SACW | Jan.29-30, 2007
- South Asia Citizens Wire | January 29-30, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2355 - Year 8
 Nepal: RSS's Hindu fanatics fuel the riots -
Royalists Fish in Terai Trouble (Bharat Bhushan)
 India - Gujarat: Where fascist goons hold sway
- Non-screening of 'Parzania' in Gujarat is a
shocking curb on freedom of expression (Soli
- PUCL condemns the "ban" on film 'Parzania'
declared by Sangh Parivar's groups
 India: Development as dispossession (Praful Bidwai)
 India: Online Petition 'Presidential
Clemency For Mohd. Afzal Guru' (deadline extended
till 7 Feb)
 India: Karnataka - politico - religious row
over menu of mid-day school meal :
- The 'Ande Ka Funda' Debate (M. Radhika)
- Eggs become a bone of contention
 India: Alien and imported Gulf version of
Islam finding a home in India (Borzou Daragahi)
 Upcoming Events:
(i) A Convention of the Internally Displaced in
Gujarat (Ahmedabad, February 1,2007)
(ii) 1st Walter Sisulu Memorial Lecture by AM
Kathrada (New Delhi, February 2, 2007)
January 29, 2007
ROYALISTS FISH IN TERAI TROUBLE
by Bharat Bhushan
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum activists demonstrate in Jaleswor, Mahottari
The April-2006 uprising in Nepal had three
objectives: a peaceful resolution of the Maoist
insurgency; an end to the king's autocratic rule;
and the restructuring of the Nepalese state.While
the first aim of the popular uprising has
virtually been achieved, it is the fate of the
monarchy and the restructuring of the state,
which continue to pose major political
challenges. Although in its death throes, the
Nepalese monarchy is making a last ditch effort
for survival. There are indications that the
traditionally marginalized people of the Terai or
Madhya-desh ("Madhesis") are being used to create
instability in the country in the hope of
preventing the constituent assembly elections.
Nepal's Terai is on fire. There have been
disturbances in Siraha, Saptari, Janakpur,
Biratnagar, Inaruwa, Birganj, Rautahat, Bara and
other districts of the Terai adjoining the Indian
border. Sectarian violence is being fomented all
over the Terai between the Paharis (inhabitants
of the hills) and the Madhesis. The statues of
the democratic movement - B.P. Koirala, Manmohan
Adhikary and Ganesh Mansingh - are being
deliberately targeted and damaged. In Rautahat,
the ancestral house of Madhav Kumar Nepal,
general secretary of the Communist Party of Nepal
(United Marxist Leninist), was set on fire. There
is police firing and dawn-to-dusk curfew in
several towns. The grievances of the Madhesis are
genuine. These Maithili, Bhojpuri and
Awadhi-speaking Nepalese, who look, dress and
talk like their neighbours in India, are often
derisively referred to as "Indians". They have
been systematically excluded from the political
process and till recently denied Nepalese
Brahmins and Rajputs (Bahuns and Chhetris) from
the hills dominate Nepal's state and politics.
Although the Madhesis officially comprise 35 per
cent of the population, they are grossly
under-represented in the political parties.
Except the avowedly Madhesi Sadbhavana Party,
with its two factions led by Anandi Devi and
Badri Mandal, none of the parties have any
Madhesis as their national office bearers. The
presence of Madhesis in their central committee
or national executive is nowhere near adequate.
Moreover, the national parties have tended to
field non-Madhesi candidates from the Terai
constituencies for parliament. Their district
presidents in the Terai are mostly Paharis. The
representation of the Terai in parliament is also
lopsided because of the size of a constituency
has no relation to the number of voters. In the
hilly areas, there are constituencies with only
5,000 voters, while in the Terai, a single
constituency can have over 5 lakh voters.
The Madhesis are also under-represented in the
army, the police and in civilian administration.
In the army, there are hardly any Madhesi
commissioned officers. There are well-educated
Madhesi doctors and engineers in Nepal but there
is not a single Madhesi chief district officer in
any of the 75 districts of the country. However,
the Madhesis complain of discrimination not only
based on past experiences. They also fear that in
the course of building a new Nepal, they may be
left out once again, as the Paharis may not want
to share power with them. This fear may be
unfounded in the new political environment but
the Madhesis do not want the constituent assembly
election to be held till the issue of their
representation is sorted out.
It is nor surprising, therefore, that there is a
lot of support among the people of the Terai for
the struggle for Madhesi rights as well as other
issues such as a unified Terai, land reforms,
citizenship, increase in development aid and
accountability for past discrimination. It is
unlikely that these agitations will die down
through police repression, as the issues that are
being raised are not law and order problems. To
be fair, it was the Maoists who first organized
the Madhesis under the Madhesi Rashtriya Mukti
Morcha. Now, three other groups have come up. The
Jantantrik Terai Mukti Morcha, led by Jai Krishna
Goit, first broke away from the Maoists. Then,
another faction, also called JTMM, and led by
Jwala Singh, broke away from Goit's group. Both
were with the Maoists earlier and advocated the
use of arms to liberate the Terai. Former
schoolteacher, Upendra Yadav, a former activist
of CPN (UML), leads the third group called the
Madhesi Janadhikar Forum.
The two JTMM groups have also used the cover of
Madhesi rights to indulge in criminal activities,
including kidnapping, robberies and smuggling
across the Indo-Nepal border. Now monarchist
parties, such as the Lok Janshakti Party led by
the former prime minister, Surya Bahadur Thapa,
the two factions of the Rashtriya Prajatantrik
Party, one led by Pashupati Shamshere Jang
Bahadur Rana and the other by Kamal Thapa and
Rabindranath Sharma, and the Sadbhavna Party, are
believed to be stoking the fire in the Terai.
While Goit and Jwala Singh's groups may be
amenable to talks with Kathmandu on Madhesi
rights, Upendra Yadav's group, allegedly fronting
for the monarchists, has refused to talk.
