Open letter to Chief Justice Bombay High Court on Fraud Nirmal Baba


Nirmal Baba

( PIC COURTSEY- desicomments.com )

To

The Hon’ble Chief Justice, Mohit S Shah

Subject- An Appeal under Art 51 A of the Indian Constitution

I write to you as a Citizen Of India under my fundamental duty ,  mentioned in  Article 51-A of the  Indian constitution  for  developing the scientific temper, and voicing against superstition, and blind beliefs .

Below is come excerpts of the Delhi High court judgment by Honble  Justice  Kailash Gambhir in  NIRMALJIT SINGH NARULA vs SH. YASHWANT SINGH & ORS  (I.A. No.10017/ 2012 in CS(OS) 1518/2012)

 

“Our country was perceived as the land of the sadhus and saints since time immemorial…Though we have come a long way…the mystical sadhus and the god-men have not left the picture, the difference may be that some of the sadhus travel by a private jet and have a turnover worth [tens of millions.]”

‘The question is, whether such spiritual babas in their lectures or discourses can suggest solutions which are absurd, irrational, illogical, unfathomable and unacceptable. advising his disciples in the Samagams and through media, millions of people watching television to open black purses at the time of showering of his blessings then the same will result in inflow of money to them and likewise to tell people to eat Rabri, Masala Dosa or Paani Poori to overcome their miseries, are the kind of solutions which are highly irrational, weird and unacceptable to commonsensical notions, bound to result in backlash by the media and other such agencies. ( Para 27 of the Judgment)

 The videos of Nirma Babas Samagam  also depict the various cures and remedies propagated by him. It would be pertinent here to quote at least one of them:

“Baba: puri chhole khaye kabhi?

Bakht: ji baba ji khaye hain

Baba: Aisa karo puri chhole baba ko yad kar do char garibo

ko khila do, prabhu ki zyada kripaa ayegi.” (para 28 )

 

The above instance is only one odd out of the basket and any prudent person with average intelligence would be in rapt disbelief if such a remedy would get him rid of the difficulties he is facing in his life. Primafacie, these do not appear as logical to a rational mind but the whole edifice of this God market and its nuances is based on the belief system of people. This court cannot help but sound a word of caution that this sudden resurgence of the babas who claims to have mystical powers and give all kind of illogical solutions to overcome the miseries of people has amplified and glorified superstition and has turned the clock back of development in our country. ( Para 29 )

Who is Nirmal Baba

Nirmal Baba, former name Nirmaljit Singh Nirula, was born in 1952 in Samana, India, near Patiala Punjab, to a Namdhari Sikh family and is the youngest of two brothers and three sisters. He grew up in Palamau, Jharkhand after his parents shifted there in the Fifties. He is married to Sushma Narula and has a daughter and a son. Nirmaljit Singh began his brick kiln business in 1981. However, he suffered losses and following this, he started a cloth shop but again failed in his venture. He was then involved in mining of Kyanite from Jyoti Hill, Jharkhand in 1998–1999.He claims to have attained nirvana in a Jharkhand jungle in the 1980s. He then cut his Sikh hair, shaved off his beard and adopted the name Nirmal Baba.[1]

 

Nirmal Darbar  is the name of the paid televised show corresponding to each public meeting of Baba. This show was broadcast by approximately 40 different channels including AXNTV AsiaStar NewsSAB TV and more.[2] During these Darbars, he makes public appearances and converses with aggrieved devotees who usually narrated their personal, social or financial worries to him. He asks questions to diagnose what has stopped “kirpa” (God’s kindness) from flowing in the devotees’ lives. He then, advises them on those issues publicly and suggested “solutions” to make “kirpa” (God’s kindness) flow in the devotees’ lives again thereby solving their problems. Nirmal Baba also claims to save his devotees from negative effects of black magic and evil spirits. All the Samagam meetings havetickets for  Rs 2,000.[3] The tagline of the show is “Yantra chale na tantra mantra, na rahe dukhon ka ghera. Bhagya uday ho jayega jab ho, Nirmal Baba aashirwad tera.” meaning “Even when objects representing aspects of divine and mystical hymns and sounds having special meanings fail, good luck can be awakened in a person’s life by blessings of Nirmal Baba . He  also asks his followers to deposit a part of income to someone which may give a sort of guarantee for continuing KRIPA. That part of income which has been offered is called Daswand.

