2821SACW - 29 Mar 2014 | Sri Lanka: Arrests / Bangladesh: Who can Fly the Flag ? / Religious persecution in Pakistan / India: Muzaffarnagar ruling; Alive at India's Dead Ends; In Defence of Teesta Setalvad & others; Remembering Sughra Mehdi / Sharia in the UK / China's overaccumulation crisis
- Mar 28, 2014South Asia Citizens Wire - 29 March 2014 - No. 2814
1. SAHR open letter to the President of Sri Lanka condemns the arrest of Mr. Ruki Fernan
2. Statement condemning the arbitrary arrest and detention of Human Rights Defenders, Ruki Fernando, Father Praveen Mahesan, victims and their families
3. Announcing Launch of Campaign “Demilitarization, Democratization and Social Justice” (Kathmandu, March 26-27, 2014)
4. Pakistan: Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson NCSW, on how the CII recommendations are contrary to rights of women
5. Pakistan: Rationalism is alien to our papacy | Babar Ayaz
6. Religious persecution in Pakistan | Pervez Hoodbhoy
7. India: Text of 26 March 2014 Judgment by the Supreme Court in the writ petition on Muzaffarnagar Riots
8. India: Press Statement in Support of Teesta Setalvad and others [released by Sahmat 26 March 2014]
9. Press Statement: In Solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and her comrades; Condemn the Vengeful Actions of the Gujarat Government
10. India: Atomic power at a steep price | MV Ramana and Suvrat Raju
11. David Harvey's Book: Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism
12. Alive at India's Dead Ends: Audio and Text of 2nd A K Ramanujan Lecture by Gopalkrishna Gandhi
13. India: 2nd Complaint to the Election commission against Delhi Police
14. Aruna Burte: Weapons or Music | Maya Kodnani or Jyotsna Yagnik
15. Documentary on China: Capitalist overaccumulation crisis, the bubble to end all bubbles
16. Video: 'Here's how we take back the Internet' - Edward Snowden
17. India: Memory and Modi | Mukul Dube
18. India: ‘Return O Friend My Book of the Past’ | Syeda Hameed
19. India: In search of a good samaritan | Rajashri Dasgupta
20. India: Lessons for Narendra Modi from Indira Gandhi | Bharat Bhushan
21. Save Hinduism From Hindutva Cards Series [Full Set]
22. India: Hinduism is Not Hindutva | Gujarat Shining Illustrated Card Series
23. India: Gujarat Govt. Indulging in Foul Propaganda to Malign - Statement by Citizens for Justice and Peace
24. A Tribute to Bob Crow and Tony Benn | Ama Biney
25. India: Zakia Jafri files Revision Application against Magistrate BJ Ganatra's order
26. Selections From Communalism Watch
- India: M.J. Akbar and his politics | Salil Tripathi
- Hindu nationalism, economic liberalism, hi-tech populism - The candidate from Gujarat | Christophe Jaffrelot
- The banality of evil | Nissim Mannathukkaren
- Debating the secular-communal divide | Ajay Gudavarthy
- A Note on Recent Ethnic Violence in Assam | Hiren Gohain (EPW)
- India: Roadside temples appear connected to exclusivist idea of Hinduism or Gujaratiness and BJP in Gujarat
- Understanding the Phenomenon of Hindutva Terror | Subhash Gatade
- India: Good Times Are Gone | Romila Thapar
27. UK: The Law Society must withdraw its guidance on Sharia-succession rules
28. Bangladesh: Flying the flag | Zafar Sobhan
29. India: Hindu nationalism, economic liberalism, hi-tech populism - The candidate from Gujarat | Christophe Jaffrelot
30. UN takes step towards Sri Lanka war crimes inquiry | Jason Burke
1. SAHR OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF SRI LANKA CONDEMNS THE ARREST OF MR. RUKI FERNANDO AND OTHER HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a network of human rights defenders based in seven countries in South Asia, strongly condemns the arrest and detention of Mr. Ruki Fernando and Rev. Praveen Mahesan, prominent Sri Lankan human rights defenders, on 16 March 2014 in Kilinochchi.
2. STATEMENT CONDEMNING THE ARBITRARY ARREST AND DETENTION OF HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, RUKI FERNANDO, FATHER PRAVEEN MAHESAN, VICTIMS AND THEIR FAMILIES
We, the undersigned welcome the release of prominent Sri Lankan Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) Ruki Fernando and Fr. Praveen Mahesan on 19th March 2014. We however strongly condemn their arbitrary arrest and detention by the Terrorism Investigation Division (TID) in Kilinochchi (Northern Province) on 16th March 2014. We also note, that this release was an exception to the general pattern, and was only made possible by sustained pressure and efforts by a wide range of individuals, organizations and Governments advocating with the Sri Lankan Government to secure their release.
