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28 October, 2008

National Convention on Countering Fascist Forces: Defending the Idea of India

The following is a report circulated by Shabnam Hashmi on the National Convention on ‘Countering Fascist Forces: Defending the idea of India’ held in New Delhi on October 25 and 26, 2008

The two-day national convention was attended by over 750 activists' and intellectuals from 18 states (Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Delhi, Harayana, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Gujarat, Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, J & K, Punjab, Maharashtra and Chattisgarh).


The urgency to intervene in defence of democracy, secularism and justice has never been more pressing than in the conditions prevailing in the country today.
The rise of communal fascism has emerged as a threat not only to its immediate victims but to the very long-term survival of India as a unified nation of diverse religious, linguistic and ethnic groups. The mysterious and condemnable acts of terrorism that have shaken different parts of the country have engendered a climate of fear, insecurity and fuelled the politics of communal division.

In recent months, vicious attacks have been mounted across India against religious minorities by Hindutva fascist organizations and communalism has even become the dominant tenor of public discourse. In Maharashtra the regional chauvinist forces of Bal and Raj Thackeray, both offsprings of the Hindutva politics of hate, has targeted north Indians in a bid to drive them out of the state.

The BJP, RSS and their allies in the Sangh Parivar have mounted a vicious campaign against the Christian community across India. Orissa and over 10 states have seen violent attacks on the Christian community, their institutions, religious places, property and businesses on the basis of fabricated stories and hate campaigns.
Throughout the country Muslim youth are being targeted, without any or little evidence, as responsible for the various bomb blasts taking place in the country. There is a concerted attempt by the Indian police, intelligence agencies and certain political parties to portray all members of the Muslim community as 'terrorists and extremists' - to be arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed in fake encounters. Sections of the media instead of investigating the truth are blindly parroting these sensational and unsubstantiated claims.

Even more disturbingly the accused are being systematically denied their basic right to legal defence by some bar associations themselves which have threatened, expelled and even violently attacked lawyers brave enough to take up these cases. The Indian judiciary has failed to take suo moto cognizance of such attacks as being contempt of court.

All this while hard evidence available against Bajrang Dal, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other Sangh outfits of their direct involvement in terror attacks is not only being ignored but actively pushed under the carpet by the Indian state. The Hindutva terrorist groups like the Bajrang Dal are openly claiming responsibility for this communal violence against Christians and are yet being allowed to go scot-free.
There is a growing feeling among religious minority communities that the Indian state and judiciary is biased against them and unwilling to provide impartial justice even in cases such as the demolition of the Babri Masjid. No action has been taken on the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission report following the anti-Muslim pogrom in Mumbai of 1993. On the other hand some members of the judiciary are now willing to be puppets of communal forces, a dangerous trend set by the Nanavati Commission, which has exonerated the Narendra Modi government of responsibility for the Gujarat Genocide of 2002.

Instead of confronting these fascist forces the Indian state is cracking down hard on 'soft targets' like human rights and social activists. The fundamental rights of life, liberty, freedom of speech, religion and dissent guaranteed to all citizens by the Indian Constitution are being shred to pieces right in front of our eyes.
Entire swathes of the Indian North-East and Kashmir are covered by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that authorises even the lowest soldier to shoot and kill civilians on mere suspicion of their being 'militants'. In Chhattisgarh, large numbers of citizens continue to be detained using the highly restrictive Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act (CSPSA). Those defending the rights of the poor, Dalit, Adivasis and other marginalised people are being falsely branded as 'extremists' and 'anti-nationals'. The state sponsored, unconstitutional 'Salwa Judum' campaign, which has unleashed horrific violence on innocent tribal populations over the past four years in the name of countering Maoism, is being justified by none other than the National Human Rights Commission itself.
All this is happening even as the forces of imperialism led by the United States, under the pretext of the so-called Global War on Terror, are busy re-colonising entire nations from Iraq to Afghanistan and are now targeting Pakistan in the immediate neighbourhood of India. The global media is contributing to this politics of hatred by demonizing Muslims worldwide and frightening ordinary citizens into giving up their basic democratic rights everywhere.

Within the country, the pattern of elitist development has turned a vast majority of the population into second-class citizens, reinforcing with misguided policies the apartheid of the ancient and racist caste system. The ghost of the East India Company, buried long ago, is being resurrected in myriad forms and those who run the Indian state are willfully abetting the return of a neo-colonial order.
It is a state of affairs that calls upon all those who value Indian independence, democratic rights and social justice to come forward, take responsibility and resist the onslaught by fascist and imperialist forces on the foundations of our national values and existence. We also urge all anti-communal activists and secular political parties to forge alliance to defeat fascism and communalism. We, the delegates and participants of the National Convention on Countering Fascism: Defending the Idea of India in New Delhi held on 25-26 October 2008 resolve as follows to:

1) Call for the resignation of Shivraj Patil, Home Minister of India for his abject failure to prevent bomb attacks in major Indian cities; take action against Hindutva terrorists despite evidence provided to him by civil society groups; stop the Sangh Parivar's attacks on Christian populations in Orissa, Karnataka and other parts of India; and for using fake police encounters and false evidence against Muslim youth to save his political career;

2) Call for the dismissal of M.K.Narayanan, National Security Adviser for incompetence and all the intelligence lapses leading to rise in to both terrorist and communal violence;

3) Demand prosecution of all members of the Bharatiya Janata Party and ABVP who have links with Hindutva terrorist organisations, such as the ones implicated in the Malegaon bomb blasts.

4) Condemn the UPA government for falling prey to the Hindutva agenda while paying lip service to secularism.

5) Demand the setting up of a time-bound judicial inquiry into the Jamia Nagar 'encounter' headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court;

6) Review major cases of 'terrorist' attacks and immediately release those against whom there is no evidence of any kind; implementation of NHRC instruction regarding independent investigation into all deaths in police custody and in police encounters over the last 5 years;

7) Call for a ban on RSS, the Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad for terrorist, anti-national activities and seizure of their national and international assets; a White Paper on the terrorist activities of these organizations;

8) Demand the presentation of a White Paper on the scope of India's "war on terrorism" and the level of its cooperation and collaboration with the US-led war on terror;

9) Enact the Communal Violence Bill after thorough revision in consultation with citizen's bodies, human rights groups and anti-communal organisations across India;

10) Provide immediate relief and compensation to the victims of communal terrorism in Orissa and other states including reconstruction of destroyed private property and restoration of livelihood. Set up a permanent statutory body to deal with such issues in future.

11) Demand the formation of a strong statutory body like election commission (or extend the scope of the EC) to monitor pre-election conduct of political parties and their leaders which generally leads up to polarization of vote banks. Such a body should have a right to disqualify party and/or its functionaries or elected representatives in the legislature in the wake of a breach of conduct;

12) The immediate release of Human Rights Defenders, such as Dr Binayak Sen, who have been arrested for exposing police atrocities and state violence against innocent citizens.

13) Demand a White Paper on misuse of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Kashmir and the Indian North-East and the immediate withdrawal; search for a political rather than military solution to the Kashmir problem;

14) A national commission of inquiry into the misuse of special security laws by the police to arrest members of the minority community in false cases of terrorism


Abhay Shukla, Achin Vanaik , Amit Sengupta, Anil Choudhary, Apoorvanand, Colin Gonsalves, Digant Oza, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sayeda Hamid, Harsh Dobhal, Iftikhar Gilani, Jaya Mehta, John Dayal, Justice A.M. Ahmadi, Kamala Bhasin, Kavita Srivastava, Kshitij Urs, Kuldip Nayar, Manisha Sethi, Neeraj Jain, Poornima Joshi, Prashant Bhushan, Prof KN Panikkar , Prof Mushir ul Hasan, Prof Upendra Buxi, Prof. Rooprekha Verma, Satya Sivaraman, Shabnam Hashmi, Subhash Gatade, Suresh Khairnar, Swami Agnivesh, Tanika Sarkar, Vineet Tiwari, Yusuf Shaikh, Zafar Agha.

Partial List of those who participated

Aanchal Verma,Abdul Salam,Abhay Shukla,Abhimanue Upadhyaya,Achin Vanaik ,Ajay Kumar,Ajay Kumar Soni,AK Malakar,Ambarish Rai,Amit Sengupta,Amitabh Pandey,Amjad Khan,Amrita Nandy-Joshi,Anil Choudhary,Anil Kumar Aind,Anwar Hussain,Apoorvanand,Arindam Jit Singh,Arti,Arun Kumar Maji,Asad Zaidi,Ashim Boral,Asma saleem,Avinash Kumar,Azad Mohd,Azam Khan,Bhawan lal Tutan,Bibhu Prasad Mohanty,Biju Mohan,Brajesh Awasti,Brija Nand,C Sathyamala,Chandra Nigam,Chinnappa,Chitranjan Singh,Colin Gonsalves,D Manjit,Deendayal Vyas,Deepak Bhatt,Dhirendra Panda,Dhruv Narain,Dhruv Sangari,Digant Oza,Dinesh Parmar,DK Roy,Dolly Thakore,DP Singh,DR Alex George,Dr Srivella Prasad,Dr Umakant,Dr. Sandeep Pandey,Dr. Sayeda Hamid,Dushyantbhai Unjhakar,Ein Lall,Elsamma simon,Faisal Khan,Farha Naqvi,Gauhar Raza,Gobind,GS Gahlot,Harsh Dobhal,Harsha Hedge,Hitendra Chauhan,Iftikhar Gilani,Ilmuddin,Ishwar Singh Dost,Jaison Thomas,Javed Anis,Jaya Mehta,Jerome,John Chattanatt,John Dayal,Jugal Kishore Shastri,Jully Hembrom,Justice A.M. Ahmadi,Kalpana Mehta,Kamala Bhasin,Kausar Wizarat,Kaushal Kumar Singh,Kavita Srivastava,Khursheed Anwar,Kshitij Urs,Kuldip Nayar,Lalta Prasad,Leslie Rodericks,Leslie Rodricks,Lysa John,Madhu Chandra,Mahindr Pal Singh,Manisha Sethi,Manisha Trivedi,Mansi Sharma,Mehtab alam,Michelle Chawla,Mohan Kumawat,Mohd Arif,Mohd tasleem Shaikh,Mukesh Kumar,Mukul Manglik,Naim Khan,Nandipati Vinod Kumar,Naval Hans,ND Jayaprakash,Neeraj Jain,Neeraj Jain,Nidhi Makhija,Noor Mohammad,Noorjahan Diwan,Om Mittal,Onngam Haokif,Pankhudi Misra,Parveen Mansuri,Parvinder Singh,Pearl Drego,Piyush Pant,Poornima Joshi,Poorva Bhardwaj,Prasad,Prasant Kumar Bhuyan,Prashant Bhushan,Prof KN Panikkar ,Prof Mushir ul Hasan,Prof Upendra Buxi,Prof. Rooprekha Verma,Qamar Azad hashmi,R Bhaskaran,Raj Kumar Hooda,Rajendra motiyani,Rajesh Jakhar,Rangrez Shahnawaz Sabir Hussain,Rasheeda,Rebecca Kumi,Resham Singh,Rev Dr CK Simon,Rizwan Qaisar,Rumal ,Runu Chakraborty,S Alphonse Selvaraj,Sachin Pandya,Sadre Alam,Safia Akhtar,Sagari Chhabra,Saifuddin Khan,Saiyed Gulzar Fatma,Samiullah,Sandeep Sinha,Sanjay Kumar,Sanjay Sharma,Sarika Srivastava,Satya Sivaraman,Seema Duhan,Shabnam Hashmi,Shah Alam,Shakeel Ahmad Khan,Shiamala Baby,Shri Prakash,Shuchi jBajaj,Siddeq Khan,Sister Gracy D" Souza,SK Pande,Subhash Gatade,Subrata das,Sumshot Kitular,Suresh Khairnar,Suresh Nautiyal,Swami Agnivesh,Syed Shahid Mahdi,Tanika Sarkar,Tanvir Kazi,Tarakeshwari Negi,Than Singh Josh,Udyan Roy,Victor Raj,Vineet Tiwari,Waqar Qazi,Willy,Yogender Yadav,Yoginder Sikand,Yusuf Shaikh,Yusuf Shaikh,Zafar A haq,Zafar Agha,Zahoor Siddiqi,Zayaul Haque,Zoya Hasan, Zulaikha Jabeen and 600 others


