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

SACW | Dec 1-2, 2009 / Sri Lanka militarism / Balochistan / Siachen / Liberhan Report / Goa: Hindu right / Bhopal Anniversary

Expand Messages
  • Harsh Kapoor
    South Asia Citizens Wire | December 1-2, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2672 - Year 12 running From: www.sacw.net [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2009
    View Source
    • 0 Attachment
      South Asia Citizens Wire | December 1-2, 2009 | Dispatch No. 2672 -
      Year 12 running
      From: www.sacw.net

      [ SACW Dispatches for 2009-2010 are dedicated to the memory of Dr.
      Sudarshan Punhani (1933-2009), husband of Professor Tamara Zakon and
      a comrade and friend of Daya Varma ]

      ____

      [1] Sri Lanka: The president and the general (Himal)
      [2] Pakistan - India: Let's start with Siachen (Dr. Saleem H. Ali)
      [3] Pakistan: Balochistan - too small an olive branch (Qurratulain
      Zaman)
      [4] India: Resources For Secular Activists
      (i) 17 Years since 6 December 1992 (Editorial, EPW)
      (ii) The Liberhan Report: What Should It Mean? (Badri Raina)
      (iii) Read Babri report right (Rajeev Dhavan)
      (iv) Going Soft On [Hindutva] Terrorism [in Goa] (Vidyadhar
      Gadgil)
      [5] Miscellanea:
      - Book Review: The Religion of Capitalism (Dilip Simeon)
      - Announcements:
      (i) Bhopal Gas Tragedy 25th Anniversary Commemoration 01-03
      December 2009
      (ii) 2010 Daniel Pearl Awards for cross-border investigative
      journalism

      _____


      [1] Sri Lanka:

      Himal SouthAsian, December 2009

      THE PRESIDENT AND THE GENERAL

      The Sri Lankan military won the war against the Tamil Tigers over six
      months ago. But since that time, the island has been steadily losing
      the peace that the people – Muslim, Tamil and Sinhalese – so deserve.
      The main hurdle towards lasting peace has been the continuing war
      mentality and ultra-nationalism on the part of the Rajapakse regime –
      for this is what we have to call it. Those elements that had been the
      regime’s main strengths in fighting the war – the dangerous mix of
      militarisation and Sinhala Buddhist mobilisation – are now not only
      undermining peace, but also creating instability in the government
      hallways of Colombo.

      In the single-minded pursuance of the war, President Mahinda
      Rajapakse and his brother, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya, with full
      support from the military, put together a broad and formidable
      coalition. This was made up of the ultra-nationalist Jathika Hela
      Urumaya (JHU), the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and then its
      breakaway faction, sections of the left parties, as well as Tamil
      paramilitaries, including the breakaway faction of the LTTE. Yet just
      weeks after the last shot was fired, that coalition began to unravel,
      with increasing anti-government mobilisation by the JVP, criticism
      from sections of the JHU and, finally, the need felt by the president
      for a full overhaul of the armed-forces leadership.

      The latest in these twists and turns has been the alienation and
      vocal opposition of the former army commander, General Sarath
      Fonseka, who is popularly credited with winning the war. Gen Fonseka,
      even more a militarist and Sinhala Buddhist nationalist than the
      president, is now expected to contest Rajapakse in the next
      elections. And with the opposition United National Party (UNP)
      backing the general’s candidature, there appears to be little hope of
      a credible or strong or strong opposition.

      Within weeks of the end of the war, the Rajapakses changed the entire
      high command of the armed forces, giving the top military brass
      different assignments, from secretaries of other ministries to
      ambassadorial appointments. Gen Fonseka’s control over the army was
      severely clipped, by ‘promoting’ him to a symbolic position as chief
      of defence staff. The general, in his recent resignation letter,
      claimed that it was widely understood that he was sidelined because
      various agencies misled the president regarding the possibility of a
      military coup.

      The sidelining of Fonseka is not very surprising, given that the
      Rajapakses have been clear that they have no ‘friends’ – only their
      large clan. Brothers, cousins and nephews are thus being put into key
      political positions without any sense of embarrassment. Initially,
      they seemed certain that with the war victory they could entrench the
      family in power for the foreseeable future. Very quickly, however,
      that future began to seem uncertain, with the challenge posed by
      Fonseka.

      Over the last three years, both Gen Fonseka and Defence Secretary
      Gotabhaya Rajapakse have considerably politicised the military, by
      making Sinhala nationalist and anti-minority statements. Now, an open
      challenge between the general and the president could further
      deteriorate the situation. As Himal went to press, the president
      announced early presidential elections, almost two yers ahead of the
      end of his term. Analysts expect this to take place in late January
      2010. The president wants to hold elections before he loses momentum
      from the war victory, but with Gen Fonseka running against him the
      Sinhala-nationalist vote stands likely to be split. Yet while the
      minorities’ vote could become significant, given that both Rajapakse
      and Fonseka are seen as Sinhala chauvinists it will be hard for the
      minority communities to choose.

      Trumping militarism

      With international pressure mounting, the 300,000 people interned in
      camps at the end of the war are finally being resettled. While close
      to 150,000 displaced individuals have apparently been allowed to
      return home (or elsewhere), and Basil Rajapakse announcing that all
      IDPs will finally have freedom of movement starting in December,
      their full access to humanitarian agencies in the north continue to
      be of concern. Moreover, it must be accepted that rehabilitation and
      development alone are not sufficient unless accompanied by
      demilitarisation and genuine political devolution.

      Indeed, the regime’s lingering war mentality remains amply clear. The
      signals are not only in the exalted status accorded to the
      president’s brother as defence secretary; nor in the numerous
      checkpoints in Colombo, and continued militarisation of the
      internment camps for displaced peoples in the north and east of the
      country. Such indicators can also be seen in the regime’s ongoing
      flirtation with the Burmese junta, whose guest President Rajapakse
      saw fit to be soon after winning the war – a visit recently
      reciprocated by General Than Shwe himself. Just as the LTTE dug its
      own grave through a totally military mindset, the Rajapakse regime
      could now be weakening itself irrevocably. For the country and its
      people, a dangerous instability could ensue.

      Emergency rule and the Prevention of Terrorism of Act continue to be
      the primary supports of authoritarianism and corruption, with
      parliamentarians lacking the fortitude to repeal them and thus take
      the Rajapakses head-on. As the Tamil minority suffocates in the north
      under the military jackboot, police brutality is on the rise in the
      south. Meanwhile, the media, which should have learned the dangers of
      authoritarianism over the decades of war, continue their
      irresponsible projection of Sinhala Buddhist nationalism and
      opportunistic support of the government.

      Job losses and increasing unemployment propelled by the global
      economic downturn are creating conditions for social unrest and
      disenchantment among labour, and the unemployed are already pushing
      many onto the streets. Alongside, Sri Lanka’s aggravated relations
      with the European Union are putting more jobs at risk. The political
      tightrope that President Rajapakse has been walking between the East
      and West – mobilising India, China, Pakistan and Iran to counter
      pressure from the EU and the US on human rights and conduct of the
      war – is looking increasingly difficult to manage, as allegations of
      war crimes in Sri Lanka are presently under consideration by the US
      State Department and Congress. Incredibly, the president’s brothers –
      Gotabhaya as well as Basil, who is in charge of development – are
      both US citizens, and could thus become the subject of greater US
      pressure.

