Thursday, 30 August 2012

RSS 'nationalism' at work: ABVP men assault 98 migrants after dragging them out of train

Ninety-eight migrant labourers were dragged out of a train and assaulted, allegedly by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) members, at Mandya in Karnataka late on Wednesday night. The activists terrorised the labourers hailing from West Bengal, Orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar and other States for nearly two hours before dragging them out, claiming they were “illegal Bangladeshis.” The labourers were heading to Mangalore on the Yeshwantpur-Kannur Express. Scores of passengers remained mute spectators to the assault, even as the labourers pleaded that they were headed to the coastal city to seek jobs at construction sites. The activists were returning from a convention in Bangalore.
The ordeal for the workers, 66 of them from West Bengal and belonging to various religions, began soon after they boarded the general compartment of the train in Bangalore at 8 p.m. The activists started questioning them, Bishnu Babu from West Bengal told The Hindu. They also started raising slogans against Bangladeshi migrants. “Without allowing us to explain, they started searching our baggage and pockets. Most of the people were cheering and laughing,” Shyam Sharma from Odisha said.
This torture continued till the train reached Mandya. The activists dragged all the labourers out of the train and in full public glare, kicked and punched them. The Mandya police have detained nine persons in connection with the incident. Government Railway Police Deputy Superintendent of Police Meer Arif Ali said the police would book criminal cases against them. The police, after collecting details about the labourers, organised special vehicles and sent them to Bangalore. “We gave protection to the labourers and sent them to Bangalore,” Superintendent of Police Koushalendra Kumar said.

Raj Thackeray threatens Asha Bhosle show 'Sur-Kshetra', but singer to go ahead

MUMBAI: The Maharashtra Navnirman Senahas threatened to disrupt Sur-Kshetra, a music show in which eight vocalists from Pakistan and an equal number of Indian singers are scheduled to participate. The MNS's film wing, the Chitrapat Karmachari Sena, on Thursday wrote to the channel on which Sur-Kshetra will be aired from September 8, and to noted playback singer Asha Bhosale, who is on the show's grand jury, spelling out its views. "We respect art. But Pakistan did not reciprocate this sentiment when it summarily banned Salman Khan's Ek Tha Tiger recently. We will not allow any shoot of the channel if it goes ahead with the show involving Pakistani artistes," said the letter.

Buoyed by Raj Thackeray's recent morcha condemning the mob rampage at Azad Maidan on August 11 and the Supreme Court's latest verdict confirming Ajmal Kasab's death penalty, the MNS has begun to flex its muscles to earn a niche in Mumbai politics, say party watchers. "Pakistan has been inflicting injuries on India by plotting terrorist attacks. There is no need to undertake such a show on TV," said Ameya Khopkar, chief of the Chitrapat Karmachari Sena. "If the show goes on air, we will deal with the situation in a manner befitting the MNS," he warned.

Tight security was arranged at the suburban hotel where the channel held a press conference on Thursday in the run-up to the show. Bhosale held hectic consultations with the MNS functionaries as well as senior MNS functionary Shalini Thackeray, urging them to call off the stir. "The show aims to promote peace and harmony between two neighbouring countries," she stated. The press conference was held nearly three hours behind schedule, following high tension at the hotel.

Later, addressing mediapersons, the veteran singer tried to defuse the crisis by declaring her "love and affection" for MNS chief Raj Thackeray. "I will always love Raj even if he abuses me...I know he loves my songs," she said, adding that she also loved Maharashtra. However, despite these statements, Bhosale refused to be cowed down and confirmed her participation in Sur-Kshetra. "I am a simple woman who believes in humanity and in spreading love and understanding through music," she said. "I am a singer and not a politician. I know I am working with good people."

After the 26/11 terror attack, many Pakistani actors disappeared from the Indian scene. Comedians like Kashif and Shakeel Siddiqui and a TV show participant Zaheer Abbas had to leave India immediately after the attack. However, despite the Shiv Sena's and MNS's constant protests against Pakistani actors in TV shows and films, producers continue to work with them. Nearly half a dozen Pakistani actors like Meera, Veena Malik, Ali Zafar, Imran Abbas and Humiama Malik are acting in Hindi films. Some music directors fly to Dubai and record songs with singers Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Atif Aslam.

Rapping activism

They’re young, intelligent and subversive. And they’re not afraid to tell it like it is.Three young rappers, who believe in ‘music activism’, have been addressing environmental, social and gender issues through song. Dombivali resident Viraj Manjrekar, popularly known as Roger, is a graphic designer who raps in English, Hindi and Marathi. Hailing from the controversial town ofJaitapur, his lyrics are full of state politics. “I startedas a non-activist rapper and then improvised to get into activism.” He protested against the environmental effects of a nuclear power station at Jaitapur and got arrested.
His track Kaisey Mai Sahu is a reaction to themolestation incident atGuwahati and portrays the shame he felt after he saw the footage of the incident on TV. Currently, Roger is working on Big Bad Wolf, a song about children committing suicide. Rapper Manmeet Kaur also conveys her angst about the Guwahati incident. “Rap is all about telling stories,” she says. Manmeet hails from Chandigarhand is a second-year student at National College in Bandra. Well aware of current affairs, her lyrics are about ‘female objectification and subjugation’ in Indian society. After an eve teasing incident, Manmeet was disgusted enough to give her angst the shape of a rap song. She admits she’s still learning and refuses to go commercial. “Bollywood lies to us all the time. Fame is not what I want,” she says.
Ashwini Mishra, who works in corporate communications and is also known as A List, says he wants to “educate yuppies through music. I don’t want to sign up with labels. I’ve been selling my CDs at select locations. I don’t need a record label and I refuse to compromise on my lyrics.” Currently, Mishra is working on a song dedicated to Manipur’s IromSharmila, who has been on a fast for over a decade in Imphal against thedraconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The lyrics of another song, Uranium Blues, reflect upon the effects of radiation around theKoodankulam nuclear power plant. “Scientifically and ecologically, this project could cripple India,” he says.

