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Temple Vs Mosque- : My loudspeaker versus your loudspeaker

Express investigation part-II: My loudspeaker versus your loudspeaker

Written by Appu Esthose Suresh | Saharanpur/ Bijnor/ Moradabad | August 6, 2014
A temple and a mosque in Nehtaur, Bijnor, each with its own loudspeaker. There was a communal incident in the town on July 23. Source: OINAM ANAND A temple and a mosque in Nehtaur, Bijnor, each with its own loudspeaker. There was a communal incident in the town on July 23. Source: OINAM ANAND


That’s the spark in more than a quarter of the estimated 400 communal incidents since May 16 in 12 bypoll areas in UP.

Mitron aaj to tumhare mandiron se speaker utar rahe hain, ek na huye to kal yeh tumhare ghar main ghuske tumhari izzat utarenge. Isliye bolta hoon, apni taakat dikha do. To sab milte hain, shaam 6 baje Bageshwar mandir. (Friends, today, they are removing speakers from your temples; if you do not unite, tomorrow they will enter your homes and humiliate you. This is why I say, demonstrate your strength. So let us meet at 6 pm at the Bageshwar temple.)

— Message sent out on WhatsApp, allegedly by Vijay Kumar Mittal, head of the Bageshwar temple committee in Saharanpur.


On July 23, four days before riots broke out between Sikhs and Muslims in Saharanpur city, nearly 2,500 Hindus answered the message, gathering quickly at Kothwai Nagar, 5 km outside the city. On the previous night (July 22), loudspeakers at the temple had blared Shiv Katha, disturbing scores of Muslims at their night-time Ramzan namaaz. Some 300 Muslim families live in the Hindu-dominated area, and an argument broke out between the two communities on Behat Road before the police were called in. The night passed peacefully, but the next morning, the WhatsApp message went out.

On the same day, in Nehtaur in adjoining Bijnor district, two Muslim men attacked a Hindu pandit called Rajesh Singh Saini with a knife. Saini’s temple is in the predominantly Muslim neighbourhood of Holiyan, and residents of the area had objected to the volume of the temple’s loudspeaker. The local police shrugged off the attack as the result of personal enmity between Saini and someone called Salim. But a full week after the incident, The Indian Express observed five armed policemen still patrolling the area.

In the 10 weeks after May 16, when the new government took over in Delhi, police in Uttar Pradesh recorded 605 incidents of “communal” nature, two-thirds of them in and around 12 assembly constituencies headed to bypolls. In this communal tinderbox, the humble loudspeaker emerged as a potent catalyst for tensions.

Traditionally used for propaganda, provocation and posturing, the loudspeaker was transformed into an effective instrument of polarisation. Police records of over 600 communal incidents during this period scrutinised by The Indian Express show some 120 of them were triggered by the use of loudspeakers at places of worship — the largest contributor, alongside construction activities involving masjids, madrasas and kabristans, to tensions.

Ten incidents occurred in Muzaffarnagar; nine each in the districts of Bijnor, Meerut and Moradabad. Loudspeakers triggered eight incidents each in Amroha and Saharanpur; seven each in Sambal and Bareilly; and six in Shamli. Five incidents each were witnessed in Baghpat, Rampur, Bahraich and Balrampur.

The incidents spiked sharply after June 16, when \Hindu mobs poured out on the streets of Kant, Moradabad, after a newly installed loudspeaker at a Dalit temple was removed.

Between May 16 and June 16, only 17 incidents were recorded — all but one of which were in the western UP districts of Muzaffarnagar, Shamli, Amroha, Sambhal and Moradabad. After June 16, however, and especially after Ramzan began on June 30, there was a spurt in communal incidents, which also spread rapidly eastward.

In nearly all of these 120 cases, a familiar pattern was seen: temple loudspeakers competed with loudspeakers of the azaan; and a new and aggressive Hindu insistence on the right to use loudspeakers triggered Muslim reaction.


Vijay Kumar Mittal of Saharanpur’s Bageshwar temple committee — also an activist of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad — denied having sent the WhatsApp message that, besides exhorting Hindus to “unite”, contained several offensive references to Muslims. Police are yet to establish where the message originated.

Eyewitness accounts of Muslims, corroborated by police officials, suggest that the majority among the 2,500-strong Hindu mob that gathered at the temple were outsiders. Said a Muslim man in Saharanpur who identified himself as Nazir, “We have never had such problems in the past. If it (the loudspeaker) was loud, we would request that the volume be turned down, and the pujari would oblige. But this Ramzan, it was impossible to conduct our prayers.

“We informed administration officials because we did not want conflict. But an agitating mob showed up the next day. There were very few locals in that mob. I don’t know what would have happened had the administration not intervened.”

Nazir was among members of the community who gathered for afternoon prayers not far from Bageshwar temple amid curfew in Saharanpur.

Kapil Mishra, a member of the Bageshwar temple committee, said, “The loudspeaker will remain where it is, and the Shiv Katha will continue. The temple uses loudspeakers only occasionally. What about the masjid? Their radio (loudspeaker) blares throughout the year. Have we ever objected?”

Assembled inside the temple, Mishra and other members of the temple committee described an alleged attack by Muslims on a priest. “Muslims attacked the pandit of the Shankaracharya temple and injured him. This is what is happening to us wherever the Mohammedans are in a position of strength,” they said.

However, the local police station has no record of any such attack. About the July 23 incident, Kothwai Nagar police have recorded in the station registry that following rumours of a loudspeaker being removed in Bageshwar temple, both communities had gathered on the main road, but the district administration had settled the matter and urged both sides to maintain peace.

At Muzaffarnagar, Balraj Singh, the Bajrang Dal’s regional coordinator for western UP, told The Indian Express: “Why do Muslims object to mandirs using loudspeakers? They don’t want Hindus to express themselves. They want to subjugate us. We are being denied the right that they enjoy. That is why they are making an issue out of mandirs using loudspeakers.”

Balraj Singh said he had just returned from clamped-down Saharanpur.


At 7 pm on July 23, barely half an hour after the knifing of priest Rajesh Singh Saini in Nehtaur, Bijnor, Karan Singh Saini, the BJP’s Nehtaur in-charge, arrived at the local police station along with 200 others. Gathering the crowd had been easy, he said, because everyone knew pressing charges against Muslims would be difficult.

“The news spread to nearby areas, and we decided to meet at the police station. We knew it would be difficult to press charges against a Muslim because the Samajwadi Party government patronises Muslims,” Karan Singh Saini said.

Soon afterward, a “Muslim” delegation led by the SP’s local unit in-charge arrived at the police station, seeking an “amicable” compromise. Police, however, charged both groups, much to the dismay of the Hindu population in the area. The station registry recorded that the incident involved two individuals of the Hindu and Muslim community, both of whom were under the influence of alcohol, and that an FIR had been registered.

Later, standing in the one-room home where Rajesh Saini is recovering from his injuries, a neighbour said, “T

The SP government patronises them (Muslims). We are the victims, but get charged.”

Everyone in the room agreed, and several people recounted incidents of attacks on priests during Ramzan. The Indian Express could not confirm any of these incidents. The police have no record of such attacks.


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Media coverage of Saharanpur Riots – Good rioters and bad rioters


Compare TV coverage of the Saharanpur riot with print’s efforts and for once, the former did a better job. But look carefully at riot coverage in general and you find a double standard emerging, says JYOTI PUNWANI

Posted/Updated Sunday, Aug 03 02:11:32, 2014


Jyoti Punwani


Perhaps for the first time, television news did a better job than print in dissecting a riot. CNN IBN’s Bhupendra Chaubey’s programme both in Hindi and English on the Saharanpur riot (July 28, two days after the riot), surely ranks among the best in its genre, standing alongside Sreenivasan Jain’s sensitive Muzaffarnagar series on NDTVlast year. Chaubey’s programme addressed most of the questions thrown up by the riot, and he spoke to all the local players involved.

