoka of KaiInga after witnessing the
huge devastation with heaves of deaths and lamentations that prevailed
over the whole land as a consequence of historic battles, do rule your
nation with the weapon of Ahimsa so that you may reap only with peace
and love of your peoples to allay the fears of Anti-Modi groups since
the incidents of Godra in 2002 and transform them into your beloved
friends for a peaceful and vibrant society.


Thank you for your kind attention.

With utmost regards

Irom Sharmila Chanu

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How did Modi win Like this – Honest introspection


By – Sanjay Singhvi

There have been many analysis from the left of the recent elections and Modi’s massive win. Some have said that it is not really such a massive victory. Some have said that the people have voted not so much for Modi and the BJP and NDA as against the Congress the UPA and the policies that they followed which led to price-rise, scams, etc. Others have pointed out that though among those independent of the UPA and the NDA, those like Jayalalitha and Mamta Banerjee, who were Brahmins, have won but those like Mayavati and Mulayam Singh who were lower casts have been defeated.

It may be true that 31% is the lowest ever vote share recorded to get an absolute majority. However, that cannot take away from the fact that this has been one of the rare times in the past many decades when a party has won an absolute majority in Parliament on its own. We cannot escape the fact that the Indian voter has voted for the BJP in a big way. In many cases the extent of the victory has surpassed even the expectations of the BJP and Modi. It seems to be also that the youth has voted for Modi in a big way. Some of the opinion polls showed between 39% and 45% of the youth wanting Modi as the Prime Minister.

Again it is not true to say that this was a vote against the Congress and not for the BJP. In fact, the Congress lost only 9% of the vote share compared to 2014, while the BJP gained over 12%. This means the even if all those who left the Congress vote bank voted for the BJP, still 3% other voters also voted for the BJP (that is almost the whole of the vote share of the CPM). Thus it is clear that there has been a universal attraction towards the BJP and particularly towards Modi.

What then has caused this attraction? I see Modi as a ruthless murderer in the 2002 riots. I see him as a willing agent of the Adani’s and Ambani’s to allow them to exploit the natural and human resources of India for the benefit of big MNCs. To me the sign that the stock market has zoomed with the victory of Modi is clear. It can be noted that whenever the workers or the exploited win a big atruggle and a big MNC like Reliance or Tatas is required to quit some project, their share prices plummet. On the other hand, whenever the company wins against the workers or the exploited sections their shares zoom. There are many examples of this – the shares of mining stocks in Goa and Karnataka plummetted recently; the shares of Tata motors plummetted when the Singur movement was on and the share prices rose again when the company was offered facilities at Sanand in Gujarat. Broadly put this is clearly explained by Marxism. Wages and profits come from the same pool – when wages rise, profits fall and vice versa. The international investors know this well. They know that Modi’s victory is a massive win for big industrialists. That is what the sudden rise in share prices indicates. The wealth of Gautam Adani has quadrupled from 1.9 billion dollars in September 2013 (when Modi’s candidature was announced) to 7.6 billion dollars today.

Looked at from another angle – who has driven up the stock prices? Who has put in massive money to buy stocks to make the prices rise like this? It is not the common workers and farmers who have been so thrilled by Modi’s win that they have decided to invest the money that they had stashed in their matresses into the stock market. It is not even rich Indians who have mainly driven up the market. There have been many reports that the present rise in the Sensex is due to massive inflow from FDI and FII. (That is also the reason why the Dollar recently became cheaper in Rupee terms). What does this mean? It only means that international finance capital is confident that Modi will implement policies that will earn greater profits for them.

So coming back to the main question – to me and many others like me who value democracy, Modi is the butcher of Gujarat. He is clearly in favour of big business and unbridled capitalist exploitation of both human and natural resources. The “Gujarat model” is nothing but further facilitating this. He is an RSS pracharak who openly flaunts his religious biases. His minister Maya Kodnaney is even today convicted of leading rioters in one of the most brutal massacres in the 2002 riots in Naroda Patia. His main man, Amit Shah, has also been charge-sheeted in a murder case and is out on bail.His communal and neo-liberal agendas clearly supplement each other. Then why did the majority of India not see him like this?

Why do the youth see him as a “doer” who has built a workable model in Gujarat for the rest of India to follow. There is much talk of a “Gujarat model” of development. A closer analysis of this model shows that it is nothing other than allowing free rein to multinational companies to move into Gujarat and exploit the natural and humen resources. Take the much touted Electricity success of Gujarat. Modi spoke all over the country of 24 hrs electricity for all the 18000 villages in Gujarat. On the one hand, this is not really true. Many villages are still without electricity and there are power cuts. However, even if we were to accept that there has been an electric “miracle” in Gujarat, we will still have to analyse how this has happened. The fact is that the GECL (Gujarat Electric Corporation Ltd., owned by the Gujarat Government) has almost stagnated. In 2005 out of the total electiricity generation of Gujarat was 59000 million units (Mus), GECL had generated 27000 MUs. By 2011-12, though the total generation had increased to around 78600 MUs, the generation of GECL had stagnated to around 28000 MUs. The figure for GECL for all the years in between varied only between 27000 to 29000 MUs. While GECL stagnated, the private companies had more than doubled their production. So while Adani Power has grown at breakneck pace as has Torrent power which has the monopoly for supply of power to Ahmedabad and Surat, GECL has been citing non-availability of coal, etc as reasons for not growing. Just to note, both Torrent and Adani power were set up before Modi came to power.

This is not only a single instance of political “hard-sell”. The GDP of Gujarat is not the best in the country by a long shot. If we take the average real growth rate of states at constant prices for the period from 2005-06 till 2011-12, Gujarat lags behind Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Pondicherry and the A&N islands. At 10.13% it is only marginally better than Maharashtra at 9.62%. It ranks quite low in the human development index. Still, the “Gujarat model” has been sold as a viable model for development in India quite successfully.

This was the defining point of these elections. This was an election created by the media. There was a media blitz. Of course a large portion of it was paid for. An article appearing in the HT (14th April) ( ) quoted BJP sources on conditions of anonymity admitting to an ad spend of around Rs.5000 crores. The hologram images of Modi in various public meetings were themselves reputed to have cost about Rs. 20 crores. Such expenses clearly make a mockery of the limit to spending put by the Election Commission of 70 or 54 lakhs per parliamentary constituency, which itself is beyond the reach of the common man. Even besides this paid advertising, the media gave much more time even in the unpaid slots to Modi than to other parties. There was a clear attempt to present Modi as a dynamic “doer”. A recent study by the Centre of Media studies after analysing prime time exposure on five major channels proved that Modi got 33.1% of the prime time news telecasts while Arvind Kejriwal got about 10% and Rajiv Gandhi only 4%. This increased to 40% for Modi towards the end of the campaign.

How does this matter. Let us see the following graph of the results of opinion polls held by Neilsen from February to May this year.

It can be seen that as the media blitz went on more and more people were attracted to vote for Modi and the NDA. The following chart shows the same curves in terms of vote percentage

So we can conclude that the voter was clearly influenced by this blitz. The uncanny thing about these charts is that they accurately predict the vote percentages and seats if we merely extrapolate them to the end of April or middle of May. After all the whole difference between the vote percentage of the UPA and the NDA even in 2009 was less than 7%. Rs. 5000 crores (plus the spend by the individual candidates) was used to cover this gap. The estimate of the Congress spend is only about a quarter of that spent by the BJP.