      Yet on the ground, the challenge remains the same: the need for sane
      voices for peace and co-existence – democratic voices that can take
      up the decades-long grievances of the minorities, and the rising
      economic questions and inequalities that plague Sri Lanka’s post-war
      future. In the end, it is neither the moorings within Colombo’s
      militarised elite nor the megaphone diplomacy of the international
      actors that will change Sri Lanka’s future. To take a leaf from Sri
      Lanka’s three decades of war, the UNP’s authoritarian regime – first
      under J R Jayawardena and then Ranasinghe Premadasa – though
      seemingly entrenched, was dislodged after 17 years following the
      unleashing of democratic forces and peoples movements. Can peace and
      democracy trump authoritarianism, militarism and nationalism one more
      time and deliver peace?


      _____


      [2] Pakistan-India:

      LET'S START WITH SIACHEN

      by Dr. Saleem H. Ali

      The News International (Pakistan, December 1, 2009).

      The Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh was given a warm
      reception in Washington DC last week. Clearly both the United States
      and India have much to share in terms of trade ties and a mutual
      tradition of democratic institutions. However, despite his
      intellectual pedigree and celebrated reputation as a moderate on
      matters of war and peace, Dr. Singh has shown little leadership in
      resolving any territorial disputes with Pakistan. Mr. Obama is
      reputed to have tried to exert some pressure on India in this regard
      but to no avail. The Indian-American lobby has succeeded in
      marginalizing Pakistan and getting it lumped together with
      Afghanistan as an "Af-Pak" phenomenon. The acronym appears to have
      some media appeal more for phonetic sound bites than for any real
      substance. Indeed, tying the problems of Pakistan’s tribal areas with
      Afghanistan has created a self-fulfilling prophecy for the "Af-Pak"
      adherents since this conflation fuels the fire of conspiracy
      theorists who keep insidiously suggesting that the US has an interest
      in destabilizing Pakistan.

      Sadly on the eastern frontier, the Mumbai attacks have served the
      goal of the terrorists and the military hawks on either side by
      stalling the peace process. However, Dr. Singh could still show some
      mark of statesmanship and move towards a resolution of the long-
      standing territorial disputes between the two countries. Kashmir is
      certainly an intractable problem because it can lead to a slippery
      slope for India’s myriad other sectarian conflicts. Providing some
      further measure of autonomy in Kashmir could further strengthen other
      separatist movements that are simmering in Assam and other parts of
      the country. Since a comprehensive dispute settlement strategy has
      eluded both countries for sixty two years, perhaps the best way to
      approach Kashmir is incrementally resolve some of the other
      territorial disputes. First on the list should be a resolution to the
      Siachen conflict.

      Several pragmatic solutions have already been proposed and with very
      little loss in political capital both countries can make a huge
      cognitive jump in resolving this dispute. For the past several
      years, various constituencies in South Asia and beyond have been
      attempting to establish a jointly managed conservation area, or
      “peace park,” in the Karakoram mountains, which divide the hostile
      nations of India and Pakistan. Researchers, mountaineers, and
      conservationists have joined forces to promote their vision of using
      environmental cooperation to make the magnificent Siachen Glacier
      region — militarized since 1986 — safe for geographers, tourists, and
      wildlife. This is an uninhabited region which military leaders on
      both sides agree has little military importance and yet soldiers are
      dying of hypothermia at elevations exceeding 18,000 feet above sea
      level.

      “Peace parks” are transboundary conservation areas that seek to
      mitigate conflict through environmental cooperation between
      neighboring countries. The idea can be traced back to the time-tested
      tradition of postwar memorials aimed at healing wounds between
      adversaries. However, they can also be used in zones of active
      conflict as a conflict resolution strategy. For example, the
      establishment of a peace park in the Cordillera del Condor region,
      mediated by the United States and Brazil, was key to resolving the
      decades-long war between Ecuador and Peru; the 2004 treaty between
      the two nations explicitly used environmental conservation as a
      conflict resolution strategy by establishing a jointly managed
      protected area between the two countries.

      The Siachen Peace Park, while unlikely to bring peace to India and
      Pakistan singlehandedly, may be a catalyzing variable that not only
      hastens the peace-building process but also makes it more durable.
      Those of us who have worked on this proposal for the past several
      years will continue to move forward with our efforts and our efforts
      are to address all questions that may be raised by skeptics. For
      example, what would be the role of the militaries in the peace park?
      As absolute demilitarization is unrealistic in this case, the project
      is considering encouraging the militaries to act as rangers and
      assist in managing the park, which would allay fears about security
      and allow the two armies to work together for a constructive purpose.

      Another issue facing the project is delineating the park’s border, a
      task that would have to be undertaken in phases to develop trust
      between the countries. Visitor access, too, poses a problem: do
      tourists visiting the park need visas for both countries? More
      realistically, visitors from either India or Pakistan could be
      allowed to enter the peace park on their entry visas from either
      country—but not permitted to cross over the park’s boundary into the
      other country.

      To begin the process, both countries must overcome their
      institutional inertia and sign an agreement in principle. In 2004, a
      unified grassroots campaign, combined with a strategic push from
      influential groups, sought to usher in the fiftieth anniversary of
      the first ascent of K-2 (a mountain in the Karakoram range that is
      the second-highest peak in the world) by pushing the effort forward.
      The Italian government, which facilitated this process, established a
      meteorological measurement site near K-2. The proposal was submitted
      to both Pakistani and Indian governments, and during his 2006 visit
      to Siachen, Dr. Singh stated that he hoped the area would some day
      become a “peace mountain.” Since then, the project has focused on
      using science as the conduit for peace building, as does the
      Antarctic treaty. In March 2008, Indian and Pakistani glaciologists
      met in Kathmandu with support from the US National Science Foundation
      for the first time and established a detailed plan for research
      partnerships that might ultimately reduce tensions and pave the way
      for a peace park.

      The framework for moving forward in this is clearly evident and this
      is a pragmatic proposal rather than an idealistic one. There have
      even been joint reports by Indian and Pakistani brigadier generals as
      well as the retired Air Marshall of the Indian armed forces K.C
      Cariappa on the strategic salience of such a common-sense solution.
      All that remains is leadership to move forward. With the Copenhagen
      summit on climate change approaching, the prospects for using the
      Siachen peace park as a measure of conflict resolution in the name of
      science is even stronger. Since Indian forces are in control of the
      glacier itself, the initiative must come from them to move ahead with
      this effort. Dr. Singh, you have it within your power to leave a
      lasting legacy and resolve this senseless dispute in the name of
      science and environmental conservation once and for all.

