Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

SACW | April 5-7, 2007 | Pakistan : Take on the Religio-Fascists / Bangladesh: Choles Ritchil Murdered / India: BJP's Hateful Election Propaganda / Public Hearing on Gujarat riots survivors ; Hindutva Threat / Israel's garrison state

Expand Messages
  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | April 5-7, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2385 - Year 9 [1] Pakistan: Stand up and Fight the Religio-Fascists (i) Stop Taliban in Pakistan:
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 6, 2007
      South Asia Citizens Wire | April 5-7, 2007 | Dispatch No. 2385 - Year 9

      [1] Pakistan: Stand up and Fight the Religio-Fascists
      (i) Stop Taliban in Pakistan: JAC
      (ii) Time for a bitter harvest (I. A. Rehman)
      (iii) Female militants' show of force (Zubeida Mustafa)
      (iv) Who will fight this Talibanisation? (Editorial, The News)
      [2] Bangladesh: Choles Ritchil Murdered - Online Petition to the authorities
      + I'm sorry, Choles Ritchil (Naeem Mohaiemen)
      [3] Israel wants recognition from the very
      people it ethnically cleansed (Achin Vanaik)
      [4] India: Its Election Time - Hindu right's Poisonous Propaganda As Usual
      Reports and Editorials / Citizens Demand
      Disqualification of the BJP from UP Elections -
      Online Petition to Election commission + Draft
      For Petition to Union Home Minister/UP CM
      [5] India: Press release + report on Public
      Hearing of Internally displaced riots survivors
      from Gujarat
      [6] India: The threat posed by Hindutva (Vinod Mubayi and Daya Varma)
      [7] India: Creating Democracy - Celebrating
      Diversity - Call to experiment, explore, create
      [8] Events:
      Conference: Beyond Independence: South Asia,
      1947-1977 (London, 11-12 April 2007)


      [1] Stop the Fascists in Pakistan


      Daily Times
      April 7, 2007


      LAHORE: The Joint Action Committee (JAC) for
      People's Rights - an alliance of some 30 NGOs and
      civil society groups - has condemned the ongoing
      process of 'Talibanisation' in the country, and
      demanded that the government take immediate
      notice of Jamia Hafsa students' activities aimed
      to enforce Sharia. At a press conference at the
      Lahore Press Club, JAC representatives said the
      government was "proving itself to be supportive
      of Talibanisation by remaining quiet". They also
      announced that JAC would hold a rally on April 19
      against the "promotion of terrorism and
      dictatorial rule". Asma Jahangir condemned
      extremism, while Shahtaj Qizilbash, Fareeda
      Shaheed, IA Rehman and Shabnam Rasheed stressed
      elimination of extremism. staff report

      April 5, 2007

      by I. A. Rehman

      HAVING sown the wild wind for many a long year,
      Pakistan must now reap the whirlwind.

      Within yards of the avenue in the capital where
      the concrete symbols of all the organs of the
      state are guarded by large contingents of
      gendarmerie, some lathi-wielding female students
      take the law into their hands, and announce their
      assumption of authority to detain and punish the
      'sinners', and a pathetic-looking state apparatus
      sues for forgiveness. This is Pakistan after
      seven years of stability, economic progress,
      genuine democracy, suppression of obscurantism
      and enlightened moderation!One looks in vain for
      the establishment's cheer-leaders who never tire
      of fulminating against dissident politicians,
      independent journalists and human rights
      activists and threatening them with lime and
      brimstone. No reference to the writ of the state
      is necessary because such expressions can be used
      only for the misguided serfs inhabiting certain
      parts of Balochistan, Sindh and Frontier. They
      cannot be used in the context of territories the
      state has been ceding to holy warriors in the
      northern part of the country.

      This column is neither about the Islamabad
      incident referred to earlier nor about the
      establishment of a new order in Waziristan,
      Bajaur, Dir and even close to Khyber. It is only
      about the evolution of the theory of two
      sovereignties and its latest manifestation. This
      theory, in a sentence, is that every Pakistani
      Muslim has a right and a duty to bring his
      fellow-beings under a regime he thinks his belief
      prescribes even if this involves a defiance of
      the state-made (that is, man-made) laws and rules.

      Quite a few scholars maintain, and not without
      some justification, that the seeds of this theory
      lay in the very basis of the demand for Pakistan.
      In support, some slogans raised during the
      1945-46 elections are recalled - slogans that
      explained the idea of Pakistan wholly in
      religious terms. Whether these slogans really
      reflected the mind of the authors of the Pakistan
      idea or whether they were raised only to secure
      votes in pir-fiefs, such as in a large part of
      Punjab, the undeniable fact is that for a fairly
      large section of the population concerned these
      slogans embodied their ideal.

      The first prominent politician to realise the
      danger in placing total reliance on the religious
      card was none else than the Quaid-i-Azam himself.
      Three days before the date set for the
      realisation of his dream he decided to make a
      heroic break from the politics of the past
      decades. The task after the establishment of the
      state of Pakistan was to build a new nation on
      the basis of political, economic and legal
      equality of all citizens regardless of their
      belief which in any case was each citizen's
      private matter, he now declared. At the same
      time, the religio-political elements that had
      opposed the Muslim League and had been routed by
      it realised that circumstances, especially the
      partition of provinces, offered them an
      opportunity to hijack the ship of the infant
      state. Thus began a race in which successive
      regimes have sworn fidelity to Jinnah and served
      the mandarins opposed to him. A perfect suicide
      construct, as some analysts say.

      Those who bank on the Quaid's speech of August
      11, 1947, ignore the fact that a single address
      could not persuade the people to purge their
      minds of ideas and arguments thrown up not only
      during the communal confrontation in the
      subcontinent but which had been fertilising in
      the Muslim mind across the globe for a much
      longer period. The task of Pakistan-building
      defined by the Quaid on August 11, 1947, involved
      the establishment of a people's democracy, to use
      a phrase first used by Mr. Jinnah. The course
      chosen by the Quaid was abandoned by the state
      soon after his death.

      The Objectives Resolution of 1949 marked the
      beginning of the dual sovereignty idea though the
      resolution did not say so explicitly. The field
      was left open for the contenders for power to
      interpret the meaning of the delegation of
      Allah's sovereign rights to the State of Pakistan
      through the people, even after the opening
      paragraph of the resolution had been amended by
      the authors of the 1973 Constitution. The 1956
      constitution made all laws subject to two
      conditions - one, that no law that contravened
      the fundamental rights could be valid and,
      secondly, no law repugnant to the Islamic
      injunctions could be made and all existing laws
      that were repugnant to Islam were to be
      harmonised with its injunctions.

      The balance was however in favour of the
      constitutional authority in as much as the courts
      could strike down any law or practice that
      contravened the fundamental rights, the laws
      attracting censure for repugnancy to Islam were
      to be examined by a commission on whose report
      the legislature was to take the corrective
      action. Under subsequent constitutions the task
      of testing the laws on the touchstone of belief
      was assigned to the body now called the Council
      of Islamic Ideology.