3. ANNOUNCING LAUNCH OF CAMPAIGN “DEMILITARIZATION, DEMOCRATIZATION AND SOCIAL JUSTICE” (KATHMANDU, MARCH 26-27, 2014)
SAAPE Secretariat and its Campaign “Demilitarization, Democratization and Social Justice” (led by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research - PILER; Co-organiser: Human Rights Alliance, Nepal) invite all the members of SAAPE and Peoples SAARC to attend a South Asia regional convergence at Hotel Orchid, Tripureshwor, Kathmandu, Nepal on March 26-27, 2014. Mr. Bam Dev Gautam (TBC), Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal will be the chief guest at the inaugural session of the regional (...)
4. PAKISTAN: KHAWAR MUMTAZ, CHAIRPERSON NCSW, ON HOW THE CII RECOMMENDATIONS ARE CONTRARY TO RIGHTS OF WOMEN
The Council of Islamic Ideology (CII) has declared that it is not mandatory for a man to seek permission of his wife/wives before marrying again and that underage marriage is not un-Islamic.
5. PAKISTAN: RATIONALISM IS ALIEN TO OUR PAPACY | Babar Ayaz
The problem with the clergy is that they are caught in a seventh century time — and tribal Arabia space — warp
6. RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION IN PAKISTAN | Pervez Hoodbhoy
Blaise Pascal, the famous 17th century philosopher and mathematician, observed that “men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it for religious conviction”. His words could apply to Muslim-killing Hindus of Gujarat, 2002. Or to today's Pakistan, where your religious affiliation—whether by birth or conviction—can land you in your grave. The killers do their job fearlessly, frequently, and often claim credit. The police and army have little sympathy for those who, in principle, they are supposed to protect. Even as streams of venom directed against religious minorities pour out from a battery of powerful mosque loudspeakers, a desensitised Sunni-majority Pakistani public prefers to believe in the destabilizing "foreign hand".
7. INDIA: TEXT OF 26 MARCH 2014 JUDGMENT BY THE SUPREME COURT IN THE WRIT PETITION ON MUZAFFARNAGAR RIOTS
IN THE SUPREME COURT OF INDIA CRIMINAL ORIGINAL JURISDICTION WRIT PETITION (CRIMINAL) NO. 155 OF 2013
Mohd. Haroon & Ors. Versus Union of India & Anr. .... Petitioner (s) .... Respondent(s) WITH WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NOS. 158, 165, 170, 171, 179, 181 196, 206 OF 2013, WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO. 11 OF 2014 CONTEMPT PETITION (CRL.) NO..............OF 2014 (D1372) IN WRIT PETITION (CRL.) NO. 155 OF 2013 TRANSFERRED CASE (CIVIL) NOS. 123, 124 AND 125 OF 2013, TRANSFER PETITION (CIVIL) NOS. 1750, (...)
8. INDIA: PRESS STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF TEESTA SETALVAD AND OTHERS [released by Sahmat 26 March 2014]
We are shocked and outraged by the continuing attempt of the highly vindictive Modi government and the Gujarat police to somehow implicate activists Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand, along with three victim-survivors of the state-sponsored Gujarat carnage in 2002 on patently trumped-up charges.
9. PRESS STATEMENT: IN SOLIDARITY WITH TEESTA SETALVAD AND HER COMRADES; CONDEMN THE VENGEFUL ACTIONS OF THE GUJARAT GOVERNMENT
We, the undersigned express our deep shock at the rejection of the anticipatory bail application of Teesta Setalvad and four others in what is being called the Gulberg Embezzlement Case, by the City sessions court of Ahmedabad. From its beginning, the so-called embezzlement has been the concoction of elements instigated by the state government of Gujarat, including the Gujarat Crime Branch. In January 2014, an FIR was registered against the five accused for defrauding the members of the Gulberg Society of funds meant for the building of the Gulberg Memorial commemorating the state sponsored carnage.
10. INDIA: ATOMIC POWER AT A STEEP PRICE
by M. V. Ramana, Suvrat Raju
Earlier this month, the Government quietly moved to finalise a deal for the Jaitapur nuclear project. This is the latest in a sequence of executive decisions that raise serious questions of propriety. The multi-billion dollar contract for these reactors was promised to the French company, Areva, without any tender process, in 2008. The project has failed to materialise because of serious economic, legal, and environmental concerns, all of which (...)
