Thursday, 31 January 2013

More hooliganism in the name of 'hurt sentiment' - Professor beaten up in Dhule by VHP, Bajrang Dal activists

A month after the communal riots in Dhule, VHP, Bajrang Dal activists beat up a Dalit professor there on Wednesday for allegedly hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. The incident took place inside the premises of the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar College of Social Work. A few weeks ago a number of students submitted a written complaint against Professor Pramod Bhumbe to the principal of the college for allegedly making derogatory remarks about Lord Ram. 
While the Hindu organisations called for the professor’s expulsion, the administration asked him to submit a written explanation. “We followed the enquiry process. We, as management of the college, apologised to the students on [the] professor’s behalf. The concerned professor also extended an unconditional apology to the students. We even performed a puja in the village Ram temple and made peace,” Prof. R.S. Mahajan, the principal, told The Hindu.
In spite of the apology, a group came to the college looking for the professor. “Around six to seven activists, in spite of our entreaties went in search of Bhumbe, who was sitting in the library. They dragged him out, beat him up and threw him down from the staircase,” Prof. Mahajan said. According to him, the group was led by Senate members of the North Maharashtra University (NMU).
Following the incident, a complaint was lodged at the Dhule taluka police station. Ram Somwanshi of the station told The Hindu that six people had been arrested and booked under several sections of IPC and under sections of The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. Meanwhile, the college authorities will write to the Vice-Chancellor of the NMU, asking him to derecognise the Senate members for instigating violence.

Tearing Egypt apart

The eruption of protests, violence and civil disobedience in Egypt this month is a replay of the scene in 2011 before the status quo was ruptured, but the current regime’s attacks on women and religious minorities in order to quell opposition is more pervasive than anything seen before

..politically motivated sexual assault of women has gained new momentum under the current Brotherhood regime. First, is the scale of politically motivated sexual violence that we have observed under the Brotherhood’s watch. Second, the pattern of sexual assault suggests that it is undertaken in a systematic, pre-planned way and involves co-ordinated groups of men acting in unison.

It is too soon to predict how the current battle between the Muslim Brotherhood-led regime and the opposition in Egypt will end, as violence escalates and spreads, claiming 50 lives this week - and counting.
There are three major differences between the political scene at the wake of the revolution in January 2011 and the January 2013 anniversary of the events. First, unlike President Mubarak whose sole constituency were members of his party, a handful of businessmen and a minute proportion of the population, President Morsi has been elected to  leadership through a 51% vote (though some political analysts have questioned the credibility of the results ) and therefore he presents himself to the people as “the elected President”.  Second, while Mubarak’s use of force relied exclusively on the security apparatus and its hired thugs, the Morsi regime not only relies on state apparatuses of repression, but also within the civil society arena, on its own militias and the Salafi constituency. 
The Muslim Brotherhood government has not shied from unleashing the powers of the state and militia forces against citizens.  The third difference is that while Mubarak sought to instrumentalize Islam to prop his rule, the Muslim Brotherhood regime has claimed that it represents Islam itself. Some citizens feel that though they have experienced a real drop in the quality of their lives, they can’t revolt against Morsi because he is the elected and believing President who prays at the mosque every Friday and is a God-fearing man.
There are many commonalities in the conditions before the revolution of the 2011 and the situation today, including acute economic hardship, thriving corruption, the social and political exclusion of large segments of the population, and a President oblivious to the angry pulse of the street (in fact President Morsi’s speech, two days after the eruption of violence on the 25th of January 2013, is strongly reminiscent of Mubarak’s first speech after the uprisings seen on the same month, two years earlier).  Yet the three differences mentioned above have produced a deeply polarized society, the extent of which is incomparable to the scene two years ago. In such a context, the millioniyyain Tahrir Square (one million person) has become ineffective for eliciting change. 
Mass mobilization of an oppositional bloc is countered with the mobilization of a pro-Islamist bloc. Further, the combined forces of the state, army and militia in the hands of the authorities shows no restraint in the ruthless repression of the citizenry. The political exploitation of religion has created two sides: the believers who observe God’s laws, and the presumed infidels who comprise all Muslims who oppose Morsi’s rule, in addition to the religious minorities. As one citizen put it simply “we want Morsi because the Christians are against him”. Against the background of stalled dialogue processes, and the lack of responsiveness of the Muslim Brotherhood to the opposition’s demands - which include revisiting the contentious elements of the constitution, power sharing - some resistance movements that resort to violence have emerged.
Women’s participation in millioniyyas two years ago played an instrumental role in the activism against Mubarak’s regime, and the women’s march to Tahrir Square on the 25th of January 2013 greatly contributed to the energy and numbers of the protestors. Yet on the same day, after dark in Tahrir Square, men organized in groups began to target women for sexual assault. Shoft Taharosh,  a youth led initiative that was formed to address sexual assault, reported dealing with nineteen cases of assault, six of which required medical intervention, in addition to other cases of assaulted women they became aware of. The cases of sexual assault are in fact more numerous since some are likely to have chosen not to file complaints. 
There is a need to recognize that these acts of sexual assault are not driven by the same motives as the social forms of sexual harassment that one regularly witnesses on the streets of Egypt (i.e by men showing off their power or taking it as a way to pass time or “have a good time”.) The kind of sexual assault that was witnessed in Tahrir Square on 25th of January 2013 is politically motivated and pre-orchestrated. Women who have a profile of political activism are a prime target of organized men’s assault.
The acts of sexual assault witnessed in Tahrir Square follow a familiar  pattern that we have witnessed since protestors were attacked in Mohamed Mahmoud Street by the police force in November 2011. At that time, one young man explained in an interview, the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafi followers had formed a human cordon to prevent the protestors from entering Mohamed Mahmoud Street. When they tried to pass through, the Islamists attacked them, and many women and men were sexually molested by having their bodies touched and fingered.. 


