New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
A Dalit poet writing in English, based in Kerala
Foreword to Media Tides on Kerala Coast
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel

വായന

30 September, 2008

Anti-terror law will be misused by extremist political parties, says AHRC

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong:

There is no universally agreed definition for the term terrorism. In the absence of a common definition, particularly when the argument - one state's 'terrorist' is another state's 'freedom fighter' - holds good in the current day world order, often attempting to define the word 'terrorism' and an act as 'terrorist activity' invites criticism. However, the United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/Res/49/60 entitled Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism dated 9 December 1994 attempts to provide a reasonable definition to the term.

The resolution tries to define the term as "[c]riminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstance unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or any other nature that may be invoked to justify them".

If the above explanation provides a reasonable definition to the term 'terrorism', the Hindu fundamentalist political parties in India for many of their violent acts, must be charged, tried and punished for engaging in terrorist activities. The ongoing violence reported from the state of Orissa, which ultimately had its anticipated spillover effect throughout the country, in this context, qualifies to be an act of terror.

The violence in Orissa is sparked off by Hindu fundamentalist political parties in India -- the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Bajrang Dal. These three parties who advocate the resurrection of Brahmanism are supported by their flagship political organisation the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal cadres attacked, raped, murdered, burned, looted and destroyed person and property belonging to non-Hindu communities, particularly the Christians. The assailants specifically targeted literate Dalit and tribal communities that follow Christianity. As of today, 22 persons from these communities are confirmed to have been murdered - some even burned to death - within the past one month and property worth millions has been destroyed.

The violence that intensified after the murder of four VHP cadres soon spread uncontrollably affecting almost the entire state. There are justifiable allegations that the Orissa state administration was informed sufficiently well in advance about the possibility of the violence. Yet neither did the administration take adequate precaution to prevent it or to control the violence from spreading once it began. In fact, the recent incidents reported from Orissa are only the latest in a series of violence in that state which is infamous for being intolerant to religious freedom.
It is beyond doubt that the VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal are behind the recent spate of violence reported from India. It is equally definite that the motive behind the unjustifiable violence is intended and calculated to provoke a state of terror among the Dalit, tribal, converted Christian and other non-Hindu communities in India for political gain.

The BJP and its political allies like the VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal have justified the violence on the ground that Dalits and tribal community are lured to follow other religion and that it is required that these converts must be 'purified' and 'reconverted' into the folds of Brahmanism. These political forces further argue that a change in religious belief by the Dalits and the tribal community across India upsets and further destroys India's original identity.

It is trite to argue however that the hidden agenda behind this new found concern for the Dalits and tribal community members by the advocates of the Brahmanical identity of India is to retain and preserve the caste based religious practices that are getting uprooted in India. These persons include a majority of Hindu religious leaders in India and abroad, who advocate Brahmanism as a justifiable means sanctioned by their religion to practice discrimination and social stratification. They campaign for the superiority of the Hindu upper caste over the Dalits, tribal and persons following other religions.
None of the so called national media in India has tried to address this deeper aspect of the issue. The media houses in India often tend to crowd together information, adopting a reporting style that better fits the mainstream political and religious groups. For example, one self-proclaimed national media in India reported today news that justifies the need for a national legislation to combat terror quoting the Chief Minister of Karnataka state. Adjacent to this article was a report about the bomb blasts in Gujarat state, accusing the involvement of some Muslim organisations.
These pieces of information, clustered together in a single page present to an average reader the wrong message that a particular religious group is responsible for all terrorist activities in India. Selecting and presenting news that suits vested political interests to cater readership and support has become a habit of the Indian media. Such reporting style that undermines journalistic values demands conscious effort by the reader to deconstruct the news to gather unbiased information.
The Hindu religious and political leaders spare no opportunity to condemn the 'terrorist' activities in India. There is no doubt that such activities must be condemned. But their original intent is to target the entire Muslim community in the country and to hold the Muslims in India as anti-national. If unjustifiable acts like bomb blasts and other forms of violence are imputed to certain criminal factions of the Muslim political groups in India and its neighbouring countries and labelled as 'terrorist activity', there is no reason why the violence committed against the Dalits, tribal and other non-Hindu communities in India are also not termed so.

Ignoring and hiding this fact and logic, the BJP led leaders also demand that the union government come up with a legislation that would empower the state police and other crime investigating agencies to press charges against suspects of their choice for alleged terrorist activities. The BJP led political and religious leaders also accuse the union government of entertaining a 'soft' stand on terrorism.

For example, the Chief Minister of Karnataka state, Mr. B. S. Yediyurappa, in a statement issued on 28 September has followed the example pitched in by Mr. L. K Advani, the national leader of the BJP, in accusing the union government of not taking enough action against 'terrorist' activities in the country. The statements issued by these individuals, contradict the violence perpetrated by their own cadres and political allies.

While the state governments, particularly those in close alliance with the BJP, promote violence in the name of preserving the original identity of India, their unique demand for a possibly draconian legislation to combat terrorism in India can only be viewed as a demand for a legal instrument to perpetuate further violence against targeted religious communities. Such an instrument will only further intensify the divide between different religious communities in India, from which only extremist Hindu political parties like the BJP, VHP, RSS and the Bajrang Dal would derive short-term political gains.

# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Nanavati Report on Godhra Tragedy: Erasing the obvious truths

BY RAM PUNIYANI

Recently Justice Nanavati-Mehta (N-M) submitted their report to Govt. (Sept 2008). What it has done must be very close to the desire of the ruling establishment which reaped a rich harvest due to the Godhra train burning and the anti Muslim pogrom in the aftermath of the same.

The report after the investigation for six long years is just the first part. While legally it is tangible that the investigating judge can present the report in parts, the logic behind this is not very clear. In a way the outcome of the report should have been well predicted as just some months after being appointed, Nanvati and (then) Shah stated that there is not much evidence against VHP etc., and this gave the indication that the commission had already made up its mind as to what type of report was to be given. The depositions of the witnesses and the evidence presented was selectively constructed to ratify the pre arrived conclusions or what were to be presented as the conclusions.

N-M report operates on the basis that it was a preplanned conspiracy by local Muslims in collaboration with the ISI. It concludes that Haji Umarji the local cleric presided over the meeting of Muslims where this conspiracy was hatched. They bought 140 liters of petrol, cut open the vestibule between S 6 and S 7, spread the petrol and burnt the coach. This conclusion is arrived without even a single eyewitness to the burning of the train. There were 200 passengers in the overcrowded train but no eye witness account has been cited to ratify their conclusion.

This conspiracy theory has serious holes in it. That the train is carrying the returning Kar Sevaks was not a public knowledge, not even the state officials knew about it. The only people who knew that the Ram sevaks were returning by that train were the VHP-BJP combine. The train was late by five hours and this totally debunks the theory of conspiracy by Muslim community. If they did not know that train is carrying Ram Sevaks how could they conspire and how could they implement the same if train was late? If conspiracy is at all to be believed the finger of suspicion should be in some other direction!

Than, if the commission says the vestibule was cut open, why such valuable evidence was permitted to be sold in the scrap? The depositions show that the first train stoppage at Godhra station was due to the Ram Sevaks pulling the chain as some of them were left out on the platform and the second one was due to technical fault. For conspiracy by them they should have stopped the train, which is not the case. This again goes against the conspiracy by Muslims theory.

While trying to come to this theory first N-M operated on the line that the burning rags and some chemicals were thrown from the windows but soon it shifted to the theory that vestibule was cut. The earlier thesis that petrol was poured from outside was not tenable as Forensic laboratory, FSL, had strongly maintained that petrol cannot be poured from outside due to the height of the rail track and the height of the train. Then comes the vestibule theory. One imagines for cutting the vestibule the train has to be stopped by the conspirators, but second time the train stopped due to technical snag and not due to pulling of chain. And then to cut the vestibule to be able to enter the coach is not an easy job.

The report is a new low in the arena of investigation. So far we witness a good deal of objectivity in many inquiry committees. But this is totally silent on practically most of the crucial issues involved in the train burning. Sophia Bano was dragged by Kar Sevaks and she stated the same to the commission, but her testimony has been sidelined. The commission has based its total finding on the police officer Noel Parmar, whose findings were rejected by the Supreme Court and so it appointed R.K Raghavan. The hurry, in which N-M has submitted its part one, can easily be understood. As Lok Sabha elections are close, this part is meant to influence the elections. As such as is clear from the functioning of this commission it was already working on the theory propounded by Narendera Modi in the aftermath of Godhra train burning, and N-M have just ratified his thesis. They have selectively picked and chosen the evidences to suit their preformed opinion, ignoring the crucial testimonies which could have led them to the truth.

The N-M report is totally silent on Justice U.C. Bannerjee report. As per the Railway Act after every major accident, a probe has to be instituted. At that time BJP ally Nitish Kumar was the Railway Minister. He did not abide by the rule. No inquiry was done ostensibly to protect his ally. When Lalu Yadav became the Railway Minister he instituted the Bannerjee committee, which concluded that it was an accident. Now when N-M is coming with its report today, already one report is there, whose findings are contrary to its own. Therefore, it has to refute them to stand the ground. No such effort is made. One also fails to understand why the demand to cross-examine Modi was rejected as there was a case for interrorogating him, based on phone call records. Most importantly the whole thesis of burning by patrol falls to the ground with FSL report saying that the analysis of residues shows that petrol was not used.

R.B. Sreekumar, who has been one of the forthright officers and he refused to bow to the Modi administration. He filed his affidavit to N-M commission giving his version. He commented that he was threatened by state officials if he dares to speak the truth. He had recorded these conversations also. N-M was duty bound to take these seriously, either to accept them or reject them with due explanation, but there is a total silence on the submissions of Sreekumar.

