New on my other blogs

KERALA LETTER
Teacher seeks V.S. Achuthanandan's intervention to end harassment by partymen
Change of heart? Or stooping to conquer?
Some thoughts on the historic Battle of Colachel
Supreme Court accepts idea of new Mullaperiyar tunnel

വായന
ഉദ്യോഗസ്ഥന്മാരുടെ പെരുമാറ്റദോഷം
അരുവിക്കര ആത്മപരിശോധന ആവശ്യപ്പെടുന്നു
അരുവിക്കര നിശ്ചയിക്കുന്നത് ആരുടെ ഭാവി അഹമ്മദാബാദിലെ പൊലീസുകാരനും അരുവിക്കരയിലെ പത്രപ്രവർത്തകരും നിയമത്തെ നിയമത്തിന്റെ വഴിക്കു വിടൂ ആദിവാസികൾ വീണ്ടും വഞ്ചിക്കപ്പെടുന്നു മാവോയിസ്റ്റ് ഭീഷണിയുടെ പേരിൽ നടക്കുന്നത്

04 August, 2015

Vengeance in garb of justice

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

The hanging of Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Memon last week has brought to the fore the issue of administration of justice, with particular reference to use of the death penalty.

“Ultimately, justice has been delivered to all the victims of the 1993 Mumbai blasts,” said Bharatiya Janata Party Secretary Shrikant Sharma. Congress party spokesman PC Chacko echoed his sentiments but added “full justice” would come only when Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim, the prime accused, were punished.

“Justice according to law has been done,” said former Supreme Court judge BN Srikrishna, revealing an understanding of the concept of justice which was missing in the politicians’ comments. The cases relating to the blasts and those relating to the communal riots that occurred earlier were “dealt with disparately, depending on the communal inclinations of the state apparatus,” he added.

Justice Srikrishna who held a judicial inquiry into the riots had found a causative link between the two events. The Memon family had suffered extensive damage in the riots.

The justice-has-been-done refrain of the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress seeks to camouflage the cycle of violence and vengeance of the past quarter century in which the former was an active participant, along with its Hindutva ally Shiv Sena, and the latter was an ex post facto accessory.

The chain of events started with the demolition of Babri Masjid at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh cadres on December 6, 1992 in the presence of BJP chief LK Advani.

Justice Srikrishna said a spontaneous peaceful protest by incensed and leaderless Muslims in Mumbai quickly degenerated into riots. He attributed part of the blame to the provocative slogans raised at celebratory rallies organised by Shiv Sena and BJP. Later, Hindu mobs, influenced by the communal propaganda of Shiv Sena leaders, including its supremo Bal Thackeray, resorted to large-scale violence. 

Sudhakarrao Naik of the Congress was the Chief Minister when the riots broke out. The blasts occurred after Sharad Pawar took over from him.

When the SS-BJP combine came to power, the government disbanded the Srikrishna Commission. BJP Prime Minister AB Vajpayee asked the SS Chief Minister to reinstate it.

The riots and police firings to quell them left 900 dead. Of them, 575 were Muslims and 275 Hindus. While in power neither the SS-BJP combine nor the Congress pursued the riot cases vigorously.

In the only riot case that resulted in conviction, three SS men, including Madhukar Sarpotdar, MP, were given one year’s rigorous imprisonment. Sarpotdar was immediately granted bail and died two years later without going to prison.

The 13 explosions left 257 dead and more than 700 injured. Damage to property was estimated at Rs 300 million. The prosecution said the blasts were plotted by underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and carried out by his associates including Tiger Memon.

The entire Memon family slipped out of Mumbai to Karachi, where Dawood is believed to be living under ISI protection. Tiger’s brother Yakub returned later, professing innocence, and provided the authorities with information on the roles of Dawood, Tiger and the ISI.

Members of all communities suffered in both the riots and the blasts. The media identified blast victims of one community who kept asking for justice. No riot victims of any community were paraded. Thus, in public discourse, justice became synonymous with vengeance.

In 2006, the trial court awarded the death penalty to 12 persons, including Yakub. As the case moved to higher courts, the others got relief and Yakub became the only one to be hanged.

Yakub’s final hours were marked by high drama with three Supreme Court judges sitting twice, the last time around 4am, three hours before the time set by the trial court for his hanging, to dispose of petitions filed by him or by others, including some eminent citizens, on his behalf. They really did not have to go without sleep. They could have followed the standards practice of staying the execution until the petitions were disposed of.

Unable to view the last acts of the drama as triumph of the rule of law, Anup Surendranath, Deputy Registrar (Research) at the Supreme Court quit the job to focus on the Death Penalty Research Project at the National Law University, of which he is the Director.

Why did the apex court judges feel so bound by the time-frame set by the lower court that they sacrificed sleep to honour it? There is no ready answer to the question. -- Gulf Today, August 4, 2015.

28 July, 2015

Problems of half-baked history

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

UN bureaucrat-turned Congress politician Shashi Tharoor, who often finds himself on the wrong side of controversies, became an instant hero as video recordings of his speech at an Oxford Union debate pitching for reparation payments by Britain for its colonial depredations went viral.

Tharoor, who was born after India gained freedom, kept his audience spellbound with a narrative covering everything from the 18th century loot by English adventurers to the 20th century Bengal famine. Young Indians who secretly nurse a complex imposed by centuries of subjugation went gaga on the social media over the punches the swashbuckling hero delivered.