Yesterday, Mamata Banerjee, either through action or inaction, kept at least one of the promises she had made to Calcutta’s Muslim community. Of all the many promises she had made, this one was perhaps the most poisonous: Rushdie will not be allowed into Calcutta. What this ‘promise’ actually says is “I will use a pseudo-issue to stoke the egos of your leaders, in the gamble that we can shove under the carpet the fact that I have done nothing to improve the condition of Muslims here, which remains worse than the conditions of Muslims in Modi’s Gujarat.” It’s a vile delivery that cuts two ways into the rotting ‘culture’ of Calcutta: it bolsters the obscurantists and fundamentalists of all colours, not just Islamic, while snatching away yet more space of expression from that soft pocket of society we call artists.

Dear fellow-citizens,
Let’s be clear about this: yesterday, Calcutta finally completed its downfall from the cultural capital of all Asia to a narrow-minded, spirit-crippled, morally corrupt, goonda- governed provincial town. From being the great city where Rabindranath Tagore wrote “where the mind is without fear” our urban concentration has now become the champion backwater place where the heart is squeezed by fear, paranoia and the over-riding greed for power. This hasn’t happened overnight, we have watched the slow-motion collapse of our culture and our sabhyata over the last fifty years. But the final implosion has been rapid, the final dive into crass, shameful mediocrity has been sharp. The last shredding of any remaining intellectual honour has been forced through at triple-speed over the last eighteen months.
Here are the facts of the last blow, the final hacking that felled all of Bengal’s and Calcutta’s pretensions to cultural superiority.

At this time last year, just after the events at the 2012 Jaipur Literature Festival, the chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, had declared she would not let Salman Rushdie enter Calcutta. This was a bizarre statement, completely un-provoked, since Rushdie then had no plans to visit our city. The chief minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, had made the opposite statement, that Rushdie was welcome in Delhi any time. But Dikshit then had to revoke the statement, clearly under pressure from her high command. Regardless, within a month of Dikshit’s flip-flop, various state elections now over, Rushdie came to Delhi for a conclave, had a normal, undisrupted and undisrupting time and left. The elections were done and dusted and so was the pseudo-issue that had been raked up in Jaipur to win votes, that of Rushdie and the novel he published in 1987, The Satanic Verses. This demonstrated that Delhi is bigger than Calcutta in more than just size, no one chief minister can hold it hostage.

Cut to this year. The film of Rushdie’s earlier novel, Midnight’s Children, is being released in India. Rushdie, Deepa Mehta, the director of the film, and Rahul Bose, who’s acted in the movie, are touring India to promote the film. Mehta and Bose have also been invited to the Kolkata Literary Meet writers’ festival to discuss the adaptation of the book into a film. Rushdie’s name isn’t on the list, but on Tuesday it becomes clear that Rushdie was also planning to come to Calcutta to promote the film. As it is, the only officially announced engagement for the writer was a press conference at a hotel in the city. Late on Tuesday night it became clear that our police had intervened and stopped Rushdie from coming to Calcutta. The end result: a huge humiliation for a so-called city that still deludes itself that it is the home of vibrant culture and intellectual vigour and courage.

So much for the facts one can print.

Fellow citizens, I am a story-teller and also an inept, low-level, sudoku puzzle addict. Allow me to bring a different kind of narrative sudoku calculation to this page. Let’s look at the printed ‘numbers’ and embark on a small adventure of conjecture: Who finally delivered the coup de grâce to Bengal’s long failing moral body? Who finally chopped through Calcutta’s ethical spine?.. Read more:

Aakar Patel: The SRK example - why Indian Muslims can’t criticise India

The Muslim who objects to something, no matter how obvious and visible, must qualify his argument. Usually the qualification demanded is that he show himself as patriotic. In India, this is a term born out of negative sentiment. To be a patriotic Indian, one is not required to be tax-paying, law-abiding, well-meaning or philanthropic. Patriotism is demonstrated through hating a particular country. The reason the Indian Muslim lives on sufferance is also rooted in this. You see, the Muslim is guilty of original sin, voting for Pakistan in the 1945-46 elections. He divided Mother India and his generations must carry this burden of Adam.

Shah Rukh Khan said this: “I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India. I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country. This, even though I am an Indian whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return to what they refer to my original homeland.”
He should have prefaced his remarks (which I find ordinary, inoffensive and accurate) as follows: “I don’t like Pakistan. My fans are mostly Hindus, whom I love more than Pakistanis.” Having said this, he would not have offended us no matter what he unburdened after. Like children who need a pacifier, the Muslim offering opinion on prejudice must hold out this lollipop to Indians whose natural view of him is coloured by his religion. At all points he must remember this and mumble an apologia pro vita sua.
In not doing this, and I’m surprised he didn’t because he should know a thing or two about Indian public opinion, Shah Rukh opened himself to an attack which goes in this fashion: “Aren’t you grateful, are you not satisfied, with what we gave you–you Muslim!–such fame, such success? You didn’t whine about this then, did you? Now the Pakistanis are lecturing us because of your remarks. You should be ashamed.” The self-congratulatory assumptions we make about ourselves — secular nation! World’s largest democracy! — are not particularly reflected outside of the constitution. We should think about that.
On Nidhi Razdan’s show on NDTV on Tuesday night, I was on a panel discussing Modi as prime ministerial candidate. In the BJP corner was a woman called Meenakshi Lekhi. Midway through the discussion, she asked a soft-spoken man, Najib Jung vice-chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia, if he thought Indian Muslims wanted Pakistan. Why did she bring this up? I don’t know, and there was no occasion to. But it was dropped in casually because it’s the natural thing to say to a Muslim here – hey, are you guys Pakistan-lovers? Tell us the truth, now.
As a writer I can imagine the pressure on Muslim writers who are aware of India and the space they operate in. MJ Akbar wrote an unthinking paean to the BJP’s idiocy after Pokhran, and I suspect that wasn’t because he’s a fan of nuclear weapons. It’s all quite frightening, or should be. It doesn’t surprise me at all. In India it has always mattered who says something. What is said depends not on the intellectual content but which side it has blown from. How it is said is also always more important than what is said because the Indian is easily offended. Ashis Nandy shouldn’t have assumed that he could be subtle and clever only because it was the Anglicised middle-class he was speaking to at Jaipur. They are cut of the same cloth as other Indians. Quick to emotion, barely literate about anything whether their own culture or the west’s, and powered on and on by an asinine media.