All in all, this report is a disgrace on the norms of investigation. This also symbolizes that there are sections in professional life who are willing to play to the bidding of the rulers to please them for various reasons or they themselves are heavily under ideological influence to deviate from professionalism, objectivity and pursuit of truth.

--
For Cinrculation/publication

www.pluralindia.com

ram.puniyani@gmail.com

29 September, 2008

More on Terror and Terrorists

Some Bombs Get Defused
By Smita Gupta


Just who is a terrorist? Definitions change when it comes to the Hindutva extreme

http://www.countercurrents.org/gupta290908.htm

Delhi 'Encounter' Raises Tough Questions
By Praful Bidwai


It’s a matter of shame that India’s anti-terrorist police cells haven’t managed to rise above the suspicion that they prefer brutal and even barbaric methods over due process of law. Unless their anti- terrorist strategies and operations undergo radical reform, the minorities whom they selectively target will never feel secure or part of the national community as full citizens.

http://www.countercurrents.org/bidwai290908.htm

Hunter better than Nanavati

By R.B. Sreekumar

29 September, 2008
Countercurrents.org

The Nanavati Commission report deserves the description as a whitewashing document of the aggressors than the conclusion of an enquiry. This is an immature, partisan and inconclusive report which has a political motive. It can only be seen only as a predetermined script. The report hides the heinous acts of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and co, who were the perpetrators of the violence. This is not a blind attack by me, but an analysis based on facts.

I am a police officer, committed to the Constitution, who has filed four affidavits before the Nanavati Commission. Every commission has the responsibility to analyse and probe the truth about the information even if it is scribbled on a torn piece of paper. As the report of a senior Intelligence officer in the state, my affidavits have their own seriousness in the state where genocide (it would be a big lie to history as well as to humanity to term the atrocities unleashed in Gujarat as Hindu-Muslim riot) took place. Many things, with proof, about the situations that led to the riots and the roles of the senior officials in them have all been included in the report submitted before the commission.

I have been threatened by Government Pleader Aravidn Pande and Home Secretary Murmu that it would cause repercussions if I tell the truth before the Commission. (Pande's poisonous hissings had been brought before the people of the country by 'Tehleka'). I have even recorded their speeches and presented before the Commission. The Commission had the responsibility to verify the truth about them. The Commission should also have recommended punishment for me had the affidavits I submitted been false. Instead of this the Commission canonized the perpetrators of the riots.

The Supreme Court has authorized a committee headed by former CBI director Dr. Raghavan to probe into the incidents. It also gives rise to a lot of suspicion about the submission of the Nanavati report when their work is in progress. This report disappoints every citizen who wants to see the rule of the law and secularism surviving in the country.

Right from the start there had been flaws in the workings of the Nanavati Commission. The Hunter Commission which probed the Jalianwala Bagh mass murder had recommended punishment and demotion of the British officials responsible for the incident. It is at once shameful and dangerous to note that a probe held in independent, democratic and secular India under a Justice is not even as honest as the Hunter episode.

It will, in no way, be helpful to the people of India, instead, it will foster insecurity in the minority Muslim community and also create a mistrust in Muslims for the law and justice system of India.

This report has made Modi happy. BJP has also vociferously welcomed it. Because it is a report against a community, which they want to throw out from the country. Like Modi's men another group will also be happy about the report: the nefarious forces which want to exploit the discontent in the Muslim minds and attract them to become the pawns of terrorism. However who doesn't know both these forces have the same ulterior motive to exploit the situation created by bloodshed and instability.

R.B. Sreekumar was Additional Director General of Police in Gujarat.

27 September, 2008

A Zen Response to Terrorism

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk who in 1964 was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr., has published a new book of advice to Americans and to U.S. Congress members called "Calming the Fearful Mind: A Zen Response to Terrorism."

See Calming The Fearful Mind by David Swanson at Countercurrents.org site

26 September, 2008

The media under the scanner

Countercurrents.org has circulated two articles on the media’s handling of the alleged encounter killings in Nw Delhi.

Finally it has happened: the main stream media in India has for the first time come out with something other than the 'official version' of the encounter killings that have taken place in the country, says L. George.

See “The Mainstream Media Questions Delhi Encounter Killings” by L. George

Monday, September 22 was an extraordinary day in the annals the Indian media, says Sadanand Menon. “I would like to call it a day of shame. For, on that day, our media collectively displayed its herd-like mentality and its entirely uncritical attitude to the use – and misuse – of the photographs it publishes”.

See ‘Media Manipulation By Police To Create A Distinct Communalized Imagery” by Sadanand Menon

Ill-treatment of two women undertrial prisoners in Raipur

Advocate Sudha Bhadarwaj of Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh writes:

Dear friends,

After two attempts, in which we were refused for some technical reason or other, finally myself and Advocate Sadiq Ali managed to meet with the two women undertrials K Shanti Priya @ Malti Reddy and Meena Chaudhari presently lodged in the Central Jail at Raipur in connection with cases of waging war, sedition and offences under the Arms Act.

Both these women were on a protest hunger-strike between August 27 and September 8 (both days inclusive). Though they are not on hunger-strike now, Meena Chaudhari is still rather weak, is having low blood pressure and is complaining of giddiness.

The details of the events, as told to us during our jail interview with Meena and Malti are briefly as follows:

1. It had been amply clear for some time that the jail authorities were looking for some excuse to lodge these "Naxalite" women prisoners in the newly constructed solitary cells of the women's wing of the Central Jail, Raipur.

2. On August 23, during the Collector’s visit, Meena and Malti had raised some of the common grievances of all the women prisoners in an application, On 25th they were taken to the hearing as usual.

3. On August 26 at about 7 pm, eight women jail staff, four women convicts and one woman gatekeeper took hold of Meena and said that it has been ordered that she must be taken to the "gunha khana" (convicted cell). Meena and Malti repeatedly asked to see the order for this and protested. Upon which these people dragged Meena by her hair, kicked her into a flower-bed and then dragged her kicking and beating her and locked her up in a solitary cell. She had bruises and scratches on her thighs, wrists etc. but has not been medically examined so far. Meena protested vociferously and nearly lost consciousness from the exertion of her protest by 10pm. At this, the jail authorities probably panicked and they took her out of the solitary cell and brought her back to her regular barrack.

4. The next day, i.e. August 27, the two women squatted on the "chabutra" (platform) in the main courtyard of the women’s jail and demanded that they be shown the order under which Meena was forcibly put in the solitary cell. They refused to take food and had to be brought back to the lock-up each night.

5. These women prisoners wrote letters to the DIG, Jail, the IG, Jail, and the Collector. Even earlier, in April, these women had undertaken a three-day hunger-strike to ensure that the Deputy Collector carried out his regular inspections.

6. The Jail Superintendent, Mr. SS Tigga, came on the 28th. Fortwo or three days the women refused even water, which forced the DIG to visit them on 4th. He said that all their grievances mentioned in the letter to the Collector were being investigated, and advised them to eat their food. He claimed he had received their letter only on that very day. However, despite repeated iteration, no order was shown to them. In fact, it has not been shown to them to the present day. They were not medically examined even once despite the fact that they were on hunger-strike for 14 days.

7. Even the story of the contents of the mysterious 'order' have continuously changed. First, the jail authorities said it was on the basis of the argument they had with the lady jailor on the 26th when Malti had requested that she be given "rakhi"and the jailor had passed the order. Later, they said it was an order of the court, which is not true. Finally, they said the Superintendent had passed an order on the basis of some charges against them but Mr Tigga denied this on the 28th. Clearly some backdated cover-up process is going on and possibly some 'order' might have been manufactured by now. In fact, the prisoners complained that they have come to know that 15 to 20 women inmates have been forced to write false complaints against them by threatening them with enhanced penalties of two to three years! In reality they were having very cordial relations with all the other inmates. Though Meena was so badly beaten, it is being falsely made out as if she had attacked the jail staff which is a sheer impossibility.

8. The most shocking thing was the attitude of the State Human Rights Commission. A team of the commission visited the jail while the women prisoners were on hunger- strike. At that time Malti was so weak that she could barely write an application, as asked. But the team refused to take their letter and rather admonished them that "they should listen to the Madam Superintendent". Clearly the commission has no independence vis-a-vis the jail or police authorities. When a citizen is in the custody of the State, then it is extremely important that he/she is at least given a fair hearing by some independent agency. Otherwise there can be no hope of justice for them in the period of their incarceration.

9. Ever since Meena and Malti were incarcerated, owing to their protests, the beating of women inmates had completely ceased. But now the other prisoners are threatened with dire consequences if they even speak to them. Thus they are being isolated even when they are kept in the common barrack. The women prisoners are now given more workload and worse quality food, and the jail staff tell them that all this is the result of the protests of the "Naxalite" women.

10. Since this incident the two women are not permitted to do the computer activities or stitching which they were doing earlier. They are being harassed by diluting their dal and vegetable to make the food even more unpalatable and non-nutritious. Even the list of items that they requested to be purchased at their own expense are not given to them.

The above are the bare facts. Please forward these to all concerned individuals and organizations. We seek the co-operation of all of you in ensuring that prisoners in Chhattisgarh are treated lawfully and with dignity and that undertrials are not persecuted for alleged political offences.

Sudha Bharadwaj
EWS 90, Nehru Nagar, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh.
Mobile No.: 09926603877. E-mail: advsudhacmm@yahoo.co.in

Capitalist self-help societies

George Bush has reduced the dosage of capitalism slightly. Pinarayi Vijayan, Secretary of the Kerala State Committee of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has reduced the dosage of revolution also slightly. Is this not enough to realize that the world is changing? Ronald Regan became US President with a promise to the people to get the government off their back. The reforms initiated by him in US and by Margaret Thatcher in Britain strengthened world capitalism. Gorbachev’s reforms brought down Communist regimes in the Soviet Union and East Europe. The US and the World Bank together brought about a new global capitalist order. While all this was happening, China, through timely policy changes, emerged as the biggest beneficiary of the new order.