11. DAVID HARVEY'S BOOK: SEVENTEEN CONTRADICTIONS AND THE END OF CAPITALISM
David Harvey unravels the contradictions at the heart of capitalism – its drive, for example, to accumulate capital beyond the means of investing it, its imperative to use the cheapest methods of production that leads to consumers with no means of consumption, and its compulsion to exploit nature to the point of extinction. These are the tensions which underpin the persistence of mass unemployment, the downward spirals of Europe and Japan, and the unstable lurches forward of China and India.
12. ALIVE AT INDIA'S DEAD ENDS: AUDIO AND TEXT OF 2ND A K RAMANUJAN LECTURE BY GOPALKRISHNA GANDHI
2nd A K Ramanujan Lecture was delivered by Mr Gopal Krishna Gandhi at Ramjas College at Delhi University on 6 March 2014.The lecture was organised by History Society of Ramjas College. Both the full text and the audio are available now. [The audio was digitised as part of South Asia Citizens Web Archive - sacw.net]
13. INDIA: 2ND COMPLAINT TO THE ELECTION COMMISSION AGAINST DELHI POLICE
2nd Complaint against Delhi police for holding Press Conference alleging arrests of four suspected terrorists and highlighting prominently large number of Muslim names with a view to give communal tinge to the incident to enable communal elements in the election fray, including the ruling party, to utilize the same for electorate advantage and requesting it to prohibit holding such press conferences by the police during election times.
14. ARUNA BURTE: WEAPONS OR MUSIC | MAYA KODNANI OR JYOTSNA YAGNIK
Articles in Marathi Aruna Burte. 1) on the politics behind Nirbhik revolver 2.) Comparing two women Maya Kodnani and Jyotsna Yagnik
15. DOCUMENTARY ON CHINA: CAPITALIST OVERACCUMULATION CRISIS, THE BUBBLE TO END ALL BUBBLES
It is a story of spending and investment on a scale never seen before in human history — 30 new airports, 26,000 miles of motorways and a new skyscraper every five days have been built in China in the last five years. But, in a situation eerily reminiscent of what has happened in the west, the vast majority of it has been built on credit. This has now left the Chinese economy with huge debts and questions over whether much of the money can ever be paid back.
16. VIDEO: 'HERE'S HOW WE TAKE BACK THE INTERNET' - EDWARD SNOWDEN
Edward Snowden speaks at TED2014 about surveillance and Internet freedom. The right to data privacy, he suggests, is not a partisan issue, but requires a fundamental rethink of the role of the internet in our lives — and the laws that protect it. "Your rights matter,” he says, "because you never know when you're going to need them."
17. INDIA: MEMORY AND MODI
by Mukul Dube
I see around me a massive failure of memory. Narendra Damodardas Modi headed the pack of which the Supreme Court of India said, in April 2004, “The modern day Neros were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and helpless women were burning,...” The man is now considered by some to be good enough to be the country's prime minister. He is called a “Vikas Purush”, the many large stains of blood on and around him having been painted over by his expensive public relations team.
18. INDIA: ‘RETURN O FRIEND MY BOOK OF THE PAST’ | Syeda Hameed
Sughra Mehdi was born in Bhopal, one of seven children. Her father was in the police service and her mother, a poet and litterateur – a talent that all her children inherited. As a child, growing up in the 1950s, she was brought to Delhi and lived on the Jamia Millia Islamia campus.
19. INDIA: IN SEARCH OF A GOOD SAMARITAN | Rajashri Dasgupta
He greets his patients with loud curses as they stagger in — sick or drunken — to his chamber. He reserves his choicest expletives for those who visit him close to death. He ministers to them tenderly, gruffly waiving his doctor’s fees, often buying them their medication from his own pocket, and making arrangements for them to reach home safely. Dr Samir Biswas, 68, carries his years lightly. Stories about him have become the stuff of legend in the collieries of Asansol, West Bengal.