The Convention was organized by Academy of Public Understanding of Science, All India Christian Council, All India Dalit Mahila Adhikar Manch, All India Quami Mahaz, All India Secular Forum, Alternatives, Aman Biradari, Aman Samudaya, ANHAD, Antarik Visthapit Hak Rakshak Samiti, Anweshi, Arya Samaj, ASHA Pariwar, Ashraya Adhikar Abhiyan, Asmita Collective, Awaz e- Niswana, Bandhua Mukti Morcha, Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, Bihar Social Institute, BUILD, Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms, Centre for Youth Development and Activities, Chattisgarh Jan Vigyan Vikas Sangthan, Centre for Information, Training, Research and Action, Commission for Religious Harmony, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights ,, Centre for Studies in Society and Secularism, Danish Publishers, Darpana Academy, Disha Social Organization , Ekta, Foundation for Educational Innovations in Asia, Global Gandhi Forum, GRAVIS, Holy Cross Convent, Human Rights Law Network, Indian Social Institute, Indian Social Action Forum ,INSAF Bulletin, Institute for Minority Women, Institute for Social Democracy, Jadugoda, Janadhikar Samuh, Jananeethi, Janvikas, JUDAV, Lok Sangharsh Morcha, Lokshakti Abhiyan, Mahatma Gandhi Foundation, MASUM, Media Action Group, Medico Friend Circle, Minorities Council, Muslim Women's Forum, National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights, National Economic Forum for Muslims, Nazareth Mahila Samiti, NCHRO, Nishan, North East Support Centre & Helpline, Orissa Development Action Forum, Orissa Seek, Save & Development Society, Oxfam India, Popular Education & Action Centre ,People's Movement against Nuclear Energy, People's Research Society, People's Watch, PRASHANT, Religious Harmony Commission (CBCI), Roshan Vikas, Saheli, Sahrwaru, Sajhi Duniya, Sama, Samarpan, Sanchetana, Sandarbh, Sangat, Sarva Dharam Sansad, Shambhavi, South Asia Citizens Web, South Asians for Human Rights , SUTRA, Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, Udayan, Urja Ghar, Vikas Adhyan Kendra, Yuv Shakti.

27 October, 2008

People’s Tribunal on State action in the name of Terrorism and Conversions in Rajasthan

The following is a communication from civil society activists who are organizing a People’s Tribunal to hold public hearings on Rajasthan’s experience with regard to State action in the name of countering terrorism and conversions. The hearings will be held in Jaipur on November 7 and 8, 2008.

Dear friends,

We would like to invite you for a People's Tribunal on "State action in the name of Countering Terrorism and Conversion- Experiences ofRajasthan ", being organized in Jaipur on 7 and 8 November, 2008 at Rajasthan Samgra Sewa Sangh, Durgapura, Jaipur.

As you are aware, the Muslim community is being stereotyped in Rajasthan, like in the rest of country, making them responsible for the bomb blasts. In the aftermath of the Jaipur bomb blasts of May 13, 2008, a large number of Muslims were rounded up by the Rajasthan Police, in many cases violating the rules of the CrPC relating to investigation and interrogation.

The first attack was on the poor Bengali-speaking migrants, all of whom were Muslims. In the name of being called Bangladeshis, they faced the wrath of the State. Many of these migrants were arrested, they lost their livelihoods and finally through an indiscriminate campaign of the administration, police and saffron groups like the ABVP, BYM, with the objective of "pushing them back" into Bangladesh. Basti after basti was emptied of these migrants and their land taken away. Several of these families who came from West Bengal forty to fifty years ago were pushed into Bangaldesh.

The second attack was on the local Muslims. Initially several hundreds were rounded up in police stations in Jaipur. Later more than fifty people were picked up from various districts of Rajasthan and subjected to several days of interrogation, which for some went beyond three weeks. In the month of August more than 1 3 of them were arrested and one picked up from Lucknow. The reporting in the local and metro media was such that demonised the entire Muslim community and also individuals who were taken into police custody. One electronic channel went to the extent of calling two innocent doctors "Doctor Death and Doctor Terror?". By and large the Muslim in Rajasthan community is feeling insecure and wronged.

The Rajasthan High Court bar and district bar associations too were not far behind and passed resolutions that they would not let any lawyer stand up for a "terrorist", denying the accused the right to be represented in court and declaring them guilty even before a trial. The judiciary too has been seeing the cases through the eyes of the anti-Muslim public opinion that has been built up.

The Rajasthan police, which linked terrorism to a community and decided to only target them in their investigation, went a step further. Between October 14 and16 the Rajasthan Police Academy organized a workshop on "Islamic Terrorism" for senior police officials, where subjects like International Islamic Jehadi networks, Muslim religious and political organizations in India, genesis of Islamic fundamentalism and Wahabi Islam, Anatomy of a Blast, among others, were discussed by experts.

The Christian community in Rajasthan too is constantly told that they are "luring the poor to convert them to Christianity". Apart from the several public attacks on Christians by the VHP and Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram people, the BJP Government has aggressively bulldozed the State Assembly into passing twice a Conversion law in the name of "Freedom of Religion", which are pending with the President of India. The State also indulged in illegal and vindictive action against one Christian Institution where the Government even cancelled their registration and in another case refused to sanction prosecution under significant sanctions against the VHP goons who had under the media glare attacked a pastor.

This tribunal will see the deposition of the survivors of the bomb blast and those victimized by the saffron brigade, police, media and judiciary. The programme will begin on the afternoon of the 7th and continue till the evening of the 8th. The final programme will be sent to you shortly.

We request you to participate in this tribunal and listen to the stories of these people who need support in their struggle for justice. This tribunal will also help us build a public opinion that Indian democracy and the secular fabric cannot be attacked so easily and that India is for all its citizens, whatever be the religion, caste, creed.

We are,

People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Rajasthan,
Rajasthan Smagra Sewa Sangh,
Jamaat e Islami Hind, Rajasthan,
Samta Sainik Dal,
Centre for Dalit Rights,
All India Peace and Solidarity Organization, Rajasthan,
Jaipur Christian Fellowship and Rajasthan Christian Association,
National Muslim Women's Welfare Society, Jaipur,
Sohard Resource Centre for Peace and Harmony through the Arts
Academy for Socio Legal Studies, and
Sadbhav Manch.

Contact Persons:
Prem Krishan Sharma (9414055811)
Kavita Srivastava (9351562965)
Sawai Singh:(0141-2552878)
Prof Salim 9829098734

Tek Chand Rahul - 9414238153

P. L Mimroth O Harold Singh (9314871749)
J K Sharma (9314888785)
Father Coelho (9414072244)
Nishat Hussein (9829334500)
Sabir Khan (9314513830)
Prakash Chaturvedi (9414073997)
Than Singh (2593533)

7 November

I Inaugural Session: 3 to 6.30 pm

National and State Perspective on the Theme
• Deposition by Jaipur Blast victims
• Deposition by survivors of Christian Atrocities
• Deposition by ordinary Muslims describing the fear psychosis
• Role of the State, Media and the Judiciary.

8 November
Session II

The Attack on Bengali Speaking Migrants
• Depositions by victims
• Response of the State, Media and the Judiciary)

Session III

Police detention and Arrests in the name of SIMI and accused in the blast cases
• Depositions
• Response of the State, Media and the Judiciary Session IV

Jury findings and conclusions

24 October, 2008

Democracy is much more than elections

We have nothing against voting. We plan to vote in the upcoming election. Some of our best friends are voters. But we also believe that we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that the most important political moment in our lives comes in the voting booth. Instead, people should take politics seriously, which means asking considerably more of ourselves than the typical fixation with electoral politics.

These are the opening lines of an article titled, "Taking Politics Seriously:
Looking Beyond The Election And Beyond Elections" by Robert Jensen, a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Pat Youngblood, a social studies teacher at McCallum High School in Austin.

To access the article, circulated by, click here.

Obamamania conquers the world

Andrew Lam
New America Media

Editor's Note: New America Media writer Andrew Lam asks if Barack Obama's worldwide popularity has to do with his own global appeal or the world's disappointment with U.S. policy.

When Senator Barack Obama visited Berlin last July, he proclaimed himself a “citizen of the world” to a wildly cheering crowd. Now as the election draws near, the world’s citizens proclaim him as their preferred choice for president.

