Posts Tagged ‘narendra modi’

ZeeNews Whistleblower Vishwa Deepak Unearths The Conspiracy

February 25, 2016

‘It feels like we are govt spokespersons’

Following is the post put up by Vishwa Deepak on Facebook, in which he announced his decision to resign from Zee News following the coverage of JNU protests.

vishwa-deepak-2

As journalists, we raise questions about others but never about ourselves. We decide everyone else’s responsibility but never ours. We are called the fourth pillar of democracy but are we, our institutions , our thinking and our “modus operandi” democratic enough ? This is not just my question. It is a question everybody is asking today.The way JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was framed in the name of “nationalism” and was proved “anti-national” through media trials is a dangerous tendency. We, as journalists, have a responsibility to ask questions to those in authority… In the history of journalism, whatever positive has been achieved is a result of such questions.

To ask or not to ask questions is a matter of personal choice. But I believe what is personal is also political. There comes a time when you have to choose between your professional responsibilities and socio-political convictions and take a side. I have chosen to go with the latter and due to differences on these grounds with my organisation Zee News, I have resigned with effect from 19 February.

My resignation is dedicated to the country’s lakhs and crores of “Kanhaiya”s and to those friends from JNU who struggle and make sacrifices with eyes full of beautiful dreams.

“Dear ZEE News,

After 1 year 4 months and 4 days, it’s high time that I should leave your organization. I should have left it much before, but if I don’t leave now, then I’ll never be able to forgive myself.

What I want to say next has not been stated out of emotion or anger. It is a well-considered statement. Besides being a journalist, I am a citizen of this country, where the poison of nationalism is being spread and the country is being pushed towards a civil war. My civil liability and professional responsibility says that I should stop this poison. I know my efforts are like crossing the sea with the help of a boat but I am keen to make the effort. On this thought, on the issue of blind nationalism over JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar, I resign from my post. I want this resignation to be accepted without any personal malice.

Indeed, this it is not personal. It is a matter of professional responsibility. In the end, it is a matter of sense of responsibility and patriotism too. With regret, I say that on these three parameters, by being associated with you, as an organization, in the last year, I have failed many times.

After May 2014, when Narendra Modi has become the PM, almost every newsroom of the country has been communalized, but here, situations are even more catastrophic. I apologise for using such a heavy word. But I have no other word except this. Why is it that all news is written by adding a ‘Modi angle’? Stories are written keeping in mind how it will benefit the agenda of the Modi government. We have seriously started doubting that we are journalists. It feels like we are the spokespersons of the government, or that we are supari killers. Modi is the PM of our country, and is my PM too. But being a journalist, it is difficult to accept so much Modi devotion. My conscience is starting to rebel against me, it seems like I am sick.

Behind every story there is an agenda, behind every show there is an effort to call the Modi government ‘great’. Wanting to attack the opposition in every argument. No word other than attack or war is acceptable. What is all this? Sometimes I stop and think that I am getting mad. Why are we being made so inferior and immoral? After studying from the country’s top media institutions and working at Aaj Tak and BBC, Deutsche Welle (Germany) , the situation is such that people have started calling me a journalist from ‘Chhee News’. Our integrity is being questioned; who will take the responsibility for all this?

There are so many things to say… A campaign is being constantly running against Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and is still running. Why?

Basic policies like electricity-water, education and the odd-even policy were also questioned. Disagreement with Keriwal disagreement and criticism is something that everyone has a right to. If I start making a list of stories done against Kejriwal then I think many pages will be filled. I want to know if journalistic principles and ethics hold a certain value or not?

In the Rohith Vemula suicide case, first he was called as a Dalit scholar, then a Dalit student. At least, the story should have been written properly. The ABVP and Bandaru Dattatreya need to answer for Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

I remember that we questioned stellar writers across all regional languages including Uday Prakash when they started returning their Sahitya Academy Awards on the debate on intolerance. Lakhs of people read Uday Prakash’s books. He is the pride of the language that we speak everyday, and use in our workplace. His writings portray our lives, our dreams, and our struggles. But we are keen to prove that all these things were pre-planned. That hurt then, but I still tolerated it somehow.

But till when should I tolerate this situation and for how long?

I can’t sleep well these days. I am anxious. Perhaps this is the result of a feeling of guilt. The biggest blot that an individual can have on him is that he is anti-national. However, the question is: as journalists, do we have the right to distribute the degree of anti-national? Isn’t it the job of the court?