      (Dr. Saleem H. Ali is associate professor of environmental planning
      at the University of Vermont (USA). His books include “Treasures of
      the Earth” (Yale University Press, 2009) and the edited volume “Peace
      Parks: Conservation and Conflict Resolution” (MIT Press, 2007).
      www.saleemali.net)


      _____


      [3] Pakistan:

      BALOCHISTAN: TOO SMALL AN OLIVE BRANCH
      by Qurratulain Zaman

      27 November 2009
      Open Democracy
      http://www.opendemocracy.net/qurratulain-zaman/balochistan-too-small-
      olive-branch

      (Qurratulain Zam is a journalist who has worked with Pakistan’s
      leading daily “Daily Times” and Germany’s international broadcaster
      “Deutsche Welle”. She is currently working as a freelancer in Bonn,
      Germany“)


      Brutal rule by Pakistan’s security agencies in Balochistan has
      radicalised moderate Balochs in this largest and poorest province.
      Now Pakistan’s government has offered a conciliation package. But it
      looks as if it is too little, too late.

      They ordered me to rape her. She was so thin and was crying when they
      brought her in the room. I was terrified to look at her, as I thought
      she was a spy or an agent”, says Munir Mengal, a 33- year- old
      Baloch, living in forced exile in Paris.

      Munir Mengal spent 16 months in underground jails of the Pakistani
      intelligence agencies. “The low rank officers came back to the room
      and started beating me because I didn’t obey their orders. They took
      off my clothes by force, and hers too, and left us alone. In her sobs
      I heard her praying in Balochi language. She was praying for someone
      named Murad. That’s how I got to know she is my fellow Baloch. That
      gave me the courage to talk to her.” Munir says that, still sobbing,
      she told him her name was Zarina Marri. She used to be a school
      teacher. She and her son Murad, who was only a few months old, were
      picked up by the intelligence agencies from Kohlu.

      Munir said, “Zarina was crying and asking me to kill her. Meanwhile,
      3 or 4 low-ranking officers came in the room with a toolbox and told
      me that if I refused to rape her they would make me impotent. I
      didn’t have a clue why they were doing this to me. I fainted. In the
      morning, before the faj’r prayer they kicked me and took Zarina Marri
      with them. I have no idea what happened to her.”

      Munir said he was tortured physically, mentally and emotionally every
      day. A chartered accountant by education and training, Munir wanted
      to open up a Baloch TV channel in Pakistan. He was working on his TV
      channel “Baloch Voice”, when he was picked up for the first time when
      he flew into Karachi international airport on April 4, 2006.

      “After 5 months in an underground jail in Malir (Karachi), one day
      they took me to Major Nadeem’s office. He said they hadn’t found
      anything against me and wanted to negotiate with me.” The Military
      Intelligence (MI) officers informed Munir they had changed their
      plans. “They were going to take me to meet President Pervez
      Musharraf. They trained me how to talk to the president. They told
      me I had to address him as ‘your Excellency’ and should not tell him
      anything about what had happened to me in the torture cell”,
      remembered Munir. “On October 26, they gave me a haircut, new clothes
      and blindfolded me. Then they took me to some military barracks to
      meet the then president, Pervez Musharraf.”

      Munir said the president expressed concern about the Balochistan
      issue. “He said he would take care of my family’s future now,
      although according to him I was becoming more dangerous than the
      Baloch rebel leaders Nawab Akbar Bugti and Attaullah Khan Mengal. He
      said it was just a few sardars, tribal leaders, who were making
      things bad in Balochistan with foreign aid. “I stayed quiet most of
      the time”, says Munir.

      “They offered to make me the liberal, educated voice of Balochistan
      against the sardars. They said the’d give me and my family full
      protection. But I refused to become a part of their game. That is why
      in the end I fled Pakistan.”

      Munir Mengal’s is not an isolated story.

      The largest province of Pakistan, Balochistan is witnessing its 5th
      insurgency since 1947. Many Balochs say that their region was annexed
      by Pakistan. They believe the centre and the most populous province
      Punjab has usurped their resources. It is the most impoverished and
      underdeveloped province of Pakistan. Balochs will tell you, for
      example, that although vast amounts of gas are extracted from Sui,
      Balochistan, there are many parts of the province without gas until
      today.

      The Baloch nationalists kept demanding autonomy and an equal share in
      the resources. However, they never got it. The Pakistan federal
      government distributes resources on the basis of population, and
      Balochistan accounts for only four percent of Pakistan’s population.

      24 year old Shahzeb is a law student. He was picked up by the
      intelligence agencies in March this year. In their traditionally
      decorated first floor living room in Balochistan’s capital, Quetta,
      Shahzeb’s mother said “We were worried about Shahzeb’s life. My
      family and I prayed every day for him.” Shahzeb was taking his sister-
      in-law to a neighbouring district in Quetta when he was picked up.
      “They tortured me every day”, said Shahzeb Baloch. “During
      interrogation, my hands were tied and I was blindfolded. They asked
      me questions about the Baloch liberation movement. They kept accusing
      me of being an agent of the Indian intelligence agency RAW and
      insisted that I had provided weapons to militants.”

      Shahzeb was careful not to share details about his three months’
      ordeal in the military detention centre in front of his mother. He
      switched to English in her presence. “I don’t want to repeat all
      these things in front of her. She starts crying. They released me on
      the condition that I won’t get involved in student politics.”

      Both Munir and Shahzeb said that they came across many Baloch
      detainees in the military-run secret jails - Munir under the
      military dictatorship of Musharraf, and Shahzeb after the civilian
      government had taken over last year. According to the Baloch Women’s
      Panel and the Baloch Student Organization (BSO), 4,000 Baloch are
      still missing. Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik said this
      week that the government had a list of 1,011 missing people.

      Most observers agree that things became worse in Balochistan during
      the Musharraf years, after Musharraf sent the army in against the
      Baloch tribes. Nawab Akbar Bugti, head of the Bugti clan, a former
      chief minister and governor of the province in his eighties, was
      forced to hide in a mountain cave and finally killed in an airstrike
      by the Pakistan air force.

      Suriya Ameeruddin is a senator from the ruling Pakistan People’s
      Party in Balochistan. “A few years ago, we used to live in harmony,
      in peace. Pashtuns, Baloch, Hazaras and Punjabis - all of us used to
      live next to each other but since the day Pervez Musharraf martyred
      our Nawab Sahib, the situation has turned violent”, she said.

      Relations between the different ethnic groups have become bitter.
      Senator Suriya Ameeruddin is not an ethnic Baloch, but a “settler” in
      Quetta. But she lives in a Baloch-populated area. “Every day when my
      son and daughter- in- law leave for work I am afraid. Boys come on
      motorcycles in busy markets and residential areas, kill and vanish.
      Not a single ‘target killer’ has been caught so far. No one has the
      courage to catch them. It’s the law of the jungle here.”

      Quetta looks like a war-zone, with army checkpoints even in the
      markets and parks. The city is clearly divided in two parts. One is
      the “cantonment” fully controlled by the army and paramilitary
      forces; the other area is a stronghold of Baloch separatist groups –
      like Balochistan University.

      A 24- year- old former president of the Baloch Student Organisation
      (BSO) said, ‘’you feel you are entering a garrison, not a university.
      Pakistan’s security agencies have left us no political way forward.
      They have radicalised all the liberal forces by torturing them.’’

      According to him, the BSO serves as a nursery for nationalists who
      are in hiding or fighting in the mountains. The student leader’s
      father was an active member of the established Balochistan National
      Party (BNP), which traditionally stood by Pakistan, while demanding
      more rights for the Balochs. But he and his brothers advocate a
      “free” Balochistan. ‘’We have convinced our father after long fights
      and arguments. Today he is a radical like me.’’