What further conclusions can we draw from this? Clearly Modi and the NDA were backed by big business in these elections. Massive money was poured in. Of course big business has already got big returns. As pointed out above, Gautam Adani’s wealth has increased from 1.9 billion $ in September 2013 to over 7.6 billion $ now. Mukesh Ambani’s wealth grew by around 6 billion $ in the same period. Anil Ambani’s grew by 600 million $ on one day – 16th May. For them the investment in Modi has been worth it.

Why Modi? International capital clearly sees him as being most conducive for the growth of their profits. International imperialism as a system is in crisis. They have not seen the light at the end of the tunnel after the massive crash of 2008. They require to be able to exploit natural and human resources in a brutal fashion to shore up their falling rate of profit. For this they require not “governance” but a particular kind of governance. A government which will allow them to invest without any hindrance. Which will give them land at a discount. Which will take away land from farmers and give it to them without protest. Additionally they require a “strong man” who will put down even the most temperate protests. The Hindutva factor is a clear “value addition” as it can always be used to divide the country on communal lines and obfuscate the real issues. They do not want to be hindered even by such feeble window dressing as MNREGA, etc.

The analysis then: International capital is in crisis. They need to be able to brutally exploit the natural and human resources of a big country like India in an attempt to protect their profits. In Modi and the NDA, they see the best bet for being able to do this in an unhindered manner. They backed a particular horse to the hilt and doctored the race also – what is more they have done it successuflly. They fully expect to reap the benefits.

Still, this analysis leaves one question unanswered which none of the writers of the left have addressed. Why was there no alternative presented? Surely we cannot expect the Congress to present an alternative. After all the Congress development policy is the same – only with buttons on! Imperialist exploitation with a “human face” (that too only to some extent). We should not expect the “sarkari” left front to have presented an alternative. They have nothing to offer except to go back to “Nehruvian socialism” and the “welfare state”. From there the only path that they have tried to tread has led to Singur and Nandigram. They will find to their ever greater amazement and defeat that they cannot step backwards in time.

But what of us on the revolutionary left? We who can see so clearly that the only alternative is socialism!.What did we do? What alternative did we offer? We in the CPI (ML) did try to cobble together some alternative program which we published in our draft election manifesto in July 2013. We tried to conduct a debate. We have to admit that we were not only not successful in putting an alternative before the masses but we were not even successful in igniting a debate among the revolutionary left. It is of course tacit in this that we cannot put a program all by ourselves but need the broad cooperation of all the revolutionary left.

This then is the main danger that we can see from this election. If we read the articles written by the left intellectuals after the elections we do not find a single word of self criticism. Some have blamed the AAP for skewing the elections. Some have put forward their analyses of what happened. They have hidden their heads in stastical sands. Not a single one has criticised the revolutionary left for not being able to provide an alternative. Have we lost faith in ourselves?

We see the same trend in various countries. There have been massive people’s movements all over the world in recent years. From Nepal to Tunisia through Egypt. Though in some cases as in Libya, Syria and Thailand imperialism has clearly tried to appropriate the movements, even in these countries, the people have risen against the effects of the imperialist crisis – unemployment, price rise and loss of democratic space.

All over the world, the results have been the same. The left has failed to come to the leadership of the movement at the decisive moment and has given way to right reaction Egypt and Tunisia went the way of Islamic fundamentalism. Interestingly, even after the massive protests from Teksim maidan in Turkey, Erdogan won an even greater majority in the later elections in Turkey.

All this clearly shows that it is not the Congress who suffer from policy paralysis. The Congress, at best, had a lack of the correct spin. We however do suffer from policy paralysis. What alternative are we offering besides repeating as platitudes the quotations of Marx, Lenin, Mao, etc. The truth is that if Lenin had been content with merely repeating what had been stated by Marx, the October revolution would never have happened.

The world has changed. Colonialism has given way to neo-colonialism. Imperialism has built up institutions like the IMF, WB and WTO besides the UN. The UN Charter on Human Rights is their democracy – including the right to private property. The relative weightage to the right to private property will increase in proportion to the crisis. Equally will genuine democracy suffer.

Even further, to expand further, imprialism developed globalisation so that there would be unhindered flow of capital and exploitation across national boundaries. They want to be able to move capital (not money, mind you but the relation of exploitation which we call capital) across the globe at a moments notice. They have to package it as an attractive alternative in this “democracy” where they are obliged to win elections periodically. They have learnt how to do this very effectively.

But all this can only happen if we allow imperialism to have its way. After all, no amount of media blitz and spin can push an idea which is clearly wrong in the face of a better alternative. That is where we lack. We, as Marxists have failed to make a real concrete analysis of the concrete conditions and come up with a real viable alternative. At least we have failed to make a sufficient connect with the masses with such an alternative. It is not the Congress who has lost. The people of India have lost this deal in an insidious game of bluff – and we are to blame.

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Secret diary of Narendra Modi

Narendra Modi

By SAUBHIK CHAKRABARTI, ET Bureau | 26 May, 2014,

NEW DELHI: Even I am exhausted…the phone calls! And I am getting confused now. Like that phone call from Islamabad…Nawaz-bhai calling…I expected this was yet another party colleague asking for a ministry…so I said, without thinking…sorry, I can’t promise you a ministry.

The caller was confused… Narendra-bhai, this is Nawaz, I am coming over, the caller said…I recovered quickly, like I always do, and warmly congratulated Nawazbhai… but then Nawaz-bhai said…er, Narendra-bhai, about a ministry, if something happens, you know because I am coming over…you know…the boys from Rawalpindi… if they tell me you can’t come back… you think you will have a ministry for me…or what about chief minister of Punjab…didn’t NDA do badly in your Punjab… Is this my first diplomatic victory or is this my first diplomatic crisis? I have asked my core team to find out…meanwhile, I have assured Nawaz-bhai full cooperation.

Two extraordinary proposals from the cabinet secretariat…one, that all waves in India’s maritime zone should now be officially designated as Modi Waves and, two, all new car models launched after May 26 should be called Gujarat Models…is the bureaucracy really getting efficient? Must ask the core team to check this out as well…

A most puzzling phone call from Maneka…Narendra-bhai, she said, me and Varun, what are we getting… I told her nothing’s been decided…I can’t promise anything… she replied they must get something…it’s better, she said, that a Nehru-Gandhi mother and son duo be inside a government than outside it…look what happened to the previous government, she said…I have a mandate, I told Maneka…so did Manmohan, Maneka said.

Also, there was this terrible confusion about the Aruns…I took a call and said, Arun I want you as my FM…but it was the wrong Arun! But Amit-bhai assured me this is fine… Now, Narendra-bhai, he said, I’ll call the other Arun and tell  him you want him as your FM…Amit-bhai is right, of course. If both Aruns think they are in for FM’s job…there will be rivalry between two very talented people.