Remarkably, Chaubey ended by going beyond the usual `detached’ journalist’s role. Having brought along a box of sweets, he asked his interviewees to share them for Ramzan Eid, which had just been declared. Alas, two Sikh leaders and the local BJP leader refused the sweets which were handed out by the young Muslim Samajwadi Party representative. This was seen happening in the background, behind Chaubey’s back, while Chaubey was making his concluding remarks.

The BJP leader’s refusal was typical. The Sikhs’ refusal was disturbing, especially since the seniormost among them had made a conciliatory gesture during the discussion, suggesting that those who had looted (Sikh) property simply leave it on the road to avoid brutal police searches of their homes.

Interestingly, Aaj Tak and ABP News had more coverage of the violence than did the main English channels. So also with the English press. On Sunday, the day after the violence, Dainik Jagran carried interesting reports on the way the curfew had affected the ordinary citizens of Saharanpur. Though The Indian Express and The Telegraphhad longish reports two days after the riot, they failed to give a comprehensive account. Also, surprisingly, the Express’ first report had no Muslim voice in it.

Communal disharmony has been making news over the last two weeks. BJP mobs in Moradabad,  Shiv Sena MPs running riot in Delhi’s Maharashtra Sadan, the Telengana BJP and Sania Mirza, Saharanpur, Goa’s ministers mouthing dreams of a Hindurashtra

As always, the English media has been vociferous in taking on the Hindutvavadis, belying those who keep crying that Modi’s coming means the media has sold out.

The media’s “sell-out’’ to corporate interests was evident in its reaction to the government’s unexpectedly tough stand at the WTO over the Trade Facilitation Agreement and the decision to put GM crop trials on hold after the RSS intervened in the matter. (At least on this issue, those at the other end of the ideological spectrum should have praised the RSS.) But this class bias pre-dates Narendra Modi assuming office. On the question of Hindutva violence, the English media is maintaining its fine tradition of relentless attacks on Hindutva bullies.

However, some questions have been thrown up by the coverage of these events. First, the Moradabad violence. While The Hindu and The Telegraph carried detailed reports of the first confrontation over the dismantling of a loudspeaker from a Dalit temple by the police, and when the police tried to prevent a BJP maha panchayat, somehow, the Moradabad issue did not get the editorial attention it should have.

Make no mistake. This was a major political issue with many complex aspects, in a politically important and sensitive state. The BJP trying to cash in on Dalit resentment; Muslims behaving in a majoritarian manner; a senior policeman blaming the BJP for communalising the situation for votes (this was surely a first); a mob attacking the police so badly that the District Magistrate had to be shifted to Chennai for special treatment for his injured eye…….all of this should have been Page One news.  It was the TV channels, in fact, who did more justice to the story.

There is a second, more troubling issue here. When Muslims attacked the police in Mumbai in August 2012, it made national news. The media outrage was obvious; media persons had also been attacked. But when the BJP cadre attacked policemen in a communally sensitive place like Moradabad, why was it not at the top of Page One?

Of course, in the first case, the attack was sudden and unprovoked, while the second was probable, and provoked by the police’s refusal to let the BJP have its way. In Mumbai, two Muslims died in police firing and yet the Police Commissioner was blamed by the media for being too soft. In Moradabad, only tear gas was resorted to, and the only ones seriously injured were the police. Yet, no outrage in the press. Is that because no journalists were hurt, or because BJP mobs attacking the police isn’t wrong?

The coverage of the Maharashtra Sadan ruckus where Shiv Sena MPs tried to force a canteen supervisor, who turned out to be a Muslim on roza, to eat a roti, also left one feeling uneasy. Was it necessary to continuously telecast Sena MP Rajan Vichare trying to stuff a roti into the canteen supervisor’s mouth? The supervisor must have relived his humiliation every time it was shown. It needed to be shown once during every programme on the incident, but repeating it endlessly throughout every programme was offensive and inflammatory.

Indeed, the media’s role in this incident is curious.  According to, some media personnel had been notified about an impending protest that morning. They saw everything, and one of the channels even telecast it that evening. But there was no outrage from viewers. The reason: they did not mention that the supervisor was a Muslim.

So Marathi viewers, including politicians who must have watched that channel, had no problem with such conduct. Nor apparently, did the media personnel there, else they would have made it big news. Significantly, the complaint filed by the manager of the Sadan said that media personnel were “actively instigating’’ the MPs.

ANI, which feeds news to other channels, decided to “kill the story’’ ( because of its potential to hurt feelings during Ramzan.  After the story broke (a week later, courtesy The Indian Express), why did news channels not exercise the same sensitivity, especially since they were bent upon projecting the incident as an assault by the communal Sena on a Muslim?

Would the Sena MPs not have behaved the same with any supervisor present at that moment? Mumbaikars are familiar with the Shiv Sena’s rough tactics towards those who have offended them, and that includes many known and not-so-well-known Hindus, including journalists. Nidhi Razdan of NDTV was the only one who kept asking, “What if the supervisor had not been a Muslim? Would the act have been any less offensive?”

What if the Saharanpur riot had seen Muslims at the receiving end? Would the English media’s coverage have been less indifferent? One pointer to the situation on the ground is the deafening silence on the riot from Muslim websites such and, who are the first to carry the Muslim point of view on any communal incident.

Here was violence followed by a curfew on the eve of the biggest Muslim festival. Moreover, two of the three killed in police firing were Muslim. That no stories of victimhood emerged – as they invariably do from these websites – is a pointer to who was the aggressor in Saharanpur. Another pointer is the silence of the secular brigade. After the initial “acchey din’’ comments, they had nothing to say.

After covering many communal riots, this columnist has identified one simple indicator to the power equations during a riot. One community is always all praise for the police while the other blames them for inaction, or worse, for targeting it. In Mumbai, it’s always been Hindus who praise the police while Muslims blame them.  But in Bhupendra Chaubey’s programme, the roles were reversed. The Muslims praised the police and the Sikhs accused them of inaction.

However, though Aaj Tak and ABP News had better coverage of the Saharanpur violence than the English channels, they were not too discriminatory about their footage. ABP News simply kept showing the same visual of a burning motorbike, giving the impression that the city was still on fire.

Worse, in its interview of Sikhs, it allowed a remark to be aired that should never have been telecast. Asked what was the way ahead, one Sikh who had, during the discussion, managed to acquire a rifle with which he kept posing,  replied: “We have called Sikhs from all over to come here. They (Muslims) are 20,000, but just 2000 of us will be enough for them. Hum shaheedi dengey aur shaheedi lengey. (We will sacrifice ourselves and them too.)’’

This man may not have realized that we are no longer in the Mughal era, but surely the channel knew better than to allow such a provocative statement to be aired?

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Modi anti-visa pressure came from multiple sources


U.S. Congressmen felt granting a visa to him would be contradictory to international law.

Lobbying by U.S. lawmakers, concern over extra-judicial deaths in Gujarat and the tenth anniversary of the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the state combined into a multi-year wave of pressure against any possibility of the White House revising its decision to deny Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi an entry visa, according to U.S. State Department cables and other documents obtained by The Hindu through a Freedom of Information.

U.S. lawmakers pressed for sustained visa denial

In part, the Department’s close tracking of the legal challenges facing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi stemmed from, and was used to compile a response to, pressure from domestic political constituencies that were intent on keeping the visa ban against Mr. Modi intact.

Between 2005 and 2008, at least 30 U.S. Congressmen wrote to the administration asking that Mr. Modi “should once again be denied admission to the U.S… [because] granting a visa to [him] would be contradictory to international law and would only serve to validate the Chief Minister’s abhorrent policies and actions.”

