Tuesday, December 16, 2008

An article written by Anand Patwardhan which was rejected by the Times of India:

An article written by Anand Patwardhan which was rejected by the Times of India:
Terror: The Aftermath
 -     Anand Patwardhan
The attack on Mumbai is over. After the numbing sorrow comes the blame game and the solutions. Loud voices amplified by saturation TV: Why don't we amend our Constitution to create new anti-terror laws? Why don't we arm our police with AK 47s? Why don't we do what Israel did after Munich or the USA did after 9/11 and hot pursue the enemy? Solutions that will lead us further into the abyss. For terror is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It thrives on reaction, polarization, militarization and the thirst for revenge.
The External Terror
Those who invoke America need only to analyze if its actions after 9/11 increased or decreased global terror. It invaded oil-rich Iraq fully knowing that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, killing over 200,000 Iraqis citizens but allowing a cornered Bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan. It recruited global support for Islamic militancy, which began to be seen as a just resistance against American mass murder. Which begs the question of who created Bin Laden in the first place, armed the madarsas of Pakistan and rejuvenated the concept of Islamic jehad? Israel played its own role in stoking the fires of jehad. The very creation of Israel in 1948 robbed Palestinians of their land, an act that Mahatma Gandhi to his credit deplored at the time as an unjust way to redress the wrongs done to Jews during the Holocaust. What followed has been a slow and continuing attack on the Palestinian nation. At first Palestinian resistance was led by secular forces represented by Yasser Arafat but as these were successfully undermined, Islamic forces took over the mantle. The first, largely non-violent Intifada was crushed, a second more violent one replaced it and when all else failed, human bombs appeared.
Thirty years ago when I first went abroad there were two countries my Indian passport forbade me to visit. One was racist South Africa. The other was Israel. We were non-aligned and stood for disarmament and world peace. Today Israel and America are our biggest military allies. Is it surprising that we are on the jehadi hit list? Israel, America and other prosperous countries can to an extent protect themselves against the determined jehadi, but can India put an impenetrable shield over itself? Remember that when attackers are on a suicide mission, the strongest shields have crumbled. New York was laid low not with nuclear weapons but with a pair of box cutters. India is for many reasons a quintessentially soft target. Our huge population, vast landmass and coastline are impossible to protect. The rich may build new barricades. The Taj and the Oberoi can be made safer. So can our airports and planes. Can our railway stations and trains, bus stops, busses, markets and lanes do the same?
The Terror Within
The threat of terror in India does not come exclusively from the outside. Apart from being hugely populated by the poor India is also a country divided, not just between rich and poor, but by religion, caste and language. This internal divide is as potent a breeding ground for terror as jehadi camps abroad. Nor is jehad the copyright of one religion alone. It can be argued that international causes apart, India has jehadis that are fully home grown. Perhaps the earliest famous one was Nathuram Godse who acting at the behest of his mentor Vinayak Savarkar (still referred to as "Veer" or "brave" although he refused to own up to his role in the conspiracy), murdered Mahatma Gandhi for the crime of championing Muslims.
Jump forward to 6th December, 1992, the day Hindu fanatics demolished the Babri Mosque setting into motion a chain of events that still wreaks havoc today. From the Bombay riots of 1992 to the bomb blasts of 1993, the Gujarat pogroms of 2002 and hundreds of smaller deadly events, the last 16 years have been the bloodiest since Partition. Action has been followed by reaction in an endless cycle of escalating retribution. At the core on the Hindu side of terror are organizations that openly admire Adolph Hitler, nursing the hate of historic wrongs inflicted by Muslims. Ironically these votaries of Hitler remain friends and admirers of Israel.
On the Muslim side of terror are scores of disaffected youth, many of whom have seen their families tortured and killed in more recent pogroms. Christians too have fallen victim to recent Hindutva terror but as yet not formed the mechanisms for revenge. Dalits despite centuries of caste oppression, have not yet retaliated in violence although a small fraction is being drawn into an armed struggle waged by Naxalites.
It is clear that no amount of spending on defense, no amount of patrolling the high seas, no amount of increasing the military and police and equipping them with the latest weaponry can end the cycle of violence or place India under a bubble of safety. Just as nuclear India did not lead to more safety, but only to a nuclear Pakistan, no amount of homeland security can save us. And inviting Israel's Mossad and America's CIA/FBI to the security table is like giving the anti-virus contract to those who spread the virus in the first place. It can only make us more of a target for the next determined jehadi attack.
Policing, Justice and the Media
As for draconian anti-terror laws, they too only breed terror as for the most part they are implemented by a State machinery that has imbibed majoritarian values. So in Modi's Gujarat after the ethnic cleansing of Muslims in 2002, despite scores of confessions to rape and murder captured on hidden camera, virtually no Hindu extremists were punished while thousands of Muslims rotted in jail under draconian laws. The same happened in Bombay despite the Shiv Sena being found guilty by the Justice Shrikrishna Commission. Under pressure a few cases were finally brought to trial but all escaped with the lightest of knuckle raps. In stark contrast many Muslims accused in the 1993 bomb blasts were given death sentences.
The bulk of our media, policing and judicial systems swallows the canard that Muslims are by nature violent. Removing democratic safeguards guaranteed by the Constitution can only make this worse. Every act of wrongful imprisonment and torture that then follows is likely to turn innocents into material for future terrorists to draw upon. Already the double standards are visible. While the Students Islamic Movement of India is banned, Hindutva outfits like the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena remain legal entities. The leader of the MNS, Raj Thackeray recently openly spread such hatred that several north Indians were killed by lynch mobs. Amongst these were the Dube brothers, doctors from Kalyan who treated the poor for a grand fee of Rs.10 per patient. Raj Thackeray like his uncle Bal before him, remains free after issuing public threats that Bombay would burn if anyone had the guts to arrest him. Modi remains free despite the pogroms of Gujarat. Congress party murderers of Sikhs in 1984 remain free. Justice in India is clearly not there for all. Increasing the powers of the police cannot solve this problem. Only honest and unbiased implementation of laws that exist, can.
It is a tragedy of the highest proportions that one such honest policeman, Anti-Terrorist Squad chief Hemant Karkare, who had begun to unravel the thread of Hindutva terror was himself gunned down, perhaps by Muslim terror. It is reported that Col. Purohit and fellow Hindutva conspirators now in judicial custody, celebrated the news of Karkare's death. Until Karkare took charge, the Malegaon bomb blasts in which Muslims were killed and the Samjhauta Express blasts in which Pakistani visitors to India were killed were being blamed on Muslims. Karkare exposed a hitherto unknown Hindutva outfit as masterminding a series of killer blasts across the country. For his pains Karkare came under vicious attack not just from militant Hindutva but from the mainstream BJP. He was under tremendous pressure to prove his patriotism. Was it this that led this senior officer to don helmet and ill-fitting bullet proof vest and rush into battle with a pistol? Or was it just his natural instinct, the same courage that had led him against all odds, to expose Hindutva terror?
Whatever it was, it only underlines the fact that jehadis of all kinds are actually allies of each other. So Bin Laden served George Bush and vice-versa. So Islamic and Hindutva jehadis have served each other for years. Do they care who dies? Of the 200 people killed in the last few days by Islamic jehadis, a high number were Muslims. Many were waiting to board trains to celebrate Eid in their hometowns in UP and Bihar, when their co-religionists gunned them down. Shockingly the media has not commented on this, nor focused on the tragedy at the railway station, choosing to concentrate on tragedies that befell the well-to-do. And it is the media that is leading the charge to turn us into a war-mongering police state where we may lead lives with an illusion of safety, but with the certainty of joylessness.
I am not arguing that we do not need efficient security at public places and at vulnerable sites. But real security will only come when it is accompanied by real justice, when the principles of democracy are implemented in every part of the country, when the legitimate grievances of people are not crushed, when the arms race is replaced by a race for decency and humanity, when our children grow up in an atmosphere where religious faith is put to the test of reason. Until such time we will remain at the mercy of "patriots" and zealots.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The monster in the mirror....by Arundhati Roy

The Mumbai attacks have been dubbed 'India's 9/11', and there are calls for a 9/11-style response, including an attack on Pakistan. Instead, the country must fight terrorism with justice, or face civil war
Arundhati Roy guardian.co.uk, Saturday 13 December 2008 00.01 GMT