Amit-bhai also suggested I needn’t make either Arun FM…his suggestion is that I don’t make anyone DM, HM or EAM either… Ah! The Gujarat model…I am prime minister, finance minister, external affairs minister, defence minister and home minister…that means the only minister who’s a member of the cabinet committee on security is me…Amit-bhai tells me this will be much more efficient…no wasting time in CCS meetings…saving taxpayers’ money on four ministers… unified policy…no dealing with Sushma-ji complaining that this Arun or that Arun is in CCS but she isn’t…no elliptical remarks from Rajnath-ji about how he wants to dedicate himself to party work…you are going to run everything anyway, Amit-bhai said, why not just make it clear.

Hmm…may be in the 2019 sarkar…

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Did Narendra Modi Abet Mass Murder ?



by Subuhi Jiwani, World War 4 Report

On May 16, 2014, vote counting day of India’s lower-house Lok Sabha elections, I received a message on Whatsapp text with the title “Aaj ki ABCD” or the “ABCD of the day.” All the letters of the alphabet were the starting points of phrases in praise of Narendra Modi. For instance, N was “Nationalist Hindu Modi”; R was “Rishwaton ka Lokayukt, Modi” or Ombudsman for Corruption, Modi; Y was “Youth ka bharosa, Modi” or Hope for the youth, Modi; and Z, unsurprisingly, was “Zindagi ka madksad, Modi” or The goal of life, Modi.

This is only a small indication of how convinced many Indians are that Modi, a Hindu nationalist, represents true Indianness and patriotism, a no-holds-barred approach to corruption (clearly a jibe at the rival Indian National Congress), and the promise of development and the availability of jobs, among other things that helped him and his Bharatiya Janata Party win a majority in these elections. This, despite the fact that Modi and 59 others have been accused of a criminal conspiracy in connection with the 2002 Gujarat pogrom—three days of anti-Muslim rioting that left more than 1,000 dead.

Today, he becomes the Prime Minster of the country. In a move that broke with historic precedence, he invited the heads of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries to attend his swearing-in ceremony. In attendance will be the leaders of Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka, in addition to Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif. A big draw for Sharif was the bilateral meeting with Modi on Tuesday, May 28, which could possibly help thaw the strained relations between India and Pakistan. (The New York Times via NDTV, May 24)

During his election campaign, Modi had promised to make India a more assertive presence in South Asia. What these meetings will signal for regional politics we will know in the coming days and months. What is worth noting, though, is the use of the term “assertive.” It echoes another perception of Modi as “decisive,” coming this time from Indian and global big business. Despite the burden Modi carries of not acting “decisively” to contain the 2002 anti-Muslim violence in Gujarat when he was the state’s chief minister, he is a favorite among corporate interests. As commentator Siddharth Vardharajan says, he is seen as the man with “the willingness to accommodate the desire of capital to expand in any way it wants… accommodating the demands of foreign investors, including for opening up of theinsurance and retail sectors. And if environmental rules, livelihoods, farmsteads or community interests intervene, they must perforce make way with the vigorous backing and assistance of the government. It is this promise of decisiveness that has made Modi such an attractive proposition for Indian—and global—big business today.” (Seminar 656, April 2014)

It can be argued that Modi’s active support of corporate interests contributed, at least partly to his victory. Big media, run as it is by big corporate interests, swayed with the personal preferences of its owners. Network 18, for instance, progressively moved rightwards, given its owner’s open support of Modi, and it was reported that the channel instructed journalists to rein in anti-Modi stories and cut live to any Modi rally or speech. Other journalists from big media, who were critical of Modi, came under pressure as well, both online and in the newsroom. Some received threats of rape, others were fired from their positions. All this leadto The Committee to Protect Journalists stating that “free and independent reporting of the [BJP] campaign [was] in doubt—as is the future climate of press freedom.”

The logic underpinning the BJP’s campaign—on the roads, in the press, on TV, online and through social media—can be explained in one word: omnipresence. As economist Jayati Ghosh put it in The Guardian, “The BJP’s campaign this time was different, seeking to present one man [Modi] as the national leader and creating an unprecedented media blitz around him for nearly a year, so that voters simply got used to the idea and even started believing the hype, through sheer repetition of the images and slogans.” The party is estimated to have spent Rs 5,000 crore (over $1 billion).

What, one might be tempted to ask, is the hype surrounding Modi? In part, it is the perception that during his terms as Gujarat’s chief minister (2002-14), the state’s growth rate of per capita income was much higher than the all-India rate. However, scholars Maitreesh Ghatak and Sanchari Roy say that this, in and of itself, is not evidence enough to prove that the Gujarat model of economic development under Modi is exemplary. They have found that Gujarat’s relative growth rate of per capita income was higher than the all-India rate even in the 1980s and 1990s, and it increased only marginally in the 2000s. Besides, other Indian states, like Maharashtra, Haryana and Tamil Nadu, had very similar growth rates during the same period, and the most dramatic turnaround in growth rate in the 2000s was witnessed by Bihar. (See also “Did Gujarat’s Growth Rate Accelerate Under Modi?” Economic and Political Weekly, April 12.)

But the “Modi effect” on the Gujarat economy was still the peg for an aggressive election campaign which, in the same breath, criticized a Congress-led government that had seen several corruption controversies during its tenure. This message was blasted at the Indian public from every corner. As a result, it captured the imagination of a people eager forparivartan or change at the ballot box. The BJP came out victorious with a clear majority of 282 out of 543 seats in the Parliament, helmed by a man whose style of governance has been described widely as “autocratic.” Incidentally, in his first official statement as Prime Minister elect on May 25, Modi said that he will build a leaner Cabinet, merging and restructuring several ministries. “Mr Modi is eventually aiming at Smart Governance where the top layers of Government will be downsized and there would be expansion at the grass root level.” (Sic) (For detailed election results, see NDTV-Elections 2014.)

This is perhaps not surprising for a man who, it has been said, governs with a mighty hand and a concentration of power around him. This is the same man against whom Zakia Jafri—wife of former MP Ehsan Jafri who was killed by Hindu Right Wing mobs in Gujarat in 2002—has been fighting. While the Supreme Court recently reopened a judicial inquiry into the case accusing Modi and 59 others of criminal conspiracy in the 2002 riots, Jafri’s petition has been adjourned by the Gujarat High Court.

Though there have been some convictions for the Gujarat riots, Jafri feels that the ultimateresponsibility lies with Modi for abetting mass murder. “Why does an old lady still want to fight against this powerful man?” she was quoted as asking in The Telegraph. “Because I’m on the path of truth. I will fight for justice, and I will win.”


Photo of Muslim girl in Gujarat by Meena Kadri via Flickr


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#Sundayreading – Salman Rushdie: On ‘Modi’s Toadies’

Salman Rushdie spoke on India: Religious Freedom and Personal Safety on April 28, 2014 at the 2014 PEN World Voices Festival.

Let me talk a bit about my country of origin, about India. There is a general election under way in India right now. Because of the immense size of the country, it takes six weeks for everyone to vote. The election is largely fair, largely free. Voting is peaceful, incidents are few, and the results will be a trustworthy expression of this gigantic electorate. On this electoral process rests India’s claim to be the world’s largest democracy. A proud claim, for it is harder for a poor country to be a free country. And the long civil uncertainties and frequent unfreedoms of the citizens of all India’s neighbours—the north, east, west and south—make the Indian boast all the prouder. This, we can all agree, is good.