Complaints and Cases against Nirmal Baba

In April 2012 various news papers published news about Nirmal Baba’s bank accounts. He advertised on 35 channels. On every congregation (darbar) around 5,000 are believed to be present. Each person has to pay Rs 2,000 to be a part of it. This amounts to a staggering figure of around Rs 1 crore from every darbar he organizes. It is believed that around 7 such darbars are conducted every month which takes the stats to Rs 84 crores per year. This not the end to it.He also gives group appointments, conducts pujas, takes donations etc. Every devotee of his, who is healed of his problems, has to pay 1/10th of his earnings. Plus thousands shell out a lot from their kitty to free themselves from the problems which Baba claims to solve.
A Hindi daily, Prabhat Khabar, exposed the  details of two of these accounts. As per the newspaper, Rs 109 crore have been deposited in these two accounts this year (until first week of April 2012). Roughly, everyday Rs 1.11 crores are deposited into these accounts. Although a large part of the deposit comes from Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand, but transactions take place from all over the country. Prabhat Khabar states that Rs 16 crore were deposited into Nirmal Baba’s account on April 12, 2012.

Nirmal Baba told to media that he has  been paying my income tax regularly. His  annual turnover is Rupees 235 Crore. Nirmal Baba bought hotel worth Rs 30 crore in Delhi’s Greater Kailash Area using the money donated to him by his devotees, according to a Jharkhand daily.[4]

In an another controversy two youngsters, Tanaya Thakur and Aritya Thakur, filed a report against self-proclaimed godman Nirmal Baba at a police station on  April 11, 2012 . They wanted  the Baba  be punished for allegedly cheating ordinary people through his “impractical” solutions. The written report said Nirmal Baba cheats common people by claiming godly powers. The report said his activities fuel superstitious thoughts and are a “hindrance to modernistic thoughts”.[5]

Also, Nidhi, a junior-artist who has worked in many TV serials, claimed that Nirmal Baba shot many of his programmes in Film City, Noida, UP and surprisingly the people who asked questions were not the ‘genuine’ ones but ‘fake’ people hired by Nirmal Baba. According to Nidhi, she got Rs 10,000 from Nirmal Baba for asking questions. [6]

First FIR was registered against godman Nirmal Baba in Bihar, on April 22, 2012. The FIR was filed at a police station in Bihar’s Araria district, and accused Nirmal Baba of fraud and cheating. [7] The court of Araria Chief Judicial Magistrate Satyendra Razak then issued a warrant of arrest on the basis of an FIR filed  by complainant who alleged that the Baba forced him to pay Rs. 1,000 in three installments between January and March 2011 on promise of fame and fortune. In his complaint, Singh also sent by courier counterfoils of the deposits of Rs 300 twice and Rs 400 in the Baba’s account at the Punjab and National Bank to his Delhi address as sought .According to Araria Superintendent of Police Shivdeep Lande, the accusation was found prima facie true following which he directed the investigating officer to move the court and seek a warrant of arrest.[8]

In Uttar Pradesh , three cases have been filed against controversial  Godman, Nirmaljeet Singh for alleged fraud and cheating.A case was filed against Baba and his wife in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in Meerut for alleged fraud. The complainant, Harish Veer Singh, claimed that on Baba’s advice he ate ‘kheer’, which led to a health problem. In another police case filed at Indira Puram here, one Jai Ram Singh alleged that Nirmal Baba cheated him of Rs 31,000 by promising cure to his ailment, but he found no relief. In third case, One Jitender Singh filed a police complaint against Baba for allegedly cheating him of Rs 11,000 for curing his health problem . He claimed that he developed regular pain in his body after he ate ‘Pani-Poori’ for months following Baba’s advice. He alleged he had deposited Rs 11,000 in Baba’s bank account, but when he demanded more money, he decided to lodge complaint against the controversial Godman.[9]

In Madhya Pradesh , on a  complaint filed by Bina resident Surendra Vishwakarma,  local court issued a non-bailable arrest warrant, and directed police to produce him on June 25., 2012 . However, the police could not find the controversial Godman on his Delhi address. The  Madhya Pradesh High Court granted him an anticipatory bail. Justice G S Solanki of High Court asked him to execute a personal bond of Rs 50,000. A magistrate’s court at Bina had rejected Baba’s application seeking exemption from personal appearance .Vishwakarma has accused Baba of “cheating and hurting personal sentiments”. As per the complaint, Vishwakarma kept Rs 2,000 in a black purse so that his finances may improve, on Baba’s instructions. However, he lost the purse with the money, he alleged.[10]

Please do see the news report, where the above complainants talk about their complaints

Here is  another  Aaj Tak  interview of  Nirmal Baba

In  June 2012, Following a strong stand taken by Indian Broadcasting Federation asking its member channels to stop telecast of Nirmal Baba’s show Nirmal Darbar, the number of TV channels showing the show  dwindled from 36 to 19. A court in Madhya Pradesh  also issued an order asking stay on telecast of Nirmal Darbar. All the Nirmal Darbar programmes are paid shows on the channels, which runs into crores of rupees.[11]

 

The  self proclaimed , fraud God man is exploiting people who are in search of easy solutions to their agonies be it relating to health, poverty, unemployment, disharmony in the family etc . Nirmal Baba  is  s preading blind faith in the society, with his preachings under title of  ‘Third Eye of Nirmal Baba’ in his samagams , where he asks people to follow his preachings and guidelines to become rich and get rid of all problems in life, while his only motive is to make money.  He has no degree in religious teachings, and spreads fear among people by claiming that he has supernatural powers and asking them “to deposit ten per cent of their income in his bank account to receive his blessings.