We've forfeited the rights to our own tragedies. As the carnage in Mumbai raged on, day after horrible day, our 24-hour news channels informed us that we were watching "India's 9/11". Like actors in a Bollywood rip-off of an old Hollywood film, we're expected to play our parts and say our lines, even though we know it's all been said and done before.
As tension in the region builds, US Senator John McCain has warned Pakistan that if it didn't act fast to arrest the "Bad Guys" he had personal information that India would launch air strikes on "terrorist camps" in Pakistan and that Washington could do nothing because Mumbai was India's 9/11.
But November isn't September, 2008 isn't 2001, Pakistan isn't Afghanistan and India isn't America. So perhaps we should reclaim our tragedy and pick through the debris with our own brains and our own broken hearts so that we can arrive at our own conclusions.
It's odd how in the last week of November thousands of people in Kashmir supervised by thousands of Indian troops lined up to cast their vote, while the richest quarters of India's richest city ended up looking like war-torn Kupwara – one of Kashmir's most ravaged districts.
The Mumbai attacks are only the most recent of a spate of terrorist attacks on Indian towns and cities this year. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, Guwahati, Jaipur and Malegaon have all seen serial bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people have been killed and wounded. If the police are right about the people they have arrested as suspects, both Hindu and Muslim, all Indian nationals, it obviously indicates that something's going very badly wrong in this country.
If you were watching television you may not have heard that ordinary people too died in Mumbai. They were mowed down in a busy railway station and a public hospital. The terrorists did not distinguish between poor and rich. They killed both with equal cold-bloodedness. The Indian media, however, was transfixed by the rising tide of horror that breached the glittering barricades of India Shining and spread its stench in the marbled lobbies and crystal ballrooms of two incredibly luxurious hotels and a small Jewish centre.
We're told one of these hotels is an icon of the city of Mumbai. That's absolutely true. It's an icon of the easy, obscene injustice that ordinary Indians endure every day. On a day when the newspapers were full of moving obituaries by beautiful people about the hotel rooms they had stayed in, the gourmet restaurants they loved (ironically one was called Kandahar), and the staff who served them, a small box on the top left-hand corner in the inner pages of a national newspaper (sponsored by a pizza company I think) said "Hungry, kya?" (Hungry eh?). It then, with the best of intentions I'm sure, informed its readers that on the international hunger index, India ranked below Sudan and Somalia. But of course this isn't that war. That one's still being fought in the Dalit bastis of our villages, on the banks of the Narmada and the Koel Karo rivers; in the rubber estate in Chengara; in the villages of Nandigram, Singur, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Lalgarh in West Bengal and the slums and shantytowns of our gigantic cities.
That war isn't on TV. Yet. So maybe, like everyone else, we should deal with the one that is.
There is a fierce, unforgiving fault-line that runs through the contemporary discourse on terrorism. On one side (let's call it Side A) are those who see terrorism, especially "Islamist" terrorism, as a hateful, insane scourge that spins on its own axis, in its own orbit and has nothing to do with the world around it, nothing to do with history, geography or economics. Therefore, Side A says, to try and place it in a political context, or even try to understand it, amounts to justifying it and is a crime in itself.
Side B believes that though nothing can ever excuse or justify terrorism, it exists in a particular time, place and political context, and to refuse to see that will only aggravate the problem and put more and more people in harm's way. Which is a crime in itself.
The sayings of Hafiz Saeed, who founded the Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure) in 1990 and who belongs to the hardline Salafi tradition of Islam, certainly bolsters the case of Side A. Hafiz Saeed approves of suicide bombing, hates Jews, Shias and Democracy and believes that jihad should be waged until Islam, his Islam, rules the world. Among the things he said are: "There cannot be any peace while India remains intact. Cut them, cut them so much that they kneel before you and ask for mercy."
And: "India has shown us this path. We would like to give India a tit-for-tat response and reciprocate in the same way by killing the Hindus, just like it is killing the Muslims in Kashmir."
But where would Side A accommodate the sayings of Babu Bajrangi of Ahmedabad, India, who sees himself as a democrat, not a terrorist? He was one of the major lynchpins of the 2002 Gujarat genocide and has said (on camera): "We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire … we hacked, burned, set on fire … we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it … I have just one last wish … let me be sentenced to death … I don't care if I'm hanged ... just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs [seven or eight hundred thousand] of these people stay ... I will finish them off … let a few more of them die ... at least 25,000 to 50,000 should die."
And where, in Side A's scheme of things, would we place the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh bible, We, or, Our Nationhood Defined by MS Golwalkar, who became head of the RSS in 1944. It says: "Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening."Or: "To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races – the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here ... a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by."
(Of course Muslims are not the only people in the gun sights of the Hindu right. Dalits have been consistently targeted. Recently in Kandhamal in Orissa, Christians were the target of two and a half months of violence which left more than 40 dead. Forty thousand people have been driven from their homes, half of who now live in refugee camps.)
All these years Hafiz Saeed has lived the life of a respectable man in Lahore as the head of the Jamaat-ud Daawa, which many believe is a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba. He continues to recruit young boys for his own bigoted jehad with his twisted, fiery sermons. On December 11 the UN imposed sanctions on the Jammat-ud-Daawa. The Pakistani government succumbed to international pressure and put Hafiz Saeed under house arrest. Babu Bajrangi, however, is out on bail and lives the life of a respectable man in Gujarat. A couple of years after the genocide he left the VHP to join the Shiv Sena. Narendra Modi, Bajrangi's former mentor, is still the chief minister of Gujarat. So the man who presided over the Gujarat genocide was re-elected twice, and is deeply respected by India's biggest corporate houses, Reliance and Tata.
Suhel Seth, a TV impresario and corporate spokesperson, recently said: "Modi is God." The policemen who supervised and sometimes even assisted the rampaging Hindu mobs in Gujarat have been rewarded and promoted. The RSS has 45,000 branches, its own range of charities and 7 million volunteers preaching its doctrine of hate across India. They include Narendra Modi, but also former prime minister AB Vajpayee, current leader of the opposition LK Advani, and a host of other senior politicians, bureaucrats and police and intelligence officers.
If that's not enough to complicate our picture of secular democracy, we should place on record that there are plenty of Muslim organisations within India preaching their own narrow bigotry.
So, on balance, if I had to choose between Side A and Side B, I'd pick Side B. We need context. Always.
In this nuclear subcontinent that context is partition. The Radcliffe Line, which separated India and Pakistan and tore through states, districts, villages, fields, communities, water systems, homes and families, was drawn virtually overnight. It was Britain's final, parting kick to us. Partition triggered the massacre of more than a million people and the largest migration of a human population in contemporary history. Eight million people, Hindus fleeing the new Pakistan, Muslims fleeing the new kind of India left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
Each of those people carries and passes down a story of unimaginable pain, hate, horror but yearning too. That wound, those torn but still unsevered muscles, that blood and those splintered bones still lock us together in a close embrace of hatred, terrifying familiarity but also love. It has left Kashmir trapped in a nightmare from which it can't seem to emerge, a nightmare that has claimed more than 60,000 lives. Pakistan, the Land of the Pure, became an Islamic Republic, and then, very quickly a corrupt, violent military state, openly intolerant of other faiths. India on the other hand declared herself an inclusive, secular democracy. It was a magnificent undertaking, but Babu Bajrangi's predecessors had been hard at work since the 1920s, dripping poison into India's bloodstream, undermining that idea of India even before it was born.
By 1990 they were ready to make a bid for power. In 1992 Hindu mobs exhorted by LK Advani stormed the Babri Masjid and demolished it. By 1998 the BJP was in power at the centre. The US war on terror put the wind in their sails. It allowed them to do exactly as they pleased, even to commit genocide and then present their fascism as a legitimate form of chaotic democracy. This happened at a time when India had opened its huge market to international finance and it was in the interests of international corporations and the media houses they owned to project it as a country that could do no wrong. That gave Hindu nationalists all the impetus and the impunity they needed.