Nepalese political observers also point to the
role being played by Hindu extremist
organizations from India in fomenting trouble in
the Terai to save the king. A high-ranking
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh representative from
Nagpur is believed to have held a meeting in
Gorakhpur with several royalists, including
Upendra Yadav and members of the Sadbhavna Party.
The role played by the local Indian MP, Mahant
Avaidhyanath, is also being questioned by some in
this regard. Whether there is any truth to these
conspiracies or not is difficult to say. But it
stands to reason that the king will encourage
these groups because it suits him to destabilize
the situation in the hope of carving out some
space for himself. What seems clear to the
Madhesis, however, is that if there is going to
be power-sharing in the new Nepal, then they have
to be accommodated in the constituent assembly.
Their chance of making their presence felt in
Nepal's politics and gain fair representation in
the administration and the political process is
staring them in the face.
It makes no sense for the Madhesi leadership to
now push the royalist agenda. If they fight the
king's battles, and let this opportunity slip, it
will be an uphill task to undo the damage. Even
if they take up arms, no one is going to write
another interim constitution for them or organize
another interim parliament. They should ditch the
royalists, engage in a dialogue with the
government and help devise new models of
governance that would make Nepal a strong federal
and pluralist democracy.
The debate on the kind of federalism that Nepal
needs is just beginning. Should the Terai be one
province or three, based on language and ethnic
differences? Should Nepalese federalism unite the
Paharis and the Madhesis or divide them? The
federal model Nepal chooses should unite the
masses. Those who seek to divide Nepal should
look at the mess we have made in India and take
 [ India: Hindutva's assault on freedom of
expression continues unabated ! ]
January 30, 2007
The right to offend
NON-SCREENING OF 'PARZANIA' IN GUJARAT IS A
SHOCKING CURB ON FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION
by Soli Sorabjee
The film, Parzania, based on the horrific attack
on Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad in which 39
people were burnt alive, can be exhibited in any
place in India except in the state of Gujarat.
The Gujarat government has not banned its
exhibition. What is the reason for this strange
The Bajrang Dal has issued veiled intimidatory
warnings to cinema theatre owners who are
exhorted to keep the interest of the state in
mind before screening the movie. Theatre owners
and exhibitors are hard-headed businessmen, not
passionate champions of freedom of expression. In
view of practical ground realities they have
chosen not to ignore Bajrang Dal's ominous
admonitions and have taken refuge in
self-censorship. This is deplorable. It is
reminiscent of the times when freedom of
expression was severely threatened by militant
groups in Punjab and J&K who dictated to the
press what should or should not be printed upon
pain of bodily harm. A respected editor in Punjab
was assassinated for expressing views which were
unpalatable to the militants. We cannot afford
even the possibility of recurrence of such sordid
Censorship, legal and extra-legal, is a serious
inroad on freedom of expression. Censorship is
highly subjective and essentially mindless. The
main motivation for censorship is intolerance.
Conventional wisdom and official ideology cannot
be allowed to be questioned and criticised and
must suppressed. Portrayal of historical events
which depict a government or certain persons or
groups in an unfavourable light cannot be
tolerated and should therefore be suppressed by
recourse to censorship. One of the grounds for
demanding the non-exhibition of the movie is the
anticipated likelihood of law and order problems
owing to the revival of painful memories.
The Supreme Court had to deal with a similar
issue in connection with the serial, Tamas. A
writ petition was filed by an advocate in the
Supreme Court for restraining the serial's
telecast on the ground that its exhibition which
depicted communal tension and violence during the
pre-Partition period could lead to serious law
and order problems and thus adversely affect
communal harmony. The Supreme Court rejected the
plea and held that "Tamas takes us to a
historical past, unpleasant at times, but
revealing and instructive". It further ruled:
"Truth in its proper light indicating the evils
and the consequences of those evils is
instructive and that message is there in Tamas -
and viewed from an average, healthy and common
sense point of view there cannot be any
apprehension that Tamas is likely to affect
public order or incite the commission of any
offence. On the other hand, it is more likely
that it will prevent incitement to such offences
in future by extremists and fundamentalists."
In the case of the film, Ore Oru Gramathile, a
determined effort was made to ban its exhibition
by a group of persons who regarded its theme and
presentation as hostile to the policy of
reservation of jobs and seats in educational
institutions in favour of SCs and backward
classes. Threats were issued by these groups to
release snakes and burn down the theatres in
which the movie was screened. The Madras High
Court revoked the certificate granted to the
movie by the Censor Board and restrained its
exhibition. The SC promptly reversed the high
court judgment. In its landmark judgment, it
approved the observations of the European Court
of Human Rights that "freedom of expression
protects not merely ideas that are accepted but
those that offend, shock or disturb the State or
any sector of the population. Such are the
demands of the pluralism, tolerance and
broadmindedness without which there is no
democratic society." The court laid down an
extremely important principle that "freedom of
expression cannot be suppressed on account of
threats of demonstration and processions or
threats of violence. That would be tantamount to
negation of the rule of law and surrender to
blackmail and intimidation. Freedom of expression
which is legitimate and constitutionally
protected cannot be held to ransom by an
intolerant group of people".
These salutary principles cannot be
over-emphasised in view of the alarming rise of
intolerance. It is depressing that we have
reached a stage where even a moderate expression
of a different point of view is met with
hostility. Of late there have been vociferous
demands for bans. The banning itch has become
infectious. Sikhs are offended by certain words
in the title of a movie, Christians want the
movie The Da Vinci Code banned because they find
it hurtful, the production of Deepa Mehta's Water
had to be abandoned in India because of
disruptive protests by some intolerant groups.
The nadir of intolerance was reached when the
prestigious Bhandarkar Institute at Pune, where
American author James Laine had done research and
had written a biography of Shivaji which
contained some unpalatable references, was
vandalised by bigots and invaluable manuscripts
were destroyed. Consider the case of actor Aamir
Khan. One may disagree with his views or
criticise him for supporting the Narmada Bachao
Aandolan movement. However, to burn his posters,
prohibit the screening of his films and subject
him in Gujarat to social and economic sanctions
is terrifying intolerance.
