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SACW | Jan. 1-3, 2008 / Pakistan's Khaki President / End of the ceasefire in Srilanka / Fascists strike in Orissa

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  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | January 1 - 3, 2008 | Dispatch No. 2483 - Year 10 running [1] Pakistan: (i) My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves better than
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 3, 2008
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      South Asia Citizens Wire | January 1 - 3, 2008 |
      Dispatch No. 2483 - Year 10 running

      [1] Pakistan:
      (i) My heart bleeds for Pakistan. It deserves
      better than this grotesque feudal charade (Tariq
      Ali)
      (ii) Khaki president (Zia Mian and A H Nayyar)
      (iii) HRCP assails vigilantes
      [2] Sri Lanka:
      - Abrogation of Ceasefire Agreement Will Escalate
      Spiral of Violence (National Peace Council)
      - War Against Terrorism is Leading to More Terror
      [3] India - Freedom of Expression: Obscene
      distinction (Editorial, Indian Express)
      [4] India's AFSPA : Democracy, Hang Down Your Head And Cry (Nandita Haksar)
      [5] India - Gujarat: Understanding the Electoral victory of the Hindu right
      - Why Gujarat Is Special (Praful Bidwai)
      - Congress' soft-Hindutva is destroying pluralism (Kuldip Nayar)
      - Gujarat Elections And Aftermath (Asghar Ali Engineer)
      [6] India - Orissa: Hindutva in Action
      - Fascists strike in Orissa (Kashmir Times, Edit)
      - Orissa: Anti Christian Violence (Ram Puniyani )
      [7] Announcements:
      (i) HRCP consultation National Agenda the civil
      society (Lahore, 4 January 2008)
      (ii) upcoming Telecast of Amar Kanwar's film
      'Baphlimali 173' (on NDTV, 3 and 6 January 2008)
      (iii) CNDP 3rd national convention (Nagpur, February 1 - 3 2008)

      ______


      [1] Pakistan:

      (i)

      The Independent
      31 December 2007

      MY HEART BLEEDS FOR PAKISTAN. IT DESERVES BETTER
      THAN THIS GROTESQUE FEUDAL CHARADE

      by Tariq Ali, Pakistan-born writer, broadcaster and commentator

      Six hours before she was executed, Mary, Queen of
      Scots wrote to her brother-in-law, Henry III of
      France: "...As for my son, I commend him to you
      in so far as he deserves, for I cannot answer for
      him." The year was 1587.

      On 30 December 2007, a conclave of feudal
      potentates gathered in the home of the slain
      Benazir Bhutto to hear her last will and
      testament being read out and its contents
      subsequently announced to the world media. Where
      Mary was tentative, her modern-day equivalent
      left no room for doubt. She could certainly
      answer for her son.

      A triumvirate consisting of her husband, Asif
      Zardari (one of the most venal and discredited
      politicians in the country and still facing
      corruption charges in three European courts) and
      two ciphers will run the party till Benazir's
      19-year-old son, Bilawal, comes of age. He will
      then become chairperson-for-life and, no doubt,
      pass it on to his children. The fact that this is
      now official does not make it any less grotesque.
      The Pakistan People's Party is being treated as a
      family heirloom, a property to be disposed of at
      the will of its leader.

      Nothing more, nothing less. Poor Pakistan. Poor
      People's Party supporters. Both deserve better
      than this disgusting, medieval charade.

      Benazir's last decision was in the same
      autocratic mode as its predecessors, an approach
      that would cost her - tragically - her own life.
      Had she heeded the advice of some party leaders
      and not agreed to the Washington-brokered deal
      with Pervez Musharraf or, even later, decided to
      boycott his parliamentary election she might
      still have been alive. Her last gift to the
      country does not augur well for its future.

      How can Western-backed politicians be taken
      seriously if they treat their party as a fiefdom
      and their supporters as serfs, while their
      courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties
      concerning the young prince and his future.

      That most of the PPP inner circle consists of
      spineless timeservers leading frustrated and
      melancholy lives is no excuse. All this could be
      transformed if inner-party democracy was
      implemented. There is a tiny layer of
      incorruptible and principled politicians inside
      the party, but they have been sidelined. Dynastic
      politics is a sign of weakness, not strength.
      Benazir was fond of comparing her family to the
      Kennedys, but chose to ignore that the Democratic
      Party, despite an addiction to big money, was not
      the instrument of any one family.

      The issue of democracy is enormously important in
      a country that has been governed by the military
      for over half of its life. Pakistan is not a
      "failed state" in the sense of the Congo or
      Rwanda. It is a dysfunctional state and has been
      in this situation for almost four decades.

      At the heart of this dysfunctionality is the
      domination by the army and each period of
      military rule has made things worse. It is this
      that has prevented political stability and the
      emergence of stable institutions. Here the US
      bears direct responsibility, since it has always
      regarded the military as the only institution it
      can do business with and, unfortunately, still
      does so. This is the rock that has focused choppy
      waters into a headlong torrent.

      The military's weaknesses are well known and have
      been amply documented. But the politicians are
      not in a position to cast stones. After all, Mr
      Musharraf did not pioneer the assault on the
      judiciary so conveniently overlooked by the US
      Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, and
      the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. The first
      attack on the Supreme Court was mounted by Nawaz
      Sharif's goons who physically assaulted judges
      because they were angered by a decision that ran
      counter to their master's interests when he was
      prime minister.

      Some of us had hoped that, with her death, the
      People's Party might start a new chapter. After
      all, one of its main leaders, Aitzaz Ahsan,
      president of the Bar Association, played a heroic
      role in the popular movement against the
      dismissal of the chief justice. Mr Ahsan was
      arrested during the emergency and kept in
      solitary confinement. He is still under house
      arrest in Lahore. Had Benazir been capable of
      thinking beyond family and faction she should
      have appointed him chairperson pending elections
      within the party. No such luck.

      The result almost certainly will be a split in
      the party sooner rather than later. Mr Zardari
      was loathed by many activists and held
      responsible for his wife's downfall. Once
      emotions have subsided, the horror of the
      succession will hit the many traditional PPP
      followers except for its most reactionary
      segment: bandwagon careerists desperate to make a
      fortune.

      All this could have been avoided, but the deadly
      angel who guided her when she was alive was,
      alas, not too concerned with democracy. And now
      he is in effect leader of the party.

      Meanwhile there is a country in crisis. Having
      succeeded in saving his own political skin by
      imposing a state of emergency, Mr Musharraf still
      lacks legitimacy. Even a rigged election is no
      longer possible on 8 January despite the stern
      admonitions of President George Bush and his
      unconvincing Downing Street adjutant. What is
      clear is that the official consensus on who
      killed Benazir is breaking down, except on BBC
      television. It has now been made public that,
      when Benazir asked the US for a Karzai-style
      phalanx of privately contracted former US Marine
      bodyguards, the suggestion was contemptuously
      rejected by the Pakistan government, which saw it
      as a breach of sovereignty.

      Now both Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph
      Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations
      Committee, are pinning the convict's badge on Mr
      Musharraf and not al-Qa'ida for the murder, a
      sure sign that sections of the US establishment
      are thinking of dumping the President.

      Their problem is that, with Benazir dead, the
      only other alternative for them is General Ashraf
      Kiyani, head of the army. Nawaz Sharif is seen as
      a Saudi poodle and hence unreliable, though,
      given the US-Saudi alliance, poor Mr Sharif is
      puzzled as to why this should be the case. For
      his part, he is ready to do Washiongton's bidding
      but would prefer the Saudi King rather than Mr
      Musharraf to be the imperial message-boy.