This, then, is the larger historical context of terrorism in the subcontinent and of the Mumbai attacks. It shouldn't surprise us that Hafiz Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba is from Shimla (India) and LK Advani of the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is from Sindh (Pakistan).
In much the same way as it did after the 2001 parliament attack, the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express and the 2007 bombing of the Samjhauta Express, the government of India announced that it has "incontrovertible" evidence that the Lashkar-e-Taiba backed by Pakistan's ISI was behind the Mumbai strikes. The Lashkar has denied involvement, but remains the prime accused. According to the police and intelligence agencies the Lashkar operates in India through an organisation called the Indian Mujahideen. Two Indian nationals, Sheikh Mukhtar Ahmed, a Special Police Officer working for the Jammu and Kashmir police, and Tausif Rehman, a resident of Kolkata in West Bengal, have been arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks.
So already the neat accusation against Pakistan is getting a little messy. Almost always, when these stories unspool, they reveal a complicated global network of foot soldiers, trainers, recruiters, middlemen and undercover intelligence and counter-intelligence operatives working not just on both sides of the India-Pakistan border, but in several countries simultaneously. In today's world, trying to pin down the provenance of a terrorist strike and isolate it within the borders of a single nation state is very much like trying to pin down the provenance of corporate money. It's almost impossible.
In circumstances like these, air strikes to "take out" terrorist camps may take out the camps, but certainly will not "take out" the terrorists. Neither will war. (Also, in our bid for the moral high ground, let's try not to forget that the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the LTTE of neighbouring Sri Lanka, one of the world's most deadly terrorist groups, were trained by the Indian army.)
Thanks largely to the part it was forced to play as America's ally first in its war in support of the Afghan Islamists and then in its war against them, Pakistan, whose territory is reeling under these contradictions, is careening towards civil war. As recruiting agents for America's jihad against the Soviet Union, it was the job of the Pakistan army and the ISI to nurture and channel funds to Islamic fundamentalist organizations. Having wired up these Frankensteins and released them into the world, the US expected it could rein them in like pet mastiffs whenever it wanted to.
Certainly it did not expect them to come calling in heart of the Homeland on September 11. So once again, Afghanistan had to be violently remade. Now the debris of a re-ravaged Afghanistan has washed up on Pakistan's borders. Nobody, least of all the Pakistan government, denies that it is presiding over a country that is threatening to implode. The terrorist training camps, the fire-breathing mullahs and the maniacs who believe that Islam will, or should, rule the world is mostly the detritus of two Afghan wars. Their ire rains down on the Pakistan government and Pakistani civilians as much, if not more than it does on India.
If at this point India decides to go to war perhaps the descent of the whole region into chaos will be complete. The debris of a bankrupt, destroyed Pakistan will wash up on India's shores, endangering us as never before. If Pakistan collapses, we can look forward to having millions of "non-state actors" with an arsenal of nuclear weapons at their disposal as neighbours. It's hard to understand why those who steer India's ship are so keen to replicate Pakistan's mistakes and call damnation upon this country by inviting the United States to further meddle clumsily and dangerously in our extremely complicated affairs. A superpower never has allies. It only has agents.
On the plus side, the advantage of going to war is that it's the best way for India to avoid facing up to the serious trouble building on our home front. The Mumbai attacks were broadcast live (and exclusive!) on all or most of our 67 24-hour news channels and god knows how many international ones. TV anchors in their studios and journalists at "ground zero" kept up an endless stream of excited commentary. Over three days and three nights we watched in disbelief as a small group of very young men armed with guns and gadgets exposed the powerlessness of the police, the elite National Security Guard and the marine commandos of this supposedly mighty, nuclear-powered nation.
While they did this they indiscriminately massacred unarmed people, in railway stations, hospitals and luxury hotels, unmindful of their class, caste, religion or nationality. (Part of the helplessness of the security forces had to do with having to worry about hostages. In other situations, in Kashmir for example, their tactics are not so sensitive. Whole buildings are blown up. Human shields are used. The U.S and Israeli armies don't hesitate to send cruise missiles into buildings and drop daisy cutters on wedding parties in Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.) But this was different. And it was on TV.
The boy-terrorists' nonchalant willingness to kill – and be killed – mesmerised their international audience. They delivered something different from the usual diet of suicide bombings and missile attacks that people have grown inured to on the news. Here was something new. Die Hard 25. The gruesome performance went on and on. TV ratings soared. Ask any television magnate or corporate advertiser who measures broadcast time in seconds, not minutes, what that's worth.
Eventually the killers died and died hard, all but one. (Perhaps, in the chaos, some escaped. We may never know.) Throughout the standoff the terrorists made no demands and expressed no desire to negotiate. Their purpose was to kill people and inflict as much damage as they could before they were killed themselves. They left us completely bewildered. When we say "nothing can justify terrorism", what most of us mean is that nothing can justify the taking of human life. We say this because we respect life, because we think it's precious. So what are we to make of those who care nothing for life, not even their own? The truth is that we have no idea what to make of them, because we can sense that even before they've died, they've journeyed to another world where we cannot reach them.
One TV channel (India TV) broadcast a phone conversation with one of the attackers, who called himself Imran Babar. I cannot vouch for the veracity of the conversation, but the things he talked about were the things contained in the "terror emails" that were sent out before several other bomb attacks in India. Things we don't want to talk about any more: the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the genocidal slaughter of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the brutal repression in Kashmir. "You're surrounded," the anchor told him. "You are definitely going to die. Why don't you surrender?"
"We die every day," he replied in a strange, mechanical way. "It's better to live one day as a lion and then die this way." He didn't seem to want to change the world. He just seemed to want to take it down with him.
If the men were indeed members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, why didn't it matter to them that a large number of their victims were Muslim, or that their action was likely to result in a severe backlash against the Muslim community in India whose rights they claim to be fighting for? Terrorism is a heartless ideology, and like most ideologies that have their eye on the Big Picture, individuals don't figure in their calculations except as collateral damage. It has always been a part of and often even the aim of terrorist strategy to exacerbate a bad situation in order to expose hidden faultlines. The blood of "martyrs" irrigates terrorism. Hindu terrorists need dead Hindus, Communist terrorists need dead proletarians, Islamist terrorists need dead Muslims. The dead become the demonstration, the proof of victimhood, which is central to the project. A single act of terrorism is not in itself meant to achieve military victory; at best it is meant to be a catalyst that triggers something else, something much larger than itself, a tectonic shift, a realignment. The act itself is theatre, spectacle and symbolism, and today, the stage on which it pirouettes and performs its acts of bestiality is Live TV. Even as the attack was being condemned by TV anchors, the effectiveness of the terror strikes were being magnified a thousandfold by TV broadcasts.
Through the endless hours of analysis and the endless op-ed essays, in India at least there has been very little mention of the elephants in the room: Kashmir, Gujarat and the demolition of the Babri Masjid. Instead we had retired diplomats and strategic experts debate the pros and cons of a war against Pakistan. We had the rich threatening not to pay their taxes unless their security was guaranteed (is it alright for the poor to remain unprotected?). We had people suggest that the government step down and each state in India be handed over to a separate corporation. We had the death of former prime minster VP Singh, the hero of Dalits and lower castes and villain of Upper caste Hindus pass without a mention.
We had Suketu Mehta, author of Maximum City and co-writer of the Bollywood film Mission Kashmir, give us his version of George Bush's famous "Why they hate us" speech. His analysis of why religious bigots, both Hindu and Muslim hate Mumbai: "Perhaps because Mumbai stands for lucre, profane dreams and an indiscriminate openness." His prescription: "The best answer to the terrorists is to dream bigger, make even more money, and visit Mumbai more than ever." Didn't George Bush ask Americans to go out and shop after 9/11? Ah yes. 9/11, the day we can't seem to get away from.