Of all the threats to our democracy the gravest
is the rise of intolerance which is utterly
incompatible with democratic values and must be
curbed. The state is under an obligation not to
infringe the fundamental rights of its citizens.
This obligation is not merely negative in nature.
It is a well-settled principle of human rights
jurisprudence that the state also has a positive
obligation to promote fundamental rights by
preventing non-state actors, for example, like
the Bajrang Dal, from de facto violating freedom
of expression and also to take necessary steps
against them. The state cannot remain a mute
spectator and by its non-action permit freedom of
expression, a cherished fundamental right
guaranteed by the Constitution, to be held to
The Gujarat government has a good record of clean
and efficient administration. Its able chief
minister owes it to himself, to the state and to
the country to curb onslaughts on the precious
freedom of expression in the state by a bunch of
bigots and fanatics.
The writer is a former attorney general for India
o o o o
DATE: 30th JANUARY 2007
PUCL CONDEMNS THE "BAN" ON FILM 'PARZANIA'
DECLARED BY SANGH PARIVAR'S GROUPS AND THE
"SUPPORT" OF THE GOVERNMENT OF GUJARAT BY KEEPING
We are also very much disturbed when the
viewpoints of few groups like Bajrang Dal is
considered as the viewpoint of 5 crore Gujaratis.
Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
It is time for sensible people not to be silent
spectators but to speak out against such fascist
attitude of groups like Bajrang Dal.
We the common people of Gujarat always get
disturbed on the issue of violence, whether it is
domestic violence within the family, caste
violence, communal violence or violence by State
and Government on the working class. We are also
very much disturbed when the viewpoints of few
groups like Bajrang Dal is considered as the
viewpoint of 5 crore Gujaratis. It is time for
sensible people not to be silent spectators but
speak out against fascist attitudes of groups
like Bajrang Dal.
On 28th January 2007 an important meeting of PUCL
discussed in detail regarding the unlawful "ban"
on film Parzania declared by the Sangh Parivar
groups. By keeping mum on the issue, the
Government of Gujarat has endorsed the "ban"
declared by them. We, the activists of PUCL
condemn the Sangh Parivar's unlawful "ban" on
Parzania is a film by the Ahmedabad-based
director Rahul Dholakia, which portrays the
shocking story of a Parsi family caught in the
vortex of violence unleashed on innocent people
of Gujarat in 2002. This is not the first time
that groups like Bajrang Dal, backed by the BJP,
have gotten away with such undemocratic and
unconstitutional actions in Gujarat.
This unlawful "ban" on Parzania in Gujarat, is
a slap on the face of all those who uphold the
values of free speech and justice. We express our
compassion and solidarity to Dara Modi and
family, whose son has been missing since the
massacre in 2002 and on whose experience the film
is based, and to the hundreds of other families
in Gujarat and elsewhere who have suffered
immensely because of mindless violence and hatred.
We strongly feel that this film needs to be
screened in Gujarat more than any other State in
India. The State Government, instead of tacitly
supporting the unlawful "ban", should encourage
the screening of this film and ensure total
protection to cinema owners, distributors and the
We demand that the Government of Gujarat take
stern legal action against those who have gone on
record saying that they will not allow this film
to be screened. Those who oppose the screening
should be made to realize that they and their
methods cannot be tolerated in a democracy. The
litmus test of a democracy is the right to
dissent. It is easy for majoritarian views to be
tolerated. Democracy needs the right to differ,
debate and dissent like we need the air we
breathe. The rule of law needs to prevail and
that means respecting differences.
Surely, a State that wants to project itself as a
place that welcomes free enterprise would not
want to give the impression of encouraging
lawlessness and intolerance. Diversity needs to
be appreciated not merely tolerated. In that lies
our collective welfare. And safety.
FOR Peoples Union for Civil Liberties
Dr. J. S. Bandukwala
Dr. Sujat Vali
Raj Kumar Hans
29 January 2007
From Singur to Nandigram and beyond
DEVELOPMENT AS DISPOSSESSION
by Praful Bidwai
If and when ordinary mortals like you and me buy
land, we search high and low for an affordable
piece, hire brokers, make several trips to
different sites, and borrow bank loans, which we
must repay through our nose over 10 or 15 years.
Besides these high transaction costs in time and
money, we also pay stamp duty to the government,
which is usually a good eight percent of the
None of this applies to India's biggest business
house (and one of its oldest industrial
families), namely, the Tatas-at least as far as
the Singur car project is concerned. The Tatas
are no ordinary mortals. In fact so special are
they that West Bengal's Left Front woos them with
the choice of six different sites, besides the
Uttarakhand and Orissa governments. They choose
one at Singur, next to an expressway, in one of
Bengal's most fertile tracts, just 45 km from
Kolkata. But they do so after stipulating a
series of conditions.
The government must procure the land for them.
This will cost it Rs 140 crores. But the Tatas
will pay only Rs 20 crores, after five years.
They will pay no stamp duty.
They must have a contiguous plot of 997 acres
(almost 400 hectares, or 40 lakh square metres).
No Indian car factory has anything approaching
this area. (Even Tata Motors's giant Pune factory
has only 188 acres, including housing for
The factory proper, say the Tatas, will have a
built-up area of only 1.5 lakh sq m, or under 4
percent of the land acquired.
The land must be fenced off and protests
suppressed. The Tatas mendaciously accused their
"competitors" of fomenting the protests, but
couldn't name them when challenged.
That's not all. The Tatas demanded "compensation"
for "sacrificing" the 16 percent excise duty
exemption offered by Uttarakhand for locating the
car factory. This means "upfront infrastructural
assistance" worth Rs 160 crore on a Rs
1,000-crore project. Besides, the hyped-up "Rs 1
lakh car" will probably cost a fair bit more. It
be must be "cross-subsidised."
So, says The Statesman, the Left Front government
has gifted 50 acres of prime land to the Tatas in
Rajarhat New Town and another 200 acres in the
Bhangar-Rajarhat Area Development Authority for
building IT and residential townships.