That terrific magazine, The Economist – too expensive to buy but can be perused while waiting to have one’s wisdom tooth extracted at the dentist – has an interesting interactive map of the world showing which candidate would win if people in various countries voted in the American election. While many are still voting, the total cast so far shows 86 percent for the Obama/Biden ticket and 14 percent for McCain/Palin.

For the rest of the commentary, over to the NAM site

New York Times endorses Obama’s candidature

“The nation’s problems are simply too grave to be reduced to slashing ‘robo-calls’ and negative ads. This country needs sensible leadership, compassionate leadership, honest leadership and strong leadership. Barack Obama has shown that he has all of those qualities.”

With these words, the New York Times endorsed Senator Barack Obama in an editorial on Thursday.

See editorial “Barack Obama for President

23 October, 2008

Whither India: Qualitative change In polity

by Ram Puniyani
23 October, 2008

Last six months have been most disturbing on the Indian political scene. As far as the values of integration are concerned they are being attacked very severely by terrorist-communal forces. First, we saw the series of bomb blasts, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Delhi and Malegaon. It was projected by the authorities that all these acts are due to Jehadi Muslim groups that police have succeeded in cracking the network. One outcome of this was the Batla house encounter in which police, bravely killed the terrorists. It put out a version that now the terror ring has been busted and kingpins have been arrested. It is another matter that later the relevant-uncomfortable questions were raised and satisfactory answers to these were not forthcoming. On the top of this the claim that Malegaon blasts were done by SIMI proved to be false as the investigation showed the possibility of ABVP/Bajrang Dal being involved in same.

During the same time two Bajrang dal Activists got killed while making bomb in Kanpur, two activists of Hindu Jagran Samiti were involved in placing the bombs in Thane due to which seven people got injured. During this time again in Tenkasi, Tamil Nadu, the bombs went off near RSS office and as usual the cry of wolf was made, but the wolf here had different shades than what RSS wanted to propagate, as most of those planting the bombs turned out to be Hindus, with affiliation, which are not difficult to guess.

During the same time the anti Christian violence was orchestrated and launched in Orissa to begin with, later on spilling to Karnataka. The pretext first was that Christians have beaten Swami Laxmananand (December 2007) and later that Christians have killed the swami. Interestingly a Maoist group claimed to have killed him but the RSS combine stated that they don’t believe in the claim of Maoists, meaning there by that they have the right to decide who the culprit is!

The third tragedy related to the Hindu Muslim violence in Burhanpur, Dhulia and few other places on the slightest pretext of tearing a banner or some such. What is disturbing is the way things are shaping in the country. The anti Muslim hate propaganda, which has been sustained on various myths have gradually been taking he shape of deep rooted perceptions. Earlier lot of planning and bigger pretext was needed to unleash the violence, now even a small pretext suffices to initiate the mayhem. Some of the properties are well marked in advance for destroying. The loss of lives of minorities is many times more than their presence in population.

The stereotyping of Muslim community through reporting of acts of terror has boosted the negative perception of the community in a serious way. At the same time the there is a realization that there are two set of laws, that they will not get justice and that their feeling of insecurity in the society is going up by leaps and bounds. One does not know whether this disturbs the ruling coalition or not. For Muslim minorities to keep faith in the Governemnt in such circumstances is not difficult, it is impossible.

Christian minority was not the target till quite late. As the hate propaganda based on make believe forcible conversions, allurement, insult of our gods, foreign money keep percolating in the society, and a silent sanction for attacking them started building up. Now even a slightest pretext is sufficient to undertake the despicable violence against the community.

This is a clear case as to how already a social mind set has been created, through word of mouth propaganda and media where by the minorities have been demonized and now the violence against them has become the order of the day. Even the global phenomenon of terrorism and local phenomenon has added on to the same and in this case Islamic terrorism, and ‘all terrorists are Muslims’ has been made the fodder of social thinking. As such, starting from Golwalkar, RSS’s formulation that Muslims and Christians are threats to Hindu nation, to the present day, there is a consistent worsening of the level of demonization of minorities.

These entire social phenomenons are raising a deeper question related to our democracy. Democracy not only ensures that are citizens are treated equally it also stands for giving affirmative action for weaker sections of society. As such the litmus test of democracy is the welfare and security of minorities. Here we see that as to how the marginal stream which came up during freedom movement and kept aloof from it, the Hindutva vehicle, RSS, has been successfully working, using the democratic space to abolish, precisely the democratic values which gave it a space to stand. While totally defamed after Gandhi murder by one of its followers, its acceptability began with Jayapraksh Narayan letting it run the movement, which led to emergency and later formation of Janata Party. RSS began by spreading hate against Muslims and Christians, formulated by its founders and penned by its ideologue, M.S. Golwalkar. Golwalkar instructed that Muslims, Christians and Communists are the threat to Hindu nation. The RSS shakhhas kept spreading this ceaselessly and it became a part of social common sense over a period of time.

RSS also planted its swayamsevaks in different walks of social and political life, education, media, police, bureaucracy etc. Once its political child, Jana Sangh became part of Janata party, it ensured that large number of swaymsevaks become part of media establishment. And later during NDA regime, this game of theirs’ had a field day. Capping these efforts through Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, social engineering got intensified in Adivasi areas. With US administration coining the word ‘Islamic terrorism’ and that propaganda that Madrassas are the dens of training terrorists; RSS completed its indoctrination module.

The deadly poison it spread against minorities first spread hate and created divides in the communities, leading to ‘hate other’, which in turn forms the base of communal violence. Communal violence in Indian context gets assistance from the communalized state apparatus, sections of police in particular leading to polarization of communities and rise to political power of the communal party. The conveyer belt begins from demonizing other and leads to the RSS’s political child becoming politically strong. That’s how a political party which managed two seats in parliament in1984 elections has become formidable electoral force today, knocking the democratic values and imposing the religion based nationalism.

Though not in power in center, its machinations are polarizing the society all over, creating divisions in the society, rampaging the rule of law and paving the way for creeping fascism. What is happening today is reminder of how things happened in Germany, with Hitler leading the carnage. Beginning with hate Jews and then Christian minorities, then Communists and trade unionists paved the way for the stifling atmosphere of fascism, authoritarian state with social base. Today we seem to be helplessly watching a similar situation. While RSS combine is behaving like a rampaging bull, Bajrang Dal planting bombs, its workers carrying arms openly, distributing trishuls en masse, the state ruled by so called secular combine, UPA alliance seems to be a helpless observer, as the whole machinery itself seems to be affected by the communal virus.

Where do we go from here? Opposition to this fascist politics, fighting it tooth and nail cannot be postponed by a single minute. The time has come that all those believing in democracy and welfare of all need to come together and put and end to the politics of hate. Popular front at social and political level is the need of the day. The power seeker political formations may not look beyond their personal gains but the social movements need to put the pressure in the right direction for these political people to hang together before we are hanged separately. It is not just a question of opposition to one political formation. The question is can we let the RSS version of Hindusim destroy the Kabir and Gandhi version of Hinduism and religion? The question is can we let the innocent minorities be the scapegoats for the fascist politics to keep on going? Should we let the democratic space be usurped by those wanting to bring in a nation state in the name of religion?

Whether India will nurture the values of freedom movement and strive for human rights of all depends on us, as in no time in the past the very concept of democracy has been stifled as much as we are witnessing today.

22 October, 2008

After 30 years of reform, Chinese don't believe they are a socialist country

The International Information Office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines hosted a meeting in Utrecht, The Netherlands, on Saturday, October 18, to discuss the current economic, political and social situation in China and the most important impact of 30 years of Reform.

Leading the discussion was Pao-yu Ching, Professor Emeritus of Economics at Marygrove College, Michigan, USA, who has been specializing in the study of the Chinese economy and the concrete conditions of the Chinese people.

At the meeting, Prof. Pao-yu Ching presented a picture of China rarely seen in the
western media and educational system. Among the Chinese people, she asserted, "No one really believes anymore that China is still a socialist country."

Referring to the Chinese economic reform -- also called "socialism with Chinese characteristics" -- which started in 1978, Prof. Pao-yu Ching declared: "The Reform has cost human lives and caused human suffering, wasted China's precious resources, devastated the environment, and turned China into a neo-colony of foreign powers. China has transformed from a socialist country, which supported oppressed people all over the
world, into one which is allied with the oppressors in Asia, Latin America and Africa in order to acquire resources and expand its economic and political influence."

On the other hand, she said, "The Reform has taught the Chinese people what capitalism is really all about. Thirty years after the capitalist Reform began, the majority of workers and peasants have not only endured much suffering but also have realized that if the capitalist Reform continues, their sons, daughters and grandchildren will have no future.
Progressive intellectuals have also realized that the future of China is indeed at stake. With this real life education, the Chinese people have finally understood the meaning of the two-line struggle and Mao Zedong's warning of the return of the bourgeoisie."

Prof. Pao-yu Ching's presentation stimulated a lively discussion among her audience. Attending the meeting were several political refugees based in the Netherlands, political activists from Indonesia and Afghanistan, and members of communist parties and groups from the Netherlands, Germany, Greece and the UK. Also in the meeting were members of the NDFP Negotiating Panel in peace negotiations with the government of the Republic of the Philippines.

Reflecting on the sentiments of the Chinese people about the 30 years of Reform, Prof. Pao-yu Ching revealed that the forces opposing capitalist reforms have been gaining strength in the past two years. "In a letter written and signed by 170 prominent people in September 2007 and submitted to the Delegates of the upcoming 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party," she said, "the signatories openly charged that power holders of the Chinese Communist Party no longer represented the interests of China's proletariat, and that they betrayed the principles of Marxism, Leninism, and Mao Zedong Thought."

She concluded: "though there is no doubt that the struggle for socialism in China, like elsewhere, is going to be long, hard, and treacherous, China's socialist legacy and the theory and practice Mao Zedong left behind will carry the struggle to triumph in the end."

The above report has been circulated by the International Information Office of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, which has been spearheading an armed struggle in that country for several years.

20 October, 2008

A fact-finding report on the case of Jaipur serial bomb case accused

The People's Union for Civil Liberties, Uttar Pradesh Chapter, and People's Union for Human Rights have released the report of a fact-finding team which investigated the case of Shahbaz Ahmed, who was arrested in connection with the Jaipur serial bomb blasts.