20. INDIA: LESSONS FOR NARENDRA MODI FROM INDIRA GANDHI | Bharat Bhushan
Narendra Modi appears to be confronting the BJP’s ’Old Guard’ just as Indira Gandhi fought the ’Syndicate’ within the Congress
21. INDIA: SAVE HINDUISM FROM HINDUTVA CARDS SERIES [Full Set]
Save Hinduism From Hindutva is an illustrated artwork series by concerned Hindus
22. INDIA: HINDUISM IS NOT HINDUTVA | GUJARAT SHINING ILLUSTRATED CARD SERIES
23. INDIA: GUJARAT GOVT. INDULGING IN FOUL PROPAGANDA TO MALIGN - STATEMENT BY CITIZENS FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE
The Gujarat police continue to deal in blatant falsehoods, twisted facts, deliberate jugglery of accounts and foul innuendos, with the malicious intent of colouring the public discourse and prejudice the public mind says Citizens for Justice and Peace.
24. A TRIBUTE TO BOB CROW AND TONY BENN | Ama Biney
Crow and Benn championed the interests of the working people of Britain and struggled for social justice issues of workers around the world.
25. INDIA: ZAKIA JAFRI FILES REVISION APPLICATION AGAINST MAGISTRATE BJ GANATRA'S ORDER
Survivor of the 2002 carnage and widow of eminent Parliamentarian Smt Zakia Ahsan Jafri has filed a Criminal Revision Application before the Gujarat High Court challenging the Order of the Magistrate rejecting her Protest Petition seeking to arraign powerful accused Narendra Modi, chief minister Gujarat and 59 others on charges of criminal conspiracy, abetment etc to commit mass murder, arson and rape and also tamper with evidence and destroy valuable records of the Gujarat home department. The Revision appeal was filed on Saturday, March 15, 2014 and will come up for hearing on March 20, 2014.
26. SELECTIONS FROM COMMUNALISM WATCH
India: M.J. Akbar and his politics | Salil Tripathi
Hindu nationalism, economic liberalism, hi-tech populism - The candidate from Gujarat | Christophe Jaffrelot
The banality of evil | Nissim Mannathukkaren
Debating the secular-communal divide | Ajay Gudavarthy
A Note on Recent Ethnic Violence in Assam | Hiren Gohain (EPW)
India: Roadside temples appear connected to exclusivist idea of Hinduism or Gujaratiness and BJP in Gujarat
Understanding the Phenomenon of Hindutva Terror | Subhash Gatade
India: Good Times Are Gone | Romila Thapar
::: FULL TEXT :::
27. UK: THE LAW SOCIETY MUST WITHDRAW ITS GUIDANCE ON SHARIA-SUCCESSION RULES
(via: siawi.org - 28 March 2014)
We, the undersigned, are appalled to learn that the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales, has issued Sharia-related guidance on wills, succession and inheritance.
The guidance says:
“Certain principles of Sharia are different to English succession laws. For example, it is not possible to inherit under Sharia rules via a deceased relative. No distinction is made between children of different marriages, but illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death”.
Whilst not binding, the guidance legitimises rules which are highly contested by many Muslims themselves and which discriminates against Muslim women, non-Muslims, and ‘illegitimate’ and adopted children. The guidance seriously undermines the Equality Act, citizenship rights and one law for all.
Since individuals are already free to dispense of their estate as they see fit (as long as they provide for their dependants) such guidance unwittingly aids and abets Islamist attempts at subverting democratic laws and principles with a de facto parallel legal system where minority women and children have increasingly fewer rights than other citizens.
This scandalous guidance is similar to that which Universities UK published endorsing gender segregation at universities in Britain. UUK was promptly forced to withdraw its guidance after widespread condemnation.
We call on the Law Society to immediately and unequivocally withdraw its guidance.