      It was General Ziaul Haq who not only created a
      hierarchy of religious courts but also gave them
      a constitutional status and placed them at par
      with courts established under the constitution
      earlier. The transition to the theory of two
      sovereignties was complete. The general courts
      (so described for want of a better expression)
      could strike down laws on the ground of
      inconsistency with fundamental rights and the
      shariah courts could do the same if they found
      any law inconsistent with the ruling elite's
      belief, which might or might not be Islamic.

      Indeed, the shariah courts were put on a higher
      level than the general courts because they could
      not only strike down a law they could also tell
      the legislature how a law was to be revised, a
      power the older category of courts did not have.

      Once the judicature had been reorganised to suit
      the theocratic elements the battle for
      enforcement of a regime based on dogma began.
      Gen. Zia introduced the 9th amendment but failed
      to get it passed before he died. The Nawaz Sharif
      government drafted the 15the amendment but it
      failed to get it adopted by parliament before it
      was overthrown. The task has now been assumed by
      the NWFP government that has been trying through
      its Hasba Bills to control and regiment the lives
      of the people, their culture and their thoughts.

      During the latter half of the eighties a new idea
      for enforcing amr-bil-ma'aroof wa
      nahi-anil-munkir was introduced to Pakistan's
      conservative lobby after the insertion of the
      blasphemy provision into the Penal Code.
      According to the groups dominant in Pakistan,
      apostasy is punishable with death and any Muslim
      is supposed to be free to act as the prosecutor,
      the judge and the executioner although no law
      permits this. This view was confirmed when a
      judge reprimanded a person for only accusing a
      man of blasphemy and not killing him.

      The case of a non-Muslim does not fall in the
      category of apostasy and yet it has been assumed
      that a Pakistani Muslim has a right to execute a
      non-Muslim as well as a fellow Muslim by
      declaring him guilty of blasphemy.The state has
      been guilty of criminal inaction and silence over
      the actions taken by individuals under cover of
      belief. Zafar Iqbal died in jail in circumstances
      that suggested murder, the killer of Naimat Ahmar
      was lionised in prison, a blasphemy accused was
      killed in a Lahore prison, another was lynched by
      a mob in Gujranwala, and a third was killed by
      the policeman who was supposed to protect the
      wretch from the mob and take him to a lock-up.

      The government's failure to deal with defiance of
      law under the cover of dogma led to the formation
      of private courts in Malakand and FATA. It does
      not take ideas long to travel from Bajaur to
      Islamabad, and matters have reached a point where
      the state's policy of drift was bound to take
      them. A call has gone out that the state has
      become dormant and since dogma is superior to
      law, every Muslim has a right to punish the
      wayward and the unwary.

      A sizeable section of the people believes the
      establishment derives political benefit out of
      the extra-legal challenges to its authority
      launched by religious militants. The regime is
      said to be using the existence and apparent
      strength of the militants as an insurance on its
      survival and, what is obviously more important,
      its continued acceptability to the ultimate
      patrons and power brokers. If there is any
      substance in this view it is clear that the
      country's future is being jeopardised for the
      sake of a few.

      Be that as it may, the government's resistance to
      the clerics' designs on the state has been
      limited to some appeals to the judiciary to bail
      it out (such as the two references on the Hasba
      Bills and the appeal in the case about
      interest-based laws) or empty rhetoric about
      enlightened moderation. All this is no more than
      an apology for surrender to fanatics whose title
      to speak in the name of the people's belief is
      extremely tenuous.

      What the establishment has to realise is that
      religious militancy and all other belief-related
      ills have sprouted in the vacuum caused by the
      suppression of politics. A democratic polity is
      inconceivable without democratic politics whereas
      Pakistan's rulers have been telling the people to
      be content with a quasi-democratic façade without
      any space for democratic politics. This is not to
      say that without authoritarian rulers bigotry
      could not have raised its head.

      Democratically constituted regimes also commit
      grave wrongs, especially when they give up
      democratic politics, but the system offers
      possibilities of redress and reversal, whereas
      under authoritarian regimes change comes through
      upheaval and often when it is too late. And if
      the state allows only hate to be cultivated in
      its lands nobody can expect anything other than a
      bitter harvest.

      o o o

      April 4, 2007


      by Zubeida Mustafa

      IN ITS latest issue, the Time magazine titles its
      cover story as "The truth about Talibanistan"
      which it claims is gathering strength in
      Pakistan's "wild borderlands". Last week events
      took a new turn.

      The show of force by the Lal Masjid strongmen and
      the Hafsa madressah's female guardians of
      morality in Islamabad was an indication that the
      tentacles of the Taliban are spreading rapidly to
      the heart of the federal capital.

      Is this surprising? Not really if one has been
      following the Musharraf government's policy
      vis-à-vis the militants of all shades and hues.
      Not long ago the general was on friendly terms
      with Islamist groups when he astutely used them
      to pursue a policy of destabilising Indian-held
      Kashmir by proxy. The Islamic fundamentalists
      preaching jihad against the 'infidels' were
      provided full protection, and even assistance, by
      the authorities.

      The religio-political parties on their part have
      served another purpose for the military regime.
      Musharraf has used them to neutralise the
      mainstream secular parties, notably the Pakistan
      People's Party, PML (Nawaz) and the nationalists
      in Sindh, Balochistan and the NWFP. As a result
      of a policy which actually bestowed favours on
      the constituents of the MMA, the Musharraf
      government did not have a level playing ground
      for all parties.

      As a result the religious groups which had never
      won more than five per cent of the popular vote
      in a general election received a tremendous boost
      and found themselves in office in two provinces.

      To be fair to the army chief, he has not been the
      only one pursuing this strategy of using the
      jihadis as an active tool for conducting the
      country's foreign policy. This strategy was first
      adopted by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in Afghanistan
      when Sardar Daud was at the helm in Kabul.
      Surprisingly Bhutto had not learnt from his
      experience of the 1965 war in Kashmir when
      infiltrators dispatched from Azad Kashmir had
      failed to trigger the much awaited uprising in
      the Valley.

      When Ziaul Haq used the Islamic militants in
      Afghanistan - with a spiritual zeal that he
      shared with them - he succeeded in driving the
      Russians out of Afghanistan. Needless to say, the
      Americans were also a party to this unholy game.

      Subsequent civilian governments in Pakistan with
      the ISI's cooperation - or was it the other way
      around? -- expanded this strategy and employed it
      in Kashmir. This time there was no military
      victory and Kargil was a clear demonstration of
      the danger to peace posed by proxy wars.

      Then came 9/11 and President Musharraf's famous
      U-turn which forced the government to modify its
      strategy somewhat. Officially the parties
      resorting to terror were banned and their funds
      were seized. The madressahs which produced the
      foot soldiers for the jihadi were to be
      registered and regulated. But the fact is that
      there was no comprehensive crackdown on the
      jihadis. The assistance they received from the
      government may have been withdrawn. But they no
      longer need that help. Having grown and developed
      over the years they are now quite capable of
      fending for themselves. What is more important,
      many of them continue to be patronised and
      protected - if not by the official structures of
      power, then by rogue elements. The stage has been
      reached that even this protection is not so
      crucial for their existence any more. They are
      satisfied so long as the powers that be turn a
      blind eye to their existence and doings. On rare
      occasions when an attempt is made to curb their
      power, there is invariably a confrontation and
      the state is forced to retreat.