The blue eye of Siberia - photos and film

See photos:

Film: The blue eye of Siberia (18.30, Feb 2, IIC)

The Blue Eye of Siberia (114 min; 1991)
Director: Yuri Beliankin
 Lake Baikal, the “blue eye of Siberia,” is the earth’s oldest and deepest lake. It holds a fifth of the planet’s fresh water and is home to over 2,500 species of fish and crustaceans. For the indigenous people living along its shores, its cliffs are gods, its creation the subject of legend. But this ancient ecosystem is now endangered by overfishing and industrial pollution, to the point where it would take the rivers feeding the lake up to 400 years to restore it to health

Tuesday, 29 January 2013


 'Badla nahin, bad-laav chaahiye' - Mahatma Gandhi

On January 18, Gandhi ended his final fast. Over a hundred representatives of various groups and organizations including the Hindu Mahasabha, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Jamiat-ul-Ulema who had assembled at Rajendra Prasad’s residence, called on Gandhiji at 11.30 a.m. Those present included Jawaharlal Nehru, Abul Kalam Azad, Rajendra Prasad, INA General Shah Nawaz Khan, Hifzur Rahman and Zaheed HussainPakistan’s High Commissioner. Dr. Rajendra Prasad reported that even those who had some doubts on the previous night were confident that they could ask Gandhiji with a full sense of responsibility to break the fast. 

As President of the Congress, Rajendra Prasad said that he had signed the document in view of the guarantee which they had all jointly and severally given. Khurshid, the Chief Commissioner and Randhawa, Deputy Commissioner of Delhi, had signed the document on behalf of the administration. It had been decided to set up a number of committees to implement the pledge. Rajendra Prasad hoped that Gandhiji would now terminate his fast. Deshbandhu Gupta described scenes of fraternization between Hindus and Muslims which he had witnessed when a procession of Muslims was taken out that morning in Subzimandi and was received with ovation and offered fruit and refreshments by the Hindu inhabitants. A seven-point declaration in Hindi was read out solemnly affirming the people’s desire for communal harmony and civic peace. This read as follows:

“We wish to announce that it is our heart-felt desire that the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and members of the other communities should once again live in Delhi like brothers and in perfect amity and we take the pledge that we shall protect the life, property and faith of Muslims and that the incidents which have taken place in Delhi will not happen again.

“We want to assure Gandhiji that the annual fair at Khwaja Qutub-ud-Din Mazar will be held this year as in the previous years.

“Muslims will be able to move about in Subzimandi, Karol Bagh, Paharganj and other localities just as they could in the past.

“The mosques which have been left by Muslims and which now are in the possession of Hindus and Sikhs will be returned. The areas which have been set apart for Muslims will not be forcibly occupied.

“We shall not object to the return to Delhi of the Muslims who have migrated from here if they choose to come back and Muslims shall be able to carry on their business as before.

“We assure that all these things will be done by our personal effort and not with the help of the police or military.

“We request Mahatmaji to believe us and to give up his fast and continue to lead us as he has done hitherto.” .” (vol 98, p 249, 253).

Read about the events preceding the Declaration
Another time, another mosque: Gandhi’s Last Fast: January 13-18, 1948

Reliving Gandhi’s last fast, frame by frame
In a tribute to the causes close to Mahatma Gandhi's heart, the Teen Murti Nehru Memorial Library here has put up an exhibition on his 'Last Fast' for a fortnight, choosing to start on the day that marks 65 years of his assassination. The 20-panel exhibition includes some rare material, including letters, that reflect the turmoil of the Partition days.
See also: Kumar Gandharva sings:

 उड जायेगा हंस अकेला / जग दर्शन का मेला ।।

I append below extracts taken from two CPI pamphlets issued in September/October 1947:
‘Bleeding Punjab Warns’ by PC Joshi and Dhanwantri

“What happened in the Punjab cannot be called a riot. It was a regular war of ex
termination of the minorities, of the Sikhs and Hindus in Western Punjab and of Muslims in East Punjab. It cannot be compared to Calcutta or Noakhali, Bihar, or even to Rawalpindi for in all these cases it was mobs of one community that took leading part in killing, looting and burning the minority in the area, their communal passions being roused to a pitch of frenzy and savagery.. In the Punjab, however, in the recent biggest killing ever seen, it was the trained bands equipped with firearms and modern weapons that were the main killers, looters and rapers. These were the storm troops of various communal parties such as National Guards of the Muslim League in the Western Punjab, and the Shahidi Dal of the Akalis and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh of the Mahasabha in the Eastern Punjab. They were actively aided and often actually led by the police and the military in committing the worst atrocities.. in violence and in brutality, in the numbers killed (which Syt Shri Prakasha, India’s Ambassador to Pakistan places at 1 ½ lakhs) in the use of plenty of modern deadly weapons, in the devastation spread over 14 districts of the Punjab and in the way in which the police, the military and the entire administration was geared not to stop the riots but to spread it – the Punjab tragedy is without parallel.. p 5-6 of a printed CPI report ‘Bleeding Punjab Warns’ by PC Joshi and Dhanwantri - September 1947. (Comrade Dhanwantri was a comrade of Bhagat Singh; President of the Lahore Distt Congress Committee and communist leader of Punjab)

Citations from Gandhi's speeches in 1947:
“Let not future generations say that you lost the sweet bread of freedom because you could not digest it. Remember that unless you stop this madness, the name of India will be mud in the eyes of the world.. Anger breeds revenge and the spirit of revenge is today responsible for all the horrible happenings here and elsewhere. What good will it do for the Muslims to avenge the happenings in Delhi or for Sikhs and Hindus to avenge cruelties on their co-religionists in the Frontier or in the Punjab? If a man or group of men go mad, should everyone follow suit? I warn Hindus and Sikhs that by killing and loot or arson they are destroying their own religion.” (prayer meeting, September 12, 1947)

“.. if the Hindus felt that in India there was no place for anyone else except the Hindus, and if non-Hindus, especially the Muslims wished to live here, they had to live as slaves of the Hindus, they will kill Hinduism. Similarly, if Pakistan believed that in Pakistan only the Muslims had a rightful place and the non-Muslims had to live there on sufferance and as their slaves, it will be the death-knell for Islam in India” (Address at Bhangi Colony, September 16, 1947.)