Most of the lawmakers focused on reports by the State Department and others that the Gujarat police in 2002 “were criticised for failing to stop the violence, and in some cases participating or encouraging it,” some referencing the 2003 Indian Supreme Court finding that “The state government of Gujarat led by Mr. Modi, had actively supported the anti-Muslim violence and ordered the police not to interfere.”

Of those who petitioned the State Department in this regard, 28 were Republicans, many Tea Party members, who made references to continuing tensions facing the Christian minority community in Gujarat.

Two members Keith Ellison and André Carson were from the Democratic Party, and drew attention to the fate of Muslims during the riots, including “the rape, gang-rape, and molestation of hundreds of Muslim women.”

In their responses to the Congressmen’s letters the State Department made a candid comment about Mr. Modi: “The Department of State is extremely sensitive to your concerns and we are cognisant of the human rights abuses Mr. Modi has committed.”

According to reports the Department said in its reply to the Congressmen’s letters that at the time no visa application for Mr. Modi had been located in their system and should one arrive it would be “adjudicated in strict accordance with the Immigration and Naturalisation Act,” including restrictions for those who violated religious freedom laws.

Concern over extra-judicial killings

Further, in 2011, several cables hinted at Washington’s concern surrounding extra-judicial killings in the state – notably the Ishrat Jahan ‘encounter killing’ case and the Haren Pandya whistleblower assassination episode.

Regarding the former, a U.S. cable dated April 2013 (DTG: 021156Z APR 13; CONFIDENTIAL, SENSITIVE) commented upon the arrest of five senior Gujarat police officers between February 21 and March 6 2013, on charges stemming from the 2004 killing of four Muslims, including a teenaged girl, Ishrat Jahan.

The officers had allegedly killed the innocent youths and falsified evidence to make them appear to be terrorists, the cable explained, adding, “Critics of… Modi say that these fake encounters were not the work of rogue officers but were an official state policy designed to instil fear [in] Muslims.”

Not only did the cable go on to quote retired police officer R.B. Sreekumar, former head of the Gujarat state intelligence during April-September 2002 corroborating this view, but the diplomatic mission directly spoke to those familiar with the matter to obtain further details.

Quoting a person whose name had been redacted the cable said, “… told ConGen Staff in March that the accused police officers feel they are scapegoats for implementing an official state policy to carry out extra-judicial killings. He added that the officers believe that the state government abandoned them after the SIT report was submitted… [and] have decided to vigorously contest the charges and to prove they were not ultimately responsible.”

The cable also cited a Tehelka magazine report, which said that during 2002-06 the Ahmedabad police, “killed approximately 17 individuals they then alleged were terrorists.”

The second aspect of extra-judicial killings that drew the attention of the U.S. was the 2003 “mysterious assassination” of Haren Pandya, whom a cable dated September 2011 (DTG: 090413Z SEP 11; UNCLAS, SENSITIVE) described as “a vocal critic of… Modi.” Further, Pandya’s family believed that “his murder was a deeper political conspiracy by Modi to silence Pandya,” the cable said.

The case came up again in 2011 after the Gujarat high court reversed the earlier conviction of 12 Muslims accused of murdering Mr. Pandya, and the cable said that the re-opening of the case could “bring to light new information regarding Pandya’s killing and potentially cause political and legal headaches for… Modi as he prepares for the 2012 state elections.”

The cable appeared particularly seized of the fact that the Gujarat High Court had criticised the Central Bureau of Investigation for accepting the Gujarat police theory that Mr. Pandya’s killing was “Muslim revenge for the 2002 anti-Muslim violence.” Accepting the verdict, the CBI has indicated that it would re-open the murder investigation, the cable underscored.

Riots anniversary

Finally the tenth anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat riots was a rallying point for those who criticised the slowness in the delivery of justice to the victims, according to the cables.

In a cable dated March 2012 (DTG: 010723Z MAR 12; SENSITIVE, UNCLAS) to Washington the Mumbai consulate said that commemoration events in Gujarat passed peacefully, with victims highlighting not only their painful experiences, but also the lack of compensation and rehabilitation for Muslims whose homes and businesses were destroyed during the violence.

“Ten years later, not everyone is convinced that Gujarat has moved on, and the riots remain Modi’s biggest obstacle to his national political ambitions,” the cable said.

In the face of public comments by Arun Jaitley, then the BJP’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, that “Gujarat has had a riot-free decade,” and that Mr. Modi’s opponents were using NGOs and media, the U.S. documented remarks by a name-redacted contact in Gujarat who said to them privately, “When you have succeeded in killing people and putting Muslims in ghettos, then there is no need for communal violence.”

The cable seemed to suggest that the U.S. was convinced that justice had not yet been served to riot survivors. It noted that an estimated 200,000 Muslims fled their homes after the riots, approximately 30,000 still lived in relief colonies, and more than 70,000 relocated to Muslim ghettos after selling their properties and businesses in previously mixed neighbourhoods to Hindu neighbours.

Additionally, given that the Gujarat government had not at the time compensated victims for property loss and “refused to rebuild places of worship and denied building permissions when communities wanted to rebuild on their own,” the cable posited, “the taint of the 2002 riots will continue to linger on into the 2014 national election campaign, when Modi will be angling to be the BJP’s candidate for Prime Minister.”


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Case against Teesta Setalvad or the Gujarat Model of Vindictive Action


As the hearing in the anticipatory bail applications of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and three survivors of the Gulberg society massacre, Tanvir Jafri, Salim Sandhi and Firoz Gulzar Pathan comes up on July 9, 2014, recapitulates the case against the activists. A study of the affidavits and counter-affidavits shows a vindictive state gunning for activists.

For years on Teeta Setalvad and Javed Anand have been steadfastly working for justice for victims and survivors of the Gujarat riots of 2002. The efforts of their organization Citizens for Peace and Justice (CJP) and its lawyers has been instrumental in securing over a hundred convictions in riot-related cases since 2002. These include life sentences to former BJP MLA and minister in Narendra Modi cabinet Maya Kodnani and Gujarat’s Bajrang Dal leader, Babu Bajrangi for their role in the Naroda Patiya massacre. In total, as many as 120+ convictions of powerful perpetrators to life imprisonment have taken place due to the efforts of the CJP team.

Click here to see Table 1


The last few months have seen them embroiled in a legal battle with the Gujarat state. Given the level of lies and misinformation being spread on the social media, here is a chronology of events to put the case in perspective. 

March 2013

Allegations Surface:

One Feroz Saeedkhan Pathan, who used to live in Gulberg Society during 2002 riots sent a complaint to the the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad Police on behalf of the office bearers of the Gulberg Society in March 2013. He alleged that human rights defender and social activist Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, son of slain Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, Tanvir Jafri, Gulbarg Society’s secretary, Feroz Gulzar; and its chairman Salim Sandh had indulged in breach of trust, cheating and criminal conspiracy in raising funds for a riot memorial museum in Gulberg Society, Ahmedabad.

According to him, the accused collected crores but instead of using it for the museum, used Rs 1.51 crores out of the collected donations, for their personal purpose between 2007 and 2011.

Investigation Closed:
The veracity of the complaint became doubtful when it emerged that Pathan had forged the letterhead of the Gulberg Society to file the complaint.

CJP and Sabrang issued a public affidavit which showed that only Rs 4.6 lakhs was collected for the muesum. Of this, only Rs 50,000 was received under FCRA. The remaining donations were received from India. But as the land prices spiraled, the dream for a memorial was abandoned. The audited accounts and resolutions passed in the society proved as much. No money or property had ever changed hands.

Following this satisfactory explanation to the Crime Branch, the investigation was dropped.