The fact-finding team had six members: (1) S.R. Darapuri,. IPS (Retd) (UP), 9415164845,, (2) Sandeep Pandey, Social Activist, 0522 2347365,, (3) S.M. Naseem,. IPS (Retd ) (UP), (4) J.A. Khan IAS (Retd.) (J&K), (5) Mohammed Saif Babar, Advocate and (6) Syed Moid Ahmed, Social Activist

The following is the report of the team:

Shahbaz Ahmed s/o Mumtaz Ahmed (9889406961), resident of Bhadohi, 32 years old, was a member of SIMI as a student. He completed his B.Sc. and then B.J. from Kashi Vidyapeeth in Varanasi . Two years after completion of his studies he got married to Sadaf d/o Abdul Moid (9792439090) in 2002. Since he was not interested in the carpet business of his father he decided to move to Lucknow in 2004 with his wife to try his luck as a journalist. His father-in-law spent 8.5 lakh rupees after selling his house in Sultanpur to buy and renovate a house for Sadaf and Shahbaz in Molviganj, Lucnkow. Additionally, he spent Rs. 1 lakh to help him get started with a cyber café business couple of years ago. However, he changed his business to Career consultancy, training and foreign education. He was also planning to start a travel agency.
According to his wife, who herself is a B.Com and CIC from KNI in Sultanpur, Shahbaz was a soft spoken and introvert but polite person. He used to offer Namaz five times a day but was not a fundamentalist. He used to wear western clothing and would occasionally take her to cinema and parks. In fact, she said that she was pleasantly surprised that Shahbaz was not a very conservative person and allowed her independence in various matters. He was not proficient in Urdu and could read it with difficulty. He used to write in Hindi and English. He desired to send his children, three in number with the eldest being 4 years old, to City Montessori School, a modern centre of education in Lucknow. Shahbaz had discontinued his association with SIMI after marriage.

The owner of Adarsh Market, where his shop Zyna Career Consultants was located, Rais Ansari, said that he would not have renewed the contract with Shahbaz if he would have found anything wrong with him. On the contrary, he was full of praise for his behaviour. Naveen Sharma, who has a shop on the first floor of the building in which Shahbaz was on second floor, was shocked at the implication of Shahbaz in bomb blast incident. Shahbaz would exchange greetings when passing by his shop in going up to and coming down from his shop. Mohammad Mubin Bablu, the President of Aminabad Vyapar Mandal Madhya, of which Shahbaz was a member, testified to his professional qualities.

Mohammed Furkan, in the business of footwear, and Arjun Singh, a retd. Government employee, who lives in the neighbourhood of Shahbaz found nothing unusual with Shahbaz. He used to exchange greetings with everybody while going to and coming from his shop. He did not have any group of friends or frequent visitors. Shahbaz preferred to spend time with his family when away from work. He used to get some newspapers and periodicals at his home, but none of them of religious nature.

The office bearers of Jamat-e-Islami, whose office he would pass by everyday while going to and coming back from work, confirmed that he never attended any of their meetings or social functions. He probably never went there.

It was alleged by Rajasthan police that transactions in crores had taken place from his bank account. We checked both his bank accounts. In the account with IndusInd Bank which he recently tried to open with a cheque of Rs. 10,000, the balance was zero as the cheque had bounced. In another account with SBI, initially in the name of Sadaf in which Shahbaz's name was also added later, the balance was Rs. 1,806. There was no transaction between December, 2007 and May, 2008. The single largest transaction was that of Rs. 15,000. The bank accounts portray a picture of a struggling middle class entrepreneur who was mostly raising his family on his daily earnings.

He had only two employees at his shop - an assistant Sarika and a helper Rahul, incidentally both Hindu.

His neighbours and shop owners in proximity of his shop confirmed that he hardly used to travel outside. His wife mentioned a few occasions when he went on vacation with his family. He had never been to Jaipur, which was also confirmed by Mahendra Chaudhary, Addl. S.P. and the investigating officer of Rajasthan Police in his case.

It is alleged by the Rajasthan Police that Shahbaz Ahmed sent e-mail from a cyber café based in Sahibabad, Ghaziabad between 10th to 13th May just before the blasts in Jaipur. However, following are the results of our verification of the record of phone calls made from his land line phone in his office situated in Molviganjj, Lucknow , during this period.

(i) Call made on 10th May at 09973472944, 12:48 hrs. in Bokaro to Mussarat regarding admission to a University in Singapore . There was another call made at 16:28 hrs on same day and then on 12/05/08 at 14:00 hrs and 16:23 hrs. and on 13/05/08 at 16:34 hrs. Mussarat confirmed that he had spoken to Shahbaz Ahmed.

(ii) Call made on 12th May at 022 24450617, 12:07 pm to Arbab Travels, Mumbai. It could not be confirmed whether it was actually Shahbaz who had called.

(iii) Call made on 13th May at 044 42125454, 19:01 hrs. to Sriram of Singapore Worldwide Students' Placement in Chennai regarding tie-up with this agency. Call made again at this number on same day at 19:17 hrs. Most likely Shahbaz Ahmed talked to Sriram because there was nobody else in his office who could speak about this matter.

(iv) Call made on 13th May at 09967141997, 12:08 hrs. to Hasan, a real estate agent. It could not be confirmed whether it was Shahbaz who had made this call

STD calls could be made from the phone in Shahbaz's office only after unlocking the code. Hence, most likely all the above calls were made by Shahbaz as it is very unlikely that Sarika or anybody else would have made these calls from his office.

Rajasthan Police has alleged that Shahbaz has been identified by the owner of the Cyber Café but this identification after a lapse of five months is doubtful in itself as the café is daily frequented by so many persons.
Rajasthan Police has also alleged that a laptop computer was recovered from Shahbaz whereas the fact is that Shahbaz did not possess a laptop.

Conclusion: We think that Shahbaz Ahmed is innocent and has been picked up by police merely because he was a one time member of SIMI and his name probably cropped up in interrogation of one of the accused picked up earlier than him. Or may be police got hold of some membership list of SIMI from the years when he was a member. Shahbaz's life has changed after his marriage and it is unlikely that a person would be involved in bomb blasts in May when a child is born to his wife in April by a major operation. He seems to have been mostly busy trying to establish his business to ensure a decent earning to raise his family.

The verification of calls made from his land line phone in office proves the presence of Shahbaz Ahmed in Lucknow between 10th and 13th May, 2008 and contradicts the version of Rajasthan police of his presence in Sahibabad during this period. Identification of Shahbaz by the owner of the Cyber café after a lapse of five months is also doubtful.

Arundhati on media-police collusion

Participating in Karan Thapar's Devil's Advocate nprogramme on CNN-IBN, writer Arundhati Roy spoke of collusion berween the police and the media. Below is the text of the interview, as it appears on the CNN-IBN site:

Karan Thapar: Hello and welcome to Devil's Advocate. Why is Arundhati Roy angry with the police and upset with the press? That's the key issue I shall explore today. Arundhati Roy, let's start with the recent encounter in Jamia Nagar in New Delhi. You've called for an independent judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge. Why do you involve yourself into this work? What's your locus standi?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I am just one of those thousands of people who are asking some very serious questions of the police. The trouble is that you know, even if you wanted to believe this police version, you don't know which police version to believe. Does one believe the Bombay police, the UP police, the Gujarat police or the Delhi police? All of them have different versions. There's a blizzard of masterminds. The Additional Commissioner of Mumbai police, Rakesh Maria recently said that Tauqeer, who is the Delhi police's mastermind of Indian Mujahideen, is a media creation. The point is who creates the media creations? Is it the media or the police or do they work together?

Karan Thapar: So, you are motivated by these contradictions. Is that the sole reason you need a judicial enquiry headed by a Supreme Court judge?

Arundhati Roy: Again, it is not just me. It was thousands of people who are saying one thing, you know. When the police have killed people, it ceases to be a neutral party. It cannot have an impartial investigation in its own actions. And there are so many serious questions about what happened at Batla House.

Karan Thapar: But before we come to those questions, let me point out what many people will be thinking at this moment. They are going to ask why do you think will an encounter, when a senior police officer like MC Sharma is killed and another injured would be fake. The police would not endanger themselves in a fake and fraudulent incident.

Arundhati Roy: Well, historically the police and security agencies the world over have done things like that. I am not saying it is fake. I am saying lets have an enquiry because this matter of MC Sharma, for instance would be cleared up if they would only produce the post-mortem report. Instead the post-mortem report is leaked in various ways and Mail Today says that he was shot from behind. Praveen Swami (of the daily The Hindu) says he was shot from two sides. The residents say that the police arrived and that there were drills and that they are making holes in the flat now. Why cannot all this be cleared up? If they would just produce the reports, which even the Magistrate asked for, and has put out a warrant for investigating officer and they still haven't produced it.

Karan Thapar: As you speak, I get the impression that your whole premise is that you don't trust the police. Millions of Indians do. Is it fitting and fair that you should question their veracity in this way when you know that it would not just demoralise them but it would seriously undermine their struggle to contain terror?

Arundhati Roy: Well. Millions of Indians do not trust the police. Is our choice not to question them because here we are talking about the communal profiling of a hundred and fifty million people, demoralising them, radicalising a whole generation and asking serious questions of a story that is told to us that is full of holes? Especially because such a senior police officer died in the incident, why should we not clear it up for the sake of police itself?

Karan Thapar: Let me for a moment play Devil's Advocate and point out to you evidence that you are deliberately ignoring. AK-47s were found in Batla House, so were two pistols. Policemen were shot at, policemen were killed. Atif's name appears in the Ahmedabad, Mumbai and UP police findings. Now, most recently, it transpires that Atif's degree from Allahabad is a fake. Why aren't you giving the police, as anyone else will, the benefit of the doubt? The evidence suggests that there is something suspicious, that there is a case. Why do you doubt it?

Arundhati Roy: Let enquiry clear it up.. Even in the case of these recoveries, you know, there is a serious procedural lapse. When the police make recoveries at the scene of the crime, they should have independent witnesses corroborating it. They didn't, like in the case of the Parliament attack.

Karan Thapar: Isn't it possible that people are scared to come forth?

Arundhati Roy: No, but they have to get the seizure memo signed, right? And even the magistrate is asking for all these documents, for the FIR, the post mortem report, for the case diary not being produced. Now, let me ask some questions about Atif. The reports in the media given out by the police say that they have had him under surveillance since July 17. If so, then how was he allowed to plant these bombs in September? And even when they say that they had him under surveillance, they say that his number was called by a number, which was called by another number. I mean, c'mon, that's a lead, not proof that someone is a terrorist.