“I cannot rest in peace till every Muslim and Hindu and Sikh in India and Pakistan is not rehabilitated in his own home. What is to become of Juma Masjid, the biggest mosque in India or of the Nankana Sahib or Punja Saheb if no Muslim can live in Delhi and no Sikh live in Pakistan? Are these sacred places to be turned to other purposes? Never.” (prayer meeting, September 18, 1947)

All quotations taken from CPI pamphlet ‘On his 79th birthday – Our Homage and our Pledge’ that begins thus: “The Communist Party of India pays its homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his 79th birthday: - ‘In his grand old age, the father of the nation has been fearlessly stirring the conscience of the nation on the most vital issues on which depends our future.. by his personal intervention in defence of the Hindu minority in Noakhali, then of the Muslim minority in Calcutta and now in Delhi he has demonstrated how courage and confidence can be roused in the minority and a sense of shame in the majority for being misled by a handful of reactionary hate-mongers, and bonds of fraternity restored among the common people.. 

"Let us make the nation's homage to Mahatma Gandhi the culmination of a people's peace campaign in which Congressmen, Nationalist Muslims, Leaguers, and all Left parties and popular organizations participate... We shall then be able to declare before millions of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Touchables and Untouchables, that the riot-demon stands buried and the minorities shall enjoy the protection of the living wall of the majority.. thus alone can we defeat the anti-national communal reactionary and go forward.. And play our proud role in shaping the destiny of the new world..”

Abha Gandhi talks about Mahatma Gandhi's assassination

Godse pushed Manu forcefully aside with his left hand, momentarily exposing the gun in his right. The items in her hands fell to the ground. For a few moments she continued arguing with the unknown assailant. But when the rosary dropped she bent down to pick it up. At this precise moment, a burst of deafening blasts ripped apart the peaceful atmosphere as Godse fired three bullets into Gandhi's abdomen and chest. As the third shot was fired Gandhi was still standing, his palms still joined. He was heard to gasp, "He Ram, He Ram". Then he slowly sank to the ground, palms joined still, possibly in a final ultimate act of ahimsa. Smoke filled the air. Confusion and panic reigned. The Mahatma was slumped on the ground, his head resting in the laps of both girls. His face turned pale, his white shawl of Australian wool was turning crimson with blood. Within seconds Mahatma Gandhi was dead. It was 5.17pm..

The Futility of Common Sense: An Essay on Ahimsa

A G Noorani: How Savarkar escaped the gallows

Immediately after Madanlal Pahwa’s failed attempt on Gandhi’s life on January 20, 1948, suspicion fixed on V.D. Savarkar as the brain behind the crime. Investigations confirmed the suspicion; evidence at the trial court all but proved his complicity. He, however, escaped with an acquittal. Deputy Prime Minister Vallabhbhai Patel was convinced of his guilt. In 1969, a Commission of Inquiry set up on March 22, 1965 comprising a respected Judge of the Supreme Court, J.K. Kapur, concluded after a thorough probe: “All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group.”

Freedom At Midnight (1976) by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre contains a wealth of material since they had access to police and intelligence records besides recollections of key surviving players. Madanlal told the police after his arrest that he had met Savarkar before the attempt and also revealed Godse’s identity: “Hindu Rashtra, A Marathi daily of Poona. Editor: N.V. Godse, Proprietor N.D. Apte, a Savarkarite group newspaper.” The apparel left behind by Madanlal’s accomplices who fled after his failure bore one common laundry mark, the initials ‘N.V.G.’
No policeman could have wished for more. Collins and Lapierre remark that the “inquiry, so well begun, was now to be pursued in a manner so desultory, so ineffectual, as to inflame controversy three decades later.” The ineptness of senior officials in New Delhi was in contrast to the efficiency of the Bombay Police. Jamshid Naganvalla (32), Deputy Commissioner of Police, in charge of the Bombay CID Special Branch, was assigned the case by Bombay’s Home Minister, Morarji Desai, after Madanlal’s attempt. Convinced that Savarkar was behind that, he asked Morarji for permission to arrest him on the basis of Madanlal’s confession. Morarji angrily refused. Naganvalla’s Watchers Branch had kept Savarkar’s house under surveillance. Shortly after the assassination, Savarkar gave an undertaking to the police on February 22, 1948 not to take part in any “political public activity” for as long as was desired.
He was prosecuted all the same. The main witness against him was the approver Digamber Badge. Two other witnesses corroborated his version on his visits to Savarkar’s house. Judge Atma Charan found Badge to be a truthful witness. On most points his version was corroborated “by independent evidence” but no corroboration was produced in court on his evidence that Godse and accomplice Narayan Apte visited Savarkar at his house on January 14 and 17, 1948. On each occasion Badge was asked to stay outside. On the second occasion he heard Savarkar’s encouraging words to Godse and Apte: “Yashasvi houn ya” (succeed and come). The two corroborating witnesses said no more than that the three had got down before the house; but it had two other residents besides. Since the law requires independent corroboration of an approver’s testimony, Savarkar was acquitted.
However, a year or two after Savarkar’s death, his bodyguard, Apte Ramchandra Kasar, and his secretary Gajanan Vishnu Damle, filled the loopholes before the Kapur Commission, which noted: “The statements of both these witnesses show that both Apte and Godse were frequent visitors of Savarkar at Bombay and at Conferences and at every meeting they are shown to have been with Savarkar…This evidence also shows that Karkare was also well known to Savarkar and was also a frequent visitor. Badge used to visit Savarkar. Dr. Parchure also visited him. All this shows that people who were subsequently involved in the murder of Mahatma Gandhi were all congregating some time or the other at Savarkar Sadan and sometimes had long interviews with Savarkar. It is significant that Karkare and Madanlal visited Savarkar before they left for Delhi and Apte and Godse visited him both before the bomb was thrown and also before the murder was committed and on each occasion they had long interviews. It is specially to be noticed that Godse and Apte were with him at public meetings held at various places in the years 1946, 1947 and 1948.”
Had the two testified in court, Savarkar would have been convicted. There was no ambiguity surrounding Godse’s and Apte’s visits to Savarkar on January 14 and 17, 1948. Kasar, Savarkar’s bodyguard, told the Commission that they visited him on or about January 23 or 24, after the bomb incident. Damle, Savarkar’s secretary, deposed that Godse and Apte saw Savarkar “in the middle of January and sat with him [Savarkar] in his garden.”
In his Crime Report No.1, Nagarvala had stated that “Savarkar was at the back of the conspiracy” and that “he was feigning illness.” Nagarvala’s letter of January 31, 1948, the day after the assassination, mentioned that Savarkar, Godse and Apte met for 40 minutes “on the eve of their departure to Delhi.” This he did on the strength of what Kasar and Damle had disclosed to him. “These two had access to the house of Savarkar without any restriction.” In short, Godse and Apte met Savarkar again, in the absence of Badge, and in addition to their meetings on January 14 and 17. Why they were not produced as witnesses in court is a mystery.
Vallabhbhai Patel was vindicated. He had written to Nehru on February 27, 1948: “I have kept myself almost in daily touch with the progress of the investigation regarding Bapu’s assassination case.” His conclusion was: “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that [hatched] the conspiracy and saw it through.”
Many years later, the BJP had his portrait hung in Parliament House.

