Friday, June 27, 2008

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION ONLINE......"Against Violation of Freedom of Speech, Expression and Conscience in Gujarat, India"

Dear Friends,
An Online Petition addressed to The President of India, and entitled :
"Against Violation of Freedom of Speech, Expression and Conscience in
Gujarat, India"
has been  hosted on the web by, the free online petition
service, at:
In context of the prevailing situation in Gujarat, we request you to read
and sign the petition and also to forward  it  to all your friends, well
wishers and concerned citizens so that they can read and sign this petition
Do get back to us if you need  any clarification or desire further
Thanking you,
 With warm wishes,
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

 - - - - - - - -     - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - -   - - - - -
 PRASHANT  -  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad -
380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat,
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

- - - - - - - -     - - - - - - - -    - - - - - - -   - - - - -
PRASHANT  -  A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace

Street Address : Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052, Gujarat, India
Postal Address : P B 4050, Navrangpura PO, Ahmedabad - 380 009, Gujarat, India
Phone : 91  79   27455913,  66522333
Fax : 91  79  27489018

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Organized by
J.P. Centenary Committee, PUCL, MSD, PRASHANT, Nirikshak, Bhoomi Putra, Nayamarg,  Jalseva
C/o. Gandhi Peace Foundation, Himavan, Paldi, Ahmedabad 380 006
Ph: 079-26641353     Cell: 9825382556     email:
Delegation meets Governor
Freedom of Expression in Gujarat
In the wake of the Gujarat State Freedom of Expression Conference which was held in Ahmedabad on June 22nd 2008, a representative group met the Governor of Gujarat
Shri Naval Kishore Sharma at the Raj Bhavan  in Gandhinagar  today and handed over to him a Memorandum together with the Resolution of the Conference.
The delegation representing several sections of civil society consisted Shri Gautam Thaker, Gujarat State Secretary of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Shri Digant Oza, National Convenor of the Peoples Movement of India and Fr. Cedric Prakash, Director of PRASHANT.
The delegation appraised the Governor, of the Conference and urged him as the Constitutional Head of the State, to do all within his capacity to ensure that the Constitutional Right of Freedom of Expression and Conscience is no longer throttled in this State.
The Governor gave the delegation a patient hearing and assured that he would do his very best to address the issue.
GAUTAM THAKER                            
SECRETARY,  P.U.C.L.                      
FR. CEDRIC PRAKASH                                                                                                                                                    
DIRECTOR, PRASHANT                              
24th June 2008

Organized by
J.P. Centenary Committee, PUCL, MSD, PRASHANT, Nirikshak, Bhoomi Putra, Nayamarg,  Jalseva
C/o. Gandhi Peace Foundation, Himavan, Paldi, Ahmedabad 380 007
Ph: 079-26641353     Cell: 9825382556     email:
                                                                                                                                            Date : 24-6-2008
Subject : Sedition charges on Times of India, case against Shri Ashish Nandy and
               other Freedom of Expression issues.
Shri Navalkishore Sharma,
The Governor of Gujarat,
Respected Sir,
The Gujarat State Freedom of Expression Conference was held on 22nd June, 2008 at Bhaikaka Bhavan, Near Law Garden, Ahmedabad to uphold the Freedom of Expression.  The Conference was presided by Shri Chunibhai Vaidya, Senior Sarvodaya Leader.   Senior Journalist Shri Kuldip Nayar, Justice Raginder Sachar and Shri Kannabiran, the President of P.U.C.L. were the distinguished Speakers at the Conference.