We have tagged many students of JNU as ‘anti-national’ including Kanhaiya. If among them one gets killed tomorrow, who will take the responsibility? We have not only created an atmosphere for someone’s murder and the destruction of a few families but also created a platform to spread riots and cause a civil war. What kind of patriotism is this? What kind of journalism is this?

Are we the BJP or RSS’S mouthpieces, for us to do whatever they say? A video which did not even have the slogan of ‘Pakistan zindabad’ was still aired continuously. How did we blindly believe that these voices which came in the dark were of Kanhaiya or his friends? Instead of ‘Bhartiya Court zindabad,’ they heard Pakistan zindabad and spoilt some peoples career, hopes and led their families to destruction. It would have been good if we would have let the investigating agencies conduct a probe and then waited for the results.

People are threatening Umar Khalid’s sister. People are calling her a traitor’s sister.

Isn’t this our responsibility? Kanhaiya not once but repeatedly said that he doesn’t promote anti-nationalist slogans, but nobody heard him, because we were toing the line of the NDA government. Have we ever seen Kanhaiya’s house properly? Kanhaiya’s home is a painful symbol of the country’s farmers and the common man. It represents expectations of the country which are being buried every moment. But we have become blind. In my area too, there are many houses like this. In those broken walls and already fragile lives, we have injected the poison of nationalism without even thinking what the result would be. If Kanhaiya’s paralyzed father dies of shock, will we be responsible?

If The Indian Express would not have done a story, the country wouldn’t have been able to find out from where he gets the inspiration to talk. Rama Naga and others are in the same situation. Struggling against poverty, these boys are studying with the help of subsidies given to JNU. But the commercials interests have ruined their career.

We may disagree with their politics or their ideas, but how can they become traitors? How can we do the court’s job? Is it a mere coincidence that the Delhi Police in its FIR has mentioned Zee News?

It is said that we are in collusion with the Delhi Police. What answer do we give to this allegation?

Why do we hate JNU? I believe that JNU is a beautiful garden of modern values, democracy, diversity and co-existence of opposing views. And people call us traitors.

I would like to know: Is JNU against the law or the BJP leader who barged into the court premises and thrashed the left-wing leader? While the BJP leader and his supporters were mercilessly beating Amique Jamai, the CPI activist, the cops remained mute spectators. Even as the live coverage showed OP Sharma clearly hitting Jamai, we were carrying the news as ‘allegations of violence against OP Sharma’. When I asked why we used the word ‘allegation’ when the video is self-explanatory, I was told that the order has been issued from the higher-ups. How can our ‘higher-ups’ stoop so low? It is understandable when it comes to Modi but should we have to be careful now of not writing anything against AVBP leaders and BJP leaders like OP Sharma?

I have started hating my existence, my journalism and my helplessness. Did I leave other jobs and decide to be a journalist for all this? I doubt it.

Now, I just have two options; either to quit journalism or excuse myself from these situations. I am opting for the latter. I have not yet declared anything; I have just raised some questions pertaining to my profession and identity. No matter how small, but it is still my accountability- not so much towards others, but more towards me. I am convinced that I won’t be hired elsewhere. I am aware that if I stick around I might be able to earn up to a lakh rupees. My salary is good, but these situations are demanding a lot of sacrifices, which I am not willing to do. Being brought up in a middle-class family, I am fully aware that you have to face a lot of difficulties with a modest income but still I don’t want to suppress my conscience.

I am repeating myself that I don’t have any personal vendetta against anybody. These matters are purely related to editorial policy. I hope they are understood in the same way. I would also like to mention that if any media house has the right to declaim its right-wing tendencies then even we as individuals are entitled to talk about our political inclinations. Being a journalist, it is my responsibility to have an unbiased approach. But as an individual and a citizen, I have chosen the leftist ideology. This is my identity. On a final note, I am thankful for the year-long struggle that I have been through in Zee News, which has helped me make good friends.”