This is an obnoxious "sweetheart deal". The Left
Front government isn't promoting healthy
development or even straightforward risk-taking
capitalism. It's the most detestable form of
risk-free investment which dispossesses people to
The Tatas claim the project will directly
generate 2,000 jobs and indirectly, 8,000. But
noted economist Amit Bhaduri estimates it will
produce just about 300, besides indirect
employment for 1,000. In the process, Singur's
flourishing economy, where two-thirds of land is
multi-cropped with vegetables and paddy, will be
devastated, along with the livelihoods-of
landowners, sharecroppers (bargadars), but of
landless workers and rural artisans.
Singur will witness counter-reform, a reversal of
the most successful land reform ever undertaken
in West Bengal. Even the bargadars' share in the
land (75 percent, against the absentee landlord's
25 percent) will be reversed in the land
compensation formula. No wonder, the West Bengal
government had to resort to repression, including
mass arrests, Sec 144 and physical attacks, to
enforce the "sweetheart deal".
Singur's injustice was soon compounded by the
government's ham-handed attempt to take over an
even larger 10,000 acres at Nandigram for a
Special Economic Zone for Indonesia's unsavoury
Selim Group. Here, the resistance was even more
fierce. It came not from the Trinamool Congress,
but from the Left, including the Communist Party
of India, the Revolutionary Socialist Party and
the Far Left. Nandigram, at the heart of the
Tebhaga movement of the 1940s, is a CPI
Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee had to
admit that Nandigram was a mistake. But he blamed
the Haldia Development Authority for it: for
issuing the land acquisition notification without
"authorisation". This won't wash. The involvement
of Communist Party (Marxist) cadres, the police,
and the very composition of the Authority,
militate against the explanation.
Nandigram is part of the larger SEZ syndrome
which afflicts India. SEZs have become the main
instrument of dispossession of peasant farmers.
They are a despicable combination of private
greed and state collusion. SEZs, as this Column
argued in mid-September, are costly ways of
promoting enclave-style elitist export-oriented
industrialisation. They'll grant wholly
undeserved tax cuts to promoters and inflict a
loss upon the exchequer, estimated by the Finance
Ministry, at a horrifying Rs 160,000 crores.
Yet, the government has approved 237 SEZs with
34,509 hectares and notified 63 of them. Another
165 SEZs have been approved in principle, for
which another 148,663 hectares is to be acquired.
Applications for another 300 are pending.
SEZs have not proved a success in most countries,
including China. In fact, Shenzhen, China's
best-known SEZ, has turned out a nightmare for
workers. The mere loss of an identity card can
turn them into destitute overnight. Above all,
SEZs are a gigantic real estate scam. Most are
meant to grab land close to the big cities and
extract monopoly profits.
SEZs also put the cart before the horse:
displacement without prior rehabilitation, with
potentially disastrous social, cultural and
political consequences. Prime Minister Manmohan
Singh has himself acknowledged this by calling
for a "humane" approach to resettlement. The
government is now redrafting the National Policy
for Resettlement and Rehabilitation.
Its Group of Ministers has temporarily put the
SEZ land acquisition process on hold. It knows
pushing acquisition could cost the United
Progressive Alliance dearly in the coming
elections. The Congress party has made an
internal assessment of SEZs in a 16-page document
prepared by Mr N Veerappa Moily. This says that
SEZs will create conflict due to "dispossession
and displacement", including urban conflicts
through infrastructure bottlenecks. "They (SEZs)
have the potential to cause embarrassment to the
government of the day."
The publication of a story quoting this
assessment has certainly embarrassed the UPA!
Although Mr Moily has publicly dissociated
himself from it, the judgment is basically sound.
But the UPA is fighting shy of radically revising
its SEZ policy. It has only called for a cap on
the number of SEZs. What is needed is the
scrapping of SEZs altogether because they are
economically irrational, socially divisive, and
This is not to argue against industrial projects
per se. We must vigorously promote industry, but
with a balanced, reasoned approach. We must make
it mandatory for the government to consult the
people likely to be affected in advance, and
establish institutional norms for compensation,
resettlement and rehabilitation. Equally crucial
is thorough socio-economic examination of the
consequences of industrial projects and strict
It won't do to commandeer land first and then
look for ways of compensating the affected
people. It's especially inadvisable to offer them
equity shares in companies related to the
projects that take away their land. This will, in
most cases, transfer risks to vulnerable groups
who are least capable of making decisions about
stocks and shares. The number of shareholders in
India is a minuscule 30 million; most people
don't understand share markets.
Offering shares could be an option in rare cases,
where organised cooperatives exist, which are run
by financially literate volunteers accountable to
the gram sabha, and who have a proven commitment
to collective welfare. That concept includes not
just landowners, but also the landless and other
economic actors, from the sanitation worker to
the mechanic, and from the ironsmith to the
barber, whose livelihood depends on the rural
However, supporters of
industrialisation-at-any-cost, including Mr
Bhattacharjee, contend that very little fallow
land is available in India (in West Bengal, only
one percent of the total), and hence cultivable
land must be "sacrificed" to industry.
Historically, they say, industrialisation has
never been painless. It has always extracted a
price from peasants-even in the USSR and China.
India follow that model of expropriation.
This argument is profoundly mistaken-not only
because it imposes pain disproportionately on the
weak. Industrialisation in much of the West did
expropriate the peasantry through "enclosures",
systematic impoverishment, and mass-scale human
rights violations. The same happened in the
Soviet Union under Stalin. But we should not
imitate and repeat the blunders of a period when
democracy was non-existent and human rights
In India, we have launched a Grand
Endeavour-based on the aspiration to modernise
society and develop the economy in balanced,
equitable ways within a robustly democratic and
inclusive framework which respects human rights
and social justice. We have a unique opportunity
to create a shining example of inclusive
industrialisation for the world. We must not turn
our face against the Grand Endeavour.