      A solution to the crisis is available. This would
      require Mr Musharraf's replacement by a less
      contentious figure, an all-party government of
      unity to prepare the basis for genuine elections
      within six months, and the reinstatement of the
      sacked Supreme Court judges to investigate
      Benazir's murder without fear or favour. It would
      be a start.

      o o o

      (ii)

      Himal - January 2008

      KHAKI PRESIDENT

      President Musharraf should step down before the 8
      January polls. But since that seems unlikely,
      Pakistan's citizens and the international
      community must force him to make the elections
      free and fair.

      by Zia Mian and A H Nayyar

      http://www.himalmag.com/2008/january/cover_khaki_president.html

      o o o

      (iii)

      HRCP ASSAILS VIGILANTES

      Lahore, January 01: The Human Rights Commission
      of Pakistan (HRCP) has called for immediate
      disbandment of vigilante squads maintained by the
      establishment or its favourite political party as
      their interference with citizens' normal affairs
      is not only unlawful it would lead to chaos. In a
      statement issued here today HRCP said:

      On Monday night (Dec. 31) a most deplorable
      incident took place in Gulberg area. A few young
      girls, including Muneeza Jahangir, HRCP
      Chairperson's daughter and a well-known TV
      producer / reporter, accompanied by a couple of
      young men, decided to take photographs of some
      election posters. Suddenly a bunch of armed
      toughs pounced upon them, mercilessly beat up a
      young man, dragged the girls and shut them up in
      the office of the son of the outgoing Punjab
      Chief Minister.

      The armed goons abused the girls and threatened
      them by pointing their guns at them, and offered
      the same treatment to Ms. Asma Jahangir when she
      arrived at the scene to rescue the girls. These
      men had no right or authority to resort to
      violence and imprison their victims in private
      premises.

      Worse, the culprits seemed to enjoy local
      authorities' patronage and were reportedly backed
      by a couple of police constables in uniform.
      HRCP calls for immediate disbandment of all such
      private storm-troopers as their unlawful
      activities will pose a serious threat to
      citizens' life and security and plunge society
      into a total chaos. The interim rulers must
      probe the matter and call the guilty to account,
      that is, if they have the power to do so.

      Iqbal Haider
      Secretary-General
      HRCP


      _____


      [2]

      National Peace Council
      of Sri Lanka
      12/14 Purana Vihara Road
      Colombo 6
      Tel: 2818344, 2854127, 2819064
      Tel/Fax:2819064
      E Mail: npc@...
      Internet: www.peace-srilanka.org


      03.01.08

      Media Release 1

      ABROGATION OF CEASEFIRE AGREEMENT WILL ESCALATE SPIRAL OF VIOLENCE

      The government has announced that it will
      abrogate the Norwegian-facilitated Ceasefire
      Agreement (CFA) signed with the LTTE in 2002 on
      account of the ground reality where conditions of
      continuing war and terror prevail. For the past
      two years the government and LTTE have been
      engaging in a high level of hostilities
      tantamount to war, including the overrunning of
      forward defense lines, capture of territory,
      artillery, sea and air bombing, and large scale
      displacement of people and violations of human
      rights.

      The government's decision follows repeated
      demands by the JVP and other nationalist parties
      for the abrogation of the CFA. Government members
      have said that the peace process and political
      talks will continue with non-LTTE Tamil parties.
      While there is a need to include non-LTTE Tamil
      parties in political talks, it cannot be done at
      the cost of eliminating the LTTE from the
      dialogue. The danger inherent in the government's
      position, especially in the event of a total
      rejection of the past peace process with the
      LTTE, is that it is paving the way for a fight to
      the finish where the costs can be terribly high,
      success is not guaranteed, and no fall back
      position will be available.

      It is also likely that the role played by the Sri
      Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) established under
      the CFA will also come to an end with the
      abrogation of the Ceasefire Agreement. Although
      the international monitors of the SLMM were
      unable to prevent acts of war and human rights
      violations from taking place, they were able to
      be physically present in the conflict zones and
      record incidents and report them to the
      conflicting parties and the international
      community. The Governmentís rejection of a UN
      Human Rights field presence, the inability of the
      Commission of Inquiry (COI) and the International
      Independent Group of Eminent Persons (IIGEP) to
      make meaningful progress in discharging their
      mandates, and the recent downgrading of the
      National Human Rights Commission, combine to
      place respect for human rights in Sri Lanka in
      further jeopardy.

      The National Peace Council regrets that the
      abrogation of the CFA in the present
      circumstances will deprive the hapless civilians
      within the conflict zones with a credible
      authority to lodge complaints. This will also
      reduce the flow of credible information to the
      world outside. This lacuna will constrain the
      work of human rights and peace groups who have
      been pressing the conflicting parties to address
      the issues of impunity and end the violations of
      human rights.

      The National Peace Council is dismayed and deeply
      concerned at the situation in the country at the
      beginning of the New Year which has included the
      assassination of an opposition politician
      belonging to the largest opposition party who
      spoke of the agony of the Tamil people, the
      bombing of an army bus in the heart of Colombo
      that killed civilians and now by the abrogation
      of the CFA and the negation of the institutions
      it set up. We can only pray and hope that this
      period of war and terror will soon come to an
      end, and rationality and concern for human rights
      takes the conflicting parties back to the
      negotiating table and to end all armed
      hostilities, political assassinations and other
      criminal acts.

      Media Release 2

      WAR AGAINST TERRORISM IS LEADING TO MORE TERROR

      The assassination of Colombo district
      Parliamentarian Thiagarajah Maheswaran inside a
      Hindu temple in Colombo on New Year's Day is a
      shocking manifestation of the utter disregard for
      civilised norms that has taken a grip over the
      country in the context of its civil strife. This
      killing was similar to the one carried out two
      years ago in a Catholic church in Batticaloa on
      Christmas day when Batticaloa district
      Parliamentarian Joseph Pararajasingham was
      assassinated.

      The National Peace Council condemns the
      assassination of a politician who was dedicated
      to non-violent politics and who was a member of
      the multi ethnic and largest opposition party,
      the UNP. As a former Jaffna district
      Parliamentarian, he also had the courage to speak
      out publicly about the sufferings of the people
      of Jaffna, who are being subjected to a climate
      of terror in the present phase of the conflict in
      which extra judicial killings are taking place on
      a regular basis. In his last televised interview
      a few days ago, Mr Maheswaran said he would
      reveal details about the Jaffna situation in
      Parliament at its next sittings.

      We should stress the fact that there is no
      accountability today in this country since not a
      single such assassination has led to the arrest
      and conviction of the murderers. A climate of
      killing with impunity has now taken hold. As the
      alleged perpetrator is in custody in hospital at
      present unlike in other cases, this provides an
      opportunity to identifying not only the one who
      carried out the assassination but also those who
      ordered this killing. Maximum security needs to
      be provided to him and an open and transparent
      investigation carried out and concluded without
      delay. Failure to do so would be a serious
      indictment on the government on its commitment to
      upholding the rule of law in practice.

      The most important duty of a state is to enforce
      the law and bring to book those who violate the
      law. The failure of the Security Forces to
      apprehend perpetrators of so many recent
      instances of violence could cast reflection on
      their inefficiency and capability, while
      encouraging vigilantes to take action with
      impunity. These situations would strengthen and
      validate international pressure for a UN Human
      Rights monitoring field presence in the country.

