Friday, September 5, 2008

India's Guantanamos and Abu Ghraibs

While the human rights abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib by the Bush administration have been exposed, documented and condemned by the world, similar abuses of Muslims in India's "war on terror" have gone largely unnoticed. There appears to be a conspiracy of silence by the world media when it comes to the brutality against Indian Muslims practiced by officials and the right-wing Hindu extremists in world's largest secular democracy. The western media, in particular, have completely bought what Fareed Zakaria, the Indian-born Muslim editor of Newsweek International, describes as a "peaceful, stable, and prosperous" India. Even the officially-endorsed anti-Muslim violence and resulting deaths of thousands of Muslims in Gujarat have not been able to shake the faith of the Indophile western journalists. Let's see if the following account by Yoginder Sikand changes any minds:

Terrifying Testimonies
By Yoginder Sikand,

For several months now, almost no week passes without the media reporting about 'dreaded Muslim fundamentalists' being picked up by the police and allegedly confessing to being involved in bomb blasts or plots to engineer violence across India. It is not my argument that all of these reports are cooked-up and dished-out propaganda. Some of these stories must be true, and those behind such acts must be caught and punished. But, the fact remains, many of these stories circulating in the media are wholly fabricated, and these are being manufactured and highlighted for a particular motive: to fuel anti-Muslim passions and, thereby, justify various forms of discrimination and oppression—even murder—of hapless Muslim citizens who, far from having anything to do with terrorism, are victims of terror—of agencies of the state, especially the police and Hindutva terror outfits.

America's 'global war on terror' has provided a convenient cover to the Hindutva lobby and to fiercely anti-Muslim elements within the Indian state machinery to launch a concerted campaign of terror against Muslims. Large numbers of Muslims in various parts of India continue to languish in jails on trumped-up terror charges, suffering brutal torture as well as routine insults to their religion by police officials. Meanwhile, Hindu terrorists, often in league with the police and the state machinery, are allowed to run riot, unleashing violence and bloodshed on a frightening scale, while the state, the police and the courts take no firm action against them. Bomb blasts that are now occurring with frightening frequency, whose perpetrators remain unknown, are automatically blamed on Muslims, while some of these might possibly be engineered by Hindutva outfits or by elements within the state apparatus, or even by foreign intelligence agencies like the CIA or the Israeli Mossad who have a vested interest in demonizing Muslims and thereby driving India closer into the deadly American-Israeli embrace. That, in brief, was what numerous social activists as well as dozens of Muslim victims of police and state terror testified to at a public hearing on brutalities against Muslims in the name of countering 'terrorism' recently organised in Hyderabad by a group of noted human rights' activists. Going by their depositions and the verdict of the jury of eminent social activists, journalists and retired judges, it appears that powerful elements within the state apparatus are deeply implicated, along with Hindu terrorist groups, in a witch-hunt of India's Muslim citizens.

27 year-old Yakoob Khan from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, was arrested at the age of 17, accused of being involved in the Coimbatore blasts in 1998, a charge that he vehemently denies. 'On the day of the blast I attended class at the Industrial Training Institute where I was enrolled, and when I was returning home I heard about the blasts'. In the wake of the blasts, the police went on a rampage, indiscriminately picking up Muslim youth. Some days later, Yakoob found himself in prison, where he was to spend almost the next ten years, much of it in solitary confinement in a small cage- like cell. 'I was accused of being in possession of explosive material, and of being associated with the Islamic group Al-Ummah, although I had never even heard its name.' In addition to routine torture, while in jail he was often abused for his religion. 'I would be beaten up if I wanted to say namaz. My torturers would tell me to face them while praying, rather than the Kaaba. They tore my Quran, and while beating me they would scream "Bharat Mata ki Jai"'. 'They ruined ten precious years of my life, my youth, falsely branding me as a terrorist', he says.

Yakoob Khan's friend, 34 year-old Shiv Kumar, alias Abdul Hamid, is a Hindu convert to Islam. He eked out as livelihood selling old newspapers and utensils for recycling. He was accused of being involved in the Coimbatore blasts, a charge that he denies. The police forced him to sign a blank piece of paper which they later filled out themselves, threatening him that if he refused to do so they would arrest his family as well. He was remanded to the Coimbatore jail on the basis of this forced 'confession' and his repeated applications for bails were rejected. Because he was the sole earner in his family, his wife was forced to beg in order to survive. He was finally acquitted only recently, after almost ten years in incarceration. 'I was mercilessly tortured in prison. I was constantly told that if I had not become a Muslim and had remained a Hindu I would not have been beaten like this', he says.

Shabbir Masiulllah Ansari was picked up by the Mumbai Crime Branch in August 2006, but he was soon released on bail for 'lack of evidence'. Yet, he was charged anew for being allegedly the 'mastermind' of the Malegaon mosque blasts, while, it is said, that at the time the blasts took place he was actually in police custody. He continues to languish in jail and has suffered routine torture, including acid being thrown on his private parts. In the course of torture he was coerced into making a forced confession, but he later retracted this in court.