[ Please, endorse the petition to the President
of India ; Sign on petition open for signature at:
THE 31 JANUARY 2007 DEADLINE FOR SIGNATURES HAS
BEEN EXTENDED BY ONE WEEK, TILL 7 FEBRUARY 2007 ]
o o o
PRESIDENTIAL CLEMENCY FOR MOHD. AFZAL GURU
19 January 2007
Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
President of India
Dear Dr. Abdul Kalam,
When the then President of India rejected the
mercy petition of Kehar Singh, sentenced to death
in the Indira Gandhi assassination case, the
statement of the government was this: "The
President is of the opinion that he cannot go
into the merits of a case finally decided by the
Highest Court of the Land."
This was challenged by Kehar Singh, and a
five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court (AIR 1989
SC 653) held that the opinion formed by the then
President was wrong because a decision of the
Supreme Court can also be wrong.
The President, the Supreme Court held, can
determine whether or not a convict is guilty--the
findings of the courts, including the Supreme
Here are a few excerpts from the full-bench judgment:
"... To any civilized society, there can be no
attributes more important than the life and
personal liberty of its members. That is evident
from the paramount position given by the courts
to Article 21 of the Constitution. These twin
attributes enjoy a fundamental ascendancy over
all other attributes of the political and social
order and consequently, the Legislature, the
Executive and the Judiciary are more sensitive to
them than to the other attributes of daily
existence. The deprivation of personal liberty
and the threat of deprivation of life by the
action of the State is in most civilized
societies regarded seriously and recourse, either
under express constitutional provision or through
legislative enactment, is provided to the
judicial organ. But, fallibility of human
judgement being undeniable even in the most
trained mind, ... it has been considered
appropriate that in the matter of life and
personal liberty, the protection should be
extended by entrusting power further to some high
authority to scrutinize the validity of the
threatened denial of life or the threatened or
continued denial of personal liberty. The power
so entrusted is a power belonging to the people
and reposed in the highest dignitary of the state.
"... It is open to the President in the exercise
of the power vested in him by Article 72 of the
Constitution to scrutinize the evidence on the
record of the criminal case and come to a
different conclusion from that recorded by the
court in regard to the guilt of, and sentence
imposed on, the accused.
"... It is apparent that the power under Article
72 entitles the President to examine the record
of evidence of the criminal case and to determine
for himself whether the case is one deserving the
grant of relief falling within that power. The
President is entitled to go into the merits of
the case notwithstanding that it has been
judicially concluded by the consideration given
to it by the Supreme Court."
You will be aware, Sir, that the Supreme Court
has without explanation rejected the curative
petition filed by Mohd. Afzal Guru, sentenced to
death in the Parliament attack case. That
petition was the last option available to him
through the courts. Now his only hope of living
is the mercy petition which is with you.
As we have seen, the Supreme Court itself has
said, in a full-bench judgment, that it is in the
nature of things that it can be wrong. We know
that Mohd. Afzal Guru was convicted on the basis
of circumstantial evidence and that from the
start he had no effective legal defence. We know
also that he was the victim of a shrill media
The President has the power to re-examine the
evidence and come to a conclusion different even
from that of the Supreme Court. While a court is
limited to examining the material placed before
it, the President can take into account a wide
range of considerations, including political,
social and moral ones.
The Supreme Court has referred only to the
President's power under Article 72 of the
Constitution. We wish to go further and say that
it is the President's moral responsibility to
ensure that injustice is not done to a citizen by
depriving him of life or personal liberty.
We urge you, Sir, to exercise your constitutional
power in the matter of Mohd. Afzal Guru's mercy
petition keeping in mind your moral
responsibility and also the fact that your power
was entrusted to you by us, your fellow citizens.
Mukul Dube, N. D. Pancholi and Harsh Kapoor
February 03 , 2007
KARNATAKA : THE ANDE KA FUNDA DEBATE
Eggs or bananas or milk? The Janata Dal (Secular)
and the BJP are at loggerheads over what to
include in the mid-day meal scheme
Ever thought eggs and bananas can trigger a
clash? If you are still wondering, they have - in
Karnataka. The humble egg has suddenly become the
symbol of casteist purity following a controversy
over supplying eggs to school children as part of
the government-sponsored mid-day meal scheme.
The controversy began recently when Chief
Minister HD Kumaraswamy announced that eggs would
be made a weekly item under the scheme for its
nutrient value. Deputy Chief Minister BS
Yediyurappa, a Lingayat leader, strongly opposed
the move. The Lingayats are professedly
vegetarian and the community pontiffs, who
command a strong base in the northern districts
of Karnataka, are spearheading the anti-egg
campaign. They have formed a coalition with
Jains, Buddhists and also Sikhs to oppose the
'non-vegetarian move'. Others have supported the
idea of giving away bananas instead of eggs. The
state's dalits, on the other hand, are demanding
that eggs be introduced as proposed. As a result
of the egg-banana uproar, the mid-day meal
scheme's implementation has been put on hold.
By January 20, Chief Minister Kumaraswamy buckled
under the pressure and opted for another option -
milk. That too, "in the interest of farmers who
depended on cows for livelihood."
Karnataka is one of the most successful states in
implementing the mid-day meal scheme that was
introduced by the SM Krishna regime in 2002, for
school children in Classes i to v in seven
districts. It was extended to all the districts
and children from Classes vi and vii were also
made eligible for it. Currently, the scheme
covers 55 lakh children and is funded by the
Centre and the state government with the Centre
contributing Re 1 per child per day and the state
pitching in with Rs 2.02 per child per day. The
scheme costs Rs 354 crore with the Central
exchequer bearing Rs 65 crore of it. Also, 58
ngos help the state government implement the
programme, the most prominent of them being the
International Society for Krishna Consciousness
(iskcon). When the Centre increased its
contribution from Re 1 to Rs 1.50 per child last
year, the state government decided to distribute
There were no protests when the state government
announced it in October 2006. Over the past few
weeks however, religious institutions, many of
which support the BJP, as also ngos backed by
religious bodies, threatened an agitation unless
the government withdrew its egg order.