But a democratic society is not simply one in which such a ballot takes place every four or five years. Democracy is more than mere majoritarianism. In a truly free democratic society, all citizens must feel free all the time, whether they end up on the winning or losing side in an election—free to express themselves as they choose, free to worship or not worship as they please, free from danger and fear. If freedom of expression is under attack, if religious freedom is threatened, and if substantial parts of society live in physical fear for their safety, then such a society cannot be said to be a true democracy. In contemporary India all these problems exist and they are getting worse. The attack on literary, scholarly and artistic freedom has gathered force ever since the banning of my novel, The Satanic Verses in 1988. Rohinton Mistry’s acclaimed novel Such a Long Journey was attacked recently by members of the Hindu extremist party the Shiv Sena in Bombay and Bombay University caved in and removed the book from the syllabus. A.K. Ramanujan’s classic essay, The 300 Ramayanas, for decades, the foundational text of Ramayan studies in Delhi University, was similarly attacked and similarly the authorities cravenly succumbed and removed it from the syllabus. Not only was James Laine’s study of the Maratha warrior king Shivaji, an icon of the Shiv Sena Party, attacked and banned, but the great library of ancient texts in Poona, where Laine had done some of his research was attacked and many ancient manuscripts destroyed. And most recently, the same fanatical Hindu—a person called Batra— who attacked Ramanujan’s essay, brought an action against Wendy Doniger’s important scholarly work, The Hindus, accusing her ludicrously and ungrammatically, of being a “woman hungry of sex” and instead of being laughed out of court, he succeeded in scaring the mighty Penguin Books of withdrawing the work. A gay artist, Balbir Krishan, was first threatened and then physically attacked in India’s capital New Delhi, accused of spreading homosexuality. The grand old man of Indian painting, Maqbool Fida Husain, was driven out of India because of threats from Hindu goon squads who disliked his nude portraits of Hindu goddess Saraswati in spite the long sculptural and artistic tradition from the most ancient times of depicting Indian goddesses heavily adorned in jewellery but very scantily clad. The wardrobe of the goddess Saraswati wouldn’t take up much room. Episodes of this sort are multiplying it seems by the month, by the week, by the day almost, and the authorities have failed lamentably in their duty to protect free speech rights. In fact, politicians and police officials alike have repeatedly blamed the victims for being the trouble makers. The climate of fear that has consequently been created is such that, as some of the examples I have given show, hooligans and censors’ work is now done for them by the collapse of those who ought to be free speech’s defenders. Penguin Books, whose merger with Random House, has created the world’s largest and most powerful publisher, and who were prepared to defend my work back in 1988, this time gave in to Doniger’s critics without so much as a fight. This already lamentable state of affairs looks likely to become worse if, as seems likely, as seems probable, the election results bring to power the Hindu nationalist BJP so that the highly divisive figure of Mr Narendra Modi, accused of being responsible for an ant-Muslim pogrom in 2002 in the state of Gujarat, whose chief minister he was then and still is, a hardliner’s hardliner, becomes India’s next Prime Minister. Films dealing with the pogrom have been banned in Gujarat ever since the attacks. Already, the threats to free expression have begun to spread beyond the state of Gujarat. Siddharth Varadarajan, the editor of the distinguished English language daily, the Hindu, was forced to resign recently because the paper’s owner’s felt he wasn’t pro-Modi enough. Soon afterwards, the caretaker of his apartment was beaten up in a Delhi street, by thugs who told him, ‘Tell your boss to watch what he says on Television.’ Sagarika Ghose, a leading anchor of CNN’s Indian affiliate, IBN, was ordered by her bosses to stop posting tweets critical of Mr Modi. In response, she tweeted what many journalists are thinking: ‘There is an evil out there, an evil which is stamping out all free speech and silencing independent journalists: journalists unite!’

Nor are the threats limited to free expression. Modi’s campaign manager Amit Shah delivered a speech in early April in the northern town of Muzaffarnagar, the site of sectarian strife last year. He described the elections as an opportunity to seek revenge against the Muslim minorities. Giriraj Singh, a senior leader of the BJP, said in an election rally in the northern state of Bihar, that those opposing Mr Modi would have no place in India—they will only find a place in Pakistan, he shouted. Praveen Togadia, one of the most senior of what I have come to think of as Modi’s Toadies, told his supporters to prevent Muslims from buying property in Hindu majority neighbourhoods in Gujarat. The writing is on the wall. A couple of weeks ago, the sculptor Anish Kapoor and I, along with several other Indian artists, academics and intellectuals, signed an open letter, worrying about Mr Modi’s rise to power. Since then, the attack on us in Indian social media has been relentless and, paradoxically, has validated our fears. We worried about the arrival of a bullying, intolerant new regime and here are its early outriders: menacing, nasty, bile-spewing, vengeful, substituting ad-hominem attacks for any real debate. There will not be less of this after a Modi victory. Mr Modi’s supporters hark back to the ballot box. He will win, they say, because he is popular. And they are right. A disturbingly high percentage of the Indian electorate wants a strong man leader, is willing to turn a blind eye to his past misdeeds, even if those include genocide, believes that dissenting intellectuals should be put in their place, critical journalists should be muzzled, and artists should behave themselves. This willingness to bet the house on Modi’s alleged economic genius, on which many commentators have doubts, and to risk everything that’s beautiful about a free society, may indeed provide the wave which sweeps Mr Modi to victory. It would be easy to say: then India will get the government it deserves. For all those who value what is being lost, all those who want a country free of fear, an open society not a stifled one, all those Indians will get an India they don’t deserve. Those who value the India for which Rabindranath Tagore yearned in his great poem, ‘My country awake!’ will get an India that would have horrified the poet.

Where the mind is without fear and the head held high, where knowledge is free, 

Tagore wrote, in part:

Where the mind is led forward by thee Into ever-widening thought and action Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

India is in danger of betraying the legacy of its founding fathers and greatest artists like Rabindranath Tagore. Thank you. Read more here –

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Dionne Bunsha:

May 21, 2014

On Monday, Narendra Modi will be sworn in as India’s new Prime Minister. Is he a savior for India’s economy or a threat to the country’s secular democracy?
Image from Flickr via narendramodiofficial

By Dionne Bunsha

It was a sunny day but no one dared to venture out of their homes. The streets were bare, curfew still in force. Godhra felt like a ghost town, but it was actually crowded with refugees. The doors of its schools and hospitals hid the exodus of people who had fled here after being hacked, raped, and tortured during an anti-Muslim pogrom that took place in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002.

As soon as I entered the hospital, I faced the crush of people in the ward, all with terrible wounds and horrific stories to tell. While I was talking to a man slashed by sword wounds, I felt something tugging at my kurta. It was his seven-year-old daughter, Sheela.1 When she finally caught my attention she said: “You know, they threw children into the village well. I don’t know how many children have drowned.”