I am a votary of  Freedom of Expression and  Speech and  am not asking for any curtailment of speech, but  I  amd asking for an intervention from  the Honble  High Court, that a  caution  be displayed , at all his ‘ samagams’, and public meetings, darbars  venues ,  so that people know what they are listening to — in the nature of a  Statutory Warning.

His next  Samagam in Mumbai as per his website is on April 8, 9 and  2013[12].

Please consider this as a petition against fraud and blind belief.

Sincerely

Kamayani Bali Mahabal

Feminist and Human Rights Activist

Mumbai

Dated- March 16, 2013


[1] www.nirmalbaba.com

[2] http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/NAT-TOP-plotting-nirmal-babas-rise-on-the-web-3108745.html?HF-2=

[3] www.nirmalbaba.com

[4] http://m.oneindia.in/news/2012/04/16/nirmal-baba-donations-buy-rs-1-8-cr-flat-30cr-hotel.html

[5] http://www.newsbullet.in/india/34-more/28574-star-news-exclusive-hard-facts-about-nirmal-baba

[6] http://daily.bhaskar.com/article/NAT-TOP-ask-fake-question-and-get-rs-10000-from-nirmal-baba-3102181.html

[7] http://zeenews.india.com/news/bihar/first-fir-registered-against-nirmal-baba_771060.html

[8] http://www.siasat.com/english/news/hc-stays-nirmal-baba%E2%80%99s-arrestnext-hearing-june-18

[9] http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cheating-fraud-cases-against-nirmal-baba-in-up/938268

[10] http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-06-26/indore/32424181_1_personal-bond-godman-arrest-warrant

[11] http://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/nirmal-baba-show-discontinued-16432.html

[12] http://nirmalbaba.com/

Sounds of silence- Sec 66A-IT Act #FOE #FOS


Jug Suraiya
06 December 2012, 11:12 PM IST, TNN

Following several cases of people in various parts of the country being sent to jail because of comments they had either made, or even just approved of, on social networking sites, JV sought an interview with the newly-appointed minister of misinformation and non-communication. The interview turned out to be unique, in that the interviewer didn`t say a single word right through the entire proceedings leaving all the talking to the interviewee.

Why didn`t the interviewer utter a word during the course of the interview? Was it because of a sudden attack of laryngitis which made it impossible for him to speak? Not quite. Here is a transcript of the one-sided interview.

JV: (Silent greeting of `Good morning`)

Minister: The same to you. Isn`t silence soothing? No wonder they call it golden. And with the price of gold being what it is today — and going up by the hour — golden silence has never been so prized as it is now. And it is the job of my new ministry of misinformation and non-communication to preserve and protect that precious silence and keep it safe from those anti-social elements who are advocates of freedom of screech.

JV: (Silent question mark)

Minister: Yes, yes. I know that the obsolete term borrowed from that out-of-date publication called the Constitution is freedom of speech. But under the special powers derived from rule 37, sub-clause 29ZX of section 66A of the Misinformation and Non-communication Act of 2012, free speech has been deemed to be free screech.

JV: (Silent exclamation)

Minister: Yes, i agree with you. Such an imaginative reinterpretation of language is indeed quite ingenious. And it had become necessary in order to keep the general public — which means the likes of you — safe from the harmful effects of free screech.

JV: (Silent screech)

Minister: See what i mean? You wanted to exercise your right to screech. That was the trouble with our democracy. Everybody believed they had the right to screech, at anyone they liked, at any time they wanted to. No wonder our democracy was fast turning into a dinocracy, what with all that free screeching creating the most godawful din. No, it had to be stopped. In order to restore democracy to those to whom it rightfully belongs: the silent majority. And the more silent it is, the better. That`s what the ministry of misinformation and non-communication and section 66A are all about.

JV: (Silent surprise)

Minister: Why should that surprise you? Haven`t you heard of communicable ailments which are bad for the health of the individual? Well, communication is a communicable ailment which is bad for the health of the body politic.

JV: (Silent understanding)

Minister: See, you`re beginning to get the point now. With people no longer communicating with each other, those dangerous germs called ideas and opinions won`t spread the socially transmitted disease called dissent. Dreadful thing it is, contagious as hell. And there`s no cure for it, only prevention. Prevention in the form of section 66A. And the gag that was put over your mouth when you stepped into this office. No, no. Don`t try and take it off. If i have my way, you`d better get used to it being a permanent fixture.

JV: (Silent vow of enforced silence)

 

Justice Katju’s statement in Mangalore on Naveen Soorinje’s case


December 3, 2012, http://www.vartamaana.com/
Justice Markandey Katju

I have been approached by many journalists in Mangalore about my views regarding criminal proceedings against Naveen Soorinje.

