Category Archives: Pseudo-Seculars
Though this article still paints Muslims in victimhood mode, overall, it breaks the pattern and puts blame squarely on Muslims.
The Muslim Rage and Hypocrisy
Can you believe it? A Chinese–made shoe is holding hostage a population of over 1.4 million in Srinagar. It began in Central Kashmir’s Magam area. On 28 November, someone saw a white sports shoe with the name of the last Caliph (Hazrat Ali) printed on it. A close examination of the shoe, however, threw up a hint of mischief: on the right-side of the toe, the name ‘Ali’ was hand-written with a black marker and didn’t look like a company mark. Soon, men, children and women gathered on the streets. Protests ensued. The shoe was held high in the procession while the demonstrators called for an end to “hurting” Muslim “sensibilities.”
Even before the crowd from this protest had returned home, a new mob gathered around 30 kilometers away at Srinagar’s Zadibal-Nowhatta neighbourhood where Shia and Sunni communities live together but their union is often marred by frictions from time to time. For years, youngsters of this area have been stone-pelting the armed forces for atrocities and the clampdown on Azadi-demanding protests, but today they were stone pelting each other’s houses, breaking windowpanes and disfiguring fence walls. Some people say pro-India PDP’s Shia leader had spoken against the first three Caliphs of Islam during his Moharram speech (a few days before the shoe-incident) that angered the majority Sunni population. Others say the Shia youth wanted to enforce a strike in the Sunni area of Nowhatta which was resisted by the shopkeepers triggering stone pelting between the other communities. The result: the police and the paramilitary CRPF are enforcing a curfew for several days now; seizing some youth in nocturnal raids, and even the parents of those running away to escape the Khakis. Ghulam Qadir Sheikh, the father of a youth who was detained in one such raid, says he was dealt with like a hardcore criminal in the police station. Adding to the absurd chaos, Kashmir’s Divisional Commissioner Asghar Samoon, as quoted in the local media, explained that he had recommended in the past too that parents of minors (allegedly involved in stone pelting) must be punished. Meanwhile representatives of around 30 religious bodies (both Sunni and Shi’ites) are now trying to calm the angry communities.
A friend jokingly says if this is what a single Chinese shoe can do, imagine the magnitude of global unrest if the whole of China were unleashed on the world.
Ruptures between Shi’ites and Sunnis aren’t new. They had developed immediately after the Prophet Muhammad’s death in 632 AD. There was no agreement on his immediate successor. Sunnis recognise the first four Caliphs (Abu Bakr, Umar Farooq, Usman Ghani and lastly, Ali Murtaza) as his rightful successors; the Shi’ites believes the prophet nominated his son-in-law, Ali. Since then, sentiments over the matter continued to boil right through to the modern times, sometime pushing countries to the verge of civil war. But in the case of Kashmir, Shi’ites and Sunnis rarely have such turbulent history. There is a greater realisation among many regarding who will actually benefit from such a sectarian fight which I’ve already mentioned in my previous blog post.
Such protests, however, also throw up questions (so far avoided and unanswered too). Was this shoe-protest a justifiable rage? How will a violent protest in Srinagar force the shoe-manufacturer (in case it’s established that a mischief was played at the manufacturing level) in China to stop such production. Or how will it force some individual or a group not to play this malafide act again? They must be already giggling somewhere after having successfully triggered clashes in Srinagar over a shoe.
This incident also reminds me of the June 2010 anti-West and anti-India protest in Kashmir. Young men in hundreds in the same neighbourhood carried a blue underwear on a wooden stick, after spotting on it, a sketch of a building which looked like the Al-Aqsa Mosque of Palestine. Without any thorough examination, the underwear enraged them. Soon they blamed the West for “hurting Muslim sensibilities” and clashed with the police and the CRPF. The under wear protest soon faded after it was established that it never carried images of any Islamic worship place. The blue underwear flouted as a placard had in fact sketches of buildings that resembled London’s Big Ben and Saint Paul’s Cathedral and several other places.
This year, during the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ protests, I was in Kashmir. The entire valley was angry. I was on my way to Poonch (researching for a story about a strange disabling disease that has become a scourge in the border district) when my car was stopped by some protesting youth in Shopian district. It took me, my cameraman friend, Abhijit Dutta and the driver, Tanveer Ahmad almost half-an-hour to convince them that the media should be allowed to cover such protests and there were similar other protests in other areas too which our team was supposed to cover. Abhijit took some pictures of sloganeering youth before Tanveer accelerated the car. In such situations, lying to the police, the CRPF or protesters is often best to save one’s skin.
On the just-reopened Mughal Road, we were soon negotiating curves in the mighty Pir Panjal Mountains that separate Kashmir valley from Poonch and Rajouri districts. I asked Tanveer how one should react to the anti-Islam film, the condemnation call by pro-India mainstream parties and strike call by pro-Azadi groups.
“If I won’t earn Rs 100 or 200 today, how will it hurt the United States, the film maker or Obama. Or, how will it decrease my love towards Prophet Muhammad and Islam both,” he replied. “Not people, the response should come from the 52 Islamic states. Let the core states like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, or Turkey and others expel US’ Ambassadors as a mark of protest or let the Gulf countries stop exporting oil. The West will come down to its knees. But it needs gurda (guts) which they don’t have.”