Maulana Muhammad Zahid is originally from Malegaon. Some two years ago, at the time of the Malegaon bomb blast, he was in Phul Savangi, a village 500 km away from Malegaon, where he used to lead the prayers in a mosque. The police implicated him in the blast, although his relatives insist he is innocent. When he was produced before the magistrate in Mumbai Esplanade Court, he gave a statement listing the torture that was done to him and also the false statement on which the police had taken his signature. The magistrate ignored his plea and asked for the police produced statement and accepted that as evidence. He still languishes in prison.

Faisal Attaur Shaikh and Muzammil Attaur Rehman Shaikh are among the thirteen Muslims charged for the 11 July 2006 Bombay local train blasts. The police accused Faisal of being a commander of Lashkar-e Tayyeba and of setting off the blast. They also claimed to have recovered maps of Mumbai and some CDS from Muzammil. In October 2006, 11 out of the 13 accused in the case gave their confession, but later retracted it in the sessions' court. It is alleged that almost all the accused were subjected to brutal torture, which forced them to confess to crimes they said they had not committed. It is claimed that 11 out of the 13 accused could not endure the torture and finally agreed to whatever story the police fabricated. This is why their confession stands retracted.

33 year-old Kalim Ahmed Karimi used to manage a small radio repair business in Ahmedabad. On 3rd April, 2003 he had gone out to get some medicines for his pregnant wife who was unwell. The police picked him up and he never came back. Although Kalim was arrested on the 3rd April from Ahmedabad, the CBI states that they arrested him on the 26th of April in Andhra Pradesh. He was charged with being allegedly involved in the Tiffin Bomb Blast case, the Haren Pandya murder case and a 'jihadi' conspiracy. Thereafter, he was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment for the Haren Pandya murder case and to 10 years in the Tiffin Bomb Blast case.

Says his 70 year-old father, Habib Karimi, 'My son is innocent. Officials of the crime branch picked me up for questioning. Under duress, I was forced to sign some blank papers that they presented me with. They told me that I should not contact any lawyer and that they had men keeping an eye on me. I was also told not to forget that they had my signatures on blank sheets. My son has been tortured brutally and he has been forced to sign a confession. He and some others have narrated the experience of torture and forced confessions before the POTA Judge Sonia Gokani.'

Junaid is a final year student at Unani Medical College, Hyderabad, and president of the student union. He was picked up on the 3rd of September 2007 while returning to his home. He was produced before the magistrate on 8th of September 2007. Police claim that he was apprehended at Nampally railway station on the 8th of September. He was accused of conspiring against the state, which he vehemently denied. The argument given by the police was that some literature was found in his possession. While in custody he was subjected to heavy electric shocks, including on his private parts, and was coerced into making a forced confession. During his interrogation he was constantly rebuked for having shouted slogans against police violence. They asked him why he raised questions regarding the Sohrabuddin fake encounter and why he attended a conference against it. They even asked him why Muslims have so many children. For two days he was not given anything to eat. His face was kept covered in a black cloth throughout this ordeal. A shoe was stuffed in his mouth and he was told to read the Quran in that condition. In order to further humiliate him he was forced to shout 'Jai Shri Ram'.

24 year-old Aftab Alam Ansari, the only bread-earner in his 10- member lower middle class family, and an employee of the Calcutta Electric Supply Corporation, was picked up by the police and taken to Lucknow. 'I was badly tortured with iron rods by drunken policemen who accused me of being a Bangladeshi. I was forced to declare that my name was actually Altaf Muletar and that I was responsible for the bombings in Sankat Mochan Mandir and the Courts in Lucknow. Of course I had nothing whatsoever to do with these.'

Aftab was then sent to the civil jail in Lucknow where he was stripped and was imprisoned for twenty two days. 'I was accused of being the area commander of the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami, although I had never even heard of this outfit. My interrogators heaped abuses on Muslims and Islam.'

'They are targeting us just because we are Muslims', Aftab says. 'They want to falsely implicate us in terror cases so that our image gets tarnished and people start hating Muslims.' Like many other innocent Muslim youths who have been picked up and brutally tortured by interrogating agencies and then released for lack of any evidence, Aftab received no compensation for the enormous amount of money his family spent on securing his release. Nor has the state compensated him in any way for the damage to his health caused by the torture in prison. Nor has he received any sort of apology.

Scores more Muslim men and women testified at this public hearing, narrating the harrowing brutalities that they or their relatives have been subjected to, being, so they insisted, unfairly blamed for various terror acts. Predictably, though, the so-called mainstream Indian media took little notice of the hearing, the first of its kind in the country. Nor, for their part, did major political parties and state authorities. As Ghadr, the popular cultural activist from Andhra Pradesh who addressed the gathering, rightly put it, 'To expect anything else from the media and the establishment is folly. The answer lies not in simply narrating our woes but initiating a mass movement against this sort of oppression.'