But Mate Mahadevi, who heads a Lingayat
institution in Bidar, denies any political motive
behind the protests. "We are apolitical. We have
an ideology to fight for, unlike political
parties. Lingayats constitute one-third of the
state's population and are vegetarians. No
attempt should be made to hurt their traditional
values," she told Tehelka.
Her institution has formed the Federation of
Vegetarian Communities and Organisations with
other religious bodies to whip the egg in the
mid-day meal. "If the state government implements
the scheme, we will carry out a statewide
agitation," said Mahadevi, even as she was
awaiting news from a Cabinet meeting to discuss
the issue. The federation has succeeded for a
while, at least.
Education department officials are miffed and
blame it all on politics. "Why else did they not
protest last October when the scheme was
announced," asks an official requesting anonymity.
The political twist to the controversy cannot be
ignored. After losing face in the Chamundeshwari
bypoll where former party leader Siddaramaiah
defeated the official Janata Dal (Secular)
candidate, it is ally BJP's turn to dominate the
If not dramatically, differences have markedly
increased between the ruling allies. The ruckus
about the egg then boils down to a conflict
between the egg-favouring Vokkaliga
(Kumaraswamy's caste) and the Lingayat
The reason for opting for the egg against milk,
bananas or other pulses is logistics, says
Commissioner of Public Instruction Madan Gopal,
as cooking, transporting and storing eggs is far
easier than having to deal with thousands of
litres of milk. "It is not as if we are forcing
eggs on children who do not want them. The school
development and management committees that
constitute parents are part of the process and
only those children who want eggs will be given
them. Many of them want eggs,'' says Madan Gopal.
Nutritionists vouch for eggs among children.
"There is no food that can equal eggs for
protein. May be milk, dal and pulses put
together, to an extent, but not as much,'' says
Diet counsellor and consultant Lisa Sarah John.
The problem, is that even religious institutions
are divided on the egg issue - depending on which
caste they belong to. Dalit organisations oppose
the religious argument against eggs. "Egg is not
about caste, as these religious bodies are trying
to bring about. It's a wrong conception. Why
should there be rules to eat eggs? In fact, I
know many Lingayats who have eggs," says Bahujan
Samajwadi Party state general secretary Vaijanath
Suryavanshi. Mate Mahadavi disagrees. She insists
that like school uniforms, food should be uniform
With the number of egg supporters growing
considerably, it is unlikely that Kumaraswamy can
rid himself of the controversy easily.
Basavaraj of the Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samithi at
the Indian Institute of Science, that takes up
the cause of science for the people, blames
politicians for opposing the egg move. "We cannot
understand why people oppose it when eggs are
already being supplied to children at some
schools" he notes, adding, "it is political
forces that want to benefit from this."
A voice shriller than the rest is of
Kumaraswamy's brother HD Revanna who attacked the
government over eggs. "If you give eggs,
attendants will love to gobble them up before the
students. If you give milk, teachers will drink
it," Revanna told the media. Revanna, is eyeing
the deputy chief minister's post once the BJP's
term to rule comes about as per the arrangement.
Currently, he sounds more like the Opposition.
Eggs are only an excuse for political posturing
o o o
The Hindu - Jan 26, 2007
Karnataka - Bangalore
EGG HAS BECOME A BONE OF CONTENTION
Two groups stage protests in Bangalore justifying their stand
# `State's plan on egg is in the best interests of children'
# Religious heads favour milk, fruit
DIVIDED: Members of the Federation of Indian
Vegetarian Communities and Organisations staging
a protest against the plan to include egg in the
midday meal scheme, at Nehru Park ground in
Bangalore on Thursday. (Right) Members of the
Joint Action Foru m of Child Rights Alliances
holding a demonstration in front of Town Hall in
support of egg. - Photos: K. Gopinathan
BANGALORE: A day before the State Government was
expected to decide on including egg in midday
meal scheme, groups holding divergent views on
the issue staged separate demonstrations in
The Joint Action Forum of Child Rights Alliances
Karnataka held a protest in front of Town Hall in
support of the Government's plan to provide egg
to those who are willing to have it and milk or
fruits to the other children. Hailing the
Government's plan, the forum said it was in the
best interests of children.
Addressing the gathering, U.R. Ananthamurthy,
writer, said, "Politics and religion should not
be mixed and the Chief Minister should not yield
to pressure. Egg should be given to those who
would like to have it and undiluted milk to those
who did not wish to have eggs."
`Violation of rights'
V.P. Niranjanaradhya of the School Development
and Monitoring Committee Coordination Forum,
said, "Development issues should not be mixed
with politics and religion. Denying egg would be
a violation of child rights."
In fact, he pointed out, a survey conducted by
the Department of Education had revealed that 84
per cent of the children wanted egg in the midday
Chairman of PUCL Hasan Mansoor, Amrose Pinto, writer, and others spoke.
Heads of several religious institutions also
staged a demonstration at Nehru Park Ground in
Seshadripuram seeking a Government Order against
providing egg permanently in midday meal scheme.
They pointed out that milk should be given instead of egg.
The demonstration organised by the Akhila
Karnataka Prani Daya Sangha and Federation of
Indian Vegetarian Communities and Organisations
was attended by religious leaders, including
Mathe Mahadevi of Basava Dharma Peetha.
Justifying the role of religious leaders in the
no-egg campaign, Mathe Mahadevi said, "Writers
and intellectuals should not have a
uni-dimensional approach to the problem.
Religious heads have the responsibility of
guiding society in religious and spiritual
matters. Politicians should not involve
themselves in religious matters."
Mathe Mahadevi said several communities had
restricted the use of egg in their dietary
practices, and members of many communities had
become vegetarians voluntarily.
Stating that a communal colour was being given to
the struggle, she said, opposition to providing
egg in midday meal scheme was not based on any
She said, "Milk and fruits can be given to
children whose religious beliefs do not allow
consumption of egg."
Los Angeles Times
January 28, 2007
AUSTERE VERSION OF ISLAM FINDING A HOME IN INDIA
Migrants returning from the Persian Gulf with
stricter views are altering the melting pot in an
By Borzou Daragahi
Times Staff Writer
Vengara, India - The change came several years
ago for Maryam Arrakal. Her husband brought a
black, all-covering abaya back to this steamy,
subtropical town from the desert sands of Saudi
It contrasted starkly with the pastel saris she normally wore.