Books reviewed: How Noam Chomsky’s world works by David Hawkes

Noam Chomsky
Edited by Arthur Naiman
Interviews with James McGilvray

Anyone following the career of Noam Chomsky is soon confronted with a problem. In fact, it has become known as the “Chomsky problem”. Chomsky has achieved eminence in two very different fields, theoretical linguistics and political commentary. The “Chomsky problem” is that his approaches to these fields appear to contradict each other. In politics Chomsky is a radical, but in linguistics he takes positions that can easily be characterized as reactionary. He treats linguistics as a branch of biology. He traces language to a “Universal Grammar” resident in the physical brain. He believes that our linguistic nature is hard-wired into our genes. Because they diminish the influence of environment on human behaviour, such claims can be used to suggest that certain modes of social organization are natural & immutable. As a result they have often been associated with conservative politics.
Chomsky himself professes to see no problem. He believes that linguistics is a natural science, and research in the natural sciences must be objective and based on the evidence alone. Indeed, part of the researcher’s job is to divest himself of his cultural and political prejudices before entering the laboratory. These methodological principles were established by the seventeenth-century scientific revolution of Newton and the Royal Society, which was in Chomsky’s view a progressive development and an immeasurable boon to humanity. He sees no reason why the methods of the natural sciences should not be applied to the study of the human mind.
His critics caution that empirical science is closely linked, certainly historically and perhaps conceptually, to capitalist political economy. These discourses both emerge in late seventeenth-century England, and they conquer the world together. Surely this suggests an affinity that ought to trouble those who advocate one but castigate the other? The interviews now published as The Science of Language and How the World Works show that this paradox is at least playing on Chomsky’s mind. The conversations range promiscuously, and although one book is largely concerned with linguistics while the other is mainly political, Chomsky seems happier than usual to discuss the mutual implications of his two fields of interest. By issuing such collections of informal discussions, transcribed and edited by others, Chomsky is presumably attempting to reach a popular audience..
This ideological chasm between the American Left and its putative constituency yawns nowhere wider than in Chomsky’s withering references to popular religion. He cites the fact that “about 75% of the US population has a literal belief in the devil” as the clearest possible example of American ignorance and stupidity. But is it really so different from his own beliefs? Throughout his career, Chomsky has depicted a world ruled by demonic forces of quite incredible malice and guile. Whatever is running the world Chomsky describes is undoubtedly a very greedy, violent and selfish entity – it would be hard not to call it “evil”, or even Evil, were such tropes not sternly prohibited by the monochrome literalism of our age. The incarnate, worldly identity of this terrifying power is less clear. Sometimes it is “the US government”, which Chomsky depicts as a cartoonish amalgamation of petty spite and cataclysmic violence, determined to crush the slightest remnant of human decency still cowering in any corner of its empire. “When the Mennonites tried to send pencils to Cambodia, the State Department tried to stop them”, while the CIA allegedly trained its Central American death squads by forcing recruits to bite the heads off live vultures. As Chomsky puts it, “no degree of cruelty is too great for Washington sadists”. The America described here is a crazed, bloodthirsty monster, hell-bent on the destruction of humanity.
But Chomsky is not so silly as to ascribe a monopoly of malignity to any single nation. He traces the roots of American turpitude back to medieval Europe, which “had been fighting vicious, murderous wars internally. So it had developed an unsurpassed culture of violence”. As a result, European colonialism unleashed a wave of unprecedented horror on a hapless world: “European wars were wars of extermination. If we were to be honest about that history, we would describe it simply as a barbarian invasion”. Here, at least, Chomsky does not discuss the ways in which empirical science both facilitated and rationalized the European conquest of the globe.

In any case, the degree of historical blame accruing to either Europe or America is unimportant. The important question, surely, is what made these polities so fearsomely aggressive? Chomsky usually locates the source of modern evil in economics rather than politics, assigning ultimate blame to the pursuit of self-interest, which he sometimes presents as a manifestation of human nature, and sometimes as a historical aberration. He refers to “class war” but does not identify the classes he believes to be engaged in warfare. He frequently describes our oppressors as “investors” or “the people in charge of investment decisions”, as if the problem were a group of nefarious individuals. But he concedes the futility of convincing an individual capitalist of the error of his ways: “What would happen then? He’d get thrown out and someone else would be put in as CEO”.
Occasionally, Chomsky implies that the pursuit of self-interest is, like language, simply in our genes. But he is far too sophisticated to be satisfied with such Hobbesian speculation. Nor does the problem lie with the ethical failings of any nation, bloc of nations, social class or malignant cabal. The problem lies with the power that motivates the malignity. The problem is capital itself. Although Chomsky calls capital a “virtual Senate” and a “de facto world government”, he does not follow through to the conclusions involved in this position. If the nominal possessors of capital are in reality its slaves, if their actions are determined by its demands, and if we want to understand the atrocities that Chomsky documents, we must not look to human nature, but to the nature of capital.
This Chomsky cannot do. The logical conclusion of his political commentary is that capital acts as an independent agent, insinuating itself into the human mind and systematically perverting it. But this is incompatible with his scientific assumption that the mind is merely an “emergent property” of the physical brain. As Chomsky himself reminds us, the idea that human beings are purely physical entities, devoid of discarnate qualities such as mind, spirit or soul (or indeed ideas), has become plausible only over the past three centuries. Thomas Kuhn refers to this as a “paradigm shift”, but Chomsky rejects the concept because it implies that scientific truth is historically relative. For him, the Galilean revolution of the seventeenth century was simply an unprecedented, almost miraculous leap forward, and he sees it as his task to extend this revolution to areas, such as linguistics, in which its impact has been delayed. He does not attempt to explain why it occurred in the first place... 

Space telescope spots millions of supermassive black holes and "extreme" galaxies