      Not long ago, the student was a patriotic Pakistani. He had a poster
      of a war hero, Captain Karnel Sher Khan as a teenager. “Pakistan
      needs to reflect upon what made me hate Pakistan”, he said. “They
      make us feel that we are slaves. I can wear western clothes and move
      freely in the city but if I’m wearing my baggy Baloch shalwar,
      they’ll strip search me.”

      The one and a half year old democratic government has finally tabled
      the long awaited Balochistan package named “a beginning of
      Balochistan rights” in the national assembly this week. Prime
      Minister Gilani promised to bring back the missing people to their
      families, to re-integrate exiled Baloch leaders into the political
      scene and to withdraw the army and paramilitary forces from the
      province.

      Balochistan will finally enjoy political autonomy like the other
      provinces, and economic development, the government promises.
      However, all Baloch parties have rejected this package. They say they
      were not consulted, and after sixty years they have lost their trust
      in Pakistan.

      Malik Siraj Akbar, the bureau chief of the English national paper
      “Daily Times” in Quetta, said, “although the democratic government
      has taken over, the machinery is run by the security agencies. The
      chief minister and governor have no role. There are more than 50
      ministers in the government, but they have nothing to do.”

      Mukhtar Chalgiri, the regional director of the Strengthening
      Participatory Organization, one of the few NGOs still working in the
      province, added:

      “Ordinary people are unhappy. Inflation, poverty and a sense of
      deprivation leads to all this violence we see in our society today.
      Every cabinet member in this government is corrupt. They are selling
      jobs.”

      Many Baloch parties are boycotting the political process altogether.
      Their demands have become more radical over the years.

      Dr Abdul Hakeem Lehri, a senior leader of the Baloch Republican Party
      said, “we’re not interested in living with the corrupt Pakistani
      elite any more. We want freedom.”

      The Baloch Republican Party (BRP) is considered the political face of
      the underground, separatist Baloch Republican Armay (BRA). Hundreds
      of their activists have disappeared. Party chief Brahamdagh Bugti, a
      grandson of the slain leader Akbar Bugti, is in hiding. For many
      youngsters, the handsome 28- year- old Bramdagh is a kind of Baloch
      Che Guevara. Pakistani officials say he is in Afghanistan, and have
      accused India of supporting him through its consulates there. But
      party leader Lehri rubbished all claims that the separatist movement
      is run by a “foreign hand”:

      “If Pakistan had any real evidence that India supports us, would they
      have spared us? Every Baloch household has a reason to fight with
      them. This version is just to satisfy the Pakistani elite.”

      From his forced exile Munir Mengal too rejects the economic package
      proposed by the Pakistani government. He pointed out that many Baloch
      nationalists are socialists and abhor religious fundamentalism.
      “There is no solution with packages, and our problem can’t be solved
      with dialogues either. Our ideology is different from Pakistan’s. We
      can’t live under an imposed and fake religious identity. We are
      secular people.” And he added a question: “Do you really think these
      economic packages will satisfy Zarina Marri’s mother?“

      Former school teacher Zarina Marri is still missing, and no official
      record exists about what happened to her after she was last seen by
      Munir Mengal in Karachi.

      _____


      [4] India: Resources For Secular Activists

      (i) The Economic and Political Weekly, November 28, 2009

      Editorial

      17 YEARS SINCE 6 DECEMBER 1992
      There will never be a closure to the black event that was the Babri
      Masjid demolition.

      It has taken 17 years for the Justice M S Liberhan Commission set up
      to investigate the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6
      December 1992, to arrive at what has been known from the time the
      mosque was brought down. The Liberhan Commission has delivered a
      searing indictment of the Sangh parivar as the primary culprit for
      the demolition. It also names (in the commission's words) the "pseudo-
      moderate" leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as the
      secondary culprit and officials of the state machinery and
      administration as tertiary participants in the horrendous act that
      stripped the Indian state's claim to be secular.

      The Liberhan Commission's report focuses on the ideology, world view
      and organising power of the Sangh parivar, and the manner in which it
      single-mindedly attempted to create a frenzy among the masses for the
      demolition. It details how "the inner core of the Parivar" - the
      leadership of the Rashtriya Swaya- msevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa
      Hindu Parishad, the B ajrang Dal, the BJP and the Shiv Sena - bears
      "primary responsibility" for the crime. It also points out how the
      BJP leadership, comprising Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani and
      Murli Manohar Joshi, was privy to the decisions of the Sangh parivar
      on the demolition, but pro- tested innocence in order to project a
      "moderate" image because it had been tasked to shed the "best
      possible light" on the plan of the RSS. And last but not least the
      commission indicts officials of the Kalyan Singh government in Uttar
      Pradesh for deliberately collud- ing with the parivar in razing the
      Babri Masjid.

      The one-man commission has no doubt done a painstaking and thorough
      examination of the events that led up to the demo- lition - the
      intrigue, the subterfuge, the sabotage of law and order and even the
      inter-mixing of religion and politics. But did it have to take close
      to two decades to present its findings? Justice Liberhan's original
      brief was to conclude its investigations in three months, but he took
      40 extensions to finalise his report. The commission certainly faced
      many obstacles in its work. The culprits did everything possible to
      delay and stretch out the pro- ceedings. But the commission has taken
      an inexcusably long time since 16 December 1992, when Justice
      Liberhan was appointed head of the judicial commission, to
      investigate the events that led up to the destruction of the mosque
      at Ayodhya.

      Justice Liberhan points to the failure of many an institution of the
      Indian state - including the media and bureaucracy along with the
      polity - but he reserves his indictment for the Sangh parivar and is
      silent on the Congress Party. Indeed, even as the commission has
      revealed the conspiracy underlying the demolition, what is intriguing
      is the clean chit it has given to the then Narasimha Rao government
      in New Delhi and the silence it has maintained about the role of
      previous Congress governments in fuelling the "Ram Janmabhoomi"
      claim. If there is a contemporary marker in the events leading to the
      demolition it is surely the decision taken by the local adminis-
      tration in January 1986 to remove the "judicial" locks that had been
      placed on the mosque for nearly four decades. This too is common
      knowledge, that it was done at the instance of the then Rajiv Gandhi
      government, which was anxious to "win" Hindu support to compensate
      for its decision to placate the Muslim clergy after the Shah Bano
      judgment. The report is also silent about the poor mobilisation of
      central paramilitary forces at the Ayodhya site even after the
      demolition, where kar sevaks continued to run riot following the
      dismissal of the Kalyan Singh government.

      The aftermath of the Babri Masjid demolition is well known. As much
      as this incident legitimised communal rhetoric in Indian politics,
      leading of course to the BJP heading a government at the centre for
      six years, it also hugely damaged public administration, the results
      of which were immediately evident in the handling of the Bombay riots
      of January 1993.