Sukhia Sab Sansar Khaye Aur Soye
Dukhia Das Kabir Jagey Aur Roy

The world is 'happy', eating and sleeping
The forlorn Kabir Das is awake and weeping


Riaz Haq said...

Muslims are the biggest victims but not the only victims of right-wing Hindu nationalists. Here's a report from BBC about anti-Christian riots in Orissa:

A Roman Catholic nun raped in the Indian state of Orissa, allegedly during a riot by Hindus, has publicly denounced local police.

The nun held a news conference in the Indian capital, Delhi, in which she demanded that national police take over the investigation.

The Orissa police have been heavily criticised for delays in the case.

More than 30 people have been killed in anti-Christian violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district in recent months.

Thousands of Christians have been made homeless.

The 29-year-old nun lodged a complaint on 25 August alleging rape by a member of a Hindu mob. The first arrests in the case were on 3 October.

Riaz Haq said...

According to BBC News, police in India have arrested a Hindu army officer in connection with two bombings in Maharashtra state which killed at least eight people in September.

The blasts happened in the mainly Muslim towns of Malegaon and Modasa.

Police say Prasad Shrikant Purohit is accused of providing logistical support for Hindu militants to make bombs.

Correspondents say it may be the first time a serving Indian army officer has been arrested and accused of having links to Hindu militants.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting commentary by Kapil Komireddi published in the Guardian earlier this year:

Indian Muslims in particular have rarely known a life uninterrupted by communal conflict or unimpaired by poverty and prejudice. Their grievances are legion, and the list of atrocities committed against them by the Indian state is long. In 2002 at least 1,000 Muslims were slaughtered by Hindu mobs in the western state of Gujarat in what was the second state-sponsored pogrom in India (Sikhs were the object of the first, in 1984).

For decades Indian intellectuals have claimed that religion, particularly Hinduism, is perfectly compatible with secularism. Indian secularism, they said repeatedly, is not a total rejection of religion by the state but rather an equal appreciation of every faith. Even though no faith is in principle privileged by the state, this approach made it possible for religion to find expression in the public sphere, and, since Hindus in India outnumber adherents of every other faith, Hinduism dominated it. Almost every government building in India has a prominently positioned picture of a Hindu deity. Hindu rituals accompany the inauguration of all public works, without exception.

The novelist Shashi Tharoor tried to burnish this certifiably sectarian phenomenon with a facile analogy: Indian Muslims, he wrote, accept Hindu rituals at state ceremonies in the same spirit as teetotallers accept champagne in western celebrations. This self-affirming explanation is characteristic of someone who belongs to the majority community. Muslims I interviewed took a different view, but understandably, they were unwilling to protest for the fear of being labelled as "angry Muslims" in a country famous for its tolerant Hindus.

The failure of secularism in India – or, more accurately, the failure of the Indian model of secularism – may be just one aspect of the gamut of failures, but it has the potential to bring down the country. Secularism in India rests entirely upon the goodwill of the Hindu majority. Can this kind of secularism really survive a Narendra Modi as prime minister? As Hindus are increasingly infected by the kind of hatred that Varun Gandhi's speech displayed, maybe it is time for Indian secularists to embrace a new, more radical kind of secularism that is not afraid to recognise and reject the principal source of this strife: religion itself.

Anonymous said...

Reaping the Harvest of Hate
Ram Puniyani
Film Review

Film: From Hindu to Hindutva
Debaranjan Sarangi, Pedestrian Pictures,

Language: Oriya with English Subtitles
Duration- 44 Minutes

Kandhmal violence has been the most ghastly communal violence in the Adivasi areas in India. Close to two years after the violence the tragedy of the area continues, the victims of violence, the rehabilitation, the justice to victims, most of these are no where close to what they should be.

Debaranjan Sarangi, a social activist and writer has effectively caught the Kandhamal carnage in his short but comprehensive film with great amount of sensitivity and objectivity. He presents the whole event with the help of field interviews, the shots of burning of houses and churches and the pathetic condition of the refugee camps. The film begins with the event of murder of Swami Laxmandnand, Praveen Togadia of VHP takes out the procession of his body through sensitive areas of Kandhmal, the rumor is spread that Christians are behind the murder of Swami, One striking parallel which emerges from this account is that even in Gujarat Modi permitted the procession of the victims of Godhra train burning through Ahmedabad, accompanied by rumor that Muslims have burnt the train and this in turn incited the feelings of the people leading to carnage. VHP’s Praveen Togadia does the same. The methods of RSS combine have so much of a parallel.

.... The attacker’s were shouting the slogans of Jai Bajarang Bali.