Heading the cheerleaders was Narendra Modi, who, incidentally, is the first Prime Minister born after Independence. His compliment was prompted partly by a desire to needle the Congress leadership which has been critical of Tharoor for praising some Modi initiatives.

When the British left, there were many in India, even among the freedom-fighters, who counted the bureaucracy, the judiciary and the army as blessings of colonial rule. Nearly seven decades later, colonial traditions still dog these institutions in varying degrees although they are now manned entirely by persons born in free India.

Actually, these institutions were created not by the British Indian government but by the English East India Company, which, like the Aryans, gained control of the subcontinent without an overt invasion.

The Company raised three armies, comprising Indians commanded by white officers, at Calcutta, Madras and Bombay and brought the whole subcontinent under its control with their help. It used Indian soldiers to subjugate other lands too. Scholars have identified the army’s might, Britain’s will to rule and Indians’ willingness to acquiesce as the three factors which sustained the Raj.

The Congress launched the Quit India movement with a ‘do or die’ call by Mahatma Gandhi when World War II was raging. Released secret files of the period show that even at that time the British were supremely confident of the loyalty of the Indian army and bureaucracy. The army’s strength increased twelvefold from 150,000 to 1.8 million during the war.

The Company put justice beyond the reach of ordinary folks by introducing a costly and time-consuming judicial process. It relied upon Vedic scholars for guidance on Hindu religious practice. As a result, the archaic and unjust code of Manu gained new relevance.

Tharoor’s arguments were based on facts Indian scholars had brought out when the British were still here. In a 1901 book “Poverty and un-British Rule in India”, Dadabhai Naoroji, a founding member of the Indian National Congress, had pointed out that Britain was draining India’s wealth. India had a positive trade balance but Britain was appropriating the surplus, he wrote.

Indian Civil Service officer Romesh Chunder Dutt showed how the East India Company and the British Parliament ruined the lives of artisans and peasants who had made India a great manufacturing and agricultural country of the 18th century.

Ironically, the first to expose the exploitative nature of British colonialism was not an Indian but the Irish-born British parliamentarian Edmund Burke. As early as 1786 he said the East India Company’s regime was one of “speculation, rapine, fraud, injustice and disgrace”. He termed its rule illegitimate and corrupt. Two years later he led the impeachment of Governor-General Warren Hastings, which, unfortunately, was unsuccessful.

The story of India’s colonisation will not be complete without mention of the role of the Maharajas, landlords and caste supremacists who collaborated with the British and gained in the process.

The British had found the Indian subcontinent divided socially and politically. They brought it under a single administration only to split it into two and quit. If they are to pay reparations, Pakistan and Bangladesh will have legitimate claims along with residuary India.

Not long ago Hindu zealots pulled down a 400-year-old mosque in the name of settling an old score. How far back do we go to undo historical wrongs? Are the indigenous people of India whom later migrants enslaved or drove to the hills not entitled to reparations from them?

A good deal of India’s early history was lost or suppressed by later rulers. Part of it was reconstructed during the British period. The glorious Indus Valley civilisation and the golden rule of Asoka belong to this part.

More of India’s history remains to be recovered. Instead of approaching the task objectively, the government is now engaged in a surreptitious attempt to forge a false history based on mythical knowledge of head transplants and mass production of test tube babies.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 28, 2015.

21 July, 2015

Left looking for way forward

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

After Communists seized power in Russia, Lenin, leader of the revolution, said, “The way to London and Paris is through Peking and Calcutta.”

The Chinese revolution a few decades later partially fulfilled the prophecy. India’s Communists, on whom fell the task of fulfilling the next part of the prophecy, now lie splintered into groups. While two groups are active in electoral politics, some others are engaged in armed struggles.

The Communist Party of India entered the electoral arena without giving up the objective of armed revolution. The parliamentary system enabled it to score successes in excess of what its strength warranted.

In 1952, with only 3.29 per cent of the votes polled, the CPI won 16 seats in the Lok Sabha and became the largest national opposition group. The Socialist Party, with a 10.59 per cent poll share, got only 12 seats as its votes were scattered widely, while the CPI’s were concentrated in a few states and big cities.

In 1957, the CPI seized power in Kerala state, securing a majority in the State Assembly with a minority of votes. A violent agitation launched by the opposition along with groups incensed by its land and education reform measures was used by the Centre as a pretext to dismiss its government.

In the wake of the Sino-Soviet rift, the CPI split into two. The intense rivalry between the two factions, which differed in their assessment of national and international situations, led the breakaway CPI (Marxist) into inveterate opposition to the Congress party and the remnant CPI supported even the Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi.

As the Soviet Union collapsed and China built up a formidable economy using capitalist methods, Communist parties around the world made ideological readjustments but the CPI-M and the CPI opted to brazen it out. The Left’s unassailable position in West Bengal and Tripura, where it had an unbroken run in power, and in Kerala, where it could come to power in alternate elections, helped to create an impression that all was well.

When the Congress party’s decline created political uncertainty at the national level CPI-M General Secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet played a catalytic role in the formation of short-lived coalition governments at the Centre. In 2004, he brokered the formation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government. The Left supported it from outside to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party out of power.

