Tuesday, October 23, 2012

To Sir James Bevan UK High Commissioner to India(Ahmedabad 22nd October 2012)

 Prashant    .A  Centre  for  Human  Rights, Justice  and  Peace                              Post   Box   No.   4050,    Navrangpura,   Ahmedabad  380 009,    Gujarat,    India
                                        Tel. :    +91 (079)  66522333,   2745 5913 .    Fax :   +91 (079)  2748 9018                               e-mail : sjprashant@gmail.com      www.humanrightsindia.in

22nd October, 2012

Sir James Bevan,
UK High Commissioner to India
Camp: Ahmedabad

Your Excellency,

Welcome to Ahmedabad and to Gujarat!

At the outset, let me place on record my gratitude for inviting me to this dialogue.  I sincerely hope, that what emerges from these conversations will be for the good of the poor, the marginalized and vulnerable communities of Gujarat

Ahmedabad, you are certainly aware, was founded more than 600 years ago by a benevolent ruler named Ahmed Shah who was able to transcend the narrow confines of religion.  Under his patronage, the Bhadra temple was built for his Hindu wife and the world famous Sidi Syed Mosque which boasts of ‘the tree of life’, was also established.  Centuries later, from the sacred precincts of the Sabarmati Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi gave to the world his twin doctrine of ‘Satyagraha’(the force of truth) and ‘Ahimsa’ (non-violence).

Having said this, I would like to convey to you and through you to the British Government, that the recent decision of the UK Government “with regard to Gujarat” has hurt the sentiments of many across the board; besides being morally flawed, one also has to question the timing of this decision.

Let me put things in perspective: 

  • The Gujarat Carnage 2002
Facts of this carnage speak for themselves, even though a section of the population would like “to forget” this dark and bloody chapter in the history of our country.  There is no doubt about who presided over the horrendous killings (including that of three British nationals) that took place post February 27th2002. The wheels of justice are moving, slowly and surely!  In fact, you are aware that a BJP MLA Dr. Maya Kodnani has been given a severe punishment. This MLA was promoted to be a minister by none other than the Chief Minister himself, perhaps as a reward for her acts in the height of the Gujarat violence.

That the British Government took a stand on the Gujarat Carnage is lost on no one. Saying at this juncture that, ‘one needs to move forward’ is indeed a travesty of justice!  We do not speak about revenge or retribution.  In the aftermath of World War II, the world leaders including that of Britain came together to say “Never Again”! Inspite of a whole generation of people being born since, no one wants that chapter to be repeated and even today those remotely responsible are being brought to trial and justice.

An overdrive by ‘publicity agents’ have made the report of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) as a “final judgement”. Even if the SIT report has exonerated some of the big players, all this has still to go through the due process of the law and as such, none of those who still stand accused in several pending cases, have actually escaped the hand of justice. 
  • The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Law 2003
In 2003, the Gujarat Government unanimously passed one of the most draconian laws in post-independent India beautifully couched with the title ‘Freedom of Religion Law 2003’. 

It took full five years for the Government to frame the rules needed to govern the implementation of the law.  The law is blatantly unconstitutional and it also violates Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  It has been challenged in the Gujarat High Court and the Gujarat Government has still to respond to a notice sent by Honorable High Court.

  • Social Indicators
In the past ten years, there has been a deterioration on perhaps, every social indicator where Gujarat is concerned. In a telling article recently published (http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/not-vegetarianism-or-dieting-mr-di/article3939379.ece?homepage=true#.UIZmA6ZoUxQ.emailnoted social scientist Dr. Indira Hirway asserts that “low wage rates, poorly functioning public schemes and patchy access to water and sanitation are the real explanations for Gujarat’s persistent malnutrition.” 

As part of a network initiated by JESA (Jesuits engaged in Social Action) spread across nine hundred villages and fifty slum settlements in the State, our immediate findings reveal that a large section of the poor do not have a purchasing power besides not having access to what is rightly theirs.  Corruption, to say the least, is rampant in the State.

Displacement of the poor and marginalized seem to be the order of the day as mega-projects take centre stage without taking to consideration the genuine needs of those who matter most: the local people. Land acquisition policies are very faulty, loaded very much in favour of the powerful vested interests. Education is in the doldrums.