Rushdie banished from Calcutta

Salman Rushdie’s visit to Calcutta tomorrow has been called off at the last minute because of objections raised by the state government and an ultimatum issued by police, sources said.
The author was scheduled to be in the city with Midnight’s Children director Deepa Mehta and cast member Rahul Bose. Rushdie, whose novel The Satanic Verses has been at the centre of controversies in the country and elsewhere, is in India for the promotion of the film, scheduled to release on February 1.

For the last seven days, the main cast of Midnight’s Children and the author have toured Delhi, Bangalore and Mumbai. Calcutta was supposed to be their last stop. From this afternoon, phone calls from police officers and “a senior minister” were made to the organisers of the Calcutta Book Fair, sources said. The book fair itself was not hosting Rushdie. “We were asked if Rushdie was holding a programme at the fair. We said ‘no’ since we are not hosting such a programme,” said a member of the Publishers and Booksellers’ Guild that organises the fair.

The member declined to say who made the call and to which guild official. Other sources confined themselves to saying a “senior minister who called up twice”. PVR, the Indian distributors of the movie, were planning to hold a media conference at a five-star hotel where Rushdie’s name was included later. The organisers of Kolkata Literary Meet (KLM), which is being held on the book fair premises, were holding a session with the Midnight’s Children team, minus Rushdie, on Wednesday. Initially, the fair premises were considered for the venue. After there was talk of Rushdie joining in, another hotel was approached to host the event but that fell through.

The Midnight’s Children crew was supposed to come to Calcutta on January 30. Initially, the team included Mehta, Bose and producer David Hamilton. “They agreed to come if we allowed them to hold a press conference before the KLM session,” an organiser said.
When the film team realised Rushdie was doing a tour of other cities, they wanted him to come for the film’s media meet in Calcutta, too.

However, the intelligence branch told the lit meet organisers, Gameplan, to give a written assurance that Rushdie would not attend the event, sources said. Asked, an organiser said they hadn’t invited Rushdie in the first place. The intelligence branch and the city police told PVR, the Indian distributors of Midnight’s Children, that if Rushdie came to Calcutta, he would be sent back on the next flight, according to the sources. Asked if any specific group had called to protest Rushdie’s purported visit, the organiser clarified they had only received calls from the police, not any organisation.

“I think the stopping of Salman Rushdie coming to Calcutta is a sad and tragic moment in the history of Bengal and in the history of Bengali intellectual courage. We are now a truly shameful, uncultured city, where we cannot welcome one of our greatest writers who has travelled to Bombay, Bangalore, Delhi without any trouble,” said writer-filmmaker Ruchir Joshi. Joshi had to leave Jaipur during the literature festival in 2012 after he read portions of The Satanic Verses when Rushdie was stopped from attending the lit fest.

Let’s Avoid Television Wars, or How the Indian establishment succumbed to jingoistic hysteria during the LoC crisis - former Indian Navy Chief

By Arun Prakash
If the incipient Indo-Pak crisis of the past fortnight had any lesson to convey, it was that the road to perdition is lined with shrill, hysterical TV anchors, bloodthirsty politicians and a seemingly somnolent national security establishment. In the dangerously incendiary atmosphere that was allowed to build up recently, the last thing the subcontinent needed was a chest thumping xenophobic verbal exchange between the leadership of India and Pakistan – civil or military – because it could have easily spiralled into a ‘patriotic’ war. Fortunately, both nations stepped back from the brink.

India and Pakistan can do without another war, because it would render grievous harm to both economies. For India, conflict would mean a serious setback to its ambitious developmental plans; but given Pakistan’s faltering economy and its emerging ethnic and sectarian fissures, it could cause this fragile entity to self-destruct; with immense collateral damage to the neighbourhood. Pakistan’s bluff of a nuclear riposte in the face of conventional setbacks was called in Kargil in 1999. Yet, this unstable country persists with the farce of a tacit ‘doctrine of ambiguity’, and has taken the bizarre decision to stockpile tactical nuclear weapons (TNW) in the hope of intimidating India.