Surjeet’s successor, Prakash Karat, broke the alliance with the Congress in protest against the Indo-US civil nuclear pact. The UPA survived and went on to secure another five-year term. Karat’s subsequent efforts to promote new non-Congress, non-BJP coalitions came to naught.

The Left has been on the decline since then. The ruthless manner in which CPI-M cadres and policemen sought to implement an ill-conceived plan to seize farmers’ land and turn it over to industrialists created a backlash which resulted in loss of power in West Bengal in 2011. This was followed by massive desertions, which damaged the prospects of recovery.

In Kerala, too, there have been desertions but the state party has been making up the loss with new members. The dismal failure of the party’s campaigns against the highly discredited Congress-led state government is indicative of its inherent weakness.

With communalism on the rise and neoliberal policies hitting the poor hard, India now needs a strong Left more than ever. As the largest Left party, it is the CPI-M which has to provide the leadership in this regard but it needs to reinvent itself to undertake the task.

This year the party got a new General Secretary in Sitaram Yechury. Its West Bengal and Kerala units got new Secretaries too. All three were part of the leadership which brought the party to the present sorry state. They are yet to demonstrate the ability to steer the party along a new course.

Yechury has a handicap. He has to work with a Politburo packed with members who did not want him as General Secretary.

The West Bengal unit has decided to readmit former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee, 86, and the Kerala unit has decided to take back feisty former minister KR Gowri Amma, 94, both of whom were expelled years ago. Their reinstatement is nothing more than a fine gesture. Young blood and new ideas are needed to save the party. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 21, 2015.

16 July, 2015

Academicians, activists, artists from across India support Teesta Setalvad

The following is a statement issued by prominent artists, intellectuals, academicians and activists from across India in support of Teesta Setalvad who is being hounded by the Modi administration:

We the undersigned express our profound dismay and disquiet at the continued official harassment by the central government of leading human rights defenders Teesta Setalvad and Jawed Anand. Since the installation of the BJP led government in Delhi in May 2014, the country has witnessed open strenuous official efforts to foist a large variety of charges of financial irregularity on them, to harass them, to tarnish their reputations, and to secure their arrests. Fortunately the interventions of the higher judiciary have protected them so far. However the latest raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation into their home and offices in Mumbai on 14 July 2015 are signs of continuing open misuse of official bodies to harass these human rights defenders.
It is well-known that Teesta Setalvad and Jawed Anand have fought an unrelenting battle not only to bring to book criminals who committed gruesome hate crimes against Muslims in the carnage of 2002, but also to expose the role of the Gujarat government in enabling, abetting and even organising these crimes. They have been fearless in charging the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is currently the country’s Prime Minister, with direct criminal culpability for these crimes. For this they have assisted the widow of a former MP who was slaughtered in the carnage Zakia Jafri to fight a brave court battle in which the first accused is the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. They are also appealing against court orders to free on bail prominent political leaders of the BJP convicted of the worst massacre in Naroda Patiya, Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi.
What we are witnessing is crude and defiant misuse of official bodies to beat down these human rights defenders so as to silence their voices, break their morale and divert them from their unrelenting battles in defence of justice which charge the country’s current leadership with complicity in hate crimes. The veracity of their charges will be decided in the country’s courts. But their right to fight for justice on behalf of the survivors of one of the most shameful communal carnages in the history of free India is protected by India’s democracy. The open official bullying of courageous human rights defenders even as persons charged with a range of serious crimes walk free are brazen official attempts to diminish Indian democracy. These must be powerfully resisted by all democratic voices in the country.
Released by
Shabnam Hashmi, ANHAD
July 15, 2015 5pm