It will not be proper for me to make any comment about the particular case of Naveen Soorinje because I am informed that charge-sheet has been filed in a court and that the judicial proceedings are pending before judicial magistrate, and I am told that a petition under Section 482 Cr.P.C is pending before the High Court praying for quashing of the criminal proceedings. As such, since the matter is sub-judice both before the trial court and the High Court it will not be proper for me to comment about the particular case of Mr. Naveen Soorinje.

However, I am informed that in Mangalore journalists are often harassed by the police and also by the hooligans. I therefore make it clear that the Press Council will not tolerate violation of press freedom either by assaults on journalists or giving threats or in any other manner. Freedom of the press is a fundamental right under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution and it is the duty of the State to uphold this right.

I therefore warn the authorities, which includes both political, administrative and police authorities that if they violate this press freedom by assaults or threats to journalists or in any other manner the Press Council will take strong action in this connection. In particular, the State Government of Karnataka through its Chief Minister is given a strong warning to uphold press freedom and to suppress the activities of hooligans or police personnel who violate fundamental rights of citizens, including the journalists.

The State Government is warned that if it does not protect journalists and uphold press freedom it will be deemed that the State Government is unable to run the Government in accordance with the Constitution, and then the legal consequences in Article 355 and 356 of the Constitution may follow. Article 356 (is invoked) when the President of India finds on the report of the Governor or otherwise that the State Government is unable to function in accordance with the Constitution. I am also part of “otherwise” and anybody can make a recommendation. Of course it is up to the President to accept it or not. Under Article 355 Central Government can issue a warning to the State Government asking it to run the Government in accordance with the Constitution failing which recourse may be had to Article 356.

#India-“Twitter Arrest”-why Indians should be afraid of IT Act’s sweeping Sec 66A


Why was an Indian man held for sending a tweet?

By Prasanto K RoyTechnology writer,

Ravi Srinivasan Ravi Srinivasan has refused to apologise for his tweet
  • 6 November 2012, BBC news

How can a virtually unknown Indian boost his Twitter following a hundred-fold overnight?

Ravi Srinivasan did it by becoming the first person in India to be arrested for a tweet. The 46-year-old runs a packaging business in the southern Indian city of Pondicherry.

On 20 October, he posted a tweet to his 16 followers saying that Karti Chidambaram, a politician belonging to India’s ruling Congress party and son of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, had “amassed more wealth than Vadra”.

He was alluding to Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, who was at the centre of a political row after allegations over his links with a top Indian property firm. Mr Vadra denies the charges.

Karti Chidambaram (@KartiPC) did not take the tweet in good humour and filed a police complaint on 29 October.

He later tweeted: “Free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions. I have a right to seek constitutional/legal remedies over defamatory/scurrilous tweets.”

Explosion of support

The police in Pondicherry acted with unusual speed.

They arrested Mr Srinivasan early next morning, charged him under Section 66A of India’s Information Technology [IT] Act, and demanded 15 days of police custody. Pondicherry’s chief judicial magistrate declined remand and granted bail.

There was an explosion of support for Mr Srinivasan, who refused to apologise. He became a hero on prime-time television. His Twitter following (@ravi_the_indian) grew from 16 to 2,300 in 48 hours.

Anti-corruption campaigners have questioned the motive of the police and the Congress party: Mr Srinivasan is a volunteer campaigner himself.

Karti ChidambaramKarti Chidambaram said ‘free speech is subject to reasonable restrictions’

Mr Srinivasan did make an unverified allegation. Mr Chidambaram could have used the libel and defamation laws. But India’s libel laws are complex. You have to prove that you were defamed.

The police action triggered concern about India’s increasing use of Section 66A of the IT Act of 2000, amended in 2008.

Section 66A is sweeping in its powers.

It can send you to jail for three years for sending an email or other electronic message that “causes annoyance or inconvenience”.

On the face of it, this protects citizens against online harassment.

In reality, the law is more often used by the state as a weapon against dissent. In each such case, police action has been swift and harsh.

In April, the West Bengal government led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee used Section 66A against a teacher who had emailed to friends a cartoon that was mildly critical of her.

Police arrested the professor and his septuagenarian neighbour at midnight on 12 April, and kept them in “protective custody” for days.

In August, West Bengal’s Human Rights Commission asked the state government to take action against two police officers and pay compensation to the professor and his neighbour.

The arrest in Calcutta had triggered outrage in social media, and a wave of Mamata Banerjee jokes with an #arrestmenow tag on Twitter.

The arbitrariness of Section 66A was evident again – it didn’t matter if a cartoon had been published before, or who drew it. If you emailed it to friends, you could be charged under Section 66A and thrown into jail.

Sweeping powers

And there were other cases across India.