The state, since Biju Janata Dal had BJP as an ally, soft peddled towards the criminals indulging in communal riots. This is the same story in most of the carnages, be it the anti Sikh pogrom, Mumbai violence or Gujarat carnage, state devices kid gloves to deal with the perpetrators of the crime. Also on the ‘expected’ pattern state gave no protection to victims.... The VHP supporters worsened the situation by asserting that .. Christians should leave or they will be killed unless they convert into Hinduism.
Krishna Majhi, leader of Kui samaj, Adivasis, points out that Adivasis are not Hindus and the ‘Home coming’ campaign, conversion of Adivasis into Hinduism, is a forcible one... This home coming was conducted by Laxmandnand, at big scale. The Christians were tonsured and given a Hanuman locket...
The violence is done by VHP for its political goals. Laxmananand indulged in lot of unchecked ‘hate speech’ against Christians. As a matter of fact his and RSS combines ‘Hate other’ speech against Christians laid the foundation of the violence.

Kandhmal was no flash in the pan. It was systematically built up from 1970 since the swami began his activities there... through which hate campaign was conducted. After the violence the major sectors of state were apathetic to the plight of Christians. Currently even their children are looked down in schools. The anti Christian atmosphere prevails till the day.

Film ends on a sad note, the reality of minorities in Orissa today is well depicted... It gives enough hints about the method of working of VHP, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and RSS combine in the Adivasi areas. Bringing out these linkages with RSS combine’s methods in unleashing violence in other areas would have enriched the quality of the film. It is a must watch for all social activists and citizens at large.

Riaz Haq said...

It seems that the Hindutva aligned Indian intelligence in Lucknow is stepping up its harassment of Indian Muslims. Here's a forwarded email from Dr. Mustafa Kamal, Chairman of All-India Muslim Forum and former deputy VC of Zanzibar University in Tanazania:

Keeping a proper surveillance and vigil over each of the persons is the prerogative of all the governments, and whithout it, the effective administration cannot be ensured. However, when only one group or community is targetted for this purpose, it definitely depicts some presuppositions and prejudices against it.
The same is exactly true about Indian Muslims. On 3rd this month after sunset two L.I.U.( Local Intelligence Unit) persons came to me, saying that they want to collect my personal details and political activities. When I asked them the reason, they simply said that they have instructions to gather information about all the prominent Muslims of the city who are involved in Muslim politics.Anyhow, they evaded the reply when I asked them ' Is it about non-Muslims also'?. From my residence they proceeded to Mr. Manzoor Ahmed, a Retired IPS officer and former Vice Chancellor of Agra University who stays a little distant away from me for the same purpose.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a report by The Independent on the unfolding story of Hindutva terrorists framing Muslims:

India is being forced to confront disturbing evidence that increasingly suggests a secret Hindu terror network may have been responsible for a wave of deadly attacks previously blamed on radical Muslims.

Information contained in a confession given in court by a Hindu holy man, suggests that he and several others linked to a right-wing Hindu organisation, planned and carried out attacks on a train travelling to Pakistan, a Sufi shrine and a mosque as well as two assaults on Malegaon, a town in southern India with a large Muslim population.

He claimed the attacks were launched in response to the actions of Muslim militants. "I told everybody that we should answer bombs with bombs," 59-year-old Swami Aseemanand, whose real name is Naba Kumar Sarkar, told a magistrate during a closed hearing in Delhi. "I suggested that 80 per cent of the people of Malegaon were Muslims and we should explode the first bomb in Malegaon itself. I also said that during partition, the Nizam of Hyderabad had wanted to go with Pakistan so Hyderabad was also a fair target. Then I said that since Hindus also throng [a Sufi shrine in] Ajmer we should also explode a bomb in Ajmer which would deter the Hindus from going there. I also suggested the Aligarh Muslim University as a target."

Police in India have suspected for some time that Hindus may have been responsible for the attacks carried out between 2006 and 2008, and in November of that year several arrests were made, including that of a serving military officer. But the confession of Swami Aseemanand, obtained by an Indian news magazine, is perhaps the most damning evidence yet that Hindu extremists were responsible. It also suggests those involved were senior members of a religious group that is the parent organisation of India's main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

"The evidence is not conclusive but people have to take notice of this," said Bahukutumbi Raman, a former national security adviser and now a leading regional security analyst. "This could aggravate tensions between India's [Hindu and Muslim] communities. It will create problems."

Mayraj said...

Live discussion on IBN TV with a Muslim young man who had been incarcerated and tortured by the Andhra Police for the crime committed by Swami Aseemanand and his gang. How this young man's life has been turned upside down after false accusations and tortures.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Washington Post report on the conviction of 31 Muslims in Godhra train fire case:

NEW DELHI - An Indian court in the western state of Gujarat has found 31 Muslims guilty of setting fire to a train coach nine years ago, killing 59 Hindu passengers in an incident that sparked some of the worst religious violence in India in recent years.

The verdict was delivered inside the jail by Judge P.R. Patel who charged the men with murder and criminal conspiracy in the plot to kill the Hindu activists. The judge acquitted 63 others accused in the case.