Though one chapter of horror in Mumbai has ended, another might have just begun. Day after day, a powerful, vociferous section of the Indian elite, goaded by marauding TV anchors who make Fox News look almost radical and leftwing, have taken to mindlessly attacking politicians, all politicians, glorifying the police and the army and virtually asking for a police state. It isn't surprising that those who have grown plump on the pickings of democracy (such as it is) should now be calling for a police state. The era of "pickings" is long gone. We're now in the era of Grabbing by Force, and democracy has a terrible habit of getting in the way.
Dangerous, stupid television flashcards like the Police are Good Politicians are Bad/Chief Executives are Good Chief Ministers are Bad/Army is Good Government is Bad/ India is Good Pakistan is Bad are being bandied about by TV channels that have already whipped their viewers into a state of almost uncontrollable hysteria.
Tragically, this regression into intellectual infancy comes at a time when people in India were beginning to see that in the business of terrorism, victims and perpetrators sometimes exchange roles. It's an understanding that the people of Kashmir, given their dreadful experiences of the last 20 years, have honed to an exquisite art. On the mainland we're still learning. (If Kashmir won't willingly integrate into India, it's beginning to look as though India will integrate/disintegrate into Kashmir.)
It was after the 2001 parliament attack that the first serious questions began to be raised. A campaign by a group of lawyers and activists exposed how innocent people had been framed by the police and the press, how evidence was fabricated, how witnesses lied, how due process had been criminally violated at every stage of the investigation. Eventually the courts acquitted two out of the four accused, including SAR Geelani, the man whom the police claimed was the mastermind of the operation. A third, Showkat Guru, was acquitted of all the charges brought against him but was then convicted for a fresh, comparatively minor offence. The supreme court upheld the death sentence of another of the accused, Mohammad Afzal. In its judgment the court acknowledged there was no proof that Mohammed Afzal belonged to any terrorist group, but went on to say, quite shockingly, "The collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender." Even today we don't really know who the terrorists that attacked the Indian parliament were and who they worked for.
More recently, on September 19 this year, we had the controversial "encounter" at Batla House in Jamia Nagar, Delhi, where the Special Cell of the Delhi police gunned down two Muslim students in their rented flat under seriously questionable circumstances, claiming that they were responsible for serial bombings in Delhi, Jaipur and Ahmedabad in 2008. An assistant commissioner of Police, Mohan Chand Sharma, who played a key role in the parliament attack investigation, lost his life as well. He was one of India's many "encounter specialists" known and rewarded for having summarily executed several "terrorists". There was an outcry against the Special Cell from a spectrum of people, ranging from eyewitnesses in the local community to senior Congress Party leaders, students, journalists, lawyers, academics and activists all of whom demanded a judicial inquiry into the incident. In response, the BJP and LK Advani lauded Mohan Chand Sharma as a "Braveheart" and launched a concerted campaign in which they targeted those who had dared to question the integrity of the police, saying it was "suicidal" and calling them "anti-national". Of course there has been no inquiry.
Only days after the Batla House event, another story about "terrorists" surfaced in the news. In a report submitted to a sessions court, the CBI said that a team from Delhi's Special Cell (the same team that led the Batla House encounter, including Mohan Chand Sharma) had abducted two innocent men, Irshad Ali and Moarif Qamar, in December 2005, planted 2kg of RDX and two pistols on them and then arrested them as "terrorists" who belonged to Al Badr (which operates out of Kashmir). Ali and Qamar who have spent years in jail, are only two examples out of hundreds of Muslims who have been similarly jailed, tortured and even killed on false charges.
This pattern changed in October 2008 when Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that was investigating the September 2008 Malegaon blasts arrested a Hindu preacher Sadhvi Pragya, a self-styled God man Swami Dayanand Pande and Lt Col Purohit, a serving officer of the Indian Army. All the arrested belong to Hindu Nationalist organizations including a Hindu Supremacist group called Abhinav Bharat. The Shiv Sena, the BJP and the RSS condemned the Maharashtra ATS, and vilified its chief, Hemant Karkare, claiming he was part of a political conspiracy and declaring that "Hindus could not be terrorists". LK Advani changed his mind about his policy on the police and made rabble rousing speeches to huge gatherings in which he denounced the ATS for daring to cast aspersions on holy men and women.
On the November 25 newspapers reported that the ATS was investigating the high profile VHP Chief Pravin Togadia's possible role in the Malegaon blasts. The next day, in an extraordinary twist of fate, Hemant Karkare was killed in the Mumbai Attacks. The chances are that the new chief whoever he is, will find it hard to withstand the political pressure that is bound to be brought on him over the Malegaon investigation.
While the Sangh Parivar does not seem to have come to a final decision over whether or not it is anti-national and suicidal to question the police, Arnab Goswami, anchorperson of Times Now television, has stepped up to the plate. He has taken to naming, demonising and openly heckling people who have dared to question the integrity of the police and armed forces. My name and the name of the well-known lawyer Prashant Bhushan have come up several times. At one point, while interviewing a former police officer, Arnab Goswami turned to camera: "Arundhati Roy and Prashant Bhushan," he said, "I hope you are watching this. We think you are disgusting." For a TV anchor to do this in an atmosphere as charged and as frenzied as the one that prevails today, amounts to incitement as well as threat, and would probably in different circumstances have cost a journalist his or her job.
So according to a man aspiring to be the next prime minister of India, and another who is the public face of a mainstream TV channel, citizens have no right to raise questions about the police. This in a country with a shadowy history of suspicious terror attacks, murky investigations, and fake "encounters". This in a country that boasts of the highest number of custodial deaths in the world and yet refuses to ratify the International Covenant on Torture. A country where the ones who make it to torture chambers are the lucky ones because at least they've escaped being "encountered" by our Encounter Specialists. A country where the line between the Underworld and the Encounter Specialists virtually does not exist.
How should those of us whose hearts have been sickened by the knowledge of all of this view the Mumbai attacks, and what are we to do about them? There are those who point out that US strategy has been successful inasmuch as the United States has not suffered a major attack on its home ground since 9/11. However, some would say that what America is suffering now is far worse. If the idea behind the 9/11 terror attacks was to goad America into showing its true colors, what greater success could the terrorists have asked for? The US army is bogged down in two unwinnable wars, which have made the United States the most hated country in the world. Those wars have contributed greatly to the unraveling of the American economy and who knows, perhaps eventually the American empire. (Could it be that battered, bombed Afghanistan, the graveyard of the Soviet Union, will be the undoing of this one too?) Hundreds of thousands people including thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. The frequency of terrorist strikes on U.S allies/agents (including India) and U.S interests in the rest of the world has increased dramatically since 9/11. George Bush, the man who led the US response to 9/11 is a despised figure not just internationally, but also by his own people. Who can possibly claim that the United States is winning the war on terror?
Homeland Security has cost the US government billions of dollars. Few countries, certainly not India, can afford that sort of price tag. But even if we could, the fact is that this vast homeland of ours cannot be secured or policed in the way the United States has been. It's not that kind of homeland. We have a hostile nuclear weapons state that is slowly spinning out of control as a neighbour, we have a military occupation in Kashmir and a shamefully persecuted, impoverished minority of more than 150 million Muslims who are being targeted as a community and pushed to the wall, whose young see no justice on the horizon, and who, were they to totally lose hope and radicalise, end up as a threat not just to India, but to the whole world. If ten men can hold off the NSG commandos, and the police for three days, and if it takes half a million soldiers to hold down the Kashmir valley, do the math. What kind of Homeland Security can secure India?
Nor for that matter will any other quick fix. Anti-terrorism laws are not meant for terrorists; they're for people that governments don't like. That's why they have a conviction rate of less than 2%. They're just a means of putting inconvenient people away without bail for a long time and eventually letting them go. Terrorists like those who attacked Mumbai are hardly likely to be deterred by the prospect of being refused bail or being sentenced to death. It's what they want.
What we're experiencing now is blowback, the cumulative result of decades of quick fixes and dirty deeds. The carpet's squelching under our feet.
The only way to contain (it would be naïve to say end) terrorism is to look at the monster in the mirror. We're standing at a fork in the road. One sign says Justice, the other Civil War. There's no third sign and there's no going back. Choose.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Every section of society needs to act fast to heal wounds - By Fr Cedric Prakash, Sj

