'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Monday, October 24, 2016
Apoorvanand - The surgical strikes on Teesta Setalvad continue with the Bari report, and we should all be ashamed
NB: A vindictive dispensation that - as recently as the Bihar elections last year - was pulled up by the Election Commission for objectionable propaganda, is now threatening anti-communal activists for spreading disharmony. This is enough to make George Orwell turn in his grave. The fabricators of these wild allegations have gone overboard in their desire to please the Sangh Parivar. All of us have not lost our minds, nor has the Union of India become a fiefdom of the RSS with one election. Lovers of democracy should resist this travesty of justice and truth - DS
Teesta Setalvad is
under attack again. This time, it has come in the form of a report by a committee set up in March by the Union Ministry of
Human Resource Development to look into allegations that Setalvad and her
husband Javed Anand misused a grant given to the Sabrang Trust, which they run,
under the central government’s flagship Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, an education programme.
The report should
alarm and shame all of us, especially those in academia, because the committee
that wrote the report was headed by Professor Syed A Bari, Vice Chancellor of
the Central University of Gujarat.
The committee holds
Setalvad “culpable for hatred-filled, disharmony-spreading, ill-will
generating, enmity-creating explosive writings”, and says that there is a case
against her under Sections 153 A and 153 B of
the Indian Penal Code. These sections relate to promoting enmity between
different groups on grounds of religion, indulging in acts prejudicial to
maintenance of harmony, and making imputations or assertions prejudicial to
national integration – and are punishable with jail terms and fines. The committee was
formed to look into how the Sabrang Trust utilised a nearly Rs 2 crore grant
released by the Manmohan Singh-led government.
values: Setalvad, who has
achieved national prominence for helping victims of the 2002 Gujarat riots
pursue their legal quest for justice, heads the Sabrang Trust, whose main
activity is to prepare and publish educational material. The Trust publishes a
monthly magazine, Communalism Combat, which has been an important
source of information for secular activists, and also runs a creative
educational programme called Khoj.
One of the main
objectives of school education in a diverse country like India is to help its
young inculcate a secular outlook. This necessarily involves critically
examining our country’s past and present and making an informed decision about
our role in forming an active, secular citizenship. All India’s policy
documents related to school education, ranging from the Radhakrishnan
Commission (1948) to the Mudaliar Commission (1952-’53), Kothari Commission
(1964-’66) and the National Policy on Education of 1986 state this explicitly.
The latest document is the National Curriculum Framework (2005), which this
government still adheres to if we go by its statements in Parliament. The 2005
document also reiterates what its predecessors have set forth.
The Ministry of Human
Resource Development made a grant to the Sabrang Trust to prepare educational
material to promote secular values, especially in slum areas. Promotion of
secularism also means combating communal prejudices and ideas. It was this work
by the Sabrang Trust that the Bari Committee examined. The learned members of
the committee concluded that what the Trust was doing could not be called education.
On the contrary, the committee concluded that Setalvad, through her work, was
creating and spreading hate.
Doing Gandhi's work: Setalvad spreading
hate is akin to Mahatma Gandhi asking Indians to take up arms. For Setalvad’s
mission is only a continuation of what Gandhi was busy doing, especially in the
last phase of his life – creating a secular India by assuring its minorities
that they would have dignified equal status in a nation where Hindus comprise
the largest religious group.
However, a section of
Hindus did not like what Gandhi was doing. Gandhi sought from them not only
empathy for Muslims but also justice. Since Gandhi would not stop in his
audacious endeavour, he had to be killed. It is this mindset that also believes
that Teesta Setalvad must be stopped.
To disable Setalvad,
the government of Gujarat, headed by the man who now heads the central
government, filed criminal cases against her, charging her with misuse and
embezzlement of funds collected for the victims of the 2002 communal violence
in Gujarat. It has been a vicious
campaign. When the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power at the Centre in
2014, it became ferocious. Central government agencies like the Central Bureau
of Investigation were used to raid her office in Mumbai. The Sabrang Trust's
bank accounts were frozen. A malicious media campaign was unleashed to defame
Setalvad. The intent was to somehow get her arrested. Fortunately, the courts
have not allowed that.
Justice must be
paramount: A free Setalvad is
dangerous for those who oppose the idea of a secular India. She was at the
forefront of efforts that encouraged several victims of the 2002 violence to
come out and stand firm in court despite a hostile government. The courts were
persuaded to move some of the crucial cases outside Gujarat.
It's all very well to
speak about communal harmony, but to make it substantive, the element of
justice has to be foregrounded. Political parties and local administrations
have the ability to hold peace marches after each incident of communal
violence. But in such incidents, people get killed, their property is destroyed
and they are displaced from their habitats. Rarely do these institutions ensure
that justice is done in such cases.
Gandhi was faced with
this question in the bloody days of 1946 and 1947. He was not ambiguous. He did
not say that we should forget and forgive and move on. He said that the law
must take its course in such matters and there was no question of general
amnesty for the perpetrators of violence – criminal cases should not be closed
and justice must be done.
It was his insistence
on justice that became the cause of Gandhi’s death. It is Setalvad’s
intervention to secure justice for wronged Muslims that has made her an object
of hate for those who have pursued the culture and politics of majoritarianism.
For them, what makes her dangerous is her consistency, perseverance and rigour.
She has not lost her focus in her fight against communalism.
minorities: When reporting on
Setalvad, the media describes her as an activist and the head of a
Non-Governmental Organisation, both entities that are generally viewed with
suspicion in our society. People like Teesta Setalvad are viewed with suspicion
because they keep the state and society constantly aware of the unfinished task
of secularising the nation. It involves reminding us of the rights of the
minorities. Setalvad and people like her do what our state and educational
institutions should be doing. She tries to record and document each case of the
lapse of the state in matters related to the principle of secularism.
We are living in times
when Muslims in India feel deserted by the political class in general. They
feel friendless. The ruling party wants this feeling to spread. Many members of
minority communities, especially Muslims, see an unwavering friend in Setalvad.
As a consequence, proponents of majoritarianism see her as somebody who needs
to be neutralised through some surgical action. The Bari report appears to be
part of this plan.
It is sad that
Setalvad has been left to fend for herself in this unequal fight against a
state machinery that has scant regard for our foundational constitutional
principles. These are not ordinary
times. We need constant vigil and extraordinary courage to keep secularism
alive. Setalvad is doing exactly that. She is facing the consequences. But what
future generations will remember is the silence of the elite – who have benefited
most from our secular Constitution – when one of them was being persecuted for
not letting institutions of the state forget the Constitution’s promises to
The full, 11,350-word
text of Neha Dixit's five-part investigation "Operation #BabyLift" on
how the Sangh Parivar flouted every Indian and international law on child right
to traffic 31 young tribal girls from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat to ‘Hinduise’