Sentences are scheduled to be announced Friday.

The defendants bought gas, cut into the vestibule to pour it inside and torched the train, said J.M. Panchal, the public prosecutor in the case.

The Sabarmati Express train was carrying Hindu activists on their way to build a temple at a disputed site. Police had accused the Muslim mob of executing a well conceived plan in the town of Godhra on Feb. 27, 2002.

However, human rights activists and lawyers defending the accused have argued that it was an accident and not an act of sabotage.

The court on Tuesday upheld the conspiracy argument, but acquitted 70-year-old Maulana Hussain Umarji, who was accused as a key conspirator.

"We are not satisfied with this judgement. There are so many contradictions. We will appeal in higher courts," said I.M. Munshi, the defense lawyer

The burning of the train triggered reprisal riots in the following days that left more than 1,000 Muslims dead in Gujarat. The verdict on Tuesday is the first among nine court cases examining those accused in the violence.

Riaz Haq said...

There is a systemic anti-Muslim bias in the criminal justice system of India, particularly in Gujarat, that makes it extremely difficult for any Muslim accused to get a free trial.

In this particular instance, Justice Bannerjee, various human rights activists and lawyers have argued that it was an accident and not an act of sabotage.

Here's an excerpt from a Tehelka story on how the investigation was handled by the notoriously anti-Muslim Gujarat police that says "if there was a “conspiracy” in Godhra, it was not by the Muslims". ASHISH KHETAN picks apart Judge Patel’s verdict and shows how a devious lie was constructed:

Parmar was the chief investigating officer of the Godhra carnage. It was he who had constructed the premeditated conspiracy theory which was supposedly under independent review by the SIT. When the SIT was formed, Parmar was serving his fourth post-retirement extension given by the Gujarat police. How could a probe officer be inducted into the SIT to review his own investigation, petitioners protested. Under pressure, the SIT reluctantly dropped him from the probe team. But, in another malicious move, it inducted Parmar’s aide Ramesh Patel instead. The logic? Patel was familiar with the case so his presence would help the investigators.

The idea behind the SIT was to have an independent review of the Gujarat police investigation by neutral officers. That purpose was defeated when the probe in effect was handed back to the Gujarat police, under the cloak of the SIT.

Raghavan visited Gujarat only for three days in a month. For all practical purposes, the investigation was carried out by the Gujarat police. In less than 10 months, IGP Jha claimed he had concluded his scrutiny of the Godhra carnage investigation carried out by the Gujarat state police. He claimed to have re-examined all the crucial police witnesses. But dismayingly, when Murli Mulchandani and Kakul Pathak were examined by the SIT, they were not quizzed about their damning confessions made before this TEHELKA reporter. Even the basic question of whether they were caught on camera by TEHELKA was not put before them.

Even more dismayingly, though this reporter’s statement was recorded by the SIT, his testimony — about Pathak and Mulchandani admitting on camera that they had fudged their statements — and the supporting sting footage were not produced before the court. When you consider the fact that both testimony and evidence produced by this same reporter has been cited as an important piece of evidence by the SIT in three other riot cases — Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society — the inconsistency becomes even more glaring. Why did the SIT not want to nail Pathak and Mulchandani? Why did Jha accept the sanctity of the Gujarat police investigation in toto?

If there was a “conspiracy” in Godhra, it was not by the Muslims. ASHISH KHETAN picks apart Judge Patel’s verdict and shows how a devious lie was constructed

Godhra Carnage: A Muslim Conspiracy?

See what two BJP men and a star witness told TEHELKA during a sting operation

Those acquitted have lost nine years of their lives. Only because they are Muslim

Riaz Haq said...

Muslim rulers deliberately projected as intolerant: Katju

Vidya Subrahmaniam, The Hindu

New Delhi: Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju on Sunday attributed simmering Hindu-Muslim tensions to a deliberate rewriting of history to project Muslim rulers as intolerant and bigoted, whereas ample evidence existed to show the reverse was true.

The judge also said that Indians were held together by a common Sanskrit-Urdu culture which guaranteed that India would always remain secular.

Justice Katju said the myth-making against Muslim rulers, which was a post-1857 British project, had been internalised in India over the years. Thus, Mahmud Ghazni's destruction of the Somnath temple was known but not the fact that Tipu Sultan gave an annual grant to 156 Hindu temples. The judge, who delivered the valedictory address at a conference held to mark the silver jubilee of the Institute of Objective Studies, buttressed his arguments with examples quoted from D.N. Pande's History in the Service of Imperialism.

Dr. Pande, who summarised his conclusions in a lecture to members of the Rajya Sabha in 1977, had said: “Thus under a definite policy the Indian history textbooks were so falsified and distorted as to give an impression that the medieval period of Indian history was full of atrocities committed by Muslim rulers on their Hindu subjects and the Hindus had to suffer terrible indignities under Islamic rule.”