All the above can easily be substantiated with facts and figures particularly from the Government’s own records.

Your Excellency, I and several of my colleagues, do understand the way business works and how business literally pressurizes the political establishments in various ways, in order to serve their own interests.

However, morality can never be compromised by any other consideration. This was something which Mahatma Gandhi resolutely fought for and ultimately sacrificed his life for. One of his favourite songs was the prayer of the great Englishman John Henry Cardinal Newman “Lead kindly light…” which he had translated into Gujarati.

In our world today, in which all of us demand greater transparency and accountability, none of us can be mute spectators to what has taken place in 2002 and what still continues to take place in very subtle and perhaps, in insidious ways.

We have no doubt that there will be some petty business gains for Britain; but if Britain is serious as Foreign Office Minister Hugo Swire has categorically stated that “we want to secure justice for the families of the British nationals who were killed in 2002. We want to support human rights and good governance in the State”, then Your Excellency, there is no doubt, that Britain must think differently and act differently.

Anything that compromises on the basic tenets of the Constitution of India and of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will in the long run have serious consequences for all.

Thank you for your patient listening.

We wish you well,

Yours sincerely,

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

When is Forgiveness Right? by MARTHA NUSSBAUM

When is Forgiveness Right?
                                          MARTHA NUSSBAUM

As Gujarat’s assembly campaigns begin, the shadow of 2002 cannot be shrugged off
Forgiveness is a relationship, not something the wronged unilaterally bestows. It requires an antecedent statement on the part of the wrongdoer.
None of these wrongdoers is making such a statement.

HE IS trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored. His truth is marching on.” Reading the verdicts in the Naroda Patiya case, I found  these words of the US Civil War anti-slavery anthem coming to mind. Truth is indeed marching on, even in Gujarat, thanks to the timely intervention of the Supreme Court  and the fine work of its Special Investigation Team. Almost incredibly, given so many past failures to convict  perpetrators of communal violence in so many other cases, and 10 years after the horrendous events, former minister Maya Kodnani and 30 others have been convicted and sentenced,many to life terms. Particularly welcome is the conviction of Babu Bajrangi of the Bajrang Dal,who boasted of his gruesome crimes on hidden camera. And welcome,too, was the recognition of the central role of violence against women in the Gujarat pogrom. Best of all,perhaps, was the fact that a criminal conspiracy was found, giving prosecutors a valuable weapon to use in future trials. As the US anthem continued (in 1861, well before victory over slavery could be a solid reality): “He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat./ He has sifted out the hearts of men before his judgement seat.” And now the Gujarat  assembly elections are at hand, scheduled for December,with Narendra Modi campaigning,already, on an alleged record of economic success. The verdicts could not be a more timely reminder that Gujarat’s government  has had a
violent communal face.

But what next? Discussions of the verdicts have already raised many pertinent questions. Will they facilitate other prosecutions stemming from the riots? (Almost certainly.) Will they deter others from perpetrating communal violence in the future? (Quite possibly, particularly in light of the conspiracy convictions.) Will they undermine the career of Narendra Modi as he tries for national leadership? (Let us ardently hope so.) Now, however, we need at least to begin discussing a larger question: What after that? Is there a role here for forgiveness and reconciliation? Nations all over the world have been discussing these concepts, and experimenting with institutions that might realise them. What room exists for such ideas in Gujarat?

I call as my witness the late Sir Peter Strawson (1919-2006), distinguished British philosopher and ardent friend of India. In a justly famous article entitled “Freedom and Resentment”,Strawson argued that  the “reactive attitudes” ,prominently including resentment for wrongdoing,are part and parcel of our freedom as human beings, and central to our social interactions. When we deal with others, we must expect of them a reasonable degree of “good will or regard.” Otherwise, social interaction is impossible.Resentment  is appropriate when someone violates those conditions. But when resentment is appropriate,forgiveness  is not—unless and until the wrongdoers first acknowledge that their conduct was such as to be rightly resented and repudiate such conduct for the future. “To forgive is to accept the repudiation and to forswear the resentment,” Strawson concludes.In contrast, then, to those who (whether for religious or secular reasons) favour unconditional forgiveness,Strawson sees forgiveness as right only when conditions for the restoration of due regard and decent social reciprocity have been fulfilled by the  wrongdoer’s own apology and repudiation.