Ahlam Akram, Founder and Director of Basira for Universal Women Rights
Ahmed Idris, Member of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Ali al-Razi, Ex-Muslims Forum Administrator
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Activist
Amina Sboui, Tunisian Activist
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Christopher Roche, Chair of Bath Atheists, Humanists and Secularists
Elham Manea, Author
Fariborz Pooya, Founder of Iranian Secular Society
Farzana Hassan, Former Director of Muslim Canadian Congress and Writer
Fatou Sow, Senegalese Sociologist
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Imad Iddine Habib, Founder and Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Jackie Jones, Professor of Feminist Legal Studies, Chair of Wales Assembly of Women and President of European Women Lawyers Association
James Bloodworth, Editor of Left Foot Forward
Julie Bindel, Writer
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Khatija Barday-Wood, CEO and Founder of Eiman
Kiran Opal, Writer and Human Rights Activist
Lawrence M. Krauss, Physicist and Author
Lisa-Marie Taylor and Julian Norman, Co-Chairs of Feminism in London
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Women’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah
Mersedeh Ghaedi, London Spokesperson of Iran Tribunal
Mina Ahadi, Coordinator of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Nadia El-Fani, Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and co Founder of Stop Child Executions
Nina Sankari, President of the European Feminist Initiative in Poland
Omar Kuddus, LGBTI / Human Rights Advocate and Director of GayAsylumUK
Pat Black, Immediate Past President of Soroptimist International GBI
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson of Iran Solidarity
Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Reza Moradi, Political Activist
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Robina Iqbal, Board Member of Muslim Women’s Network UK
Safia Lebdi, Conseillère Régionale EELV and présidente des Insoumises
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Sarah Haider, Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims of North America
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Soad Baba Aissa, Head of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laicité en Algérie
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Activist
Soraya Chemaly, Writer and Activist
Sue Cox, Co-Founder Survivors Voice Europe
Tarek Fatah, Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress
Taslima Nasrin, Writer
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner
source URL for the full appeal on siawi.org:
28. BANGLADESH: FLYING THE FLAG
by Zafar Sobhan
(Dhaka Tribune 28 March 2014)
This is about living in a country where every part of our lives is not dictated by petty rules and regulations
Let’s be blunt. The reason behind the recently announced ban on Bangladeshi nationals waving foreign flags during the T20 World Cup cricket matches was to put an end to the distasteful thought of having to witness Bangladeshis wave the Pakistani flag in public during the month of March.
The BCB had the wit to proscribe all flags, to provide a fig-leaf of respectability to the decision, but there can be little doubt as to what the motivation behind the rule was. No one really cares about someone waving a Sri Lankan flag.
Damn straight, many will argue. I am quite sure I wouldn’t have to look far to find friends and family who not only thoroughly approve of the law, but would add that anyone found transgressing be administered a sound chappal-beating, for their temerity.
And it is hard not to be sympathetic to this point of view, especially in the month of March.
Nevertheless, on balance, the ban highlights a tendency among Bangladeshis that I find even more disturbing than the waving of Pakistani flags, as irksome as the act is, and that is why, on balance, the ban does not sit right with me.
I would rather live a country where everyday life was not choked by innumerable petty rules and regulations than one in which our Pakistani cricket-team loving (not Pakistani-loving per se, they will insist) friends would be given a sharp lesson in history and decorum.
It is significant that the justification given by the BCB was that Bangladeshis brandishing the national flags of other nations runs contrary to our own flag laws.
Say what? What kind of nonsensical law would this be and why do we even have such a law on the books? But they are right. Bangladesh does indeed have a flag law on the books and the law does indeed seem to proscribe waving the flag of any other nation. That is the problem.
Here in Bangladesh we live within a dizzying web of rules and regulations, many of which are difficult if not impossible to comply with. Just sitting there, minding your own business, reading this newspaper, I assure you that you are breaking some law or the other. Everyone is, all the time.
The problem is two-fold. The first is that we simply have too many rules and regulations on the books, almost all archaic and anachronistic. The second is that we have evolved into a bureaucratic and officious people, ever anxious to hold others to the letter of the law.
The default cultural understanding is that we are not permitted to do anything unless there is a law expressly permitting us to do us. It is not that we are free to do as we please unless there is an explicit law saying that we cannot.
How many times have we all heard the unanswerable conversation stopper: We have no rule for this.
It is for this reason that every little task in Bangladesh is so arduous, from paying one’s taxes to getting a telephone line to starting a business to building a house. The rules make rule-breakers of us all and contribute to people’s lack of respect for the law.
Now, of course I am not suggesting that we revert to some kind of Hobbesian existence, with no rules and regulations, so that we can all run amok without fear.
But we need to consider rethinking our mind-set when it comes to the over-regulation of every aspect of existence and take note of the negative effect it has had on both our maturity and our development. This mind-set and the apparatus of rules that we have created around it is a large part of what is holding us back as a nation.
If there is one thing we need to change about ourselves, it is this. In the bigger scheme of things I am more concerned about our affinity for obscure and pettifogging rules and the alacrity with which we play the sub-section (e) clause (f) paragraph (g) card than I am about Pakistani flags (or Indian ones, for that matter) being waved in the stadium.
In short, my opposition to the flag ban is not on the grounds that we need to separate sport from politics, and that it is all just fun and games. My opposition comes from the fact that we have too many petty limitations and constraints on what we can and cannot do as it is, and I am loath to hand another victory to the bureaucratic and officious mind-set that dominates our thinking here in Bangladesh.