      Last week's events came as a watershed of sorts
      because they took place in Islamabad and amounted
      to the militants' testing of the waters there.
      The religious extremist parties have now moved
      from the foreign front to their mission of
      'cleansing' domestic society. Posing as the
      self-appointed custodians of our morals, they are
      willing to break the laws of the land to achieve
      their ends. They are thus asserting themselves to
      set up a parallel system which will ultimately be
      designed to undermine the authority of the state
      by resorting to force.

      It is distressing that the madressahs have been
      allowed to get away with their blatant defiance
      of the government which has climbed down when
      matters have reached a head leading to a

      Only recently a madressah that had been built
      illegally on encroached land in the federal
      capital and had been demolished was allowed to be
      rebuilt after the girl students of the Jamia
      Hafsa occupied a children's library throwing down
      the gauntlet before the government. Seventy-six
      mosques in Islamabad have been declared illegal
      but the CDA cannot touch them now because a
      'dialogue' is supposedly in process with the

      The government's madressah reforms project has
      yet to take off because of the madressahs'
      refusal to register with the authorities. Now
      many are said to have registered but only after
      the registration process was relaxed and the
      madressahs were not required to submit
      information they were reluctant to give such as
      the source of their funding, details of the
      courses taught and so on. The bulk of the funds
      earmarked by the government to bring madressahs
      into the mainstream has lapsed because they were
      rejected by these institutions as they did not
      want any controls.

      Many of the madressahs have emerged as a major
      threat to the social and political integrity of
      Pakistan. Previously, they were irritants because
      of the parallel foreign policy they were running.
      Now they have grim social and sectarian

      A recent report by the International Crisis Group
      points out that most madressahs are linked to
      politico-religious parties whose agendas their
      students are mobilised to promote. Being involved
      in what the ICG report terms the "business of the
      fatwas", the madressahs compete "to win over
      members of rival sects" leading to intense
      inter-madressah competition that "fuels
      socio-political conflicts even within families
      and neighbourhoods".

      They also disseminate hate material - written as
      well as oral, through the Friday sermons - with a
      no-holds barred approach.

      The government must now seriously consider
      getting off the fence and taking on squarely the
      groups spreading sectarianism, violence and
      disaffection. By allowing them to grow because of
      his failure to act, President Musharraf has
      created a problem for himself as well as the
      country. He must be clear about this that
      terrorist groups fostered by those in power
      ultimately devour their patrons. Remember the end
      of the story of the Sikh rebel leader Sant
      Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and the late Indian
      prime minister Indira Gandhi.

      o o o

      Editorial, The News, March 30, 2007


      The events of recent days in the NWFP town of
      Tank and in Islamabad should shatter the
      assessment of all those policymakers, government
      functionaries and members of civil society who
      thought that Talibanisation was a feature only of
      FATA or some other remote and backward area of
      the country. Tank, which is now under curfew, and
      where several people were killed as extremists
      (thought to be allied with a Waziristan militant
      commander with whom the government brokered a
      'peace deal' last year) launched an all-out
      attack on Tuesday night, is the district
      headquarters of Tank district and not far from
      Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan and Lakki Marwat, all
      reasonably large towns of NWFP. The violence
      there began on Monday after a school principal
      had the courage to call in the police after
      jihadis barged into his institution and tried to
      win new recruits to their cause. The local SHO
      also responded and he sadly paid for it with his
      life, reportedly killed in the most cold-blooded
      manner po
      ssible, after he thought he had managed to broker
      a truce with the militants who would leave the
      school peacefully and without any new schoolboys
      in tow. The principal was kidnapped the following
      day from his home and he too paid for his courage
      in standing up to these extremists with his life
      -- on Thursday it was reported that his body was
      found from South Waziristan. The militants who
      attacked Tank on Thursday have been linked to
      pro-Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud since this
      is his area of influence, although he has himself
      denied any such connection. However, it is worth
      reiterating that on many occasions in the past
      militants have carried out attacks against
      government installations and security personnel
      or killed so-called 'informers' in areas under
      their influence but then disassociated themselves
      from these acts. One can only hope that the
      president is absolutely one hundred per cent
      accurate when he says that those elements in the
      intelligence agencies who in th
      e past had supported the Taliban, the jihadis and
      their sympathisers are no longer in the service
      of the government and that now any assistance to
      these extremists is coming, if at all, from
      retired intelligence officials.

      The other disturbing development is taking place
      right in the heart of the federal capital. In
      this case particularly, the government and the
      Islamabad local administration are to blame for
      not having acted earlier when the female students
      of Jamia Hafsa had forcibly and illegally
      occupied a children's library demanding that this
      occupation would end only after the government
      rebuilt a portion of a mosque complex that had
      been demolished by the Capital Development
      Authority because it was built on encroached
      land. Now since those protesting claim to be
      religious students, one would first like to ask
      them their position on the legality of a house of
      worship - both from the temporal and the
      theological point of view - that is built on
      encroached land. Had the government acted
      promptly and strongly against this illegal
      occupation of the library and told the students
      and their madressah patrons that mosques built on
      illegal land are not legal, and had the students
      been ejected a
      nd not allowed to roam around Islamabad and
      launch 'raids' perhaps what happened on Wednesday
      could have been pre-empted. But as usual, the
      government seemed to sleep through this all, with
      the religious affairs minister claiming a
      "breakthrough" some weeks ago in the occupation

      This 'breakthrough' was that the government would
      rebuild the demolished parts of the mosque. The
      minister also managed to pose for the cameras as
      he laid the first 'brick' of this promised
      rebuilding operation. But the naivete of the
      minister and all those in the government who
      agreed to this view of giving concessions to the
      undue and illegal demands of extremists in the
      country was once again proven wrong when after
      being given a foot they proceeded to demand a
      mile. Hopefully, in any future negotiations, the
      services of the good minister will not be used.
      Instead of leaving the library and returning to
      their seminary as any God-fearing law-abiding
      citizens would have done (they in fact would not
      have occupied the library in the first place),
      they placed more demand before the government and
      refused to end their occupation. The initial
      'raid' they conducted on one of the capital's
      busiest bazaars amazingly went unnoticed by the
      police and local administration, again makin
      g one wonder whether some elements in either or
      both organisations were perhaps sympathetic to
      the cause of these extremists. An SHO has
      apparently been suspended for failing to act
      against the students when they 'raided' the
      market but one would like to ask the government
      what it plans to do in the case of the minister,
      whose 'breakthrough' emboldened these extremists
      so much that they believed they could go about
      dispensing their own warped interpretation of
      religion and law on everybody else, holding even
      policemen hostage in the process.