But in the 12 years that her husband, Kunchava,
had been running a Saudi fabric shop, he had
become detached from this melting pot of Muslims,
Hindus and Christians, and more drawn to the
Saudis' strict version of Islam.
"I used to dress much more colorfully," said
Arrakal, standing amid diesel fumes and frenetic
auto-rickshaw drivers in Vengara's one-street
downtown, a 7-month-old baby in her arms and a
black cloak shrouding her figure. "But my husband
brought this for me and prefers me to wear it."
The migration to oil-rich Persian Gulf monarchies
of as many as one in five men from India's Kerala
province has brought an influx of money that pays
for food, shelter and education. It also funds
dowries for their daughters and gifts for their
But like many of the world's millions of economic
migrants, the men bring back more than money.
In this case, they brim with provocative ideas
about the proper way to worship. And they pay for
plain green mosques with minarets and Arabic
writing that are far different than the ornate
and bulbous temples where Muslims have long
In Kerala, where Muslims are traditionally the
poorest residents, those returning from the
Persian Gulf say they are building pride in their
community and connecting its members to the
broader Islamic world. But others see the growth
of sectarian politics and scattered religious
violence as warning signs.
"Kerala was a place in India known for communal
harmony," said Hameed Chennamangloor, a writer
and former professor of English at the Government
Arts and Science College in Calicut, the main
city in the province's heavily Muslim north.
Historically, when rioting between Hindus and
Muslims swept through India, Kerala remained calm.
Now, Chennamangloor said, "There has been a rise
in fundamentalist tendencies among a certain
segment of Muslims."
>From 40 days to 4 hoursTrade winds across the Arabian Sea have carried
merchants between the Persian Gulf and southern
India since antiquity.
When they arrived after 40 days at sea, Arab
traders would stow their ships within Kerala's
network of inland waterways.
As the ships were loaded, the traders introduced
local people to new ideas, melding the teachings
of the Koran with local practices.
Over the centuries, Kerala developed a relaxed
mix of cultures and religions. The old mosques
where Muslims worshiped were indistinguishable
from Hindu temples. Muslims, Hindus and
Christians attended one another's ceremonies and
festivals. The region's colorful Sufi-influenced
Islam includes such customs as visits to jungle
shrines and reverence for local saints.
But the weak economy forced many men to leave to
find work. Filmmaker Abbas Pannakal said his late
father boarded a rickety ship in 1970 for a
journey to the United Arab Emirates that took two
months and cost the lives of 17 passengers.
"At first only Muslims went," said Pannakal, who
is making a documentary about Indian-Arab
relations. "They were willing to risk everything
because they had so little to lose."
As successive oil booms caused the Persian Gulf
economy to soar, South Asians started migrating
in droves. Air connections expanded. A trip to
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar or the
United Arab Emirates was whittled to four hours.
Scholars and government officials in India
estimate that expatriate workers send back at
least $20 billion a year. About 50% of Persian
Gulf migrants from India come from Kerala.
From the moment they arrive, migrants from Kerala
are introduced to attitudes unknown at home. Some
housing is for Hindus only; some employers openly
prefer Muslims over Hindus or Christians.
Some migrant workers are invigorated by living in
a country with a Muslim majority. Others less
enthusiastic about their new home cling to their
faith out of loneliness and a sense of isolation.
But they find a different interpretation of Islam.
Arrakal's husband, Kunchava, 49, had little to do
in his free time in Saudi Arabia but attend
prayers and read the Koran. He gradually changed
his views about life and faith, including how his
"In traditional Indian garb, the woman's stomach
is bare," he said. "Islamic dress covers up all
the body parts."
In study groups and at prayer gatherings
throughout the Persian Gulf region, men such as
Abdul Rahman Mohammed Peetee hammer away at
Kerala's traditions. For them, paying homage to
local saints or anyone other than God is
sacrilege: The Koran and the sayings of the
prophet Muhammad contain all that any Muslim
"You must study the Arab culture," Peetee, a
Kerala native, told a gathering on the sixth
floor of an office tower in Dubai, United Arab
The men howled in protest.
"Some Arabs behave worse than us!" one cried.
"Why should we study them? We have our own
practices and culture."
Peetee, a stout man with a collarless shirt
buttoned to his neck, was relentless.
"These practices are established by society," he said. "Not by the Koran."
Religious foundations and wealthy individuals in
countries such as Saudi Arabia also promote a
more rigid version of Islam. Qatar and Saudi
Arabia have government agencies devoted to the
religious lives of Asian expatriates, often
administered by preachers from their own
The Persian Gulf version of Islam fits the
expatriate lifestyle: They can practice their
faith in drab dormitories and on breaks during
long work shifts. And it sanctifies their
newfound riches. The wealth obtained by South
Asian Muslims in the Persian Gulf is interpreted
by many as a reward for service to God.
"Being in the gulf you can see the miracles of
God," said Mohammed Ismayli Olshery Kalathingal,
a Kerala computer specialist at a Dubai bank.
"You can see all the things here that you can't
see in Kerala."
When it started out 28 years ago, the Markaz
Sunni Cultural Center just east of Calicut was a
tiny orphanage supporting 21 children. It has
grown into an empire, with a complex of religious
schools and colleges educating 10,000 students.
Its orphanage is home to 1,700 children.
Indian law requires that the white-clad students
take classes in math, science and religion. But
after school, they fan out across Calicut
proselytizing in favor of an austere version of
Though a charity, Markaz has real estate
holdings, including shopping centers and hotels.
Each year it sends 1,000 of its most devout
students to the Persian Gulf region, mostly to
work in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates.
Increasingly, new mosques are led by clerics who
trained in the Persian Gulf, though most are
graduates of Indian seminaries.
More wealth has meant that more Kerala Muslims
have the time to pray five times a day and more
can afford a religious education for their
children. The new mosques enforce strict
separation of the sexes.