      We also express our concern at the government's
      practice of reducing the security provided to
      politicians under threat and who have been
      critical of the government. Mr Maheswaran's
      security was reportedly reduced from 18 to 2
      personnel last month. We note that Colombo
      district Parliamentarian Mano Ganeshan , who has
      championed the cause of the victims of human
      rights abuses especially the disappeared and the
      abducted, has appealed to the government to
      restore his security, and is now reportedly out
      of the country on account of the threats to his
      life.

      The killing of democratic Tamil politicians is
      taking place alongside the government's attempt
      to militarily defeat the LTTE. Mr Maheswaran is
      the third Tamil parliamentarian to be
      assassinated in the past two years, along with Mr
      Pararajasingam and Mr Nadarajah Raviraj who
      represented the Jaffna district and was
      assassinated in Colombo. Investigations into both
      these assassinations have not led to any
      convictions by the government and remain
      inconclusive.

      Several government leaders have described the New
      Year as being one of war in which terrorism will
      be finally defeated. However the remote
      controlled claymore mine attack on a military bus
      in the heart of Colombo's business area on the
      day following New Year's day, and the killing of
      at least four persons, three of whom were
      civilians, is an indication of the high price
      that the country will be called upon to pay. The
      National Peace Council condemns this suspected
      LTTE attack, especially as it was in a crowded
      civilian area, and could have led to many more
      fatalities to innocent life.

      The violent incidents at the very beginning of
      the New Year are likely to be an indicator of
      worse to come not only in Colombo but also in the
      conflict zones of the north and east. The
      National Peace Council urges all parties involved
      in the conflict to ensure the protection of
      civilian lives by following the Geneva
      Conventions. We also reiterate our long standing
      call to the government and LTTE to stop the
      bloodshed and resolve the ethnic conflict through
      political means.


      Executive Director
      On behalf of Governing Council

      _____


      [3]

      Indian Express
      January 03, 2008
      Editorial

      OBSCENE DISTINCTION

      Advice to reinstate Baroda dean is welcome. But
      why be so apologetic about the artist's freedom?

      The Indian Express

      : The three-member committee constituted by the
      Gujarat governor to investigate the row over the
      'obscene' painting at Baroda's MS University last
      year rightly recommends that the suspension of
      Shivaji Panikkar be revoked. The acting dean of
      the university's prestigious Fine Arts Faculty
      was forced to step down when he defended his
      student Chandramohan Srilamantula against the
      attack mounted by a mob on the university
      premises. The committee also does well to advise
      that Chandramohan be taken back and judged for
      his work. The indictment of the university
      authorities for their dereliction of duty in the
      face of hooliganism was also long overdue. Yet
      the sense is unavoidable: the committee does not
      go far enough. It bases its conclusions and
      recommendations on the fact that Chandramohan's
      painting was part of an internal examination. As
      a report in this paper has pointed out, committee
      members were of the view that the word 'obscene'
      could have been used had the works been part of a
      public display. This is a half-hearted defence of
      the freedom of expression.

      It is true that the fundamental right to freedom
      of speech and expression is constitutionally
      subject to reasonable restrictions. Yet, even a
      cursory look at recent episodes when it has been
      sought to be curtailed in our country would
      illustrate how far the balance has tilted towards
      an unreasonably restrictive environment. The onus
      is always on the artist and writer to explain
      themselves while the agitators who are acting in
      the name of "the people" always roam free. First
      the attack is carried out, and then before the
      victim can react, cases are filed against the
      victim and rarely against the perpetrators. These
      cases - filed under some problematic sections of
      the penal code that were intended as safeguards
      against hate speech and are now mostly misused -
      drag on. The hounding of M.F. Husain is a perfect
      case in point.

      This pattern repeats itself with the complicity
      of the state. Governments in India, particularly
      at the Centre, have repeatedly caved in before
      the mob. The faint-hearted hospitality that the
      UPA has offered to Bangladeshi writer Taslima
      Nasreen is only the latest example. In such an
      environment, an eminent committee comprising two
      academics and an artist should have stood up for
      Chandramohan's freedom to express himself in the
      public space - and not just within the university
      boundaries - without being threatened with
      violence.



      ______


      [4]

      Outlook Magazine
      Magazine | Jan 14, 2008


      This extreme protest in July 2004 caught the
      nation's eye, but was preceded by decades-long
      atrocities under the Armed Forces Act
      MY INDIA STORY
      DEMOCRACY, HANG DOWN YOUR HEAD AND CRY
      A young man's painful death in a Manipur village;
      an indelible taint on the Indian dream ...
      Nandita Haksar


      It was in August 1982 when I first went to
      Ukhrul, in Manipur, and saw that the India of
      Nehru's dream was a nightmare for the Naga people
      there. The realisation did not come all at once.
      At first I thought incidents of torture, rape and
      murder were isolated human rights violations by
      Indian security forces. I realised much later
      that what I witnessed 26 years ago was in fact
      the dark, ugly side of nation-building in our
      country.

      I had gone to Ukhrul, home of the Tangkhul Nagas,
      on the invitation of a Naga women's organisation.
      It had invited a women's fact-finding team from
      Delhi to document human rights violations
      committed by Indian security forces, in the
      aftermath of an ambush by the newly-formed
      National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN).

      We travelled to villages nestled in hills,
      surrounded by a profusion of colourful cosmos
      flowers amidst maize fields, and were overwhelmed
      by their beauty.

      One scene remains etched in my mind, vivid in all the grotesque details.
      It was in a small wooden house where we witnessed
      a young Tangkhul woman watch the slow, painful
      death of her husband. The soldiers of the 21 Sikh
      Regiment had beaten him so severely that the
      x-ray revealed that his lungs, liver, heart and
      stomach were irreparably damaged. The hospital at
      Imphal had expressed helplessness, so the family
      had brought him home. The couple had been married
      for just six months. He was a healthy, strong,
      handsome man, the captain of the village football
      team. Now he lay with his stomach hideously
      bloated, a living corpse.

      We learnt that these atrocities were being
      committed by the Indian security forces under the
      protection of the Armed Forces (Special Powers)
      Act, 1958.
      Pt G.B. Pant, India's first home minister,
      explained that the Act was needed to deal with
      the "misguided Nagas" indulging in "mischievous
      activities". Many legislators had then objected
      to the Act because they felt it grossly violated
      the letter and spirit

      of the Constitution. One MP, Jaipal Singh, had
      pointed out: "This problem began about eight
      years ago when the prime minister himself refused
      to meet the original rebel." Singh warned that
      "martial law was being made into ordinary law."

      Thus the Nagas lived under virtual military rule
      in a democratic India. Their democratic
      aspirations were sought to be crushed under the
      heels of military repression.

      I felt the real problem was to get the truth out
      in the open. We released the report and the Nagas
      were particularly happy to see that it got
      widespread publicity. Perhaps encouraged by this
      effort, the Nagas decided after long
      deliberations to allow me to file two cases in
      the Supreme Court. It was the first time that the
      Nagas willingly submitted themselves to the
      jurisdiction of an Indian court of law.

      I had just started practising law and I deeply
      believed in the legal system's ability to deliver
      justice. I filed the two cases, one challenging
      the constitutional validity of the Armed Forces
      (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) and another a habeas
      corpus petition on behalf of two Tangkhul Naga
      widows I had met in Ukhrul whose husbands had
      disappeared after being picked up by the security
      forces. It was the first case to have been filed
      by the Nagas against the Indian armed forces. My
      client was Sebastian Hongray, a member of the
      then recently formed Naga Peoples' Movement for
      Human Rights (NPMHR).