      What is perhaps equally worrying is the fact that
      there may be many in Pakistani society who may
      think that what these extremists posing as
      students have done is good and necessary. After
      all, with all the intolerance and bigotry that
      one is exposed to as a Pakistani in the course of
      one's daily life (from the mosque imam's often
      virulent sermon, the bias and prejudice manifest
      in the national curriculum, the overdose of
      religious programmes and channels on television,
      to the increasing tide of religiosity in society
      and the tendency among many people to bring in
      religion into just about everything), the
      government and civil society have themselves to
      blame for this increase in Talibanisation. As for
      the government, it fails on several counts.
      Foremost among them is its remarkable -- and
      sadly enduring -- inability to take a stand
      against extremists forces such as in Tank and the
      Jamia Hafsa students, deeming such matters
      'sensitive' and then burying its head in the sand
      e an ostrich, pretending everything is all right,
      and continuing to think (at least some sections
      of the government and security establishment do,
      it would be fair to assume, subscribe to this
      view) that a way of having leverage with our
      regional neighbours means supping with the
      extremists and jihadis. In addition to this, the
      government is guilty of adopting a clear double
      standard. liberal and law-abiding progressive
      elements are tear-gassed and lathi-charged when
      they organise peaceful protests but when the
      extremists and obscurantists indulge in violent
      protests they are given undue concessions and a
      free hand to act with impunity. Tank and the
      Jamia Hafsa episode should serve as a wakeup call
      to the government. It must act decisively now.
      The future is only going to get bleaker unless
      madressah and national curriculum reforms are
      carried out and the overt display of religion in
      national life is curtailed, to levels normally
      found in other Muslim countries such as Malays
      ia or the Gulf states. As for civil society, and
      those who think they are non-extremist (i.e.,
      progressive, liberal and/or moderate), they
      better stand up and speak against the extremists
      or risk their very existence and way of life
      coming under a permanent threat.





      See details :
      Asian Human Rights Centre:

      Summary background of the case:

      Choles Ritchil, a leading Garo leader of Bangladesh, was held by the joint
      forces of Bangladesh Army and Police and which led to his death on the night
      of March 18, only a few hours after his arrest.

      Mr. Ritchil was targeted for opposing the construction of an eco-park over
      3,000 acres of land at Modhupur forest, the age-long habitat of Garo tribals
      who are indigenous to this part of Bangladesh. Nearly 25,000 Garo people
      face eviction from their homes besides loss of livelihood.

      His body was handed over to his family on March 19 with torture marks.
      Reports from eyewitnesses who prepared the body for funeral state the
      following signs of torture: "Choles's two eyes plucked, testicles removed,
      anus mutilated, two hand palms smashed, nails of 3 fingers of the right hand
      removed, left hand thumb nail removed, two palms had holes, upper right hand
      had severe wounds, several blood stains on the back , in both thighs there
      were two holes, the back had several black marks, several deep marks of
      wounds on both lower legs, there were black marks on feet, no nail on thumb
      of right foot, all fingers of two hands were broken."

      This inhuman act of outrageous barbarism has tarnished the reputation of the
      Armed Forces and the Government of Bangladesh. Compounding the crime, no
      first information report (FIR) was filed in this case due to intimidation by
      the joint forces personnel.

      Imran, Syeda, Chishti
      I K Shukla
      South Asia Forum
      Los Angeles

      o o o

      Daily Star
      April 06, 2007

      by Naeem Mohaiemen

      I'm sorry, Choles Ritchil. I didn't believe the
      evidence of your body. I kept thinking the
      torture report was a hysterical invention. So
      much damage to one corpse, it seemed impossible.
      No, it is impossible. Isn't it? It must all be
      lies. Those human rights groups, we know they
      always exaggerate -- just to get foreign funding
      and create a bad image for Bangladesh.

      I'm sorry, because I couldn't find the courage.
      We're all so invested in getting out of the
      AL-BNP strangle corridor, we're so euphoric that
      the godfathers are being arrested, we don't want
      to upset the process by drawing attention to your
      case. Must be an aberration, somebody got a
      little too enthusiastic. Anyway, let's move on.
      For heaven's sake, don't make a fuss.

      I'm sorry, because I couldn't find tears. How
      easy it was to dismiss your face on that poster.
      You look nothing like me. You have what my
      classmates so crudely called "chinky eyes." No
      one in my family has ever married anyone who
      looks like you, and even if we did we would make
      sure you converted to our religion. You see, you
      don't really exist. This is a country for
      Bengalis, not anyone else. Now you realize that,
      slowly, surely.

      I'm sorry, because I read Nirmalendu Goon's poem
      with a stony heart. Then I busied myself with
      translating it. E-mailing friends and asking:
      "What is Chuniya village"? Is Goon being
      sarcastic about March and "freedom?" Is "elegy" a
      better translation than "requiem?" Distracting
      myself with aesthetics, anything to blank out the
      memory of those pictures.

      I'm sorry, because when a blogger posted the
      report, somebody else complained about the
      gruesome picture. The picture was quietly removed
      to page 2. A nice disclaimer was added: "Warning:
      Graphic Photo." Anything to protect our delicate
      sensibilities. How inconsiderate of you to die
      with so many wounds.

      I'm sorry, because I said to a Pahari friend the
      other day: "Welcome to shadhin Bangla," and she
      replied: "Ami tho Bangali na, how am I shadhin?"
      I laughed and dismissed her. Oh, these people!
      They will never be satisfied. What do you want
      anyway? Land rights? Your language? Parliament
      seats? Ministries? Quotas? Autonomy? Come on,
      that was for us, that was 1969. It's 2007 now.
      Don't you remember what Sheikh Mujib said? "From
      today you are all Bengalis." And some of you are
      now dead Bengalis, that's equality.

      I'm sorry, because I know how this will go down.
      There will be outrage. NGOs will issue
      memorandum. Bloggers will buzz. Newspapers will
      write. Thrithio Matra will debate pros and cons.
      Seminars will be cranked out. And always, some
      "hero" filmmaker will make a documentary and win
      awards. Then, just as quickly, we will forget.
      Amnesia is our gross national product.

      I'm sorry, Choles Ritchil. You lived and died
      protecting the Adivasi people and Modhupur land
      you believed in. You were gentle and non-violent,
      and we paid you back in a different coin.

      I'm sorry, because I'm a citizen of a nation that
      after 36 years fails to see you as anything more
      than a nuisance. My class, ethnicity, and
      religious privilege (and army family) gives me
      insurance to write these words. You don't have
      any such protection -- naked to the world, to Eco
      Park, and to our vengeful fury.

      But don't think you're an agacha on our national
      boto brikkho. When there are visiting dignitaries
      or sports events, your people are very useful.
      You sing, you dance, you wear exotic, colourful
      clothes. A readymade National Geographic tableau.
      "Hill people of CHT." "Gentle people of Modhupur
      forest." Ah, the permutations are endless.

      We want to keep all of you in a museum vitrine,
      and bring you out on special occasions -- when we
      need a dash of colour. But please don't demand
      your rights. And don't even think of raising your
      voice. Etho boro shahosh! You see what happened
      to Choles. Don't make us be sorry again.

      Naeem Mohaiemen wrote the chapter on ethnic
      minorities for ASK's 2003 Human Rights Report.