Since January 2014

Case Reopened:
Between April and May 2013 the Zakia Jafri Protest Petition against Narendra Modi and 59 Others (including senior officials now serving in the Crime Branch Ahmedabad and Ahmedabad police) was filed and argued. The Magistrate rejected the Protest Petition on 26.12.2013. Eight days later, as the CJP prepared for filing the Appeal to the Magistrate’s Order in the Smt. Zakia Jafri protest petition, the complaint was revived and an FIR registered in January 2014, despite the fact that the complainant had forged the Gulberg Society letterhead, and despite the appalling lack of any evidence of foul play or fraud.

Arrest Imminent:
The accused moved first the Bombay High Court for transit bail and thereafter the SC for anticipatory bail application in February. However, the SC rejected the same but granted protection from arrest till March directing that the competent court of jurisdiction would lie in Gujarat. In March, the Ahmedabad city and sessions court rejected the anticipatory bail applications of Setalvad, Anand, Jafri and other accused, making their arrest by DCB imminent.

They immediately moved the Gujarat High Court seeking anticipatory bail as well as the quashing of the FIR. The High Court stayed the arrest till 4th April.

Since then, there have been several hearings in the matter. At each hearing the Gujarat State sought time for replying to the anticipatory bail applications, or has filed lengthy affidavits, renewing the allegations or adding new ones – but each time without a shred of evidence.

Allegations and the Truth:
Forced to respond to the vindictive allegations being made by the Gujarat state through the DCB, Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand have filed number of affidavits in the Sessions Court in Ahmedabad and Gujarat High Court pointing out the gaping holes in the prosecution case. On 18 June 2014, Setalvad and other accused filed a 96 page Counter affidavit complete with detailed records from audited accounts and bank statements completely disproving the renewed set of baseless allegations made by the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad. The response to the pointed queries that conclusively nails the lies of the Gujarat police and by implication unmasks its vile intent.

Allegation: It has been alleged that a total of around Rs. 2.62 crore was collected by Sabrang Trust between 10.4.2007 and 20.2.2014 for the museum.

The audited accounts clearly show that total foreign contribution received by Sabrang Trust is around Rs. 1.33 crore and not Rs. 2.62 as falsely claimed by the Crime Branch.

Of the total of Rs. 1.33 crore received over the relevant period, Rs. 1.21 crore were transferred from the trust’s savings a/c to term deposits in the same bank from time to time with a view to earning extra interest income for the trust. On maturity the same deposits along with interest around Rs. 1.26 crore were credited back into the savings account. In its wisdom, or malafide intent, the crime branch has chosen to treat this Rs. 1.26 crore as fresh income!

It has been alleged that Teesta Setalvad got over Rs. 21.6 lakh from Sabrang Trust between 1.10.2009 and 30.6.2013. Similarly, it has been alleged that Javed Anand received over Rs. 20 lakh from Sabrang Trust during the same period.

Teesta Setalvad’s affidavit clearly points out that they were paid these amounts (averaging to Rs. 48,000 p.m. in case of Teesta Setalvad and around 47,700 p.m. in case of Javed Anand) for discharging their duties as Project Directors and Project Administrators as per the budget approved by the Trustees of Sabrang Trust and sanctioned by the donor organizations for specific projects having nothing to do with the Gulberg Memorial.

Moreover, since 2010 the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), administered by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Geneva, has been funding CJP’s efforts to provide legal aid to the victims of the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom.

It may also be noted that annual audited accounts of both the CJP and Sabrang Trust have been filed, on time each year, with the Income Tax office, Charity Commissioner’s Office and the FCRA authorities. None of these authorities have till date found any irregularity in the audited accounts filed by them.

Questions for the Auditors:
The IO of the case wrote a letter to the auditors of the CJP (M/s Haribhakti & Co., Chartered Accountants) and the auditors of Sabrang Trust making a number of allegations.

1. Setalvad and Anand were guilty of using CJP’s funds to pay for their “personal expenses” including “branded and costly shoes to movie tickets and grocery purchases” purchased through their personal credit cards.

The auditor’s reply has stated that “we have observed that none of such personal expenses has been debited in the books of account of CJP”.
2. The funds of CJP were used by its trustees for the purpose other than its ‘Objects’.
The auditors replied that “all relevant records such as vouchers/bills, books of account, minute book… were made available to us by the management of CJP for our verification … we have not noticed that the funds of CJP were used by its trustees for the purpose other than its ‘Objects’”.

3. Questions raised about reimbursements to Setalvad and Anand for expenses incurred through their credit cards
Haribhakti & Co. state that the expenses so reimbursed were “through the notice and concurrence of the Board of Trustees of CJP through the resolutions for adoption of audited financial statements of CJP for the respective year”.

4. There were “huge withdrawals of cash”.
The auditors replied: “On the basis of information and explanation received and documents examined by us we did not find “huge cash withdrawals”.

Pattern of allegations:
It is clear that the motive of the Crime Branch Ahmedabad, and the Gujarat State, is to, under the guise of investigating allegations on funds received for a Museum, actually dig far beyind into a roving and vindictive inquiry encompassing Setalvad and Anand’s personal funds and those of the organisations that they represent.

Since 2004 first, and then 2010, Teesta Setalvad has already been targeted in three other false criminal cases for which she has had to seek anticipatory bail. The Supreme Court has stayed the malcious investigations into two of these and one became infructuous after a SC-appointed Inquiry Committee exonerated Setalvad of trumped up charges (Best Bakery case, See Table 2 here) In the eleven-long years of the battle for justice, the allegations against the activists have remained the same; only the actors have changed. In 2004 it was Zahira Shaikh, a star witness in the Best Bakery case. In 2010 it was a former employee of CPJ, Rais Khan Pathan. In 2011, it was Yasmeen Shaikh egged on by Rais Khan. In the Naroda Gaam and Pamdharwada mass graves case too, the instigator was and is Rais Khan.

In the present case also similar allegations sought to be made through some residents of the Gulberg society, who are being manipulated by Rais Khan who is being propped up by powerful persons including influential lawyers representing the ruling party who are supporting him. The Supreme Court has already stayed two such complaints in which even sections of the Gujarat police have played a role siding openly with Khan. The matters are pending final hearing.

Click here to see Table 1A

The motive:
At the end of the day, the Gujarat government has succeeded in its attempt to direct the energies of these activists from real work to wasting all their time in filing affidavits and counter affidavits in the courts. The State knows very well that nothing would come out of it. But as we know that Gujarat government has mastered the art of utilizing the lengthy process of legal justice system into subverting the justice system in its favour like it did in cases of Zakia Jafri, Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin,Tulsi Prajapati and many such cases.

No need to add here that the same modus operandi can be seen operating now at the National level. All voices of resistance are being curbed under the garb of flimsy ‘IB Reports’. In last few days many organisations have received notices from FCRA department to provide endless details of last several years – even though these are already in public domain.

It is an attempt to discredit human rights defenders by making baseless allegations of financial bungling against them. The government knows that nothing will ultimately come out of such allegations but by doing so the state is strategically trying to put activists and human rights groups on the defensive and thus force them to unnecessarily participate in an endless web of litigations in trying to prove their innocence which eventually will affect their work. This is the Gujarat model. However, it has underestimated the tenacity and courage of these fighters.

Teesta S

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Allow Sanjiv Bhatt to inspect ’02 riots intel docs, HC directs panel

Express News Service | Ahmedabad | June 17, 2014
sanjiv Bhattsanjiv Bhatt


Next hearing in the case scheduled for June 26.
The Gujarat High Court on Monday directed the Nanavati Commission, which is probing the 2002 riots, to allow suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt to examine the intelligence reports generated during Godhra incident in 2002. The bench of Chief Justice Bhaskar Bhattacharya and Justice J B Pardiwala directed the commission to allow Bhatt to inspect the documents by Friday. It has kept the matter for further hearing on June 26. NGO People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) is a co-petitioner in the case.