Endorsed by:
A R F Viegas, Engineer, Ngo
Abhay Shirekar, St. Michael's Church, Vasai, Maharashtra
Ajaya Kumar Singh, Social Activist, Odisha Forum for Social Action,
Ajay Skaria, historian, University of Minnesota
Ajith Pillai, journalist
Ali Javed (Gen. Secretary, All India Progressive Writers Association, Delhi)
Amalendu Upadhyaya, Editor- hastakshep.com
Amar Kanwar, Filmmaker, New Delhi
Amit Bhaduri, Prof Emeritus, JNU, New Delhi
Amit Sengupta, Journalist and academic
Amita Buch, academician, Gujarat
Anand Swaroop Verma, Delhi
Angela L Viegas, Professional,Mumbai,
Anil Chamadia
Anil Nauriya, advocate, Delhi
Anoushka L Viegas, Graduate,Mumbai,
Anu Chenoy, Professor, JNU
Anubha Rastogi, lawyer, Mumbai
Apoorvanand, academician, Delhi
Arshia Ahmed Ayub, Counselling psychologist
Aruna Roy, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Arundhati Dhuru NAPM
Ashis Nandy, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
Ashok Bikram Jairu, Executive Director, NNSWA Central Office, Kanchanpur
Atul Sood, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Ayaz Siddiqui Communication engineer
Battini Rao, People's Alliance for Democracy and Seculariam (PADS)
Bhavna Ramrakhiani, ACF, Gujarat
Biju Mohan, Executive Director, MBL Media School, Kozhikode
Brinelle D'Souza, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Deonar, Mumbai
BRP Bhaskar, journalist, Kerala
CV Vergis
C Drego, Private Employment, Mumbai, Maharashtra
D. W. Karuna, Historian, Chennai
Darryl D'Monte, Chairperson, Forum of Environmental Journalists of India (FEJI)
Dhirendra Panda, Convener, Civil Society Forum on Human Rights (CSFHR)
Dinesh Abrol, Delhi
Dilip Simeon
Dinesh Mohan, Professor IIT Delhi (Retired)
Dr. Abey George, State Coordinator, NCPRI Kerala
Dr. Anant Phadke, Pune
Dr Indra Munshi, Former Head and Professor, Dept of Sociology, University of Mumbai,
Dr. Mohan Rao , Professor, Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU
Dr. Munish Alagh. Profession: Economist, Ahmedabad
Dunu Roy, Engineer, Hazards Centre, Delhi
Faiz Siddiqui Bank executive
Farah Naqvi, Writer and Activist, Delhi
Fr Maverick Fernandes, President, Council for Social Justice and Peace, Goa
Fr Savio Fernandes, Executive Secretary, Council for Social Justice and Peace, Goa.
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj, Director, PRASHANT, Gujarat
Fr. Freddy Braganca, General Secretary, Centre for Responsible Tourism, Goa
G.M. Sheikh, Artist, Gujarat
Gabriele Dietrich, NAPM I endorse this statement
Gautam Thaker, General Secretory PUCL Gujarat
Geeta Kapur, Independent Art Writer, Delhi
Geeta Seshu, Journalist, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Ghanshyam Shah, academician, Gujarat
Ghiasuddin Akbar, Member ; Apna Watan & Help Hyderabad.
Githa Hariharan, Writer
Hanif Lakdawala, Social Activist, Gujarat
Harsh Kapoor,
Harsh Mander, Aman Biradari
Henri Tiphagne, National Working Secretary , Human Rights Defenders Alert India
I A Siddiqui Retd engineer
Indira Chandrasekhar, Tulika Books, Delhi
Indira Jaising, Founder, Lawyer’s Collective, Delhi
Indu Prakash Singh, Social Activist, Forum Against Corruption & Threats (FACT)
Irfan Engineer, All India Secular Forum
Ishwarbhai Prajapati, Jan Sangharsh Manch,Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Jai Sen, CACIM
Jaya Mehta (Sandarbh Collective, Indore)
Jayati Ghosh, Professor of Economics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi
Jharna Pathak, Profession: Researcher, Ahmedabad Women's Action Group.
John Dayal
John Paul Lobo, De Nobili College, Nagar Road, Ramvadi, Pune
Joy Sengupta, actor, Mumbai
Jyoti Punwani freelance journalist Mumbai
Kalyani Menon-Sen , Feminist Learning Partnerships, Gurgaon
Kamal Chenoy, Prof. JNU
Kamal Faruqi, FCA, Former Chairman Delhi Minorities Commission
Khalid Azam (United States)
Kiran Shaheen, Writer and Anti Poverty Activist
Kumar Ambuj (Member of Presidium, M. P. Progressive Writers Association)
Kumar Prashant, journalist, sarvodaya activist
L Viegas, professional,Mumbai,
Lalita Ramdas - Hyderabad
Lena Ganesh, Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Lynette Gomes, Computer professional,Mumbai,
M Cherian Kunjumon, Bombay Catholic Sabha, Mumbai.
M. V. Ramana, Princeton University, USA
Mallika Sarabhai, ARTIST, Gujarat
Manan Trivedi, social activist, Gujarat
Manisha Sethi, Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association.
Manoranjan Siba Sankar Mohanty
Mazher Hussain, Social Activist, Hyderabad
Meenakshi Ganguly, Mumbai
Meera Samson, Collaborative Research and Dissemination, New Delhi
Meher Engineer, Independent Scientist, Kolkata, WEst Bengal
Mohammed Ashfaq
Mohd Aamir, social activist, Delhi
Mrs Praxedes Gomes, Sr Citizen & home maker, Mumbai.
Mujahid Nafees, Education activist, Gujarat
Myron J. Pereira , former director of Xavier Institute of Communications, Mumbai)
N.D.Jayaprakash, Social Activist, Delhi
Nandini Rao, women's rights activist
Nandini Sundar, Professor, Delhi University
Naresh Fernandes, Journalist.
Neeraj Jain, Lokayat, Pune and Socialist Party (India)
Naseeruddin Shah theatre and film actor and director
Nasreen Fazalbhoy, Mumbai Maharashtra.
Navaid Hamid, MOEMIN, Delhi
Neha Shah, College teacher, Ahmedabad
Nikhil Dey, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Nilima Shaikh, artist, Vadodara, Gujarat
Nityanand Jayaraman, writer/social activist, Chennai
Noorjahan Diwan, social activist, Gujarat
Noorjehan Safia Niaz, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
Ovais Sultan Khan, People's Alliance for Democracy and Secularism
P. K. Datta - Teacher- Delhi University - Delhi
Pallab Sengupta, General Secretary, All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation
Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, Journalist, Delhi
Prabhat Patnaik, Professor Emeritus, JNU.
Prabir Purkayashta
Priya Pillai, Environmental Activist , Greenpeace India.
Prof Aditya Mukherjee, Historian, JNU
Prof. Anjali Monteiro, TISS, Mumbai
Prof. K.P. Jayasankar, TISS, Mumbai
Prof Mridula Mukherjee, Historian, JNU
Prof Rooprekha Verma, Saajhi Duniya's , Former VC, Lucknow University
Prof. Shohini Ghosh, Academic, Delhi.
Pushpa Iyer, Associate Profesor, California.
Pyoli, Samajwadi Janparishad
Radha Khan, Chairperson & Trustee DAJI , New Delhi
Rahul Pandey, entrepreneur and academic,Bangalore, Karnataka
Rammanohar Reddy, Economic & Political Weekly, Mumbai
Ramu Ramdas - Alibag
Ranjan Solomon, Badayl/Alternatives, GOA
Robin Viegas, Hon Secretary, Bombay Catholic Sabha, Kalina Unit,
Romila Thapar, Academician
Roselle Solomon, Counselor, Regina Mundi High School, Goa
S. Hasan Kamal, South Asians for Unity, Atlanta, GA, USA
Sadanand Menon – journalist, Chennai, Tamil Nadu
Saheli Women's Resource Centre
Sandeep Pandey Socialist Party
Sarika Shrivastava (NFIW, Madhya Pradesh)
Satish Deshpande, academician, Delhi
Satya Sivaraman, Journalist
Shabnam Hashmi, social activist, Anhad
Shahiuz Zaman Niaz AhmedShekhar Mallik
PWA, Ghatshila, Jharkhand
Shalini Gera,JagLAG, Chattisgarh
Shankar Singh, Mazdoor Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS)
Shariq Siddiqui Photography professional
Shashank Kela, Writer, Chennai
Shivani Taneja, Educationist, Bhopal, M.P.
Siddharth Varadarajan, journalist, Delhi
Sofiya Khan, social activist, Gujarat
Sohail Hashmi, filmmaker, One Billion Rising /Dwarka, New DelhiPravin Joseph Philip
Healthy Neighborhood Communications, Kerala
Soumya Dutta, Convenor -Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, India
Subhash Anand
Subhash Gatade, New Socialist Initiative
Sukla Sen, social activist, EKTA (Committee for Communal Amity), Mumbai
Sumit Sarkar, Retired professor of History, University of Delhi
Suvrat Raju, International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research), Bangalore
Syeda Hameed, former member, Planning Commission
T I Siddiqui Retd bank executive
Tauseef H. Mukadam, Profession: Airline Pilot, Karnataka
Tanika Sarkar, Retired professor of History, JNU.
Tushar A. Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, Maharashtra.
Uma V Chandru, Activist, Bangalore
Varghese Manimala
Vineet Tiwari (Gen. Secretary, Madhya Pradesh PWA)
Vipin K. Tripathi, Sadbhav Mission
Viranjeet Sandhu, student
Virendra Jain (Janwadi Lekhak Sangh, Bhopal)
Vivan Sundaram, artist, Aam Aadmi Party - DelhiJai Sen, CACIM
Walter Fernanes, former director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Guwahati
Waqar Kazi, social activist, Gujarat
Wilfred Dcosta, Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), New Delhi
WSS (Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression)
Yousuf Saeed, Independent filmmaker, writer, New Delhi
Yusuf B.Shaikh, Advocate
Zaffarullah Khan, Advocate, Chennai
Zakia Soman Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
Zoya Hasan, academician, JNU