Karan Thapar: Maybe the surveillance wasn't effective. Maybe the police are exaggerating that they had him under surveillance. What about the other evidence that the police have brought into the public domain? It transpires that clips of the car that was used in the Ahmedabad bombings were found inside Atif's mobile, it transpires that literature of al-Qaeda was found at Batla House. It seems that even Saif has been using an assumed name. He has been travelling under a false identity calling himself Rohan Sharma. He even had that gentleman's voter identity card with him. None of these is suggestive or corroborated but you are dismissing it as otherwise.

Arundhati Roy: I am not dismissing it. If there is an enquiry, all this will also be a part of it. I am not dismissing they may be real terrorists. There are real terrorists, who are they? Are these boys the real ones? While the police are giving us evidence, there are also strange stories floating around. The police have been using the media to put out stories. All this is very disturbing and all this could be cleared out.

Karan Thapar: See, if I understand you correctly, there are two things you want clarified. One is that you want the questions and the inconsistencies in the police stories clarified because they suggest that the police hadn't got a clear cut case. And the second thing is that you want to try and get at the proof that establishes that the police had good reason to suspicious of the people.

Arundhati Roy: Exactly! Even their own versions are contradicting each other. On the one hand they say that you know, we did not know that they were terrorists and that is why we went in, in this casual manner. But the minute something came up they come out and say that these were the masterminds. There are so many things, you know. They say that people were killed in the crossfire but the proof is that these two men were killed while they were kneeling with shots in their head.

Karan Thapar: That's an assumption, I must point out!

Arundhati Roy: No, there are pictures.

Karan Thapar: Suggested. But we do not have the corroboration from the police.

Arundhati Roy: The police should show the post mortem report but we see it from the photographs.

Karan Thapar: You know what? Listening to you, people will say, and I am repeating what I have said to you earlier! They will say that her problem arises from the fact that she does not trust the police. Is it right that you should have such serious doubts about them?

Arundhati Roy: Not just rights, I think its our duty to have serious doubts and especially today, when we are sliding quickly into fascism and terrorism. It's our business as members of civil society to ask hard questions.

Karan Thapar: In which case, what are you suspecting the police…or let me put me more strongly and bluntly. What are you accusing the police of, on this issue?

Arundhati Roy: Well, primarily of giving us a story that doesn't hold together and insults our intelligence.

Karan Thapar: Why would they do this?

Arundhati Roy: I don't know. That's what we would like to know.

Karan Thapar: Is it not possible that they have got it right and you have doubts about them?

Arundhati Roy: Maybe! But an enquiry would show that, wouldn't it? The more they block it, refuse to produce the post mortem. The more they subterfuge and obfuscate their way through this, the more people will get suspicious of them.

Karan Thapar: An enquiry at the end of the day, would be in their benefit as well! Is that what you are arguing?

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely!

Karan Thapar: What then do you say of people who argue that this is typical Arundhati Roy. She's been against dams and developments; she's in favour of secession of Kashmir. She's attacked nuclear weapons and is now she is defending terrorists?

Arundhati Roy: Well, to being accused of being typically oneself is not an accusation. But if you are accusing me of having a world view that I do not believe in…I mean I do not believe in neo colonial military occupation, I don't believe in nuclear weapons and I don't believe in ecological destruction; then I am guilty as accused. Raising questions does not amount to supporting terrorism. I raised questions on the Parliament attack along with the people; we want to know who the terrorists are. We don't know. Now, of the people we defended, two of the four 'masterminds' of the case were released. Afzal has been convicted by the Supreme Court which says that says that we have no evidence to prove that he is attached to any terrorist groups but in order to satisfy the collective conscience of society, he is being sentenced to death. Excuse me Karan, its my case that the collective conscience of society is also a part of media construct and a part of the judicial imagination constructed by these stories that being put out.

Karan Thapar: So, you are saying to me that as a citizen, as a conscientious democrat, it is your duty to question. And if the questions are awkward and unsettling, so be it and that they must be answered, none the less?

Arundhati Roy: Yes, absolutely!

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, lets come to the wider issue about how the police treats the people it has arrested and it is holding in detention. You are extremely upset by the fact that India Today journalists were given an access to the young men arrested at Batla House so that interviews could be done. Why do you call this a terrible thing?

Arundhati Roy: Well, look this phenomenon of media confessions is becoming a standard operating procedure with the Special cell and the Delhi police. The point is that neither the courts nor any kind of international law allows you to say that people who are being held in police custody under torture.

Karan Thapar: How do you know that they are being held under torture?

Arundhati Roy: Well, the possibility of torture…maybe that day, they were not tortured. It was the first day.

Karan Thapar: You are saying that Human Rights laws and values do not permit people under detention to be interviewed when they are not willing to be interviewed?

Arundhati Roy: Yes! And even the courts do not accept these as confessions or evidence. But the reason these are done is because they have a propaganda value.

Karan Thapar: The assumption when you say that such incidences have propaganda value is that these are forced confessions…that the young men interviewed did not give the answers they did, willingly and voluntarily. How can you conclude that that's the case?

Arundhati Roy: In this case it is very easy to be sure. Those young men, before they were caught, Zeeshan went to Headlines Today, Saquib went to Mail Today…both these (media units) are owned by the India Today, as you know. They were all people who came out in support of Atif and Saquib and said, look we know this guy. We know who he is.

Karan Thapar: Then how come you are calling those so called confessions when they are incriminating themselves and that when they went willingly to Mail Today or India Today, there are inconsistencies.

Arundhati Roy: Yes, so which version are we supposed to believe? The custodial one or the non-custodial one?

Karan Thapar: All the three men named by India Today and I will name them, Zia-ur-rehman, Saquib Insaar and Shakil admitted to planting bombs. You are denying or doubting the veracity of the so called confessions.

Arundhati Roy: Obviously! Its absurd not to, because they are in police custody. The same guys, Saquib went to Mail Today saying that I have known Atif for years. I got him this house. I mean it's hardly the behaviour of terrorists.

Karan Thapar: I assume that the point you are making is that any interview that is granted in police custody is not a willing and voluntary one and therefore any confession made in that interview is a forced confession and not acceptable?

Arundhati Roy: Well, it is not admitted. Even in the Parliament case, the courts admonished the police for parading these people before the media and giving these media confessions. They didn't do anything to the police which is why the same police; in fact Mohan Chand Sharma was a part of that cell, that same cell did it to theses people and it served the purpose. The propaganda value has been achieved.

Karan Thapar: You are saying that the Courts had admonished the police at the time the Parliament attack had happened for arranging such alleged false confessions and the police disregarded that admonishing and did the same thing again.

Arundhati Roy: That's right.

Karan Thapar: In your eyes, is the police guilty of violating fundamental human rights by arranging what you call false confessions to be made in forced interviews? Is this a violation of basic human rights?

Arundhati Roy: It is a violation of all kinds of rights. I say it again, that in this atmosphere of communal profiling, this kind of propaganda is essential for them. It is the keystone to this whole enterprise. They have achieved what they set out to, regardless of what the court says.

Karan Thapar: The police have made a habit of this. It happened under circumstances, in the Arushi murder case, practically everyday. They hold press briefings, where half baked theories or at least unconfirmed details they are repeated and revealed to the press. The press then prints them as facts. The readers and the viewers of television then accept it as the truth. Are you disconcerted by this?

Arundhati Roy: I am utterly disconcerted by this because now it is the combination of the media and the police…you do not know which ends where and which begins where. In a situation where these encounter specialists are going out and summarily executing thirty people, calling them terrorists…No one asks questions once they are dead. We just accept it.

Karan Thapar: Just a moment ago, you spoke about the collusion between the media and the police. Are you saying that the press is itself in error when it accepts what is given by the police and publishes it without verifying or double checking it?

Arundhati Roy: It is not just an error.. It is outrageous to do something like this.

Karan Thapar: So the press' behaviour is outrageous?

Arundhati Roy: It is outrageous. There are statements like…and this man looked at me and he looked like a human bomb…I mean what kind of journalism is that?

Karan Thapar: So when as a result, like many people have said, this collusion between the police and the press leads to Jamia Nagar or to Azamgarh being thought as terrorist hubs or breeding grounds for terrorism, how unfortunate is that?

Arundhati Roy: It is not just unfortunate, its very dangerous. We now have a situation where a hundred and fifty Muslims and an equal number of Dalits and Adivasis in a different set of circumstances are being targeted in this way. Even if half a per cent of them decide to stop putting their heads down and decide to hit back, life as we knew it is over. A whole generation is radicalised and India becomes a threat to not just itself, but to the whole world.

Karan Thapar: This is something very important that you are saying. You mean that this behaviour of the police and the uncritical reporting by the press is going to end up in alienation and breeding the terrorism that we think we are controlling.

Arundhati Roy: Yes, that and also that this is a recipe for sliding into fascism. And we are bang in the middle of it now and this is how it works.

Karan Thapar: Why does the Indian middle class society that is so proud of calling itself a liberal democracy, accept this?

Arundhati Roy: Well, I don't think we are anymore proud of this. We have increasingly accepted that we are a police state and there is a sort of sliding of the democracy into majority into fascism that is a real danger now.

Karan Thapar: So you are saying that the middle class no more stands up for the liberal values it believes in. It is actually in a sense accepting the horrible shortcuts and therefore colluding. It's a very strong criticism, do you really mean it?

Arundhati Roy: I do. In fact, I feel that some day like the Nazis in Germany, we will be called upon to answer for what we have done and why we kept quiet while this was happening.

Karan Thapar: I get the feel that you are deeply disillusioned with the Indian middle classes.

Arundhati Roy: It is not just the middle classes, you know. It is the framework that we are putting into action these days. I have spent ten years writing about it. We are in a very serious situation. If we are to right it, all of us should ask ourselves very serious questions about when we chose to speak up and when we chose to stay quiet.

Karan Thapar: But in keeping quiet, as you say suggesting, Indians today are prepared to do, they are not just betraying essential values that they claim they believe in, they are actually betraying themselves and letting down their country. That's the case you are making.

Arundhati Roy: I am making that case and I am saying that with these policies that we are persuing, today every ordinary Indian's life is going to be at risk and we will pay very heavily for the consequences of what is going on now.