So let people fly their damned flags. Like Americans who see their stadiums dominated by Mexican flags when the US plays Mexico or the English who see their fellow-countrymen proudly failing the Tebbit test by waving flags in support of the country of their origin at Lords, we ought to just suck it up.
This isn’t about tolerance. After all, we are all tolerant until we come face to face with something we just can’t stand. I get that. I get that Pakistani flags are intolerable to a lot of people, and with reason.
But this is about living in a country where every part of our lives is not dictated by petty rules and regulations, and that’s a trade-off worth taking.
- See more at: http://www.dhakatribune.com/op-ed/2014/mar/27/flying-flag
29. INDIA: HINDU NATIONALISM, ECONOMIC LIBERALISM, HI-TECH POPULISM - THE CANDIDATE FROM GUJARAT
by Christophe Jaffrelot
(Le Monde Diplomatique - April 2014)
Narendra Modi is attempting to become prime minister of India in this year’s election. But what has worked in his home state of Gujarat may appeal much less across the whole country.
The BJP’s leadership has put the controversial chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, forward as its candidate for prime minister of India in this year’s general election. Modi rose out of the Hindu nationalist movement, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organisation), which believes that since Hindus are the “sons of the soil” in India and 80% of India’s population is Hindu, Hindu culture embodies Indian identity. The RSS was set up in 1925 in reaction to the pan-Islamic mobilisation defending the Caliphate (which became part of the wider independence movement); it has clashed violently with other religious groups, particularly Muslims, on many occasions, including the 1947 Partition. Today it feels that Muslims (14%) and Christians (2%) may practise in private, but in public should lend allegiance to the dominant culture.
While the RSS is traditionally associated with the higher castes, Modi is from a low-caste family from Gujarat. As a child, he ran a tea stall with his father and gradually rose through the ranks of the RSS, starting as a volunteer, then becoming a pracharak (full-time cadre), which meant renouncing having a profession or a family. Pracharaks are at the disposal of the RSS, which can send them far afield to extend its network, or to affiliate organisations such as its student union, its workers’ union or its political party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the 1980s Modi was seconded to the BJP, where he became party secretary, working first in Gujarat and then at headquarters in Delhi. He did not contest any elections, but devoted himself to restructuring the party. In 2001, when the BJP was in power, its leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, appointed him chief minister of Gujarat. Modi immediately tried out his strategy of combining Hindu nationalism, economic neoliberalism and high-tech populism.
Less than five months later there was extreme violence between Hindus and Muslims in Gujarat, on a scale not seen since Partition. The trigger was the burning of a train carrying Hindu activists at the Godhra railway station on 27 February 2002, killing 59 people. The response by Hindu nationalists degenerated into a pogrom against Muslims. According to reliable NGOs, more than 2,000 people died, although official figures put the number at half that.
Such violence would not have been possible without the government instructing the police to allow Hindu militias to run riot. The policemen who tried to do their job were sidelined; those who turned a blind eye or, worse, were promoted.
Climate of fear
The purpose was to polarise Gujarati society and attract Hindu voters to the BJP. Modi dissolved the state assembly, prompting early elections. He won outright after an aggressive campaign where he exploited fear of Islamism, blaming the Godhra violence on Pakistani Islamists.
This climate of fear has been maintained by “fake encounters” — the term used in India when police kill people whom they subsequently claim were terrorists, resisting arrest or opening fire. Between 2003 and 2005 more than 20 people, most of them Muslim, were killed by the Gujarat police, who sometimes alleged they were trying to plant bombs or assassinate Modi. Today about 20 police officers are awaiting trial for falsifying evidence.
Since then, Modi has tried to present a more moderate image. He has distanced himself from Hindu nationalist leaders convicted of involvement in the pogrom, such as Maya Kodnani, a minister of state in his government who was sentenced to 28 years in prison. He has tried to woo the Muslim community by presenting himself as an ambassador of community harmony (sadbhavana), touring the state and fasting with the “Sadbhavana Mission” in 2011. But these moves have been largely symbolic. The BJP in Gujarat has never nominated a Muslim candidate for legislative assembly elections, and Modi’s government is the only one in India to refuse to disburse and supplement central government grants reserved for Muslim students, arguing that this constitutes religious discrimination.
Muslims are falling lower on the socio-economic scale because of a lack of education, and job discrimination; 25% of Muslims in towns and cities in Gujarat were living below the poverty line in the mid 2000s (there have been no reliable statistics since then), compared with 17-18% of Dalits (ex-untouchables) and Tribals, who are considered at the bottom of the social scale but benefit from positive discrimination programmes, including a jobs quota in the public administration and state-owned companies (1).