15 July, 2015

Shameful political vendetta, says Teesta Setalvad

Teesta Setalvad writes:
 
As I write this, the search is still not concluded. It is shocking that while over a dozen members of the
CBI are still in our premises conducting the search, Delhi spokesperson is misleading the public and our vast supporters by a series of misinformations and officials tweets.

In our view, and we repeat no laws have been broken by us. This is a continuation of the persecution and witchhunt first launched by  he Gujarat police in 2014 then under the dispensation that now rules in Delhi. The CBI has taken the same documents that we had voluntarily on inspectyion given the MHA (FCRA dept). Over 25,000 pages of documentary evidence has been given to the Gujarat Police. When they could not succeed with the bizaree and desperate attampts to gain custody (Fenruary 2015), it was the Guj Giovernment Home Department that wrote to the MHA and the current round of the persecutions began.

Its is shameful political vendetta. The Zakia Jafri case begins its final hearings on July 27 2015. The Naroda PAtoiya appeals (Kodnani and Bajrangi) are being ehard in the Guj high Court tomorrow. This is nothing but a bid to subvert the cause of public justice and ensure that no justice happens in these cases.

We  had written to th CBI offering full cooperation. The so called offences relate to documentary evidemnce. This search is nothing but an attempt to intimidate and humiliate. India should be ashamed that when scams like Vyapam are happening, over 50 persons dying, witnesses in Asaram Bapu case are dying; CBI is not appealing in critical cases related to crimes by poiliticians; the agency is being unleashed on human rights defenders standing up for the rights of Survivors of Mass Violence. It is worse than the Brityish Raj. Pathetic

I repeat Sabrang Communications has broken no law(s). One: Section 3 of FCRA, 2010 bars certain 'persons' (political parties and its office bearers, government servants and those associated with registered newspapers and those involved in the production and broadcast of news) from receiving foreign donations. However, the very next section, Section 4 which is sutitled 'Persons to whom section 3 shall not apply' states: "Nothing contained in section 3 shall apply to the acceptance, by any person specified 3 in that section, of any foreign contribution where such contribution is accepted by him, subject to the provisions of section 10- (a) by way of salary, wages or other remuneration due to him or to any group of persons working under him, from any foreign source or by way of payment in the ordinary course of business transacted in India by such foreign source;"

Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt. Ltd Co. which published the monthly 'Communalism Combat' signed a Consultancy Agreement with Ford Foundation in 2004 and 2006 "to address the issues of caste and communalism" through a clearly defined set of activities which had nothing whatsoever to do with Communalism Combat or remuneration to Javed Anand or Teesta Setalvad towards discharging editorial/managerial functions. The Consultancy was signed by Sabrang Communications only after advice from eminent legal counsel that such an agreement was covered under the exclusion stipulated under Section 4 of the Act and therefore the consultancy fees (not grant or donation) received would not be in violation of FCRA 2010. Ford Foundation in fact deducted TDS with every installment of consultancy fees it paid to Sabrang Communications. The activities undertaken and the expenses incurred were in accordance with the agreement. Activities and Financial Reports were submitted annual to the satisfaction of Ford Foundation.

Two, Sabrang has kept records and provided copies of the same to the FCRA during the inspection visit of FCRA team in Mumbai on June 9 and 10, 2015, Additional documents as required were also posted to FCRA department.

Three: Deliberately or otherwise, the FCRA team is confusing the well- known lobbying that is part of the political process in the USA with advocacy initiatives whereby NGOs, civil society activists engage with the government of the day to draw their attention towards the legitimate issues of women, children, dalits, religious or linguistic or sexual minorities, differently-abled persons etc. It is ridiculous to equate such advocacy initiatives with lobbying.    Sabrang Communications therefore denies all the allegations. 

 Four:  While believing in the rule of law and due process, we believe that the State has innumerable devices at its disposal to simply throttle dissent, intimidate and through these crass techniques try to ensure coercive compliance. 

India-Pakistan reality check

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

’s on again. The joint statement issued after Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif met at Ufa, Russia, signals that India and Pakistan are ready to resume bilateral talks which have been moving on an ‘on-again, off-again’ course for years.

Modi had invited all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation leaders, including Nawaz Sharif, to attend his swearing-in ceremony last year, and they had all turned up. The development was widely seen as an indication of Modi’s eagerness to improve India’s relations with neighbours and their willingness to reciprocate.

However, India-Pakistan relations suffered a setback soon afterwards. Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi held consultations with some separatist leaders of Kashmir ahead of a scheduled meeting between Foreign Secretaries of the two countries, and the Modi government responded by cancelling the meeting.

Many at home criticised the decision. They pointed out that earlier, too, the Pakistani envoy had conferred with separatists before a bilateral meeting without inviting such a response. Besides, continued talks were the only sensible course before the two countries. However, Modi had to satisfy his Sangh Parivar followers who had been fed on anti-Pakistan rhetoric.

When India’s Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar, was in Islamabad last March in the course of a tour of SAARC countries he discussed with his Pakistani counterpart, Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, ways to resume the dialogue process step by step without setting a time-frame.

The important decisions that emerged from the Modi-Sharif meeting include a meeting between the National Security Advisers of the two countries in New Delhi to discuss terrorism-related issues and a meeting between commanders of the Border Security Force and the Pakistani Rangers to de-escalate tension along the Jammu-Kashmir border, to be followed by a meeting between the Directors-General of Military Operations of the two countries.

India has entertained for long the feeling that Islamabad is not pursuing the case against the Pakistan-based terror group responsible for the 26/11 attack on Mumbai which left 166 people dead. According to Indian officials, a major takeaway of the Modi-Sharif meeting is Pakistan’s offer to cooperate in the terror attack trial by providing voice samples of suspects. It is not clear if the law permits the Pakistan government to do this.

Relations with Pakistan have been a contentious issue in domestic politics. Ironically the Congress, which was in power longer than any other party, is now plugging a critical line which is reminiscent of what the Bharatiya Janata Party did when it was in the opposition

For long the standard phrase in India-Pakistan joint communiqués was that the talks covered all issues, including Kashmir. After the cancellation of Secretary-level talks India was keen to shift the focus from Kashmir to terrorism.

Much of the latest communiqué is taken up by the issue of terrorism. What’s more, there is no specific mention of Kashmir. Indian officials cite this as evidence of Pakistani acceptance of the Indian stand.

However, they also concede, albeit indirectly, that India has been under pressure from the West to resume the dialogue with Pakistan. The US and other foreign governments have been warning India that recurrent exchange of fire along the line of actual control and belligerent statements by BJP leaders, including ministers, were leading to expansion of the Pakistan army’s engagement with terror groups.

The most positive aspect of the new situation is that leaders on both sides who were riding the high horse have come to terms with ground realities. However, they still have to proceed cautiously because of the compulsions of domestic politics.

Even as the BJP was labouring to present the Ufa outcome as a feather on Modi’s cap, Uddhav Thackeray, head of its closest ideological ally, the Shiv Sena, said the meeting with Sharif was unfortunate. “The neighbouring country needs to be taught a lesson in a manner it understands,” he added.

That the dialogue will now be at the level of National Security Advisers, and not Foreign Secretaries, suggests that India-Pakistan relations will be handled directly by the Prime Minister and his office, bypassing the External Affairs Ministry and its officials with experience of diplomatic engagements.

Modi and Nawaz Sharif were in Ufa for the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit. SCO admitted both India and Pakistan as full-fledged members at this meeting. It thus becomes another forum where the two countries will work together as equal partners.--Gulf Today, July 14, 2015.