In this context we need to bear in mind that Pakistani generals are not exactly the brilliant strategists they project themselves to be. Four Indo-Pak wars have shown them up as intellectually sterile, their brash overconfidence and myopia have produced nothing but military disasters. They lead an army whose savage and dishonourable conduct in erstwhile East Pakistan, 42 years ago, brought ignominy upon their nation. India must, therefore, reiterate full faith in its conventional military options, backed by a ‘no first use’ nuclear-deterrent which promises a devastating response to any nuclear strike; including that by a TNW.

It is against such a background that we need to introspect deeply about our muddle-headed and inappropriate response to violation of the LoC by the Pak army; and the barbaric act of mutilating the bodies of Indian jawans killed in action. By indulging in a full-fledged public dissection of a military engagement on the Line of Control (LoC), the so-called experts (from both sides of the border) as well as hyperbolic media-persons not just robbed the two brave soldiers of dignity in death, but raised jingoism to feverish pitch. The haste with which ministers as well as opposition politicians rushed to make inane and populist statements clearly demonstrates the inadequacies of our netas. With every successive crisis we are painfully reminded of the absence of statesmanship on our political horizon. Such is the Pavlovian response of our politicians to provocation by the media that the fourth estate seems to dictate our national policies. Since this is not the last crisis that we are going to face, how should we respond to similar situations in the future?

Ceasefire violations on the LoC and the desecration of soldiers’ bodies are clearly matters that the two armies should have handled between themselves. In view of their gravity, the issues should have been taken up at the highest level; with the Indian army chief formally asking his Pak counterpart to have the two incidents investigated. Courts of inquiry, on both sides of the LoC, could have ascertained facts of the matter, exchanged information and then tried to affix responsibility at battalion, brigade and division levels. This may have obviated the need for the Indian army to display ‘evidence’ of ceasefire violations; only to have it trashed, on TV, by Pakistani ‘experts’. Nor would ministers have had to fumble for want of a sensible response in public. Regrettably, the only trans-border communication available, currently, is a ‘hotline’ between the Directors General of Military Operations. Knowing full well the influence that the Pak army wields at home, and the sensitivity of the LoC, the Indian security establishment has been seriously remiss in not establishing a system of regular contacts between the two army chiefs.

No government, since Independence, has considered it necessary to promulgate a National Security Doctrine or Strategy. Consequently, every crisis catches the Indian state unprepared and flat-footed. Whether it is kidnappings, hijackings, terrorist strikes or any other assault on India’s sovereignty, we have been found wanting for a plan of action because there are neither ‘bottom lines’ nor standard operating procedures to guide government functionaries. The recent crisis was no different. Forums like the National Security Advisory Board and the Strategic Policy Group have rarely been mobilised to justify their existence. The huge repository of security expertise resident in the armed forces HQ is wasted; because it lies outside the ministry of defence and the two communicate only through files. A ‘single point of military advice’ has been consistently spurned for six decades.

The vital importance of ‘strategic communication’ has been completely lost on the Indian foreign policy and security establishments. Even if suave Pakistani ministers and diplomats make a splash in foreign capitals, it is essential to ensure that we do not lose the subcontinental plot. In the event of a crisis with security implications, the national security adviser must instantly confer with the chiefs of staff committee and the secretaries of defence and external affairs, to evolve a ‘crisis management plan’ for the PM and the defence and external affairs ministers. Once a spokesperson has been designated to speak on behalf of the government, everyone else must be told to hold their peace. The media have assumed a vital role in not just keeping the people informed during a crisis situation, but also in conducting a national discourse and moulding public opinion. There is need for the national security establishment to acknowledge this reality; by making available authentic information as well as expert perspectives to the media – in real time if possible.

Monday, 28 January 2013

Muslim scholars challenge Salman Rushdie to debate on Islam

NB: This is a welcome step. Since some of these gentlemen were at the forefront of the storm of intimidatory speeches & remarks about both Rushdie and Taslima, it is for them to arrange the debate, presuming Rushdie accepts the invitation. The first step would be an unconditional guarantee of personal safety to persons who disagree with them.  After all, threats have been issued even this year. The Muslim scholars have every right to criticise and even stage public protests against writers they dislike, but this must remain within the bounds of law, and must never include physical threats and hooliganism on the streets.  Don't they realise that such behaviour undermines the constitutional freedoms that they too, must depend on?

Taslima Nasreen has been given asylum in India, and must be allowed to live in a city of her choice, Kolkata if  she likes. Why should anyone oppose her entry into this or that city merely because she spoke her mind about religion? The scholars should arrange a public debate with her as well and invite others to participate. Doing so will enhance their stature and help reduce communal tension in the country - Dilip

MUMBAI: A group of scholars who are also members of the powerful All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) has invited controversial author Salman Rushdie to debate on Islam and the Prophet' s life. This is a significant change of position from the general Muslim view which has opposed Rushdie's visit to India ever since his controversial novel The Satanic Verses created a storm in the 1980s.

The scholars who favour a dialogue with Rushdie were participating in a seminar on Azmat-e-Rasool (the Prophet's greatness) on Sunday in Mumbai. Rushdie reportedly wants to visit Mumbai to promote Deepa Mehta-directed movie Midnight's Children, based on his novel of the same name. Many at the seminar, organized by Wahdat-e-Islami Hind, an NGO not known for its charitable views on Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen, were surprised when senior lawyer and member of AIMPLB Yusuf Muchala proposed: "Instead of opposing his visit to Mumbai, let us invite Rushdie to this city and answer our questions. If he has the guts he should explain to us why he wrote such a blasphemous book."

Muchalla, who heads the personal law board's legal cell, also appealed to the Muslims not to resort to violent protests against Rushdie. Echoing Muchala, Dr Shakil Samdani, a professor of law at Aligarh Muslim University and a speaker at the Wahdat-e-Islami Hind seminar, told TOI: "Rushdie should listen to the sane voices of the Muslims. Instead of issuing death threats against him and opposing his visit to India, Muslims must try to engage him in an informed debate.