Impressed by the power of education, many
returnees urge their daughters and sons to attend
high school and college. But to placate their
parents, women raised in conservative families
often must abide by strict Islamic dress codes.
By the 1990s, Kerala clothiers began
mass-producing cheap Persian Gulf-style religious
coverings for women. Now they are worn even at
"What the women wear depends on the trend in the
gulf," said Fazel Kizhekkedath, a 24-year-old
salesman at the Hoorulyn clothing wholesaler.
"Now the trend is the abaya. Black is the new
Men also are being told by religious groups what
to wear. One Islamic organization recently
demanded that Muslim youths stop watching soccer
and wearing T-shirts with team logos.
N.G.S. Narayan, author of the foremost book on
Calicut history, said he came face-to-face with
the new attitude when he tried to conduct
research at an old mosque. Thirty years ago he
was welcome to restore and decipher ancient
tablets. Recently he was turned away; non-Muslims
were no longer allowed.
Once Hindus used to head Muslim organizations and
vice versa. Now Muslim groups urge followers to
keep their children away from Hindu ceremonies.
Muslim Indian scholars of the Deobandi school
have preached similar ideas. But critics say the
latest wave, fueled by Persian Gulf money,
represents an Arab colonization of Kerala.
"I am scared," said one moderate Muslim newspaper
editor, who asked that his name not be published
because it could harm his community standing.
"The liberal Muslims, the moderate Muslims, are
The religious awakening also has given rise to a new political assertiveness.
Critics say Muslim organizations have set up de
facto political machines, forcing parties on the
left and right to woo extreme Islamic groups
funded by Persian Gulf riches.
Although it denies any active political
involvement, Markaz and its leader, Kanthapuram
Abu Bakr Musaliar, have become major players in
"Now he's a kingmaker," Chennamangloor said. "He's got a vote bank."
Kerala's elders often boasted that Hindus,
Muslims, Christians and a smattering of smaller
religious groups were Indians first. Religious
identity took a back seat to class interests. The
Communist Party and the conservative Indian
National Congress dominated elections.
During recent ballots in a Muslim enclave near
Calicut, both the Communist Party and
conservatives plastered walls with pictures of
Saddam Hussein. Even before the controversy over
his execution, Hussein's trial had become a cause
celebre among Muslims, largely because of the
region's connection to the Persian Gulf.
"Social life has been politicized," Narayan said.
"Muslim community organizations found that they
could corner all the Muslim votes."
Many worry that the status quo has begun to unravel.
In January 2002 and May 2003, 14 people were
killed in riots between Muslims and Hindus in
Calicut. And in February 2005, suspected Hindu
nationalists attacked a mosque in the town of
Vallikunnam at the end of evening prayers,
killing one and injuring two.
"Muslims themselves are worried by the rise of
the militant Islamic organizations," said Ajai
Mangat, Calicut correspondent for the Malayalam
Manorama, the province's largest daily newspaper.
"If they become more powerful, the Hindu
nationalists become more powerful."
 UPCOMING EVENTS:
The Uprooted: Caught between Existence and Denial
A CONVENTION OF THE INTERNALLY DISPLACED IN GUJARAT
Heerak Mahotsav Hall
Nearly five years to the carnage in Gujarat in
2002, the wounds refuse to heal. And the battle
against collective, national amnesia must
continue. It bears repeating that this was a
massacre unprecedented in independent India. For
it was a massacre openly led by the State against
its own citizens, which left over 2000 dead and
lakhs displaced, terrorized, and scarred. At a
conservative estimate, well over 300 women were
sexually brutalized in horrific ways, raped and
killed in full public view. This was an attempt
to annihilate Hindutva's 'constructed enemy', the
Muslim, physically and symbolically, as person,
citizen and community. The constitutional promise
of India lay in tatters. And so long as justice
eludes the survivors, so long as their scars
remain unacknowledged, and the State does not
come forward with reparations for harms inflicted
on scores of innocents, that constitutional
promise remains violated.
Even as people's struggle seeking justice for the
death of loved ones occasionally enters public
consciousness, what has remained hidden from view
for five years, is the slow death inflicted upon
the scores of internally displaced Muslims -
people who fled their homes, villages and towns
at the height of the violence in 2002 and have
never been able to return.
Some families returned to their original places
of residence, many condemned to a life of
permanent compromise and second-class
citizenship. Numerous cases were reported of
Muslims being "allowed" to return only if they
withdrew legal cases, stopped using loudspeakers
for the azaan, quietly moved out of certain
businesses, and basically learned to live with
downcast eyes. Many of these compromises were
brokered by public officials carrying out the
State's mandate of forcing 'normalcy' and
creating an illusion of public order.
Many families, however, were never able to
return. Today these internally displaced families
number approximately 5000. Even as the nation
appears to have moved on in these five years, and
public imagination is apparently occupied with
other pressing matters, these people are still
surviving in no-man's land, caught between
existence and denial. They live in makeshift
colonies hastily constructed by NGOs and
community organization, on the outskirts of towns
and villages, both literally and symbolically, on
the margins of society. Their futures are
Thousands of these families are gathering in
Ahmedabad on February 1, 2007 to ask for
acknowledgment as internally displaced people, to
tell the world that they exist and to demand
recognition, reparation and rehabilitation from
the Indian State.
In the space of a few months( December
2006-january 2007), several colonies that house
survivors have formed committees of the
internally displaced (Antarik Visthapit Samitis).
Each district has formed a coordination committee
and a State coordination forum has been formed.
o o o
Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution
Jamia Millia Islamia,
cordially invites you to the
FIRST WALTER SISULU MEMORIAL LECTURE
to be delivered by A.M. Kathrada
on February 2, 2007 at 11 am
at the Edward Said Hall,
Administrative Block, Jamia Milia Islamia
Professor Mushirul Hasan will preside
For more information contact:
Prof. Radha Kumar
Nelson Mandela Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution
Phone: 269 854 73 / 269 817 17 Exten: 4361
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