      The Telegraph
      April 05, 2007

      - Israel wants recognition from the very people it ethnically cleansed
      Achin Vanaik
      The author is professor of international
      relations and global politics, Delhi University

      My visit to Israel (Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem
      and the occupied territories) coincided with the
      announcement of the formation of the National
      Unity government of Hamas and Fatah. The
      immediate response of Israel and the United
      States of America is breathtaking in its
      arrogance. They took refuge behind the shameful
      demands - initially drawn up in the US state
      department - of the quartet of the European
      Union, US, United Nations and Russia: the new
      government must renounce violence, abide by
      previous Israel-Palestine agreements, and
      recognize Israel's right to exist.

      Israel has been accused of violating the Oslo
      Accords by repeatedly and illegally expanding its
      settlements in the occupied territories, as well
      as violating innumerable UN resolutions. This
      includes Resolution 194 about the return of
      Palestinian refugees, which it had to accept in
      order to become a member of the UN in the first
      place. Yet Israel seeks to shift blame for the
      failure of the Oslo agreements onto the
      Palestinian leadership and portray it as
      "unreasonable". It should now be obvious to
      anyone that those accords were basically Israel's
      way of partially subcontracting the occupation to
      the Fatah-controlled Palestinian National
      Authority, and for giving itself time to carry
      out more land grabs in the OT, that is, create
      new "facts on the ground".

      Israel demands recognition from the very people
      whom it ethnically cleansed in 1948 in order to
      come into existence, but will itself never
      apologize for having carried out that ethnic
      cleansing. That apology, in fact, is the crucial
      symbolic-political meaning of the Palestinian
      demand for Israel to recognize the right of
      return of refugees. The demographic issue of
      where Palestinians will actually return is by
      contrast a minor and easily negotiable one. The
      irony is that the PLO in the Oslo Accords did
      recognize Israel's right to exist, but only got
      recognition for itself as the legitimate
      representative authority for Palestinians. It
      never got formal recognition of the Palestinian
      right to a genuinely independent and truly viable
      territorial state on the basis of the 1967
      borders. This is a prospect, which the illegal
      Apartheid Wall is now in the process of
      permanently destroying. Recognition of Israel by
      the PLO gave away its most important diplomatic
      asset in return for what has turned out to be a
      total disaster for Palestinians.

      Hamas, very sensibly, is not about to make the
      same mistake, reserving such recognition for
      final-status talks when proper justice is done to
      Palestinians. It has rightly asked - which Israel
      is it being asked to recognize? One that will
      territorially confine itself to the 1967 borders,
      or the one today demanding much more than that,
      but still not specifying the limits of its
      territorial greed? The ugly political-diplomatic
      game today being orchestrated by the Israel-US
      axis, and being implicitly or explicitly endorsed
      by a host of countries from Europe to Russia to
      China to India, is to squeeze ever more
      concessions from a suffering Palestinian people
      whose plight is now of little consequence to most
      of the world. Nevertheless, Israel, the most
      powerful military force in the region, and backed
      by the most militarily powerful country in the
      world, goes on and on about how its existence is

      What has always intrigued me was how and why
      Israelis from top to bottom (with the exception
      of a small minority) could be so brutal, uncaring
      and unashamed about what their country was doing?
      My visit gave me the answer. Israel is a garrison
      state with a garrison mentality. Israelis see
      themselves as victims because there are powerful
      forces (mainly internal but also external) that
      help create, sustain and embellish the myth about
      the perpetual victimhood of Israel and of the
      Jews. A state constructed on the principle that
      it alone provides a safe haven for Jews can only
      justify its brutality and oppression of resident
      non-Jews - that is, the Palestinians in the OT
      and those having Israeli citizenship - on the
      grounds that they are actually or potentially the
      dangerous 'enemy' who must be controlled,
      subordinated and monitored.

      This psychological inversion of the positions of
      victimizers and victims is founded on various
      structures. Compulsory military conscription of
      Israeli youth (so evident on weekend trains) and
      the presence of armed guards at malls and railway
      stations in Tel Aviv and other cities is not a
      vital security necessity. But it is absolutely
      vital for sustaining the belief that Israel is
      constantly under siege. Nearly every Israeli Jew
      will have or will know some family whose
      relatives, distant or near, have been injured or
      killed in wars and military action.

      Any possibility that the co-existence of Jews and
      Palestinians in the same small territory might
      lead to the kind of human interaction that could
      counter this myth is eliminated by the
      establishment of structures that essentially
      segregate ordinary life between Jews and
      Palestinians. Jimmy Carter has belatedly
      recognized that Israel is an apartheid state and
      has drawn huge flak for this accurate
      characterization. But he is referring to what
      Israel is doing in the OT. Less known is how it
      makes "Israeli Arabs" second-class citizens.

      Israel, unlike South Africa, does not practise
      petty apartheid - that is, segregation in public
      places such as restaurants, toilets, buses,
      benches, and so on. It does so in the areas of
      life that really count. Over 90 per cent of the
      land is state-owned and although historically
      stolen from the Palestinians, cannot even be
      leased to them. There are all kinds of statutes
      giving preferential treatment to Jews in health,
      education, public housing and employment. There
      can be no political participation by any party
      that rejects the Zionist character (its Jewish
      identity) and wishes to change Israel into a
      secular state. No party, if it wants to exist,
      can dare accuse such a religiously exclusivist
      state of being anti-democratic.

      In the government education system, Palestinians
      and Jews go to separate primary and secondary
      schools with separate curricula and separate
      languages of instruction (Arabic and Hebrew), but
      with overall government control over what is
      taught. Palestinian teachers teach Hebrew, but
      few Jews learn or teach Arabic. Indeed, although
      over 40 per cent of Jews may be Arabs, most of
      them seek to 'de-Arabize' themselves (deny,
      demean, decry their cultural heritage) in order
      to fit 'properly' into Israeli society. But the
      history course in schools is the same and
      reflects the desperate need to deny or greatly
      dilute its pre-Zionist past, just as Pakistani
      education must dilute or deny its pre-Islamic
      past. And like Pakistan and its negligent
      treatment of historical heritage sites like
      Mohenjodaro and Harappa, Israeli authorities at
      the municipal (e.g. in Haifa) and central levels
      have neglected, even decimated, beautiful and
      historic Ottoman and Arab buildings and sites in
      order to 'judaize' the country. It is only the
      enormously strong oral tradition that still
      enables Palestinian families to hand down their
      history of the ethnic cleansing of 1948 and of
      the pre-1948 reality to succeeding generations.