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Human Rights Defenders Alert condemns raid on Teesta Setalvad’s home and office

Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 14th July 2015 : Human Rights Defenders Alerts– India (HRDA) is shocked to hear about the raids by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) at the premises of social activist Teesta Setalvad, her husband Javed Anand, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam and office of Sabrang Communications and Publishing in Mumbai. HRDA strongly condemns this action by the CBI which comes in despite complete cooperation as submitted in writing by Teesta Setalvad to the CBI for all matters of investigation which is still ongoing. This is not the first time the activists working for justice and truth with regard to ‘Gujarat Riots’ have been targeted. Teesta Setalvad herself has been targeted in several other false criminal cases for which she had to seek anticipatory bail from the Supreme Court. It is clearly a part of repeated attempts to discredit human rights defenders and attacks on them.
Last week on July 8, 2015, the CBI registered a case against Ms Setalvad and her organisation under Indian Penal Code (IPC) section related to criminal conspiracy (120-B) read with sections 35, 37 of IPC and sections 3, 11 and 19 of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) for receiving funds from abroad without seeking the home ministry's permission. In the First Information Report (FIR), the CBI also named Ms Setalvad's husband Javed Anand and Gulam Mohammed Peshimam, both directors in Sabrang Communications and Publishing based in Santacruz, Mumbai.
There were a series of inspections of the accounts of the organisations Teesta Setalvad has been associated with i.e. Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace. These organisations have sent in over 25,000 pages of documentation answering every query about funding.  Despite this, the CBI has reportedly filed an FIR against Teesta Setalvad. HRDA believes, Teesta Setalvad has been hounded by the Government of India for her work to seek justice for past 13 years against the architects and perpetrators of the Gujarat Riots. These ongoing harassments of Teesta Setalvad and her colleagues at Sabrang Trust, Sabrang Communications and Publishing and Citizens for Justice and Peace is a gross tactic and blatant abuse of the State machinery by the Government of India to threaten human rights defenders (HRDs) working on the issues of justice and to ensure that a large part of HRDs time which otherwise would have focused on work related to justice is now spent running from one court to another.
HRDA strongly condemns the ongoing attacks on human rights defenders working to establish truth and justice in the Gujarat Riots and in this particular case of attack on Teesta Setalvad and the organisations she has been associated with. These repeated attempts by the Government of India to push the activists on defensive line have constantly failed over the past 13 years. The response of the State is contrary to the assurances of states in the UN Declaration of HRDs which in fact emphasizes all the work that Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and their colleagues have been carrying on patiently and silently.
HRDA also requests the National Human Rights Commission of India (NHRC) through its Chairperson, Members and Focal Point for HRDs to immediately move and direct adequate protection of Teesta Setalvad to ensure her non arrest and guarantee freedom of peaceful association and assembly and to carry out their mandates which in this case are the organisations Teesta Setalvad has been associated with.
About HRDA:
Human Rights Defenders Alert – India is a national network for the protection and promotion of human rights defenders in the country floated by participants of two Participatory Learning Workshops on Rights and Responsibilities of Human Rights Defenders regional trainings that the trainers from the said workshops conducted.
Human Rights Defenders Alert – India is a platform to extend solidarity and assistance to Human Rights Defenders in trouble / at risk. Becoming a member of the Human Rights Defenders Alert – India will make you part of a larger family of human rights defenders and ensure strengthening of the forum and greater support from the human rights community in India. 
For More information contact:
Mr. Mathew Jacob, National Coordinator, HRDA-India, 6, Vallabai Road, Madurai – 625002. Mobile: 99943 68540
With regards,
Sd/-
(Henri Tiphagne)
Honorary National Working Secretary

--
For more information and sources related to HRDA visit www.hrdaindia.org

07 July, 2015

Tightrope walk on West Asia

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Israel was quick to claim that India’s abstention from voting on the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution in Geneva, condemning the Gaza killings of 2014, marks a shift in its traditional stand. India was equally quick in asserting there has been no change in its position.

The UNHRC adopted the resolution with 41 votes in favour, one (the United States) against, and five abstentions. Israel’s ambassador in India publicly thanked all, including India, “who did not support yet another anti-Israel bashing resolution”.

Noting that when the Gaza killings came up in the UNHRC last year India had voted in favour of the resolution calling for an inquiry, Israeli media described this year’s abstention as reflective of a significant change. One newspaper said it was another sign of warming of Indo-Israeli ties since Modi became Prime Minister.

The Indian government said there was no change in policy. It abstained this year because of disagreement with the wording of the resolution. Last year’s resolution merely called for an inquiry into Israel’s Gaza raids. This year’s sought reference of the issue to the International Criminal Court.

India is not a signatory to the Rome Statute which set up the ICC and has consistently abstained during voting on resolutions which mention that body, an official spokesman said. 

This is no doubt a convincing explanation. However, reports that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke to Modi a day before the voting suggests there was some high-level persuasion.

Successive Indian governments have supported Palestine’s struggle against Israel. But the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), fountainhead of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s Hindutva ideology, has a soft corner for Israel. Its early leaders were admirers of Nazi Germany. Ironically, after World War II, Israel took its place.