A space telescope has added to its list of spectacular finds, spotting millions of supermassive black holes and blisteringly hot, "extreme" galaxies. The finds, by US space agency Nasa's Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer (Wise), once lay obscured behind dust. But Wise can see in wavelengths correlated with heat, seeing for the first time some of the brightest objects in the Universe. The haul will help astronomers work out how galaxies and black holes form. 
It is known that most large galaxies host black holes at their centres, sometimes feeding on nearby gas, dust and stars and sometimes spraying out enough energy to halt star formation altogether. How the two evolve together has remained a mystery, and the Wise data are already yielding some surprises. Wise gives astronomers what is currently a unique view on the cosmos, looking at wavelengths of light far beyond those we can see but giving information that we cannot get from wavelengths we can.
Wise telescope data
Among its other discoveries, in 2011 Wise spotted in a "Trojan" asteroid ahead of the Earth in its orbitBut with the latest results, Wise has come into its own as an unparalleled black hole hunter. "We've got the black holes cornered," said Daniel Stern of Nasa's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), lead author of one of the three studies presented on Wednesday. Dr Stern and his colleagues used the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (Nustar) space telescope to examine the X-rays coming out of the black hole candidates spotted by Wise, presenting their findings in a paper to appear in Astrophysical Journal"Wise is finding them across the full sky, while Nustar is giving us an entirely new look at their high-energy X-ray light and learning what makes them tick," he said.
The other two studies presented - one already published in Astrophysical journal and another yet to appear - focussed on extremely hot, bright galaxies that have until now remained hidden: hot dust-obscured galaxies, or hot-Dogs. There are so far about 1,000 candidate galaxies, some of which can out-shine our Sun by a factor of 100 trillion. "These dusty, cataclysmically forming galaxies are so rare Wise had to scan the entire sky to find them," said Peter Eisenhardt of JPL, lead author of the paper describing Wise's first hot-Dog find. "We are also seeing evidence that these record-setters may have formed their black holes before the bulk of their stars. The 'eggs' may have come before the 'chickens'."
The data from the Wise mission are made publicly available so that scientists outside the collaboration can also carry out their own studies, so the future will hold a wealth of studies from these extreme and otherwise hidden corners of the Universe.

Naroda Patiya verdict: Aides face the music, Modi remains ‘righteous’: by Kingshuk Nag

When I first heard of the conviction of former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi in the Naroda Patiya case on Wednesday morning, my first reaction was: why is it that the associates of Narendra Modi get nailed every time but he gets off scot-free? I am referring to Modi’s former minister Amit Shah and police officers like DG Vanzara who were close to him and had a free run. Vanzara and Rajkumar Pandyan (another police officer close to him) are languishing in jail; Amit Shah is also facing charges. Today, 31 more have been convicted but Modi (who, of course, was not directly involved in the incident) is going strong. While the Congress and Keshubhai Patel will put up a stiff fight, it is likely that he will be returned for the third time in the elections that will be held four months from now. And using this victory as ‘public approval’ for everything that he may have done or not done in the past, Modi will lambast the secular forces, blaming them for everything conceivable including all the ills that afflict India.
For those who came in late, the Naroda Patiya incident happened on February 28, 2002, a day after the Godhra train burning incident. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had given a bandh call and a huge crowd gathered at Naroda Patiya in Ahmedabad and attacked members of the minority community, killing 91 people. This was the same day when at Gulberg Housing Society, former MP Ehsan Jaffri was killed along with members of the same society even as police made themselves scarce. In fact, the attack on Gulberg Society happened after the additional police commissioner MK Tandon had visited the place and said that there was nothing to fear. His departure had been taken as a signal by rioters to burn down Gulberg Society. This was also the day when rioters and other antisocials had a free run, looting establishments belonging to the minority community and killing them at will. A Muslim high court judge had to run away from his house and take refuge at the house of a colleague for no crime other than being a Muslim. The car of the collector of Gandhinagar was also stoned because the collector was a Muslim. Sitting at the police control room were two ministers of the Modi government doing God knows what and this is when Ahmedabad was literally burning. The police commissioner of Ahmedabad, PC Pande, had gone into hibernation mode that day & DG of police K Chakravarthy was fuming and fretting in private with no guts to lead his men from the front.
Modi’s government should have been dismissed immediately – for failure to control law and order and for the anarchy prevailing on the streets – not only that day but also for the next few days. But there was an NDA government in New Delhi and the home minister was none other than Lal Krishna Advani, widely known as the godfather of Modi and the Prime Minister was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had mastered the art of doublespeak. It was not that they did not know what has happening — although Modi must have purveyed that it was all a “spontaneous reaction” to the Godhra incident and public anger was tremendous. A cabinet minister called George Fernandes who held the defence portfolio had been sent to Gujarat to assess the situation, but he had clearly reported to Vajpayee what was happening. To no avail, of course, other than a small reprimand from Vajpayee that ‘rajdharma’ has to be practised. Modi countered rather rudely that this was what he was doing.
From day one, those not enamoured with Modi have asserted that the role of the chief minister was more than that of being a helpless spectator. In fact, Modi’s revenue minister Haren Pandya (subsequently assassinated) deposed before the Concerned Citizens’ Tribunal that Modi had told his ministers in the aftermath of the Godhra incident (on the evening of February 27) that the public reaction that would happen in Ahmedabad should be allowed. IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt (then in the intelligence department), who had attended a meeting of officers with Modi, also said that the latter had wanted that the reaction be allowed to happen. The then home secretary of Gujarat, Ashok Narain, also is on record saying that he had warned that bringing the bodies of the victims of the Godhra train burning incident to Ahmedabad would incite violence but his warning was not heeded and a decision was taken to bring the bodies to the city.
On Wednesday (August 29, 2012), Maya Kodnani (who was an MLA then but was subsequently promoted as a minister; the question remains: if she was in the eye of a storm, why did Modi promote her?) was convicted under more than a dozen sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) including 302 (murder) and 120B (criminal conspiracy). Ditto for Babu Bajrangi. For those who do not know who he is, he is a VHP member who saw himself as a ‘social reformer’. Eyewitness accounts on which the court relied to convict Maya Kodnani spoke of how she had incited the mobs to murder.
I do not know what Modi’s reaction is to the convictions in the Naroda Patiya case. He will probably say that it only proves that his government has not tampered with the law and justice machinery in the state. Well that’s not that simple as that because this was a case monitored by the Supreme Court and witnesses protected by central paramilitary forces and legal aid from luminaries. But the question still buzzes in my mind: everything happened when Modi was at the helm of affairs. How is it that he is not being made to take responsibility for what happened in Gujarat in those fateful days. Does merely winning elections absolve him of everything? What sort of system is this where politics decides everything and extinguishes the line between right and wrong?

Dalai Lama sees "encouraging signs" of shift in China

(Reuters) - There are encouraging signs that attitudes towards Tibet are shifting in China, the Dalai Lama said on Wednesday, adding that the exiled Tibetan leadership is ready for fresh talks on his homeland if there was a genuine change of heart in Beijing.

The spiritual leader said in an interview that it was too early to tell if China's next president - who is almost certain to be Xi Jinping after a Communist Party Congress later this year - would adopt a new stance that could break decades of deadlock over Tibet. But he was reassured by what he had heard. "I can't say for definite, but according to many Chinese friends, they say the new, coming leadership seems more lenient," the Dalai Lama, 77, told Reuters in his audience room in the Indian Himalayan foothills town of Dharamsala. "If their side ... for their own interest are thinking more realistically we are ready for full cooperation with them."