      [4] Its Election Time - BJP's Poisonous Propaganda As Usual

      [ Video reports on BJP's communal CD - titiled UP Victimised]

      Hindutva overdrive gone wrong?


      o o o

      The Hindu, April 7, 2007


      That a mainstream party, the Bharatiya Janata
      Party, revels in Muslim-bashing is not the
      best-kept of India's political secrets. The
      campaign of vitriol gets particularly nasty at
      election time - for obvious reasons. Since the
      party's raison d'etre as well as life force is
      communalism as a political mobilisation plank,
      its electoral strategy can only be pitting
      India's overwhelming Hindu majority against its
      150 million Muslim minority. A case in point is
      the inflammatory anti-Muslim compact disc
      released in Lucknow on April 3 and `withdrawn'
      following protests. A party less blasé about its
      communal ideology and politics might have quietly
      released the CD on the election circuit. The BJP
      made a production of it. The CD was unveiled by
      party veteran Lalji Tandon at a press conference
      where the invitees got free copies for their
      edification. A comparable CD made it to the press
      kit of journalists during the BJP's December 2006
      national executive meeting held in Lucknow where,
      in fact, the party inaugurated its U.P. campaign;
      in an incendiary speech made on that occasion,
      Kalyan Singh called all Muslims terrorists. Both
      CDs contain inflammatory anti-Muslim footage,
      including explicit shots of cow and buffalo
      slaughter. Finding itself badly wrong-footed, the
      BJP's leadership at both the State and national
      levels has attempted to distance the party from
      the second CD's contents. It was a test case for
      the Election Commission of India and for the
      whole process of democratic elections in the

      After all, the BJP has got away, time and again,
      with inciting communal passions. A dispassionate
      analysis reveals that the major milestones on its
      post-1984 road to power have been communal
      campaigns revolving round the project of
      demolishing the Babri Masjid and building a Ram
      temple on its grave, and exploiting anti-Muslim
      pogroms, most notoriously in Gujarat. As in the
      case of Muslim fundamentalism and communalism,
      whatever be the moderate pretensions of top
      political leaders, the life force that moves the
      cadre on the ground is hate ideology and
      politics. This time with evidence in hand, the
      Election Commission has shown commendable
      seriousness in moving against the offenders. It
      has ordered the registration of FIRs against Mr.
      Tandon, BJP national president Rajnath Singh, and
      others responsible for the CD's production,
      release, distribution, and exhibition on the
      ground that it contains "inflammatory material
      capable of creating enmity/hatred among different
      communities" and punishable under provisions of
      the Indian Penal Code and also the electoral law.
      Further, the ECI has served notice on the BJP
      asking it to show cause why it should not be
      de-recognised under the electoral law for
      violating the Model Code of Conduct. A lot rides
      on how the ECI handles this case and how the BJP
      responds to the challenge. The statute book - the
      Indian Penal Code, the Representation of the
      People Act, 1951 and the Election Commission's
      Model Code of Conduct, the binding character of
      which has been upheld by the Supreme Court -
      provides enough and more backing for action
      against parties intentionally causing enmity and
      hatred among communities. This legal empowerment
      of secularism and national unity is very much in
      line with a resolution adopted by the Constituent
      Assembly on April 3, 1948, following the
      assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, to the effect
      that "communalism should be eliminated from
      Indian life" and that it was impermissible to mix
      religion and politics. In its 1994 judgment in
      the Bommai case, a nine-judge Constitution bench
      of the Supreme Court full-throatedly upheld
      secularism as a part of the `basic structure' of
      the Constitution, with Justices B.P. Jeevan Reddy
      and S.C. Agrawal observing that if the
      Constitution required the state to be secular in
      "thought and action" the same requirement
      "attaches to political parties as well." The time
      has come to close the gap between precept and
      practice by enforcing the electoral and criminal
      law against the nth time offenders in U.P.

      o o o

      Please Sign on online Petition

      To: Chief Election Commission

      April 5, 2007

      Appeal to the Chief Election Commission


      Citizens Demand Disqualification of the BJP from UP Elections

      The Central Election Commission should disqualify
      the BJP from the UP elections for committing a
      Constitutional, Criminal and Electoral Offence.

      The Bharatiya Janata Party has revealed its
      mindset by circulating an official CD, released
      by the national and state leadership, that
      contains nothing short of filthy hate driven
      propaganda against the minorities. The BJP should
      be disqualified from the Uttar Pradesh elections
      as this sort of hate driven propaganda is not
      simply a Constitutional and Criminal offence but
      an electoral offence.

      A supposedly national party owes the electorate
      some responsibility. Simply 'withdrawing it'
      because it happened to be exposed by a television
      channel is not enough as with modern technology
      it can be reproduced and used anyway. In fact the
      underground fascist network of the RSS is
      probably using it still since it is the RSS that
      is guiding the BJP openly today.

      Sir as the IBN 7 channel programme at 9 p.m.
      showed yesterday the producer and director
      clearly said that the CD had the sanction of the
      top party leadership. The party's National
      President, Rajnath Singh and state chief Lalji
      Tandon had clearly sanctioned this filth. Simply
      withdrawing it by calling the CD communal is not
      The CD contains credits to former prime minister
      Atal Behari Vajpayee and former Home Minister LK
      Advani. In fact Advani's

      Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.
      P.O.Box 28253, Juhu Post Office, Juhu, Mumbai 400
      049. Tel.: 26602288 / 26603927, Fax: 26602288
      Email: sabrang@.... Web: www.sabrang.com

      statements are revealing---claiming that he had
      not seen it he asked what was wrong about talking
      about Godhra and Ayodhya???

      A full fledged judicial inquiry needs to be
      ordered into the blatant attempts by the BJP to
      subvert the Constitution. What the BJP party did
      through anonymous pamphlets, or those authored by
      the VHP for two years before the Gujarat genocide
      in 2002, is today official party propaganda
      sanctioned by its top leadership. The BJP needs
      to be held accountable to the Constitution and be
      disqualified from the elections. Each time in the
      past despite committing blatantly anti
      Constitutional criminal acts, it has escaped any
      censure by Constitutional authorities.

      Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand, Kamal Faruqui, Ram
      Rehman, MK Raina, Madhu Prasad, Rajendra Prasad,
      Indira Chandrashekhar, Jawed Naqvi, Javed Akhtar,
      Alyque Padamsee, Vijay Tendulkar and 500 others

      CD Reveals Hate Driven Mindset of the BJP


      The Undersigned

      o o o


      TO: The Union Home Minister - (Fax) 23794833 /
      Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh - (Email)
      cm@... (Fax) 0522-2239234; 0522-2235733

      Dear Sir,


      We are absolutely horrified by the shocking
      attempt of the BJP to launch a hate campaign
      against Muslims with the intent of gathering
      Hindu vote in the coming Assembly polls in UP.
      I/We have gone through the contents of the
      complaint lodged by Ms. Teesta Setalvad and
      others with the CEC's head office in New Delhi
      this morning on behalf of all peace-loving
      citizens and are in total agreement with its
      contents and specific demands.

      We have already petitioned the Chief Election
      Commissioner, urging stringent action on his part
      as per the provisions of the Representation of
      People's Act. But the sinister design of the BJP
      leadership is also a serious criminal offence
      (inciting hatred against a particular community).

      We therefore urge you to take immediate steps for
      a criminal prosecution of the BJP for its
      nefarious bid to divide India on religious lines.

      Yours truly,

      Please add your and your organisations's name




      ARPIL 5, 2007

      Delegation of Internally Displaced meets NHRC.
      Election Commission and National Minority

      A delegation of Internally Displaced persons from
      Gujarat met The Election Commission, NHRC and the
      National Minority Commission.