Tanveer was right. First Muslims must abandon protesting on vague things like the shoe or underwear. On films like Nakoula Basseley’s anti-Islam film or other issues, there is a greater need to channelise this rage in a manner that registers the full magnitude of hurt felt by Muslims by such actions. Also the present forms of random, uncoordinated and thoughtless protests, like the one we saw in Kashmir, further negates the Muslim cause, divides the community and in fact weakens the merit of a genuine protest.
For some time, like diplomats, Dutta, Tanveer and I pondered in the moving car over what could be the genuine response of Islamic block if Muslim sensibilities are hurt instead of burning down public property and stone pelting moving cars. What we thought could be these:
1. Diplomatic– Expel and call back Ambassador from the country which the Islamic countries feel has hurt the sentiments of Muslims
2. Economic – Stop oil imports for a month until that country takes strong action
3. Military – Organise a military alliance like NATO and issue a joint press statement by the commander in chiefs of this alliance condemning the event
4. Criminal – Put the specific person responsible on an international Islamic watch list so that if and when he travels through or into any Islamic country he can be nabbed/deported
and finally the most important,
5. Intellectual Response – A creative, intellectual response as well that contextualises the above response in terms of a meta-narrative (without coming off as conspiracy theorists).
Tanveer, who at the end repeated his previous one-liner, however, undermined all the joint efforts. “It needs gurda (guts) which they (the Islamic nations) don’t have.”
Apart from gurda (guts), sometimes there has been an element of hypocrisy and ignorance among Muslims as well. Imagine a scenario where an American F-16 blasts a Muslim holy site in Pakistan or an Israeli bulldozer razes an age-old shrine in occupied Palestine. What would be the Muslim response? I am sure it will be similar to the previous responses. Protesters across the Muslim world will occupy streets, some will try to march towards US or Israeli embassies and police will fire at them to quell the protests. There will be killings and loss of property. Strikes and clampdowns. And that’s it. But has anyone ever thought about why Muslims are often enraged when the “West” is seen as mocking them, but equally indifferent when Muslim Countries blast shrines, raze historic sites and bring down holy places that are connected with Muslims’ identity.
By no means should this piece be seen as advocating stupid violence like the one we saw in Kashmir, but have Muslims ever launched a genuine indignation against the razing of house where prophet Muhammad was born on which a library stands now. Where was the Muslim rage when the house of Khadija (Muhammad’s first wife) where Muhammad received some of the first revelations of the Quran) was replaced with a public toilet block and Dar-al-Arqam, the first Islamic school, where Muhammad taught was levelled for construction? Did it not deserve a response when Jannat-ul-Baqi, a large cemetery where tombs of several of the prophet’s wives, daughters, sons and as many as six grandsons and Shiite saints were once located were bulldozed and levelled? In both Mecca and Medina (the birth place of Islam), Saudi Arabia has, according to many reports, already bulldozed over 90% of the Islamic monuments (during the past 20 years) dating back to around 1400 years. In their place, five star hotels, parking lots and shopping malls are coming up. Saudi authorities often use the excuse that the expansion is necessary to accommodate the increasing number of Muslim pilgrims. But why can’t the hotels and malls be constructed outside the historic interior of Mecca thus preserving both Islamic identity and the monuments? At a place where Paris Hilton can open a luxury bag shop, (in Mecca Mall) why can’t the old shrines and monuments co-exist?
Now apprehensions are also growing over the expansion of Masjid an-Nabawi that will see the demolition of three of the world’s oldest mosques that hold the tombs of Prophet Mohammad, and his closest companions, Abu Bakr and Umar. At a cost of US $6 billion, the construction will raze holy sites as old as the seventh century.
So instead of stupid protests over a vague China-made shoe or someone’s underwear, the rage should be directed at something real. Many Muslims usually label people of other faith as ‘infidel blasphemers’ when a verse of the Quran appears on a skating board or a page from the Quran is brunt, but when the sacred and holy sites are razed in the Islamic states, the word ‘blasphemy’ disappears and the silence becomes remarkable.
Author: Mohammad Umar BabaBaba Umar’s career started with The Indian Express in Srinagar where he reported on the South Asia earthquake of 2005. In the following years, he wrote features for Kashmir’s first online news magazine Kashmir Newz and in 2008 he joined Rising Kashmir as a senior reporter where he covered 2008-09-10 civil unrest. Baba specializes in producing stories mostly on Kashmir conflict and water disputes in India. Baba joined Tehelka in 2010 and the next year saw him winning ICRC (Geneva)-Press Institute of India (PII) award for his news report on victims of armed conflict in Kashmir.
Narendra Modi and the Muslim votebank
9 July 2012
Before, if ever, Narendra Modi becomes India’s prime minister, he will have to break the stranglehold of the Muslim votebank on Indian politics. His sadbhavna yatras (goodwill missions) to win the confidence of Muslims are good as far as they go. However, even hundreds of such yatras will not take him even an inch closer to the throne of Delhi. Hindus, and Hindus alone, can propel him to power at the Centre, if they choose to.
For BJP’s central leadership, Narendra Modi poses a dilemma: he is viewed as a great asset and also as a great liability. Modi’s popularity crossed the borders of Gujarat long ago. He emerged as a national leader on the back of resolute leadership, efficient administration and a clean image. He enjoys a good deal of support from the RSS, which in BJP is a trump card.
With ears close to the ground, easy accessibility and a sound track record of delivering on promises, Modi has acquired a measure of credibility and charisma which none of the BJP’s central leaders possess. Shivraj Singh Chauhan of Madhya Pradesh and Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh have also earned popularity on similar strengths, but neither appears to be keen, as of now, to play a leading role at the Centre. Modi is a different case. BJP bigwigs cannot ignore him or his ambitions.