When Mao proclaimed the ‘great leap forward’ he only had the modest goal of overtaking Britain. But, in the three decades since Deng set cats, without regard for their colour, to catch rats, China has registered an average annual growth of 10 percent and is now poised to get past the US and become the world’s largest economy. China got ahead not by refusing to deal with Uncle Sam but by enlisting his cooperation. It was more than a decade before Deng joined hands with world capitalism that T.V. Thomas, CPI Minister of Kerala, thought of rescuing the State with the help of Japan, then the fast growing country. The plan got aborted since E.M.S. Namboodiripad, CPI (M) Chief Minister, was not willing to reduce the dosage of revolution. Even if Pinarayi Vijayan had incarnated earlier, Japan might not have showed interest in Kerala. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s visit to Japan in 1969 to enlarge economic cooperation with that country did not yield much.

The world has been waiting for a century and a half for the collapse of capitalism forecast by Marx. Although the internal contradictions of capitalism grew continuously during this period, it did not collapse. It was the Communist countries which were waiting for its fall that collapsed. But Dr T.M. Thomas Isaac, Kerala’s Finance Minister, has not given up hope. He has pointed out that what we are seeing in US now is anarchy which, Marx had said, would appear in the closing stages of capitalism. Marx had envisaged Communism as the post-capitalist phase of the industrialized world. But the world has moved into the post-industrial phase without waiting for Communism. When China overtakes the US it can claim two special attributes. One, of course, is that it is the world’s largest economy. The other is that it is a capitalist country under Communist rule. The US, too, has special attributes. Its external debt is 40 percent of the GDP. No other developed country has an external debt of this size. Some economic experts are of the view that the US, which has been the undisputed leader of the developed world since long, is now rapidly undeveloping.

For many years, the US has been incurring expenditure in excess of its revenue. It has able to survive because of the inflow of money from abroad. This is true of Kerala too. But the circumstances are not similar. Money is flowing into Kerala because people from the State are sweating it out somewhere else. When Japan and Germany, which were defeated in World War II, started making economic progress, they had good relations with the US. Economic interests brought them together. One factor that helped in the US economic advance was the availability of cheap oil. When oil prices shot up in the 1970s the US had reasons to worry. But the US did not suffer as the Gulf States invested their oil money there in a big way. Whenever the US experienced difficulties, the other capitalist countries have come to its rescue. When dollar slumped, Japan and other developed countries entered the currency market to arrest its slide. The reason is that their interests, too, demand that the dollar must survive. They know that if it goes down, along with the US economy, their economies too would flounder.

The US buys from China each year much more than China buys from it. China’s trade balance is now estimated at more than $ 100 billion. Using this money, China has bought a pile of US treasury bonds. It can be said that Americans are now buying Chinese products with money lent by China. That more than half of US government bonds are now with the Asian countries proves their interdependence. If the US economy declines, the country will stop buying Chinese goods. China will then stop buying US bonds. It may even sell the bonds in its possession. As a result, the US economy will deteriorate further. If the Chinese economy suffers, again, it will stop buying US bonds. That is to say, the money the Chinese are holding will not reach the US. Thus, it is in China’s interest to keep the US going and in the US interest to keep China going.

The collapse of the leading US financial institutions is the inevitable result of the irresponsible policies pursued by the government for years. Now the Bush administration has drawn up a $ 700 billion package to rescue the economy. This is about a quarter of the country’s annual expenditure. The cost of the Iraq war is also of this order. Three big financial institutions of the country have come under the government’s control as a result of the measures taken by the administration. The people have to carry the government on their back again! The impression that the economy suffered badly under Bush is not quite correct. Until last year it had in fact recorded respectable growth. However, only the very rich, constituting five percent of the population, benefited by the growth. Bush took a special interest in this group. He did not show the same consideration to the victims of typhoon Katrina. Aren’t things here more or less the same? After all, the ruling establishment does not have the same intense interest in the agitating landless people at Chengara as in those who have filed applications to set up special economic zones.

We should be more concerned about what is happening in the Gulf States than in what is happening in the US and China. As a result of the steps they took, looking ahead to the post-oil period, the Gulf region, especially the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain, have gained recognition worldwide as major financial and trading centres. More than 700 US firms are making use of the facilities there. The Gulf States view the problems of the US as a rare opportunity. They are trying to buy whatever they can. The Kuwait Investment Authority, which has at its disposal $ 200 billion to invest, recently acquired $ 5 billion worth of stocks in the troubled Merryl Lynch and Citigroup. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority has lent $ 7.6 billion to Citigroup. At present, a Saudi prince is the largest shareholder (4.9%) of the Citigroup, which is the world’s largest bank. Abu Dhabi will now take the first place. So long as the current developments do not affect the Gulf States adversely, Keralites can be at ease. Their dream destination is safe.
Based on article written for ‘Nerkkazhcha’ column in Kerala Kaumudi

25 September, 2008

Hold World Bank accountable, says People’s Tribunal

India and the international community must join to hold the World Bank accountable for policies and projects that in practice directly contradict its mandate of alleviating poverty for the poorest, says the People’s Tribunal on the World Bank Group in India.

In a judgment, the tribunal says: “The evidence and depositions we have witnessed presents a disturbing and shocking picture of increased and needless human suffering since 1991 among hundreds of millions of India's poorest and most disadvantaged in rural areas and in the cities. It is clear to us that a significant number of Indian government policies and projects financed and influenced by the World Bank have contributed directly and/or indirectly to this increased impoverishment and suffering. All this has taken place while a minority of India's population that constitutes the middle class and rich has enjoyed the fruits of an economic boom.”

The following persons constituted the jury:

Amit Bhaduri, economist and social activist, he has authored many books and been

Professor Emeritus at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

Meher Engineer, Physicist and former Director of the Bose Institute.

Ramaswamy Iyer, Former Secretary of Water Resources, Government of India

Alejandro Nadal, Professor of Economics at the Center for Economic Studies, El Colegio de Mexico.

Bruce Rich, Program Co-Director and Staff Expert at Environmental Defense

Aruna Roy, Social activist

Arundhati Roy, Novelist, author and activist

Justice P.B. Sawant, Former judge of the Supreme Court of India

S.P. Shukla, Former Secretary of Finance, Government of India

Sulak Sivaraksa, Founder and director of the Thai NGO “Sathirakoses-Nagapradeepa Foundation”.

Justice H. Suresh, Former Mumbai High Court Judge

Justice KK Usha, first woman to be appointed to the position of Chief Justice of Kerala High Court.

See text of the JUDGMENT

Jamia teachers condemn witch-hunt, demand independent impartial enquiry

The following is a statement issued by the Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group on September 25:

At the very outset we, the members of Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group would like to state that we strongly condemn terrorism of all kinds, including State terrorism.

The events of 19th September and subsequent days have left the Jamia community shocked, aggrieved and fearful. In particular the manner and the suspicious circumstances in which young boys, many of them students of Jamia Millia Islamia, have been picked up by the Special Cell, and pronounced "dreaded terrorists" by a trial by an utterly sensationalist and prejudiced media has created an atmosphere of fear and suspicion.

On the day of the operation indiscriminate arbitrary detentions were made that included five school children living in the flat opposite and were released only late in the night. Arrests are continuing unabated. Even as some teachers had accompanied senior lawyers to meet with the families of boys picked up, on 23.09.2008, around 5 o' clock, news arrived that Saqib Akhtar, a 17-year-old boy, a distant cousin of slain Atif Amin, had been picked up from his residence in Abul Fazal Enclave. A complaint with the police was filed at the Jamia Nagar Police Station. Within an hour the Special Cell communicated to the boy's family that he would be released. It appears that the presence of a well-known Supreme Court lawyer, teachers from Jamia, and senior journalists pressured the Special Cell enough to refrain from detaining an innocent boy, and ensured that Saqib returned home safe the same evening. This incident illustrates the vulnerability of the people residing in the locality: not only are they subject to arbitrary 'arrests' by the Special Cell, which whisks them off to undisclosed locations, the local police refuses to file complaints or feigns ignorance. Further, they lack recourse to proper legal aid.

We as teachers feel that we cannot afford to isolate ourselves in intellectual ivory towers. There is an urgent need to reach out to the community which lives at our very doorstep, and where a large number of teachers, administrative staff and our students reside. The locality has been besieged by a sense of alienation, terror and insecurity. We unequivocally condemn this brazen witch hunt in the name of fighting terror and pledge solidarity with the people of Jamia Nagar, and especially the families of those whose boys have been picked up and arrested without a shred of evidence.

We hold the police and Home Ministry directly responsible for the on-going communal witch-hunt and therefore demand –

1. National Human Rights Commission recommendations regarding establishing an inquiry after every encounter be implemented and FIR against police officials involved in the act be immediately made;

2. Independent fact finding teams and even sections of the media have raised doubts about the veracity of the police version regarding the 'encounter' on 19th September and the subsequent arrests made on that basis. We therefore demand, a time-bound, independent inquiry into the deaths of Atif Ameen, Sajid and Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma headed by the sitting judge of the Supreme Court be immediately conducted;

3. Autopsy reports of Mr. Sharma. Atif Ameen, and Sajid, panchnama of the site, seizure list of the people picked up by the police for inquiry be made public.

4. We further demand that a list of students who have been picked up by the Delhi Police/ Special Cell should be provided to the University immediately. We further demand that the University authorities see to it that no students (whether living in the hostel or not) are picked up/ arrested without intimating the university authorities.

5. We also demand that no student or citizen picked up for questioning are tortured in custody and that their rights as citizens are not denied.

The Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group would not only conduct an extensive civil society campaign including programmes like "Jan Sunwai" in the community where human rights activists and prominent members of the secular, democratic intelligentsia would be invited to join and work for providing all kinds of assistance including legal aid to people who have been accused of terrorist activities but also meet the Home Minister in order to stop the on-going communal witch hunt in the community.

The Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Group intends to extend the movement to include teachers from other universities, as well as other bodies such as the DUTA, JNUTA, IGNOUTA, and other democratic and secular individuals and organisations.

Signed:

Prof. Farida Khan (Faculty of Education)

Prof. A. K. Ramakrishnan (Centre for West Asian Studies)

Prof. Janaki Rajan (Faculty of Education)

Prof. Azra Razzack (Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies)

Prof. Navnita Behera (Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution)

Dr. Neshat Quaiser (Department of Sociology)

Dr. Padmanabh Samarendra (Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies)

Dr. Sanghamitra Misra (Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution)

Dr. Ravi Kumar (Department of Sociology)

Dr. Narendra Kumar (Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies)

Dr. Rahul Ramangundam (Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies)

Dr. Farah Farooqi (Faculty of Education)

Dr. Anuradha Ghosh (Department of English)

Manisha Sethi (Centre for the Study of Comparative religions and Civilizations)

Sreerekha (Centre for Women's Studies)

Tanweer Fazal (Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution)

Ahmed Sohaib (Centre for the Study of Comparative religions and Civilizations)

Kamei Aphun (Department of Sociology)

Dr. Shahid Jamal Ansari (Centre for West Asian Studies)

Dr. Sabiha Hussain (Centre for Dalit and Minorities Studies)

Ambarein Qadas (Mass Communication Research Centre)

M.G. Shahnawaz (Department of Psychology)

Waseem Ahmed Khan (Faculty of Education)

Meher Fatima Hussain (Centre for Dalit and Minority Studies)

Harpreet Kaur Jass (Faculty of Education)

Arshad Ahmed (Faculty of Education)

Dr. Sarwat Ali (Institute of Advanced Studies in Education)

Dr. Rafiullah Azmi (Centre for West Asian Studies)

Arshad Alam (Centre for Jawaharlal Nehru Studies)

Dr. Arif Ali, (Department of Biotechnology)

Adil Mehdi (Department of English)

Harisul Haq (Jamia Middle School)

Dr. Ranjeeta Dutta, (Department of History)

Dr. Shohini Ghosh, (AJK Mass Communication Research Centre)

Dr. Sabina Gadihoke, (AJK Mass Communication Research Centre)

Dr. Baran Rehman, (Department of English)

Trading Places - China and US in the economic crisis

In times of hardship, China and the United States seem to have traded places, says Jun Wang, New America Media commentator.

In a news analysis, distributed by NAM, Jun Wang says: “The United States seems to be moving closer to a Communist economy in the wake of the financial implosion, while officially Communist China is hurtling towards capitalism.”

The article can be accessed here.

24 September, 2008

Another fact-finding report from Orissa

The following is a press release issued by a fact-finding team which visited Kandhamal district of Orissa on September 22:

A fact-finding committee of 16 human rights activists from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa toured the violence affected parts of Kandhamal district during the last two days to ascertain the factual details and the background concerning the wide spread events of arson, looting and murder aimed at the Christian people.

The team consisted of Dr. B. Ramulu, K. Balagopal, V.S. Krishna, V. Vasantha Laxmi, K. Murali, Rathnam, Shaik Khadar Baba (Human Rights Forum-HRF-Andhra Pradesh), V. Chitti Babu, V.V. Balakrishna, G. Raghuram, N. Srimannarayana and P. Venkata Rao (Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee-APCLC), Prof. A. Marx, (People Union for Human Rights, PUHR, Tamil Nadu), K.Kesavan, (Centre for Protection of Civil Liberties CPCL-Tamil Nadu), Prof. N. Babaiah, (People's Democratic Forum-PDF-Karnataka) and Debaranjan Sarangi, Social Activist, Orissa.

The team visited the relief camps at Darangabadi and G. Udayagiri. In addition we spoke to people of Baliguda, Brahmanigaon, Midiakia, Budrukia, Damikia, Jugapadar (Nuvagam), Lakebadi, Raikia, Kattingia and G.Udayagiri.

Before we begin a narration of the state of affairs, we must strongly condemn the attitude of the administration which is preventing anyone from meeting the inmates of the camps. Because of this we could spend only a short time at the camps of Darangabadi and G. Udayagiri. The situation we found in G. Udayagiri illustrates why the attitude of the administration is condemnable. The camp is located in tents put up on open ground which has become muddy in the continuous rains. The people are forced to sit on the water logged ground. We found pigs and other animals roaming around the place where food was being cooked. There is every likelihood of infections breaking out any day in this camp. When we spoke about this to the Relief Commissioner (southern region) Shri Satyabratha Sahu over telephone, he gave the unacceptable answer that other communities are objecting to the establishment of relief camps in pucca public buildings. Since these other communities are responsible for the Christians being reduced to refugees in their own land, their objection cannot be a consideration at all. But this is symptomatic of the way the administration is handling the violence.

From the very first day after killing of Lakshmanananda Saraswathi, there have been prohibitory orders in force in the whole of Kandhamal district. All the arson and murders took place during the prevalence of these prohibitory orders. It appears that the prohibitory orders were only useful to prevent the victims from assembling to protect themselves. They were never enforced against the large mobs of assailants. The marks of assaults could be seen in the burnt houses, church and other structures all along the road from Baliguda to G,Udayagiri and elsewhere.

As the administration well knows, the attacks continued to take place even after deployment of para-military forces and assurance given by the State government to the Supreme Court. A series of villages were attacked as recently as 18 September in the Raikia block and even as we were talking to people of Raikia information reached them that the Bajrang Dal planned to attack Sugudbadi, Padunbadi, Gundhami, Gamandi and Sisapanga. Even from other sources we have heard that large scale attacks are likely to take place today (22-9-2008). May be this is a precursor to tomorrow's programme that is the Kalash Yatra of the slain VHP leader. We have drawn the attention of the DIG of police southern range to this fact and though he assured us that the administration would give all necessary protection, given the fate of complaints made by the victims in the last one month there is reason of apprehension.

We were told by many of the victims that whenever they have given complaints to the local police station the response has been lukewarm. Even when specific names were mentioned, the FIRs were registered against unidentified persons. Even when information about an imminent attack has been given the SHO has not responded with a sense of urgency. These cannot be dismissed as imaginary complaints because the same people have appreciated the action of Rapid Action Force (RAF) in protecting lives and property. One instance is the attack on the village Kritapada in Raikia block.

The slogans uniformly given by the assailants when they looted and burnt villages show that they belong to Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal etc. While some arrests have been made by the police, the victims complain that the main leaders of these organizations are not only not arrested but some of them are on the peace committees set up by the administration. In the villages the same organizations are issuing threats that the victims will not be allowed to come back unless they agree to give up Christianity and convert to Hinduism. This is blatant violation of the constitutional fundamental right of freedom of religion. The administration appears to be helplessly looking on while such blatant suppression is taking place.

The VHP has been campaigning that there have been forcible conversions by the Christian missionaries in this area. On the other hand the victims have complained of forcible conversion by VHP. We will deal this issue in the detailed report that is to follow. For the present all that we need to say is that any forcible conversion is an offence in the eyes of law and can be dealt with by giving an appropriate complaint. Nobody has a right to indulge in mass violence against the Christian community in the name of forcible conversions. On the other hand we are of the opinion that the violence of the last one month is a planned attack on the Christian minority engineered by the Hindutva forces using gullible Adivasis as an instrument. The use of fire arms, petrol and other weapons, the selection of a lengthy route from Jalespeta to Chakapada along Christian habitations, and the blocking of all roads by cutting big trees indicates prior planning. The killing of Lakshmanananda Saraswathi merely gave an opportunity to them. While we do not support the killing of VHP leader, his followers have no right to indulge in mass reprisals and the administration cannot be a mere onlooker.

We place the following demands before the state government:

1. Visitors should be allowed to meet the inmates of the relief camps.
2. The camps should be located in pucca structures with protect from sun and rain and clean surroundings.
3. There is an impression that the administration is putting pressure upon the inmates of the camps to go back to their villages. The official number of persons in the camps has been reduced from 27000 to 13000 without the conditions improving at all in the villages. We demand that the camps should be continued until the people are able to live in freedom and dignity in the villages.
4. While a number of separate FIRs are registered, it is necessary to realize that the attacks are a consequence of a conspiracy by the VHP, Bajrang Dal etc. The leaders of these organisations must be charged with criminal conspiracy and immediately arrested.
5. Prompt and effective steps must be taken to prevent recurrence of incidents of violence and create confidence in the Christian population.

K. Balagopal
, General secretary, HRF
V. Chitti Babu, Vice President, APCLC
Prof. N. Babaiah, PDF
A. Marx, State Organiser, PUHR
K. Kesavan, Joint Secretary, CPCL
Debaranjan Sarangi

Postpartum Depression: South Asian women in US suffer in silence

SAN LEANDRO, Calif. -- Poornima Jayaraman knew something wasn’t right after the birth of her baby girl last year.

“I was so happy when I found out I was pregnant,” says the young San Francisco Bay Area housewife, who immigrated to the United States with her husband four years ago. “Then Esha came and I was in shock. I wanted absolutely nothing to do with her.”

Jayaraman says she was constantly crying, and always angry at the baby and her husband. She would feed Esha irregularly, resenting the constant care she had to provide the newborn. The nonstop cries of her baby only served to further her depression, she says.

These are the opening lines of a news feature by Sunita Sohrabji, published by India West and distributed by New America Media.