Amid the sea of stories of rape and murder, I still remember Sheela’s eyes staring up at me, hoping that I could tell the world about the crimes she had witnessed. For the next four years, I reported on the aftermath of the carnage in Gujarat for Frontline magazine, telling the stories of refugees whose homes and businesses were captured, of murder witnesses who were arrested while killers roamed free. I wanted to tell the story of how the extremist Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), then in power in Gujarat under the leadership of Narendra Modi, had turned the state—Gandhi’s birthplace and the home base for many of his civil rights campaigns—into a land of intolerance where mobs ruled long after the violence ended.

The Gujarat carnage may be dismissed today as a footnote, an aberration, but violence has been the BJP’s strategy in innumerable instances.

Now, 12 years after the mass murders in Gujarat, Modi is set to become India’s Prime Minister. The world’s largest democracy may have voted for one of the most undemocratic leaders in its contemporary history. In a significant victory, the BJP, led by Modi, won 282 of 543 seats in India’s Parliament, the first time since 1989 that a party has won a clear majority. Disgusted by the corruption and lethargy of the ruling Congress (I) government, which was reduced from 206 seats in parliament to 44, voters were restless for change and the BJP reaped the rewards, managing an overwhelming victory despite receiving just 31% of the vote share.

The Indian media has been euphoric about the pro-Modi “tsunami” that has swept across the country. Stories of Muslims and mosques being attacked in Modi’s victory celebrations have been buried in the back pages or ignored while Modi declares that “India has won! Good days are ahead.” The horrors of the 2002 pogrom and theundertone of intimidation that still lingers in Gujarat have also been ignored in favor of Modi’s promises of economic growth. Many Indians, it seems, are eager to buy into Modi’s claims of being the “Vikas Purush” (Man of Progress) who will bring prosperity and good governance to India just as he did in Gujarat. His urban middle class supporters hope that he will transform India using his “Gujarat model of development,” that he is not corrupt, and that he will abandon his divisive prejudice against minorities. However, Modi’s governance record casts doubt on such naive optimism.

The Gujarat carnage may be dismissed today as a footnote, an aberration, but violence has been the BJP’s strategy in innumerable instances—from the destruction of a 400-year-old mosque called Babri Masjid in 1992, which was incited by the party and led to further violence against Muslims across the country, to the Muzaffarnagar riots last year, where BJP leaders allegedly incited violence again. For the thousands like Sheela, India needs to remember the past, because it could well be its future.

The Gujarat pogrom occurred after a conflict between Hindu pilgrims and a Muslim tea vendor at the Godhra railway station escalated into violence and arson. 58 Hindus died and Modi immediately called the tragic incident a “terrorist act.” His allies in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an extremist Hindu group, announced there would be “Blood for Blood.” That evening, Modi allegedly told police officers “to let the mobs vent their anger.” The next day, armed mobs targeted Muslim homes while the police refused to save them. More than 1,000 people were killed, around 2,500 were injured, and over 150,000 people, mostly Muslims, became refugees. Police stood by watching during the attacks, refused to file cases, and hid evidence. According to Human Rights Watch, the death count is likely closer to 2,000.

The BJP’s rule in Gujarat was the party’s “Hindutva experiment,” the rehearsal for its larger vision of a Hindu nationalist state. A few months after the pogrom, VHP leader Ashok Singhal said: “We were successful in our experiment of raising Hindu consciousness, which will be repeated all over the country now.” He said that villages had been “emptied of Islam”, and Muslims had been sent to refugee camps, and that this was a victory for Hindu society. Is this the model of governance that India really wants?

The girls were kidnapped at the request of their families who did not want them to marry outside their religion and caste.

Zakia Jafri, the aged widow of the late Gujarat Congress(I) leader Ehsan Jafri, who was killed in the massacre, appealed to the courts asking for charges to be filed against Modi for criminal conspiracy. A Magistrate court in Gujarat dismissed her case, leading Modi to claim that the courts have given him a “clean chit.” However, Jafri is nowchallenging this verdict in the Gujarat High Court, stating that investigators have ignored evidence of Modi’s involvement in the criminal conspiracy. It is too early, then, to presume that Modi has a “clean chit.” Now that Modi is in power with a large majority, though, it seems even more unlikely that the courts will dare to cross his path.

The BJP is the political arm of a network of right wing organizations called the Sangh Parivar, which shares a Hindutva nationalist ideology that defines Indian culture solely in terms of “Hindu values.” Inspired by Hitler, Mussolini and European fascism, the Sangh’s ideologues—M.S. Golwalkar and V.D. Savarkar, among others—envisioned India as a Hindu nation, where others would live as ‘second class citizens’. The Sangh Parivar is headed by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the organization for which Modi started working at the age of 10, and which was briefly banned after a former member assassinated Mahatma Gandhi. Though the Sangh Parivar raises hysteria over Muslim “terrorists,” its members have been allegedly involved in several terror attacks within India, including the Malegaon bomb blasts in 2008.

When asked about his role in the Gujarat pogrom during a TV interview, Modi walked off the set.

The Sangh’s cadre are trained and armed while young. I visited their training camps in Gujarat where young boys are taught rifle shooting and judo, and indoctrinated with the Hindutva philosophy. One of the young activists told me: “We should have weapons to protect our religion and our country. Muslims should be removed.” Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the militant Bajrang Dal, boasted to me that he had kidnapped more than 400 Hindu women who married non-Hindu men. The girls were kidnapped at the request of their families who did not want them to marry outside their religion and caste. Bajrangi kept them locked in his farmhouse outside Ahmedabad for several weeks, arranged forced abortions if they were pregnant, and sent them back to their parents after “teaching them the right values.” A few girls managed to escape. Similar strategies are adopted across India to ensure women adhere to “Indian values.”

Dissenters who have challenged the Modi government in Gujarat, including former BJP minister Haren Pandya and Right to Information activist Amit Jethwa, have been mysteriously killed. Over the course of Modi’s election campaign, several journalistswere threatened and silenced by Sangh Parivar activists as well as by media owners.Police officers who provided proof of Modi’s complicity in the pogrom were arrested or made to resign. When Arvind Kejriwal, the opposition leader from the Aam Aadmi Party, visited Gujarat to probe into Modi’s claims that it is a model state for development, his car was attacked by BJP workers and he was arrested for allegedly violating the election commission’s model code of conduct. Celebrity actor Aamir Khan’s films Rang De Basantiand Fanaa were not allowed to be screened in Gujarat because he spoke out against the government’s pet project, the Sardar Sarovar dam.

Meanwhile, Modi—the strongman with the “56 inch chest,” as he likes to describe himself—cannot even face an interview until questions have been vetted by his PR team. When asked about his role in the Gujarat pogrom during a TV interview, Modi walked off the set. The Editorial Director of India TV, Qamar Waheed Naqvi, resigned after the channel aired a “scripted” interview with Modi hosted by its editor-in-chief, Rajat Sharma.

Of course, the Congress Party has a violent past too; its leaders were involved in a massacre against Sikhs in 1984. But targeting minorities and stirring violence isn’t a deliberate part of the Congress’ agenda, whereas Hindutva was part of Modi’s campaign, which used religion and caste to polarize voters. At election rallies in the eastern state of Assam, Modi threatened to deport Bangladeshi migrants who were Muslim and provide refuge to Hindus from Bangladesh. Giriraj Singh, a senior BJP leader, warnedthat there will be no place in India for those who want to stop Modi. Those opposed, he said, will have to go to Pakistan.