However, if Modi is selected to command BJP forces in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election, many BJP leaders will have to forget their ambitions and rein in their lust for power. The pull of such lust should not be underestimated.
These leaders want Modi to campaign for the party, not only in Gujarat, but also in other states where his presence can make a difference, while expecting him to confine his own ambitions to Gujarat. Modi is unwilling to oblige them, unless he could augment his own political capital by campaigning outside Gujarat. He wants to be the commander, not a foot soldier. This subtle tug of war is slowly becoming visible and will emerge out in the open by the time of the Lok Sabha election.
It is equally certain that if BJP selects Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, it will have to forget not only about the few (if any) Muslim votes it gets, but also about allies who are mortally scared of annoying Muslim votebanks. Therein lies the rub. Barring the Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena, all other parties in the NDA are enamoured of the ‘secular’ label. The hypocrisy of leaders like Nitish Kumar is infuriating. By insisting that the NDA candidate for prime minister must have a ‘secular’ image, he is playing to the green gallery while trying to keep a powerful rival off the field. The ploy is too transparent to be missed, but, unfortunately, it threatens to work.
Muslims are naturally amused to watch the game. In their view, their security (actually, political clout) lies in keeping out of power any party or leader who enjoys any credibility – real or fake – among the Hindus. And if Hindu leaders can articulate that position for them in as many words, so much the better.
This is a decisive moment, not just for the BJP or NDA, but for Hindu society. The modern Hindu intelligentsia has failed to grasp a basic fact: clout, influence, power or authority is central to human relations. Power that is not exercised eventually wears off and vanishes. Hindu intellectuals rarely examine any issue, development or trend in terms of Hindu influence or power. For most of them, such an exercise is weird and anti-secular if not anti-national. They think it is beneath them to indulge in it. Hindu society has paid, and continues to pay, a heavy price for this failure of its intelligentsia.
In the post-independence period, Hindus have never asserted primacy of their civilisational identity at the political level. They have never claimed to be the essential national society, the fulcrum of the polity around which every institution and organization must arrange itself. In contrast, Muslims realize the centrality of power in relations with non-Muslims. They can and do use their votes as an effective political weapon. I do not criticize Muslims for doing so, just as I do not applaud Hindus for neglecting power equations in post-independence India.
Hence it is that Hindus have become political orphans in the only country they can call their own. Hence it is they are still maligned for Gujarat riots ten years after the event, while the original provocation (burning alive of 59 Hindus by a Muslim mob without any provocation) is all but forgotten. Hence it is that heartrending tales of Kashmiri pundits, who have suffered far greater atrocities for much longer, hardly ever evokes any sympathy at all from any political party – not even the BJP. Hence it is that Hindus can speak as Dalits, Adivasis, Jats, Yadavs, Kurmis, Lingayats, Reddys, Vanniars and Nairs, but not as Hindus. Hence it is that 12 per cent Muslims, without uttering a word, can frighten mighty Hindu politicians into rejecting anyone with Hindu credentials…
In the pre-independence period, a con game was played in the name of nationalism. Only that party, that leader was national (and could speak for the whole country) which was not opposed by the Muslim League. In this reckoning, the Congress was an organization of Hindu banias, but the Communist Party of India was a national organization. After independence, the same game is played in the name of secularism. Only that party, that leader, that programme or proposal is secular which is not opposed by Muslims. The name has changed, participants have changed, but the game remains unchanged. And so does its objective: to keep the Hindus on the defensive.
How history repeats itself! Congress is now saying about BJP whatever Jinnah used to say about Congress in 1940s: that it is a party of Hindu banias, that Muslims can never expect justice from it, that if it ever came to power then Muslims will have to fear for their lives and so on. Again the object is the same: to use Muslims as political pawns to delegitimize and checkmate nationalist sentiments.
Narendra Modi has the power to break this game. Without a single Muslim vote, without making any special or specific gesture to Muslims, he has swept assembly elections, not once, but twice, in Gujarat. He has demonstrated that if Hindus stand solidly behind any leader, he does not have to flatter Muslims. This is why he is regarded as a mortal enemy by most Muslims, all brokers of Muslim votes, and all parties hankering after the Muslim votebank.
If Modi can replicate at the national level what he has done in Gujarat, it will decisively break the stranglehold of Muslim votebanks on Indian politics, breathe a new self-confidence in Hindu society and force a rethink among Hindu politicians in non-BJP parties. Muslims will become just one of the many groups in Indian politics and thus join the national mainstream.
Whether Modi is interested in attempting this feat, whether BJP will give him an opportunity to make such an attempt is, of course, another matter. His sadbhavna yatras have aroused speculation that he, too, may be craving acceptability among circles that want BJP to shed every trace of Hinduness. As to BJP, it does not deserve a single Hindu vote as of now as a party of Hindu nationalism. But that does not affect the position outlined in the earlier passages.
If the BJP really regards itself as a party of Indian nationalism, it should distance itself from those hankering after the 12 per cent votebank and announce Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The author is Executive Editor, Corporate India, and lives in Mumbai
Not ‘Secularism’ again
Posted online: Sun Jun 24 2012
Now that the Chief Minister of Bihar has dragged ‘succularism’ into the political discourse, it is time to deconstruct it so that we can end this pointless debate once and for all. I have deliberately misspelt the word because when said in Hindi that is how it is usually pronounced. It is a hard word to write in devnagri and the Hindi and Urdu equivalents do not quite mean what secularism has come to mean in the Indian political context. It is a foreign word that evolved in a European context when the powers of the church and the state were separated. In India, since none of our religions were led by pontiffs who controlled armies, or had vast temporal powers, we had no need to make this separation.