Bhatt had written several letters to the Nanavati Commission as well as state government, asking for the documents pertaining to the 2002 riots. After the state government’s refusal, Bhatt and the PUCL had approached the Gujarat

High Court through a PIL, seeking the 42 types of documents. The court had directed the government to do so.

Last year, Bhatt filed a civil application in the court, stating that nine documents were not given to him. The state had argued that these documents were classified and could not be shared and also that some other documents had gone missing. The court directed the state government to let Bhatt inspect these documents.

Bhatt had filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court against former Chief Minister Narendra Modi, now the Prime Minister, alleging that Modi told senior officers to “let Hindus vent out their anger”, following the Godhra train burning that led to communal riots in the state.

Bhatt had also claimed that he was present in the meeting in which Modi allegedly ordered the officials. However, Bhatt’s claim has been trashed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the riots.

In the case of Zakia Jafri, who has alleged Modi of being involved in the riots conspiracy, the SIT didn’t rely on the statement of Bhatt, and gave clean chit to Modi.


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Maharashtra – 187 rioting cases, 710 Hindu radicals held in last week

,TNN | Jun 7, 2014, 05.52 AM IST

MUMBAI: Since last week, police have registered 187 rioting cases across the state, mainly in western Maharashtra, and arrested at least 710 miscreants belonging to various radical Hindu outfits for attacking government properties and members of the minority communities over the derogatory posts on a social networking site.The state police are also verifying if the riots are connected with the murder of Infotech professional Mohsin Sadiq Shaikh in Pune on Monday. Since last week, radical Hindu outfits have been protesting against the derogatory posts, but the agitations suddenly turned violent since May 31, claimed that police. The protestors, who were initially only targeting government properties, later started pelting stones at shops, houses and religious places of the minority community across the state, damaging property worth Rs 1.25 crore.

“There were protests in several places against the derogatory Facebook posts. We are examining the details of all the incidents and are trying to find out if they are connected with the Pune murder case,” said Deven Bharti, special inspector-general of police (law and order). After examining the details, the state police will prepare a report on the rioting incidents and the murder and submit it to the government.

On Monday evening, Shaikh was attacked by members of the Hindu Rashtra Sena in Pune’s Unnati Nagar when he was returning home with a friend after dinner. The activists were apparently enraged by the derogatory posts on Chhatrapati Shivaji and late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray. But later it was learnt that Shaikh was not targeted because he was taken to be the one who had uploaded the posts, but simply because he sported a beard and was in a Pathan suit, which marked him out as a Muslim. The police suspect that the attackers had targeted Shaikh randomly, but the murder was part of bigger conspiracy. “Most of the rioting incidents took place a day before the murder,” pointed out a senior police officer.

While the Pune police have arrested 17 people in connection with the murder, the Mumbai police have also started collecting details of the pending cases against Hindu Rashtra Sena chief Dhananjay Desai. They are keeping a close watch on the outfit’s activities and its office in Vile Parle. “Desai’s office in Vile Parle, but he spends most of his time in Pune,” said a senior police officer.

The police said that after examining the details of the past cases registered against Desai, they will decide if they could initiate strict action against him.


25 people held in Pune techie murder case

Yogesh Joshi, Hindustan Times  Pune, June 06, 2014

First Published: 10:16 IST(6/6/2014) | Last Updated: 11:35 IST(6/6/2014)

The police have arrested 25 persons of Hindu Rashtra Sena (HRS) of whom 17 have been charged with murder of Mohsin Shaikh, an IT graduate, who was bludgeoned to death on Monday after protests over morphed pictures of Bal Thackeray and Chhatrapati Shivaji went viral on social networking sites.

While two among the 17 persons accused of killing Shaikh are juvenile, those arrested by police are mostly college going youths. The police are also in the process of compiling details about the HRS, said Pune police chief Satish Matur. “You have to compile enough documents backed by enough evidence before the proposal is sent (to ban any group). It is in process,” said Mathur.

Shaikh, 28, was returning home on Monday evening when around 25 members of the right wing group came on bikes, blocked his way in Hadapsar on the outskirts of Pune, took him off his bike and hit him on the head with hockey sticks and stones.

Shaikh’s death sparked tension in the area, forcing the police to clamp curfew for 12 hours when the situation eased out. Shaikh’s cousin, who was accompanying him, escaped unhurt after he fled from the spot while the two others, Ameen Shaikh, 30, and Ijaz Yusuf Bagwan, 25, sustained injuries.

‘ Repercussions to FB post natural’

BJP MP from Pune, Anil Shirole said on Thursday that though the murder of a Muslim techie allegedly by members of a Hindutva group in Pune was unfortunate, it was “natural” that there would be repercussions to a FB post that was derogatory towards Shivaji and Bal Thackeray. The techie had no connection with the derogatory post.

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#Sundayreading – ‘En Dino Muzaffarnagar’ portrays the grisly outcome of electoral communalism

Film Review

Saturday, 3 May 2014 – 4:55pm IST | Agency: DNA
The film is a grim, cautionary tale
  • muzaffarnagar-riots

“The Punjab seemed to have become a howling wilderness of beasts rather than a land of human beings. All humanity disappeared”, lamented Sir Mohammad Zafarullah Khan at the bloodbath which gripped Lahore in 1947. It would be an apt metaphor for Muzaffarnagar, which never hosted what Paul Brass terms “an institutionalised riot system” but has come to be the fearful face of communal violence of the largest scale post Gujarat 2002.

Do communal riots have a master narrative? Did Muzaffarnagar follow past trends, or was it an outlier, which could still hold portentous messages and lessons for the future? These questions were plaguing Shubhradeep Chakravarty, journalist-turned-documentary film-maker, whose latest work En Dino Muzaffarnagar premiered at Mumbai’s Prithvi Theatre this week.

More than curiosity, however, Chakravarty was enthused by his partner Meera Chaudhary’s personal quest to look for answers to this bloodstained mayhem. Chaudhary, who hails from Muzaffarnagar, wanted to know how and why the atmosphere of amity between the Jats and Muslims got so vitiated. Investigating communal riots isn’t something alien to the couple, and nor is their disenchantment and scepticism of “official narratives”. In 2003, their Godhra Tak: The Terror Trail raised the hackles of the VHP and its patrons because their lies, being trotted as “the truth”, stood exposed.

An infernal din has swept away credible explanations of what lit the sparks and stoked the flames in Muzaffarnagar; what we have is a cacophony of voices with vested interests, each screaming to drown out the other. There is also a sting operation by a television channel, claiming sole prerogative to the truth. The one-member judicial commission headed by Justice Vishnu Sahai is yet to submit its report, and if the reports of the Liberhan and Srikrishna Commissions’ fates are of any example, the wait wouldn’t, in all probability, be worth putting money on. An independent fact-finding committee, comprising some academicians and journalists, came up with a report which offers only cold comfort, because it, hamstrung by expedient constraints, does not dig deep enough.

It is here that En Dino Muzaffarnagar provides a chilling perspective, something that both the administration and civil society should ignore only at its own peril. The initial cause is well known and undisputed by now – on August 27, Shahnawaz, a Muslim youth, is hacked to death by a group of Jat boys out to avenge the “honour” of a girl from their community. But Gaurav and Sachin Malik were unable to get away in time, and are lynched by an irate mob which had gathered at the spot. From there, it is a violent downward spiral. Local BJP MLA Sangeet Som circulates a video, which ostensibly captures the Jat duo’s last moments. As established now, the video was fake – it was two years old, and showed a lynching in Pakistan’s Punjab province, but reason and discretion hold scant currency in a simmering cauldron of communal passions.