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Movement Against Fascist Forces

October 22, 2015

Writers, artists announce movement against fascist forces

An Special Correspondent

Writers-speaking-at-discussion-in-PCI-600x400

New Delhi, October 21, 2015:  Eminent writers, artists and media persons, who are peeved at the present government’s insensitivity and inaction against hate-peddlers and violent radicals of   Hindutva groups, announced on Monday that they will fight fascist forces tooth and nail. They alleged that these forces have “tacit support and endorsement” of the Narendra Modi government at the Centre.In the wake of growing intolerance and targeted killings of writers and rationalists and repeated incidents of lynching on the pretext of cow protection, a discussion was jointly organized by the Press club of India, the Indian Women’s Press Corps, the Janwadi Leikhakh Sangh and the Pragatisheel Leikhakh Morcha on Monday at the Press Club here.

Coming down heavily on the Prime Minister and his government for the growing atmosphere of intolerance and communal discourse, they resolved to take a protest march on October 23 from Sri Ram Centre to Sahitya Academy in the Capital. They said the PM is maintaining eloquent silence over the murderous attacks on writers and rationalists while his party members, MPs as well as his cabinet ministers are making provocative statements and remarks.  Writers at a Pratirodh Sangh (protest forum) in Press Club of India also raised concern over the deafening silence of Sahitya Academy which is the autonomous body of literaturers.

Speaking on the occasion, veteran journalist and Hindi writer Mangalesh Dabral, who returned his Sahitya Academy award in protest against the government’s inaction, has warned that: “History will not forgive us if we do not speak up at the situation when the core values of our civilization are under attacks”.

He said that democracy is not all about the rule of majority, but its real tests lies in the well-being of minorities and other marginalised sections of society.  Taking Finance Minister Arun Jaitly to task for dubbing the revolt of writers as “manufactured protest”, he said it was a “mischievous narrative to malign them”.

“Are the killings of rationalists Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M M Kalburgi manufactured? Was Akhlak killing manufactured? They are not manufactured, but there is design into all these incidents,” Dabral asked the Finance Minister.

When this correspondent asked that writers are not defending their stand forcefully in TV discussions, Dabral quipped, “We do not cross the limit of decency to prove our point”.

Om Thanvi, ex-editor of Jansatta, said here is a Prime Minister who took refuge under the President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech for appealing peace in the country. It was “mischievous and cunning” as Muslims are not attacking Hindus or Hindus and Muslims are not fighting but the Hindutva radicals who are hell-bent to destroy the communal fabric of the country. Instead of taking action against these radicals the PM is making appeal for calm and peace, he said.

Conducting the discussion Press Club of India  general secretary Nadeem Ahmad Kazmi said that the majority of journalists are with writers in their fight against intolerance and fascism, He pointed that Hindutva groups are using all  means to “control communication” the manifestation of which is seen in the media narrative against the writers returning their awards. “They are not using swords or resorting to violence…. Instead of listening to their concerns, a section of media is accusing them of belonging to one quarter or the other”, said Kazmi. Many writers spoke on the occasion and castigated the opposition parties, including the Congress for raising their voice forcefully against these forces as they are more concerned with their political interest than the country’s interest.

Noted poet and critic K. Sachidanandan in his statement urged the silent majority to come together against the “mono-religious and mono-cultural entity”. He also raises concern over the BJP government’s bid to control prestigious institutions like ICHR, NBT and FTII, to name a few, which were so far headed by eminent scholars, educationists, social scientists, philosophers and thinkers. They are systematically destroyed by the appointment of little known, ignorant or ill-reputed people, he said.

“It is ironical that those who have vowed to safeguard the Constitutional rights are themselves challenging the constitution with inflammatory statements and hate-speeches every other day leading to riots and instilling fear in the minorities, he said.

Modi@365

May 31, 2015

Regressive Phase

Sitaram Yechury


Sitaram_Yechury_sketch

More dangerous than unmet economic goals is the ideological chauvinism.

The King of France, Louis XV, achieved notoriety for saying, “After me, the deluge”. As the first year of this Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government ends, Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to be amending this to read as: “Before me, the void: After me, the deluge”. He has gone as far to say, twice on foreign soil in May, that NRIs were “ashamed” of being called Indians before he got elected.

During the course of this one year, we are being told ad-nauseum that Mr. Modi is rebuilding India from the ruins left behind by six decades of successive governments. Alas, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the six-year long NDA government have been confined to forgotten history. Undoubtedly, there has been a plethora of unfulfilled promises, a merciless loot of our resources and growing exploitation of our people during these decades. This, however, is not the point of this Modi government’s public relations exercise. Their point is to portray the Prime Minister with the arrival of a messiah a la the mythological Kalki Avatar. Never mind that the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India has recently said that Mr. Modi must not be thought of as “Ronald Reagan on a white horse”. The myth-manufacturing PR wheel continues to turn.