      Despite indicting 68 individuals as being directly responsible for
      the demolition and pointing fingers at the Sangh parivar and the BJP
      leadership, the commission is quiet about pressing charges against
      those individuals and organisations who have hitherto escaped
      arraignment. Instead the report waxes eloquently on the reforms
      needed in the functioning of the bureaucracy, on regulations for the
      media and on upholding secularism. The Action Taken Report also does
      not suggest that the central government is thinking of initiating
      proceedings against those identified as responsible for the
      demolition. Therefore, all the effort taken to lay out the details of
      the conspiracy and the failure of the state government of Uttar
      Pradesh, and the recommendations and the responses listed in the
      Action Taken Report end up as a futile exercise.

      Justice Liberhan has described how the Sangh parivar corroded and
      shamed the secular image of the Indian state and how officials sworn
      to the Indian Constitution were brazenly complicit in this crime that
      changed Indian politics and public administration for the worse. But
      given how every single institution of the Indian state and polity has
      pussy-footed around the Babri Masjid demolition and continues to do
      so, there will never be any closure to this shameful event. The BJP
      may have been electorally vanquished in two Lok Sabha elections but
      the virus it nurtured in the course of its campaign to destroy the
      mosque at Ayodhya remains implanted in India's social and political
      fabric.

      o o o

      ZNet, November 30, 2009

      THE LIBERHAN REPORT: WHAT SHOULD IT MEAN?

      by Badri Raina

      On December 6,1992, hordes of right-wing Hindutva extremists
      (called karsevaks) took the town of Ayodhya hostage with the full
      and willing connivance of the then state government of Uttar Pradesh
      and in physical presence of most of the top leaders of the Sangh
      Parivar (the RSS and its affiliates/fronts like the Vishwa Hindu
      Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Shiv Sena, and the Bhartiya Janata
      Party).

      By evening of that fateful day, the 460 year old mosque built there
      by one of Babar's lieutenants, Mir Baqi, was razed to a heap of
      rumble on the grounds that the mosque was built over a temple which
      enclosed the birthplace of the god, Ram.

      To this day, there is no evidence of any kind that a temple of any
      sort pre-existed at the site of the demolished mosque.

      Interestingly, the Prime Minister of the day, late Narasimha Rao,
      failed/refused to respond to insistent pleas both from some members
      of his cabinet and many others from civil society across religious
      communities to intervene to forestall that unprecedently brazen
      assault on the Constitution and the rule of law.

      The local government of Kalyan Singh was to cock a final snook at the
      central government and resign office after the deed was done, and
      in daylong glare of television coverage, preempting the possibility
      of being dismissed from office.

      Almost instantly, riots broke out, and Muslims were killed with
      impunity by Hindutva draftees who saw no obstacle to their
      exertions. In the city of Mumbai, about a thousand innocent Indians
      lost their lives. (The Justice Srikrishna Commission inquiring into
      those Mumbai killings was to squarely hold the Shiv Sena and other
      Hindutva bodies responsibe for those massacres, and recommend legal
      action including against the Shiv Sena chief, Bal Thackeray. To this
      day, however, no action has followed, although the state of
      Maharashtra has been since ruled by the Congress/Natiionalist
      Congress Party combine with only an interregnum of Shiv Sena rule.)

      Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan was appointed in January of 1993 to
      enquire into the sequence of events that led to the demolition of the
      Babri mosque, and to fix responsibility.

      After seventeen long years, the Liberhan report is in. Over a
      thousand pages long, the Liberhan report concludes that "the RSS was
      the author" of the carnage, and all "logistical arrangements" were
      "coordinated between RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and the BJP," calling the
      latter "a front of the RSS"-the worst-kept secret of India's modern
      political history.

      Characterising the event as the result of "tailor made" and
      "meticulous" conspiracy rather than a spontaneous outrage, the
      Liberhan report draws up a list of 68 names whom it holds culpable of
      the same, names that include almost every scion of the Sangh
      Parivar. Significantly, it lists the erstwhile Prime Minister, Atal
      Bihari Vajpayee, at number 7, holding him responsible of taking the
      "country towards communal discord." A day before the demolition,
      Vajpayee had been recorded on video making a public speech in
      Lucknow, the Capital of Uttar Pradesh, expressing the need for the
      ground at Ayodhya to be "leveled" inorder to facilitate the karseva
      (collective religious activity) the next day.

      Justice Liberhan exonerates the then Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao of
      responsibility on the ground that he was duped by sworn affidavits
      submitted by the chief minister, Kalyan Singh, to the Supreme Court
      of India, undertaking to see that no harm would come to the mosque.
      Liberhan also accuses the Sangh leaders of duplicity in having
      "lulled" him and the central government into complacence through
      their misleading pronouncements. While this is true enough, not many
      are convinced that this fact alone forestalled any action on behalf
      of the Prime Minister.

      There is substantial evidence that one or two of his own cabinet
      ministers had warned him of the RSS plans for December 6 well in
      advance. One of those ministers, Makhan Lal Fotedar-a distinguished
      Kashmiri Pandit secularist-has revealed how the then governor of
      Uttar Pradesh was instructed by Rao not to recommend President's rule
      till asked by Rao to do so. Fotedar claims he was told about this by
      the then President of India, Shankar Dayal Sharma-another
      distinguished secularist Brahmin-- whom he found in tears on the day.

      Whereas Justice Liberhan has not recommended any specific action
      against anyone, it has noted some correctives, chief among these the
      need to have laws in place punishing the use of religion in political
      activity.

      II

      Mysteriously, the Liberhan report was leaked to the media before it
      was tabled in Parliament. Both the Home Minister and Justice
      Liberhan deny responsibility for the leak.

      The BJP which has been in tatters recently as a result first of its
      electoral reverses, then of the most unedifying internecine discord,
      and finally of the open and overt take-over of its decision-making
      prerogatives by the RSS, its puppet master since inception, has
      sought to unite around two issues: a fake outrage at the naming of
      Vajpayee (whom both the RSS and Advani have wanted out for long), and
      at the leaking of the report.

      It has also sought to make much of the report having been submitted
      17 years after the event-a detail that in the BJP's view renders it
      only of academic interest, warranting no follow up.

      That, even as it continues to demand action against the perpetrators
      of the Sikh killings of 1984-eight years prior to the Babri
      demolition-and even as it admires the Zionists no end for pursuing
      Nazi war criminals some half century after the second world war.
      Having led the assault on the mosque on the grounds of a four-century
      old "dishonouring" of a "Hindu nation," it advises that there is
      little point in revisiting the Babri demolition some 17 years after
      the demolition! It utters not a word of remorse at the dishonouring
      of Muslim sentiments.

      Privately the BJP hopes that the submission of the Liberhan report
      and the recorded culpability of the Sangh Parivar may help to portray
      the Sangh, and with it the BJP, as martyrs and warriors in the cause
      of "cultural nationalism," and revive its political fortunes which
      stand now at nadir.

      III

      There are, however, fatal reasons why the demolition of the Babri
      mosque by a fascist, Hindutva putsch must never be relegated as just
      one communal episode among many in post-independence India.

      The controversy whether the Babri mosque site was indeed the
      birthplace of the Hindu god, Ram, has for a hundred years or so
      remained a matter of localized and legal contention, as "title"
      suites are still being argued in courts to determine whether the
      Muslim Wakf Board or some Hindu organization had rightful claim to
      possession of the site.