All reports and versions parrot on about the caste-based schism, because only lower caste Muslims and not the upper caste Jat Muslims (Mulay Jats, in local parlance) bore the maximum brunt. Therefore, one is astounded at Chaudhary and Chakravarty document with painstaking detail the BJP and assorted Hindutva groups’, especially the RSS’ pursuit of the “love jihad” strategy for communal polarisation and subsequent mobilisation.

Indresh Kumar, infamous RSS zealot, in the company of a Sadhvi Prachi, addresses Jat gatherings where he invokes “bahu behen beti ki izzat” and the Mahabharat’s Draupadi to instigate the enthralled listeners. A battle against the Muslims must be waged to maintain the purity of the community and its honour, he thunders. Even Kalyan Singh, former BJP chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and under whose watch the Babri Masjid was reduced to rubble, delivers a speech where shockingly, he harps on the “action-reaction” theory which is frighteningly familiar by now.

The Jats have traditionally maintained a distance from the rabid purveyors of Hindutva, but ‘the honour of our womenfolk’ is of paramount importance to a community strongly rooted in obscurantist, even vicious patriarchy. Combine this with growing disenchantment and unemployment among the youth (since jobs are scarce and interest in agriculture is dwindling) and distribution of liquor and cash – and one has a noxious mix. September 7, 2013, witnessed a huge rally – a mahapanchayat called by the dominant Jat groups – teeming with these belligerent youth brandishing all sorts of weapons – spears, illicit country-made pistols, licensed rifles (almost every Jat family owns more than one), sickles and scythes. Seething with rage, they rent the air with slogans, most vociferous and common among which were “Narendra Modi zindabad!” and “Mussalmanon ke do hi sthan – Pakistan ya kabristan!”

It is interesting to take note of these weapons, for they set Muzaffarnagar apart from most other communal riots. When members of a predominantly agricultural community go on a killing spree, the police and administration are caught in a bind. Secret gathering of arms, ammunition and gasoline, as done in Gujarat is dispensed with. Same goes for vehicles. Agricultural implements like sickles and scythes are lethal, and here the killers roamed around in tractors, but it is an uphill task to seize these as part of pre-emptive measures.

In so far as the macabre modus operandi goes, some of the Jat rioters reveal to Chaudhary and Chakravarty the Amit Shah lessons they had learnt. In the summer of 2013, Shah had toured many villages and had taught not only how to kill, but also to grab land. Don’t douse people with kerosene and set them afire, for the charred remains help DNA fingerprinting, he had advised. Rather, hack to pieces, then set afire. Identification becomes difficult, and as long as a person is on the “missing” list, his land and dwelling can be safely grabbed, for only after seven years does the law acknowledge him as dead.

While the craven pusillanimity of the Samajwadi Party government has been thoroughly exposed and much criticised by now, and the orgy of rape and administration’s inhumane callousness has hogged the headlines, the investigation into the atrocities hasn’t received much coverage. This documentary focuses more on how all stops are being pulled to thwart the Special Investigation Team’s (SIT) efforts. “Jale hue ghar mein koi balatkar karega?” (Will anyone commit rape in a house reduced to ashes?) , is one woman’s defiant answer when her husband is being charged. More worrisome than such sundry denials and the individual hurling of counter-charges against the Muslims is the collective front put up by different Jat groups to stonewall the investigation. At a meeting with the District Magistrate, the communities’ elders and leaders resolutely bellow that they wouldn’t submit to the law, even if resistance requires the use of force.

Back in 2004, Steven Wilkinson had warned that electoral incentives would be the key factors driving ethnic and communal violence in India. That dire prediction had gone unheeded, and the chickens hatched out of that came home to roost in Muzaffarnagar just in time for one of the most scabrous of elections this country has ever suffered.

In one of the opening scenes, an old man wistfully reminisces about the “Mohabbatnagar” of yore. As the ground reality shows, the hateful communal divide between the Jats and Muslims would only worsen, and nothing but the most stringent vigilance can prevent another conflagration. En Dino Muzaffarnagar sombrely presages the outcome were the politics of hate allowed to breed and propagate.


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A day in the diary of a Gujarat survivor #NaMO #Feku #NOMOre_2014