Modi has ended the tradition of iftar parties (2), which his predecessors organised to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Nothing has been done to halt the ghettoisation linked to the exodus of Muslims, rich and poor, who are leaving urban centres and moving to the outskirts of cities like Ahmedabad and Vadodara. They left at first to find safety after the 2002 violence, but continued because of discrimination in the housing market, since property managers do not want them in their buildings.
Modi has been able to saturate public space. His frequent tours keep Gujarat in a state of semi-permanent mobilisation. He is unrivalled in his use of sophisticated communication technology, including social media and texts, sent by the thousand. He set up his own television channel, Namo Gujarat, during the last election campaign to broadcast his policies and arguments. In 2012 he used hologram video projection to speak at 20 meetings around the state simultaneously. The US public relations company APCO Worldwide (famous for having “polished” the image of African and central Asian dictators), with whom Modi signed a contract in 2007, contributed to this promotional exercise. A new form of populism is emerging, where the leader establishes a direct relationship with a record number of voters.
This expensive communication is largely funded by the business sector, which is well developed in Gujarat because of the state’s history of trade and commerce. Businesses make clear their appreciation of the government’s neoliberal economic policies. Modi has increased the number of SEZs (special economic zones) where employment law is less strict and taxes reduced to encourage export businesses (there are many SEZs at Gujarat’s ports). He has also offered unrivalled conditions to Indian and foreign investors. Tata has allegedly relocated production of its low-cost car, the Nano, to Ahmedabad in return for premises well below the market rent, tax exemption for 20 years and a long-term 0% interest loan.
These incentives and the state’s favourable climate for business (Gujarat has good roads and energy infrastructure, which have been improved further) have attracted many investors, raising the growth rate. Between 2004/05 and 2011/12, industry and services grew by more than 10%, and agriculture by more than 8% — higher than the rest of the country’s average of 7%.
The poor are the losers
But this growth has not benefited everyone. The economic policies of the development model Modi favours are also characterised by social polarisation. The main losers, apart from the Muslims (9% of the state’s population), are the Tribals (17%), and the Dalits (9%), especially if they live in the countryside. In 2005 the proportion of rural Tribals living below the poverty line rose to 35%, that of Dalits to 22%, that of other low castes to 19% and that of other groups (mainly higher-caste Hindus) to 5%.
Modi’s support comes mostly from the higher castes, the elite and the urban middle class who benefit from his policies. His urban policy — besides investing heavily in public transport — resulted in 2009 in a new land-use plan allowing city councils to put aside just 5% of land for “weaker sections” of society, when slums currently cover 18% of their area. This means property developers can convert slums into housing that only the middle class can afford. This class has supported Modi’s government from the start, despite the prosecution of some of its ministers and deputies over the 2002 pogrom. According to a survey by India’s main political research body, the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, the wealthier voters are, the more likely they are to support the BJP; and the poorer, the more likely they are to vote for the Congress Party: 57% of the wealthiest voters (and 60% of the higher castes) voted BJP in the 2012 state elections — giving Modi a third five-year mandate — while 44% of the poorest (61% of Dalits, 69% of Muslims) voted Congress.
In 2013 the BJP’s leadership decided to put Modi forward as its candidate. It is likely the urban middle class will support him. Their main concern is economic growth, which the current government has allowed to fall below 6%. They want to see a strong man take the helm, and a man who is perceived as clean. In contrast, the Congress Party has been paralysed by corruption scandals and lack of leadership.
However, the urban middle class is also attracted by the new Aam Aadmi Party (AAP; Party of the Common Man), which grew out of the 2011 anti-corruption movement and burst on to the national scene at the December 2013 elections when its leader, Arvind Kejriwal, was elected chief minister of Delhi state.
In Gujarat, the BJP could cash in on the urban middle class. But India as a whole is different from Gujarat. It is far less urbanised, and the middle class have less influence; the lower castes, including the Dalits, are better organised in the northern states than in Gujarat. This could deprive the BJP of an absolute majority in parliament. It would then have to form a coalition, something for which Modi, already criticised by BJP’s leaders for his authoritarian style, is perhaps not its best hope.
Translated by Stephanie Irvine
Christophe Jaffrelot is research director at CERI-Sciences Po/CNRS, a professor at the King’s India Institute and a Princeton Global Scholar.