Every section of society needs to act fast to heal wounds

Nov 27 2008

By Fr Cedric Prakash, Sj

The terror attacks on Bombay have created panic and fear in every section of society. They have left us grappling for responses and solutions.
Terrorist attacks are not new to India. They happen with frightening regularity. But the reality is that they always happen to "somebody else" far away.... So, in many ways, civil society seems unaffected — as long as their interests are not touched, they are not disturbed.
A classic case is the Gujarat carnage of 2002, when thousands of Muslims in Gujarat were hounded out of their homes, brutalised, raped and murdered.

Some did speak out at great risk, but there was no moral outrage on what was taking place. The connivance of the government, the role of the police, was beyond doubt and that is why, perhaps, terror continues to rule the roost. Today, most of Gujarat is a highly polarised society, with divisions running right down the middle.

When terror attacks continue, as in Bombay, the obvious question is, "Who could be responsible?" As a result, there is a tendency "to find someone" as soon as possible, and very often, there are scapegoats, leading to a whole religion/community being demonised. This definitely does not lend to healing scars or to building bridges.
What is imperative for every section of society today is to act fast to heal the wounds. Governments, both at the Centre and states, must be seen as fair and impartial while deal with the issue.

Terrorism has no religion, so it is ridiculous that politicians defend alleged terrorists from "their own" religion, and strongly condemn those who belong to "another" religion. Governments and political leaders must, therefore, must not draw political mileage or indulge in
vote bank politics when terror strikes.

People from all walks of life need to come out to condemn the terror acts and try to usher in an environment of normalcy as soon as possible.

This can be achieved if we have visionary and charismatic leaders, who transcend the narrow confines of language, culture, race and religion. Victims have to be reached out to immediately, and those traumatised, need to be cared for.

At every step, we need to defend the secular character and the diversity guaranteed to us by our Constitution. We have to create ownership of the rights and freedom guaranteed by it, and ensure that these are protected and enjoyed by every single citizen.

Yes, we need to heal the scars of terror right now. We cannot wait for tomorrow. A sagacious political will and a deep commitment from every single citizen will go a long way in doing so.

The writer is director of PRASHANT, the Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, based in Ahmedabad

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

THE FASCIST STATE: Setting the agenda to counter


THE FASCIST STATE: Setting the agenda to counter

We, the participants of the Seminar on 'The Fascist State: Setting the agenda to counter' held at the Gujarat Vidyapith, Ahmedabad, on Sunday, 23rd November 2008, are extremely concerned at the increasingly fascist nature of the Indian State, as illustrated by several instances in the recent past.
Gujarat 2002 certainly heralded the fascist era in Indian politics; but it is getting deeply entrenched in Indian politics as a whole, without exception of the party in power. The genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, the subversion of the criminal justice system in order to achieve this, the application of POTA on Muslims in Godhra and other cases, the refusal to acknowledge the large numbers of Internally Displaced Muslims, the persecution of Christian and Muslim Adivasis and the holding of the Shabri Kumbh in the Dangs – all these did expose the fascist characteristics of the State in Gujarat. Encounter killings of Muslims under the pretext of a conspiracy to kill the CM, the appointment of Sanghis in the universities and the saffronization of the campuses, the recent massive drive against Muslim youth following the Ahmedabad blasts also reiterate this.
The brutal and blatant attacks on Christians and their institutions in Orissa and Karnataka, with total connivance of the State Governments has exposed the massive fascist project that is underway. The misrepresentation of the constitutionally granted right to practice and propagate one's religion as "forced conversions", in order to threaten the marginalized communities into submission and acceptance of the dominant Hindutva discourse which finally culminates in draconian anti-conversion laws, seems to be passively accepted by the political parties and civil society across the board.
We express deep anguish at the increasing fascist mobilization in society, rising State terror and a circumvention of the rule of law by the law enforcing agencies, and the large scale violation of civil and political liberties.
We condemn these acts of repression in no uncertain terms. We call upon the Central and State Governments to act immediately : uphold and protect the sanctity of the Constitution, to guarantee the rights and freedom of all citizens and to contain the fascist forces which are inimical to the pluralism and diversity of the country.
We invite civil society and all citizens of India, to raise their voice against these fascist forces and make our country in the real sense of the word, one which is 'by the people, for the people and of the people'.
Action Aid * Aman Biradari * Aman Samuday * Antarik Visthapit Haq Rakshak Samiti * Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan * Centre for Development * Documentation and Study Centre for Action * Himmat * INSAF * JanVikas * Lok Kala Manch * Mahila Swaraj Abhiyan * Movement for Secular Democracy * National Alliance for Women * Niswa * PRASHANT * PUCL * Safar * SAHR WARU * Women's Action and Resource Unit * Samarpan * Samerth * Samvedan Cultural Program * Sanchetna * Saurashtra Dalit Sangathan * St. Xavier's Social Service Society * Swabhimaan Andolan * URJAGHAR
23rd November 2008
'DARSHAN' – An Organization Committed to Cultural Transformation
B-2/1, Sahajanand Towers, Jivraj park, Ahmedabad – 380 051, Gujarat, India.
PHONE: +91-79-26815484, 65413032.
hiren_darshan@yahoo.com, darshan.org@gmail.com
WWW: www.geocities.com/samvedan2004

Friday, November 21, 2008

The President-Elect and India

by: Martha Nussbaum



President-elect Barack Obama will face many challenges in foreign policy, but forging a productive relationship with India will be high on that list. President Clinton took a keen interest in India, and, especially, in issues of rural development. He visited rural development projects with his usual zest and curiosity, taking a particularly keen interest in the situation of women. After his Presidency, Clinton has continued his work on issues of poverty and development. He was also virtually the only major international leader to stand up right after the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 and publicly condemn the perpetrators.

President Bush, by contrast, focused his efforts on the nuclear deal, more or less neglecting issues of poverty and development. One bright spot in the generally dismal record of his dealings with India, however, was the decision to deny a visa to Narendra Modi, who had been invited to lecture here by a group of Non-Resident Indians (NRI's). The State Department cited his role in the Gujarat pogrom as its reason for denying him a diplomatic visa and revoking his tourist visa. This courageous stance in favor of human rights and against the perpetrators of a genocide was surprising but highly welome to the large number of U. S.-based scholars of India who had petitioned the State Department in this matter.

What course will President Obama choose? Will he, like Clinton, focus on poverty, quality of life, gender equality, and an end to the politics of hate? Or will he follow the lead of the NRI community, focusing on entrepreneurship and nuclear partnership? Much discussion, this week, has focused on Obama's appointment of Sonal Shah to his transition team. I shall not add to the growing volume of commentary on Shah's links to the VHP-A, since she has already issued one statement condeming the politics of hate, and will soon be invited to clarify her position further. Shah personally is involved with only the VHP-A's relief efforts. There is room for concern, however, that someone with such close ties to an organization that has been complicit in terrorist activities against Muslims and Christians should hold such a prominent place. The whole issue deserves the further clarification that it will receive.

Instead of pursuing that question further, however, I should like to focus on a letter written by then-candidate Obama to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, dated September 23, 2008, and published in India Abroad, the October 10 issue. I address these remarks to my former University of Chicago Law School colleague in the spirit of the type of respectful yet searching criticism that I know he will recognize as a hallmark of our faculty workshops and discussions.

The Obama letter has three slightly disturbing characteristics.

First, the letter gives lengthy praise to the nuclear deal, without acknowledging the widespread debate about the wisdom of that deal in both nations. Perhaps, however, this silence simply reflects politeness: Obama is surely aware that Singh has been an enthusiastic backer of the deal, risking much political capital in the process.

Second, the letter speaks of future cooperation that will "tap the creativity and dynamism of our entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists," particularly in the area of alternative energy sources, but never mentions a future partnership in the effort to eradicate poverty and illiteracy. This silence, unlike the first, cannot be explained by politeness, since Singh has devoted a great deal of attention to issues of rural poverty, and it is plausible to think that he could have gotten a lot further had he had more help from abroad.

Third, and most disturbing, the letter commiserates with Singh for the Delhi bomb blasts, but makes no mention of Gujarat or Orissa. Obama offers Singh:

"my condolences on the painful losses your citizens have suffered in the recent string of terrorist assaults. As I have said publicly, I deplore and condemn the vicious attacks perpetrated in New Delhi earlier this month, and on the Indian embassy in Kabul on July 7. The death and destruction is reprehensible, and you and your nation have my deepest sympathy. These cowardly acts of mass murder are a stark reminder that India suffers from the scourge of terrorism on a scale few other nations can imagine."