The Conference was organized by P.U.C.L., Movement for Secular Democracy, J.P.Centenary Committee, PRASHANT, Nirikshak, Nayamarg, Bhoomi Putra and Jalseva.  The Conference was attended by citizens of the State from all walks of life in large numbers.
The other Speakers at the Conference were Prof. J. S. Bandukwala, Advocate Girishbhai Patel, Digant Oza, Indukumar Jani, Dwarika Nath Rath, Fr. Cedric Prakash and Gautam Thaker.
The following Resolution was passed at the Conference unanimously and it was decided to submit a Memorandum to the Governor of Gujarat.  On behalf of the Conference, we are submitting this Memorandum to you along with the copy of the Resolution for your knowledge and prompt measures to check the abuse of power and assault on Freedom of Expression and human rights in the State.
Thanking you,
Yours faithfully,
GAUTAM THAKER                            
SECRETARY,  P.U.C.L.                      
FR. CEDRIC PRAKASH                                                                                                                                                    
DIRECTOR, PRASHANT                              
Gujarat State Level Conference of freedom of Expression of Gujarat recalls the black days of emergency where all the fundamental rights, democratic, civil rights were trampled and thousands were put behind the bar. Pre censorship on media was imposed and various newspapers, journals were sealed off including Bhoomi Putra of Gujarat.
Though it is going to be the 34th year of emergency, the trail of it is still endangering the democracy where the freedom of expression is becoming the worst casualty. It is under surveillance. Now the charge of sedition on Times of India, cases against Ashish Nandy, attack on Kumar Ketkar and many other journalists and media throughout the country, imprisonment of civil right activist Dr. Binayak Sen and others and the promulgation of draconian acts in various parts of the country is a matter of grave concern. Minorities choose to remain silent but waiting for the justice.The dalits, the poor workers, marginalized section and the women hardly have any forum where they can express freely about their plights. Freedom of Religion Law which the Government has enacted from April 1st 2008.  curbs the right of a citizen from Freely expressing and choosing the religion of his/her choice. This conference takes serious note of all these developments related to freedom of expression.
The Conference would like to draw the attention that according to a survey conducted by media advocacy group in Paris during October 2006, ranking countries from best to worst in protecting the freedom of press, India was ranked at 115 in restoring press freedom
 The recent sedition charge against TOI has alarmed all the democracy loving people in the country which has evoked country wide protest.
First of all this conference condemn the sedition charge against Times of India, a tip of an iceberg in Gujarat. Several press have also been the victim in Gujarat. It is a direct assault on freedom of Press, which is the fourth Estate in a democratic country.  Registering the case against Times of India is a deliberate action of Police to suppress the voice of dissent of the press and create an atmosphere of panic in the state, where violation of human rights and Democratic rights is becoming a regular practice of the Police and Govt. in Gujarat in overt and covert fashion for last so many years.
The features carried by Times of India exposing the close  nexus between Police officer Mr. O.P. Mathur with Mr. Abdul Latif , is not only appalling but raises  serious question about the credibility of  the Police Officer in high rank  and  level of criminalization of Police in the state.
The Ahmedabad city Police Commissioner Mr. O.P.Mathur instead of responding to the documented investigative report published by the Times of India either by refuting the charges or by filing defamation case but to treat the reports questioning his competence as amounting to excite hatred, contempt or dissatisfaction towards the Govt. reflects his undemocratic character and audacity to equate himself as Govt. established by law. If Mr. Mathur has acted with the approval of the Govt., it exposes how the state attempts to suppress democratic dissent., which can be a British colonial hang over.
So, any threat to freedom of  press and freedom of expression by any quarter of the administration is a direct threat to democracy and perpetuate fascist type of rule
The role of media as the watchdog of democracy and its role to disseminate right to information to the citizen is always indispensable, which the Times of India has been performing.
The charge of Sedition or prosecution of media persons is not new in Gujarat. It has become a normal practice.IPC section 124 (A) has been used at will against the editors, reporters in Gujarat and they are put behind the bars
·   The reporter of AajTak was charged because of telecasting the news exposing the indifferent attitude of the Modi Govt. towards the orphan of the riot victim of Naroda Patia , as assured by the then   