      The Supreme Court gave its judgement in the
      habeas corpus petition: the two widows were to be
      given Rs 1 lakh each as compensation. It was the
      highest award ever given and the case became a
      precedent.

      The Supreme Court did not, however, give its
      verdict on the Act itself at that time. It would
      take another 13 years before that judgement was
      delivered. In the meantime, punitive actions
      under the Act were taken in nearly every part of
      the Northeast, leaving a trail of death and
      destruction.

      In 1988, the NPMHR once again called me to
      represent them in another case. This time, the
      Indian security forces had committed unspeakable
      atrocities against Poumei Nagas living in Oinam
      and its surrounding villages of Senapati district
      in Manipur. The atrocities included forcing two
      pregnant women to give birth in the open
      playground in front of the jawans.

      I gave up my practice in the Supreme Court and
      went to Imphal to fight the case. It took over
      three years of struggle in the courts of Gauhati
      and Imphal to complete the proceedings, which
      involved taking the judges through 10,000 pages
      of evidence. But before the judges could give
      their judgement they were transferred; both have
      since retired. The people are still waiting for
      justice.

      Since we had exhausted all domestic remedies, we
      decided to go the UN Human Rights Committee and
      put our case before it. Sebastian and I lobbied
      with the Committee in March 1991 in New York and
      members of the UN Committee expressed their
      apprehension that the AFSPA not only contravened
      the provisions of the criminal law but also the
      Indian Constitution and international human
      rights laws.

      Despite demands from people in the Northeast and
      criticism of the international community, the
      Supreme Court upheld the constitutional validity
      of the AFSPA in 1997. By that time, a similar Act
      had been extended to Jammu and Kashmir and it had
      been used shortly in Punjab. I had personally
      visited both the states and seen for myself the
      barbaric acts committed by our armed forces there.

      Seven years later, the entire country woke up to
      find a shocking, dramatic photograph plastered on
      front pages of newspapers: some 40 naked Manipuri
      women with a massive banner screaming: "Indian
      Army Rape Us". They were protesting the rape and
      murder of a 32-year-old Meitei woman, Thangjam
      Manorama, by the Assam Rifles.

      The Centre was forced to set up a review
      committee on the AFSPA. The government promised
      to repeal the Act, but before that the provisions
      of the Act were incorporated into the Communal
      Violence (Suppression) Bill, 2005. The entire
      country could now be effectively placed under
      martial law. The Indian dream is turning into an
      Indian nightmare.

      Nandita Haksar is a Supreme Court lawyer and human rights activist.


      ______



      [5] Gujarat:

      The Times of India
      2 Jan 2008

      WHY GUJARAT IS SPECIAL

      by Praful Bidwai

      It's impossible to understand the reasons for or
      the magnitude and quality of the BJP's stunning
      victory in Gujarat without moving beyond 'normal'
      electoral arithmetic and campaign strategies, and
      looking at some factors which have shaped
      Gujarati society and politics over the decades.
      Three of these are pivotal: a deep-rooted social
      conservatism laced with rabid Hindutva;
      aggressive, intensely chauvinist subnationalism;
      and growing receptivity to an authoritarian
      personality cult.

      Although 'Hindutva laboratory' Gujarat has been
      under full or partial BJP rule since 1990, its
      communalisation goes back a long way. Modern
      India's first recorded communal riot occurred in
      Gujarat, in 1713. No less important was the
      Hindu-Muslim violence of 1893 at Somnath, whose
      effects were felt nationally and debated in
      London, leading to the famous Hunter inquiry. The
      politics of revenge for perceived past injustices
      struck deep roots in Gujarat under the influence
      of Dayanand Saraswati's Arya Samaj and the
      'shuddhi' (reconversion from Islam) movement
      active in the 1920s, led by Swami Shraddhanand.

      The ground had been prepared in the late 19th
      century by the invention of an 'Aryan' identity,
      towards which the emerging Brahmin-bania middle
      class gravitated. Cow protection societies and
      Ganesh festivals became sites of communal
      association and action. Under competitive
      politics, religious identity-based contestations
      only sharpened further. So powerful and recurrent
      was the violence that formed the backdrop to
      politics that even the Bardoli satyagraha and
      Dandi March took place amidst Hindu-Muslim
      clashes. From the landmark riots of 1969 to the
      pogrom of 2002, Gujarat saw increasing Muslim
      ghettoisation and disenfranchisement.

      Gujarat also witnessed the early consolidation of
      an alliance between patidar land-owning farmers,
      and urban Brahmins and banias. This divided it
      between 'Bhadra Gujarat' and 'Aam Gujarat', say
      social scientists Achyut Yagnik and Suchitra
      Sheth. "The expanding and modernising middle
      class of Gujarat has been looking for a new
      identity to validate its present and protect its
      future". Hindutva furnished it.

      Gujarat's social conservatism is thus an amalgam
      of Hindutva and near-complete upper-caste
      domination untempered by social reform,
      especially after Mahatma Gandhi's withdrawal in
      1930 from Gujarat. Gujarat is India's only major
      state where there's no power-sharing between
      'savarnas' and plebeians and no successful Dalit
      or OBC self-assertion. The first attempt at this
      was the Kshatriya-Harijan-Adivasi-Muslim
      coalition under the Congress, which swept the
      1980 elections.

      The savarna reaction was a violent agitation
      against Dalit reservations and dilution of
      bhadralok power. The second factor at work is
      best understood through the Gujarati middle
      class's sense of hurt over the perceived "loss"
      of Mumbai when the old Bombay state was
      reorganised, and even more, over long delays in
      clearance for the Narmada dam projects. Parties
      across the spectrum turned the dams into an issue
      of supreme iconic significance - the key to
      unbounded progress and prosperity, despite their
      high economic, human and ecological costs.

      Elite resentment rose sharply after the World
      Bank withdrew from the Sardar Sarovar Project
      following the Morse report, and the Narmada
      Bachao Andolan launched an agitation against
      displacement-without-rehabilitation of highly
      vulnerable people. Medha Patkar was vilified as
      Gujarat's 'enemy'. 'Human rights' became a term
      of abuse. Defence of the underprivileged was
      demonised as effete and machismo about 'Gujarat's
      glory' and 'avenging' insults to the state
      replaced rational discourse. Modi cynically
      fashioned these misanthropic sentiments into the
      'Gujarat Gaurav' ideology, lacing it with
      chauvinist venom and maligning any reference to
      justice for the victims of 2002 as an injustice
      and insult to Gujarat itself.

      Of a piece with the total absence of middle-class
      remorse for the 2002 massacre is the spread of
      intolerant and authoritarian ideas and respect
      for despotic 'decisiveness'. Modi is the man who
      'gets things done' by means fair or foul. If
      Bt-cotton is to be promoted to please big
      business, it'll be rammed down the throats of
      peasants, no matter that 500 farmers have
      committed suicide. If fertile land is to be
      procured for a toxic chemicals plant in
      Ankleshwar or Baroda, it will be acquired no
      matter how reluctant the owner is to sell. If
      labour unions demand the minimum wage, they must
      be smashed.

      The admiration this ruthless decisiveness evokes
      among the middle classes is similar to the spell
      that Hitler and Mussolini cast by ensuring that
      'the trains run on time'. This speaks to an
      unprecedented cult of personality, and a
      quasi-fascist personality at that. Why else would
      thousands of Modi supporters choose to suppress
      their own individual identities by wearing masks
      moulded after his face?