But, the word secularism is used in India more than almost any other country. Why?
Well, because when we entered our current era of coalition governments, political parties of leftist disposition found it convenient to keep the BJP out of power by saying they would only ally with ‘succular phorces’. The BJP became a pariah after the Babri Masjid came down and so whenever someone like Nitish Kumar wants to hurl abuse at the party he is in alliance with in Bihar, or one of its leaders, the ‘secularism’ debate gets revived.
Currently, he appears to be positioning himself for prime minister in 2014 and seems to believe that he will only be in the running for this job if he can eliminate Narendra Modi before the race begins. He is not alone in this endeavour. On my wanderings in Delhi’s corridors of power last week, I ran into journalists and politicians who went on and on about how Modi could never be prime minister because of the violence in Gujarat in 2002.
They said pretty much what the Chief Minister of Bihar, and his cohorts, have said which is that the prime minister must be a man who is ‘clean and secular’. So how do we explain Rajiv Gandhi? How should we understand why he was given the biggest mandate in Indian parliamentary history after justifying the pogroms that killed thousands more Sikhs in 1984 than Muslims were killed in Gujarat in 2002? Were Indian voters un-secular when they gave him more than 400 seats in the Lok Sabha?
If there were still a chance of major communal riots in the future, there may have been some point to reviving this talk of secularism. But, there has not been a single major Hindu-Muslim riot since 2002 despite Muslims from next door having been responsible for the worst terrorist attack on Indian soil in 2008. Before 26/11, there were other attacks by Islamists on Hindu temples, commuter trains in Mumbai, stadiums in Hyderabad and bazaars in Delhi. None of these ugly acts of violence caused riots. Our 24-hour news channels have made communal riots impossible and the average Muslim has begun to understand this. I noticed this while travelling in Uttar Pradesh during the recent elections.
So let us stop this silly talk of secularism and communalism and start demanding from those who want to become India’s next prime minister that they tell us what they can do for this country.
Here is my own list of questions.
What will the next Prime Minister do to end the licence raj that prevents the education system from achieving its full potential? What will he do to fix our broken public healthcare system? What will he do to make sure that every Indian has enough electricity to at least light a few bulbs and run a ceiling fan in his home? What will he do to create new jobs for the estimated 13 million young Indians who enter the job market every year? What will he do to revive the Indian economy? What steps will he take to ensure that India becomes a fully developed country by the middle of this century?
When I heard Aung San Suu Kyi’s address to both houses of Britian’s Parliament in Westminster hall last week, what impressed me was the clarity with which she spelt out her vision for her country. But, throughout her speech, something kept bothering me and by the time she finished, I discovered what it was. What bothered me was that I could not think of a single Indian leader who could make such a speech.
The Indian political landscape today has become a desert in which only the stunted progeny of stunted political leaders bloom. We need our political parties to throw up real leaders and we need a political discourse in which real political problems are discussed.
So can we stop fishing ‘secularism’ out of the dustbin of history and holding it up as a shining ideal? Its relevance faded a long time ago.
Follow Tavleen on : Twitter @ tavleen_singh
SIT report uncovers the murky world of anti-Modi cottage industry, where cops, journalists, NGOs, politicians are in nexus
(our Thanks to DeshGujarat.com and Japan Pathak)
Ahmedabad, 9 May 2012
In its closure report, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has clearly expressed an opinion that “certain vested interests including Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, different NGOs, and some political leaders were trying to use honorable Supreme Court/SIT as a forum for settling their scores”. The SIT has in its report noted that “Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been colluding with the persons with vested interests to see that some kind of charge-sheet is filed against Shri Narendra Modi and others.” The report has quoted some email communications of Sanjiv Bhatt that clearly make a point that Bhatt had attempted to influence Amicas Curiae through NGOs, media campaign and pressure groups.
The SIT in it report says: Government of Gujarat vide its letter dated 22-6-2011 forwarded a set of emails exchanged between Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, DIG, Gujarat Police and certain individuals during April and May 2011. It was mentioned in the above letter that during the course of an inquiry instituted against Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS by DG (Civil Defense), Gujarat regarding misuse of official resources, some revelations have been made having direct bearing on the cases being monitored by SIT. The material forwarded by Govt. of Gujarat has been scrutinized and the salient features of the same are summarized as below:
(1) That top Congress leaders of Gujarat namely Shri Shaktisinh Gohil, Leader of Opposition in Gujarat Legislative Assembly and Shri Arjun Modhwadia, President of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee are in constant touch with Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, DIG. They are providing him ‘packages’, certain materials and also legal assistance. Further, on 28-04-2011 Shri Sanjiv Bhatt exchanged mails with Shri Shaktisinh Gohil and the former gave point for arguments in honorable Supreme Court matter, allegations to be made against the members of SIT and to establish that the burning of a coach of a Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station was not a conspiracy. From the emails, it appears that Shri Sanjiv Bhatt was holding personal meetings with senior mentions that he was ‘under exploited’ by the lawyer representing Congress before Nanavati Commission of inquiry.
2. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been persuading various NGOs and other interested groups to influence the Ld. Amicus Curiae and the honorable Supreme Court of India by using ‘media card’ and ‘pressure groups’.
3. Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been exchanging emails with one Nasir Chippa and in the email dated 11-5-2011 Shri Bhatt has stated that he (Nasir Chipa) should try to mobilize support/pressure-groups in Delhi to influence Ld. Amicus Curiae Shri Raju Ramchandran in a very subtle manner. In another email dated 18-5-2011, Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had requested Shri Nasir Chippa to influence Home Minister Shri P.Chidambaram through pressure groups in U.S. It is believed that Shri Nasir Chippa has strong U.S. connections and his family stays there.
4. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt arranged an appeal from Shri M.Hassan Jowher, who runs a so called NGO titled SPRAT(Society for Promoting Rationality) to Amicus Curiae on 13-5-2011, to call Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS, Shri Rajnish Rai, IPS, Shri Satish Verma, IPS, Shri Kuldeep Sharma, IPS and Shri Rahul Sharma, IPS (all police officers of Gujarat) to tender their version of the Gujarat story. It may be mentioned here that the draft for the said appeal was sent by Shri Sanjiv Bhatt himself to Shri Jowher, Further, a copy of this mail was circulated by Shri Sanjiv Bhatt to Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, Ms. Teesta Setalwad, Shri Himanshu Thakker, journalist, Shri Leo Saldana, journalist and Shri Nasir Chippa to encourage the prominent persons/organizations to write to Amicus Curiae on the similar lines so as to pressurize him.
5. In emails exchanged on June 1, 2011 between Shri Sanjiv Bhatt and Shri M.H.Jowher, it was proposed that a PIL may be field through a lawyer named Shri K.Vakharia( a senior advocate and chairman of legal cell of Congress party in Gujarat) in the Gujarat High Court for providing security to Shri Sanjiv Bhatt. It was also proposed that another complaint may be filed with the Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad city against Shri Narendra Modi and others for his alleged involvement in 2002 riots which would be taken to appropriate judicial forums in due course.
6.That Ms. Teesta Setalwad, her lawyer Shri Mihir Desai and Journalist Shri Manoj Mitta of Times of India were in constant touch with Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, IPS and were instrumental in arranging / drafting of the affidavit for filing the same in honorable Supreme court. Vide email dated 10-4-2011, Shri Bhatt solicited “Co-ordinates” from Ms. Teesta Setalwad, who had also arranged for a meeting with her lawyer Shri Mihir Desai at Ellis bridge Gymkhana, Ahmedabad. Shri Sanjiv Bhatt sent the first draft of his proposed affidavit to Shri Manoj Mitta on 13-4-2011, after meeting Shri Mihir Desai, Advocate and invited his suggestions. Shri Manoj Mitta advised Shri Sanjiv Bhatt to incorporate a few more paragraphs drafted by him which were incorporated by Shri Sanjiv Bhatt in his final affidavit sent to honorable Supreme Court of India as suggested by Shri Mitta.
7. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt was instrumental in arranging an affidavit of one Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary, a journalist, to corroborate his claim that he had gone to attend a meeting called by the Chief Minister at his residence in the night of 27-2-2002. Significantly, Shri Bhatt had sent his mobile phone details of 27-2-2002 to Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary and had also suggested that probable timings of his meeting to Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary on 15-5-2011. Simultaneously, these details were sent to Ms. Teesta Setalwad on 16-5-2011, for drafting the document, presumably the affidavit to be filed by Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary. Shri Sanjiv Bhatt sent an email to Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary that the said affidavit could be leaked out to the print media which would force the Amicus Curiae and honorable Supreme Court to take notice of the same. Shri Sanjiv Bhatt also sent another email to Shri Shubhranshu Chaudhary, in which he has stated that they should play the ‘media trick’ so that affidavit is taken seriously by Amicus Curiae and the honorable Supreme Court.
8. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been exchanging emails with one Leo Saldana, a Narmada Bachao Andolan activist, with a view to mobilize public opinion in their favor. On 1-5-2011, Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had sent an email to the latter to the effect that what they needed to do at this stage was to create a situation, where it would be difficult for three judges Supreme Court bench to disregard the ‘shortcomings of SIT under stewardship of Mr. Raghavan’ and that the pressure groups and opinion makers in Delhi could be of great help in forwarding the cause. He has further stated in the mail that he was hopeful that things would start turning around from the next hearing, if proper pressure was maintained at national level.
9.That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt was trying to contact Shri K.S.Subramanyam, a retired IPS officer, through Shri Nasir Chippato make an affidavit supporting his stand with a view to convince the Amicus Curiae and through him the honorable Supreme Court of India that Shri K.Chakravarthi, former DGP of Gujarat, was a liar.
10. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been taking advice of Ms. Teesta Setalwad in connection with his evidence before Nanavati Commission of inquiry. He had also been in touch with various journalists, NGOs and had been forwarding his representations, applications and other documents through email, whereas on the other side he had been claiming privilege that being an intelligence officer he was duty bound not to disclose anything unless, he was legally compelled to do so.
11. That Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been maintaining a close contact with Shri Rahul Sharma, DIG of Gujarat Police and had been getting his mobile phone calls analyzed with a view to ascertain his own movements of 27-2-2002. This shows that Bhatt does not recollect his movements on that day. He has also been trying to ascertain the movements of Late Haren Pandya, the then minister of state for Revenue on 27-2-2002, with a view to introduce him as a participant of the meeting of 27-2-2002 held at CM’s residence, but could not do so, as Shri Rahul Sharma had informed him after the analysis that there was absolutely no question of Late Haren Pandya being at Gandhinagar on 27-2-2002 night.