      1. The delegation met the election commissioners
      Mr. SY Quraishi and Mr Naveen Chawla and the
      Chief Electoral Officer of Gujarat Shri Vinod
      Babbar. The delegation explained in detail the
      problems faced by the internally displaced in
      exercising their franchise since they were
      ordinarily residence of the displaced colonies
      and their original documents had been all
      destroyed during the Gujarat carnage 2002, hence
      they were unable to vote in the last state
      election and subsequent local body elections.

      The commission was extremely forthcoming and
      promised to insure that each of the eligible
      voters would be registered and issued photo
      identity cards in their present residence after a
      special team does a door to door survey and
      requested the Antarik Visthapit Hak Rakshak
      Samiti (AVHRS) to provide a comprehensive list of
      the eligible voters. Mr Q and C instructed Mr
      Vinod Babbar to coordinate and insure
      implementation at the earliest.

      2. The delegation met the newly appointed
      Chairperson of the NHRC Shri Ram Babu and
      apprised him of the present situation of the
      internally displaced as well as the ongoing human
      rights violations in Gujarat against the
      minorities. The AVHRS gave a charter of demands
      and requested the intervention of NHRC in
      ensuring the security of the minorities and
      appropriate rehabilitation as per earlier
      directives of NHRC. The chairperson assured the
      delegation that he would take it up on a top
      priority. Some members of the delegation gave
      their personal testimonies of the continued
      violence and discrimination by the state

      3. The delegation then met the chairperson of the
      National Commission for Minorities Shri Hamid
      Ansari and urged him to take forward the
      unfinished task of ensuring a special package for
      the internally displaced which the NCM has
      recommended in its report to the Prime Minister,
      which was demanded by the Antarik Visthapit Hak
      Rakshak Samiti and endorsed by an eminent jury
      including an NCM member on first February 1, 2007
      at the Convention of internally displaced at
      Ahmedabad attended by 3500 internally displaced.
      Shri Ansari expressed concern at the ongoing
      discrimination against the minorities in Gujarat
      and assured the delegation that NCM will take up
      with appropriate authorities the demand of a
      special package for the internally displaced.

      Yusuf Shaikh, (Convenor, Antarik Visthapit Hak
      Rakshak Samiti, Gujarat) 09898990823. Gagan Sethi
      (Janvikas, Ahmedabad) 09824023209. Shabnam Hashmi
      (Anhad, Delhi) 9811807558. Farah Naqvi (Writer &
      Activist, Delhi) 9811105521



      Against the backdrop of the announcement of the
      compensation package for the victims of the
      Gujarat Carnage 2002 by the Cabinet on March 22nd
      2007, over 250 survivors of the carnage from 8
      districts across Gujarat gathered to testify
      about the plight of internally displaced
      survivors before an eminent panel in Delhi. The
      panel comprised: Justice Ahmadi (former Chief
      Justice of India), Prof Zoya Hassan (Member
      National Commission for Minorities), Siddharth
      Varadarajan (Deputy Editor, The Hindu), Sagarika
      Ghose, (CNN-IBN), B.N. Yugandhar (Member,
      Planning Commission). The event was organized by
      the Antrik Visthapit Hak Rakshak Samiti.

      The testimonies were organized around four key
      issues that internally displaced riot victims are
      currently struggling against, namely: Denial of
      justice by the State and the Police; Absence and
      exclusion of livelihoods opportunities; Problems
      of women and children; lack of basic facilities
      and infrastructure in the relief colonies.

      Speakers on the first theme highlighted the
      complete denial of justice and the continuing
      insecurity under which they continue to live.
      Several speakers spoke about how officials do not
      respond to their requests, application and
      personal representations.

      In the second session on livelihoods, speakers
      highlighted the dire situation under which they
      were living - without basic amenities, no
      livelihoods and often barely eating one square
      meal a day. Yusuf Bhai Vohra who had a
      flourishing business before the riots spoke
      powerfully about his present situation, "I had a
      lot of dreams for my sons who were also involved
      in the business. Now, I am working as a driver
      and my sons are cleaners. We barely earn Rs. 2000
      a month. When I go to the Government asking for
      work they ask me to dig trenches. Don't I have
      the right to be restored my earlier livelihood
      options." Speaker after speaker throughout the
      day testified to the fact that their assets and
      businesses had not been restored, if at all they
      had received compensation it was far less than
      what they had claimed and they continue to face
      economic and social boycott.

      In the third session women victims spoke
      passionately about the specific difficulties that
      they are facing. Sultana from Kasimabad colony in
      Kalol spoke about being sexually assaulted and
      though she has been filed a case there has been
      no judgment. Yasmin from Ahmedabad raised the
      question, "What will happen to women who were
      sexually assaulted and molested and who have had
      the courage to speak out. There is no
      compensation for this. And the present package
      does not acknowledge sexual assault as a crime
      that requires compensation." Hazra Husain Bhai
      Sheikh from Vadodara now living in Godhra
      responded to the package saying - "While there
      is compensation for the dead, what about all of
      us the living dead?"

      In the fourth session on basic amenities the
      speakers provided detailed examples of the
      complete absence any civic amenities -
      electricity, no roads, no access to schooling.
      Shabnam, who was in the 11th standard at time of
      the riots, gave up her education. She has
      recently rejoined school. She said, "I now walk
      5-6 kms to go to school. When it rains the entire
      colony gets flooded. I am sometime unable to go
      school for 15 days at a time."

      Gagan Sethi from Jan Vikas one of the organizers
      highlighted the need for including internal
      displacement within the development agenda and
      the need for a policy. He said, " We welcome
      this package and are happy. But this package is
      about the past. We are talking about the future.
      The package should be reorganized to address the
      current needs of the survivors which should
      include food security, housing, basic amenities
      and livelihoods." He also stressed the point that
      violence against women needs to be recognized as
      a crime and an injury.


      The jury responded and made some suggestions:

      Justice Ahmadi said that he had been moved by all
      the testimonies he had heard and was upset that
      no remorse or regret had been expressed. He said,
      "Women require special treatment. Every woman
      should be given a BPL card." He highlighted the
      need for a liberal rehabilitation package which
      should set standards. He said that the Gujarat
      government should be reminded that they had set
      up a special rehabilitation colony for Gujarati's
      displaced by the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.

      Zoya Hasan said that things had moved even this
      far because of the survivors struggles,
      persistence and resilience. She welcomed the
      package but suggested that the package be
      reorganized so that is rehabilitation package and
      not just a compensation package. She mentioned
      that because of the insecurity survivors have not
      been able to return to your residences and
      businesses which is unique. She offered that the
      Minorities Commission could assist in this
      process. She also stressed the need for a further
      package for those who would not benefit from the
      present package.

      Mr Yugandhar said given the increase in civil
      strife in the country, a policy for internal
      displacement was essential and that he would
      recommend this to the Home Ministry. He also said
      that the planning commission would try and ensure
      that the basic minimum needs, amenities and
      infrastructure in the colonies and resources for
      livelihood opportunities are provided.