His comments were more upbeat than just a few weeks ago when he declared that resuming formal negotiations - frozen since 2010 - was futile unless China brought a more realistic attitude to the table and that it was useless trying to convince China that he was not seeking full independence for Tibet. The Nobel peace laureate said there had been a stream of visitors to Dharamsala from China, among them people who told him they had connections with senior Communist Party leaders.

"We don't know who is who ... everything is a state secret, so it is difficult to say," he said, but added that some officials in China now appeared to agree with intellectuals that a new approach to Tibet is needed. "These are very, very encouraging signs," he said. "No formal talks, but there are sort of signs among the Chinese officials or top leaders." 
China has ruled Tibet since 1950, when Communist troops marched in and announced its "peaceful  liberation". The Dalai Lama, who fled to India in 1959 following a failed uprising, has accused China of "cultural genocide". Beijing considers him a separatist and does not trust his insistence that he only wants greater autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.

"FORCE HAS FAILED" : A spate of self-immolations in China in protest over its rule in Tibet has heightened tension in recent months. As the number who have set themselves on fire topped 50 this week, Indian-based rights groups said there had been a massive security clampdown in Tibet and Tibetan areas of China, and in some instances protesters were beaten even as they were ablaze. The Dalai Lama has refrained from calling for a halt to the self-immolations. "I will not give encouragement to these acts, these drastic actions, but it is understandable and indeed very, very sad," he said. "Now the Chinese government, they should investigate what are the real causes. They can easily blame me or some Tibetans but that won't help solve the problem."

In June, two of the Dalai Lama's envoys to negotiations with China resigned over what they said was a deteriorating situation inside Tibet and Beijing's lack of a positive response to Tibetan proposals for genuine autonomy. Asked if he thought that with a change of leadership ahead in China there was now a better prospect for resuming talks soon, the Dalai Lama said it was difficult to say and it could take six to 12 months after Xi becomes president before any shift becomes apparent. In the early 1950s, the Dalai Lama knew Xi's father, Xi Zhongxun, one of the most liberal leaders of the Chinese revolution, who was known to have had a less hardline approach to Tibet.

The Dalai Lama said he was sure China would, sooner or later, realize that "using force for 60 years completely failed" and its revolutionary leader Mao Zedong's idea that power came from the barrel of a gun was "outdated". Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama said he had information suggesting Chinese women spies had been trained to attack him with a slow acting poison. Asked about his safety by Reuters on Wednesday, he said he knew of no more plots but that his security detail frequently encountered Tibetans who confessed to being paid by China to spy on him.

"Sometimes these agents are a good source of information, these Tibetans receive some sort of salary or something, and they tell us everything," he said. Apparently in good health, the spiritual leader said he was looking forward to another 10, 15 or 20 years of life, and joked that China seemed more interested in who would be reincarnated as the next Dalai Lama after his death than he was himself...

A case against the death penalty - Former SC judges say 13 wrongly convicted to death

Within a few weeks of Pranab Mukherjee assuming office as the 13th President of India on July 25, 14 former judges of eminence signed an unusual appeal addressed to the President. The appeal, in the form of separate letters, sought his intervention to commute the death sentences of 13 convicts, currently lodged in various jails across the country, using his powers under Article 72 of the Constitution... what is so special about these 13 convicts that made the former judges come together and make an impassioned appeal for commutation?.. these 13 convicts were erroneously sentenced according to the Supreme Court’s own admission and are currently facing the threat of imminent execution..

The Supreme Court, while deciding three recent cases, held that seven of its judgments awarding the death sentence were rendered per incuriam (meaning out of error or ignorance) and contrary to the binding dictum of “rarest of rare” category propounded in the Constitution Bench judgment in Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab (1980) (2 SCC 684). The three recent cases were Santosh Kumar Bariyar vs State of Maharashtra (2009) (6 SCC 498), Dilip Tiwari vs State of Maharashtra (2010) (1 SCC 775), and Rajesh Kumar vs State (2011) (13 SCC 706).

The former judges also informed the President in the appeal that two prisoners who had been wrongly sentenced to death, Ravji Rao and Surja Ram (both from Rajasthan), had been executed on May 4, 1996, and April 7, 1997, respectively, pursuant to the flawed judgments. These, they said, constituted the gravest known miscarriages of justice in the history of crime and punishment in independent India. The Supreme Court’s admission of error had come too late for them, they wrote.

They told the President that the concerns expressed in the appeal had nothing to do with the larger debate over the desirability of retaining the death penalty. “Rather, they pertain to the administration of the death penalty in a conscientious, fair and just manner. Executions of persons wrongly sentenced to death will severely undermine the credibility of the criminal justice system and the authority of the state to carry out such punishments in future,” the appeal explained. The judges also annexed an explanatory note to their appeal so as to convince the President that the sentences of these 13 convicts indeed deserved to be commuted. In this, they cited the landmark Bachan Singh vs State of Punjab, which laid down the “rarest of rare” doctrine, and said it emphasised giving sufficient weight to the mitigating circumstances pertaining to the criminal along with the aggravating circumstances relating to the crime.
Dayanidhi Bisoi, one of the 13 whom the court admitted was wrongly convicted. The Odisha Governor commuted his sentence to life imprisonment

They then explained how this Bachan Singh dictum laid down by a Constitution Bench had been reversed in a later case. In Ravji @ Ram Chandra vs State of Rajasthan (1996) (2 SCC 175), a case which was decided by a Bench of two judges, the Supreme Court held that “it is the nature and gravity of the crime but not the criminal which are germane for consideration of appropriate punishment in a criminal trial” (paragraph 24). This aspect of the decision in the Ravji case directly conflicts with the Bachan Singh ruling. Thereafter, the Supreme Court repeatedly invoked the Ravji precedent in death penalty cases so as to limit the focus only to the circumstances pertaining to the crime and exclude the circumstances pertaining to the criminal until another two-Bench judge of the Supreme Court discovered this folly in Bariyar, in 2009.