      The tragedy of Gujarat is magnified by the strong
      likelihood that Modi will acquire a high-profile
      national role within the BJP, relentlessly
      pushing it further to the right; and that
      mal-developed Gujarat will be lauded and promoted
      as a model-state by the captains of Indian
      industry. In 2002, the CII at least registered a
      mild, soon-to-be-withdrawn protest against the
      collapse of law and order. Today, even supposedly
      'enlightened' industrialists lavish praise upon
      Modi.

      The writer is a political commentator.

      o o o


      The Asian Age
      December 31, 2007

      CONGRESS' SOFT-HINDUTVA IS DESTROYING PLURALISM

      by Kuldip Nayar

      Cassius told Brutus that the fault was not in
      their stars but in themselves. After losing
      Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in a row the
      Congress Party should realise that the fault lies
      with them, their strategy, not in their campaign.
      In both the states, it is the Congress that has
      lost. The party should analyse why. I concede
      that there was the incumbency factor in Himachal
      Pradesh. But the same factor did not help the
      Congress in Gujarat. The party has become too
      uncertain.

      I do not know why the Congress changed its
      strategy not to take on the communalists in
      Gujarat. Party president Sonia Gandhi rightly
      characterised chief minister Narendra Modi and
      his supporters as maut ke saudagar (merchants of
      death). How else can they be described when they
      have fattened themselves on the sufferings of and
      denials to Muslims? After having effected an
      ethnic cleansing in Gujarat, Modi and the BJP
      continue to ostracise the Muslim community. It is
      boycotted economically and socially, and is
      treated in a manner that it seems as if the nine
      per cent Muslim population in the state does not
      exist. It is the best specimen of the BJP's best
      governance.

      Up to a point, Sonia Gandhi stuck to her remark
      of maut ke saudagar and told the Election
      Commission of India that calling a spade a spade
      did not violate any code of election. But then
      she herself watered down her stand. Whoever
      advised her, did great harm to the party and its
      cause.

      Even if Sonia Gandhi had not made the remark,
      Modi would have turned the polls into a
      Hindu-Muslim conflict. Communalism is the only
      field in which he and his kind excel. The
      person-to-person propaganda against Muslims had
      already begun in Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi's
      observation gave Modi a chance to bring it out in
      the open a day or two earlier than the timing he
      had in view. The Congress needs no introspection.
      It needs courage to challenge the Hindutva forces
      within and outside the party. It is shirking a
      confrontation with the communal forces, without
      realising that at stake is our pluralistic
      society, the bedrock of our democratic polity.

      In fact, Modi and the BJP's ideology of Hindutva
      are dividing the country into two communities,
      Hindus and Muslims, or maybe three, because the
      Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a front organisation of
      the RSS, like the BJP, is also targeting the
      Christians. It is a shame what the VHP did in
      Orissa with the connivance of the state
      government, an ally of the BJP.

      Communalism is bad enough, but worse is the BJP's
      attack on the ethos of our freedom struggle.
      India's independence was won on the resolve to
      keep it pluralistic and democratic. Muslim
      leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Khan Abdul
      Ghaffar Khan (the Frontier Gandhi) and Sheikh
      Abdullah (the Kashmir Gandhi) made as much
      sacrifice as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and
      Sardar Patel did. Pluralism is our proud
      heritage. The Congress is diluting this heritage.
      For improving chances in elections it has even
      embraced erstwhile BJP members. This has harmed
      the Congress most.

      A Pakistani friend has written to me, "The
      Gujarat election debacle should open our eyes. I
      mean the eyes of those who ask for vote on the
      basis of abstract values and value system." I beg
      to differ with him. Election is the means, not an
      end in itself. Even if you may win elections
      without adhering to values, you are creating a
      society where there would be no elections one
      day. The value system is what distinguishes a
      democracy from other systems. There can be no
      letting down of the fight against communalism,
      because if it succeeds, fascism is bound to
      emerge.

      Gujarat is not a state anymore. It has become an
      ideology. It is a "Hindutva laboratory" as chief
      minister Narendra Modi had put it when the state
      went to polls. He reduced the whole campaign to a
      single point: if you are a Hindu, you vote for
      me. In fact, it is a slur on Gujaratis, because
      he sells them Hindutva in the name of Gujarat
      pride.

      The development part is all right. The Gujaratis
      inside or outside the state are pouring so much
      money and skill into the state that a new Gujarat
      was emerging despite the government. The credit
      is due to him that he did not come in their way,
      something which is happening in many states. Yet,
      his whipping boy is a Muslim. During the election
      campaign, he went on emphasising on the fake
      encounter death of Sohrabbudin Sheikh, although
      the case is pending before the Supreme Court of
      India. At different gatherings he brought the
      crowd to such a pitch of frenzy that they said in
      response, "Kill him, kill him." These are fascist
      tactics.

      I sympathise with the Gujaratis, for Modi has
      fouled the atmosphere in the state so much that
      any liberal thinking or dissent is difficult. He
      has made them believe that India is part of
      Gujarat. I heard the slogan, "Gujarat is India."
      This is reminiscent of the Emergency days when
      India was Indira. Modi has done great harm to
      Gujaratis by mixing their achievements with
      Hindutva. Their economic progress has been
      dwarfed by Modi's large-size anti-Muslim bias. I
      feel that Gujaratis need to be retrieved. Modi
      has given them a bad name in the country and
      abroad, as if they are a community of fanatics,
      totally opposed to pluralistic thinking.

      L.K. Advani, the prime minister-in-waiting, has
      said that Gujarat will be a turning point in
      national politics. He is mistaken. The turning
      point is going to be the re-thinking on the part
      of BJP's allies. Except the Shiv Sena from
      Maharashtra, there does not seem to be any party
      agreeing to BJP's Hindutva. They have, by and
      large, secular credentials. They cannot go to the
      voter with Modi who is the BJP's mascot.

      The Congress is still learning its lesson from
      Gujarat. Sonia Gandhi is a crowd-puller, but not
      a vote-catcher. No use re-emphasising that Rahul
      Gandhi is not making any impact. Younger leaders
      in the Congress and persons like Lalu Prasad
      Yadav who are on the side of the Congress might
      have done better if they had campaigned.

      Yet the biggest drawback with the Congress is
      that - this is not in Gujarat alone - it does not
      come across as an unequivocal exponent of
      pluralism, as it should. The party gives the
      impression of being Hindutva's soft version.
      Expected to carry the ethos of the freedom
      struggle, the Congress should not compromise with
      the ideals. The BJP is understandably against
      secularism, but a diluted, half-hearted Congress
      can only do harm. It is sad that the party is not
      conscious of this.

      o o o

      GUJARAT ELECTIONS AND AFTERMATH

      by Asghar Ali Engineer (Secular Perspective January 1-15, 2008)

      Gujarat has made history. Gujarat is in news ever
      since genocide of 2002. For every small or big
      development it remains in news. Gujarat carnage
      was unparalleled in the history of India and it
      will continue to be discussed for a long time to
      come. Like partition of our country it cannot be
      easily forgotten. Any election in Gujarat will
      draw into discussion Gujarat carnage. Modi, I
      maintain, could not have won 2002 election
      without organizing that carnage nor the 2007
      election could he have won without it.