In the north Indian city of Chandigarh, 22-year-old Henna Bakshi’s SUV was stolen in August.

A month later, the police had still not registered a complaint. Frustrated, Ms Bakshi posted a strongly-worded note on the city police’s Facebook page in September.

The police slapped a case under section 66A on Ms Bakshi who, as a 10-year-old, had incidentally received a bravery award from India’s prime minister for fighting robbers and helping bust a gang.

The message to Indian citizens, say activists, is: Be afraid. Be very afraid of Section 66A of the IT Act: it can send you to jail for a careless comment.

Trinamool Congress party leader Mamata Banerjee Ms Banerjee’s government used the law against a teacher who emailed cartoons

The law is convenient, sweeping, and certain of hitting just about any target as long as there is authoritative backing.

There are very few examples of Section 66A being used fairly, to the end of justice.

One was the case of popular Tamil singer and entrepreneur Chinmayi Sripada, 28, who ignored years of “trolling” or online harassment.

Finally, on 18 October, she filed a police complaint following vulgar tweets.

The Chennai police registered a case under Section 66A, and Tamil Nadu’s Prevention of Harassment of Women law. An associate professor in a private fashion institute and a government employee were arrested.

Ms Chinmayi’s celebrity status helped. It is less likely that an ordinary citizen who is harassed online could persuade the police to file a case so easily.

On a TV news channel, Ravi Srinivasan said that a close relative who had his motorbike stolen a year ago was still trying to get the Pondicherry police to register a report.

And, interestingly, Section 66A has never been used against politicians.

Senior politician and Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy made stronger corruption allegations against Karti Chidambaram twice this year.

But no action was taken against Mr Swamy, who has now offered to help with Mr Srinivasan’s legal defence.

India needs to make Section 66A far more specific and transparent.

As long as this law remains so very loosely worded and sweeping in its powers, many fear it will remain a powerful weapon to manage dissent by the Indian state.

Prasanto K Roy (Twitter @prasanto) is editorial advisor at CyberMedia, a leading technology publishing group in India.

Freedom to criticize religion is a touchstone of free expression’ #censorship #FOE


 

by Farooq Sulehria

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence

Muslims should ‘simply ignore the crazy provocations,’ Gilbert Achcar says. He thinks that those who engaged in violent protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video did exactly what the video’s production team were hoping for as a result of their provocation.

Gilbert Achcar grew up in Lebanon and teaches at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Among his books are The Clash of Barbarisms, which came out in a second expanded edition in 2006; a book of dialogues with Noam Chomsky on the Middle East, Perilous Power: The Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy (2nd edition in 2008); and most recently The Arabs and the Holocaust: The Arab-Israeli War of Narratives (2010). His next book analyzing the Arab upheaval will come out in the spring of 2013.

While Achcar strongly condemns Islamophobic hate material, he rejects any curtailment of free speech in the name of preventing blasphemy. ‘Freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression,’ he says in an interview with Farooq Sulehria for Pakistan’s Viewpoint Online.

Q: A decade after your book The Clash of Barbarisms, written in the aftermath of 9/11, it seems that the situation has only worsened. A caricature in an obscure newspaper, an immature video: anything can ignite a ‘clash of barbarisms’ disguised as a ‘clash of civilisations’. How would you analyse the ongoing wave of protests against the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ video in parts of the Muslim world?

Gilbert Achcar (GA): The clash of barbarisms that I analysed should not be seen through the lens of such incidents, but rather through much more serious issues such as Guantanamo, the invasion of Iraq, the torture at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, the increasing resort of the USA to extra-judicial killings, etc. Such events do indeed represent setbacks in the civilizing process.

The reactive barbarism found in the Muslim world is mostly incarnated by al-Qaida and other ultra-fundamentalist currents such as the Taliban (whatever goes under this umbrella) and exhibited in much more serious events than the recent demonstrations, such as the dreadful and endless sectarian killings in Iraq, for instance.

These antagonistic barbarisms feed off each other. Of course, the main culprits remain the most powerful: the world powers, the Western powers as well as Russia, which have created this dynamic of adverse barbarisms in the first place.

Q: In Pakistan, at least, the mainstream discourse is to point out Western, especially US, hypocrisy when it comes to freedom of expression. ‘Holocaust denial is a crime,’ is a common refrain. Your comment?

GA: First of all, let us set the record straight. Denying Holocaust is a punishable offence only in some Western countries, not in all of them. It is not liable for punishment in the USA itself. Holocaust deniers freely publish their insanities in the US. This fact is disregarded by all those who use the ban on Holocaust denial as an argument against the USA.

As a matter of fact, there are laws against hate speech in all Western countries, except the US where the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits any restriction to free speech. In upholding this principle, the US Supreme Court went so far, in 1977, as defending the right of the American Nazi Party to march through the village of Skokie a substantial proportion ofwhose inhabitants were Jewish concentration camp survivors. True, there have been violations of this right, particularly for Muslims in the US in the wake of 9/11 and the subsequent surge of Islamophobia. But it remains always possible to fight back legally, and civil rights movements are active on such issues.