It is now clear that what has been attempted this year is an attack on whatever rights common Indians have managed to achieve through struggles for so far. The government is in retreat, with huge cuts in the budget, in vital areas of health, education, social welfare, Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes sub-plans etc.

There is a new trident of challenges that is being constructed before both the country and the people: there is an aggressive pursuit of neoliberal economic reforms, an onslaught on the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic by the sharpening of communal polarisation, and a the slow but certain movement towards authoritarian rule. The last is easily seen in the damaging of democratic institutions and the bypassing of methods sacrosanct in a parliamentary democracy.

Economic challenges

This NDA government is aggressively pursuing neoliberal economic reforms followed by the previous Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. All key sectors of our economy have now being opened up for greater Foreign Direct Investment inflows. The government is backtracking on many issues that it had opposed earlier such as permitting FDI in retail trade. The most brazen U-turn has been the new Land Acquisition Ordinance that it has pushed through thrice after having supported the 2013 Bill. The urgency to hand over real estate to foreign and domestic corporates for profit maximisation is driving the government’s agenda at the expense of ruining vast sections of our peasantry. Precious mineral resources are being handed over for private profit along with ambitious targets of the privatisation of the public sector. Crony capitalism is having a field day.

The statistical base year for national income accounts has been changed in order to project the GDP growth rate in better light. Despite this, it is clear that manufacturing and industrial growth is just not taking off. Corporates have registered an unprecedented accumulation of inventories. This is leading to a fall in employment sharply. Coupled with the relentless rise in the prices of all essential commodities and successive big hikes in the prices of fuel, this is imposing severe hardships on the livelihood of our people.

Agrarian distress

The agrarian distress is deepening. For the first time since Independence, a fall in the total cultivated area has been reported. With the hike in the prices of inputs and the sharp decrease in subsidies, many farmers are abandoning agricultural activity as they are unable to survive. Forced to borrow, they suffer debts that they are unable to repay. This is resulting in continued incidents of distress suicides. The state of the workers is no better — the share of wages as a proportion of GDP now stands a little over 10 per cent compared to over 25 per cent in 1990-91.

On the other hand, the rich have become richer. As per the Forbes list 2014, the 100 richest people in India are all U.S.$ billionaires, i.e., 45 more than the figure of 55 in 2011. The combined wealth of these 100 billionaires comes to $346 billion. The share of the top 1 per cent in the total wealth of households has increased from 36.8 per cent in 2000 to a phenomenal 49 per cent in 2014. The promised ‘better days’ or ‘acche din’ are turning from illusions into a nightmare for the vast majority.

Communal polarisation

Simultaneously, communal polarisation is being kept on the boil and is being sharpened through governmental patronage. The BJP, as the political arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, is advancing the project of transforming the modern secular democratic Indian republic into the RSS project of an intolerant ‘Hindu Rashtra’. The communal campaigns of ‘ghar wapsi’ and the stigmatisation of inter-religious marriages as ‘love jihad’ are accompanied with frenzied efforts to replace history by mythology and philosophy by theology. This is resulting in attempts to change the curriculum of schools and the nature of research bodies in the country. There are growing reports of communal tensions and even riots from various corners of the country. Attacks on Muslim minorities and targeting Christian churches in particular have grown exponentially. Mr. Modi has not assured even on the floor of Parliament that action would be taken against those who violate the law with impunity, by delivering inciting hate speeches.

Using the strength of its majority in the Lok Sabha, albeit with just 31 per cent of the vote polled, the BJP bulldozed nearly 50 legislations without parliamentary scrutiny. Parliamentary scrutiny is exercised by the Parliamentary Standing Committees examining all legislative proposals. These committees have as their members virtually the entire political spectrum represented in both Houses of Parliament at any point of time. This enables them to suggest fine-tuning of these legislations and if necessary, to reconsider or redraft some.

These are indeed ominous signals. This year has been marked by the NDA not being able to meet economic expectations, no doubt. But it has heralded a new and retrogressive phase in India, which is more dangerous. The government is stepping back from international commitments made in the spheres of environment, human rights and labour laws, the latest being the changes in the Juvenile Justice law. This government believes in reversing progressive economics by minimising government where it is most required — pulling millions out of poverty — and replacing it with policies for the already rich and powerful. This, along with a narrow and chauvinistic idea of India, threatens to push back even small social gains made. Social peace and harmony are undervalued goods, and any attempt to tinker with social amity as political design will have explosive consequences.