I opened my copy of a national newspaper this morning, feeling hope. Strange, because like most of us, I haven’t looked at the newspaper as anything but a source of despair for quite some time now. The last few days of hearing, discussing, reading about the Delhi rape case has disturbed me, like many others into silent, shocked introspection and some very vocal Facebook outrage.
And so I guess a part of me was hoping for some news in there today that might reinstate my faith in the country’s people, media and law to redeem the savage chaos that has replaced our strong sense of humaneness as a nation.
But instead I see a man I hoped never to set my eyes on again, right here on the front page. A man whose very presence in a seat of power is a matter of as much collective shame to the nation as the rape of that innocent girl on a late night bus by men who just knew that they would walk away smirking and feeling absolutely chuffed with their manhood right under the Prime Minister and President’s seats.
 I see Mr Narendra Modi in my living room today, or NaMo as his PR agency has very smartly coined (It means “a humble, reverential salutation” in Sanskrit) smirking back at me from my coffee table.Most pro-development citizens of my generation might think, oh, there goes another writer, harking back to the fellow’s past again, even though since 2002, this awesome guy has built roads, brought investment into the state, built roads, cleaned up the cities,built roads, boosted local economy, built roads, brought in e-governance and did we say, he’s built roads?
I can see why someone building long-lasting, durable roads in India can be raised to messiah status by us, pothole-stricken Indians. Roads are a big deal for us. That someone is fixing them on his own accord without the need for morchas and dharnas, should cast something of a halo around his head.
And yes, living in Mumbai and being shaken to bones every time I sit in an auto would make me vote for him as India’s next
Prime Minister even if they weren’t even holding an election! But I cannot get myself to forget these few moments that continue to haunt me. As hard as I try, I cannot get the
ringing of that phone out of my ears. Or that doorbell that jolted through a very silent night. Allow me to tell you about them.
I am born and brought up in this beautifully chaotic old city area of Ahmedabad, called Khanpur. Growing up, my grandfather and father, both senior government officers, constantly reminded me how my apartment building was an amazing example of the city’s cosmopolitan fabric. We had a the Bengali Mr Chaudhari on the ground floor, dad’s evening drink buddy Porus uncle on the 2nd floor, a Hindu ex-police chief, grandad’s good friend and journo Rajdeep Sardesai’s grandfather Pant Uncle living on the floor below us. The Ferros on the fourth floor always kept their doors open for us kids on Christmas day with delightful plates of guava cheese and decadent plum cake.
Each of these people’s faces I can still clearly see in my mind as we celebrated every single festival together, as people chit-chatted and greeted each other in the lifts, or Uttrayan when the whole building ganged up together against other buildings and fight for glory on our terraces.
 I grew up very aware of how distinctively beautiful our social fabric was as Indians and how each of these cultures was a part of me, even though I  was by religion a Muslim.
After all, I was the courier girl for iftar trays sent to all the said neighbors every evening, every year for every Ramadaan we spent in Ahmedabad. This was my home. This was my childhood.
But as kids we weren’t naive about what was slowly beginning to simmer underneath the cordiality and civility of this society around us. Over the years our Gujarati textbooks in second language class started spending fewer pages on Shabri’s story and more on Shivaji’s killing of Afzal Khan making us argue over these guys we barely knew. Azaans stopped playing on loudspeakers one day, spurts of car burning and bus torching
incidents over a religious procession became a yearly occurrence and in our building, all our wonderful non-muslim neighbors began to move away to the other side of the city
one by one, to be replaced by Muslim families who found it disconcerting to live in ‘Hindu’ areas any longer. (For those who don’t know, Ahmedabad is for the most part ghettoized into the old ‘muslim‘ city side and the newer ‘Hindu‘ side of the city, divided quite symbolically by the Sabarmati river on whose bank lies Gandhi’s famous Ashram.)
In Gujarat, the lack of true interest in education had over the decades created such fertility for rumor mongering and brainwashing amongst people, that it wasn’t rare for a
18 year old walking around the street to delude himself into being a direct victim of the 1947 Partition and carrying a grudge the size of Pakistan for it, or for a 4 year old to call
someone a Pakistani for wearing a green t-shirt. History in this part of the world, is truly a contorted mystery to most. But who can you blame when even schools push kids towards science and maths, hardly ever bothering to correct blatantly lying,
manipulative history textbooks. ‘Study economics if you so badly want to be different’, parents opine to children who dare to want to think on their own. So you can imagine why the aam junta here for the most part believes in either of only two ways of life: calculative, business-like, ‘ghata-munafa, paise ke liye ghade ko bhi baap banana padta hai’ (for money you might even need to call an ass your father!) kind of reasoning, or to
be like time bombs, ticking away with suppressed hatred for the fellow next door who forced a ‘daughter of his community’ to convert her religion to marry a boy she loved.
Such base passions in two of the state’s most populous communities was not news to any of us living amongst it. But for years the lazy, pot-bellied ministerial cabinets in the state dozed over these  sentiments, adding fuel every once in a while, in very measured quantities to this fire, so people just about bordered on hatred for each other, but never enough to disrupt the financial priorities of the average Gujarati businessman.
Until January of 2002. When, a man named Narendra Modi, very nondescript, safari-suit clad, ironically bearded man,
was put in the Chief Minister’s seat, to the general public’s curiosity. Who was this guy? What was so special about him? Nobody really paid any attention. Until 28th of February, 2002. When he took that proverbial canister of fuel and flung it straight into the simmering flames. The Godhra carnage happened. I remember mum rushing to stock up on groceries sensing a curfew at the least or a full blown riot at the most over  The next day or so. I remember calling up my friend three floors below us, joking that with our 10th grade board exams five days away there’s no chance, there can be any
shut down. Our academic luck just wasn’t that great!
We were shut down for three months. Three months of rumors of milk being poisoned and people emptying packets of it down their drains, three months of waiting for the indefinitely postponed board exams to be announced even as muslim family friends advised my father to ask me to drop out of them that year, three months of sitting with my friend every day textbooks in hand on the terrace watching spirals of smoke, eyes filled with tears as someone’s house burnt or that someone himself perhaps, or nights of sitting up watching the silent riverbed from my balcony, dreading the sight of a mob
sneaking up on us if we dared to fall asleep. Three months of watching smirking newsreaders on the local news not able to hold their smiles as they understated the number of deaths. And then that one day in early March, when just after a mob had attacked our neighborhood, been fought off by the slum dwellers that lived under our buildings and we were sitting in quiet shock that the phone rang. It was my aunt’s old
school friend. A wonderful lady married to a leading city dentist who’s son’s marriage my aunt had recently fixed with a distant cousin of ours. They were under attack. This
unassuming quiet family, who had till two weeks ago been planning their son’s summer wedding, were standing cowered in their own home in a two square foot area in the balcony, as a mob pulled out people from homes, burnt their cars and scooters, threw flaming bottles into their windows and set their home on fire. The son and father, both national champions in rifles, finally took their guns out and fired to scare off the mob.
The son was arrested later that day under POTA. And for the most painful seven minutes, my family were on the phone with them, as they begged and pleaded us to send some help, anyone we knew, to save them. We had been stitching new clothes for
the wedding… How was this happening to them??
Two nights later, we were standing in the balcony watching the river, my father and I. He kept asking me to go to sleep, I kept insisting I wanted to keep watch too. We saw a
police van creep up our street below, sirens oddly quiet. A few minutes later, our door bell jangled four times. I hadn’t seen AllahRakha our, watchman of more than 15 years ever look so flustered. Two policemen were at the front gate forcing them to open it. He feared they might be doing it to let in a mob since ours was one of the few areas where people were obviously still untouched. My father told him not to do so under any
circumstances. Mrs Pant, the late police-chief’s wife went down to speak to them, as everyone hoped the presence of a well-connected person, especially a senior citizen might scare them off. From what I heard later the conversation went something like this:
Mrs Pant asked them their reason for wanting to enter the apartments, if they had a warrant. And the policeman simply laughed at her and asking her who she was. When she proudly told them exactly who she was, the only retort she got was, “A Hindu? What are you doing living here then?” Knowing the law and being a woman of sheer guts, she made sure the gates remained tightly shut that night. Even as we all sat in our homes,mirchi powder, kitchen knives, sticks lined up on dinner tables, we knew our building had escaped by what some might rightly call, our ‘connections‘.
And yet those days of terror weren’t what scarred me or children like me in those three months of madness (even though we did hear whispers and rumors that little 10 year
olds in the city’s mushrooming relief camps were demanding to be strapped with bombs so they could go blow up a certain head of their state. They had after all only seen their
mothers raped and burnt to the bone by mobs of a certain political affiliation). For the more privileged lot like us, who still survived safe and relatively of sound mind,one hot Ahmedabad afternoon, we were just sitting in silence after yet another riot had broken out two blocks away and the fighting, gunshots and molotov blasts had simmered down.
And our phone rang again. It was my school friend who I’d spent the best half of my teenage years clinging onto and pinky-swearing with. She was her usual giggly self and I didn’t really feel like smiling at the sound of her voice even as I’d spent a good two months not seeing or hearing from her. She was asking me why I had cut off and if I’d like to go watch a movie at this fancy new multiplex (They’d just become the rage in our not-so-cool-as-Bombay city). At which point I did want to throw my head
back and laugh hysterically, or cry, because how could she not know..? Or worse still understand? That my family and I had been living in sheer terror for three months while
life went on as normal for her. That I had had to cower and hide my name on my exam sheets and pretend to be Parsi when an invigilator in the board exams asked aloud for all the muslim children in the hall.
This wasn’t the Partition and a country where 70% of its population still existed in abject illiteracy, this was two years after the Y2K bug threatened to wipe our emails out. Yet my life as a young teenager was defined by which side of a goddamn river I lived. How could she not know that living less than 15 miles from her door, I would be shot dead or worse if I so much as stepped out to buy chocolates, let alone go for a movie during curfew hours. I told her, “how can I come?
My area is still under curfew.” And she said, “What rubbish? Its all perfectly normal here.” I quietly hung up, even though my head was screaming in frustration, ready to implode.
I don’t live in that city and that state anymore. We left less than 2 weeks after this last incident. We hadn’t a scar to show for the violence, but the mind had been marked. A  government bent on singling ‘my kind’ out had managed to instill the fear of law,
especially in the wrong hands in this country, in my heart. The PM remained silent and when he did say something, it was some muffled, throaty poetic nonsense about swords clashing that made no sense. The police made their loyalties very clear. And this man, our chief minister, trusted with my individual well being and safety and security as a child growing up in his state, appeared on my television screen each evening, smiling.
Actually, smiling.
And so I wonder now, a few months away from this country’s general elections when I know for a fact people will get swept off their feet by this man’s histrionics and promises for better roads, how can we not care? I want to ask that childhood friend, that police officer, that ambulance personnel that refused to drive a corpse to the cemetery because it was Muslim: How can we not care to make the more human choice?
Because that is our problem. Not choosing to elect the devil or the duffer. A government, right from local representatives in this country is drunk on this heady sense of power because we, the people, dont care enough about each other and they know it.
Let him come to power. Let him make us better roads. Let him build us a whole new goddamn nation like he chants on news and radio channels all day. But dont give him the satisfaction of knowing we dont care enough to save the other, help the other, and stop him when he comes after one of us!
Because if he knows he will use that knowledge like he did in Gujarat when he wiped out homes, neighborhoods and the emotional threads that made them that, murdered one’s trust in law and order, crushed our moral meter that tells us when enough is enough, and most importantly, stamped out an innocent friendship…
Simple things that define us.
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Gujarat, Just Another Smelly, Dusty,Congested State


Wed Apr 16, 2014


Has Gujarat , the most western lying Indian state finally fallen off India’s map to sit at the high table of developed nations in the West? It would seem so if you go by the frenzy that’s been whipped around what is being called the ‘Gujarat Development Model’, and the giant strides of progress that are said to be made in the state under the stewardship of its Chief Minister and Prime Minister hopeful Narendra Modi.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to make road journeys across this vibrant state twice in the last one year to see for myself and rejoice. Truth be told, at first I did feel that tug –a mixture of inferiority and expectancy – you feel when you fly to any Western country from India.