In Europe, when you feel you have been a victim of hate speech, you can resort to legal action. The question of Western double standard is usually raised with regard to Jews there, as it is much more difficult in Europe to articulate an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic speech than an Islamophobic one. But this state of affairs owes to two factors.

The first is Europe’s sense of guilt with regard to the Jewish genocide perpetrated by Nazi Germany during the Second World War with much European complicity.

The second is that there are powerful Jewish institutions that react vigilantly against any gesture they deem anti-Semitic, often abusively by equating the critique of Israel with anti-Semitism. They are powerful, but note how they react. Not by holding violent demonstrations that would actually increase anti-Semitism, but by engaging in legal proceedings, publishing articles, and so on. Sometimes they even resort to what may be called intellectual terrorism in trying to intimidate critics of the Israeli state or Zionism with accusations of anti-Semitism.

This said, those who say that freedom of expression in the West is biased against Islam because it is less tolerant of anti-Jewish expression forget that the religion of the overwhelming majority in the West is not Judaism, but Christianity. When it comes to Christianity, Westerners are free to mock the Pope, Jesus Christ, or even God without fear of reprisals. Some of the major artistic and literary works in the West are satirical of Christianity or religion in general in ways that you can’t imagine nowadays when it comes to Islam in the Muslim world.

True, there are some Christian fundamentalist groups that can resort to violence every now and then against anti-religious works. But they are completely marginal. Their violence is punished by law and it never reaches the level of what has been done these last days in the name of religion, which is matched only by the violence of Jewish fundamentalist colonial settlers in Palestine. Moreover, one should not forget that freedom of expression in Europe – in the UK in particular – has been of much greater benefit to Islamic fundamentalists of all brands who sought a refuge there fleeing oppression in Muslim countries than it has to people committing provocations such as those we are discussing.

Anyone incensed by symbolic violence, such as the video in the US or cartoons in France, should retaliate with symbolic violence in the same way or with peaceful protest. Not through physical violence. Resorting to physical violence against a symbolic act is a sign of intellectual weakness. You remember how the Taliban destroyed the gigantic Buddhas in Bamyan. These Buddhas were a World Heritage Site. Did Buddhists react violently? In Egypt and Nigeria, Christians and churches have been repeatedly and bloodily attacked in recent months. Did you see violent demonstrations of Christians worldwide retaliating against Muslim countries? People appreciate the difference between the lunatic fringe that carries out attacks on Christians and the general Muslim population. Muslims should also realise that the violent Islamophobic lunatic fringe in Western countries is marginal, actually much more marginal than the violent Islamic fundamentalist lunatic fringe in Muslim countries.

Crazy provocations like the ‘Innocence of Muslims’ film or the burning of Korans by the crackpot Terry Jones are best ignored. They are so stupid that they don’t deserve any reaction at all. The greatest service one can render to these provocateurs is to respond wildly to their provocations. Agitators are successful when they are able to arouse the feelings of the targeted group. This is why some people rightly argue that the ban on Holocaust denial in France, for instance, is counter-productive. Due to that ban, French Holocaust deniers have become very famous in France, whereas hardly anybody knows the name of US Holocaust deniers in the USA. Had nobody reacted to Terry Jones’s damn-fool provocations, they would have remained unknown, as have thousands of such anti-Islamic utterances. Had nobody paid attention to him, he would not have carried on his dreadful farce. These lunatics have an Islamophobic agenda. Muslim political forces that react in the violent way that we have seen actually reinforce the very Islamophobia against which they protest.

Salman Rushdie’s kind of work falls into a different category, of course. It cannot be dismissed as rubbish. He is a major contemporary writer. However, his Satanic Verses are very innocuous indeed compared to satires of Christianity, or even Judaism for that matter, which are freely available in the West.

Q: Since the Salman Rushdie affair there have been the Danish cartoons, Geert Wilders’ film, and now the film produced in the US. Every time we see wild massive reactions. How do you explain that?

GA: The fact is, very obviously, that certain political forces exploit such events to agitate for their cause, as Khomeini did in the case of the Rushdie affair. He never read Salman Rushdie’s book, in the same way as most demonstrators against the anti-Islam film have not seen it. It is always the same story: some political forces exploit such occasions by stirring up the raw feelings of politically illiterate people in order to push their own political agenda. Fundamentalist forces have always seized upon such provocations. This is how they build their influence.

Q: In Pakistan, a common idea peddled by the government, Islamists and mainstream media is to demand worldwide UN legislation banning blasphemy? What do you think of this demand?