    President of India Dr.A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.The editor of Samana of Surat was prosecuted due to its coverage on the Surat flood.
·   The editor of Aajkal of Rajkot was charged with 124A because of coverage of news exposing the nexus between Police and the Underworld in Bhavnagar.
·   The editor of Young Aarohi of Veraval was framed 124A because of carrying the news exposing the Arms traffiking. 124A was also filed against
·   Ms. Nafisa Ali and daily Divya Bhaskar on her comment on carnage 2002.There are innumerable overt and covert threats to the media in the state.
Inspite of the threat the media is doing its best to be the watchdog of democracy. But the fear of sedition, defamation, prosecutions etc.pushing the media towards self censorship.
The degree of regimentation and undemocratic atmosphere prevailing in the state can be gauzed the way the film Parzania was not allowed to be screened and the Fanaa was pulled down from the theatres.
Now Prof. Ashish Nandy is facing police case registered against him. Prof. Ashish Nandy wrote an article "Blame the Middle Classes?" after the Gujarat elections. He gave his analysis of the election outcome. A criminal case has been filed for writing this article under IPC Section 153 (A) and (B), with the permission of Government of Gujarat. Shockingly the head of the Gujarat Branch of the National Council of Civil Liberties has filed the case.
Press freedom is also threatened by the violence of political parties as well as religious fundamentalist forces and various brigades backed by powerful persons in power. Attack on freedom of expression is also growing from non-State actors, and the intolerant fascist groups.
 The attack on the residence of Mr. Kumar Ketkar, editor of the popular Marathi newspaper Loksatta, is the latest in a series of growing incidents of intolerance and violence in India against members of the media, which this conference condemn severely
Moreover Freedom of expression is gagged in the name of so-called development. More and more restrictions are imposed  to curb freedom of gathering, holding meetings and rallies.
This Conference would like to reiterate that the history of press in India is filled with stories of struggle and sacrifice. The Freedom of the Press was one of the constitutional guarantees demanded by freedom fighters during British colonial rule.  Most of the leaders of the freedom movement were journalists. They were for freedom of expression. After Independence the Founding Fathers  attached great importance to Freedom of the Press during framing the Constitution of India
In a series of decisions from 1950 onwards the Supreme Court has ruled that Freedom of the Press is implicit in the guarantee of freedom of speech and expression in Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution The Supreme Court of India has stated that 'freedom of speech and expression of opinion is of paramount importance under a democratic Constitution. The court has also declared that newspapers constitute the Fourth Estate of the country, Freedom of the press is undoubtedly one of the basic freedoms in a democratic society based on the Rule of Law
But after 61 years of freedom, the freedom of press and the freedom of expression is a far cry. Officials harass journalists through lawsuits, using restrictive laws governing criminal defamation, contempt of court, and national security to silence the reporters. Accreditation cards to journalists are denied.
Apart from it, self censorship is not only practiced by the media and media persons but also by the citizens. A sense of insecurity and fear is lurking. The citizens are scared to speak fearlessly and apprehend that they have to pay a price for freedom of expression. Silence is preferred than to invite the wrath of the Govt. or the so called brigades. This very aspect is killing the spirit of democracy and creating a ground for fascism, the worst enemy of the civilization. This is the most appalling aspect that can be ever comprehended in the state. of Gujarat
Under these circumstances, this Conference of Freedom of Expression pledge to uphold and fight for the freedom of expression to save the democracy from growing fascist onslaught.
So we demand-
1-Withdrawal of the charge of sedition and conspiracy immediately
2-Institute a high level judicial enquiry on the charges against Mr. O.P. Mathur
3-The column of Sedition be scrapped permanently from I.P.C..
4- The Home Minister of Gujarat should come out with the clarification on the charge of Sedition against Times of India
5- All the cases against media persons be withdrawn.
6- Release Dr. Binayak Sen
7-Scrap all draconian acts encroaching freedom of expression.
8- A congenial atmosphere of confidence building measure for freedom of expression be released.
9- Review all the cases of the detainees under TADA and PASA
Conference   organised by-
JP Centenary committee, PUCL, MSD,PRASHANT, Nirikshak, BhoomiPutra,Nayamarg,Jalseva