Wahdat-e-Islami members were among the Muslims who had forced the Rajasthan government to ask Rushdie not to participate in the Jaipur Literary Fest last year. They also forced JLF organizers to cancel Nasreen's participation this year.

Atrocious violation of citizen's rights: criminal charges by WB police against villager who questioned Mamata

JHARGRAM/KOLKATA: There isn't an easy let-off if one has earned the wrath of chief minister Mamata BanerjeeShiladitya Chowdhury, the villager from Binpur who had "dared" to question Mamata on rising fertilizer prices at a rally last August and was jailed after being dubbed a "Maoist" by the CM, has learnt this the hard way. Unknown to either Shiladitya or his lawyer, Jhargram police have quietly submitted in court a chargesheet against the villager accusing him for criminal trespassing, attacking cops and criminal intimidation. If proved, the charges can land Shiladitya in jail for up to seven years. However, police seem to have debunked the CM's "Maoist" theory and not pressed any charge against him in this regard. Among the 19 witnesses cited in the chargesheet, eight are policemen, the others are local Trinamool Congress leaders and villagers.

Sub-inspector Ranjit Singh of Belpahari police station had submitted the chargesheet to his superiors on October 31, 2012. This was submitted in the court of additional chief judicial magistrate, Jhargram, on November 7. But it was only when Shiladitya attended the court on January 24 that he was served a copy. Based on the chargesheet, a Jhargram court will on March 8 frame charges and depute a court for trial.

The three-page chargesheet, a copy of which is with TOI, tries to buttress the reasons given by police for whisking off Shiladitya from among the crowd which had gathered to hear Mamata at the Belpahari BDO grounds on August 8.

It alleges that Shiladitya trespassed into a high-security zone, tried to push and shove cops, including Belpahari inspector-in-charge Nirmal Kumar Majhi, "in a furious mood" and using "threatening language" and then escaped. His identity couldn't be established then, the chargesheet says. Curiously, police had then claimed that Shiladitya had given them a false name, but the impersonation charges don't figure in the chargesheet. He was arrested from home two days later on August 10 and spent two weeks behind bars till a Midnapore court granted him bail.

"A mere look at the chargesheet is enough to show that the investigating officer is very imaginative and has good writing skills," said Shiladitya's lawyer Aswini Mondal. "A host of TMC leaders and supporters form the basis of this chargesheet, which is factually incorrect and self-contradictory. The two initial charges — that he is a Maoist and that he had impersonated — don't even figure in the chargesheet. Besides, what police seem to have forgotten is that the incident took place in front of thousands of people."

Shiladitya wasn't at home in Binpur's Nayagram when TOI reached there on Sunday morning. His wife said the villager had resumed work as a bus conductor on the Jhargram-Belpahari route two months ago. "He never discusses the court cases at home because our four-year-old son Shantanu gets extremely agitated. Whenever he steps out of home, Shantanu keeps asking have police taken him again."

Shiladitya's elder brother Tilak said, "On Thursday, when we attended the court we were given the papers. We handed these over to our lawyer." Their mother Sandhya said, "He isn't a Maoist and neither did he do anything wrong. I don't know for how long we have to bear with this." Former CPM MP Nilotpal Basu said, "The questions Shiladitya raised that day are now being raised by the CM herself. If the latter isn't wrong, how can Shiladitya be wrong? This shows the intolerance and the lack of democratic sensitivity of the government to public criticism." Bengal Congress president Pradip Bhattacharya said, "This is a purely vindictive attitude by the government and its chief minister. The poor farmer did nothing wrong. But I am at least happy police didn't implicate him as a Maoist."

Charges slapped against Shiladitya in court:

* Section 447 IPC | Criminal trespass | Bailable | Can be jailed for three months, or fined up to Rs 500

* Section 332 IPC | Voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty | Non-Bailable | Can be jailed for three years, fined, or both

* Section 353 IPC | Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty | Non-Bailable | Can be jailed for two years, fined, or both

* Section 506 IPC | Criminal intimidation | Bailable | Normally has a maximum two year jail term, fined, or both. But also depends on what offence the intimidation leads to. For example, if it leads to heinous offences like death and destruction, the punishment may be 7 years in jail, fine, or both.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Ashis Nandy: Interview with Firstpost; SC's dubious remarks; Assaults on free speech growing

NB: This interview is Nandy's explanation of what he meant to say.  I accept his clarification, and see no reason why he should be face legal action for speaking his mind, even if we expect him to do so with a better choice of words. (Many of us remember how much vitriol was spoken by Bal Thackeray, both on the judicial process, as well as about 'communities' whom he disliked, and his expressed pride at the destruction of Babri Masjid. Thackeray was never much troubled by the law). It is a travesty of the criminal justice system that hate-speech on a continental scale goes unpunished, but cases get registered against intellectuals for saying something unpopular.

NB Feb 2, 2013: The Supreme Court's statement accompanying a stay on Nandy's arrest is a cause of grave concern.

Here is a comment made by a friend on FB: 
Honourable judges on the bench hearing the case.. mention "licence" in their admonitory remarks. Seemingly Nandy had no "licence" to make these remarks. Basic point of law: there is no licence required for speech. It is not like driving a car or distilling alcohol. Speech is free in this country, provided that whoever says whatever is willing to face the consequences. There is a law for punishing hate speech, but the law has to be applied rationally. Nandy has explained at length that he meant no harm. He may have lost his sense of judgment by the marquee lights at the JLF... and his facile comments were completely divorced from empirical reality. No questions there.  But if we are really sure that we would like to have the full force of the law - including its most punitive provisions, imposed on him - then we have to figure out how we would rate a slogan such as 