In a note, NAM Editor says: “Asian Indian women, especially new immigrants, may have a higher risk of postpartum depression. Experts point to the isolation of their immigrant experience, along with the lack of the traditional support system found in their home countries, as possible explanations. India-West was awarded a fellowship from The California Endowment and New America Media to research and report on health issues."

To read the rest of the feature please go to NAM site.

23 September, 2008

Fact Finding into Jamia Nagar encounter killing

The following is the report of a fact-finding team, comprising Suprem Court lawyer Prasanth Bhushan, Dr Anup Saraya of AIIMS Front for Social Consciousness,
Advocate N.D.Pancholi, Vice-President , People’s Union for Civil Liberties (Delhi),
Shahana Bhattacharya of People’s Union for Democratic Rights, Ms. Sree rekha, Reader Jamia Millia, Adv Mayank Misra, Mr Shakeeb Ahmed of Janahstakshep,
and K. K. Bhattacharya, on the Jamia Nagar incident:


Date of incident: 19 September 2008

Date of first visit to Jamia Nagar area by team: 21 September 2008

1. The police sitting outside L-18 say that on the day of the incident six companies of police were here. Each company has 72 men.

2. Our observation- Nobody could have escaped from the building – the police in the first statements after the encounter otherwise said (as reported in electronic media) that 2 persons escaped during the encounter. The building has only one entrance and exit and there is a gap between the terrace of this building and next. It appears that this story of there being 5 men/boys is based on interrogation of Saif who was the youth who was arrested while Atiq and Sajid were killed during the encounter.

3. Zeeshan who also shared the flat/room had left at 8 am as he had a test(entrance test of some kind. Headlines Today reported him gone to IIPM for taking some reexaminations there, a Channel apparently has also run a clip of administratives of IIPM attesting to the fact!(More DETAILS?) was arrested later in the night of 19 Sep. According to Ameeque (cousin of Atiq and independent doc. film maker who has worked extensively for Doordarshan and editor of paper Samyik Varta), Zeeshan was wondering what he could do when he heard about the encounter after he got out of his examination and called some people about advice. Some told him to run away- but he didn't want to as he had not done anything wrong. He got the phone no. of the TV Channel 'Headlines Today' and went to their office to give his statement. This was partially aired. As he was coming out of the TV channel's office he was arrested by the police. He too is being called a terrorist.

4. Account of Badr Tasleem

Mr Badr Tasleem (works in Jamia in admn.) who lives in L-17 Jamia Nagar (next door to L-18 where the encounter took place on 4th floor) says that he first thought crackers were being burst but then he had some doubts and came out of his house to see what was happening. The sounds of the gunshots were coming from L-18 – there were already some men, i.e. presumably special cell men and the residents of the house, up there. He heard a scream. The gunshots continued. Then a group of men led by a man in kurta pyjama (who Mr. Tasleem has identified in one newspaper photo- he was possibly a plainclothes special cell person) with guns came running by asking for the way into the building (L-18) and ran up- planning among themselves as to who would "cover" whom (in the event of firing upon them).
Gunfire continued from the top floor of the house. There was no police cordon that he could see around the house or even too much in the lane. At least no one in uniform. After some time they brought down one man who was wearing a white shirt and blue tie- he was supported on two sides by two persons. Mr. Tasleem later learnt that this was Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma. There was no blood on the front of his shirt/clothes when he was brought down, except a small spot or mark on the right of his shirt. (not sure about this at all). The firing continued after that. They then brought down one person but completely wrapped up so he could not see who it was. They then brought another person's body but that was not covered. He could not see whose bodies these were.

The first time he came out of his house hearing gunshots (which were already being fired) was around 11 am and they continued till about 11.40. There was no police cordon before the Special Cell people had gone upstairs- ie before the gunfire started. And even when he got out of his house to see what was happening he saw that there were only 5-7 policemen around. There was no barricade at the end of the road either. The full force came only after 11.20 a.m. or so. A very large number of policemen came. Before that there were Special Cell (or STF as everyone here calls them) people in plainclothes but they could not tell.

5. Account of Ex-Councillor Mr. Asif Mohammad
(He was independent councilor and won from the entire area – including Sukhdev Vihar, Maharani Bagh etc- i.e not just 'Muslim' areas and had taken up the incident of fake encounter of Abu Samal in the same area in the month of Ramzan in 2002. In that case the police had made two eyewitnesses disappear. The people had held demonstrations in front of police station etc. He was then arrested and detained as a 'SIMI' member for eight and half months in jail and for some more months under NSA as they said he was with LeT. He was implicated in 24 cases and is presently an undertrial.)

He arrived on the spot around 11.10 or 11.15 am. According to him, there was police presence in the area from the night. Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma was seen at the juice stall outside at 11 pm on the night of 18th Sep. (He heard this from one of the local youths who has been a petty criminal and recognized Inspector Sharma). He says that there are eyewitnesses (who stay in house opposite L-18) who say that police 'Gypsies' went past the house twice at night – once at around 2-3 a.m and once at 4 am. People were awake on account of Ramzan schedule and they saw these. (We found no eyewitness nor much corroboration of this police presence from before. There was of course a lot of checking in the area after the blasts.)

He said that these boys had applied in the local police station (PS Jamia Nagar) for tenant verification – and there was a copy of this pending application with him. The application is stamped and received on 21 August 2008. The copy was with the person who was the caretaker of the house Abdur Rahman who works with PWD and lives nearby, who was acting on behalf of the landlord who lives in Ghaziabad (according to rent agreement, landlord's address was Aligarh). Abdur Rahman showed this to some TV channels and after that he was also picked up. Police wanted him to give them the form. They have also picked up his son Zia. They are now trying to say that this form is fake, their stamp on it is fake etc. However various NGOs also can distribute the form, Asif Mohd. said, and also one can download it from the net- they could look different therefore.

Atiq who was killed used to earlier stay in Sangam Vihar …If they were planning blasts would they in the application for verification have submitted their original village address (part of driving licence given as proof) – and PS (Sarai Meer, dt. Azamgarh). Also they put in the application after the blasts in July and before the blasts in Delhi. If they were mounting such an attack would they have given these truthful and original addresses?

Also all five names of those who were renting the house (Zeeshan Ahmed, Md. Saif, Md. Sajid (24 years) and Md. Sajid (20 years) and Mohd.Khalid) were added on the tenant verification form.

Asif Mohammad knows the area and the PS Sarai Meer in Azamgarh- and knows that the police there have had no complaints regarding the families of these youth.

About a week ago one Abdul Rashid Agwan (?), an older man, was picked up from Shaheen Bagh by the Special Cell and interrogated about SIMI – he had been member (?) -- he was repeatedly asked to name youth aged between 25-26 who had been part of SIMI whom he knew. He did not know anyone in that age group being an older man, and said so to the Special Cell who let him go with a threat.

Asif Mohd. raised questions about how Mohan Chand Sharma died, and says that according to his informal sources he was not hit from the front but from the back.
Badr Tasleem whom we spoke to before him had said that Sharma had no blood on the front of his body. By the time Asif Mohd saw him (or saw a man) near the Khaliullah mosque – there was a lot of blood on the lower part of his body.
At 11.10-11.15 when Asif Mohd came there was nobody from the media barring one man, one Saba Israr. They could not tell about how many policemen there were because many were in civilian clothes.

6. Account of Masih Alam, advocate, resident of L-17 Jamia Nagar

According to Adv. Masih Alam, he first heard firing from inside L-18 at around 10.45 am. (Ruk ruk ke firing ki awaaz aa rahi thi). He got out of his house to see and saw that there were 2-3 policemen at one end of the road (where the barricades now are) and 2-3 persons on the other side. After about 5 minutes (after 10.45 am) one injured person was brought down on foot supported by police…Then some 4-5 people wearing bullet proof vests went running up and then he heard the sound of 5-7 shots being fired. Then two policemen went up with a stretcher and got a body down.
There was very little police presence at least in uniform till then. There was no one below the flat for instance. But it would be impossible for anyone to escape from there. He does not know who the boys killed were- he has not been formally shown the pictures of those killed and is unable to say if these boys used to stay or visit there often.

As for the account that there was police and Special Cell presence in the area from the night he did not know much about it. There was a lot of checking in the area since the blasts.

Area leader Pervez Hashmi (present councilor) etc came later around 11.10 am or so along with LN Rao and Karnail Singh of Special Cell (the police say that they had taken him, Hashmi, into confidence).
The firing according to Masih Alam continued for about 15-20 minutes.

7. According to other observers while there were very few policemen on the street there was a very heavy outer cordon of police at least by 11.15.

8. Meeting at Jamaat Islami e Hind office, Abul Fazl Enclave-

Ameek, cousin of Atiq, gave his own background and that of Atif's own eldest brother Raghib Ameen, one of the most senior news cameramen in Delhi. They had all studied in Shibli School in Azamgarh and had come to the town to study from their village Sanjarpur in Azamgarh District). Atif asked Raghib's advice about what he could do as an elder in the family and Raghib told him to come to Delhi and take admission in Jamia. Atif wanted to stay with friends close to where he was to study and he asked Raghib and shifted near Jamia. He could not get admission into Jamia and joined B.Sc IT course in a private institute at South Extension. He stayed at that time in a DDA flat in Jasola. He had been in Delhi for three years. Just recently in July-August he got admission in PG course in Human Resources Management in Jamia and Ameek was aware that he had done so. He had also learnt that Atif had shifted closer to Jamia. He had told his brother that his 20 rupees daily conveyance fare would be saved by shifting to this new locality. Ameek did not meet him very often but happened to meet him 10-12 days ago. Atif asked him about a job or work- saying 'kab tak amma abba ke bharose rahenge'. Ameek told him that once he finished the course he could look for work.