Obama's use of the word "terrorism" to describe acts thought to be perpetrated by Muslims, while not using that same word for acts perpetrated by Hindus, is ominous. Muslims suffer greatly in India, as elsewhere, from the stereotype of the violent Muslim, and both justice and truth demand that we all do what we can to undermine these stereotypes, bringing the guilty of all religions to justice, and protecting the innocent. (The recent refusals of local bar associations in India to defend Muslims accused of complicity in terrorism, under threat of violence, shows that the rule of law itself hangs in the balance.) Particularly odd is Obama's omission of events in Orissa, which were and are ongoing. His phrase "the scourge of terrorism" is virtually Bushian in its suggestion that terrorism is a single thing (presumably Muslim) and that many nations suffer from that single thing. (Note that it is not even true that most world terrorism is caused by Muslims. Our University of Chicago colleague Robert Pape's careful quantitative study of terrorism worldwide concludes that the Tamil Tigers, a secular political organization, are the bloodiest in the world. Moreover, Pape argues convincingly that even when religion is used as a screen for terror, the real motives are most often political, having to do with local conflicts.)

Obama's letter was written during a campaign. Perhaps it reflects awareness of the priorities of NRI's who were working hard in that campaign. At this point, however, he can start with a clean slate and decide how to order his priorities regarding India. Let us hope that, like Bill Clinton, he will give the center of his attention to issues of human development (poverty, gender equality, education, health), and that, when discussing the issue of religious violence, he will study carefully the violence in Gujarat and Orissa, learn all he can about the organizations of the Sangh Parivar, and adopt a policy that denounces religious violence in all its forms. To mention one immediate issue, it would be a disaster for global justice if Obama, as President, were to heed the demands of the diaspora community to grant Narendra Modi a visa -- especially since the Tehelka expose has made so clear the cooperation of the government of the state of Gujarat in those horrendous acts of violence.

President Obama has repeatedly shown a deeply felt commitment to the eradication of a politics based upon hate. Can we have confidence that he will carry that commitment into his relationship with India, even when the demands of powerful leaders of the NRI community make that difficult? I certainly hope so.

Martha Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at The University of Chicago, and the author of The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence, and India's Future.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


It is the right and the duty of every citizen above the age of 18 to exercise his/her vote. Here are some pointers which may be helpful :


 if you are above 18 years and a citizen of India, you must have your name on the Electoral Roll (ER).
 it is a basic identity for an adult citizen of India
 check immediately whether your name is on the ER (at your Taluka Office / Collector's Office / the local branch Office of a National political party).
 for inclusion of name on the ER, you will have to fill in Form No. 6.
 ask the concerned officer when you should return to confirm that your name is on the ER
 to raise any objection or for deletion of one's name, you will have to fill in Form No. 7.
 for correction of entries in the Electoral Roll you will have to fill in Form No. 8.
 please feel free to write your complaints to the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of your State and / or to the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Delhi
 always retain copies of your application / letters signed by the receiving officer for further reference.
 ensure that you have the updated Elector's Photo Identity Card (EPIC). (At times, you may be required to provide your own Passport Photos in order to receive an EPIC).
 help the poor, marginalized, underprivileged to have their names on the ER. – this may be their only identity


 get involved in mainstream politics.
 encourage / support political parties which focus on governance and on issues related to transparency, human rights, justice and peace and safeguarding the freedom of all citizens.
 check out the candidates, the parties wish to nominate for a particular seat.
 organize public debates / dialogues with them and assess their views / opinions / promises
 study their Election Manifesto of the previous elections and see whether the ruling party / sitting candidate has fulfilled the promises made.
 assess their views on vulnerable groups like the tribals, dalits, children, women, minorities and also on critical subjects like water, education, food, security, shelter, environment, employment, health and globalization.


 cast your vote – and do it early in the day !
 encourage all others to cast their votes too.
 vote for a party / individual that is not corrupt, criminal, casteist and / or communal
 DO NOT vote for an individual who belongs / subscribes to a party whose ideology is communal / divisive and / or fascist.
 you also have the right to cast your vote for "NO CANDIDATE"
 if you notice any bogus voting, rigging or booth capturing, bring it to the notice of the police / election officers immediately and preferably in writing.


 find out the details of your elected representative (name, address, telephone / fax nos., email, etc.)
 arrange that organizations, villages / groups invite the person to share his / her views about the area for the next five years.
 remember that they have budgetary allocations for their constituency; find out for what programmes the money will be / is being utilized.
 insist that your views / concerns are voiced in the Assembly / Parliament.
 remind the representative that as a voter you have a right to recall, or to ask for his / her resignation.
 while respecting the fact that s / he is elected , never provide unnecessary legitimacy if the person represents interests that are communal, corrupt, casteist and anti-Constitutional


 any concern / complaint in the context of the Electoral Rolls must be sent in writing (registered post / courier) immediately to : The Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) of your State (eg. for Gujarat it is : Election Commission, General Administration Department, Block No. 7, II Floor, Sachivalaya, Gandhinagar 382 010
Tel.: (079) 23250316 / 23250318 , Fax: (079) 23250317
email :
ceo_gujarat@eci.gov.in www.ceogujarat.nic.in
 serious concerns like the disenfranchisement of a whole community / village must also be brought to the notice of : The Chief Election Commissioner of India, Nirvachan Sadan, Ashoka Road, New Delhi 110 001
Tel.: (011) 23717391 - 98 Fax : (011) 23713412 email : feedback@eci.gov.in
 the above two may also be informed about any irregularities regarding the elections.
 The Election Commission of India has a very useful page : "A GUIDE FOR VOTERS" on their website
 use the Right to Information Act
 a private agency has a very useful website http://www.jagore.com/
 contact "PRASHANT" for further information / assistance.

Issued by :

PRASHANT (Centre for Human Right, Justice and Peace)
Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad 380 052, Gujarat, India
Tel.: 079 66522333 / 27455913 Fax : 079 27489018

(November 2008)

(This is used in Public Interest to promote and safeguard our Constitutional Rights and Obligations. Kindly circulate this widely)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Conversion is basic to one's spiritual existence By Fali S. Nariman

Conversion is basic to one's spiritual existence
By Fali S. Nariman

Source: Asian Age (20 October 2008)

History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided. When the history of this country comes to be written and we are able to see things in perspective, it will record that a great statesman, (former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee), missed his true destiny when he said, after visiting Gujarat at the end of 1998: "We must have a debate on conversions". This was at the time when only crosses and bibles were being burnt. It got much worse after that. What he should have said was: "We must stop this senseless attack on minorities and minority religious institutions: because that has always been our tradition and our law".
As for tradition — it was in the 3rd century AD that the religious hegemony of the Brahmins in Hindustan was contested by kshatriya noblemen who founded Buddhism. This new religion rejected the predetermination of status by birth and the hierarchical ranking of castes. It became the religion of the kings who ruled India for several hundred years. Embraced by the Emperor Ashoka (273-232 BC), Buddhism gained a foothold in the subcontinent. For more than 200 years it posed a real threat to Hinduism. Then in the 17th century Adi Shankara, with superlative missionary zeal, almost single-handedly restored the authority of the Vedas as the basis of Hindu thought. Not by force, but by the power of persuasion. By his discourses throughout the length and breadth of Hindustan this great young man (he died at age 32) put an end to the hegemony of Buddhism in India. He did this by exercising his inherent right to propagate his own religion — and he succeeded: there was no violence, no bloodshed.
During the reign of Harsh Vardhan (AD 606-648) — the last Buddhist king — the great casteless religion was stamped out in the land of its birth. Sir Charles Eliot, oriental scholar, described the denouement in an expressive phrase: "Brahmanism killed Buddhism by a fraternal embrace"! This was true conversion: and our tradition respects it.
So does — our law. The Fundamental Rights chapter of our Constitution says that all persons are equally entitled to freedom of conscience and the right freely to profess, practice and propagate religion. The draft article (Article 19) corresponding to Article 25 was restricted to "profess and practice religion", it was changed, after debate and deliberation, to "profess, practice and propagate religion".
During the debate in the Constituent Assembly, one of the makers of modern India, Mr T.T. Krishnamachari, a Hindu by faith, had this to say on draft Article 19:
"Sir, I know as a person who has studied for about 14 years in Christian institutions that no attempt had been made to convert me from my own faith and to practice Christianity. I am very well aware of the influences that Christianity has brought to bear upon our own ideals and our own outlook, and I am not prepared to say here that they should be prevented from propagating their religion. I would ask the House to look at the facts so far as the history of this type of conversion is concerned. It depends upon the way in which certain religionists and certain communities treat their less fortunate brethern. The fact that many people in this country have embraced Christianity is due partly to the status that it gave to them.
Why should we forget that particular fact? An untouchable who became a Christian became an equal in every matter along with the high-caste Hindu, and if we remove the need to obtain that particular advantage that he might probably get — it is undoubtedly a very important advantage, apart from the fact that he has faith in the religion itself — well, the incentive for anybody to become a Christian will not probably exist."
Draft Article 19, with the word "propagate", was put to vote and was adopted as part of the Constitution of India 1950 (it is now Article 25). There may be two opinions on the subsequent decision of our Supreme Court in the case of Father Stanislaus case (1977) — about forced conversions — but it has stood the test of time, and we have all lived, without much discomfort, for nearly three decades with the Supreme Court's declaration of the law. After all, to be converted to a different religious persuasion is not a matter of force but of free volition and choice. It is basic to one's spiritual existence. No one — no State — can deny it. It is recognised in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) to which India is a signatory. The UDHR proclaims that everyone has a right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, which includes "the freedom to change one's religion or belief"; it is also reproduced in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which India had ratified in 1979. Conversion by force in an offence — those who indulge in it can and must be prosecuted: so far hardly anyone has been. But there is no excuse for indulging in violence and mayhem.
Way back in January 1999 — it now seems only like yesterday! — Swami Nikhilananda who studied geology at my old alma mater St. Xavier's College, Mumbai, now a senior monk of the Chinmaya Order, was questioned about the ghastly incidents in Orissa leading to murder of the Australian missionary and his two children. "What is your reaction to the militancy of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal?" he was pointedly asked. He did not evade the question. He did not say "what militancy?" or "who says they are militant?" Swami Nikhilananda's answer was direct and straight forward. He said "such violence is condemnable. For a Hindu who swears by ahimsa and equality of all religions such acts are barbaric to say the least. The Hindu society is known for its tolerance and it is unfortunate that a few fanatics seek to divide society by their actions".
The trouble today is that the "fanatics" are not so few: They are getting more vocal and more violent and what bothers me is that there has been only sporadic condemnation by leaders of religious and political parties.
As a nation we appear to be ignoring the stern warning of the ancient Greeks: "Whom the Gods destroy, they first make mad".
Fali S. Nariman is an eminent constitutional lawyer