After the US Civil War, the need for reconciliation was so acute that Abraham Lincoln rushed ahead precipitately, violating Strawson’s condition. “Let us judge not that we be not judged,’” he said in his famous Second Inaugural, urging both sides to “bind up the nation’s wounds.” But they were not bound up, not really. The south was defeated,not changed. It has taken more than a hundred years of further struggle before racial justice and equality have even begun to be done, and even today one still sees the Confederate flag proudly flying in some establishments in the south —until recently atop one state capitol building. Forgiveness was inappropriate in the aftermath of the formal ending of slavery, because there was no apology and no real change.What was appropriate, as the US gradually and painfully learned, was a long tough struggle for more and more justice, and more and more truth. A great deal of this justice was secured in the courts, through the work of courageous, skilled, and patient lawyers and increasingly open-minded judges.

What about Gujarat, then?Should the victims and those who care about them strive, now, for forgiveness? Many think this the morally superior attitude, and they have Gandhi on their side. But I would argue for a less exalted and more Strawsonian response. Forgiveness, as Strawson shows, is a relationship, not something the wronged  unilaterally bestows. It requires an antecedent statement  on the part of the wrongdoer.None of these wrongdoers is making such a statement.

Sometimes a perpetrator of racial or ethnic hatred will  undergo a sudden change of heart and make that “repudiation”. US politician George Wallace, who stood at the door of an Alabama schoolhouse to prevent desegregation in 1963, offered a truly heartfelt apology in 1979, and subsequently went on to a further term as governor in which he sincerely sought racial justice. (The trauma of near-death by attempted murder and subsequent physical paralysis catalysed introspection.) Such conversions,  however,are rare,and are hardly to be expected from Narendra Modi and his close associates—particularly when their “base” demands continued  communalism. For Wallace ,forgiveness was appropriate; for the perpetrators,abettors, and toleraters of communal violence in Gujarat, it is not. Certainly not yet, and perhaps,for those individuals, not ever.

What about an imperfect apology,such as a public statement of goodwill whose deeper sincerity is questionable? Well, that is certainly progress. Many US segregationists have bid for forgiveness in that way, and the BJP is so plastic that we can easily imagine a time when its public face might wear, similarly, an apologetic expression. Is this enough to make forgiveness right? Philosopher Adrienne Martin of the University of Pennsylvania has argued that in such cases the apology does not meet the conditions for forgiveness, but that it still might give us a reason to go on dealing with the person or people in normal social interactions. I agree with her — although in the case of both US racism and the BJP in India, we had better keep a very close eye on the people’s future statements and conduct.

For now ,however ,resentment is what the victims and those who share their outrage should continue to feel and express. And more and more justice,more and more truth, is what they should pursue.

The writer is a professor of law and ethics at the University of Chicago and author of ‘The Clash Within: Democracy, Religious Violence and India’s Future’

Martin Luther King, Jr.
The moral arc of the universe is long,but it bends toward justice.

From The Indian EXPRESS(Pg 8) Tuesday 0ctober 9th 2012

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Statement on Ahmedabad Violence(4th October 2012)


We are shocked at yesterday’s incidents in the old city and we strongly condemn the violence perpetrated by miscreants during yesterday’s protest rally. Attacking and burning of vehicles, police personnel and the only women police station in the old city is highly condemnable and unaccepted behaviour.  While every citizen has a right to protest peacefully indulging in violence is a criminal act and it only helps the divisive forces.

The Muslim community has struggled for ten years peacefully against the atrocities which were perpetrated against them in 2002 and it is an insult to the peaceful struggle of the of the ordinary people who have fought within the norms of the law and Indian constitution without ever resorting to violence.

Coming on the next day of Gandhi Jayanti, when everyone is celebrating Mahatma’s message of non-violence, it could have been done by only those who do not believe in the teachings of the Mahatma.