In Bariyar, the Bench held that in all cases, including the most brutal and heinous crimes, circumstances pertaining to the criminal should be given full weight. In this case, the appellant had killed his victim, a young boy, whom he had kidnapped for ransom. Yet, the Bench commuted his death sentence, imposed by the Bombay High Court, to rigorous imprisonment for life as, in its view, the mitigating factors in the case were sufficient to take it out of the “rarest of rare” category. The Bench believed that though the socio-economic backwardness of the convict might not dilute guilt it was a mitigating circumstance and held there was a potential for reform. Relying on Bachan Singh, the court in Bariyar held that the prosecution must prove, as a precondition for awarding the death penalty, that reform and rehabilitation of the criminal would not be possible. The key issue here is Section 354(3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). This provision states that when the conviction is for an offence punishable with death or, in the alternative, with imprisonment for life or imprisonment for a term of years, the judgment shall state the reasons for the sentence awarded, and, in the case of the sentence of death, the special reasons for such sentence.

‘Special reasons’
In Bachan Singh, the Supreme Court explained what the phrase “special reasons” meant in this provision. It said: “The expression ‘special reasons’ in the context of this provision obviously means ‘exceptional reasons’ founded on the exceptionally grave circumstances of the particular case relating to the crime as well as the criminal” (paragraphs 161 at page 738 of the judgment). In paragraph 163, Bachan Singh further noted: “ fixing the degree of punishment or making the choice of sentence for various offences, including one under Section 302 of [the] Penal Code, the court should not confine its consideration ‘principally’ or merely to the circumstances connected with the particular crime, but also give due consideration to the circumstances of the criminal”. The circumstances of the criminal would include, as the Supreme Court held in one case, the mindset of the criminal and whether he was under the grip of social factors such as caste.

In Bariyar, the Supreme Court got an opportunity to explain this further: “The rarest of rare dictum serves as a guideline in enforcing Section 354(3) and entrenches the policy that life imprisonment is the rule and death punishment is an exception. It is a settled law of interpretation that exceptions are to be construed narrowly. That being the case, the rarest of rare dictum places an extraordinary burden on the court, in case it selects death penalty as the favoured penalty, to carry out an objective assessment of facts to satisfy the exceptions ingrained in the rarest of rare dictum.”..

Read the full article:

Art and its aftertaste - a conversation with Amar Kanwar

Kanwar, who holds the rare honour of being selected for three consecutive dOCUMENTA exhibitions — in 2002, 2007 and 2012 — held at Kassel in Germany, finds the interest in his work reassuring, but cautions that “in the last 10 years the West has also been very interested in Indian bauxite ore. We need to understand the market and how it affects one’s work.

It hasn’t been easy getting Amar Kanwar to agree to this conversation. But it’s easy to see why; a discussion of the artist’s highly political works is not accommodated easily inside the cultivated ambience of a restaurant. After a bout of doubt and deliberations we meet at Café Zaffiro at Zaza, Zamrudpur, on a rainy evening. A graduate from Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia University, Kanwar began as a documentary filmmaker. Although his interest is still primarily the moving image, his work has entered different contexts. “I make whatever is compelling me at a particular moment in time. With every film, I confront a set of dilemmas of content, intent and form; and I try to address those,” he says.
Deft strokes: Amar Kanwar at Cafe Zaffiro at Zaza at Zamrudpur in New Delhi. Photo: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar
He sheds light on some of his works, beginning with the most recent, The Sovereign Forest, “an exhibition that attempts to reopen discussion and initiate a creative response to our understanding of crime, politics, human rights and ecology.” A central part of the The Sovereign Forest is the film The Scene of Crime. Almost every frame of the film lies within territories that are in the process of being acquired for industrial purposes. The film is about another way of looking at these territories, at the scene of crime; and the exhibition is a constellation of evidence that is found and presented. “Reflecting on the limitations of legally valid evidence, the exhibition asks if it is formally possible to present poetry as evidence of crime, if there could be another way to cognition. The scale and depth of the processes that are underway in these territories cannot be understood through law alone.”
The sumptuous looking food arrives with a garlic bread side, and serves as a contrast to the issues of food sovereignty also dealt with in the film. “There are 266 varieties of indigenous rice in these territories. Like each frame of the film, these are also destined to not exist.” The attempt at another way to cognition is also made in The Lightning Testimonies, which was triggered by instances of sexual violence during the Gujarat riots and the public celebrations that accompanied it. Taking this as a starting point, the exhibit explores episodic sexual violence during the partition and also during the Bangladesh war. What emerged was a kind of history, or counter-history, of the Sub Continent that is “familiar with an enormous amount of brutality.” “These occasions are usually described as ‘a momentary period of madness’. But that explanation is simply unacceptable,” Kanwar says.
Between The Sovereign Forest and The Lightning Testimonies stands The Torn First Pages. As with the other two, the evolution of a new vocabulary is a central concern. In this case, it is of the loss experienced by the Burmese peoples. The title refers explicitly to Ko Than Htay, the Burmese bookseller who tore out the first page of every book he sold as it bore the mandatory slogans of the military regime and was arrested for this act of private defiance. Made between 2004 and 2008, as and when resources could be raised, the exhibition with its 19 projections pays tribute to the spirit of Burmese peoples who collected evidence of crime by the regime over five decades.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

How will Modi explain his minister’s role in the riots?