      Till as late as 1983, nobody outside Faizabad District in Uttar
      Pradesh bothered a great deal about what was going on in those
      suites. And not many did so even in Faizabad and Ayodhya which,
      paradoxically, had remained bastions of age-old inter-community
      harmony. Indeed, many of the plethora of temples in Ayodhya were
      managed and run by Muslim devotees of Ram.

      It was between 1983 and 1992 that the Sangh decided to convert the
      Ayodhya issue into a cause celebre of "cultural nationalism," leading
      to the assault on December 6, 1992. That as a ploy to enter
      Parliament with some seats more than the humiliating two it had got
      in the elections of 1984.

      In projecting the issue as they did, the Sangh had a macro-historical
      enterprise in mind, something that had little or nothing to do with
      the Hindu god, or with the purity of faith.

      One, the project was to assert the majoritarian premise that India,
      notwithstanding its secular constitution, was first and foremost, a
      Hindu nation-state.

      So that as the pick-axes rained on the domes of the mosque to the
      accompaniment of the grossest communal abuse, the fury of the doing
      suggested that it was not a mosque that was being demolished but,
      verily, the very body-incarnate of Islam. The subliminal rage of the
      erasers might have suggested that it was not a dome they were bashing
      but the head of the Moghul, Babar. Very much as in demolishing the
      Berlin wall, the body of the wall was seen to represent not an entity
      that separated two parts of a city but as an entity that embodied
      Communism.

      Far from being just one vandalising episode at the hands of sectarian
      hordes, the assault on the mosque was constructed and propagated as a
      campaign to vanquish the secular Constitution of India and to shame
      it once and for all as being at bottom tilted against Hindus, and
      violative of racial principles of nationhood-an idea for which the
      erstwhile RSS ideologue and President, Golwalker, was to be full of
      praise for Hitler and the Nazis.

      Never reconciled to the secular Republic, the RSS thought to make of
      the campaign an occasion to reverse the principles of secular and
      pluralist citizenship that India had chosen to give to herself after
      Independence in 1947.

      Two, the campaign was calculated to register the view that the will
      of the majority community superceded all the institutions of state,
      an initial gambit towards turning India into a theocracy, or a Hindu
      Rashtra in consonance with the well-laid out ideology of the Hindu
      Mahasabha and the RSS (see Golwalker's We, Our Nationhood Defined,
      and Savarkar's Hindutva: Who Is a Hindu?). A mirror image of the
      hardline Islamic idea of nationhood and state!

      It should surprise nobody that the Sangh has a standing list of
      thousands of mosques which are slated to be demolished and replaced
      by temples, some 36,000 at last count. The question is never asked
      as to how many temples stand at sites that used to be Buddhist or
      Jain stupas.

      And, not the least, to catapult the BJP as being the primary
      "nationalist" political formation of India, and relegate the Congress
      and the Leftists as essentially "appeasers" of Babar's progeny, the
      Muslims, whose right to Indianness was to be formally damaged by the
      construction that they continue to be non-indigenous and disloyal
      progeny of invaders.

      IV

      India may have come a long way since 1992; yet so long as the BJP
      remains a mannequin to the RSS, so long as it fails or is unwilling
      to transform itself into an autonomous "political" formation, so long
      as, willy nilly, it harks back to "cultural nationalism" as its chief
      raison d' etre of political existence, remaining thereby unreconciled
      to secular citizenship, minority rights, and equality of opportunity
      and equality before the law, so long as, in one word, its chief point
      of political reference remains its visceral hatred of Muslims, it
      would be fatal to forget the lessons of the Babri demolition.

      In that context, the indifferently evolved secular convictions of the
      Congress party after Nehru pose no small obstacle to any forthright
      firming up of the Constitutional regime. It cannot be said that many
      more than half a dozen top leaders of the Congress hold Nehruvian
      secularism to be sancrosanct, especially when votes are in question.

      And the Congress has only one way of disproving those reservations,
      namely, to grab Liberhan's injunction about the separation of
      religion and politics, and to put in place legislation that may
      heretofore brook no heinous mixing of the two.

      Legislation, it must be noted, that is then backed up with the legal
      resolve never to pussyfoot any instance of communal appeal to the
      polity, and to come down with the full majesty of the law and the
      state on instances of communal violence instigated by political
      agents, whoever they be, or however high or mighty.

      Taking a cue from the Liberhan recommendations, the Election
      Commission of India, a Constitutional Body beholden to no political
      or governmental regime, may consider the time ripe for laying down
      that any political use of religion would be ground for derecognition
      of the party found culpable.

      This must include due and prompt punishment to all those who, in
      school, pathshala, madrasa, or wherever else seek to frame curriculi
      around communal perceptions of history and polity, calculated to
      undermine the rights and prerogatives of secular citizenship or to
      instill antagonism towards other religions, and a ruthless denial of
      all attempts to grab public spaces for unauthorized communal/
      religious use/propagation (something that the Supreme Court has
      recently enjoined) as well.

      Even if the current UPA dispensation forgave all the designated
      culprits of the Babri crime (very few believe that the state has the
      will to do otherwise) but made the long-lasting redressals
      suggested by Liberhan and listed above, the generation of Indians to
      come might inherit a worthwhile democracy in regard at least to the
      matter of a non-negotiable secular citizenship and a country free of
      "internal dangers" far worse and debilitating than pockets of
      insurgency floated around issues of livelihood.

      And if none of that were to be done, the Liberhan exercise would
      indeed have been a criminal waste at tax-payer's expense. And,
      worse, an incentive to further depredations along the lines of the
      Babri crime.

      o o o

      Mail Today, 30 November 2009

      READ BABRI REPORT RIGHT

      by Rajeev Dhavan

      Those indicted culpably by the Liberhan panel must not hide behind
      procedure or the leak of the report

      AT LAST after 17 years, 399 settings, 48 extensions, a cost of Rs 17
      crores, embarrassing differences between the Commission’s counsel and
      Chairperson, litigation in court to delay it, the Liberhan Report on
      the destruction of Babri Masjid has arrived. Submitted on 30th June
      2009, Home Minister P Chidambaram held on to it until, it was leaked
      on 23rd November 2009 amidst accusations of conspiracy and finally
      tabled on 24th November.

      First, the leak. It was a coup for a newspaper. If anyone knows about
      the leak, surely it is that newspaper which stole a march to make a
      coup. In fact, what was wrong was the archaic law of non- disclosure.
      It is an absurd relic from English practice. There is no reason why
      reports should be disclosed to parliament first.

      On one occasion in 1960 or so, Pandit Nehru was accused of breach of
      parliamentary privilege because he pre- disclosed to the press a
      comment he was to make in Parliament. This part of parliamentary
      privilege should be removed by legislation. An Act should be enacted
      which simply says “ All reports to Parliament shall be submitted to
      the Speaker and Chair of each House; and simultaneously published
      straightaway; ( 2) Any Action Taken Report ( ATR) shall be declared
      to Parliament within one month”. This cat- and- mouse game of
      publication will disappear consistent with RTI principles of
      transparency. No report should be withheld from the public by either
      the government or parliament.

      Precedent

      Second, the spat between the Chairperson and Liberhan Counsel Anupam
      Gupta was unnecessary.