Moreover, Mr. Modi and the BJP claim as their triumph the fact that no corruption scam has emerged during the course of this year. Does anyone recollect any such scam during the first four years of the UPA government? Just as time exposed the UPA scams, so will time expose this government’s record in aggressively pursuing crony capitalism.

Louis XV’s infamous remark is widely believed to have anticipated the French Revolution. What Mr. Modi’s attempts to paint India as the land of the void before him leads to, surely time will tell.


Sitaram Yechury is the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

One Year Of Modi Govt

May 30, 2015


One Year of Modi govt: Bure Din For Social Sector

Modi government has damaged the rights-based legislative framework without spelling out what will replace it.


Aruna Roy & Nikhil Dey

No one in the last two decades has come to power with greater euphoria than the Narendra Modi sarkar. It has taken less than a year for that euphoria to recede and change to disappointment. There are sufficient reasons for this change. The celebrations of the first year in office of this government are in sharp contrast to the plight of the common person.

The callousness of the government is most noticeable in its attitude to social sector issues. It does not seem to realise that rights-based legislation were not a UPA creation, but a reflection of the aspirations of millions of Indians struggling to procure the most basic entitlements. In its desire to establish itself by discarding past achievements, the current government is making a cardinal mistake.

Nothing could be more symptomatic of this narrow partisan approach than the prime minister’s statement on the MGNREGA in Parliament. It is shocking that the PM could promise to build a programme only to establish its monumental failure. This statement sent a strong message down the line to discredit and mismanage the programme. It is a failure not only of leadership but of vision and governance. The PM’s rhetoric sounds hollow even to his own party. The Madhya Pradesh chief minister has publicly stated that the MGNREGA is one of the best programmes in independent India.

Rights-based legislation like the forest rights act, right to food, right to education and right to information, passed in the last 10 years, did not merely provide economic and social entitlements to the poor. They were an attempt by India’s poorest citizens to claim delivery of basic services and ensure accountability. The people’s right to participate to ensure delivery and to monitor these programmes arose from numerous failures.

Rights-based legislation are an attempt by people to demand a share of governance. The demand for transparency, the right to question, audit development programmes and their implementation, arose from this. This framework is being undermined through budget cuts and the attempt to replace rights with cash transfers, which are much more in a paradigm of doles and handouts. Bank accounts without money and spurious promises through contributory pension and insurance schemes cannot replace the crippling of existing programmes. Even as earlier programmes and laws are ridiculed, there is no vision or direction for what is to replace them.

There is, in fact, no roadmap this government has to offer for the social sector. If this government felt that the earlier legislation were a complete failure, it should have issued a white paper on the shortcomings and provided a blueprint for how these would be overcome. This would at least have provided the people of this country an idea of what they could expect and where they could hold the government to account.

Much of rural India has found itself reeling under a loss of social sector entitlements and scrambling to save whatever resources it has. In the farming community, many might not be personally affected by the land acquisition ordinance, but most are affected by market-driven policies on minimum support prices and inefficiencies in the provision of fertilisers, irrigation, etc. The obstinacy of the government in repeatedly reimposing the ordinance has only confirmed the rural sector’s fears that these are the days of “company raj” and “bure din”.

The government has probably begun to realise that the MGNREGA is one of the less expensive ways to provide basic support, especially in times of distress. But the PM’s earlier message has been internalised by the system to such an extent that even the PMO’s later assurance to extend support for the MGNREGA has not been able to change things on the ground. People are still unable to get work. What could be a more decisive example of poor governance?

The attack on participatory governance has been even more surprising. While there was a stated ideological bias against social sector entitlements, the rhetoric on transparency, accountability, anti-corruption and improved efficiency seemed unequivocal. However, by repeated and deliberate acts of omission and commission, this government has made sure that a carefully constructed transparency framework has been comprehensively undermined. The accountability laws waiting to be implemented and passed have been pushed into amendments and committees.

The non-appointment of the chief information commissioner and three other commissioners cannot be justified on any legitimate ground. Despite repeated protests, the government has brazened it out to undermine the credibility of the information commission. The whistleblower protection and Lokpal laws were passed with great difficulty. They have been weakened through proposed amendments and further delayed by sending them to standing committees.