      In my opinion it is wrong to maintain that he won
      election due to economic development he helped
      achieve in Gujarat. Gujarat is as much polarized
      today as it was in 2002. Even if Modi had not
      mentioned anything related to Hindutva, he would
      have won. Question is only of margin. Now the
      congress leaders also have admitted it publicly
      that we had not kept Sonia Gandhi in any illusion
      about victory in Gujarat. We had told her we
      cannot win. Only thing is we did not expect him
      to win with such majority.

      He won with such majority for number of reasons
      one of which was Mayawati’s candidates. In many
      constituencies Dalits voted for Mayawati
      candidates and in those constituencies congress
      candidates lost by margin of not more than 5000
      votes. Congress would have undoubtedly won in
      these constituencies had Mayawati not set up her
      own candidates taking away Dalit votes.

      I would also like to throw light on the question
      as to why Modi continues to appeal Gujarati
      voters so much that he can win hands down even
      five years after genocide of 2002? The answer
      lies in paradigm shift in political ideologies
      throughout the world. Unfortunately no analyst so
      far has seen Gujarat election in this perspective.

      Up to eighties socialism and socialist ideologies
      had great appeal for the people. When Indira
      Gandhi, in late sixties of last century, gave
      slogan of quit poverty (Gharibi hatao) it had
      electrifying effect on Indian masses; and she
      instantly emerged as great leader in her own
      right and all Congress stalwarts like Kamraj,
      Morarji Desai and Atulya Ghosh and others fell by
      the roadside. She was voted to power with
      overwhelming majority.

      Similarly in Pakistan when Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto
      gave slogan of Roti, Kapda Makan (bread, cloth
      and house). He acquired charisma of his own and
      Ayub fell by the roadside. To this slogan he
      added, after Bangla Desh war thousand-year war
      with India and he emerged as an unquestioned
      leader of Pakistan. However, the basic mantra was
      roti, kapda, makan. Even in Arab countries slogan
      of socialism brought Jamal Abdan Nasir and
      Mohammad Ghaddafi to the fore.

      But now there is complete paradigm shift in
      politics. Socialism no longer has any charisma.
      It has been replaced by religious ideologies or
      religious fundamentalism throughout the world.
      Until late eighties Hindutva had no appeal to
      Indian masses or Islamic ideology to Pakistani
      people. Today it is politicized religious
      discourse which has strong appeal.

      Also, slogans of basic needs have been replaced
      by ‘development’ discourse and development never
      means fulfilling basic needs like roti, kapda
      makan but development of the rich, increase in
      the wealth of the haves as today in liberalized
      economies in the globalised world. For Gujaratis
      trade and economic prosperity has been their
      lifeline. Even among Muslims of Gujarat Bohras,
      Khojas and Memons are rich traders and they will
      be as much attracted by the development discourse
      as upper caste Hindu Gujaratis. It is for this
      reason that Narendra Modi tried to win over
      Bohras and Khojas by his development discourse.
      He even had special section for Muslims (Bohras,
      Khojas etc.) in the economic exhibition arranged
      by him to showcase his development.

      And today in the Hindutva laboratory that Gujarat
      is combination of economic development and
      Hindutva ideology is a sure guarantee for
      political win. And who knows this better than
      Modi? Modi thus combined development discourse
      with Hindutva mantra and won elections hands down.

      The BJP maintains that Modi was using only
      development discourse for his campaigning and it
      was Sonia Gandhi by her remark of ‘maut ka
      saudagar’ that compelled Modi to use Hindutva
      card and then whole nature of campaign changed.
      This can hardly convince any reasonable mind. In
      fact it was planned that Hindutva discourse will
      be the last minute mantra. Development discourse
      was thought to be effective but perhaps there was
      lurking doubt and to dispel that doubt Hindutva
      discourse had to be use very tactically, throwing
      entire blame on the opposition after all.

      What Mrs. Sonia Gandhi said was in no way
      contrary to facts. There was enough proof to
      maintain that Modi had used death and destruction
      to win 2002 election (which in all probability,
      he would have lost). In that election there was
      no reference to any development. 2002 campaign
      was heavily loaded with Hindutva discourse and he
      had earned enough bad publicity throughout the
      world. He could not afford to deploy pure
      Hindutva discourse in this election.

      The Election Commission was also watching and he
      could not afford to be on the wrong side of law.
      He, therefore cleverly crafted his winning
      strategy – to use development and Hindutva at the
      last stage and hang the blame on Soniaben's 'maut
      ka saudagar' peg. If he was so sure of
      'development factor why did he not use it in 2002
      election? On the contrary he is enjoying its
      after effects even in this election.

      There is now another question: will the Gujarat
      model be as effective in other states? I have my
      doubts. Even after 2002 win the BJP was saying we
      will repeat Gujarat model in other states but it
      lost in several states. The fact is that BJP is
      in power in M.P. and Rajasthan by itself like in
      Gujarat and yet these two states have yet to go
      Gujarat way i.e. they have still not become
      'Hindutva laboratory' like Gujarat.

      It is an important question: why M.P. and
      Rajasthan, like Gujarat, could become Hindutva
      laboratory. Obviously conditions in these two
      states and caste and community equations are very
      different. Neither M.P. nor Rajasthan can ever
      become Hindutva laboratories like Gujarat. Nor
      development a la Gujarat can be effected in these
      two states. Obviously Gujarat model cannot be
      repeated even in these two BJP held states, much
      less in other states of India.

      India is a highly diverse country – bewilderingly
      diverse, and what is possible in one state cannot
      happen in other states. Even CPM cannot repeat
      its model in states other than West Bengal and
      Kerala otherwise it would have captured other
      states long ago. Gujarat is more suited for
      Hindutva as West Bengal and Kerala are more
      suited for left ideology. In Gujarat similarly is
      more suited for rightwing Hindutva ideology for
      number of reasons.

      Traders are generally very conservative and are
      known to be supporters of conservative religion
      and traditions. For the same reason Gujarat,
      unlike Maharashtra and other states, never saw
      any reform movement. The reform movement which
      brought into existence Swaminarayan sect, itself
      was very conservative religious reform movement.
      Today Swaminarayan movement is most popular and
      hegemonic in Gujarat. Swaminarayan temples are
      being built wherever these Patel Gujaratis live
      spending crores of rupees. Huge complexes have
      come into existence.

      Thus Gujarat never experienced modern reform
      movement like Bengal or Kerala or Maharashtra or
      Karnataka. And hence the vice-like hold of
      conservative religion on Gujarat. Narendra Modi
      has shrewdly exploited this for his political
      rise. Also by organizing 2002 carnage of Muslims
      he built his charismatic image and now he is
      shrewdly combining it with his development
      discourse.

      M.P. and Rajasthan also will face election soon.
      These states are very different both in economic
      and political sense. M.P. has already seen change
      of three chief ministers and the present one
      carries the stigma of being corrupt as he is
      facing serious corruption charges. He cannot
      claim charismatic position as Modi enjoys in
      Gujarat. Same is the story of Rajasthan. Both in
      M.P. and Rajasthan still feudal culture is quite
      strong and modern capitalistic development does
      not have attraction as Gujarat has.

      In Rajasthan VHP tried its best to convert into
      Gujarat and often held out this threat but it
      never succeeded. Mrs. Vasundhara Raje Scindia
      could hardly employ Hindutva discourse as she
      comes from a ruling family of Gwalior and has
      very different experience. Modi, on the other
      hand, belongs to low Hindu caste of Gujarat and
      in order to rise to higher status, can employ
      reactionary religious ideology without any qualms
      and seek his own revenge for being humiliated all
      through history.