Friday, October 10, 2008


-    Averthanus L. D'Souza.
Ramesh Rajaram Vispute, a former Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) once remarked: "The enemies of the Hindus are the Muslims, the Christians, the Hindu intellectuals and the media."   It is very significant as well as intriguing that Vispute included the Hindu intellectuals and the media in his category of the "enemies" of Hindus.   It does not take great intellectual acumen to interpret the meaning of this statement by a very prominent Hindutva promoter.   It is quite obvious that  Hindu intellectuals (nor any other reasonably educated person for that matter) will refuse to  swallow the confused gibberish  which is churned out by the Hindutva propagandists to arouse anger and hatred  against Muslims and Christians,  for which the VHP  is so notorious.   Any thinking person (including Hindu "intellectuals") will see through the falsity of the arguments which the VHP advances in its hate campaigns.  It is precisely because the position of the Hindutva campaign is irrational  and untenable that the propagandists prefer to recruit uneducated and unthinking followers who can easily be manipulated to believe anything that is fed to them.    The Bajrang Dal,  which is considered to be the front-rank of the storm-troopers  of the VHP  is a good example of uneducated youth, with more passion than reason, who are willing to blindly follow orders without thinking, and who are conditioned to believe that heroism consists in slaughtering helpless women and children, and burning innocent people alive.   In this respect the Bajrang Dal is no different from the Hitler Youth of Nazi Germany or the youth brigades of the other fascist movements in Europe who were used to terrorize the population into submission.   With their saffron head-bands and wielding 'trishuls', and screaming full-throated war-cries,   these rampaging gangs can cause terror anywhere – which is precisely what they are trained to do.  They are 'programmed' to follow orders, irrespective of the morality of the orders or the consequences which follow.  B.S. Moonje, a prominent RSS leader, personally met  the Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini in Rome on 19 March, 1931, visited some important military schools and educational institutions and became acquainted with the Balilla and the Avanguardisti organizations.   Moonje wrote in his diary that the keystone of the fascist system is the  'indoctrination' of youths, rather than education.  This is the foundation on which the Bajrang Dal is built.
While cultivated ignorance of the youth is one facet which is promoted by the Hindutva  ideologues,  deliberate falsification of current facts as well as of History is another method of indoctrination used.    Lal .Krishna. Advani  closely studied the system of propaganda developed by Nazi Germany.  He says:  "In Nazi Germany, fascism in action developed two other distinctive characteristics: firstly, adoption of propaganda as a key instrument of State policy; and secondly, the systematic  development of a demonology to keep the masses in a mood of perpetual tension and hysteria." (L.K.Advani- "A Prisoner's Scrap Book" )   Advani and his colleagues have tried hard to refine and improve upon the propaganda-cum-terror machinery  which was developed by Nazi Germany, specially by Hitler's most trusted lieutenant Paul Joseph Goebbels, whose name has now become synonymous with high-voltage mendacious propaganda.    
One of the more prominent falsifications which the Hindutva protagonists are propagating is that Hindutva is an integral part of Hinduism.   No sensible person, (including thinking Hindus) accepts this claim.   In fact, the vast majority of Hindus are aghast at this identification of Hinduism with Hindutva.     Hinduism is a highly respected religion of long standing.  It is recognized (even by non-Hindus) as being, perhaps, one of the oldest religions in human history.  It outlived the ancient religions of the Sumerians, the Etruscans, the Mesopotamians the Greeks and the Egyptians.  Hinduism has always been associated with 'sanatana'         which denotes timelessness or ancientness.   Hinduism has never been associated with any particular political system;  nor has it ever shown a preference for any particular cultural context.   In the broadest sense of the word, Hinduism is "heterodox"  and embraces a vast variety of rituals, beliefs, popular practices and dietary preferences.   In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna: "Through whatever path men come to me, I accept them through that very path."
 In sharp contrast to Hinduism as a religion,  Hindutva is a clearly distinguishable "political" ideology which is straining to concoct a "national" identity  based on the Hindu religion.    Hindutva is a clearly fascist political movement, which has drawn much of its inspiration from European fascism and German Nazism.   The most prominent protagonists of Hindutva,  Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (1902 – 1966),  Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (1906 – 1973) and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (1901 – 1953)  among others, have derived their ideologies from European fascism and modified it to suit Indian conditions.   In fact, Pravin Togadia the "International General Secretary" of the VHP explicitly says that India is a Hindu Rashtra since millennia, and that Hindutva is not a religion but a synonym for Hindu nationalism.   It should be quite clear, therefore, that the rejection of the claims of Hindutva cannot be construed as being anti-Hinduism.   In fact,  it is precisely because of the distortion of Hinduism by the Hindutva brigade that the Hindu intellectuals have rejected it.   The Hindutva fanatics thrive on spreading this confusion between Hindutva and Hinduism.   They have been able to increase their  popularity because they repeat the (false) propaganda that the promotion of Hindutva is the promotion of Hinduism
There are many distortions which the Hindutva fascists have wrought on Hinduism.   Suffice it to indicate only a few blatant contradictions in their propaganda.  
One:  Hindutva is supposedly  a movement to create a Hindu "Rashtra".   The secularism enshrined in the Indian Constitution is violently rejected by the Hindutva protagonists.   At the same time they have made a conscious and vigorous effort to create an "international"  Hindu community.   The formation of the "World Hindu Council"  and the creation of the post of an "International General Secretary" of the VHP is a clear contradiction of the claim that Hindutva is limited to the objective of creating a Hindu "nation."   This contradiction is obvious to every sane person, except, of course, the rabid Hindutva ideologues.
The claim made by Pravin Togadia that  Hindutva as a "Rashtra" has existed since millennia is patently false.  By all historical accounts, whether in ancient or mediaeval India,  there were several "kingdoms" or "empires."   Among the more well-known ancient empires were the Mauryan empire of Chandragupta Maurya ( approx. 326 B.C. to 184 B.C.)  and the Asokan empire  (approx. 269 B.C. to 232 B.C.)  There were also other lesser kingdoms like those of Kushana.  In the south there were the numerous kingdoms of Adilshah, the Pandyan and Chola kingdoms, the Chalukyan dynasty and the Vijayanagaran kingdom (1336 to 1567 A.D.)  and the better known Maratha Kingdom whose best known figure is Shivaji.    In the course of history, all these kingdoms were in conflict with one or another with a view to expand their fiefdom or to retrieve lands which had been taken away by force.   There was never a "nation" called India.  Even after the gaining of political independence from  Britain in 1945,  it was left to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel to consolidate the various major and minor kingdoms into a unified Nation.  It is indisputable that it was under Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel that the so-called "Princely States" were abolished and integrated into the State of India, which, for the first time in its entire history adopted a Constitution which was to govern the "Nation."   The falsity of the VHP's claim that India was always a Hindu "rashtra" is proven by the very fact that it is still seeking to "create" the Hindu Rashtra of its dream.     