From the study of emails, it appears that certain vested interests including Shri Sanjiv Bhatt, different NGOs, and some political leaders were trying to use honorable Supreme Court/SIT as a forum for settling their scores.This would also go to show that Shri Sanjiv Bhatt had been colluding with the persons with vested interests to see that some kind of charge-sheet is filed against Shri Narendra Modi and others.
– Peace and prosperity after bloodshed in Gujarat
(The Telegraph, Friday, March 2, 2012)
It may sound callous, but there was something patently disgusting about the way the media and activists colluded to turn a grim 10th anniversary of the 2002 Gujarat riots into a celebration of victimhood. From star anchors rushing to Ahmedabad to hug victims to the overuse of the photograph of the unfortunate Qutubuddin Ansari pleading for his life, every tear-jerking potential was cynically exploited. What should have been a solemn occasion of remembrance, perhaps leading to a pledge to make sectarian violence a thing of the past, was, instead, turned into an all-too-familiar Indian tamasha, culminating in riotous television discussions.
The reason for this ugly turn of events should be obvious. Ten years after the arson attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra became the trigger for murderous violence throughout Gujarat, the issue of ‘justice’ has been transformed into a political blame game. The activists who have doggedly kept the issue alive, despite the apparent lack of responsiveness in Gujarat, have shifted their priorities markedly. The issue is no longer one of securing the punishment of the rioters and those responsible for inhuman conduct, but the political targeting of one man: the chief minister, Narendra Modi.
The unspoken assumption is that justice will be served if Modi can be prosecuted for personally facilitating the carnage. As an additional bonus, the framing of charges against Modi is calculated to ensure his exclusion from the political arena and consequently bring to an abrupt end any possibility of him being in the reckoning for the prime minister’s post. In short, if you can’t beat him, disqualify him.
Had Modi shown himself to be electorally vulnerable, the need to fight him judicially would have evaporated. A Modi defeat in either 2002 or 2007 would have prompted the self-satisfied conclusion that “Gujarat has redeemed itself”— in the same way as, it is proclaimed, Uttar Pradesh redeemed itself by rejecting the Bharatiya Janata Party after the demolition of the Babri shrine in 1992. However, the prospects of the clutch of activists moving on to the next available cause have dimmed following the realization that not only has Modi strengthened himself politically but that the Congress in Gujarat lacks the necessary qualities to mount an effective challenge. Consequently, the only way they see to fight Modi is to remove him from politics altogether.
There is another factor at work. Over the past 10 years, Modi has transformed Gujarat spectacularly. After winning the 2002 assembly elections in a communally surcharged environment, he has deftly shifted the political focus of Gujarat from sectarian identity issues to rapid economic development. Gujarat was always an economically vibrant state and entrepreneurship is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the average Gujarati. Modi has played the role of a great facilitator by creating an environment that is conducive to the double digit growth of the state’s gross domestic product. He has toned up the administration, improved the finances of the state exchequer, brought down corruption markedly and made every rupee expended on government-run schemes a factor in economic value addition. Modi has been the model rightwing administrator pursuing the mantra of minimal but effective governance. His election victory in 2007 wasn’t a consequence of Hindu-Muslim polarization; it was based on his ability to deliver good governance.
Secondly, Modi successfully shifted tack from Hindu pride to Gujarati pride. This meant that hoary grievances centred on sectarian hurt were subsumed by a common desire to take advantage of the dividends flowing from a prolonged period of high economic growth. The popular mentality of Gujarat has undergone a discernible shift in the past decade. In the 30 years since the Ahmedabad riots of 1969, which left nearly 650 people dead in just five days of mayhem, Gujarat had become a riot-prone state.
With its sharp communal polarization, Ahmedabad epitomized that trend. After the 1969 flare-up, there were riots in 1971, 1972 and 1973. Then, after a period of lull, rioting resumed in January 1982, March 1984, March to July 1985, January 1986, March 1986, July 1986, January 1987, February 1987, November 1987, April 1990, October 1990, November 1990, December 1990, January 1991, March 1991, April 1991, January 1992, July 1992, December 1992 and January 1993. This chronology, assembled by the political scientist based in the United States of America, Ashutosh Varshney, in his Ethnic Conflict and Civil Life (2002) tells a story of unending curfews, social insecurity and escalating hatred affecting the two communities. It was a story replicated throughout Gujarat, including the otherwise integrated city of Surat that witnessed fierce riots in 1993.
Since March 2002, Gujarat has been riot-free. Curfews have become a thing of a distant past. What has occasioned this exemplary transformation? The facile explanation, often proffered unthinkingly by secularists anxious to find fault with Modi, is that Muslims have been too cowed down by the sheer intensity of the post-Godhra majoritarian backlash. Such an explanation presumes that riots are invariably begun by a section of the Muslim community — a problematic proposition and not always empirically sustainable.
More compelling is the explanation that factors in the larger administrative and economic changes in Gujarat over the past decade. First, both the civil administration and the political leadership have internalized the lessons from their inability to control mob violence in 2002. The police have been given a free hand to operate without the interference of small-time politicians attached to the ruling party. There has been a crackdown against the illicit liquor trade and the underworld that gained its muscle power from its proceeds. At the helm, there is an unspoken understanding that another riot, with its attendant TV coverage, would extract an unacceptably high political cost. That is why there is special attention paid to curbing Hindu extremism — a phenomenon that will affect Modi most adversely.