      In U.P. there is no question of BJP using Gujarat
      model. It has, in Mayawati, met more than its
      match and she is going strong and has
      Dalit-Muslim and a section of upper caste votes
      also. Also, leaders like Rajnathsingh or Kalyan
      Singh hardly can claim charisma as Modi enjoys.
      And in present day U.P. it is not possible for
      BJP to organize Gujarat like genocide to gain any
      charisma.

      Thus it will be seen that Gujarat is what it is
      on account of its own specificities and BJP's
      dream of repeating Gujarat can hardly be
      fulfilled in other states.

      ______


      [6] Orissa:

      (i)

      Kashmir Times
      January 2, 2007
      Editorial

      FASCISTS STRIKE IN ORISSA
      Secular political parties must expose their designs

      The persistence of trouble in Western Orissa
      after the shameful incidents that started on
      Christmas eve with the damage to churches and
      attacks on the Christian minority by Hindu
      fascists, that continued despite the curfew, is
      not only a cause for concern but is also an eye
      opener, revealing how deep the sectarian and
      communal divide is being deliberately allowed to
      flourish in this country. This is especially so
      in pockets where the Hindutava organizations have
      been able to spread hate soaked ideology based on
      prejudices and myths, and left un-countered by
      the secular forces on the scale that these should
      be opposed. Barring a handful of groups working
      on the ground against the hatred and violence
      perpetrated in the name of caste and religion,
      this evil of communalism and sectarianism,
      threatened more by majoritarian fascism, is
      allowed to persist. The secular parties in this
      country fail to go beyond the lip sympathy or the
      electoral battles in trying to defeat the fascist
      forces, and often miserably fail, allowing the
      fundamentalists to gradually infiltrate into
      positions of power - be in assemblies, civic
      bodies or other grassroots institutions. The
      malaise obviously exists because it is not being
      treated on a war footing in any part of the
      country.
      The Orissa case merits special attention. Human
      rights activists and grassroots organisations
      working on harmonious relations between different
      communities and ethnicities have already warned
      that after Gujarat, Orissa may be the next
      laboratory for the propagators of Hindutava. In
      1999, Australian misisionary Graham Staines and
      his two sons were brutally murdered by the
      Hindutava followers. And that may not be the only
      incident in the recent past. Western Orissa,
      dominated by upper caste Hindu landholders and
      traders, has been a deliberately chosen area for
      preaching of communal ideology and promulgation
      of Hindu militancy. Coupled with this, its tribal
      areas are bogged by aggressive Hinduisation
      through conversions in the last one decade. There
      are about 30 dominant Sangh Parivar organisations
      in Orissa that are targeting Christians,
      Adivasis, Muslims, Dalits and other marginalised
      sections, mostly by rhetoric based on propaganda
      but sometimes these tirades also assume violent
      forms. The followers of Hindutava, like
      fundamentalists from any groups or religions, do
      not hesitate in perverting and defaming history
      with concoted lies and injecting several myths
      that seek to brand the Muslims or Christians as
      'other', 'foreigner' and 'terrorists', Dalits as
      'filthy' and tribals as people who were once
      Hindus and need to be re-converted. So when on
      Christmas eve, the Hindutava forces chose to
      attack the Christian minorities in Western
      Orissa's Kandhamal district, it should have come
      as no surprise even as the scale of violence was
      shocking. However, shock and condemnation alone
      cannot amend things or reverse the trends that
      this pernicious ideology has unleashed, whether
      it is Orissa or anywhere else. The malaise is too
      deep to be treated superficially or simply leave
      it to electoral politics, that has only
      contributed in creating further polarization
      between communities and castes. In fact,
      electoral politics, as of Gujarat, has had larger
      ramifications, not only in that state but
      elsewhere in the country where the fabric of
      communal harmony is too fragile. This problems
      that has dangerous repercussions needs a
      consistent strategy and a grassroots networking
      to be countered.
      The Hindutava ideology, or any other fascist
      propaganda, can be competed only if the secular
      forces are willing to beat the fascists at their
      own game. The Sangh Parivar has been working for
      decades, capitalizing and flourishing on the
      social insecurities and panic in a land of
      inequalities. It has woven a solidarity network
      on basis of myths propagated about glorious past
      of Hindus, essentially upper caste Hindus, and
      lies about the other castes and communities. Much
      of this is done in the name of social work,
      promotion of culture and often through perverting
      the school curriculum and books introduced in the
      large number of schools run by the Hindutava
      organizations. Though human rights groups have
      been working very successfully in certain pockets
      of the country to counter this trend, these
      groups do not have the kind of grassroots
      networking as the secular political parties do,
      and this is what has been left un-utilised. Cue
      can be taken from the past. After Mahatama
      Gandhi's assassination in January 1948, it was
      Congress led by Jawahar Lal Nehru who sought to
      use the political machinery of the party to
      counter the threat of communalism. Nehru
      mobilized Congress committees that were virtually
      converted into anti-communal fronts to make
      people aware about the dangers of the pernicious
      ideology of the RSS and its other sister
      organizations. Other secular fronts and
      individuals were also involved. Govind Sahai of
      the Congress took on the task of monitoring this
      awareness campaign and toured throughout the
      length and breadth of the country, distributing
      pamphlets and holding rallies to educate people
      and warn them against the devious designs of
      fascists. Amidst xenophobic tendencies of a
      growing number of groups, we need to adopt a
      similar strategy and follow it with the
      conviction and consistency that it demands.

      o o o

      ORISSA: ANTI CHRISTIAN VIOLENCE

      by Ram Puniyani

      Gladys Stains is a name etched in our memory for
      wrong reasons. Her husband and two sons were
      torched to death around a decade ago in Keonjhar
      Manoharpur Orissa. She wrote to Prime Minister
      Man Mohan Singh recently, to ensure that communal
      peace is restored in Orissa. This she did in the
      backdrop of the scattered attacks on Christians,
      over 40 churches torched in Orissa (24 Dec.
      2007). In the violence which broke out, many of
      the people have been severely injured. Some of
      the priest and laity have run for shelter,
      leaving their homes and hiding in the forests in
      the biting cold. All this has happened in the
      Adivasi area in and around Phulbani and
      Kandhamal. The timing is around the Christmas
      celebrations, 2007.

      It is no coincident that the BJP is part of the
      ruling coalition in Orissa, and those involved in
      the vandalism are part of some or the other
      organization directly affiliated with the RSS.
      The major such are Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Bajrang
      dal and their local variants. While the media
      reports are sketchy, the Citizens Inquiry team,
      which was to visit the area has been denied
      permission to visit the districts and was
      escorted out of the area.

      The attacks on minorities and weaker sections is
      launched for short term or long term political
      goals, but the care is taken that a pretext is
      manufactured and then the attacks are unleashed.
      In this case it has been said that Swami
      Lakkhanand was attacked by Christians and so the
      retaliation. One is supposed to believe that a
      Swami from the majority community, with sizeable
      following, will be attacked by the section of
      miniscule minority!

      The Christmas season is the chosen time for anti
      Christian attacks. Earlier also such occasions
      have been chosen for beating and attacking the
      Christian community, notably in Dangs in 1998.
      This time in Phulbani area the declarations being
      made by the Swami and associates is that the
      presence of Christians will not be tolerated in
      the Adivasi areas.