The grievance redressal law (a kind of RTI part II) would have ensured accountability of all government servants and been crucial to ensuring efficiency and service delivery. Instead, institutions more responsive in engaging with the people have been replaced by exclusive structures. The argument of efficiency remains a myth as the entire system functions with extraordinary centralisation, opacity and lack of public accountability.

The fact that this is a “Modi sarkar” and not the “NDA or BJP sarkar” is proclaimed repeatedly and deliberately. It is testimony to the undemocratic nature of the government’s current internal politics. Critics gave the BJP credit for its (comparative) internal democracy. The ruling party is now defined in the feudal mould of a single ruler, rather than a party that functions collectively and democratically.

The chaiwalla image has been replaced by that of a sartorially conscious leader with a designer suit. All decisions are taken by the PM, and he is constantly travelling abroad. This has led to a dysfunctional single-leader system where questions of the people do not get answered and find no platform.

Finally, the attack on activists, NGOs and other dissenters on development politics is unwise and deeply damaging to our democratic framework. People committed to the welfare of marginalised communities and the environment find themselves branded as “anti-national”, with a completely warped sense of what true national interest is. We can only hope that the people will assert their rights and demand that promises be kept and that we will see a more inclusive and plural India.


The writers are with the Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan. Roy was a member of the UPA’s National Advisory Council until May 2013 / Courtesy: Indian Express

The Politics Of ‘Love Jihad’

September 18, 2014

The Politics of ‘Love Jihad’ in India

Certain members of the BJP are fanning communal fires in India with a focus on the idea of “love jihad.”

Sanjay Kumar | September 17, 2014 |

Recently I acted as a witness to a court marriage in New Delhi. This wasn’t a normal wedding. Rather, it was an interreligious wedding between a Muslim man and a Hindu woman. The two, who are both academics, decided to get married after a few years of courtship. While Hindu-Muslim weddings in India are not a regular occurrence, they are not uncommon. Interfaith marriages were rarer a generation ago but today it is not unusual for everyone to know someone who has a partner from outside their religious community.

As I was signing marriage documents as a witness of the local community, my mind was preoccupied with the concept of “love jihad.” A new coinage, the term has been popularized by right-wing Hindu groups across India, especially in western Uttar Pradesh.

There, several politicians, mainly members of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have argued that Muslim males have been seducing Hindu women, and have been converting these women to Islam under the pretext of marriage. According to BJP politicians, the practice of “love jihad” has grown alarmingly common in the state of Uttar Pradesh, especially in Muslim-dominated areas. Thus, they argue, the time has come for such interreligious marriages to stop.

Large parts of India never heard of this phrase until three months ago. But ever since the BJP came to power in New Delhi, the term “love jihad” has become a part of the popular consciousness all over India. This terminology may be part of a sustained campaign in parts of western Uttar Pradesh to consolidate Hindus against Muslims, which would help the BJP in elections.

How real is “love jihad”?

According to an investigative report by NDTV, a New Delhi-based TV channel, “love jihad” is a political campaign by the BJP against India’s minority Muslim community, aiming to polarize voters in the name of religion. Uttar Pradesh will soon go to the polls.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu organization that is often affiliated with the BJP, recently launched a campaign in Uttar Pradesh claiming that recent religious riots in parts of the state have been engineered by Muslims to convert Hindu women to Islam. The RSS has launched a door to door campaign warning Hindu families about interacting with Muslims.

As a result, India’s most populous state is sitting on a religious tinderbox. The social fabric of the state is on the verge of tearing apart. Recently, a BJP parliamentarian, Sakshi Maharaj, stated that madrasas (Muslim schools) produce terrorists as they impart an education in terrorism, which added to interreligious tensions. Additionally, a senior cabinet minister, Maneka Gandhi, argued that money from Muslims slaughtering cows (considered holy by Hindus) went into the funding of terror outfits.

This concerted anti-Muslim campaign in parts of India raises questions about the intentions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in New Delhi. On one hand, the Prime Minister wants the riots to stop and wishes to emphasize economic development; on the other hand, he does not show a willingness to stand against rabid politicians from his own party.