Modi managed to ride to victory on the upsurge of anger against the Congress (I), capturing the public imagination with theatrical public meetings—during which Modi’s speeches were broadcast via 3-D hologram—and exaggerated claims about Gujarat’s economic progress, which Modi takes credit for and has promised to replicate across India.

The truth is, however, that Gujarat was one of India’s more prosperous states even before Modi became its chief minister. “Gujarat’s performance in the 2000s does not seem to justify the exuberant optimism about Modi’s economic leadership,” say economists Maitreesh Ghatak from the London School of Economics and Sanchari Roy from the University of Warwick. Gujarat’s Human Development Index (HDI) was above the national average in the 1980s and 1990s, but in the 2000s under Modi, it fell to the national average. Gujarat’s HDI ranks 9th among the country’s 20 major states,according to the latest HDI computations for Indian states.

Modi is corporate India’s favorite, though, because many companies have benefitted from his largesse in Gujarat. An official Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report of 2012 stated that government-owned firms in Gujarat granted “undue benefit” to big industrial houses, which resulted in revenue losses worth millions. Modi has been travelling across the country for his election campaign in jets owned by the Adani Group, which purchased government land in Gujarat at heavily discounted rates while Modi was in power. Arvind Kejriwal, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, one of BJP’s opponents in the election, alleged that as chief minister of Gujarat, Modi lobbied with the national government to increase gas prices three-fold to favor the Ambani Group, his close allies and India’s largest corporation. These facts tear apart the myth of Modi as Mr. Clean.

The Gujarat model is one characterized by unrestrained power and large subsidies to industry, which comes at a price for the poor. Despite protests, the Gujarat government has usurped land from farmers and wages in the state are 15-20% lower than India’s average. Every year, more than 500 farmers in Gujarat commit suicide, unable to deal with debt. When I visited Malak Nes village where a suicide had occurred in 2007, a group of farmers told me, “Look the holes in our chappals (slippers)—they are broken. Can you please send them to Modi? He gives speeches saying that farmers in Gujarat drive Maruti cars. Can you ask him which farmer in Gujarat has a Maruti car? We can’t even afford a new pair of chappals.” Farmers pay around 14% interest to banks, and over 60% to moneylenders. Compare this to the $1.2 billion loan that the Gujarat government gave to India’s biggest industrial house, the Tatas, at 0.1% interest, to be paid back after 20 years.

Cloaked under the guise of development, Modi’s real agenda is likely to be guided by the RSS, whose priorities are very different from Modi’s campaign promises of electricity and toilets in every home, bullet trains, and 100 new cities. Even before election day, the RSS made it clear that they expect Modi to move forward with the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya, on the site where the historic Babri Masjid (mosque) was demolished by Sangh activists in 1992, an act which led to communal violence across India. It also expects Modi to abolish Article 370, which grants special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir. This is likely to be met with great resentment in Kashmir, a state fighting for its independence from India. To retain “Indian moral values,” the RSS also wants Modi to take a hard stance on issues like the legality of “live-in relationships” and “homosexuality.”

It is clear why India’s billionaires are backing Modi. It’s also evident why Hindu nationalists would be excited by his rise to power. But a wider range of voters, yearning for a change and hope, have bought into Modi’s hype as well. They have voiced their choice for development, effective governance, and the “good days” that Modi has promised. In doing so, they may have inadvertently opted for Hindutva’s brand of fascist rule, where violence is engineered for political ends, where women and minorities live in fear, where children are trained to hate, where corporations can muscle over the poor, and where we may never hear of these abuses because dissent is silenced.

I can still feel Sheela tugging at my kurta.

1Sheela’s name has been changed to protect her identity.

Dionne Bunsha is a journalist, and author of the book Scarred: Experiments With Violence In Gujrat, a narrative of the violence in Gujarat in 2002 and its aftermath.


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Guest Post by – Anwesha Dutta

Anwesha is a PhD candidate at the Dept. of Anthropology, University of Tuebingen, Germany and before that she  completed her  MSW in Dalit and Tribal Social Work from TISS,Mumbai.  Her area of work is conflict and coping in Bodoland, Assam. 



The grand victory of Narendra Modi of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the 2014 general elections is an event that will go down in the history of Indian elections as something which was perfectly planned and a well ‘designed’ victory and shall be much discussed by academics, political analysts, journalists and the common masses across the world in years to come. At this juncture I must mention that I am no Modi-tard and here I will just try to pen down my inhibitions with the victory of a ‘person’ and not a ‘party’. No, I am not on a Modi-bashing spree but I shall try to analyse the circumstances that led to the emergence of a single ‘face’ that swept public sentiments across the country and the eminent dangers that come with such ‘big’ wins. I shall also share some of my experiences in Gujarat, where I worked for five months with the state government in the Secretariat in Gandhinagar and had the opportunity of visiting remote villages across several districts. This also makes me more sceptical of the Gujarat model of development for which Modi seems to have taken all the credit.

I will try to draw parallels with Mr. Modi’s rise with the rise of fascism in Europe and also explain how the common masses fell for his ‘promises of development’, ‘economic freedom’ , and ‘an India free of Bangladeshi immigrants’. It is therefore not surprising that many of my friends belonging to minority groups, including sexual minority (the LGBT population/movement can now forget about getting their rights as Rajnath Singh clearly stated that ‘homosexuality’ is unnatural in the Hindu religion) now continue to live under a shadow of fear, especially in the states of Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat and Assam.  The rise of Modi can be attributed to many factors and not just Mr. Modi’s charisma and shrewd political strategies which worked magic. The deep resentment against the ruling congress, lack of an alternative leader and apparently being a modi-tard not only started to sound more ‘cool’ but was also a ‘fad’, an ‘in’ thing. In the process several million young voters were bought into the ‘modi’ wave (knowingly or unknowingly). Obviously, these are also the people who either do not remember the 2002 Godhra riots or it does not matter to them. Also they have supreme belief in the SIT( Special Investigation Team) and Supreme Court of India’s verdict despite the clear contradictions in the SIT report which makes it unacceptable to many, including the residents of the ‘Gulbarg’ society where several Muslims were killed in open daylight in front of the Police. Modi in his statement said that he wasn’t aware of the happenings in the Gulbarg society till late evening, but the SIT report praised him for holding hourly meetings with the police throughout the day. Then how could he have been unaware of the carnage that was taking place in Gulbarg that very day? The report has been subject to criticisms, especially since a former associate of Modi’s took out an affidavit claiming that a draft of the report had been sent to the Gujarat state lawyers for vetting and possible redrafting.

Modi’s fascist tendencies especially against the minorities is no secret. He has not once apologised for what happened in 2002 in Gujarat. Modi’s entry into Indian politics has been through his long term association with the RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). The RSS was founded in direct imitation of European fascist movements, and like its 1930s fascist models it still makes much of daily parading in khaki drill and the giving of militaristic salute. Ideologically it believes that India is a Hindu nation and its goal is subsequent racial purity. They believe that the ‘foreign’ races in India should adopt the Hindu culture and stay in this country acknowledging the fact that they owe their allegiance to this very Hindu religion. In a rare comment on the issue of the riots last year, Mr. Modi said he regretted the Muslims’ suffering as he would a “puppy being run over by a car”. Once he seemed to half-justify the actions of the rioters: in the US, he said, “An innocent Sikh was murdered after 9/11. Why? Because he looked like the terrorists. If the educated in America can get provoked, why use a different yardstick to evaluate Gujaratis?”