      The visible attacks on Christian minorities
      started from 1996. The areas selected for these
      attacks have spread over from Gujarat, Dangs on
      the extreme West, to the Orissa on extreme east
      of the tribal belt. It is in these areas that
      anti Christian violence have been going on in
      scattered form since then. Most of these acts of
      violence have a bit different characteristic,
      i.e. unlike the anti Muslim violence which is
      more in the cities and occurs as spurts of
      killing hundred or thousands in a single go, here
      the cauldron is kept boiling continuously, The
      intensity is that of a slow but sustained
      intimidation and attack.

      The most ghastly anti Christian violence was that
      done by Bajrang Dal activist, Dara Singh, who
      instigated the Adivasis and led the burning of
      Pastor Graham Stewart Stains. He and his
      organization kept propagating for months that
      pastor has come from Australia for converting the
      gullible Adivasis to Christianity, that his work
      amongst the leprosy patients is just a ploy to do
      his ?real work? of conversions. The Wadhwa
      commission, appointed by the NDA Govt. with
      Advani as the Home minister, in the aftermath of
      this brutal killing, concluded that the pastor
      was not involved in any conversion activities and
      that the percentage of Christian population in
      the area has remained static despite the Pastor
      working in the area.

      At national level the attacks on Christians have
      been investigated by different civic groups,
      compiled in 'The Politics behind Anti Christian
      Violence' (Media House, Delhi) Most of the
      reports conclude that the attacks have been
      deliberately stepped up in the Adivasi areas. The
      main targets of these attacks are the Christian
      missionaries working in the area of education.
      The contrast is very glaring. The city based
      Christian mission institutions are upheld and
      respected for their contribution in the area of
      education, while in the Adivasi areas the same
      are being hounded out. The reports also observe
      that the RSS affiliates have been trying to do
      anti Christian propaganda along with Ghar Vapasi
      (re-conversion in to Hinduism) campaign. The
      major work of Ghar Vapasi has been undertaken in
      the BJP ruled states, or in the states where BJP
      has been sharing power. The subtle assistance of
      the state machinery in the anti Christian tirade
      is always at the service of RSS affilaites. The
      Ghar Vapasi asserts that Adivasis are basically
      Hindus, who had to flee to the forests to escape
      the conversion by Muslim invaders, so they are
      'nationally' Hindus, who have forgotten the Hindu
      rituals and gods and so have fallen low in the
      hierarchy of Hindu religion. This ritual of
      re-conversion is supposed to religiously restore
      them to their old Hindu glory!

      The case of Orissa was specifically investigated
      by India Peoples Tribunal, led by Justice
      K.K.Usha (retired) of Kerala High court in 2006
      (Communalism in Orissa) This tribunal forewarns
      about the shape of things to come. " The tribunal
      assessed the spread of communal organizations in
      Orissa, which has been accompanied by a series of
      small and large events and some riots?such
      violations are utilized to generate the threat
      and reality of greater violence, and build and
      infrastructure of fear and intimidation." It
      further notes that minorities are being grossly
      ill treated; there is gross inaction of the state
      Govt to take action. Outlining the mechanism of
      the communalization, it points out, ?The report
      also describes in considerable detail how the
      cadre of majoritarian communal organizations is
      indoctrinated in hatred and violence against
      other communities it holds to be inherently
      inferior. If such communalization is undertaken
      in Orissa, it is indicative of the future of the
      nation? the signs are truly ominous for India?s
      democratic future.? (p 70)

      In these Adivasi areas swamis have made their
      permanent Ashrams, Lakkhanand, in Orissa,
      Assemanand in Dangs, and followers of Asaram bapu
      in Jhabua area to name the few. Also Hindu
      Samgams, congregations, are being held, the
      culmination of which was the Shabri Kumbh in
      Dangs where thousands of Adivasis were brought.
      In those areas the Hindutva organizations spread
      the intimidating rumors that those who do not
      attend these functions will be dealt with in due
      course. Interestingly these are precisely the
      areas which are the poorest; these are the areas
      where the problem of land, education, water and
      food is the highest.

      Anti Christian violence is in the continuation of
      RSS agenda of Hindu Rasthra, Pehle kasai Phir
      Isai (First the Muslims then Christians). There
      is an additional factor in the anti Christian
      violence. One concedes that there may be many a
      Christian groups who might be focusing on the
      conversion work, within the bounds of Indian
      constitution, of course. But one has to note that
      in India, over all population of Christian
      minorities is declining over a period of last
      four decades, ( 1971-2.60%, 1981-2.44% ,
      1991-2.34%, and 2001-2.30%). While Christianity
      is a very old religion here, during last nineteen
      centuries or so only 2.odd percent have become
      Christians.

      The major problem is that the effort of
      missionaries to reach education to the adivasi
      areas. Educated Adivasi, empowered Adivasi will
      be more aware of her rights and that's precisely
      what RSS combine cannot stand.

      That the tiny minority can be a threat to the
      huge majority of Hindus is quiet a concoction.
      There is a need to deal these violations of human
      rights firmly, there is a need to curb the hate
      other propaganda in these areas and of course the
      need to promote modern education and other
      welfare schemes in these areas. Christmas which
      should be a festival of joy is being turned into
      an annual ritual of violence and mayhem by the
      RSS combine.

      --
      Issues in Secular Politics
      January 2008 I

      ______


      [7] ANNOUNCEMENTS:

      (i)

      Dear
      Friends,

      Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP)
      invites you to a Consultation on the National
      Agenda the civil society should like to put
      before the political organizations.

      The meeting will also assess the programmes made
      by the political parties that are participating
      in the general election as well as the stand
      taken by parties that are boycotting the polls.

      The meeting will take place at Dorab Patel
      auditorium (107, Tipu Block, New Garden Town,
      Lahore) on January 04, 2008, from 10 a.m. to 2
      p.m.

      We regret the notice is short but the party
      positions became public quite late and our plans
      to meet on 29 December were upset by the 27
      December events.

      Kindly confirm your availability to the undersigned.

      Outstation participants will have their air fare
      reimbursed and will be offered hospitality for
      one night, if needed.

      Looking forward to your participation.

      Zaman Khan
      Coordinator

      --

      (ii)

      Dear Friends,

      My film ' Baphlimali 173 ' is being telecast on
      NDTV tomorrow .The film will air on Thursday,
      January 3rd, at 9:30 pm and repeat on Sunday,
      January 6th at 1:30 pm on NDTV 24x7.

      The film is being telecast to mark the
      anniversary of the 14 tribals killed in police
      firing on January 2nd, 2006 in Kalinga Nagar,
      Orissa, during protests against Tata Steel.

      'Baphlimali 173' is a film about the resistance
      movement of the Kashipur adivasis in South Orissa
      against bauxite mining and aluminum companies.
      'Baphlimali 173' helps us understand tribal
      consciousness in the face of present day
      globalisation by providing a glimpse into one of
      the first anti-mining tribal resistances that
      began around the hill Baphlimali which contains
      173 million tons of bauxite.

      Please inform those who may be interested.

      regards

      Amar Kanwar
      New Delhi
      India

      Email :
      <mailto:amarkanwar@...> amarkanwar@...

      --

      (iii)


      Dear Friend, December 31, 2007.

      The Coalition for nuclear disarmament is holding
      its 3rd national convention during February 1 - 3
      2008 at Vasant Rao Despande Sabhargraha in Nagpur.

      The convention is divided into plenaries and
      workshops. The programme including the proposed
      chairs, speakers and initiators for the workshops
      is attached herewith.
      Knowing your deep commitment and expertise in
      your area of interest, we are requesting you to
      kindly accept and con
      (Message over 64 KB, truncated)
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