While there have been protests across the globe against the film in question, they all happened earlier in the year, when a 15 minute clip was released on you tube in June 2012 made by amateurs in 5 days in a studio in California. 

Senior members of various sects from the Muslim community had appealed against the bandh and procession. The community does not have a history of defying the appeals from senior religious leaders.

It is very clear that the protest yesterday was instigated by certain people with vested interests, with the help of certain miscreant elements from the Muslim community, who have been wooed over the past year.

We have a hunch that with elections already announced and no other way of creating trouble probably this is a route which has been taken by those who want to polarise the voters.  

We demand a magisterial enquiry into the whole incident and a stern action against those who participated in the violence and all those who are responsible for it .

Common people everywhere in Gujarat want peace and harmony and they dream of a society where interests of the marginalised are kept in mind as enshrined in the Indian constitution. We appeal to all communities across Gujarat to remain vigil against the vested interests so that similar situation is not created anywhere else in the coming months.

Released on behalf of:

Dev Desai- Anhad Yuva Manch
Fr. Cedric Prakash- Prashant
Gagan Sethi- Centre for Social Justice
Gautam Thakker-PUCL
Hanif Lakdawala- Sanchetna
Indu Kumar Jani –Naya Marg
Mallika Sarabhai- Darpana
Manan Trivedi  -Anhad
Manish Dhakad-Anhad
 Manisha Trivedi- Anhad Mahila Manch
 Nafisa Barot-Utthan
 Prakash N Shah- Nirikshak
 Shabnam Hashmi - Anhad
 Sheba  George –SAHRWARU, NAWO
 Sofiya Khan-Safar
 Zakia Soman –BMMA

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat by Social Activist Trupti Shah

Date: 2 October 2012
  • Letter to the Chief Minister of Gujarat by
  •  Social Activist Trupti Shah
  • Government of India should not hide the information about personal foreign trip expenses incurred by Central Government if any for Ms. Sonia Gandhi.
  • Information regarding travelling expenses of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and State Ministers during “Women Empowerment Sammelans” of 2007 under sought vide RTI application dated 18-07-2007 not provided and my Complaint No. 74/2008-2009 is pending before the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat.
Dr. Trupti Shah,
37 Patrakar Colony,
Tandalja Road, Post: Akota,
Vadodara 390 020, Gujarat
Phone/Fax No: +91-265-2320399,
Email: trupti.vadodara@gmail.com

By Email & FAX
2 October 2012
Shri Narendrabhai Modi
The Chief Minister of Gujarat
Government of Gujarat
1st Block, 5th Floor, New Sachivalaya,
Gandhinagar - 382 010.

Subject: Government of India should not hide the information about the personal foreign trip expenses if any for Ms. Sonia Gandhi incurred by Central Government. Information regarding travelling expenses of the Chief Minister of Gujarat and State Ministers during “Women Empowerment Sammelans” of 2007 under sought vide RTI application dated 18-07-2007 not provided and my Complaint No. 74/2008-2009 is pending before the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat.
Dear Mr. Modi,

I agree with you that Government of India should not hide the information about personal foreign trip expenses incurred by Central Government if any for Ms. Sonia Gandhi. I believe you have no choice but to agree with me that this is equally applicable to you and the Government of Gujarat also.

An RTI application dated 18-07-2007 was filed by me to your office asking the details about expenses of Government of Gujarat for organizing “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” in 27 places of Gujarat, just before 2007 State Assembly election. Till today I have not received the information about travelling expenses incurred by you and other ministers for travelling to 27 places for these sammelans

Even after my repeated letters asking for the details about travelling expenses made by you, the Chief Minister and the other Ministers, it was practically denied to me by forwarding these letters not only from one department to another but also several times between the departments. My RTI application was not only forwarded to all the districts but even up to the block level in some cases. 

At last I got the letter dated 01-11-2007 by General Administrative Department (GAD) which provided list of 27 places visited by you, the Chief Minister for “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” between 10-03-2007 to 20-09-2007 but about travelling expenses the letter states that “As per the information provided by the office of the honorable Chief Minister, honorable Chief Minister do not mention the travelling expenses, so as far as travelling expense of the Chief Minister is concern, considered that as Nil.”