8. Atif was 23 years old when he was killed.

9. Sajid the boy who was killed was just about 16-17 years old. (Ameek first told us about Sajid, then Sajid's brother Arshad came –he was in tears and had just come from Dubai where he works- Sajid is his youngest brother – Sajid and Arshad had two other brothers- Arshad was 17-18 years older than Sajid. Arshad told us and gave us a copy of his Identity card showing that Sajid was born in March 1991- therefore not 20 years old as given in police verification form) Sajid had come to Delhi to try to join Jamia in 11th standard. He had already completed his 11th class in Azamgarh but wanted to come here to better his chances. He did not clear the entrance examination, and was hoping to try again.
The family had not been officially informed about his death.

10. Ameek told us about the other two youth whom he knew about who shared the room. Khalid was enrolled in the second year of the BSc MLT (Lab Technician's course) at the Jamia Hamdard University.

11. Saif who is arrested had done his MA in History from a University in UP. Ameek met him when he met Atiq 10-12 days ago – he asked Saif what he wanted to do/be…Saif replied that he wanted to be a pilot- when Ameek asked him why he said that he had always been attracted from childhood when he used to see aeroplanes…

12. Zeeshan who was arrested by the police coming out of the Headlines Today office and shown as being arrested in Jhandewalan – had gone to write an entrance exam…had done a management course at IIPM(????) and had left home at 8 am that day. His father teaches at Shibli college, it is an educated family and like many others his father wanted his son to do well, go to Dubai or somewhere and earn some money, get a good job…and Zeeshan too was trying. His family members and everybody else are shocked.

13. We also got copies of a letter sent by the newly formed Indian Muslims Coordination Committee (formed for aiding in this case) to the Delhi State Minorities Commission in which they have demanded a judicial enquiry into this encounter.

14. We also have a copy of a letter sent by one student Suhaib Akhtar stating that one of his co tenants, one Mohd Rashid, s/o Shiv Murat, a research scholar in JMI was picked up on 18.09.08 by police in civil dress and had not reached the house till 20.09.08- the letter is addressed to the Lt. Governor and asks about the whereabouts of his co-tenant.

15. At the Jamia Nagar Police Station, the SHO Mohd Iqbal had gone to Court (there had been three arrests in this connection and hence he had to go to court). The Additional SHO also supposedly was not there/ did not want to speak. The FIR registered into the encounter (against the dead accused and others- we don't know contents) is no. 208/2008.
(PS Jamia Nagar- 26943227; 26945563; SHO Mohd. Iqbal- 9313609151; ACP (Sarita Vihar)- 26825588)

22 September, 2008

Let us have more of facts and less of name-calling

The best thing about blogs is the freedom they give to people to express themselves. This freedom opens up the possibility of healthy debates on issues. However, quite often, we take the easy way out: instead of challenging rival points of view by presenting facts we resort to name-calling.

Some comments that have appeared in this blog in response to material relating to the Orissa events and the Delhi blasts investigation, which I had posted, are a case in point.

The material I posted came from human rights defenders or organizations of good standing. That, of course, does mean their views must be accepted unreservedly. People are entitled to challenge those views. But when someone responds by throwing epithets, it is evident that he has no facts with which to counter the statements he is objecting to.

Jairam wrote: “I hope you are not a supporter of apartheid and discrimination against Hindus”. I would like to remind him that apartheid is a South African term, which denotes separate development. Long before the whites reached South Africa and introduced apartheid, the practice of putting people in separate compartments was introduced in India by the Vedic community, which today passes under the ‘Hindu’ label, although the term ‘Hindu’ does not occur in any of the Vedas.

R. Sajan observed that “a greedy Bishop’s Nilakkal joke created Hindu re-awakening in Kerala.” I do not know if he knows how the Nilakkal joke ended. A man in saffron clothes landed at the Thiruvananthapuram Central Station one day and contacted some Hindu leaders. He identified himself as the head of a Mutt in Varanasi and asked the Hindu leaders to resist the bishop’s Nilakkal plan. A Hindu resistance committee, with the Varanasi mutt chief as the chairman, was set up. As tension built up, the Chief Minister called Hindu and Christian leaders for talks. The Church may have been ready to stand up to the Hindus of Kerala, but with the Varanasi mutt chief heading the Hindus it looked as if they would have to take on the Hindus of India. They certainly were not ready for that. They agreed to remove the Cross from the Sabarimala route.

Now comes the real Nilakkal joke. A few years later, a man was arrested in Tamil Nadu in connection with a cheating case in Mumbai. Police said he was a master impersonator who was wanted in several cases. Under police questioning he confessed to many instances of impersonation. He told them he had posed as Varanasi mutt chief and solved the Nilakkal problem.

Do we really need cheats to solve our problems?

A few weeks ago there was a sudden spurt of comments in my Malayalam blog. One young friend with whom I have exchanged ideas previously posted a set of 10 questions to me. Soon he was joined by a few others in what lokkedan attempted cyber gherao or cyber uparodham. This was immediately after a party newspaper had asked the faithful to respond to Internet campaigns against the party.

I wish to thank all those who visit my blogs and record their comments. I am ready to debate issues at all times -- not with a view to getting converts to my viewpoint but to improving our understanding of events and processes in our society.

21 September, 2008

Some questions about counter-terror operation in New Delhi

A team comprising activists, academicians and journalists visited the site of the police operation against alleged terrorists staying in an apartment in Jamia Nagar, New Delhi, in the afternoon of September 20, 2008 (Saturday). Two alleged terrorists, Atif and Sajid, along with Mohan Chand Sharma, an inspector of the Delhi police's Special Cell, died in the operation while a third alleged terrorist was arrested.

On the basis of our interactions with the local residents, eye-witnesses and the reports which have appeared in the media, we would like to pose the following questions:

1) It has been widely reported (and not refuted by the police) that in early August this year Atif, who is described by the Delhi police as the mastermind behind the recent terrorist bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, underwent a police verification exercise along with his four roommates in order to rent the apartment they were staying in Jamia Nagar. All the five youth living in the apartment submitted to the Delhi police their personal details, including permanent address, driving license details, address of the house they previously stayed in, all of which were found to be accurate.

Is it conceivable that the alleged kingpin behind the terrorist Indian Mujahideen outfit would have wanted to undergo a police verification- for whatever purpose- just a week after the Ahmedabad blasts and a month before the bombings in Delhi?

2) The four-storeyed house L-18 in Jamia Nagar, where the alleged terrorists were staying, has only one access point, through the staircase, which is covered by an iron grill. It is impossible to leave the house except from the staircase. By all reports, the staircase was taken over by the Special Cell and/or other agencies during the counter-terror operation. The house -- indeed, the entire block -- was cordoned off at the time of the operation.

How then was it possible, as claimed by the police, for two alleged terrorists to escape the premises during the police operation?

3) The media has quoted 'police sources' as having informed them that the Special Cell was fully aware about the presence of dreaded terrorists involved in the bombings in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi, staying in the apartment that was raided.

Why was the late Inspector Mohan Chand Sharma, a veteran of dozens of encounter operations, the only officer in the operation not wearing a bullet proof vest? Was this due to over-confidence or is there something else to his mysterious death during the operation? Will the forensic report of the bullets that killed Inspector Sharma be made public?

4) There are reports that towards the end of the counter-terror operation, some policemen climbed on the roof of L-18 and fired several rounds in the air. Other policemen were seen breaking windows and even throwing flower pots to the ground from flats adjacent or opposite to L-18

Why was the police firing in the air and why did it indulge in destruction of property around L-18 after the encounter?

5) The police officials claim that an AK-47 and pistols were recovered from L-18.

What was the weapon that killed Inspector Sharma? Was the AK-47 used at all and by whom? Going by some reports that have appeared (see 'Times of India', 20.09.08), the AK-47s have been used by the police only. Is it not strange that alleged terrorists did not use a more deadly and sophisticated weapon like the AK-47, which they purportedly possessed, preferring to use pistols?

We feel that there are far too many loose ends in the current story of the police encounter at L-18 in Jamia Nagar. We demand that a fair, impartial and independent probe into the incident be initiated at the earliest to answer the above questions as also any other ones that arise from the contradictions of the case.

Shabnam Hashmi,
Satya Sivaraman,
Manisha Sethi,
Tanweer Fazal,
Arshad Alam,
Pallavi Deka.

18 September, 2008

The other side of terror strikes

Another serial blast. Thirty more lives sacrificed, some 100 people in hospitals. Predictable reactions from different quarters. Discussions on the TV channels. All told, enough material to pass 24 hours. At the most, 48 hours. After that, it is business as usual.

Since parliamentary elections are at hand, political parties may not allow us to forget the latest serial blast in a hurry. Especially so, since the Bharatiya Janta Party has decided to make terrorism an election issue. The party’s national leadership was meeting to work out election strategy when terrorists presented them with the serial blast.

The Delhi blasts were similar to those that occurred earlier in the capitals of BJP-ruled Rajasthan, Karnataka and Gujarat. Comparatively low intensity bombs were used in all these places. Earlier, terrorists had used a powerful explosive like RDX at Delhi and other places. The switch to ammonium nitrate could not have been motivated by a desire to reduce the damage. The reason must be that they were unable to get more powerful stuff. Earlier, terrorists had targeted famous locations like the Stock Exchange in Mumbai and the Akshardham temple in Ahmedabad. Now they place bomb at shopping centres. That, too, during peak hours. This indicates that their primary goal is to create fear in the people’s minds.