      Self- advertisement is not unknown to Gupta who acquired notoriety in
      other controversies over judicial corruption in 1993. Liberhan
      appointed Gupta.

      There is no reason to doubt Liberhan’s integrity. Making media
      capital out of personal recriminations is not right morally, under
      lawyerconduct rules or otherwise.

      Everytime a report comes out, we do not have to wail that all
      commissions are useless and designed to gather dust.

      Reports are of many kinds: on corruption, riots, events or people.
      Corruption reports on Kairon and TT Krishnamachari were given to
      Nehru who took action. Today, Prime Ministers and all political
      parties tolerate corruption.

      Parliament’s own Joint Committee Report on Bofors, on Rajiv Gandhi’s
      involvement, has never been accepted as true or convincing.
      Commission reports should not become political toys. The Babri Masjid
      report explores a damning event of our history.

      It is easy to dissolve its findings in acerbic party- political acid.
      But this should not happen.

      Let us look at the Report and the political antics designed to
      obfuscate its message. This is a people’s paredness of the Karsevaks,
      there was a well planned conspiracy to destroy the Masjid; ( 3)
      Financial support came from Sangh Parivar funds including bank
      accounts operated by various named persons; ( 4) The, then, Chief
      Minister Kalyan Singh and his handpicked bureaucrats were involved in
      the conspiracy to destroy the Masjid and allowed a “ parallel
      government” and “ cartel” to facilitate the campaign which
      infiltrated the government; ( 5) The state ( of UP) had become a
      willing ally and co- conspirator in the joint common enterprise…( of)
      demolishing the structure; ( 6) The conspiracy arose from the single-
      minded efforts of the RSS and VHP ideologues and theologians to
      manipulate ordinary people into a frenzied mob; ( 7) The campaign had
      nothing to do with a popular mandate from the people who were
      manipulated to support it; ( 8) The police fell in line with this
      conspiracy; ( 9) The union government was crippled by failure of
      intelligence and the “ all- is- well reports by its rapporteur Tej
      Shankar”; ( 10) Not a single video camera was put in place; ( 11) The
      media “ and report for the people to find their way around a people’s
      issue on an event that divided India. 6th December 1992, when the
      Masjid fell, is a watershed in India’s contemporary history. Through
      the demolition, the Sangh Parivar legitimised the politics of
      destructive communal hate. Hitherto, communal tension was regarded as
      an evil in governance.

      Conclusions

      After Babri Masjid, BJP leaders and the Parivar set a new political
      standard which declared that the destruction of masjids, killings of
      people, destroying of art works were a legitimate pursuit of a
      communal pseudo- Hindu nationalism advancing the cause of the “ true
      Aryan” people.

      Liberhan was not examining a “ who- done- it”. He was looking at a
      phenomenon that shook India’s secular, multicultural people and
      polity. What Liberhan found was what we already know but need to know
      better. His conclusions in chapter 14 were ( 1) Babri Masjid was not
      an unintended spontaneous event except for “ self- serving
      hyperbole”; ( 2) Logistically, given the total pre journalists were
      subjected to systematic harassment”; ( 12) Leaders like Vajpayee, MM
      Joshi and L. K. Advani, and Govindacharya knew of the designs of the
      Sangh Parivar and lent their support in various ways; ( 13) Muslim
      leaders “ wittingly or unwittingly” did not counter the plans of the
      RSS and VHP, effectively to make the latter’s task easier; ( 14) 68
      persons are found “ culpable”, including Advani, Vajpayee and Joshi,
      but not Narsimha Rao.

      There are several recommendations for the future on both the
      inadequacy of response and the need for new changes. None of the 68
      indicted culpably should hide behind procedure ( even if those like
      Vajpayee have a genuine grievance of not being called a witness in
      his defence) or the leak of the report. Let them replace artful
      defence with honesty and candour. The indicted persons face two
      alternatives other than criminal proceedings. The first alternative
      for them is to candidly state: “ I was involved in the destruction of
      the Babri Masjid and I am proud of it”; and face the social, legal
      and political consequences. Alternatively, if they are innocent, then
      each individual in this group of 68 should be prepared to say: “ I
      never intended or participated in any conspiracy to destroy the
      Masjid; I denounce and condemn its destruction as illegal and
      unconscionable; I express my regrets over its destruction and promise
      never to be involved in any conspiracy and actions to destroy
      religious structures or victimise people of other faiths and
      religions.” There is no other alternative. It’s truth or nothing.

      Nation

      India must put this divisive event behind it. The Supreme Court
      decisions on the Ayodhya Act and Presidential reference case of 1994
      have stated that the vesting of the Babri Masjid area in the Union
      Government makes the latter trustees and not owners of the structural
      area until the Lucknow court decides this issue. At least court
      proceedings have brought temporary peace. But, following the Liberhan
      Commission report there should be ‘ truth and reconciliation’ in
      which statements and regrets are talked through.

      The BJP and Sangh Parivar must be truthful. The nation cannot move on
      until the truth is told. The Liberhan Commission invites a premium on
      truth not for further divisiveness but to heal a nation which was
      split open. But if obtaining political power is more important than
      governance, these games will continue to infiltrate our psyche. The
      most frightening part of the Liberhan report is how the ‘ state’ and
      ‘ governance’ can be hijacked into manipulation and control. Fascism
      began in this way.

      The writer is a Supreme Court lawyer

      o o o

      Herald, 30 Nov 2009

      GOING SOFT ON TERRORISM

      That the Chief Minister isn’t taking firm action against the Sanatan
      Sanstha is an ominous sign, says Vidyadhar Gadgil

      It is now a month and a half since the bomb blast in Margao on Diwali
      eve, which killed two Sanatan Sanstha activists who were allegedly
      carrying a bomb in their scooter. One would have expected that after
      this incident at least there would have been appropriate action
      against the Sanstha, which has long been linked to hate speech,
      communal propaganda and terrorist violence. But that has hardly
      happened.

      Immediately after the incident, there was a knee-jerk reaction of
      sorts, with Home Minister Ravi Naik making statements about “strong
      action” needing to be taken against the Sanstha. But his target was
      clearly his bete noire Transport Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, who has
      close links with the Sanstha, rather than the organisation itself. A
      Special Investigation Team (SIT) was set up and the Maharashtra Anti-
      Terror Squad (ATS) came in to assist in the investigations. The
      investigations have been making slow but steady headway, and a number
      of activists of the Sanstha have been arrested for being involved in
      the bomb plot. Recent reports in Herald reveal that the police have
      unearthed a well-planned conspiracy, where trial runs of the bombs
      were carried out at the Talaulim-Ponda hillock and SIM cards had been
      obtained on the basis of bogus election photo identity cards (EPIC).
      It is to be hoped that these investigations will be carried to their
      logical conclusion and all those involved in the bomb plot will be
      brought to book.

      So far, so good – but what of the Sanstha itself? After the bomb
      incidents, the Sanstha launched a disinformation campaign, in an
      attempt to wash its hands off the whole incident. The line was
      initially that its activists had been framed and that the activists
      who died in the bomb blast were actually the victims of a bomb
      planted in their scooter by others.
      Since such an obvious cover-up carries little conviction, the Sanstha
      simultaneously took the line that these activists were ‘misguided’
      persons who had taken the wrong path. The same argument had been made
      by the Sanstha when some of its activists were arrested for violence
      against Christians in Ratnagiri and after the Gadkari Rangayatan bomb
      blasts in Thane.