The biggest change has, however, been at the societal level. Gujarat today is a society that is obsessively preoccupied with making money and taking advantage of the economic opportunities that have presented themselves. With the end of boredom, a happy present and an appealing future, the belief that riots are bad for dhanda has seeped into society. This is not to suggest that the bitterness of the past has been replaced by idyllic bonhomie between communities. Far from it. Sectarian conflict persists in cities such as Ahmedabad, and less so in Surat. But there is a distinction that Varshney makes between sectarian conflict and sectarian violence. One need not necessarily lead to the other if contained within the parameters of economics and politics. The Muslims of Gujarat don’t possess the political clout they enjoyed earlier under Congress rule. But this has been compensated for by growing levels of prosperity. Those who argue that the economic development of Gujarat has bypassed Muslims should look at the economic empowerment of communities such as the Bohras, Khojas and Memons.
To many, Gujarat’s obsession with economic betterment may seem an expression of denial for the larger societal involvement in the 2002 riots. This may be partially true, since Gujarati Hindus view the post-Godhra troubles as something they don’t want to be reminded of incessantly — a point which the state Congress has grudgingly acknowledged. But it doesn’t distract from Modi’s undeniable success in changing the agenda dramatically in 10 years to the point where hardened Hindutvawadis now regard him as an enemy of the cause.
The riots of 2002 were horrible. But the important thing to note is that 10 years after the butchery, Gujarat is basking in peace and unprecedented prosperity. Now, that is something to celebrate.
India’s dubious Secularists
But what is distressingly shameful is the politics of contrast. See how the secular media, parties, leaders and state glorified Husain’s right to abuse Hindu gods and goddesses to wound Hindus and how the same secular actors repeatedly decried Rushdie’s similar right to hurt Muslims. Now something even more shameful. The ‘seculars’, including the media, had ceaselessly condemned the normal protests against shows displaying Husain’s painting and pontificated to Hindus about the need for tolerance. But they wouldn’t utter a word against the violence by Muslims nor ask them to be tolerant. The reason is obvious. They are dishonest.
(Views expressed in the column are the author’s own)
S Gurumurthy is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues.
Harvard wrestles with free speech
At a time when Kapil Sibal’s statements on monitoring online content have raised a furore in India, his alma mater Harvard is engaged in free speech issues of its own. Two recent decisions taken by the Harvard University raise pertinent questions relating to the University’s ethos of dissemination, debate, and freedom of expression.
The first concerns the decision to exclude Janata Party leader Subramanian Swamy’s courses from the Harvard Summer School course catalogue. The second is the University’s decision to close Harvard Yard to outsiders involved in the Occupy movement.
A NEWSPAPER OP-ED
To begin with, on December 7, Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences took the unprecedented step to remove the summer economic courses taught by Mr. Swamy, himself a PhD from Harvard. The decision was based on a controversial op-ed written by him in the newspaper Daily News and Analysis(DNA) on July 16 in response to terrorist attacks in Mumbai. In the op-ed, he had offered strongly worded ideas on how to “negate the political goals of Islamic terrorism in India.” Among his ideas were that India should “enact a national law prohibiting conversion from Hinduism to any other religion,” “remove the masjid in Kashi Vishwanath temple and the 300 masjids at other temple sites,” and “declare India a Hindu Rashtra in which non-Hindus can vote only if they proudly acknowledge that their ancestors were Hindus.”
Undoubtedly, the op-ed is execrable in so many ways, starting with cloaking itself with an understanding of social and religious history of India, and making suggestions that would leave a lot of people speechless with outrage just to think of them. Notwithstanding that, however, Harvard ought to stand for Mr. Swamy’s freedom of speech.
Freedom of speech is probably the most sacred constitutional guarantee of all, and the true test of this sacred right is when someone uttering morally repugnant thoughts exercises it. The U.S. courts have long held that in times like these, there is a need to swallow hard and understand that, in a free society, any restriction on speech or expression must be taken under very serious consideration and pass some very stringent tests regarding public safety, and clear and present danger.
To take just one example: recently, a case was brought against Fred Phelps, a pastor, who demonstrated at the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq, with signs that said things like “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “You’re going to Hell” because, in his twisted mind, America’s war deaths were God’s punishment for the U.S. tolerating homosexuality. In the case brought by the dead soldier’s father alleging an injury for the intentional infliction of emotional distress, the U.S. Supreme Court held for Fred Phelps (protecting his right of speech), and against the dead soldier’s father by a vote of 8-1.
In doing so, the U.S. Supreme Court solidified the notion that underlying the constitutional protection of freedom of speech and expression are values that transcend what people like Mr. Phelps and Mr. Swamy say — values important to everyone. And when free speech rights are attacked, if one allows the least popular and morally abhorrent people to be deprived of their free speech rights, then it is not long before others are deprived too. Thus the battle for free speech is always fought on the fringes, with people whose thoughts find scant endorsement. Protecting their rights does an essential public service, because it protects everyone’s rights.
Examined through the above constitutional lens, Harvard’s decision to exclude Mr. Swamy’s courses, and thereby effectively oust him from the teaching roster, appears harsh. Also, Harvard has in place strong commitments to free speech in its policies, and this decision violates these policies. The University’s “Free Speech Guidelines,” adopted in 1990, state, for example, that “curtailment of free speech undercuts the intellectual freedom that defines our purpose. It also deprives some individuals of the right to express unpopular views and others of the right to listen to unpopular views.”