What can be said of civil society in Gujarat when its minister for women development and child welfare is convicted of rioting against women and children? On Wednesday, for the first time in India, a sitting MLA was found to have instigated violence in the worst of the 2002 incidents. Twelve people testified to minister Maya Kodnani assisting and egging on the rioters in the Ahmedabad suburb of Naroda Patiya. A total of 96 Muslims were killed that night, 34 children including a newborn, 32 women and 30 men. Kodnani supplied the killers with kerosene and swords, according to testimony.
Judge Jyotsna Yagnik found 32 people guilty for the massacre. The fearsome Babu “Bajrangi”, the man accused of forcibly undoing marriages of Hindu girls to Muslim boys, has also been convicted in the case. Kodnani, a Sindhi whose family migrated at Partition, was an MLA when she participated in the violence. Despite the grave allegations against her, Kodnani was made minister by Modi later. When she was charged-sheeted by an independent agency, she was dropped as minister but retained her seat as MLA. She is a qualified doctor, a gynaecologist, showing that higher education is no barrier to bigotry.
Though she denied being present at Naroda Patiya when the killings happened, Kodnani was proved to be there by her cellphone records. These had been gathered and submitted by an exceptional officer in the Gujarat police force. Shamefully, that officer, Rahul Sharma, from the elite Indian Police Service, is being tried by Modi’s government for misconduct. His crime was to have taken the initiative to get these phone records from the various cellphone companies and hand them over to independent investigators instead of the state. I think he did the right thing because under Modi (who was and remains the state’s home minister) investigations were so sloppy that the Supreme Court brought in an outside agency to take over. Kodnani’s conviction is because of that outside investigation team and not the work of Modi’s government.
The phone records Sharma collected showed both Kodnani and Bajrangi in areas where they claimed not to be. They also show that the then deputy home minister, Gordhan Zadhafiya, was in the police control room. He has been accused of directing the violence and ordering the police to go easy on the rioters, though he also denied being there.  Zadhafiya, who like Bajrangi is from the peasant Patel community, is today a rebel against Modi’s government. The cellphone records indicate that Narendra Modi’s office was in touch with the rioters. Officers in the CMO, as the office is called, who spoke to those now convicted of rioting include Tanmay Mehta, Sanjay Bhavsar and Anil Mukim. When I visited Modi’s office a couple of years ago I remember Bhavsar being there and also Mukim. The records also indicate that phone conversations happened from the chief minister’s residence.
Now that a judge has accepted the validity of this record (and when the detailed judgment is out we will know to what extent she has) the other connections it has hinted at will come into focus. Narendra Modi speaks often about the inability of the Congress to protect India’s citizens from terrorist violence, perhaps rightly. It is not easily that he will be able to explain away the truth that his own minister was responsible for the killing of Gujaratis. Modi’s record at protecting his citizens has been poor. Another of his deputy home ministers, Amit Shah, is today barred from entering Gujarat because of the charges he faces. Modi’s anti-terrorism force chief, DG Vanzara is in jail for murder, also the result of an independent investigation.
It is astonishing, given these failures, that Modi continues to keep the portfolio of the home ministry. He has publicly attacked Teesta Setalvad, the Gujarati activist whose persistence has been crucial in bringing about all these convictions. But it is true that Gujaratis like me, who are still ashamed for our conduct of 10 years ago, are today proud of her and what she has achieved.

RSS activists ransack BJP office in Indore, burn Shivraj Chouhan's effigy

Enraged over the transfer of a senior police official probing the Manoj Parmar attack case, hundreds of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activists ransacked the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) office in Indore last night and also burnt the effigy of Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan, sources said. No one was injured in the attack. The police hasn't registered a case as yet since "no one turned up" for filing any report, said Superintendent of Police SM Zaidee.

Shouting anti-chief minister slogans, Mr Chouhan's cabinet colleagues Kailash Vijayvergiya and Ramesh Mandola, along with around 200 activists entered the BJP office in the Jaora compound in Sanyogitaganj area and damaged office furniture and electronic gadgets, sources said. The RSS activists demanded that "those who work for the welfare of the majority community should be in the government" and wanted the transfer order of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Rakesh Singh cancelled. The protest was led by Indore division RSS leaders Pramod Jha, Gopal Goyal, Rakesh Dubey and Dilip Jain.

The panic-stricken BJP workers present during the night shift locked themselves in a room for safety, sources said. ASP Singh had reportedly taken strong action in the case against notorious criminal Manoj Parmar, who was shot at by a miscreant during a religious procession on July 30, and also some BJP leaders supporting Parmar, accused in 22 criminal cases. The activists later burnt an effigy of the chief minister at Rajwada, sources said. Additional police security was deployed outside the BJP building to ensure law and order situation and disperse the protestors, police said.

When contacted to clarify whether ASP Rakesh Singh was transferred, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) A Sai Manohar said, "I need more time to clarify the situation." ASP Singh could not be contacted, while none of the staff in his office were able to tell his whereabouts. Superintendent of Police (HQ) Dr Ashish told PTI that till last night there was no such transfer order for the ASP. "We will clarify the exact situation later in the day", he added. Reacting on the RSS-BJP clash, state Congress unit spokesman Narendra Saluja said it was now clear that "gunda raj" was prevailing in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh government.

2002 Gujarat riots: 32 convicted, 29 acquitted in Naroda Patiya massacre case

Ahmedabad: A trial court in Gujarat has convicted 32 people and acquitted 29 others in the Naroda Patiya massacre case which took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots. In a major blow to the Narendra Modi government, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA from Naroda, Maya Kodnani, and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, too, have been convicted in the case.
Kodnani, who is the first BJP leader to be convicted in a riot case, was the sitting MLA when the Naroda Patiya massacre in which 97 people were killed on February 28, 2002 took place. She and Bajrangi have been convicted under Indian Penal Code Section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) and 302 (murder). The sections under which Kodnani and Bajrangi have been convicted carry the minimum sentence of life term and the maximum is death. The Naroda Patiya massacre is the largest single case of mass murder during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out following the Sabarmati Express train carnage near Godhra station. The case has been probed by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT).
Social activist Teesta Setalvad called it a landmark judgement, pointing out that for the first time political leaders have been convicted. "This is important that Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani have been convicted. This is the first time that some judgement has implicated the political class. The testimony of the eyewitnesses helped in Kodnani's conviction and phone calls proved that she was at the locality," said Teesta. Naroda Patiya massacre case trail started in August 2009 with 62 people being charged by the SIT. However, one of the accused, Vijay Shetty, died during the trial.
Politicians incited the mob: Eyewitness: Of the total 62 accused in the case, about 10 are in custody, and the remaining are out on bail. Twenty five fresh arrests were made, including that of former BJP minister Maya Kodnani, after the SIT took over investigation in this case. An eyewitness to the massacre, Bashir Khan Mansuri, says, "These leaders could have used their influence over people to stop the violence. Instead they incited the mobs. They should be punished according to the law." Naroda Patiya is a high profile case, not only because 97 people were killed right in the heart of Ahmedabad, but also because top politicians like Maya Kodnani were involved. Survivors who have lost their family members say that the only consolation is exemplary punishment for those who committed the crime.

‘After Killing Them, I Felt Like Maharana Pratap’ Transcript: BABU BAJRANGI
this Bajrang Dal leader had only murder on his mind

How will Modi explain his minister’s role in the riots?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

And we are Muslims? — Mehr Tarar

Let us all think: who is the so-called blasphemer here? The 11-year-old Christian girl who was playing with discarded pages or those who threw the pages there? What happened to the Quranic injunction of aamal (actions) connected to neeyat (intent)? There is no answer. We are all just imposters, hypocrites, cowards, who hide behind the name of Allah, when there is nothing left to our moral, social and religious discourses.
..Religion is a commodity today. It is a commodity for those who practice it in mosques, chanting what they learned as children without full comprehension of what the Quran connotes. It is a commodity for those in madrassas where hoards of pupils, hunched over their religious books, learn as much from the text as their teachers see fit. It is a commodity for those who, to monopolise a few weak souls, roar into their microphones how one faith is better than the others — be it Sunni or Shia. It is a commodity for those who pen reams of hate literature without any consideration for the historical context of the events open to them for distortion, thus providing more opportunities for those who look for an excuse to unleash cruelty on fellow beings. It is a commodity for those who have primetime slots on TV channels, with a unilateral agenda to top the ratings game, with no thought that their biased pronouncements become sacred to those in need of props to strengthen their faith through tele-scholars. 