The terrorists are showing that they have the ability to strike at will anywhere in the country. The governments are not able to show that they have the ability to move against them single-mindedly. Like any other crime, it is for the state police to investigate an act of terror. The police’s record in tackling such cases has not been good so far. Although stringent legal provisions were invoked, more than a decade and a half was needed to mete out punishment in the cases registered after the first Mumbai serial blast. In many states, cases are pending since long without even reaching the trial stage. It was when the BJP, which accuses the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government of being soft on terrorism, was in power at the Centre that the country’s External Affairs Minister safely escorted to Kabul hard-core terrorists who were freed from jail to secure the release of the passengers of a hijacked aircraft.

Like George Bush, the BJP leaders view terrorism as an Islamic phenomenon. After terrorists had destroyed the World Trade Center in New York, the Bush administration enacted an inland security law. Since then there has been no terrorist strike there. The BJP points to this fact when it demands a tough anti-terror law. The BJP leaders were admirers of the anti-terror law, known as POTA. More than 20,000 people were held all over the country under that law. Normally, under the law, the prosecution has the responsibility to prove the charge against the accused. When POTA is used, the accused has to prove that the charge is false. Even though the law thus favours the prosecution, only in a few cases were the accused punished. The BJP has declared that if it comes to power it will bring back this ‘lawless law’, which was abandoned by the UPA government taking into account public opinion.Only conspicuous exception
The BJP is proclaiming its intellectual bankruptcy when it makes the USA the model for anti-terrorist activity. It is true that there has been no terrorist strike in that country after the inland security law was enacted. But outside the US mainland, Americans are still under attack from terrorists. The challenge before the US comes from outside forces. Those involved in terrorist activity in India are mostly from within. Only, they –rather, some of them – receive assistance from outside. A conspicuous exception is the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Terrorism is not new to India. Although we claim that our freedom struggle was non-violent, it had a powerful extremist stream. Although after the hanging of Bhagat Singh and his associates, that stream almost disappeared, there were acts of terrorism during the Quit India agitation launched by Gandhiji in 1942. What the Communist Party of India did in the name of the Calcutta Thesis after Independence and what the Naxalites did later under Mao’s inspiration were also acts of terrorism. The most active terrorists in the early days of Independence were Hindu communalists. They targeted not the state, but an individual. One Madanlal exploded a bomb in January 1948 to kill Gandhiji. The plot failed. Within two weeks, Nathuram Godse accomplished the mission.

Most people view the current wave of terrorism in the country as part of Islamic terrorism going on all over the world. But neither our investigative agencies nor the US spy organization, which is hunting Islamic extremists worldwide, has been able to produce enough evidence to establish a link between the two so far. When fairy tales manufactured by politicized state police machineries and publicized by professionally weak media institutions gain currency terrorists must be laughing to themselves in their hideouts. A correspondent of The Hindu, which is still endeavouring to uphold professional values, has been serving a daily fare of material cooked in the kitchens of the intelligence agencies. Intelligence officials need only please their political masters. They don’t need evidence that will carry conviction with a court. The cases of Mariam Rasheeda (Mali woman accused in the ISRO espionage case) and Abdul Naser Maudany (Kerala politician acquitted after being held without bail or parole for nine and a half years as an accused in the Coimbatore blast case) show how dangerous it is to place excessive reliance on police and intelligence agencies which are under political influence. There have been complaints about the media manipulating the society. Now the reverse also happens. If an e-mail is sent to a news channel under a Muslim name saying a bomb will go off in the Secretariat at 6 o’ clock the chances are it will come as Breaking News within an hour. The police threw in prison three persons who came to Kollam from Afghanistan to buy cashew nuts. Suspecting that a rail passenger was the terrorist whose photograph had appeared in a newspaper, fellow passengers called in the police. Do not these events suggest that the terrorists and the media have together made Malayalees neurotic?

When we try to trace the origin of the current wave of terrorism we reach that day in 1992 when Hindu terrorists destroyed the mosque in Ayodhya. The impact of the demolition of Babri Masjid on the Muslim mind was similar to that of the destruction of Akal Takht in the Golden Temple by the army on the Sikh mind. The army could justify its Akal Takht action by pointing out that Bhindranwala, a terrorist, was hiding there. There is no such extenuating circumstance to justify what the Sangh Parivar did. In which Ganga will BJP’s Prime Minister-in-waiting L. K. Advani wash off the sin of the act of terrorism committed by karsevaks in his presence – and when?

The recommendation of the administrative reforms commission headed by Veerappa Moily endorses the BJP’s demand for a tough anti-terror law. However, there are more serious issues than the absence of a law. Our political parties are still not free from the influence of their past terrorist influence. The attack on Christian institutions from Khandalmal in Orissa to Kasergode in Kerala by Hindu terrorists is an example. The partiality evident in the reactions to violent incidents makes it clear that each one is led by its own political interests, not national interests.
It can be said with certainty that there is organized activity behind every serial blast. Lack of advance information about it indicates failure of intelligence agencies. The resignation of the Union Home Minister is no solution to this problem. At the same time, if he resigns it will convey to the people the message that someone high up is answerable for a major failure.

The police machinery needs to be strengthened urgently. What sustains terrorist activity is discontent in the people’s minds. Often the cause of discontent is injustice of one kind or another. A permanent solution to the problem lies in removing the cause of discontent.
Based on article contributed for “Nerkkazhcha” column in Kerala Kaumudi

17 September, 2008

Human Rights organizations accuse Orissa government of promoting violence

A joint statement issued by the Asian Human Rights Commission - Hong Kong (AHRC) the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights - India (NCDHR) and the International Dalit Solidarity Network - Denmark (IDSN)

INDIA: Government of Orissa promotes violence

The ongoing violence in Orissa, India, reflects the current status of the rule of law in that state. The violent incidents that devastated the thin line of communal harmony in the state are the result of an intentional state policy of promoting vested religious interests. This ulterior motive to attain short-term political gains through unconstitutional and non-democratic means is also augmented by poor policing. The brunt of the resultant violence is borne by the Dalit, Christian and Tribal minorities.

The uncontrollable violence demonstrates that the state is not willing to combat anti-democratic forces operating in the state. It also exposes the connivance of state administration with these forces operating in India to destabilise the fragile social fabric.

The recent incidents that resulted in the loss of life and property in Orissa appear not to be as sporadic as portrayed. Some sources cite letters and other official correspondence received by the state administration warning them about the possibility of large-scale violence that could erupt at any time. These communications, while requesting protection for life and property, also informed the administration of the fear that violence will focus on minority communities in the state. Most of these communications were addressed to the state government representatives responsible for the administration and maintenance of law and order in the state.

These concerns have proved to be true from the incidents reported in Orissa during the past 24 days. It took about five to seven days for the state administration to even begin to start responding to the calamity once it began. During this time and even after, fundamentalist Hindu political parties terrorised the minority Dalit, Tribal and Christian communities living in semi-urban and remote villages in the Kandhamal district of the state.

The massive scale of violence resulted in at least 22 deaths and property loss worth millions of rupees, beginning in the Kandhamal district and soon spreading to neighbouring districts. It showed a well-planned pattern of violence that was orchestrated with precision. Such an assault, targeting communities spreading across an entire region, requires good planning and preparation.

There are allegations that the criminals had even prepared name lists of persons and their properties to be targeted during the violence. The commonly believed cause for the violence, the murder of five Vishwa Hindu Parisad (VHP) cadres, appears to have been an excuse to commence the carnage.

The media, by and large biased and communalised, has wilfully hyped and misguided the general public into believing that the murder of the VHP cadres was the reason for the latest bloodshed. Contrary to these reports that were widely published in the national and international media, the violence in Orissa was not merely a communal fight between the Hindus and the Christians.

A deeper insight is gained into the violence if the following are noted; the preparations that were made before the incident; the pattern in which the violence spread; the evident reluctance of the state administration to react sensibly before and after the violence. This leads to the conclusion that the state administration is also a willing partner in the execution of the larger Hindutwa agenda in the state.

For the minority communities, particularly the Dalits and the Tribals, it means the continuation of oppression and the curtailment of all opportunities for liberation. In this context it is not a surprise that similar incidents are reported from other states of India like Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.

It appears that the Orissa state police and other agencies responsible for preventing violence and crime were aware of the preparations the criminals operating in the state were making. It is also certain that the police were aware which communities would be targeted by the criminals.

Similar violence of varying intensity has affected the state in the past decade. After each incident, the state police was accused of failure to investigate, prosecute and punish the criminals who orchestrated the violence. This is a key factor for a recurrence of the violence to further spread out affecting almost the entire state as on this occasion.

The role of the law enforcement agencies in a democratic setup is not just investigating crimes once they are committed. Proper investigation and prosecution of crime has it's deterrent value. In addition to the investigation of crimes, law enforcement agencies have the duty to instil confidence in ordinary people, especially those who are most vulnerable. In this way, the rule of law is maintained in the state and any breach of law and order will not go undetected and unpunished. In this context the state administration and the police force it commands cannot be absolved from the responsibility for the perpetuation of violence in Orissa.

The Central Government which is mandated to issue directions to the State Government under Articles 256 and 257 of the Constitution is also equally responsible for its failure in protecting the people and arresting the perpetrators.

To make matters worse, the state administration prevented political leaders, media and human rights organisations from visiting trouble-hit parts of the state, while allowing the VHP leaders free mobility with state protection. For example, the entire Kandhamal district was put under curfew and was completely cut-off from the rest of the world for days. The people lived in fear for their lives and property. A large number of them sought protection by hiding in nearby forests at the time their properties were burned, looted and ransacked. Almost all of these people were Dalit and Tribal Christians.

It is reported that those who took refuge in government shelter camps were those who had no other option for survival. As of now those who took shelter in relief camps are reluctant to leave the relative security of the camps. Most of them continue to fear that once they leave the camps they would be forced to 'reconvert' to Hinduism against their will. It is reported that some persons who were not in the camp were 'reconverted' by force, a process in which many were blinded. It is reported that the 'reconversion' is viewed as a purification process by the VHP.