Brahmin, Bania, Thakur, Chor, Baaki Sab DS4, or,

Tilak, Tarazu aur Talwar, Maaro Inko Joote Chaar 

There is no specific law protecting any of these categories from hate speech, but on any reasonable and fair-minded assessment, these slogans which were widely deployed by the BSP in its rise to power, would merit legal sanction and punishment. We can scour through history and find ample reasons why the oppressed should have the right to speak with greater vigour than the oppressors. But at some point, a statute of limitations sets in and it is best to honour free speech principles, rather than continue to beat the drum of historic grievance. (end of comment)

I would add that slogans such as Babar ki aulaad (to refer to all Muslims), and other contemptuous utterances made in public, such as hum paanch hamare pachees were made during the campaign for the demolition of the Babri Masjid. The late founder of the Shiv Sena had remarked that he 'pissed on court judgements'. As far as I know, no strenuous efforts were made to prosecute those making these utterances. Now the Hon'ble SC bench has declared that "Every citizen has right to free speech but not at the cost of others. We are not at all happy with the way the statement was made. Why do you make such a statement in the first place." (See the link below)
Supreme Court gives relief and an earful to Ashis Nandy
The hon'ble Justices may kindly reflect on how anyone can ensure that his or her speech hurts no one, whether there is any such thing as a 'right not to be hurt'; and whether we must all go about our working and thinking lives taking care not to irritate anyone? My criticism of certain political groups and ideas may hurt their adherents, does that mean I should stop airing my views? With this kind of logic employed by the highest court in India, what will remain of the right to free thought and expression? Surely such remarks were misplaced?

Dalit activist and writer, Kancha Iliah, who was present in the audience when Mr Nandy made the remarks, today spoke in his defence. "Ashis Nandy made a bad statement with good intentions. The controversy should end here," Mr Ilaiah said

However,  I disagree with Nandy's (clarified) interpretation of corruption, and have added links to an alternative understanding of corruption at the bottom of this post.  I have also added a link to a comment by Ritwik Agrawal.

Firstpost: What did you mean by that one statement that most of the corrupt come from SC/ST and OBC which has caused so much uproar?
Ashis Nandy: What I said was that most of those caught for corruption come from these three sectors because the upper castes and the rich and the powerful have better ways of protecting themselves, better ways of hiding their corruption. I even gave a direct example of that by saying people like Richard Sorabji and I, if we want to be corrupt we can be corrupt in a very subtle way. No money has to exchange hands. I can give his son a fellowship or he can give my daughter a fellowship at Oxford or Harvard. And that will be good enough return and nobody will call it corruption. I said that the others have lesser chance of hiding their corruption, lesser chance of engaging sophisticated lawyers or giving ideological justification the way the CPM government in West Bengal gave when they were corrupt. It was part of a larger picture. And I also said that as long as this corruption exists among backwards, tribals, OBCs our Indian republic still has some hope.

Firstpost: Why?
Ashis Nandy: It leads hopefully to redistributive justice and equalisation of handicaps.
Firstpost: This was in the context of Tarun Tejpal saying corruption is a great equalizer?
Ashis Nandy:Yes. Exactly. Both of us supported it. I began by saying I am endorsing Tarun Tejpal’s statement and I elaborated on it.
Firstpost: What did you think of IBN7 editor Ashutosh’s angry rebuttal of you? 
Ashis Nandy: Well everybody has the right to interpret my statement the way they want. I thought it was very myopic. He didn’t understand what I was trying to say. I have written the foreword to his book on corruption, so it’s not that he does not know my position very well. It’s reflected in that foreword.
Firstpost: What did you mean when you brought up the example of West Bengal vis a vis corruption during Communist rule?
Ashis Nandy: I said the price of confining corruption — when there is no open corruption — is also that you keep out the Dalits, the tribals, and OBCs from being near power for all times to come, in the name of ideology, in the name of culture. Communists had their own corruption but it does not look like corruption because they had an ideological justification for it. It looks like taking a toll or imposing a tax on the rich and the powerful. That’s the rhetoric at least.
Firstpost: You were also calling out the anti corruption movement for not acknowledging their own investment in the system?
Ashis Nandy: That also is part of the story. As long as corruption does not look like corruption it seems alright. As soon as it begins to look like corruption.. 
by Ritwik Agrawal: Were Ashis Nandy’s comments justified? Clearly not. His statement was loose, sweeping and unfortunate. But isn’t freedom of speech precisely the freedom to say what others consider stupid or objectionable? Clearly the idea of FREEDOM of speech is not restricted to saying only what is palatable to the other. My right to free speech is precisely my right to question you, object to your views and state what I think, without fear of suppression or physical retribution. But is the State and its organs like political parties at all interested in upholding this constitutional principle? The recent incidents of banning Kamal Hassan’s film Vishwaroopam by some states and the hounding of political psychologist Ashish Nandy are part of a pattern where the “sentiments” of one or the other community are “hurt” by artists, intellectuals and common citizens. 
Let’s consider some examples: 
- Preventing Salman Rushdie from speaking at last year’s Jaipur Literature Festival
- Banning of Prakash Jha’s film Aarakshan [the ban was subsequently revoked by the Supreme Court]
- Vetting of Da Vinci Code by “representatives” of the Christian faith
- Hounding MF Hussian by registering hundreds of cases against him in various parts of the country
- Jailing of a professor in Bengal for forwarding an SMS which lampooned the CM
- Registration of FIRs against a young girl in Maharashtra for an “objectionable” Facebook status about Bal Thackeray
No group or identity [whether Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, Christians, OBCs etc etc] seem to be immune from this widespread malady of ultra sensitive sentiments, injury to which results in threats of violence, rioting and strikes. Repeatedly we see the sight of the police and political parties bowing down to such narrow interests and failing to uphold the right to free speech.. Read more:

NB: Here are two research articles relating to corruption, which argue that it is not a character defect, nor reducible to financial matters, but a structural feature of the Indian polity; more specifically, something rooted in the pattern and conditions of employment. The labouring poor pay the maximum price for sustaining an army of middlemen; and as such, the portrayal of corruption as a balancing force in the economy is a gross misunderstanding. It may be noted that the socially oppressed castes constitute the  bulk of the casual and informal workforce in India - Dilip