Religion is a commodity for many enfeebled minds who have mastered a simple principle: you can never go wrong if you have a beard, your shalwar is above your ankles, you have a rosary wrapped around your wrist, you can quote Quranic verses as and when required and you have an epithet — mullah, maulvi, alim, maulana — attached to your name. Now you are invincible. Who in his right mind would raise a finger at you when your hands are humbly joined to pray to Allah? Whatever you do is in the name of religion; which mere mortal has the right to see you for what you truly are?

Convert a Hindu into a Muslim; you buy yourself a seat in heaven. Kidnap a crying Hindu girl and marry her off forcibly to a grinning Muslim hick; you have marked yourself as a true follower. All your sins are cleansed. Erase the word Allah from the grave of the only Nobel Laureate of Pakistan and you deserve a standing ovation. Stop the Ahmedis from going to their places of worship and you have fulfilled your religious obligation for the day. Demolish parts of those buildings, thus making them indistinguishable as mosques, and you honour Islam. Kill a human being who does not share your faith and voila, as per your religious gurus, you have earned the title of ‘ghazi’.

The number of Shias forced off buses en route to their families, identified and killed, is something I cannot sum up in hundreds of words. Innocent Muslims killed by fellow Muslims who decided, on only God knows whose authority, that only their faith mattered. These inhuman acts cannot be encapsulated in a few words. The enormity of what happened in my country over the last few months is beyond my capacity to make sense of, hence my inability to capture it in my text coherently. Here, as a Sunni, I lower my head, offer a prayer, and apologise — with all of me.

Hindus, victimised simply because they are born as Hindus --just as my son was born a Muslim — are the ones to whom we owe another apology. For the love of God, this is as much their country as it is ours. Any country that celebrates a National Minorities Day validates the incongruity of its fundamental principles. Hindu, Christian, Parsi, Sikh, Jew, anyone of any faith, colour, creed, who has lived here for centuries, before we claimed it as only ours, is as much a Pakistani as those who pray to Makkah. Jinnah said it, our religion preaches it; when did we become the arbiters of faith of which only Allah is the arbiter?

For all who saluted the assassin of the former governor, Salmaan Taseer, the less said the better. Why waste words on those ignorant preachers of religion who killed the one man who had the moral courage to stand up for a condemned-to-death-on-a-blasphemy-charge poor Christian woman, Aasia Bibi? She does not matter. Why would the individual who spoke for her matter? Government’s inability to expedite the court-ordered punishment handed down to the assassin shows the level of fear our rulers have when it comes to blasphemy laws that need a major revision, if not a complete repeal.

The mentally disturbed man in Bahawalpur district, beaten to death and burnt by a mob that on the instigation of their local mosque speakers saw blood, is the person we owe an apology to. He was a ‘blasphemer’; the verdict was given, but by whom? True Muslims? Faith apart, how do you kill a man without a trial and get away with it? Of course, you can, if you are a self-appointed vigilante of Islam in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Rest assured, you would never be penalised.

The biggest slap on our tattered moral fibre comes in the shape of the arrest and jailing of the 11-year-old Rimsha Masih. A pre-teen non-Muslim girl playing near a garbage pile is a blasphemer? A girl who has no notion of the sanctity of the holy text of another faith is a blasphemer? A girl who picked up pages of a discarded Arabic language lesson book (qaida), taught to pre-Quran-reading Muslim children is a blasphemer? Forget about her Down syndrome for a bit. Which religion allows this treatment of a child based on some deeply flawed interpretation of religion? Islam? 

To me, the answer is simple. And there is just one example to follow: Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Raise your hand if you have read and believe the story of the woman who used to throw garbage on the Prophet’s (PBUH) head as he passed her house every day. How did he treat her? I rest my argument. Let us all think: who is the so-called blasphemer here? The 11-year-old Christian girl who was playing with discarded pages or those who threw the pages there? What happened to the Quranic injunction of aamal (actions) connected to neeyat (intent)? There is no answer. We are all just imposters, hypocrites, cowards, who hide behind the name of Allah, when there is nothing left to our moral, social and religious discourses.

I apologise to Rimsha Masih, once again.

The writer is an Assistant Editor at Daily Times

Thank you, Mehr, for standing up for humanity

Read the full article:

See also: Save this helpless child from religious fanatics! 

How God came to vote for Putin: the background to Pussy Riot

The gradual intrusion of the Orthodox Church into Russian secular life and the state is something that went largely unnoticed by the Russian public. The Pussy Riot trial is beginning to change all that The Pussy Riot affair pushed the issue of relations between society and the Russian Orthodox Church to the very top of the media and political agenda in Russia over Spring/Summer 2012. Did that media situation reflect underlying reality? Was the conflict simply the result of radical protest activity? The answer to both questions is a very obvious ‘no’. However, the collision of the Russian Orthodox Church with the ‘protest movement’ (in a broader definition, the ‘creative classes’) was, it seems, a collision foretold. All it took was one sudden turn for all the simmering contradictions to be laid bare, and for the conflict to move from its latent to active phase.

Pussy Riot's main crime was that their stunt was directed 
precisely against  authority - of the Church and of the Kremlin

This standoff is much more than simply an issue of respect for religious space and the legitimacy of punishing those who do not respect it. The Russian public is already beginning to recognise this, but it still has a lot to discover along the road that lies ahead. Ultimately, it must begin to understand the relationship between the religious and public space, how that relationship came about, and how the criminal prosecution and harsh sentencing of Pussy Riot became possible. The following article attempts to offer helpful assistance in that process. 

Communism is dead; long live Orthodoxy!