      As noted rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar asked in a public meeting
      in Panjim, how is it that the Sanstha’s activists so often take the
      same kind of ‘wrong path’ – and more pertinently, how is it that this
      unconvincing argument is accepted at face value and the Sanstha gets
      away without any action being taken against it as an institution? It
      also defies belief that a few rogue activists of the Sanatan Sanstha,
      a tight-knit, secretive organisation, independently carried out the
      blasts without the knowledge or involvement of any of the senior
      persons in the organisation.

      It is not as if there were not enough indications, even before the
      incidents in Thane and Goa, that the Sanstha’s propaganda was of the
      type that justified violence in the ‘defence of religion’. Much has
      been written about the nature of the literature that the Sanstha
      produces and distributes, the kind of hate speech and communal
      propaganda that takes place in its Dharma Jagruti Sabhas, and the
      ‘defence training’ that it provides to selected cadre. And then we
      had the logical culmination of all this in the blasts in Thane and
      Goa. Despite all this, the state governments, both in Maharashtra and
      Goa, continue to take a soft stance towards the Sanstha. The
      Maharashtra government has long been delaying banning the Sanstha,
      and a recommendation last year by then ATS chief Hemant Karkare to
      ban the organisation was rejected. In Goa, there have been repeated
      demands to ban the Sanstha, the most recent one coming from the
      Congress Legislature Party (CLP). Yet nothing has been done. Masterly
      inaction is the USP of Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and his
      government in Goa. A ban may not necessarily be the best way to
      tackle the problem, but the soft attitude displayed by the government
      defies understanding.

      The BJP has, of course, been trying to soft-pedal the issue, given
      that it is a direct electoral beneficiary of the kind of propaganda
      carried out by the Sanatan Sanstha and its offshoots like the Hindu
      Janajagruti Samiti.

      Manohar Parrikar made distinctly double-faced statements immediately
      after the bomb blasts, demanding foolproof evidence of the
      involvement of the Sanstha in the Margao bomb blasts – this coming
      from a man who, without any evidence whatsoever, blamed SIMI for the
      temple desecrations in Goa. Other BJP politicians, like BJP
      spokesperson Laxmikant Parsekar, have been making similar statements
      and trying to defuse the whole issue.

      And then we have the Congress. While the CLP has demanded a ban,
      Chief Minister Digambar Kamat still takes a soft stance, despite the
      fact that had the plot succeeded, it would have set off a huge
      communal conflagration in his constituency of Margao, given that the
      intention of the Sanstha’s activists was clearly to direct suspicion
      towards the Muslim community.

      Does Digambar Kamat have sympathies for the Sanatan Sanstha? His
      actions (and lack of them) seem to suggest that. He had had no qualms
      about tacitly supporting the rabidly communal and provocative
      exhibition of photographs of Kashmir by Francois Gautier, organised
      by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. The Sanstha and its offshoots have
      only had to say “boo” for him to get terrified and bow to their
      unreasonable demands, whether it is to order an M F Husain film to be
      withdrawn from IFFI 2008 or to curtail the exhibition of Ganesha
      paintings by Subodh Kerkar from 11 days to 2 days!
      Apart from the indecisiveness and saffron-friendliness of our Chief
      Minister, the Congress has always taken a soft stance towards
      Hindutva, under the misguided impression that stern action may
      alienate the Hindu community. While firm action may sometimes lead to
      temporary electoral damage, in the long term it can only strengthen
      the secular base of Indian politics, on which the Congress depends to
      survive. Allowing politics to become communalised is bound to hurt
      the party very badly in the long run.

      The situation in the Congress is complicated by the fact that it has
      always been a hold-all party, and has always accommodated communal
      elements within its fold. This was seen in the 2007 elections, when
      it admitted hardcore RSS activist Mohan Amshekar into its fold.
      Digambar Kamat himself has an RSS background, and joined the Congress
      after defecting from the BJP, having been the Deputy Chief Minister
      in the Manohar Parrikar government. Is that why he is going soft on
      the communal forces? If not, what is the explanation?

      Going soft on religious extremism is not a problem limited to Goa. In
      Maharashtra too, the Congress has shown little inclination to come
      down hard on Abhinav Bharat, the Bajrang Dal, the Sanatan Sanstha and
      the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, all of which have been implicated in
      setting off bombs in the state. Of all holy cows, religion is the
      holiest.

      But if Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and his cabinet colleagues do
      not realise the danger in not taking action against the Sanatan
      Sanstha, someone in the Congress High Command should understand that
      their state governments are sending out the wrong signals; and
      strengthening the ground for communal forces that have terrorists in
      their ranks.


      _____


      [5] Miscellanea:

      Outlook Magazine, 7 December 2009
      Book Review:

      THE RELIGION OF CAPITALISM
      A book that exhorts India’s planners to see its poor as human beings,
      not as ‘factors of production’

      by Dilip Simeon

      The Face You Were Afraid To See: Essays On The Indian Economy
      By Amit Bhaduri
      Penguin, 208 pages | Rs 250

      This small and readable book is a layperson’s introduction to India’s
      economic catastrophe. Since many people believe in an ongoing
      economic miracle, such views are often dismissed as doomsday talk.
      But it is better to be aware of reality than to live in an illusion.
      The title is apt—Bhaduri offers us an unsettling vision of what
      awaits us if we continue along the current path. He alerts us to the
      ideological assumptions underlying the scientific detachment of our
      growth-obsessed economists, who operate as metaphysicians of
      capitalism rather than as acute observers. That is why they will not
      address the fact that “the market as an institution has no
      accountability except for the largely make-believe ideology of self-
      regulation”.

      For the past two decades, India has undergone a transformation.
      Celebrated by an elitist media, the ongoing economic changes have
      acquired political endorsement across a spectrum ranging from the CPI
      (M) to the BJP and Congress. In a country where over three-fourths of
      the population has a daily income of less than Rs 20; some 61 million
      of whose children are stunted by malnutrition (the world’s highest
      figure); and over 90 per cent of whose labourers work in conditions
      of informality, what sense does it make to adhere to a growth
      strategy that systematically punishes the poor, destroys their
      livelihood and makes a mockery of democratic citizenship? Bhaduri
      points to the reality in Indian agriculture, where a farmer commits
      suicide every 30 minutes; where vast tracts of tribal-inhabited land
      in mineral-rich areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and Chhattisgarh
      (protected by Schedule 5 of the Constitution) are being acquired by
      fair means and foul—mostly the latter. Intimidation, police shootings
      and corruption accompany the transfer of lands for mining and
      industrial allotments. Forcible acquisition and dispossession amounts
      to nothing less than violent internal colonisation. And that’s
      official: a review of land reforms by the rural development ministry
      describes this as “the biggest grab of tribal lands after Columbus”.

      The strategy so far can be called ‘developmental terrorism’ where
      state governments are agents of
      (Message over 64 KB, truncated)
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.