GA: I am hundred percent against it. The notion of blasphemy is a medieval notion. Those who make such a demand want to bring us back to the Middle Ages. If you want to prohibit criticism of religion, you will have to prohibit it for all religions. To implement a ban on blasphemy one will have to proscribe a huge number of works of literature, art and philosophy accumulated over many centuries in all languages, including Arabic of course. Such works are presently banned in the Arab world, but this is a testimony to the lack of freedom of expression.

The freedom to criticize religion is a major touchstone of the right to free expression. As long as a society does not tolerate this freedom, it has not achieved freedom of expression. It is a duty of all people committed to democratic freedoms to raise their voices against barbaric reactions to lunatic provocations. Capitulation to religious demagogy will entail a huge cost at all levels. Once set in motion this process of curtailment of free speech will have no limit. Who will decide what is blasphemous and what is not?

Q: The demonstrators in Pakistan targeted symbols of wealth (banks, cars, ATM machines) or Western culture (cinemas, theatres). Some people view these violent actions in the Muslim world as part of a wider political conflict between the West and the Muslim world. What is your opinion?

GA: I disagree. Violence can be understandable under certain circumstances when people are demonstrating against social and economic assaults on their livelihood or in protest against actual slaughter, massacres, invasions, or occupations perpetrated by Western powers, or the Zionist occupation in Palestine. And yet, the fact is that many real massacres committed by Western powers or Zionists did not lead to any comparable reactions. The truth is that the violence on display is above all a political exploitation by fundamentalists of a provocation for utterly reactionary purposes.

Q: The left in most of the Muslim countries is a small force and is often caught in a strange situation during such crises. While the left, in Pakistan for instance, condemns racist provocations, it advocates curtailment of free speech with regard to religion. What do you think of this attitude?

GA: We are reaping today the result of the left’s failure over many decades to raise the basic secular demand of separation of religion from state. Secularism – including freedom of belief, religion, and irreligion – is an elementary condition of democracy. It should be, therefore, an elementary part of any democratic project, let alone a left project. But most of the left in my part of the world, the Arab region, has capitulated on this issue.

For instance, in Egypt, large sections of the left, including the radical left, have all but dropped the term secularism from their vocabulary. Ironically, when the ‘Islamist’ Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan visited Egypt, he stated publicly that he stood for secularism, to the chagrin of the Muslim Brotherhood.

If the left wants to challenge the hegemony of Islamic forces and develop a counter-hegemonic movement in the political, social and cultural spheres, it must fight resolutely for secularism as well as against gender oppression – another fight from which many on the left also shy away in fear of ‘hurting the feelings’ of the believers. This is a self-defeating strategy.

Farooq Sulehria is currently pursuing his media studies. Previously, he has worked with Stockholm-based Weekly Internationalen. In Pakistan, he has worked with The Nation, The Frontier Post, The News, and the Pakistan. He has MA in Mass Communication from the University of Punjab, Lahore. He also contributes for Znet and various left publications internationally.

 

Award Winning cartoonist Aseem Trivedi keeps his promise, held


 

Express news service : Mumbai, Sun Sep 09 2012,

Aseem Trivedi is facing sedition charges in a Beed court, to be produced in a Bandra court today.

Political cartoonist Aseem Trivedi on Saturday surrendered to police at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) police station, where complaints had been filed against him for insulting the national emblem and other national symbols in his anti-corruption cartoons. The Kanpur-based cartoonist was arrested and will be produced in a Bandra Holiday court on Sunday 10am. The cartoonist, against whom several cases have been filed in the state and who is facing sedition charges, had on Thursday said he would surrender.

Caricatures made by Trivedi had been displayed during the anti-corruption protests led by Anna Hazare at the MMRDA grounds in BKC last December. Private complaints had been filed at the police station against Trivedi, 25, a freelance cartoonist and this year’s recipient of ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’ of Cartoonists Rights Network International, based in Virginia.

Trivedi had shared the award with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat who is on Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people.

Among the controversial cartoons for which complaints were filed against him are one of the national emblem in which the four lions are shown as wolves, blood oozing from their mouth and the word ‘Satyameva’ replaced with ‘Bhrashtameva’ in the inscription ‘Satyameva Jayate’ below the emblem. In another depiction he has depicted the Parliament House as a toilet. In yet another cartoon, ‘Mother India’ is depicted as a woman who is about to be raped.

A case has also been filed in the Bombay High Court against him under the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act 2005, which may attract a two-year prison term and a fine up to Rs 5,000.

Mumbai Police’s cyber wing that had blocked Trivedi’s website, http://www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com last December, sparking a row on freedom of expression, had on Thursday said they did not recall the specific case, as they routinely block objectionable sites.