On another occasion, even more chillingly, he told the Washington Post: “Why even talk about 2002? … It’s the past. What does it matter?” His only regret, he told the New York Times, was his failure to handle the media fallout.

This firmness and rigidity of Mr. Modi was also evident when I worked with the government in Gujarat. People (starting from a clerk to an IAS officer) seemed to be in constant ‘fear’ of the chief minister, Mr. Modi, although one could argue that this increased efficiency and output but one cannot deny that within a democracy the state administration lacked a ‘freedom’ of ‘space’. To explain this further, wherever one travelled to Gujarat, most billboards had pictures of Modi and were saffron in colour.

To speak against ‘saffronisation’ or the almost ‘rigid’ administration was not only unacceptable but one could even be put to task for the same. I once met an activist at the secretariat in Gandhinagar who was unhappy with the plight of Muslims and Dalits in Gujarat (Gujarat still has one of the highest percentage of manual scavengers) and had reports based on his field work. He handed me one of those reports and when I showed it to my senior colleagues I was asked to keep that report inside my bag and never to again speak to such activists. Similar instances continues, when I visited a ‘Hindu’ village and started speaking to a group of middle aged men about development in Gujarat, these men were all praises for Modi Bhai. Then suddenly one of them said, ‘I have to go now because I have been summoned to the court tomorrow’, he said it so casually as if he was going to a local fair. I asked him, ‘why have you been summoned to the court?’, he laughed and said , ‘you know , those Muslims, we killed’. Speaking of the Gujarat model of development, one has to first notice how Modi has wooed in investors from across the world to invest in industries and dams in the state. This has in turn led to large scale displacement, especially of the people living in tribal districts.

I interacted with several villagers who were on the verge of dispalcement for an upcoming dam construction in the state. A group of women said to me, ‘we have been offered only 700 rupees and have been asked to leave our homes, our forests, our rivers, cattles and everything we own’. The administration in Gujarat which was mostly managed by people sharing Modi’s idea of Hindu nationalism and heavy handedness firmly believed that ‘they could get away with just about anything’. The people of Gujarat are also equally enterprising and Gujarat historically has been a prosperous state. Just because a model worked in Gujarat, it might not hold true for the rest of India- given the social, economic and political plurality and demographics.

This communal thread was largely present in most of his campaign speeches be it in Uttar Pradesh or Assam. It is evident that the RSS worked overtime especially in North Eastern states to propagate this Hindu agenda further. I do not see the difference between Mr. Modi who in his election speeches assured the Hindus of Assam that the Bangladeshis shall be ousted from India and the ULFA (United Liberation Front of Assam) who also share a similar ideology. Or, Modi’s most trusted right-hand man, Amit Shah, who is credited for the victory of BJP in UP, who also openly urged voters to use the ballot box to seek “revenge for the insult meted out to our community. This election will be a reply to those who have been ill-treating our mothers and sisters”—this in an area where dozens were killed in Hindu-Muslim riots last year.

It is but evident that the people of India have been bought over by this ‘modi wave’ across India and we again have succumbed to the ‘Indira is India’ rhetoric, because it is the ‘modi’ government one is looking forward to and not the BJP or the NDA. Modi has become synonymous with the ‘state’ and such big wins have always to be perceived with a pinch of salt. It has not been the victory of the ‘lotus’ but of a one man army. Only time will reveal the consequences and aftermath of this commendable victory. I am but hopeful and so are my minority friends, and also the liberals and the leftists and anyone who is against fascism and believe in true freedom of speech, expression and movement irrespective of religion, sexuality or ideology.


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Will the PMO under Modi be fairer in dealing with RTI applications?


VINITA DESHMUKH | 22/05/2014 12:53 PM |   

Last year, Narendra Modi ridiculed the PMO for denying information to a citizen. Will his office be open to seriously dealing with RTI applications, considering that his home state Gujarat does not have a good record?
People have given a huge mandate to one single party and soon a new government will begin its work under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While issues like curtailing price rise and bolstering economy would be a priority, it would be interesting to see his strategy on transparency, meaning the implementation of RTI Act, particularly in the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office), besides the rest of India.
The reason for broaching this issue is Narendra Modi’s speech while addressing a BJP workers’ meeting in Kolkata on the 9th April, 2013. In an apparent reference to RTI activist Commodore Lokesh Batra’s RTI application which was dismissed by the PMO office and had gained publicity through newspapers, Modi had stated that, a citizen had asked a question to the PMO under RTI but the PMO office declined to provide the necessary information. He further stated that the Congress flaunts that it has brought in the RTI Act but what is the use if it does not abide by the true spirit of the Law. His speech can be heard here. For the specific comment, go to timing 1:07:58 in the speech.
Batra had filed a RTI application to get information on the details of files and records which have been digitized by it as per the rules of Section 4(1)(a) of the RTI Act. ThePublic Information Officer (PIO) replied that the applicant “has not specified how the information is useful to him either personally, socially or nationally.” As most are aware, a RTI query does not require motive. The first appellate authority overruled PIO’s reply and directed him to make the information available within  a fortnight. Despite that, the PIO did not comply.
While Modi was correct in raising the issue, the fact is that there is the general apathy in implementing the RTI Act in Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Several activists who I spoke to on Tuesday confessed that RTI compliance is poor in the State. Bhadresh Wamja, the 20 year old Sarpanch of Saldi village, 120 kms from Gandhinagar who is an ardent RTI activist too stated that, “RTI in Gujarat is weak. There is apathy over appointment of Central Information Commissioners (CIC) –we have only four out of nine presently. PIOs are very lax in providing information so most of the applications go for first and second appeal.’’
RTI activist Vinod Sanepara of Surat also stated that Gujarat has not implemented RTI Act in true spirit. He states, “My RTI applications regarding various schemes and rights for the disabled have been stonewalled. I have had to go for first appeals but there too it is not smooth sailing. PIOs are particularly callous about replying queries and there is no political or administrative will to strengthen RTI.’’
Another RTI applicant mentioned that, it is difficult, nearly impossible to get information concerning MLAs and MPs of Gujarat. This results in threats and he thinks it is pertinent and of urgent importance that a strong Whistleblowers Act is put in place. Gujarat and Maharashtra are two prominent states where assaults, most of them fatal, have occurred.
As for the PMO office under Manmohan Singh, it was clearly RTI-unfriendly in the UPA-II era, say RTI activists. Observes Batra, “Earlier, I was asked to name the most transparent Public Authority, without second thought I would say PMO. As per my experience PMO was role model in implementing RTI Act. Then suddenly towards October 2011 everything changed and transparency in PMO took a dip. The status of Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) who is a Deputy Secretary level officer was reduced to a Post Office.
“The CPIO started signing RTI replies with standard phrase ‘The matter was referred to the office for providing inputs. The inputs provided by the office in respect of your request for information, is enclosed.‘ In my view, it was clear that the RTI responses were being vetted by Senior Officers in PMO before being signed and sent to CPIO by a Section level Officer who is much junior in rank to CPIO who holds the rank of Deputy Secretary but left with little say. Transparency in PMO became the causality.’’
States Shailesh Gandhi, former CIC: “It is a very good sign that Mr. Narendra Modi,-the PM designate,- displayed his inclination for transparency when he criticised the PMO for refusing to give certain information under RTI. My experience with the PMO as an Information Commissioner is that generally it is very professional and correct in RTI matters. However, at times there are unjustifiable denials of information. With Mr. Modi as PM we expect that the PMO will not deny any information which should be provided. We hope Mr. Modi will increase transparency in the PMO and the Central government. He will find that increased transparency will allow thousands of vigilant citizens to curb arbitrariness and corruption. I am hopeful that he will take the Government towards complete digital working without paper files which would facilitate transparency, adherence to Section 4 and improve efficiency in working.’’
Delhi-based RTI activist Veeresh Malik, opines that, “The UPA Government has been talking about the RTI Act of India as one of its stellar achievements while the actual fact is that they have been responsible for resisting downstream implementation in real top-down cases, on various subjects such as:
* Costs incurred on so-called VIPs/VVIPs under multiple heads, not only security
* Subhash Chandra Bose files
* Definition of “Muslim Citizen of India” as used in Parliament
* Definition of “minorities” after marriage with non-minorities as well as sub-sects within minorities
* Bringing PPPs / JVs / NGOs and other substantially financed by taxpayer entities under RTI.
Let us hope the new Modi government opens RTI and PG (Public Grievance) up properly, for real citizen governance.”
Will Modi do an Obama in this case? As soon as he became President of USA in his first term, he had sent a letter to all public departments, asking them to be transparent in their day to day work. Here is the link.
A survey by CHRI and Nagarik Adhikar Kendra in 2009 revealed that RTI implementation is poor in Gujarat. Excerpts:


“CHRI and Nagarik Adhikar Kendra, Kalol designed this survey to assesscompliance of public authorities with their obligations under the RTI Act in Panchmahals district.
Panchmahals was the district of choice as it was handpicked by the State Government in 2006-2007 for intensive capacity building of public authorities under a UNDP sponsored programme. This survey is an exercise aimed at evaluating the performance of public authorities in terms of objective parameters based on their duties described under the RTI Act and the RTI Rules issued by the Government of Gujarat…


“…With the exception of a handful of public authorities that have made serious efforts to implement the RTI Act, the record of compliance is poor in a large majority of the offices. Compliance at the taluka level is much weaker compared to offices at the district level. The dismal levels of performance overall in Panchmahals can be attributed to several factors:
a) negligible or partial understanding of the obligations under the RTI Act;
b) a cavalier attitude towards fulfillment of the objectives of the RTI Act;
c) lack of proper understanding about the effect and consequences of
providing access to information that they hold in custody;
d) lack of incentives to change from deep-set ways of maintaining undue
secrecy in every aspect of governance; and
e) unjustifiable attitudes towards the taxpaying citizen ranging from
casual treatment to blatant disregard.
The narratives of the experience the survey team went through to obtain mundane, everyday information about the implementation of this Act are illustrative of the degree of resistance within the bureaucracy to changing old habits of keeping information hidden from public view.” Full Report here.


Read mor ehere-

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A letter to my Prime Minister, Narendra Modi

As a citizen of India I want to have faith in my government. No matter who is elected I want to feel that the only thing that matters when the government looks at me is the fact that I am Indian. Given that Shri Narendra Modi is about to be Prime Minister of India, I have some questions. Before I ask these I want to preempt the usual diatribes that will be leveled at me and say to those who might disagree with my questions, at least allow me to ask them because I do so in complete sincerity.

As an Indian I want to believe, in fact I need to believe, that the Prime Minister will not only be representative of me and all my fellow countrymen but will also continue the proud traditions of equanimity, equality, harmony and justice that I grew up with. I too want to celebrate democracy in my country and participate in welcoming a government that has promised so much but I do not want to feel that just because my views on certain things might be different I might be excluded.

There is no doubt that the Congress Party has yet again demonstrated an arrogant callousness about their role in politics in India. Compared to the well-managed, well funded and indeed overwhelming campaign of the BJP, the Congress’ attempts suggest a complete dereliction of duty and are therefore inexcusable. Rahul Gandhi’s snub of his own Prime Minister recently when he did not attend a farewell dinner, his un-remarkable speech and what could easily be interpreted as a supercilious expression during and after it only add to the public perception that the Gandhi family are disconnected and unconcerned about their role in Indian politics. He was a study in contrast to Tarun Gogoi who announced his decision to resign following the results in Assam, a state that has consistently voted for the Congress Party.

However, certain features of the BJP’s campaign are worrying to me. I do not think that only a Muslim can represent Muslims or only a Hindu can represent Hindus but I do believe that whoever leads India has to instill confidence in all sections of society that they are impartial and non-partisan. Thus, what worries me is that although Shri Modi has only spoken using the rhetoric of development and has rightly castigated the Congress for its shortcomings, people who have openly declared hatred for sections of the Indian population are nonetheless in the BJP. There are many people who believe that religion is an inextricable part of Indian citizenship. Would this be the government’s point of view?

Some time ago when I was in rural Uttar Pradesh, a state that has given the BJP a huge mandate, an old farmer said to me “Look! I eat bread from the same soil that my neighbor Shakeel tills. We used to go to the same well and now we share handpumps. The same wires bring us electricity, when I have crops to sell we walk on the same road and sell in the same market.” As was implicit in what you said in Ahmadabad, and as I am sure you would agree, suffering and poverty have no religion.

Not long ago I, born 35 years after independence, was asked by a compatriot about whether Muslims regret not going to Pakistan? Very few people have the honour and privilege of consciously choosing their homeland. The fact is that millions of Indians chose to remain Indian after we acquired our independence and continue to be proud and happy to be Indian. Every single day since then many of them have prayed and prostrated themselves on the soil of the homeland they embraced 67 years ago and in doing so have affirmed their belief in the sanctity of this land. These feelings are borne out of their respect for and trust in our constitution and our institutions and so I am sure that arbitrary and unfair legislation will not be used to undermine these institutions or our bond to them. Today if some of my fellow countrymen persecute me or others on account of our views, beliefs or even backgrounds will you fulfill the duty of protection that the government owes to all its citizens?

History is more a prism to understand the present than a mirror that reflects the past. Our country is only 67 years old and before that many things happened which today would be unjustifiable. The reasons for injustices are manifold. They are not reducible to simple binaries. So would you agree that history should not be placed as a burden on any citizens of independent India? Especially not the overwhelming number who were born Indians, remain Indians and are committed to the idea of India?

Finally I would like to end by saying Hindustan Zindabad! I know that you began your speech in Vadodara by saying Bharat Mata ki Jai. I reaffirm and respect the extent of his veneration for our homeland but I hope the new government will allow me to express my feelings of patriotism in my own language. Jai Hind!

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