Newly free of the shackles of Soviet dictatorship, the activity of the Russian Church during the 1990s was largely focussed on recovering its lost, pre-revolutionary position. At first, this meant simply the return of those churches that had not been destroyed by the Bolsheviks. At this time, an Abbot’s main responsibility was managing construction and restoration work, alongside, of course, the organisation of worship according to standard procedures. It was only in recent years that church authorities began to encourage the clergy to pursue more active social and missionary work. 
The restoration of churches and the organisation of worship demanded huge resources. There was little point looking to raise it from the parish: although the number of parishioners increased during the 1990s, the period was largely a time of excruciating poverty for the average Russian. Not unsurprisingly, the church looked, in the first instance, to government, and in the second instance — to business. Relations with government were absolutely paramount. At the same time, however, the acceptance of church bells as a gift ‘from the Solntsevskaya gang’ serves as a vivid demonstration of the kind of enterprises the Church was prepared to engage with. 
Naturally enough, the price for financial and other assistance was political support. And given the position of the Church in society at the time, this was an especially useful resource. Since the early 1990s, the Church was consistently rated among the country’s most most trusted public institutions. This trust wasn't earned by means of any concrete action on the part of the Church. Another institute enjoying similar levels of support was the army, which was actually the subject of much criticism at the time. What Russians seemed to be placing their faith in was not institutions per se, but national symbols. The Russian Orthodox Church played, and continues to play a role as a symbol of spirituality and national identity. It is no coincidence that today's polls show that the number of Orthodox Christians in Russians outnumbers the number who believe in god... Read more:

Private armies & ethno-nationalism in Assamese politics

The 50-50 Shot by S.N.M. ABDI in Outlook

...The Bodos chose the terror path way back in 1987 with the slogan, ‘Divide Assam 50-50’, leaving behind a grisly trail of death and destruction. The first tripartite peace treaty between the Bodos, the Centre and state government was signed in 1993; the Congress ruled in both Delhi and Dispur then but the pact collapsed in no time under the weight of its own contradictions. So another accord was signed in 2003 when the BJP was in power at the Centre and Gogoi ruled the state. It had L.K. Advani’s blessings but was destined to be disastrous because the BTAD, covering some 8,795 sq km area, was handed on a platter to the Bodos who comprise merely 20 per cent of the population. And in the newly-created self-governing body called Bodo Territorial Council (BTC), 30 out of 46 seats were reserved for Bodos!

Devabrata, who is the chief advisor of the leftist United Revolutionary Movement Council of Assam (URMCA), says, “Nothing could be more undemocratic and discriminatory (than the creation of the BTAD-BTC). Democracy is all about majority rule. BTAD-BTC is just the reverse of that principle. How can 20 per cent rule over 80 per cent? Because the Bodos do not enjoy numerical majority, they are resorting to ethnic cleansing, targeting Muslims, Adivasis, Rajbanshis and even Assamese caste Hindus. The Bodos have become a law unto themselves. We stand for the dissolution of BTAD and BTC to stop the rape of democracy. Bodos comprise a little over six per cent of the state’s population but are demanding 50 per cent of Assam for the Bodoland of their dreams. Muslims comprise over 30 per cent of Assam’s population. Yet they have so far displayed exemplary patience despite grave provocations. What will happen if Muslims and other victimised communities unite and retaliate?”

Sharma’s depiction of Bodo belligerence is borne out by Anjali Daimari’s response to Outlook’s poser about the ways and means to restore the peace.  Daimary, convenor of the Bodo National Conference, an umbrella organisation of 25 Bodo outfits, replied: “Obviously there is no place for illegal migrants in BTAD. What’s even more crucial and non-negotiable is that all non-Bodos living in BTAD should be mentally prepared to meekly accept the leadership of the Bodos.” Asked to elaborate, she added: “There is simply no room in BTAD for bodies like the Anabodo Suraksha Samity, or Non-Bodos Protection Committee. Who are these Mahantas and Kalitas running the Samity? Assamese Hindus, Muslims, Bengalis, Rajbanshis, Adivasis, Nepalis or Saranias residing in BTAD must curb their egos for their own good. That’s it.”

Clearly, the Bodos are a very confident lot today, having grown from strength to strength since 2003. They have reaped huge dividends from their investments in both the national parties. Besides running the BTC, they have extracted tangible and intangible benefits as partners in two successive Congress-led coalition governments in Assam since 2006. In 2006, out of the 10 BPF MLAs three were made ministers by Gogoi (whose regime was a bit shaky at that stage because the Congress had only 53 seats in the 126-strong legislative assembly). But in 2011 the Congress tally shot up to 78 seats. Now there are 12 BPF MLAs, but only one, Chandan Brahmo, is a minister. Significantly, the BPF has leveraged its political clout to send an MP to the Rajya Sabha (Biswajit Daimary), instal a Bodo judge in the Gauhati High Court (P.K. Mushary), a Bodo chairman in the Assam Public Service Commission (Gita Basumatary), a Bodo governor in the Shillong Raj Bhawan (Ranjit Sekhar Mooshary) and even a Bodo election commissioner (H.S. Brahma).  

The recent massacre of Muslims has reopened the debate over the wisdom of signing peace accords with “agents of violence wearing a fig-leaf of ethno-nationalism”, to quote Ravindra Narayan Ravi, one of the Intelligence Bureau’s foremost experts on the Northeast. Ravi, who retired as special director in April, says, “The situation has worsened since 1993 when the state started appeasing radical ethno-nationalists for political gains and inaugurated as many as 21 ethnic-centric constitutional, statutory and administrative autonomous councils. Hiteswar Saikia (former CM) spawned seven. Gogoi has fathered 14. The BLT, responsible for much of the recent bloodshed, was supposed to have disarmed itself in 2003 but its core armed capability has remained intact with the tacit nod of the state. The government’s patronage of non-state agents of violence, alluring them with incentives for their smash-and-grab politics and the total collapse of the criminal justice system have created a criminogenic environment in Assam.”

“The new councils have overnight created a large mass of disgruntled others who share the habitat but feel institutionally discriminated against by the state. Innumerable faultlines,  hitherto latent or non-existent, emerged and unleashed centripetal forces of varying magnitude. Communities that peacefully existed for long are now gunning for each other. In the last two decades, Bodos, Muslims, Adivasis, Koch-Rajbanshis, Rabhas, Garos, Karbis, Dimasas, Nagas, Kukis, Hmars, Morans and Mishings have clashed frequently,” he adds. According to Ravi, “the Centre that underwrites Gogoi’s misadventures is a partner in his sins; the state government today is like a zombie with a Kalashnikov in one hand and wads of cash in the other—both generously supplied by the Centre!”