This raises skepticism as to whether Modi, who himself has been accused of anti-Muslim activity in the past, is really serious about or capable of maintaining religious harmony in India as there is a wide gap between his rhetoric and the reality of what is happening in parts of the country. His silence can be construed as an endorsement of divisive politics.

Economic development cannot occur in a vacuum. Growth without social peace is not possible. “Love jihad” is a political slogan that aims to divide society. Nation-building involves bringing all people and communities together. Since 1947, India has been trying to create unity in diversity through secularism. The consequences of majoritarian politics are evident through the examples of Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Thus, secularism has been a stabilizing factor for India. We should defend this way of life and resist those who seek to undermine it.

What I witnessed in the magistrate’s court in Delhi was a triumph of Indian secularism and should be celebrated.

Justice At Last

September 3, 2012

 

Triumph of Justice

    NARODA PATIYA is said to be the worst-affected area in the 2002 Gujarat pogrom. Here, 97 people were killed and almost 800 families were affected by the communal violence that followed the Sabarmati Express fire in Godhra on February 28, 2002. When the riots ended, the death toll across the State was said to have been close to 1,200.

    On August 29, a special trial court in Ahmedabad convicted 32 of the accused in the Naroda Patiya case, while acquitting 29 others. It convicted Maya Kodnani, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Minister in the Narendra Modi government, to 28 years’ imprisonment, former Bajrang Dal convener Babu Bajrangi to imprisonment until death. Of the 30 others, the court awarded 31 years’ imprisonment to seven accused and 24 years’ imprisonment to 22; it did not pronounce sentence against one accused.

    Special court judge Jyotsana Yagnik convicted Maya Kodnani and Bajrangi on charges of conspiracy and murder. The duo were held guilty under sections 120(b) (criminal conspiracy), 302 (murder) and 307 (attempt to murder) of the Indian Penal Code. The prosecution sought the maximum punishment of the death sentence for all the convicts.

    Maya Kodnani will serve 10 years in jail for her conviction under Section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), after which her imprisonment under Section 302 and other sections, which is for 18 years, will begin.

    Maya Kodnani, a three-time MLA from the Naroda area, had allegedly distributed weapons and had twice surveyed the area before the riots broke out. Evidence of her involvement includes phone records and eyewitness accounts of her leading rioters to the area. Bajrangi was also seen leading the rioters, and was captured on camera boasting about his involvement in the Naroda Patiya massacre.

    Naroda Patiya is largely a poor Muslim neighbourhood, which was systematically targeted. Many of its residents were later rehabilitated in an area called Citizens Nagar, a miserable shanty near the city’s dumping ground. Some families returned to Naroda Patiya but numerous houses there still bear evidence of the massacre. Many look like bombed-out structures, some have collapsed and others have a lock on the door.

    An eyewitness told Frontline that the mob had blocked all the exits. “We heard them coming but before we could run, they had begun killing. They were throwing burning rags and lit bottles into our houses. Women were dragged out. I saw a pregnant women being stabbed in the belly. We made desperate attempts to reach the police, but nobody came to help us.”

    The Naroda Patiya case is among the nine that were investigated by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and went for trial. Maya Kodnani was first arrested in March 2009 by the SIT in connection with the case. She resigned her post as Minister subsequently. This May, she was released on bail.

Implications for Modi

    The implications of the judgment are serious. To begin with, the conviction of a former Minister is a harsh blow to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is gearing up for State Assembly elections in another three months and is an aspirant for the post of Prime Minister. Modi has tried hard to distance himself from Maya Kodnani’s actions and the riots in general. When she was arrested, he reportedly said she was only an MLA and that did not necessarily make her a State government functionary. Modi has denied any involvement in what he calls a spontaneous reaction to the Godhra carnage.

    “The significance of this verdict should not be underemphasised. This is the highest number convicted ever in the past 65 years in any case of communal violence. Even more significantly, for the first time, criminal responsibility has been fixed at the level of the political conspirator and instigator. This is a first for Indian jurisprudence and will have a tremendous impact on Zakia Jafri’s case against Modi and 61 others. Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi are co-accused in that case too,” said Teesta Setalvad, who as part of the Citizens for Peace and Justice has been fighting a protracted battle to nail the culprits.

    Modi, who has seen three successful Assembly elections, is billed to face his toughest test this time. Observers say though the opposition is not strong enough to beat the champion of Hindutva, he has a tough fight ahead, which will probably scuttle his chances in New Delhi.

Courtesy: Frontline