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

LEADER ARTICLE: Blame The Middle Class - 8 Jan 2008, 0000 hrs IST, Ashish Nandy

[This is the article which has become a cause celebre triggering off a raging controversy by inviting legal harassment by the Gujarat government.]
Now that the dust has settled over the Gujarat elections, we can afford to defy the pundits and admit that, even if Narendra Modi had lost the last elections, it would not have made much difference to the culture of Gujarat politics. Modi had already done his job. Most of the state's urban middle class would have remained mired in its inane versions of communalism and parochialism and the VHP and the Bajrang Dal would have continued to set the tone of state politics. Forty years of dedicated propaganda does pay dividends, electorally and socially.
The Hindus and the Muslims of the state — once bonded so conspicuously by language, culture and commerce — have met the demands of both V D Savarkar and M A Jinnah. They now face each other as two hostile nations. The handful of Gujarati social and political activists who resist the trend are seen not as dissenters but as treacherous troublemakers who should be silenced by any means, including surveillance, censorship and direct violence. As a result, Gujarati cities, particularly its educational institutions are turning cultural deserts. Gujarat has already disowned the Indian Constitution and the state apparatus has adjusted to the change.
The Congress, the main opposition party, has no effective leader. Nor does it represent any threat to the mainstream politics of Gujarat. The days of grass-roots leaders like Jhinabhai Darji are past and a large section of the party now consists of Hindu nationalists. The national leadership of the party does not have the courage to confront Modi over 2002, given its abominable record of 1984.
The Left is virtually non-existent in Gujarat. Whatever minor presence it once had among intellectuals and trade unionists is now a vague memory. The state has disowned Gandhi, too; Gandhian politics arouses derision in middle-class Gujarat. Except for a few valiant old-timers, Gandhians have made peace with their conscience by withdrawing from the public domain. Gandhi himself has been given a saintly, Hindu nationalist status and shelved. Even the Gujarati translations of his Complete Works have been stealthily distorted to conform to the Hindu nationalist agenda.
Gujarati Muslims too are "adjusting" to their new station. Denied justice and proper compensation, and as second-class citizens in their home state, they have to depend on voluntary efforts and donor agencies. The state's refusal to provide relief has been partly met by voluntary groups having fundamentalist sympathies. They supply aid but insist that the beneficiaries give up Gujarati and take to Urdu, adopt veil, and send their children to madrassas. Events like the desecration of Wali Gujarati's grave have pushed one of India's culturally richest, most diverse, vernacular Islamic traditions to the wall. Future generations will as gratefully acknowledge the sangh parivar's contribution to the growth of radical Islam in India as this generation remembers with gratitude the handsome contribution of Rajiv Gandhi and his cohorts to Sikh militancy.
The secularist dogma of many fighting the sangh parivar has not helped matters. Even those who have benefited from secular lawyers and activists relate to secular ideologies instrumentally. They neither understand them nor respect them. The victims still derive solace from their religions and, when under attack, they cling more passionately to faith. Indeed, shallow ideologies of secularism have simultaneously broken the back of Gandhism and discouraged the emergence of figures like Ali Shariatis, Desmond Tutus and the Dalai Lama — persons who can give suffering a new voice audible to the poor and the powerless and make a creative intervention possible from within worldviews accessible to the people.
Finally, Gujarat's spectacular development has underwritten the de-civilising process. One of the worst-kept secrets of our times is that dramatic development almost always has an authoritarian tail. Post-World War II Asia too has had its love affair with developmental despotism and the censorship, surveillance and thought control that go with it. The East Asian tigers have all been maneaters most of the time. Gujarat has now chosen to join the pack. Development in the state now justifies amorality, abridgement of freedom, and collapse of social ethics.
Is there life after Modi? Is it possible to look beyond the 35 years of rioting that began in 1969 and ended in 2002? Prima facie, the answer is "no". We can only wait for a new generation that will, out of sheer self-interest and tiredness, learn to live with each other. In the meanwhile, we have to wait patiently but not passively to keep values alive, hoping that at some point will come a modicum of remorse and a search for atonement and that ultimately Gujarati traditions will triumph over the culture of the state's urban middle class.
Recovering Gujarat from its urban middle class will not be easy. The class has found in militant religious nationalism a new self- respect and a new virtual identity as a martial community, the way Bengali babus, Maharashtrian Brahmins and Kashmiri Muslims at different times have sought salvation in violence. In Gujarat this class has smelt blood, for it does not have to do the killings but can plan, finance and coordinate them with impunity. The actual killers are the lowest of the low, mostly tribals and Dalits. The middle class controls the media and education, which have become hate factories in recent times. And they receive spirited support from most non-resident Indians who, at a safe distance from India, can afford to be more nationalist, bloodthirsty, and irresponsible.
The writer is a political psychologist.
Peace is doable.


Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"TERRORISM" : THE GUJARAT WAY....- Fr. Cedric Prakash sj

Gujarat State has done it once again !
In a predawn "swoop" on Sunday, 1st June, the City Police Commissioner O. P. Mathur,  filed a complaint against the Resident Editor of the Time of India, Mr. Bharat Desai, a Correspondent, Mr. Prashant Dayal and a Photographer (actually, the photographer named is Mr. Gautam Mehta who is currently with the 'Gujarat Samachar' and not with 'The Times of India'). 
According to Mathur, the persons named had committed offences against Sections 124A (Sedition), 120B (Criminal Conspiracy),  and 34 (Common Intent) of the IPC.

What "The Times of India" (TOI) did, was to publish a series of articles beginning May 28th, with serious questions raised on the newly appointed Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad.  The first article entitled "How can Ahmedabad be safe in his hands ?" raised a key question as to whether, as the head of the Latif squad, Mathur was actually "on the don's payroll".  It also highlighted the fact that as DGP, CID (Crime and Jails) and somebody in charge of the Sabarmati Jail, mobile phones and SIM cards were freely used by hardcore criminals in the jail premises including regular calls made to Pakistan.
In a second article entitled "OPM high A'bad can do without" the TOI brought to the attention of its readers, a case registered against Mathur for attempting to sexual harassment and issuing threats to a woman lawyer.  Another article alongside, emphasized the fact that inspite of being the head of the Latif squad in 1992, he did not go to arrest Latif in Ahmedabad.
The final article entitled "Crooked path to the crown" very emphatically states that O. P. Mathur got the position of Police Commissioner of Ahmedabad, as a reward for botching up the probe into the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin, a close associate of mafia don Latif.  The "dead" Sohrabuddin grabbed national headlines when senior IPS officers were arrested and are still in jail for killing him in a fake encounter apparently because "he was in Gujarat to kill the CM" !.  Most human rights activists and other civil society members found it hard to believe that an extortionist like Sohrabuddin would want to kill the CM !  When the truth was finally revealed, an important CD which apparently had telephone records of top ranking BJP politicians of the State, went missing.  This CD went missing when it was in Mathur's custody and it apparently provided the confidence, according to the TOI,  to the Gujarat Government to admit in an affidavit to the Supreme Court "that the Sohrabuddin encounter was fake and that is why Kauserbi was also killed by the same policemen".
This final story seemed to be the last nail in the coffin of Mathur.  On the same day (May 30th),  the Times of India conducted among its readers, a high profile survey "Do you want O.P. Mathur to continue as Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad ?".   The  response, when it was published next day had an overwhelming  98% of the respondents saying that "he had to be shown the door", whilst just 2% said "no".  With his back to the wall, the Commissioner then filed the complaint of Sedition" and "Conspiracy against the State".

Human Rights Activists, media personnel, intellectuals and others from all walks of life have come out openly to protest against the charges made by the Commissioner.  Several questions are  being raised :
Ø      Does the media have the responsibility of revealing the Truth to the public ?
Ø      Does the State / Administration have the right to gag the media, to suppress the Constitutional Right of the Freedom of Speech and Expression ?
Ø      How does raking up the muck of the Police Commissioner's past (and apparently of his "dubious" links), give him an opportunity to file charges as serious as Sedition and  
         Conspiracy against the State ?
Ø      Is the Police Commissioner The State ? 
What Gujarat experiences today is yet  another "milestone" in the emergence of a fascist State.  The nexus between the  politicians and the police in the Gujarat Carnage  was very evident.  When Dalits, Adivasis and Minorities are bashed up by the right-wing Hindu elements, practically no cases are allowed to be filed against the perpetrators.  When the media, which is an indispensable pillar of democracy, stands up for the Truth, every attempt is made to muzzle its voice.  If this is not terrorism, what is ? 
Civil society in Gujarat has allowed too much to happen in too short a period time.  It has to come out loud and strong to stop those who are responsible for such acts of "terrorism".
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash sj is the Director of "Prashant", the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
 Ahmedabad   380 052
Gujarat, India
4th June  2008