Gujarat was clearly happening from the word go. On the train I met three young men who were chucking their businesses in Delhi to begin anew in Gujarat. “There is no bureaucracy in Gujarat only lots of incentives that no other Indian state gives entrepreneurs ”, they said.

But away from the steel and glass, in an old part of Ahmedabad, where I went walking the next day, I got the same choking feeling you get in any Indian city where filth and noise overwhelms you and sweaty smelly men buffet you about in the milling crowds.

I saw familiar decrepit men sitting on their haunches in the typical Indian ‘shitting position’ – waiting patiently outside dhabas for God -fearing customers to buy them a meal just as you see them in Old Delhi.

Across from them, old beggars slept on a road divider buzzed by cheap drugs or the mid-day sun, unmindful of the screeching , chaotic traffic swirling about them.

Perhaps I was looking for shit and poking my nose purposely into smelly corners, I thought. So the next morning I headed out to check Modi’s famed highways.

The roads were indeed smooth and all but a far cry from what was ballyhooed in the press with rough patches erupting abruptly here and there threatening to spill the illegally gotten beer on my lap. (Booze is illegal in Gujarat. But thankfully the Indian jugaad works here too )

There is certainly nothing to make you feel you are on Route 66, cruising past the American hinterlands as the Indian media makes it out to be. At many intersections the lights simply don’t work and there is that usual pile up of traffic, with people honking mercilessly, waving arms and fisticuffs. You have to be alert for the sudden diversions, ambling cows or the loonies that drive on the wrong side of the road all of which keeps you well under the Indian speed limit.

Just off the highway in dusty old Wankaner town, I meet a man who achieved to greatness and prosperity despite the ‘system’. He epitomized the Gujarati entrepreneurial spirit which perhaps is the reason behind ‘Shining Gujarat’ rather than a Chief Minister who has been blowing his trumpet across India winning over every economist, journalist and jingoist that indeed he is the man who will save India.

Manshuk Lal Prajapati in Wankaner, like the majority of Indians had nothing. And he literally made everything out of it. He fashioned the good old clay into pots and pans and in less than 10 years has made a huge industry out of it. Today he distributes clay refrigerators, clay pressure cookers and sundry home appliances (all in clay) not only all across India but to many countries abroad.

But elsewhere it’s the same Indian despair and hopelessness. In Anand , known to the outside world as the hub of Amul industries is also the center of the largest baby factory in India, where poor, hapless Gujarati women come to sell their womb for a price.

“I had nothing to eat. My family and I would have had to consume poison had we not stumbled upon this clinic”, says Sita who gave her womb for rent for over 4 lakh rupees to a childless couple from Canada.

Gujarat’s record on health and nutrition is worse than the national average. Over 55 percent Gujarati women in the 15-45 age group are anemic. Modi had famously put the blame on the ‘’figure conscious’’ Gujarati girls who were refusing to have milk lest they get fat.

And as for the red-tape that Modi purportedly removed , it almost threatened to put a spanner in the works of a Nat Geo documentary for which I was travelling. Permissions granted weeks in advance had to be taken again they said at the check post at Gir. A second round of signatures had to be obtained at the district level. Which meant, spending more days running around government offices or paying the bribe. The crew thankfully decided to shoot in the non- exclusive zone at the other end of Gir National Park.

In Gujarat, pride is everything. But unfortunately it is also extended to the felines-the Asiatic Lions now found only in Gujarat. The lions are a pride of Gujarat, roared Narendra Modi refusing to share some of them with neighboring Madhya Pradesh(MP) as directed by the Supreme Court in April 2013. An epidemic can wipe them all out, warn conservationists, if lions are geographically sequestered in just one pocket in the country. But Modi would not have any of it. A local conservationist who had suggested the relocation of lions to MP had to run for his life when the Supreme Court order came and the angry Gujaratis confronted him.

Where sloppy journalists present loose street-talk as facts and get swayed by public perceptions, writers usually step in and do a course correction. But on a week long road trip in Gujarat last year with bestselling Indian writer Chetan Bhagat, I was horrified that the man who would later go back and write reams about ‘Rising Gujarat’ had probably not seen any of it at all. From the moment he landed in Ahmedabad to when he exited out of Rajkot, the author remained glued to his Blackberry looking up only when he was asked to pose for the camera.

However if you keep your eyes, ears (and nose) open, Gujarat is just another smelly, congested, dusty, inept Indian state stuck firmly to India’s side to its West.

Sanjay Austa is a journalist.


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Gujarat, Just Another Smelly, Dusty,Congested State

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Modi – Prefer loss to seeking votes on religion -OR IS IT guilt hanging?


BJP’s PM nominee says he doesn’t believe in dividing voters on religious lines



Narendra Modi, whose refusal to wear a skull cap some three years ago has become a talking point during this election campaign season, has pointedly refused to talk only to Muslims and solicit their votes, saying he did not believe in dividing voters on religious lines and was prepared to pay the price for his decision.

Asked in a TV interview what would he tell Muslims in Varanasi, which is one of the two seats he is contesting elections from this time, a defiant Modi said he would not “commit such a sin” and also that he did not believe in launching schemes to reach out to only the Muslim community. “I will not tell Hindus or Muslims anything. I will talk to 125 crore Indians. If they like it, fine. I am ready to get defeated. I am ready to get completely finished off. But I believe that the country has been divided, brothers have been divided in the name of secularism. We are all one and that is my mantra. I was successful in Gujarat. I will succeed in rest of India,” he told CNBC Awaaz, in comments that seek to draw a line under his anti-Muslim image and define himself as someone who only cares about nonpartisan development.
Asked if he had completed his efforts to reach out to the Muslim community and addressed its anxieties, he said: “I haven’t even started it. And I am not going to do it. It is not important for me. I am totally opposed to it… For the nation my mantra is 125 crore Indians. Hindu, Muslim, Christians… The country had enough of all these terminologies. The new terminologies will be youth, poor, farmer, village, city, education.” Modi, who is focusing his campaign on his record of presiding over high growth and strong governance during his time as Gujarat chief minister, also said it was important that political parties face the pressure of having to perform, which will make them do good work. A former member of his party’s intellectual right wing fountainhead, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Modi defended the organisation, noting that it had become a fashion to criticise the group.
“It has become a fashion in our country that whenever the Congress is going through a bad phase, people emerge to abuse the RSS… It is the biggest nongovernmental organisation. Its capabilities should be admired and used for the benefit of the people,” he said. Blaming the Congress for the deterioration in India’s federal structure, Modi said if he became the prime minister he would ensure a ‘familylike’ environment between the Centre and states. Modi also spoke in favour of privatisation of public industries, saying it should be done on a case by case basis. “We should give them the opportunity of turning themselves around based on professional advice,” he said, adding a BJP government would work to push through the GST.
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