Although the subject matter could not be more different, the second decision displays the same oppositional stand of Harvard against a libertarian conception for freedom. It relates to the University’s decision to close Harvard Yard to outsiders engaged in the Occupy movement that has erupted all around America.
Harvard Yard is a calm and vibrant community space where students, tourists, and community members sit and stroll. Many buildings, including dormitories, libraries, a church and lecture halls, surround it. In the month of November, tents had sprouted on Harvard Yard in solidarity with the Occupy movement. The Occupy movement at Harvard was made up of Harvard students, staff and faculty, and posed no threat to the security of Harvard affiliates.
However, on the pretext of security, the University ordered a complete lock-down of the campus, thereby depriving outside protestors the basic freedom to have an open conversation on the campus. In doing so, Harvard reinforced institutional exclusivity and elitism — features that the Occupy movements seek to change.
Many professors of Harvard shared this sentiment. Notably, Duncan Kennedy, a Law School professor, wrote an open letter to Harvard President Drew Faust expressing his dissatisfaction with the way the University administration handled the protest. Without a doubt, the decision to close the gates amounts to a violation of the freedom of assembly in the most general sense by saying that Harvard is off limits to those that seek to engage in a public-spirited discussion.
It is bewildering how a peaceful movement in protest against economic inequality would provoke the lock-down of a University that admits students because of their commitment to the democratic values of an open and just society. This, and the decision to rebuke Mr. Swamy, is precisely the sort of action that a university dedicated to intellectual freedom must seek to avoid.
It is central to Harvard’s thriving as a centre of excellence that it immediately reassures that freedom of expression will be protected at Harvard. The University must honour its commitment to policies that allow diverse opinions to flourish and to be heard. And who knows in doing so, Harvard might just provide its famous Indian alumnus, who has recently been at the receiving end of a lot of flak, a much-needed free speech message.
(Karan Singh Tyagi, a graduate of Harvard University, is an associate attorney with an international law firm in Paris.)
CNN-IBN says: “At CNNIBN we remain committed to fair and impartial journalism and do not intend any disrespect towards any religion or community. ” This is a news to me. Either they do not think of Hindu Dharma as a religion and Hindus as a community, or I have been snorting high grade cocaine all these years when watching Sagarika Ghosh and her cohorts! – Gaurang G. Vaishnav
Here is mail,which I received from CNN-IBN’s legal head.
From: Kshipra Jatana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 25 November 2011 12:37
Subject: RE: Complaint regarding content
To: Vinay Joshi <email@example.com>, complaint <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Thank you for your email to us.
Face The Nation, is a late night–10pm–show. Often our esteemed panelists cannot come to our studio or OB location at that time as they are in remote locations or unavailable at 10pm at night. We thus record small interviews with them, after taking their consent that this will be played in the Face The Nation debate. This was done with Sri Sriji as he was in Mirzapur, UP, and not able to come to our studio at 10pm.
We should have made it clear to our viewers that it was a recorded interview and not a Live interview. We accept our mistake and have given an unqualified and unconditional apology for the error on our channel. We have even called on Sri Sriji in Bangalore and tendered our apologies to him. He has forgiven us and said for him the matter is closed.
There was absolutely no intention on our part to disrespect a universally beloved and esteemed spiritual leader like Sri Sri Ravishankar.
At CNNIBN we remain committed to fair and impartial journalism and do not intend any disrespect towards any religion or community. If we unwittingly did so, we are deeply apologetic.
Thank you for your interest in CNN IBN
Kshipra Jatana | EVP & Head Legal
TV18 Broadcast Limited
From: Vinay Joshi [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: 23 November 2011 20:25
Subject: Complaint regarding content
Dear Ms. Kshipra Jatana,
EVP & Head Legal
TV18 Broadcast Limited
CNN-IBN has broadcasted programme titled “Face the Nation” on November 9, 2011,the topic of the discussion was, “Should spiritual leaders participate in anti-corruption campaign?” Sagarika Ghosh was an anchor conducting the episode. A prerecorded interview of Sri Sri RaviShankar, the spiritual head of Art of Living, was passed on as a live one. The manner in which the various quotes of Sri Sri Ravishankar were used clearly showed that there was a malicious attempt to demonise Sri Sri. Ravishankar.
IBN shamelessly fabricated, manipulated, amended and twisted the pre-recorded interview of Shri Shri Ravishankar and presented it to audience as LIVE debate with Shri Shri Ravishankar.On September 16.2011 News Broadcasting Standards Authority’s Annie Joseph with her signature on it, had issued advisory to all it’s members regarding use of cation “LIVE”.But within very short time span Sagarika Ghosh efficiently sidelined the advisory.
It clearly proves that CNN-IBN staff neither respects such a advisory nor it has any value for NBA advisory. Also manner with which Sagarika Ghosh conducted the episode proves that she clearly knew that Shri Shri Ravishankar is not live, also she was aware about fabrication made with interview, but she had intention to demonize Ravishankar.
With this letter,I am requesting you to take stern action against Anchor Sagarika Ghosh and editor of the channel along with each and every person responsible for this cheating If you fails to do so,I have to explore other possible ways to punish respective persons, who cheated audience and Shri Shri Ravishankar.