Karan Thapar: So it is virtually the last moment to stand up and be identified with the values that we claim to believe in otherwise those values are gone and with that our lives are gone.

Arundhati Roy: Absolutely!

Karan Thapar: And that's not an exaggeration?

Arundhati Roy: Nope! Absolutely not!

Karan Thapar: Arundhati Roy, a pleasure talking to you on Devil's Advocate

18 October, 2008

Jamia Nagar residents foil ‘encounter’ bid by Noida police

by Mumtaz Alam Falahi

New Delhi: The residents of Jamia Nagar today foiled a kidnapping/encounter attempt by some policemen in plainclothes in Shaheen Bagh area under the Jamia Nagar Police Station in Delhi.

It was around 8 in the night when a black Hyundai car with tinted glasses but with no number plates entered Shaheen Bagh. Five persons, maybe ATS sleuths in plainclothes, came out and tried to drag a youth named Amir into the car. He resisted and asked them why they were dragging him. They said they will tell him soon.

As the Jamia Nagar encounter and subsequent indiscriminate picking of locals were fresh in people's mind, locals began gathering. The plainclothes people threatened them but as mob got thicker, some of them slipped away. The locals, however, were able to catch one who later turned out to be an ASI of Noida Police. The public brought both the policeman and Amir to Jamia Nagar police station.

Hundreds of people gathered around the police station and demanded action against the 'kidnapppers'. They alleged that their plan was to encounter the person and later declare him a terrorist.

People say Amir was with his friend Irfan on a motorcycle. Amir from Zafarabad area in Delhi had come here to meet someone. They alleged that his friend Irfan was police informer because those came in car tried to drag into the car only Amir, not Irfan. Irfan also fled the scene.

The car had no number plate but a number plate was found in the car which had DL1T W 1590 written on it. The plate looked new and unused. The mob also was able to snatch some documents from the Noida policemen. They include PANCARDS, mobile, SIM. Among other things in the car two ID with different picture but same name belonging to an IT company was found in the car. The angry residents damaged the car and broke window panes. The local police reached the spot and asked the residents to hand over Amir and the policemen but the people demanded that they will do it before higher authorities.

Soon ACP (Sarita Vihar) Gurcharan Das reached there and persuaded the locals to handover the men. After much effort the police could bring them and the car to the Jamia Nagar Police Station. But hundreds of locals followed the police and reached the station.

People remained outside the station until 1 am when the police announced that the FIR from Amir has been registered. This all proceeding was done in the presence of Aziz Burney, Editor of Sahara Urdu daily, Md Rahman, Delhi High Court advocate and some local leaders.

Talking to mediapersons around 1 am, DCP Ajay Choudhry said those who came in the car were Noida Police personnel. The Delhi Police will investigate the matter. He said he had contacted Noida SSP and he assured he is looking into the case and action will be taken against the guilty officials.

Original report and pictures at

17 October, 2008

China’s land reform will deepen the gulf between rich and poor

by John Chan
World Socialist Web Site
17 October, 2008

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) launched a far-reaching new round of market reform at its Central Committee plenum on October 9-12. The meeting established the framework for peasants to freely trade their collective and state-owned land titles—a step toward large-scale industrial agriculture that will inevitably drive millions of small farmers off the land.

The meeting took place amid mounting concern over a global recession. All China’s major export markets—North America, Europe and Japan—are slowing sharply. By allowing small farmers to sell land titles, the CCP leaders hope to boost consumer spending—in the short-term at least—and maintain the country’s high rate of economic growth.

Although no concrete measures have been announced, Beijing has set the stage, through the state media and official academia, to allow peasants to sell their land-use contracts. During the decollectivisation of agriculture in the early 1980s, the CCP did not privatise the state-owned land but gave individual peasant households a guarantee to use small plots of land for 15 years. In 1993, these contracts were extended to 30 years.

According to economists and party officials, the new contracts could be extended to 70 years, allowing farmers to lease their land to corporations or use their plots as collateral for loans. In practice, millions of farmers already lease their lands, especially those working in the cities. But these transactions usually involve other small farmers, not businesses.

A plenum communiqué declared that the land reform would double rural income by 2020, and be accompanied by improvements in infrastructure, education and healthcare. The measures are also supposed to reduce official collusion with real estate developers, who have often seized lands from farmers without adequate compensation. Official corruption involving land has been a major cause of farmers’ protests and clashes with police.

Far from ending rural poverty, the real consequences for China’s 800 million peasants will be a rapid increase in landlessness and a dramatic widening of the gap between rich and poor. The aim of the new policy is to force peasants to give up their plots to agricultural enterprises and create more cheap labour. The turn to large-scale agricultural production to maintain food supplies to the rapidly swelling urban population will accelerate the decay of small-scale farming.

The state media has compared the latest measures with Deng Xiaoping’s economic measures 30 years ago. On September 30, President Hu Jintao made a highly publicised visit to Xiaogang village in Anhui province, where a group of farmers first pioneered Deng’s division of collectivised lands in 1978.

Once again, Xiaogang village is being promoted as the champion of market reform. According to the Nanfang Daily on October 10, Yan Jinchang, one of the farmers involved in the 1978 decollectivisation, signed a contract two years ago, along with a dozen other farmers, to lease his lands to a Shanghai-based agribusiness in return for an annual dividend. Some work for the company as salaried workers. Yan told the newspaper that he earns much more from wages, rent and dividends than by tilling his own plot.
Around 60 percent of the land in Xiaogang village has been leased to commercial growers of mushrooms, flowers, grapes and poultries. The per capita income of the village was 6,000 yuan ($US877) last year, compared to the national average rural income of just 4,140 yuan ($605).

The new reform has been broadly welcomed in global financial circles. Huang Yiping, a Citigroup economist, declared that small-scale, subsistence farming “hinders growth of agricultural productivity and achievement of scale efficiency”. The Wall Street Journal wrote that a typical Chinese farm is about 0.6 hectares in size—compared to 173 hectares in the US and 6 hectares in Hungary and Poland. In advanced capitalist countries such as the US, Canada or Australia, mechanised farming has long established high outputs using small workforces, freeing labour for urban industry.

Undoubtedly concentration of lands allows the application of scientific methods and large-scale production. However, like the privatisation of Chinese state firms in the 1990s, including those that gave shares to workers, the latest land reform will inevitably lead to the concentration of land rights in the hands of well-off farmers and rural entrepreneurs, and landlessness among the majority of the farmers. One Chinese analyst told the Financial Times on October 8: “This reform will allow real capitalists into the agricultural sector but we cannot use the words ‘privatisation’ or ‘capitalism’ because they will just provide ammunition to hardliners to fight this reform.”

The “hardliners” refers to sections of the CCP bureaucracy who fear the reforms will lead to escalating rural unrest. They were well aware of the explosive character of peasants’ demands for land in the three Chinese revolutions in the twentieth century.
An editorial in the Financial Times on October 12 cautiously noted that the new measures “could provide a one-off opportunity for mass expropriation” of land. “Even if that can be avoided, poor peasants could come under severe economic pressure to sell,” due to the decay of publicly-funded healthcare and education. Warning of potential social unrest, the editorial commented: “Social engineering is always dangerous, even if the direction of change is toward private ownership. Beijing should proceed prudently. It is more important that reform be fair than that it be swift.”

A new peasant rebellion would have strong support among urban workers. More than 150 million rural migrants are now working in the cities, as cheap labour without basic residential rights. Chinese cities have so far avoided the sprawling slums found in many developing countries, because small plots always provided a safety net for migrant workers if they lost their jobs. In recent years, some manufacturing zones have experienced shortages of labour due to workers’ demands for higher wages. Migrants have been able to return home rather than accepting low wages. This is unacceptable to

Beijing and the global corporations.
The Economist on September 4 wrote: “What is the single most important price in the world? Popular answers are the price of oil, American interest rates or the dollar. Yet Chinese wages are, arguably, more important. China has by far the world’s biggest labour force, of around 800 million—almost twice that of America, the European Union and Japan combined. Thus recent claims that it is running short of cheap labour would, if true, have huge consequences not just for China, but also for the rest of the world.”
The Economist argued that to boost the labour force China had to restructure agriculture. “Mechanisation and the consolidation of land plots will boost productivity, meaning that fewer farmers will be needed. That will in turn release more workers for industry. In developed countries only 3 percent of workers till the land,” the magazine stated. In other words, far from enjoying a new period of prosperity, most farmers will be stripped of their land and forced to sell their labour power for a miserable wage.

The new land policy underscores the dead-end of Maoism, a form of peasant radicalism that has nothing to do with genuine socialism. Deng launched his market reform 30 years ago by appealing to widespread discontent among farmers over Mao’s disastrous “People’s Communes”. These primitive collectivised villages had no technological resources for large-scale production and the farmers were squeezed to finance a rudimentary industrialisation. Deng pushed for individual farming and small rural entrepreneurship, in order to unleash the spontaneous tendencies among the peasantry toward the market and private property.

The temporary improvement in rural living standards in the early 1980s was largely due to the removal of absurd restrictions on farmers growing fruit or raising stock in their backyards. The relief was short-lived, as the capitalist market inevitably led to deep social divisions between rich and poor and pervasive official corruption, which soon threw hundreds of millions of farmers into miserable existence. They became nothing more than a vast reserve army of cheap labour, to maintain a downward pressure on wages not only in China, but across the world.

As Karl Marx wrote so well in Volume I of the Capital, the separation of peasants from the land by the growing capitalist relations in agriculture provided labour power and a market for industrial capital. The rural poor ruined by the market, Marx wrote, are “constantly on the point of passing over into an urban or manufacturing proletariat... This source of relative surplus population is thus constantly flowing... The agricultural labourer is therefore reduced to the minimum of wages, and always stands with one foot already in the swamp of pauperism.”

Some Chinese economists have called for the full private ownership of land, which has been rejected so far by Beijing. Not only would such a step further exacerbate social tensions, but it could also cut across the interests of the emerging capitalist class. As Marx also explained, rent is a deduction paid to landowners from the pool of surplus value extracted from the labour of the working class. From the standpoint of industrial capital, state-owned land removes the necessity of sharing profit with parasitic landowners. Historically, bourgeois radicals such as the Chinese nationalist Sun Yat-sen called for the nationalisation of land to give the broadest possible scope to capitalist development. Mao’s land reform in 1949 was not a socialist, but a bourgeois measure aimed at eliminating the old landowning class.