Justice Katju said Dr. Pande came upon the truth about Tipu Sultan in 1928 while verifying a contention — made in a history textbook authored by Dr. Har Prashad Shastri, the then head of the Sanskrit Department in Calcutta University — that during Tipu's rule 3,000 Brahmins had committed suicide to escape conversion to Islam. The only authentication Dr. Shastri could provide was that the reference was contained in the Mysore Gazetteer. But the Gazetteer contained no such reference.

Further research by Dr. Pande showed not only that Tipu paid annual grants to 156 temples, but that he enjoyed cordial relations with the Shankaracharya of Sringeri Math to whom he had addressed at least 30 letters. Dr. Shastri's book, which was in use at the time in high schools across India, was later de-prescribed. But the unsubstantiated allegation continued to masquerade as a fact in history books written later.

Justice Katju said the secular-plural character of India was guaranteed both by the Indian Constitution and the unmatched diversity of the Indian population. The judge attributed the diversity to the fact of India being a land of old immigrants, dating back to 10,000 years (Justice Katju and fellow judge Gyan Sudha Misra first propounded this thesis in a judgment, excerpts from which were carried as an op-ed article in The Hindu edition dated January 12, 2011). The diversity, reflected in the wide range of religions, castes, languages and physical attributes found among the descendants, led the founding fathers to draft a Constitution with strong federal features. “Diversity is our asset and our guarantee for staying secular,” said Justice Katju.

Earlier, a resolution passed at the conference urged the government to forthwith set up an Equal Opportunity Commission as recommended by the Rajinder Sachar Committee.

The resolution said: “The conference resolves that inclusive growth is not possible without equal opportunities being given to all sections of society, particularly minorities and other marginalised communities.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC story on damning testimony against Narendra Modi by an Indian intelligence official:

A senior police officer's sworn statement to India's Supreme Court alleges that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi deliberately allowed anti-Muslim riots in the state.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the violence in 2002.

Sanjiv Bhatt says he attended a meeting at which Mr Modi is alleged to have said that the Hindus should be allowed to vent their anger.

Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.
'Vent their anger'

The riots began after 60 Hindu pilgrims died when a train carrying them was set on fire.

Sanjiv Bhatt was a senior police officer in the Gujarat intelligence bureau during the 2002 riots.

In a sworn statement to the Supreme Court, he said that his position allowed him to come across large amounts of information and intelligence both before and during the violence, including the actions of senior administrative officials.

He also alleges that, in a meeting in the night before the riots, Mr Modi told officials that the Muslim community needed to be taught a lesson following an attack on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims.

The Gujarat government has responded to the allegations by saying they have already testified before a special panel investigating the riots and will wait for the court's verdict.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Hindu on India's dismal human rights record:

Six months before India's human rights gets reviewed at the United Nations, the Working Group on Human Rights (WGHR) in India released a report painting a dismal picture of its rights record.

The U.N. Human Rights Council examines the rights record of its members on a rotational basis every four years through a peer review process, the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Reports by the civil society, U.N. agencies and the country under review are relied upon during the UPR. India's review is due in May next year.

“The report presents a very bleak scenario of the actual state of human rights across India. The government has shown positive signs in dealing with the U.N. human rights system in the past year. We hope that this change extends to the UPR review in 2012 and beyond. Nothing but a radical shift in economic, security and social policy is needed to meet India's national and international human rights commitments,” said the former U.N. Special Rapporteur and WGHR convener, Miloon Kothari.

“The last four years have seen a marked increase in the deployment of security forces and draconian laws to deal with socio-economic uprisings and political dissent. Conflict is no longer confined to Kashmir and the northeast but also many parts of central India. In all these areas, human rights violations are overlooked and even condoned. The legal framework and practice have entrenched the culture of impunity. People are increasingly losing faith in systems of justice and governance,” cautioned noted human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover.

She felt the military approach and the ongoing conflicts contradicted India's stated position in the U.N. that it did not face armed conflict and pointed out that militarisation was also being used to forward the state's ‘development' agenda.

“Today, our institutions are in disrepair and failing our needs. Our police need urgent reform. Our bar bench and our myriad commissions need much more vigour, commitment and accountability. Every moment reforms are neglected, thousands of tragedies occur and we cannot build a nation on that,” according to Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative Executive Director Maja Daruwala.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a recent Op Ed by Aijaz Zaka Syed published in The News:

...Law Minister Salman Khurshid suggests the government is considering a six percent quota for “backward Muslims” under the 27 percent quota allocated for economically backward communities.
Things could get more exciting when other communities that come under the 27 percent quota join the protests. The Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh Yadav, that great messiah of Muslims, is vehemently opposed to the idea and could go to any extent to protect its constituency. There will be many others. In the end, the government may be persuaded to withdraw the proposal.
The less said of Dr Singh’s ‘leadership’ the better. One is yet to discover what he really stands for and believes in. If this government had been serious about the predicament of the Muslims, it wouldn’t have slept all these years on the recommendations of the Sachar Committee.