(1) See “Social, Economic and Educational Status of the Muslim Community in India” (PDF) (Sachar Committee Report), a report by a commission chaired by Rajinder Sachar, New Delhi, 2006.
(2) Iftar is the meal after sunset during the month of Ramadan.
30. UN TAKES STEP TOWARDS SRI LANKA WAR CRIMES INQUIRY
by Jason Burke
(theguardian.com, 27 March 2014)
Human Rights Council adopts resolution saying inquiry is needed because Sri Lanka has not investigated properly
The Sri Lankan president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, rejected the UN resolution and said it hurt reconciliation efforts. Photograph: Buddhika Weerasinghe/Getty Images
The United Nations has taken its first concrete step towards launching an inquiry into war crimes allegedly committed by both Sri Lankan state forces and Tamil separatist rebels during the island nation's 25-year brutal civil war.
By a vote of 23 states in favour, 12 against and 12 abstentions, the 47-member UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution presented by the United States on behalf of countries including Britain, which said that an inquiry was necessary because the government had failed to investigate properly.
"The international community has become increasingly concerned by the continued lack of progress in achieving reconciliation, justice and accountability for serious allegations of violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law," Paula Schriefer, the US deputy assistant secretary of state, told the Geneva forum.
Sri Lanka has been under growing international pressure to deal with war crimes allegedly committed in the final stage of the conflict in 2009.
Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Sri Lankan president, rejected the resolution ordering a war crimes probe, telling AFP news agency that he would instead press ahead with his own reconciliation plan.
"We reject this," Rajapaksa said. "This resolution only hurts our reconciliation efforts. It does not help. But I am not discouraged. We will continue with the reconciliation process I have started."
Many thousands died during the final defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) five years ago, some under bombardment from government troops or allegedly executed in cold blood, others when forced to bear arms by the rebels or when civilian refugees were mixed with combatants.
A UN report found that as many as 40,000 people may have been killed in the last months of the civil war, though the government disputes that figure.
David Cameron, the British prime minister, loudly backed a UN investigation during his controversial trip to Sri Lanka to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in November.
Sri Lanka has suffered decades of conflict between a largely Buddhist Sinhalese majority and a largely Hindu Tamil minority.
Navi Pillay, the UN commissioner on human rights, said new evidence continued to emerge. A series of what appear to be mass graves have recently been discovered in the north of Sri Lanka.
Ravinatha Aryasinha, Sri Lanka's permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, told the talks that the Indian Ocean island nation had made tangible progress in addressing accountability and insisted that parallel truth-seeking processes would be counter-productive.
"Sri Lanka categorically and unreservedly rejects this draft resolution as it challenges the sovereignty and independence of a member state of the UN … and is inimical to the interests of the people of Sri Lanka," Aryasinha said in a speech before the vote.
States that voted against the resolution included China and Pakistan, while India was among those that abstained.
Indian officials said the resolution would "hinder efforts rather than contribute constructively".
International campaigners welcomed the vote.
Edward Mortimer, chair of the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice, said it had long been "obvious that only an independent international investigation can establish the truth about what happened in Sri Lanka in the last months of the civil war".
"There is credible evidence that both sides committed crimes against humanity, and the lack of accountability for this has engendered a culture of impunity which has fled to further outrages. The international community must not now look away from Sri Lanka."
David Griffiths, Asia-Pacific deputy director at Amnesty International, said the UN inquiry had brought new hope for the thousands of victims of abuses in Sri Lanka.
Earlier this month two prominent human rights activists were detained in the north of Sri Lanka and, though released, still remain prohibited from talking to the media.
Several other campaigners remain in detention. Authorities say many are linked to the LTTE, a claim strenuously denied by their supporters.
The UN vote is likely to reinforce perceptions that Sri Lanka is being "victimised" among policymakers and senior officials in the country. Rajapaksa remains popular among the Sinhalese majority and has repeatedly said that Sri Lanka is being "bullied" by bigger nations, particularly the US.
Last year Pillay, the UN commissioner, accused the country's powerful defence secretary, Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, the brother of the president, and other government officials of waging a campaign aimed at discrediting her and her office.
Pillay, a former South African judge of Indian Tamil ethnicity, concluded that democracy was being undermined and the rule of law was being eroded in Sri Lanka, with the country increasingly becoming an authoritarian state.
South Asia Citizens Wire
Buzz for secularism, on the dangers of fundamentalism(s), on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. Newsletter of South Asia Citizens Web:
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.