This was ridiculous and unbelievable as it is known that you have travelled to most of these places by helicopter.

The GAD’s letter dated 01-11-2007 was replied by me vide letter dated 20-11-2007 stating that since the list mentions the 27 places the Chief Minister had visited it follows that the expenditure on your travel  to these 27 places would have been borne either by some department of the Government of Gujarat and/or sponsored by some private parties and therefore it is incumbent upon you to provide me the names of persons/agencies who had spent/sponsored the travelling expenses and details of the expenses made by them. Then, since there was no response from your General Administrative Department, a reminder dated 18-01-2008 was sent to the department and your office, the CMO. Further reminder dated 17-04-2008 was sent to the General Administrative Department and the Chief Minister office. Your office always forwarded my all letters to other departments and surprisingly kept silence on my RTI application.

As a result of the silence of your office, I was forced to file a complaint under section 18(1) of the Right to Information Act, 2005 before the Chief Information Commissioner of Gujarat. On 03-05-2008 Complaint No. 74/2008-2009 was filed by me requesting the concerned authorities to provide me the information about the travelling expenses made by you, the Chief Minister and other Ministers who participated in the Sammelans. To date, I have not been provided this information.

In the last hearing dated 26-09-2012 of my Complaint No. 74/2008-2009, the Chief Information Commission orally directed the General Administrative Department (GAD) to collect the information demanded by me from the concerned departments and pass on this information to me before next hearing which may take place in October 2012. During the discussion of the hearing of the case the concerned officer of General Administrative Department (GAD) expressed helplessness by stating that such information is not available with them because though they have requested the office of the Chief Minister and office of the other Ministers for the information, it has not been provided to them. However, they stated that they will once again try to collect this information if available. Looking at discussion before the Chief Information Commissioner and after the hearing of case outside the office, I have a strong feeling that GAD will not be able to collect and send the information to me if the Chief Minister office does not co-operate.

Let me remind you the background of my RTI application as this was not asked just for curiosity by me. These sammelans were organized by you spending crores of rupees in one day programmes in the name of ‘Women’s Empowerment’ when the demand by the women of Gujarat for providing implementation machinery for the Domestic Violence Act, 2005 and the PCPNDT Act 1994 was denied by your Government in the name of lack of funds. Till today there are not enough full time ‘Protection Officers’ with effective infrastructure to implement these laws. Yet, the State Government was able to raise and spend more than 5 crores rupees on one day Sammelans across the state. I would also like to remind you that the partial information that I have gathered from various departments through my above mentioned RTI, this 5+ crores does not include the travelling expenses by you, the Chief Minister and other Ministers.

You are conveniently talking about the delay of Central Government for providing the information about travelling expenses for personal foreign trips of Ms. Sonia Gandhi that are incurred by the Central Government, if any. I agree that Central Government should not hide the information. The same should be applicable to you also. Please note, in your case the information was asked in the year 2007 and  5 years have elapsed and till today information about travelling expenses to 27 places for the Government’s specially announced “Women’s Empowerment Sammelans” by you, the Chief Minister and other Minister is not provided to me.

In this context I would also like to mention that no information has been provided to me regarding the expenses incurred by you and your ministers for the Government program called ‘Sadbhavana Mission’ dated 17-18-19 September 2011 for which an RTI application has been filed by me and fellow activist Rohit Prajapati. Since information was not provided to us, we were forced to file a complaint on 20-12-2011 and now our Complaint No. 610/2011-2012 is pending for hearing because of lack of staff and number of information commissioners in the state.

I hope that at least now you will direct your office to collect the information from the concerned Government Departments and provide to me after 5 years, in response to my RTI Application dated 18-07-2007.
Expecting positive response.
                                    Trupti Shah                        [Dr. Trupti Shah]
Social Activist of Gujarat
         Trupti S hah
        37, Patrakar Colony, Tandalja Road,
         Post-Akota, Vadodara - 390 020
        Phone No. 
+ 91 - 265 - 2320399         Email Norohit.prajapati@gmail.com____________________________________________________________________