In a fleeting moment of generosity and apparently to acknowledge the Muslim role in returning Congress to power after years in wilderness, the prime minister had picked up eminent jurist Justice Rajinder Sachar to probe the condition of the community. You didn’t need a Supreme Court judge to assess the state of Muslims. It’s there for everyone to see all across the length and breadth of the country.

Yet the findings of the Sachar committee were astounding. Weighed down by the so-called guilt over the Partition and faced by antipathy and often open hostility by successive administrations since Independence, the Muslims have gone from being the ruling class to the lowest of the low in six decades.

In a country that they ruled for nearly a thousand years, Muslims today find themselves struggling on the farthest fringes of the world’s greatest democracy. According to the Sachar panel, the Muslims’ condition today is worse than that of the Dalits, the low caste Hindus who have for centuries suffered the worst possible discrimination and exploitation.

Demolishing the myth of Muslim appeasement, Justice Sachar’s findings actually exposed systemic discrimination and complete injustice at all levels against the community. Justice Sachar repeatedly talks of the disturbing “development deficit” the community suffers from in all walks of life.
Let’s face it. The Muslims are India’s new untouchables. It’s all very well to showcase the cool Khans of Bollywood and sport icons like Sania Mirza as the new faces of India’s Muslims. The larger reality of the community unfortunately is different. Facing political and economic marginalisation and security concerns on the one hand and being perpetually under the scanner of security agencies as usual suspects, they find comfort in numbers and in their ghettoes and slums in urban India. Poverty in small town India and rural areas is even worse. Little of the government benefits and programmes, targeting the vast majority of the economically struggling communities, trickles down to them.

It’s five years since Justice Sachar submitted these findings and possible solutions to the government. We are yet to discover what Dr Singh, or the Congress leadership, thinks about them, let alone act on the urgent recommendations to address the dangerous deprivation and dispossession of the country’s largest minority.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Tehelka story titled Hindutva Lab 2.0 on rising Hindutva threat in Karnataka:

IS KARNATAKA the new Gujarat, the second “laboratory of Hindutva” for the BJP and the broader Sangh Parivar? As the BJP government in the state enters the final year of its first term in power — it had earlier ruled in alliance with the JD(S) — that disturbing question comes up again and again. Behind the morality and hypocrisy, the humbug and corruption that the BJP establishment in Bengaluru has been charged with is a harder, harsher truth: the scary distortion of an entire society.
Take a small example. On 22 January, there was uproar in Uppanangadi, a hamlet near Mangalore. Kalladka Prabhakar Bhatt, a senior RSS leader known for his proximity to Sadananda Gowda and his predecessor BS Yeddyurappa, was addressing a crowd and resorted to extreme and undignified imagery. “Lift the veils of Muslim women,” Bhatt told the throng, “and glimpse what they have to offer.” His listeners cheered; policemen listened too, but strolled casually, as if nothing were happening.

Soon after, the local minorities — a mix of Muslim and Catholic organisations — approached the police, which reluctantly filed an FIR against Bhatt. Yet it refused to arrest him, arguing there was no basis for taking him into custody. Rather, as if to compensate, the local police then filed an FIR against the president of the Muslim Central Committee, Mohammad Masood, under Section 153(a) of the Indian Penal Code — “Promoting communal enmity between classes” — as well as Section 505(2) — “Making statements that create or promote communal enmity”.
In 2009, Sitaram was arrested when a case was filed against him for defamation. Twenty-five policemen turned up and surrounded him. “It seemed like they had come to arrest a terrorist,” he exclaims. His fault was he had written about the exploits of a local Bajrang Dal leader.

Sitaram points to the newspapers stacked in his office. Picking up some of them at random, from the previous month’s pile, almost every day one finds mention of an attack on Muslims and Christians, on churches and mosques. Sitaram is distraught: “They go around shouting ‘Pehle qasaai, phir Isaai’ — First butchers (Muslims), then Christians.” According to official figures, a church has been attacked almost once every 10 days in the past three years. In some cases, the very presence of a Muslim boy with a Hindu girl has caused a riot.

The opposition to Hindu girl-Muslim boy romance is part of a peculiar phenomenon that the Sangh Parivar labels “love jihad”. This paranoia began in Kerala and alleges that Muslim men are being trained to woo and then indoctrinate Hindu girls, to win converts to Islam.

Bhatt is an exponent of theories of love jihad. In December 2011, the Hindu Nagarika Samiti held a massive protest meeting in Sullia, where Bhatt attacked the police for its supposed anti-Hindu sentiment and spoke of how love jihad, terrorism and cow slaughter were rampant in the state.

He was joined by others, notably Satyajit Suratkal, regional convener of the Hindu Jagran Vedike, who said: “Whenever the Muslims provoked us, we have given a suitable response. If they want more, then there might be a recurrence of earlier happenings. If the police join hands with traitors we will teach them a lesson too.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Indian Bollywood star Sharukh Khan on discrimination he has suffered in India:

In an emotive first-person article titled 'Being Khan' featured in Outlook Turning Points magazine, the actor said he feels he has been used by political leaders as a "symbol of what is wrong about Muslims in India".