India recognised the state of Israel as soon as it was created but did not establish diplomatic relationship with it until 1992. Negotiations in this regard began when Israel’s Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan made an unannounced visit to India in 1978. AB Vajpayee, who later became the first BJP Prime Minister, was the External Affairs Minister in the Janata Party government in power at that time. 

India had entered into secret military deals with Israel even when there were no diplomatic ties. It received small arms from that country during the 1962 China war and the 1965 and 1971 conflicts with Pakistan.

Indo-Israeli relations warmed up between 1998 and 2004 under Vajpayee who believed Israel’s experience could be of help to India in dealing with the problem of terrorism. At his invitation Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited India on the second anniversary of the terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center.

Under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government the military relationship grew further. Today Israel is a major supplier of arms to India, and the Israeli defence industry is heavily dependent upon exports to India.

Israel supplies India radar systems, drone aircraft and missiles for maritime defence. It has expressed readiness to set up units to manufacture defence equipment under Modi’s Make in India programme.

India has a Muslim population of 180 million, the third largest in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. The Hindutva ideology renders the BJP less sensitive to the sentiments of this large religious minority than the Congress and other parties, and that makes it easy for its government to cosy up to Israel.

However, there are other factors which no government in India can ignore in formulating its West Asia policy.

One of them is India’s reliance on the region for more than 60 per cent of its crude oil imports. Last year the government decided to seek supplies from Latin America and Africa and raise domestic production of both oil and gas with a view to reducing the dependence on the Middle East. Progress in this regard will necessarily be slow.

Another factor the government cannot overlook is that more than five million Indians work in the Middle East. Last year India received $70.38 billion in remittances from its nationals working abroad. About 45 per cent f it came from the Gulf States.

In the circumstances, Modi has to do tight-rope walking. He is planning to visit Israel later this year and become the first Indian Prime Minister to do so. Indications are that he will include Palestine also in the itinerary. -- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 7, 2015.

30 June, 2015

Good days are not for the poor

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

Considering India’s huge size and the complexity of the problems it faces, it is not surprising that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not able to work wonders in his first year in office. However, there are disconcerting signs that if and when his promise of achche din (good days) is realised, the vast poor population may be left out.

According to the disparate opposition parties, several steps the government has taken in the name of speedy development are making life increasingly miserable for the poor, who number about 300 million.

They point out that the changes made in the land acquisition law to help industrialists will deprive a large number of people, especially the farmers, of their means of livelihood.

Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who has been in a combative mood since he returned from a holiday abroad, has dubbed the Modi government “anti-farmer” and “pro-industrialist”. He has made it clear that the party would put up stiff resistance against the government’s anti-poor policies inside and outside Parliament.

He has also said Modi is paying back the loans of the industrialists – an allusion to the huge contributions they made to the Bharatiya Janata Party before the parliamentary elections.

Similar sentiments have been expressed also by the two Communist parties and the Janata Parivar parties which are in the process of reunification, realising that they will be annihilated if they don’t come together.

The government, on its part, justifies the steps it has taken saying they are part of long-overdue reforms needed to accelerate economic growth. It claims these measures will lead to increased investment which in turn will generate new employment opportunities for the poor.

This explanation has not impressed even some of the government’s supporters. A few Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliates have echoed the opposition’s view that the measures are inimical to the interests of the poor. The RSS leadership can be expected to restrain them.

Modi’s economic reforms framework is no different from what Manmohan Singh laid down as Prime Minister of the United Progressive Alliance government more than a decade ago. When popular mood was not supportive of reform measures, the UPA was ready to step back and wait for an opportune moment to go forward again.

It also made conscious efforts to soften the impact of reform measures by introducing welfare schemes to mitigate the plight of the poor. These included assured employment to poor villagers for at least 100 days in a year under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and supply of rice and wheat at subsidised rates under the food security mission.

MGNREGA uses the villagers’ labour to create rural assets. Several studies have shown that the law has benefited the poor immensely. Yet Modi ran it down in Parliament as a living monument of the UPA government’s failure. Mercifully, he said the scheme will continue.

Early this year Modi launched a scheme to help the girl child with the slogan “save daughter, educate daughter”. At the same time, his government cut the budget outlay of the Women and Child department from Rs 211.9 billion last year to Rs 103.8 billion this year. The worst sufferer is the department’s flagship Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). Its allocation has been halved – from Rs160 billion to Rs80 billion. Social activists fear this will put poor children at risk.

Modi is actually attempting to replicate at the national level the development model which he evolved as Chief Minister of Gujarat state. While his party has uncritically accepted his claim that it was a great success, independent studies tell a different story.

Hemantkumar Shah, Professor of Economics at Gujarat University, in a book titled “Sacchai Gujarat ki” (The Truth about Gujarat) says the state’s economic and human development parameters worsened after Modi came to power in 2001.

Citing data, he points out that the state recorded an annual average growth of 14.97 per cent during 1980-1990 and 12.77 per cent during 1990-2000. The national average for the period was 5.5 per cent. Between 2001 and 2011, the average growth rate fell to 9.82 per cent, which was just 1.26 percentage points above the national average.

The number of families below the poverty line in the state in 1999 was 2.6 million. A government advertisement early last year gave the number of BPL families as 4 million.

Ahead of its first anniversary, the Modi government launched three insurance and pension schemes. The schemes are being publicised through radio and television and government advertisements to create a pro-poor image. But the situation calls for a hard rethink, not an image makeover.