      Mr Siddharth Vardarajan said that this struggle
      was important not only for the victims of the
      Gujarat Carnage but was relevant for Kashmiri
      Pandits and other displaced people across the
      country. A regime that is not capable to protect
      its citizens does not have the moral authority to
      remain in power. The compensation package should
      be liberal and should set standards."

      Charter of Demands

      We the internally displaced people (in our own
      country), who have congregated here in Ahmedabad
      today, on 1 st February 2007, representing
      approximately 5000 families, 69 colonies and
      23,000 people, demand recognition first as
      Citizens of the Republic Of India with a basic
      Right to life with Dignity. Our own State Govt
      has failed to protect our lives and property and
      guarantee a safe return to our original place of
      While we acknowledge the role of the various
      Commissions and some Civil Society organisations,
      we realize that till today our lives have only
      worsened and insecurity only deepened. We have
      organized ourselves to seek redresal, reparation
      and take charge of our own struggle.
      [. . . ]



      INSAF Bulletin 60
      April 2007


      by Vinod Mubayi and Daya Varma

      [In the December 2006 issue of INSAF Bulletin, we
      argued that Maoists were not a major threat to
      India. In the March issue we wrote that
      globalization is also not the most important
      threat to India. In this final article of the
      series, we express our position that Hindutva
      poses the greatest threat to India. Editors]

      Hindutva is a political ideology that has become
      entrenched in the consciousness of a very
      significant segment of the politically active
      Indian population over the last two decades. Due
      to specific historical reasons, Hindutva is
      concentrated, politically, in the western states
      of Gujarat and Maharashtra, and the northern and
      central states of Delhi, U.P., Uttaranchal,
      Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand, and, to
      a lesser extent, in Bihar and Orissa. As a
      political force, Hindutva has made less headway
      in the south, although it is attempting to become
      a force in Karnataka, where its political wing,
      the Bharatiya Janata Party or BJP, is part of the
      coalition that rules the state. In the east,
      Hindutva has long been stymied in West Bengal by
      the political dominance of the Left Front.
      However, it has pockets of influence in Assam
      although local and regional factors play a larger
      role in the politics of India's north-east region.

      Hindutva can be considered to be an extremist
      form of nationalism, which uses religious,
      racial, and cultural slogans for strictly
      political ends. Historically, Hindutva took its
      early inspiration from European fascism in the
      early decades of the 20th century. B.S. Moonje,
      one of the progenitors of Hindutva visited
      Mussolini's Italy and was greatly impressed by
      what he observed there. Guru Golwalkar, the
      Supreme Leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
      or RSS, was full of praise for Hitler and the
      exaltation of racial purity in fascist Germany.

      The RSS is the ideological nerve center of
      Hindutva which coordinates the work of the
      parliamentary political arm, the BJP, the
      cultural and social mobilization wing, the Vishwa
      Hindu Parishad or World Hindu Council, the
      paramilitary storm-troopers, such as the Bajrang
      Dal, Bharatiya Mazdoor Sabha (the largest and the
      fastest growing trade Union overtaking the
      combined strength of the trade unions of
      Communist Party of India [CPI] and CPI[Marxist]),
      Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (student wing),
      and a vast array of propaganda and outreach
      groups and organizations along with groups
      devoted to fundraising. The thousands of
      elementary schools run by the RSS, the Ekal
      Vidyalayas, carry out ideological indoctrination
      of village children in many areas where the state
      governments have failed to fulfill their mandate
      to provide primary education. This apparatus has
      been erected over several decades but it received
      a huge boost in the 1970s and later in the 1990s.

      The Hindutva organizations, the RSS and the Hindu
      Mahasabha, played no role in the freedom struggle
      against the British Raj, in fact their only role
      was as minor collaborators of British rule.
      Shortly after independence their deep involvement
      in the planning and execution of the
      assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, led to their
      marginalization in Indian politics in the early
      post-independence decades. However, Hindutva was
      brought into the mainstream by the veteran
      socialist leader Jaya Prakash Narayan
      particularly in the campaign against the
      dictatorial Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in
      1975, which repressed all political groups in
      India ranging from the far left to the far right.
      It gained further respectability when leaders of
      the erstwhile Jan Sangh, the predecessor of the
      BJP, were inducted in the Central Government
      after the defeat of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress (I)
      party in the 1977 elections. Although the
      political fortunes of the BJP in terms of
      parliamentary seats fluctuated in the 1980s, the
      growth of Hindutva as an ideology acquired
      dominance amongst sections of the urban Hindu
      middle classes as a result of the Mandal
      agitation, which brought into question the entire
      RSS strategy of uniting the "Hindu nation" under
      a core, upper-caste ideology, the Ramjanamabhoomi
      agitation leading to the destruction of the Babri
      mosque and the numerous Hindu-Muslim riots which
      witnessed violence being wreaked mainly on
      minorities by goons from the Bajrang Dal or the
      Shiv Sena as well as their sympathizers in the
      police forces.

      Violence in fact is central to the Hindutva
      project of achieving a Hindu rashtra (nation).
      'Hinduism' is viewed as constantly under threat
      from "outside" forces that, depending on context,
      can range from other religions like Islam and
      Christianity, other countries, such as Pakistan,
      other cultures, such as the "West" in general, or
      from people within the larger Hindu community who
      believe in pluralism or secularism and are dubbed
      as "Hindu-haters." Violence against all of these
      is justified in the mind of Hindutva's followers
      as a form of "self-defense". Documentary films
      like Anand Patwardhan's "Ram ke Naam" shows one
      of these violent young followers saying "hum
      kuchh bhi kar sakte hain" (we can do anything)
      when asked what tactics are permissible against
      those who oppose them. This is indeed a classic
      Nazi, fascistic type of thinking.

      The advent of the NDA regime in the late 1990s,
      headed by the BJP, gave a big fillip to Hindutva
      as now they had become the ruling force at the
      Centre and they utilized it to the full at all
      cultural, educational, social, and political
      levels. This rule witnessed the horrifying
      "pogrom" in Gujarat in 2002 when the whole
      machinery of the state was harnessed to the
      destruction of the Gujarati Muslim community,
      including mass murder in particularly brutal
      ways, wanton destruction and looting of minority
      property, violent ethnic cleansing by the
      wholesale removal of minorities from
      neighborhoods where they had lived for centuries,
      and the refusal to hold anyone responsible for
      these violent acts.

      Fortunately, the people of India, reflecting the
      heterogeneous and diverse nature of Indian
      society, rejected the one nation, one culture,
      one religion approach of RSS and defeated the
      BJP-led coalition in the 2004 national election.
      But this defeat may be undone at any later
      election as the factors underlying Hindutva
      ideology are all very much there. The
      parliamentary Left in India, including CPI and
      CPM, is the only consistent political opposition
      to Hindutva. All other parties, including
      Congress, compromise to varying degrees with
      Hindutva ideology or politics depending on
      context. The Left gained in the 2004 elections
      and made further gains in 2006 in its strongholds
      of West Bengal and Kerala. Recently, however, a
      curious coalition ranging from far left to right
      and somewhat reminiscent of the JP-coalition in
      1974-75 has formed in West Bengal against the CPM
      on the issue of economic policy, in p<br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.