Shah Rukh Khan on the cover of Outlook Turning Points magazine

"I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India," explained the 47-year-old actor.

"There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country - this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return to what they refer to as my original homeland."

The star said he was prompted to make the film My Name is Khan "to prove a point" after being repeatedly detained in US airports because of his last name.

The political drama sees Khan playing a man with Asperger's syndrome who is mistaken for a terrorist while traveling in the USA.

Shah Rukh Khan has described what it means to be a Muslim post-9/11.

In an emotive first-person article titled 'Being Khan' featured in Outlook Turning Points magazine, the actor said he feels he has been used by political leaders as a "symbol of what is wrong about Muslims in India".

Shah Rukh Khan on the cover of Outlook Turning Points magazine

"I sometimes become the inadvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India," explained the 47-year-old actor.

"There have been occasions when I have been accused of bearing allegiance to our neighbouring nation rather than my own country - this even though I am an Indian, whose father fought for the freedom of India. Rallies have been held where leaders have exhorted me to leave and return to what they refer to as my original homeland."

The star said he was prompted to make the film My Name is Khan "to prove a point" after being repeatedly detained in US airports because of his last name.

The political drama sees Khan playing a man with Asperger's syndrome who is mistaken for a terrorist while traveling in the USA.

"Ironically, I was interrogated at the airport for hours about my last name when I was going to promote the film in America for the first time," he said

Khan, whose wife Gauri is a Hindu, said he chose his children's names Aryan and Suhana in the hope they would not be subjected to the same levels of suspicion in the future.

"I gave my son and daughter names that could pass for generic (pan-India and pan-religious) ones - Aryan and Suhana. The Khan has been bequeathed by me so they can't really escape it," he wrote.

"I pronounce it with my epiglottis when asked by Muslims and throw the Aryan as evidence of their race when non-Muslims enquire. I imagine this will prevent my offspring from receiving unwarranted eviction orders or random fatwas in the future."

Riaz Haq said...

Anti-#Muslim riots in #India UP(247 incidents),77 dead. Maharashtra(82) MP(84), Karnataka(73), Gujarat(68)..2013 data

Riaz Haq said...

#Modi's #India: #Muslim man struggles with freedom 23 years after 'wrong' conviction on false #terrorism charges

India's Supreme Court acquitted Nisar-ud-din Ahmad of terrorism offences last month, after he had spent 23 years in prison. He tells BBC Hindi's Imran Qureshi that he is struggling to start his life afresh at the age of 43.
Mr Ahmad and two others were released from a jail in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan after the Supreme Court overturned their convictions in terrorism offences, citing insufficient evidence.
They had been convicted by lower courts of planning blasts in five trains in December 1993, which killed two passengers and injured another eight.
More than two decades later, Mr Ahmad said his family was struggling to believe that he had actually returned to his home in Gulbarga in the southern state of Karnataka.
"My mother comes and touches my head in the middle of the night just to be sure that she is not dreaming her son is home," he said.
He added that the police had built their case against him on what he called "fabricated confessions" allegedly taken from him, his elder brother Zahir-ud-din Ahmad and two others.
But the top court said in its ruling that "the conviction and sentence [of Mr Ahmad] is completely unsustainable".
"In the absence of any other material on record to lend any semblance of corroboration to the confession, we find it extremely difficult to sustain the conviction and sentence...," the court said.
'Fabricated confession'
Mr Ahmad still vividly remembers the day he was arrested by the police on 15 January 1994.
He had been getting ready to go to his pharmacy college.
"I was held illegally for 43 days before they produced me before a magistrate. They beat me, tortured me, hung me upside down and beat me some more. I begged and pleaded with them to let me know what wrong I had committed. Then they made me sign a fabricated confession," he told BBC Hindi.

Riaz Haq said...

#India writer Yoginder Sikand says in his book "Beyond the Border" that he was taught to hate #Pakistan at age 4. …

Indian writer Yoginder Sikand in his book "Beyond the Border":

When I was only four years old and we were living in Calcutta (in 1971) was clear that "Pakistan" was something that I was meant to hate and fear, though I had not the faintest idea where and what that dreaded monster (Pakistan) was.

What I heard and read about the two countries (India and Pakistan)--at school, on television and over radio, in the newspapers and from relatives and friends--only served to reinforce negative images of Pakistan, a country inhabited by people I necessarily had dread and even to define myself against. Pakistan and myself were equated as one while India and the Hindus were treated as synonymous. The two countries, as well as the two communities were said to be absolutely irreconcilable. To be Indian necessarily meant, it seemed to be uncompromisingly anti-Pakistani. To question this assumption, to entertain any thought other than the standard line about Pakistan and its people, was tantamount to treason.