Just as the state-ownership of land allowed Beijing free rein to build infrastructure and industrial zones on a large-scale to attract foreign capital, it will also enable agricultural corporations to acquire whatever land they need for production. Preventing small farmers from owning their plots of land ensures that there will be no return to small-scale agriculture. Farmers who lease their land will have little say over its use and will in the end lose their limited rights over the land.

The end result can only be a further sharpening of class tensions. On the one hand, a large “surplus” rural labour force will be driven into the cities under conditions in which a sharp global recession is already underway. On the other, class antagonisms will develop between a new rural bourgeoisie and the agricultural proletariat in an already volatile countryside. Courtesy: Countercurrents. org

Abridging democratic rights in the name of extremism

The Naxal era is taking rebirth in Malayalam cinema. As the the thunder of spring echoes belatedly in Jairaj's Gul Mohar and Madhupal's Thalappaav, some questions arise naturally. Also a reminder that the problems the Naxalite movement highlighted are remaining unsolved.

Is the Naxal era taking rebirth in the Kerala police too? What prompts this question is the arrest of M.N.Ravunni and the case the police has registered against him. When we remember the experience of P. Govindan Kutty, Editor of People's March, who was arrested some months ago, this cannot be seen as an isolated incident.

Police arrested Ravunni when he went to the office of the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Agali,on September 29 in response to a summons to record his statement in connection with a complaint lodged with the State Human Rights Commission. Sunil Babu and Vinod, activists of Porattam, had been taken into custody by the Agali police on August 31. In the complaint to the Human Rights Commission, Ravunni, who is General Convener of Porattam, had stated that their arrest was illegal and that they were subjected to torture.

There is an investigative wing under the Human Rights Commission. Its members are on deputation from the State police. An investigation wing has been set up under the Commission to facilitate independent and impartial inquiry under its direct control in matters that come up before it. The Commission's action in asking the impugned Agali police to investigate the complaint instead of entrusting the responsibility to its own investigative wing can only be described as strange. The Agali police made the complaint the accused. It made Ravunni also an accused in the case registered against the Porattam activists.

The main charge against Ravunni and his colleagues is sedition. Sunil Babu and Vinod were arrested for being in possession of videos of arms training by Maoists in Nepal. Videos of this kind are widely seen on television in the 21st century. To put it mildly, it is infantile to charge one with sedition for seeing or possessing them invoking a provision written into the law by the colonial rulers in the 19th century. In the feudal era, those who challenged the rulers were charged with treason. The Indian police has a tradition that goes back one and a half centuries. In this period, it has prosecuted people for waging war against the King of England leading to their imprisonment or transportation. With the king, treason disappeared, but sedition remained. Although police has charged many people with sedition after Independence, it is doubtful if any of them has been punished. Let us be grateful to the judges who liberated themselves from the colonial traditions.

A fact-finding team with PUCL State Secretary Adv. P. A. Pauran, National Confederation of Human Rights Organizations State Secretary Dr. Abdul Salam and Janakeeya Manushyavakasa Prasthanam Convener Adv. Thushar Nirmal Sarathy as members, which conducted an open investigation, concluded that the arrest of the Porattam workers was illegal and the case against them was false. The observations made while granting bail to Ravunni indicate that the court too is not impressed with the police story.

It was a similar case that the police had registered against Govindan Kutty, who was arrested in December 2007. He was arrested after a police team from Andhra Pradesh apprehended a top Naxalite of the State from his hideout in Kerala. His publication used to carry reports on the activities of Naxalite groups active in different parts of the country. The state has the power to cancel the licence of the publication and take action against the editor if it did anything unlawful. Instead of taking this course, the police arrested the editor, seized his professional equipment including the computerand threatened the owner of the press. This was done on the strength of the old traditions.

The ruling class has turned terms like Naxalite and terrorist into code words that can be used to keep the administration at the feudal-colonial stage overriding the concepts of democracy, secularism and socialism enshrined in the Constitution. This has been made possible as terrorist activity has spread and the commonsense logic that counter-terrorism is needed to deal with terrorism has gained currency. The mainstream political parties, both Right and Left, subscribe to the belief that if elections are held once in five years there is democracy; if a non-Hindu is installed as President in alternate elections, there is secularism; and if concessions are offered in the name of those below the poverty line there is socialism.

The media reported in 2004 that Naxalite violence and the insurrection in the Northeast have replaced terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir as the main challenge to internal security. Based on statements of Security Adviser M. K. Narayanan, they said Naxalites were active in 125 districts of 12 States. According to data furnished by Narayanan last year, Naxalites were active in 186 districts of 16 States. The spread of Naxalite activity to more areas shows that the government measures are not succeeding.

Narayanan is of the view that our security agencies do not violate human rights. In support of this claim, he points out that they do not use helicopters to fire at Naxalites hiding in the jungles. The government can also take pride in the fact that it has not used tanks as the Communists did in Hungary and China. But the claim that there are no human rights violations is not in accordance with facts. There are human rights violations, and human rights organizations have been raising their voice against them. Narayanan's own words show that though their voice is feeble, the government finds it disturbing. In an interview given to the Strait Times of Singapore recently, he accused the 'intellectual elite and civil liberties groups' of helping Left extremists in the area of agitprop and other activities. He added it would not be easy to defeat the Maoists without divorcing them the intellectuals.

Viewed in the light of these observations, the sedition charge flung at a number of persons from Dr. Binayak Sen, who was arrested in Chhattisgarh last year, to Ravunni has to be seen as part of a conscious attempt to brand human rights defenders as troublesome elements and get them out of the way. All terrorism have definite political character. The police can only tackle the law and order problems that they create. The political issues that they raise have to be handled by the political leadership. It must be able to understand that democracy cannot be saved by denying civil rights. Tanks and helicopter guns may be able to exterminate rebels. They cannot sustain an establishment that has lost its credibility.

NGOs ask Durban Conference to address work and descent-based discrimination

The following statement from Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN), International Movement against all forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), read at the second substantive session of the PrepCom meeting organized by the UN in Geneva in preparation for the Durban Review Conference, has been forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong Kong.

Joint statements at the second substantive session of the PrepCom (6-17 October 2008)
Objective 1, section B: Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance

Dear Madam Chair, and distinguished delegations,

It is a great pleasure for the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN) and the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR) to be able to take the floor for the first time in the preparatory process leading up to the Durban Review Conference in this joint statement with other associated partners. The organizations are delighted to have the opportunity to participate in this process, and we aim to do so in a constructive manner. We are deeply committed to promoting the objectives of the Durban Review Conference, and to give our inputs on the assessment of contemporary manifestations of racism since the first Durban Conference.

With this statement, the endorsing organizations would like to voice a concern falling under objective 1, section B (“Victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance”) about work and descent-based discrimination which affects approximately 260 million people in many parts of the world. This form of discrimination subjects people to a life without de facto equal rights and opportunities.
Due to the nature, severity and magnitude of this form of discrimination, it is something which should be reflected in the outcome of the Durban Review Conference and deserves the attention and recognition of all PrepCom members. The PrepCom members are therefore called upon to acknowledge this issue and we welcome current paragraph 105 referring to this particular form of discrimination .

Thank you, Madam Chairperson.

Objective 3: Promotion of the universal ratification and implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD

Dear Madam Chair, and distinguished delegations,

The endorsing organizations would like to raise a particular issue under objective 3 concerning the proper consideration of the recommendations of the CERD. Under this objective, CERD has proposed that the Durban Review Conference takes into consideration the work done by CERD to address other forms of double discrimination. Since 2001, CERD has adopted several recommendations which recognize discrimination against the most disadvantages group, inter alia, Roma, indigenous peoples, descent-based communities, and migrant workers.

By including a reference to these general recommendations, the PrepCom recognizes the important role played by CERD in addressing contemporary manifestations of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance as they emerge through a dynamic interpretation of the Convention. For example, CERD General Recommendation 29 reaffirms a development in the interpretation of the term “descent” in article 1(1) of the ICERD. Several treaty bodies have addressed this issue in their concluding observations, and the issue has been taken up by charter-based bodies, both by several Special Rapporteurs and in the comprehensive study on discrimination based on work and descent mandated by the Commission on Human Rights in 2005.

We would therefore like to recommend that the reference to the CERD general recommendation 29 is specifically included in the outcome document. In this way, the PrepCom would properly consider the recommendations of the CERD and recognize these important contributions by CERD since the first Durban Conference and the DDPA.
Thank you, Madam Chairperson.
# # #
About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984. The above statement has only been forwarded by the AHRC.

16 October, 2008

Closing of the American border to keep terrorism out

Today it is much harder for a terrorist to enter the United States than it used to be, but according to Edward Alden, it's also much harder for everyone else.

Edward Alden is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of "The Closing of the American Border: Terrorism, Immigration and Security Since 9/11."

Alden was interviewed by New America Media editor Sandip Roy. Report at NAM site

ALRC criticizes India’s opposition to civil society participation in international fora

The following is a statement issued by the Asian Legal Resource Centre, Hong Kong:

The deliberations of senior Indian politicians during the National Integration Council Meeting held in New Delhi on 13 October contradict India's positions in international forums like the UN. The council of ministers who met in New Delhi this week resolved that the country will protect, at all costs, the foundations of secularism, equality, social, economic and political justice and fraternity among all communities. The meeting was held in the context of increasing violent incidents of religious and caste intolerance in India.

The above cited statement contradicts the view expressed by the Indian Government’s delegation at the UN. In a recent meeting held at the UN, India opposed the participation of national and international NGOs working against racial and other contemporary forms of discrimination. This includes caste-based discrimination in the forthcoming Durban Review Conference.

During the PrepCom meetings for the Durban Review Conference held in Geneva between 6-17 October, the Indian delegation vehemently opposed the accreditation of national human rights organisations like the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), Swadikar and the international advocacy group the International Dalit Solidarity Network (IDSN).

India's opposition was on the grounds that caste-based discrimination does not fall under the scope of the International Convention against Racial Discrimination (CERD.) The activities of the organisations, therefore, do not fall under the objectives of the Durban Review Conference as such. India ratified the CERD on 3 December 1968. This means that India is bound by the treaty obligation to prevent all forms of racial discrimination, both domestically and internationally. Ratification of the treaty also means that India is bound to promote the scope of the operation of the treaty and the further development of the jurisprudence associated with the treaty.