Even after three weeks of violence, the state administration continues to prevent the media and human rights organisations from accessing the victims. The state administration has enforced a regulatory policy of prior permission for the media and human rights group to travel into trouble-hit areas or relief camps. In spite of this, the administration insists that the situation has returned to normal.

The state administration, in an affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, has stated that it has taken into custody 421 persons whom the government accuses of being behind the violence. At the same time, credible sources report that the persons cited as accused in these cases are not actually those involved in criminal acts. It is suspected that this is an attempt to save the actual culprits from being identified and prosecuted.

In addition to this, the general public and some of the victims were chased away by the police when they approached the police stations to file complaints. It is also reported that many complaints that identify criminals were not registered by the police. Such incidents show the complacency of the local police in promoting violence in the state. There is also information provided by noted human rights activists that many non-Hindu institutions and other organisations were denied any form of police protection when they requested it.

It is suspected that many witnesses will fail to turn-up in court, fearing repercussions. This is a genuine fear since India lacks any form of witness protection mechanisms. In any case, it would be difficult for an ordinary person to believe that the police who failed to prevent the violence would protect them on any future occasion.

The violence in Orissa has destroyed the social fabric in the state to such an extent that it will take years of conscious effort by the administration and society to re-establish it. The primary requirement for this is that the state administration impartially investigate the crimes committed during the violence. They must ensure that the accused, if proven guilty, are sentenced to the punishment prescribed by the law for such acts.

The state administration must also ensure that the entire incident and the circumstances that led to such massive violence are properly documented, by the state as well as by the civil society and the media.


# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

Government said to be harassing Muslims in Dangs at VHP's instance

The following is the text of a communication which Shabnam Hashmi has sent to the National Human Rights Commission, the National Commission for Minorities, the leaders of various political parties and national media institutions:

Today (September 17) morning a battery of Forest officers and police descended on the village of Nandapeda near Ahwa in the Dangs, Gujarat. They pulled out the doors and the windows, pulled out the wooden ballis which support the roof; they pulled out wood from the roof of the huts of the villagers. The forest department decided late at night that it was illegal wood and they must recover it.

The ATS meanwhile rounded up a few people.

Nandapeda is the only village with majority Muslim population in the Dangs district, considered the poorest district in the whole of India.

The government has been pressuring the Muslims to convert to the Hindu religion or face eviction from their land.

Some of the residents of this village moved the Gujarat High Court against the government's pressure of converting and changing their religion.

The families have been living in the village for over 100 years.

On June 13th 2008 a senior officer had called a meeting in Ahwa and asked them to change their religion or vacate the land.

After this meeting police and forest officers had been harassing them. Police have been searching old cases registered against any person of the community and asking them to furnish bail papers. The police targeted 33 people against whom some petty crime or a scuffle with the neighbors was registered.

Claiming that repeated representation before authorities for regularization of their land has been in vain, petitioners requested the court to restrain the government from pressurizing them to convert from their religion. Justice Jayant Panchal had in July sought explanation in this regard from the secretary in-charge, district collector and the village sarpanch.

After hearing all parties, Justice Anant Dave admitted the case on September 11, 2008 and ordered to maintain status quo on the disputed land.

On the next day the police captured approximately 80 villagers for transporting cattle into Maharashtra and also apprehended some villagers who were going on motorcycles using the reason of cow slaughter, though there were no cattle in the tempo.

The villagers gathered. There was a clash between the villagers and the police. People were beaten on both the sides. One policeman was also beaten up. Police then opened fire and a number of villagers got bullet injuries. They were taken to Ahwa civil hospitals. The relatives were not allowed to meet them. Police apprehended eight villagers for beating a policeman and though a local lawyer went for their bail, it was not given.

Next day the police came and in the name of combing operation attacked and ransacked the village. Villagers were beaten up brutally including women and children. All men fled to the jungles. The police not only took away all the goods but before going they poured kerosene into the eatable good so that they could not eat anything too.

VHP proposed a rally on 15th. After a lot of pressure the VHP rally was stopped but they declared a Bandh on 16th.

The VHP, it is said, gave the Collector a deadline to get the village vacated.

Today morning, as already mentioned, the forest department and the forest department swooped in.

The villagers need urgent help and intervention. I have been personally informing various state politicians and centre about the developments.

Shabnam Hashmi
September 17, 2008

Thoughts On Terror

by Yoginder Sikand
16 September, 2008
Countercurrents.org
As in the case of many previous deadly blasts across India over the past decade or so, there is much speculation about the real masterminds behind the recent blasts in New Delhi. Depending essentially on who you are—which these days has largely come to mean for many people which religious community one identifies with—the monsters behind the carnage could possibly be disgruntled Muslims or Islamist terrorists (for many Hindus) or Hindutva militants (according to many Muslims).

In the wake of the Delhi blasts, the media and intelligence agencies have been quick to blame the banned Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) or what is claimed to be its new avatar, the Indian Mujahideen, as behind responsible for them. I have no doubt in my mind that the radical rhetoric of the SIMI was inherently conducive to mindless militancy and that, therefore, there is indeed a possibility of former SIMI members having been behind some of the blasts that have rocked India in recent years. In its vacuous call for a global caliphate and fiery appeals for armed jihad, the SIMI sought to imitate—lock, stock and barrel—radical Islamists, such as the Takfir wal Hijrah in Egypt, Hizb ut-Tahrir in Central Asia and al-Mohajirun in England, all of which depart from centuries of classical Islamic tradition and preach a form of hate-driven Islamism that is akin to fascism and is viscerally hostile to other religions and their adherents. For Muslims in India, living as an increasingly beleaguered minority, SIMI’s rhetoric was entirely counter-productive, inherently dangerous and an open invitation for aggressive Hindu reaction and state repression. Which explains why SIMI never received mass support among the Muslims of the country, not even among the ulema or Islamic clerics, many of who considered its political stance completely unwarranted even in Islamic terms. Some of them even believed that the SIMI was outside the pale of Islam.

Based simply on its ideology, one could conclude that it is entirely possible that some SIMI activists or sympathisers could have indeed been behind some of the blasts that have occurred across the country in recent years. Besides, it is also possible that some of these blasts could be the handiwork of some other Muslims, incensed by the brutality of the state, witnessed most starkly in the state-sponsored anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat, as a way of seeking revenge.

This does not mean that these elements speak for the Indian Muslims as a whole, however. To the contrary, Muslim leaders I have spoken to and whose statements I have read (mainly in the Urdu press, because most other papers simply ignore their voices) have repeatedly stressed—and are also doing so now, in the wake of the Delhi blasts—that if, as is being alleged, SIMI activists or some other Muslims were behind these, stern action—even capital punishment—should be meted out to them, for bomb blasts in which innocents die, they say, is not only against the Indian law, it is also in complete violation of Islam. They readily quote the Quran as announcing that so heinous is the sin of killing a single innocent individual that it is akin to slaying the whole of humankind. If indeed some of the blasts were the handiwork of Muslims, they argue, far from serving the cause of their faith and their co-religionists, they have only made things much worse for them, by heightening anti-Muslim prejudice, provoking indiscriminate arrests of Muslim youth, strengthening the hands of those calling for tougher anti-terrorist laws which, as in the case of the dreaded POTA, will probably be used to further terrorise Muslims, and providing additional ammunition to Hindutva forces in their anti-Muslim crusade. No Muslim, they argue, should engage in such acts of terror, for not only would this be a crime according to the country’s laws and Quranic commandments, it would also be entirely counter-productive from the Muslim point of view. That, based on my own reading of the Muslim press and my interaction with my Muslim friends, seems to be the generally prevailing Muslim opinion.

Just as some fringe radical Islamist outfit or Muslims incensed at the slaughter of Muslims by Hindutva mobs, often in connivance with the police and the state administration, might well be behind some of the bomb attacks, so could Hindutva activists. In fact, such blasts and the mounting communal divide that they engineer appear to eminently serve the political agenda of Hindu fascist forces, whose entire politics is based on provoking anti-Muslim hatred and violence. Although this has received little media attention and even less serious action by the police and investigating agencies, in recent years a number of Hindutva activists have been found to have been involved in manufacturing bombs and planning terror attacks, sometimes with the intention of camouflaging them in such a way as to make them appear as the handiwork of Muslims. The intention behind this is clear: to reinforce already widespread anti-Muslim hatred, manufacture a collective terror psychosis among Hindus, present themselves as saviours of the Hindus in the face of ‘Islamic terrorism’ and, thereby, capture the Hindu vote-bank. And with crucial elections round the corner, could it be that this tactic might be brought into play to supplement waves of organised attacks on Muslims (and now Christians) in various parts of India in order to garner Hindu votes?

Deadly enemies though they present themselves as, Hindu and Muslim chauvinists desperately need each other. Without each other they are incomplete, indeed unable to survive. That is what this series of blasts, as well as the entire history of Hindu and Muslim communalism, clearly suggests. So, going beyond the issue of tracking down the masterminds behind specific cases of terrorism, which of course must be done in accordance with the law, the larger issue of struggling against the tyranny of organised religion and of the ideology of communalism, of which these attacks are merely a symptom and a result, must not be lost sight of.

And part of that struggle must also entail honestly recognizing how personal religio-communal affiliations often blind people to the forces of terror at work within the community they identify with. In the face of competing, but entirely symbiotic, forms of terror under a religious garb, we all need to draw our own personal lessons as well for how to respond to the challenge, hopefully unburdened by one’s communal identity. Mine, incidentally, is borrowed from Baba Nanak, considered a Guru by his Hindu followers and a Sufi Pir by his Muslim disciples, who discovered and then boldly announced: ‘There is no Hindu, there is no Muslim’.