Two:  the VHP claims that people who profess and practice other religions cannot be part of the Hindu Rashtra.   This is in stark contradiction to the repeated statements made by the Hindutva leaders that Hindutva is a "secular" concept.  In fact, they claim that they are secular precisely because they are Hindu.  They accuse non-Hindus of being "pseudo-secular."   They continue to trumpet this obvious contradiction that only Hindus are secular and the followers of all other religions are not secular.   Yet, they also claim that Hindutva is a "composite" culture which embraces a variety of religions, cults, languages and ethnic cultures.   The Hindutva ideologues have never been able to reconcile  this glaring contradiction in their position.  If Hindutva "embraces"  other  ethnic cultures, why is it that they are systematically forcing tribals (who are not, and never have been,  Hindu) to "convert"  to Hinduism?   On the one hand they have sponsored so-called "Freedom of Religion" legislation in many States; because they are ostensibly opposed to conversions by force, fraud or inducements;  yet on the other hand, they themselves are forcibly "converting" tribals, members of scheduled castes and followers of other religions.  They offer the lame and unconvincing argument that they are only bringing back these people to the Hindu fold.  They have called this movement a "ghar vapasi."   The fact is that the tribals have never been Hindu.  They have their own culture, religion and social practices.   "Ghar vapasi"  in their case simply does not make any sense.   Former Indian Prime Minister, V.P. Singh has rightly pointed out that "ultimately what they are aiming at is authoritarian  rule.  Then not only will the minorities be targeted, but also those who do not agree with them. You will be declared an anti-national and treated thus."
One of the more prominent characteristics of any dictatorial political movement is the systematic  creation  of  confusion in the minds of the citizens so that they can never be sure of what the truth is. This is done in two ways.   One is to spread rumours through the cadres of grassroots level workers, and another is to simultaneously issue "official" statements "clarifying" the official position on any particular issue.   This is a very subtle psychological game which is being played by the top leadership of the  Hindutva brigade.   Citizens need to be aware of this and not fall into the trap which is deliberately created by the Hindutva ideologues.  A glaringly example of this "double-speak" is the fact that the Bajrang Dal leaders in Karnataka have openly stated on TV channels that they are responsible for the attacks against Christian churches, institutions and personnel.  At the same time, the BJP government in Karnataka and the VHP leadership insist that the Bajrang Dal had nothing to do with the attacks.  
There are too many contradictions in the propaganda arsenal of the Sangh Parivar to be treated at length in a brief essay,  but this short analysis will, perhaps, help to pinpoint the contradictions:
Hindu Nationalism v/s International Hindu Solidarity.
The entire Hindutva movement is grounded on the principle that India is a Hindu nation, and that only Hindus can enjoy rights of citizenship in India.   In this view, Muslims and Christians, in particular, but also Jews, Parsis, Buddhists and Jains, are viewed as non-Indian.   Each time a violent attack is carried out against Muslims or Christians, the Bajrang Dal terrorists shout that the Muslims and Christians should either become Hindus or leave the country.   Islam and Christianity are considered to be "impositions" by foreign Muslim conquerors or by Western Christian missionaries.  The teachings of V.D. Savarkar and M.S. Golwalkar are very explicit about this.  According to them, non-Hindus cannot enjoy rights of citizenship.  The Muslims are constantly warned that their continued presence in India is entirely dependent on the "goodwill" of the Hindus and the Christians are "advised" to form an Indian Church under the complete control of the Indian Government, similar to the National Church in China.   The so-called principle is constantly repeated that only those who sever their links with any international community and become entirely Hindu will be tolerated in (an Hindutva ruled)  India.  
The stark contradiction in this position is the fact that Hindutva is Not confined to the geographical territory of India;  it is sought to be made an international religion.  Ever since the famous Parliament of Religions was addressed by Swami Vivekananda, in Chicago  the "missionary" dimension of Hinduism was begun with the formation of the Vedanta Society in 1893  in New York.   Today there are Hindu "missions"  all over the world, in the U.S.A., in Europe, in the Pacific Islands, in the West Indies, and in South Africa.   The claim that Hindutva is a movement to establish a Hindu "Rashtra," is, therefore, patently false.   The comparison with the expansionist movement of Nazi Germany is too striking to be missed.  First it started with the unification of German speaking countries; then it was extended to include all people of Aryan ethnic stock.  Since racial characteristics could not be "assimilated"  the Nazis began a systematic extermination, first  of the Jewish people and then of other "tainted" races.   The Hindutva claim to form a Hindu Rashtra, is, on the face of it, a huge fraud perpetrated by the Hindutva ideologues.  From a close examination of the literature available, it is clear that the Hindutva brigade wants to establish a theocratic Hindu State in India, not dissimilar to the Islamic State of neighbouring Pakistan.
Tolerance v/s xenophobia.
Another myth which has been created by the Hindutva protagonists is the claim that Hindutva is a tolerant ideology and is based on secular values.   This is far from the truth.  Hindutva is a blatantly intolerant movement which thrives on spreading hatred and fear among people.  In fact it is so intolerant that it seeks to re-write history,  which, according to it, has been written by "pseudo-secularists."    Its distortion of history is so blatant that it has even created the myth that Asoka  and Chandragupta Maurya were Hindu kings.  This is a blatant falsification of History.  All reliable sources tell us that Asoka ruled over a Buddhist kingdom, and that Chandragupta Maurya was strongly associated with the Jaina tradition.  The Hindutva view of history is not based on scientific research, but on an imagination running wild.   The Hindutva "historians" are worthy disciples of Goebbels who taught that if you repeat a lie over and over again,  people will soon begin to accept it as the truth.  
If Hindutva is a tolerant political ideology which respects secular values, why is it that in all the States which are ruled by the BJP there is a systematic attack against Christians and Muslims?    Why is it that tribals, who are not, and never have been, Hindu are being terrorized into converting to Hinduism?  
The Hindutva fanatics claim that they are against conversion by force, fraud or by material inducements.  In fact they accuse the Christians of having converted Hindus by offering such material inducements.   Yet, the duplicity of their claims is starkly evident in the fact that wherever they have attacked the Christians,  independent Commissions of Enquiry have not been able to confirm a single case of conversion by the use of fraud, force or material inducement.    The Laws in India are very clear about such conversions. If the Hindutva terrorists have any evidence of such conversions, they should have recourse to the Law.   Instead, they resort to violence and terror against helpless, innocent and weak communities.   They themselves use force to (re)convert people.
The Hindutva movement is  built on the foundations of falsehood, force and terror.   In times of natural calamities, like the earthquake in Gujarat,  they prevented anyone else from assisting the affected people.  They sought exclusive rights to dispense aid, but they distributed this aid in a highly reprehensible manner.   Muslim victims were carefully and deliberately excluded.   Others were given aid only on condition that they swore to remain or to become Hindu.   There is voluminous evidence of such discrimination even in times of dire affliction.   And these very people claim that Hindutva is a humanitarian and generous movement. 
Citizens need to be aware of the duplicity of the Hindutva movement.   They should examine all their claims critically;  and most of all, citizens should not be beguiled into believing that the Hindutva movement has any redeeming features.  It is an unmitigated evil.
The battle lines are very clear.  We Indians, of all faiths, varieties of cultures and  languages,  are facing a grave threat to the secular, democratic and pluri-cultural fabric of our society.   We need to join forces to defeat the evil forces of fascism and authoritarianism.   The fight is not between Hinduism and other religions.  The  fight is really between secularism and democracy, on the one hand, and fascism on the other.  
Averthanus L. D'Souza,
D-13, La Marvel Colony,
Dona Paula,  Goa 403 004.
Tel: 2453628.