One such document that affirms that caste discrimination falls under the scope of the term 'descent' mentioned in Article 1(1) of the CERD is General Recommendation 29 issued by the CERD Committee in 2002. The General Recommendation categorically states "that discrimination based on 'descent' includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste [emphasis added] and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights...." The full text of the General Recommendation is available here. This position has been reaffirmed several times by the Committee, the latest being an examination of India in 2007, and report by the Special Rapporteur on racism.

The opposition to accrediting NGOs working on caste-based discrimination contravenes the voluntary pledge made by the country promising the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights and human values. The pledge was made during India's contest to the UN Human Rights Council. Of specific relevance in this context is the part where India reiterates that it "will continue to encourage efforts by civil society seeking to protect and promote human rights." A complete text of the pledge is available here.

The opposition however did not succeed. The NCDHR, Swadikar and the IDSN were accredited in the PrepCom session with support from the EU spearheaded by the French delegation. France, on behalf of the EU, argued that this form of discrimination does fall under the objectives of the Durban Review Conference. NGOs working on these issues should not be excluded on these grounds. One delegation even mentioned that this would be “discriminatory” and “against the spirit of the Durban Review Conference”. Several other states called for broad civil society participation. The discussion was broadcast live by the UN, of which a summarised text of the discussion is available here.

During the discussions in this meeting, India claimed that it is willing to engage in discussions with members of the civil society at home concerning issues that must be discussed during the Durban Review Conference. However, according to information at the Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC), no such consultations to date have not been formally organised by the Indian government. There has been no invitation to mainstream NGOs, working on caste-based and other contemporary forms of discrimination, to present their views in preparation for the Durban Review Conference.

India's lack of interest in fostering international human rights mechanisms is further exposed by it’s refraining from promoting universally accepted norms at the domestic level. India has thus far not extended an open invitation to any of the mandate holders under the UN special procedure mechanisms. They have not responded to the questions put forward by the CERD Committee following the examination of India's report in 2007, as otherwise required. This fact adds more credibility to the argument that India, like some other poorly performing member states in the UN uses international human rights mechanisms only for short-term political gains and discreditation of opposing states.

India desperately tries to portray an image of a state that promotes pluralism, equality and fraternity. In comparison to its immediate neighbours, like Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan, India might be ahead on many fronts. However, the perpetual curse of India, from which most of its inequalities and double standards emanate, is the practice of caste.
A society that has its roots embedded in a caste system cannot easily move forward in ensuring democratic values. The meaning of democracy does not begin or end with an election - the concept of democracy implies much more. A caste system, on the other hand, is not only an impediment to democratic values but is also the legitimisation of inequality shrouded with religion. The mere signing of a human rights document or the making of pledges promising the protection and promotion of human values are of no use in ending discriminatory practices.

What India requires is a strong political will to neutralise this 3000 year-old inhuman practice. But this is what India clearly lacks. Opposing participation by the civil society in discussion forums is most certainly not the way to go forward.

# # #
About the ALRC: The Asian Legal Resource Centre is an independent regional non-governmental organization holding general consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. It is the sister organization of the Asian Human Rights Commission. The Hong Kong-based group seeks to strengthen and encourage positive action on legal and human rights issues at the local and national levels throughout Asia.

15 October, 2008

Study censures Media for its reporting of Jamia Nagar encounter

by S.K. Pande
14 September, 2008

Speakers at a meet organised by the Delhi Union of Journalists to release its interim report on media's coverage of Jamia Nagar encounter were unanimous in their opinion that the credibility of the media has touched an all-time low and the challenge before the media is how to regain this.

DUJ Ethics Council’s interim report on “Delhi Blasts: A Look At Media Coverage” was released by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayyar on October 3, 2008. The report scathingly brings out lapses in the coverage of the recent encounter at Batla House, Jamia Nagar in Delhi by both the electornic and print media.

CPI(M) MP Hannan Mollah in his remarks regretted that due to unverified, breathless reporting by the media -- without critically trying to find out actual facts -- the whole Muslim community was being projected as terrorists. This has created a fear psychosis among the community and is leading to a feeling of frustration. He called for restrained reporting and cautioned against speculation.

Kuldip Nayar said that while to some extent government pressure on the media has lessened, particularly after the experience of Emergency, the pressure of financiers, political parties and others has increased. This has affected the media’s credibility adversely. “Let us make this Report a starting point for retrieving our values”, he said.

Recalling that during the Gujarat carnage, while the Gujarati language press was found wanting in objective reporting of the incidents, the English press somewhat redeemed the situation by fair reporting and won the confidence of the community most affected. He demanded that the National Humans Rights Commission, which has taken suo moto cognizance of the Jamia Nagar encounter should hold open sittings to ensure transparency.

Professor Obaid Siddiqui of A J Kidwai Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia University, said that the media coverage of the encounter has given rise to the feeling among Muslims that they are being targeted and projected as anti-nationals contrary to the fact that majority of the Muslims are nationalists and organisations like SIMI and Indian Mujahideen have a very negligible following.

Among others who participated in the discussion were veteran journalists Ajoy Bose, Anjali Deshpande, Sujata Madhok and Amit Prakash Singh. The discussion was moderated by DUJ president S K Pande who said while increase in communalisation was bad enough, communalisation and sensationalisation is a cause of much concern. In the present situation where terrorism was rearing its ugly head, it was time that the media itself introspects its own role and strive to be part of a solution rather than a problem.

The DUJ report strives to be a beginning of a critique of media reporting of the Batla house police operation, Pande added. It was a modest beginning and just an interim report. Associated with the report were Anjali Deshpande, Sujata Madhok, Amit Prakash Singh, Naresh Nadeem, Mohd Shamim, Dinesh Chandra, L H Naqvi and Sreekumar. There are many others who wanted to remain anonymous and more responses are coming, he informed.
The foreword of the report made it clear that the Delhi Union of Journalists and its Ethics Council are concerned at the falling standards of reporting as evident in the manner in which the police operation at Balta House on September 19, 2008 was reported by various newspapers and TV channels in the capital. The reporting in about a dozen papers, some magazines and the Urdu press was analysed in the report.

“We wish to underline that accuracy in reporting facts is the first responsibility of the media. Where facts are disputed, the discrepancies should be pointed out and the sources questioned. Presenting several versions of incidents and using multiple sources of information is an inalienable part of credible reporting.

“We also emphasise that uncovering the truth may not always be the job of the media. The media is not equipped to investigate and uncover the truth in severely complicated cases like the incident being examined in the report. But presenting different facets of events as they emerge is part of the professional responsibility of the media.

“Regrettably, in the competition to grab eyeballs we sometimes resort to hype, forgetting that some issues are too explosive for such treatment. They are volatile enough without the media adding fuel to the fire. Unfortunately there are several instances of such coverage. We cite one blatant example. On September 20, 2008, The Hindustan Times devoted all of page 3 to reports on terror, with the bold page slug saying “TERROR HUNT”. The shrieking banner headline was “India’s Bin Laden was a good- boy in school’. This was the headline for a report based on interviews with the schoolteachers of the alleged terrorist Abdus Subhan Qureshi, one of the men arrested in Mumbai for involvement in bomb blasts. The teachers claimed that he was a quiet boy and a good student. The story opens with the sentence: 'The world may be calling him India’s Bin Laden but it’s an image Abdus Subhan Quresh’s teachers find hard to reconcile with his school-day persona.' The story did not warrant the headline. Such headline-givers live in a world of their own. It is sheer exaggeration to label someone hitherto unknown to the average citizen as a ‘Bin Laden’.

“Frequently, the language used by the media to describe such incidents and suspects leaves much to be desired. It lays the media open to the charge of being judgmental and biased.

“By and large, the press has forsaken the use of certain prefixes like ‘alleged’ and ‘suspected’. Most newspapers have described those who were killed and arrested in Delhi as terrorists. It is a basic premise of Indian law that no person may be presumed guilty unless proved otherwise. The media’s use of epithets like “terrorist’ without the qualifying adjective ‘alleged’ or ‘suspected’ amounts to a declaration of guilt without trial in a court of law. This is equivalent to trial by the media. Journalists should know better. We understand that reporters in the field work under tremendous stress and pressure to be the first with the news. However, some editorial control of language should be exercised at the desk which is sadly missing in many reports. Television reports have been even more blatant, with the words ‘alleged’ or ‘suspected’ simply missing from the language used by both reporters and anchors.”, stated the report.


The postscript calls for a Media commission and a Media council for the entire media to replace the toothless Press Council. It notes that successive governments have failed to respond to countrywide appeals to constitute a Media Commission to go into the state of affairs in both the print and electronic media in the country after globalisation. The setting up of more and more news channels and growth of old and new newspapers have brought about big changes in the state of the country’s information industry. The aspirations, expectations and demands of the people, too, have grown tremendously with the strengthening of the roots of democracy in the country and their awakening of the right to information. We must recall that the country’s politics, economy and media since 1982, when the second Press Commission submitted its report, have changed as has the political structure. Even the All India Confederation of Newspapers and News Agencies has supported this stand.

The time has come for the government to appreciate the gravity and urgency of the matter and set up at the earliest a fully empowered Media Commission to go through the entire gamut of the information industry. A good beginning can be made by having a Media council through extension of the Press Council by making it more broad-based and also to have equal representation for the electronic media and a broadcast media to make it in tune with the time.

The report concludes by saying that the Jamia Nagar episode is a sad reminder of the diminishing credibility of the media. Instead of playing the role of the ‘watch dog’ of society, the media seems to be getting increasingly lazy and dependent on police handouts. The main job of the media is to question and not accept whatever is being served on a platter. Because of this increasing laziness of the print media and increasing ‘greed’ for sensationalism on the part of the visual media, news tends to be presented to the public without proper investigation which is the most important job of the media. Investigation does not mean that every media person has to become an ‘investigative journalist’. That is not the job of the daily reporter, nor is it expected from them. But what is expected is that the reporter would try to give the different sides of the incident after questioning as many eyewitnesses as possible.
In most of the papers the boys killed were declared terrorists much before any proof could be established against them. Each TV channel was competing with the other to sensationalise the raid as much as possible, perhaps with an eye firmly on the TRP ratings.

S.K. Pande is Chief of Bureau, India News Network and President, Delhi Union of Journalists