PLEASE SIGN ON-LINE PETITION FOR HIS RELEASE

 

 

Political Cartoonist charged with #sedition ready to surrender


Sagnik Chowdhury, Posted: Sep 06, 2012 at 0325 hrs IST

Charged with sedition and insulting national emblems in his cartoons, Aseem Trivedi — a political cartoonist based in Kanpur — claims he will travel to Mumbai and surrender to the police in a couple of days. The Mumbai Police’s cyber wing had blocked Trivedi’s website, http://www.cartoonsagainstcorruption.com, last December, sparking a debate on freedom of expression in India.Cyber Crime police officers in Mumbai, however, said they “did not recall” such a case, as objectionable sites are blocked routinely by them.

Trivedi, 25, is a freelance cartoonist and 2012 recipient of the ‘Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award’ of Virginia-based Cartoonists Rights Network International. He shares the award with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat who is on Time magazine’s list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. Controversial cartoons parodying national symbols and emblems were displayed by Trivedi during the anti-corruption protests led by Anna Hazare at the MMRDA grounds in BKC in December 2011, leading to private complaints being filed against him.

In January, a case of sedition was filed against him at the Beed district court. In another case before the Bombay High Court, Trivedi has been charged with insulting India’s national symbols under the State Emblem of India (Prohibition of Improper Use) Act 2005, which attracts a two-year prison sentence and a fine up to Rs 5,000.

According to Trivedi, a Mumbai Police team visited his residence in Kanpur on August 30. “I was not at home, but my parents were taken to the local police station. By the time I reached the police station, the police team had left. It was only after I made calls to the Mumbai Police that I was told about a complaint filed by advocate Rajendra Pratap Yadav. The police did not send me any notice earlier,” Tiwari told Newsline.

One of Trivedi’s cartoons depicts the Parliament building as a toilet, while another shows the Asoka pillar, which has bloodthirsty wolves instead of the four lions and the words Bhrashtamev Jayate in place of Satyameva Jayate. Yet another, titled ‘Gang Rape of Mother India’ features ‘Mother India’ wearing a tri-colour sari, about to be raped by a character labeled ‘Corruption’.

“I am in New Delhi for some work at present. I intend to arrive in Mumbai in the next two days and surrender before the police. I will not seek anticipatory bail. If I am held guilty of sedition in my own country on account of my cartoons, then it’s better not to fight any case at all. We saw what happened at the Jaipur literary festival with regard to Salman Rushdie. In Kolkata, a professor was arrested for merely e-mailing a cartoon that poked fun at the CM. These incidents pose a serious threat to artists,” Trivedi said.

After his website was blocked by the Mumbai Police, Trivedi started ‘Save Your Voice’, a campaign for internet freedom. “On December 27, 2011, I came to know from the domain name registrar that my site had been blocked by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch. Later, I learnt that cases had been filed against me in the Beed district court and the HC. I have not received any notice,” said Trivedi.

A senior Crime Branch officer said, “I can’t recall the details of this case. We receive several complaints and routinely block websites.”

Nand Kishore More, senior inspector, Cyber police station, said, “I am not aware of the case.”

Indian Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi to be tried For Treason #sedition #WTFnews


Indian cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, this year’s Courage in Editorial Cartooning Award winner (along with Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat) plans on turning himself over to the police in Mumbai in the next couple of days over controversial cartoons he posted on his web site that parody India’s national symbols.

Trivedi was charged in January with treason and insulting India’s national symbols, and if found guilty, he could face up to two years in prison and a fine of up to 5,000 rupees (about $100).

In the cartoon below, Trivedi took India’s national emblem of the Four Sarnath Lions of King Asoka that sit above the motto “Satyamev Jayate” (truth alone shall triumph) and re-drew them as bloodthirsty wolves on the re-worded motto “Bhrashtamev Jayate” (long live corruption):

In another offending cartoon, Trivedi drew the Indian parliament building as a toilet:

There is a long tradition of editorial cartoonists using symbols of states to express opinions about governments. Drawing a legislature or parliament building as a toilet is common.  I recently drew our Capitol building in Washington as a toilet:

The offending cartoon below by Trivedi shows the “Mother of India” being held down by politicians and bureaucrats, about to be raped by corruption:

The Indian Constitution allows for “the right to freedom of speech and expression.” Trivedi’s critics argue that while he is allowed to mock and poke fun at politicans, it is a crime to mock the national emblem, the parliament and the Indian flag.

Read an interview that Trivedi gave to Cartoonist Rights Network International, here’s a quote:

“I am democratic. I am patriotic. I have a twenty-four year life without any charges of corruption. I am only making cartoons. … I am talking about nationalism. I love my country. I am reacting [to the corruption] in my own way. Someone is protesting. Somebody is a doing hunger strike in India. [As for me,] I am a cartoonist.”

There is a lot of sensitivity in India about cartoons that offend religious sensitivities, but cartoons that bash the state must be fair game. I would argue that editorial cartoonists must disrespect governments and symbols of governments as a professional obligation.

Dear Twitter: Corporate censorship is still #censorship


 

Andrew Couts July 31, 2012 By

Twitter corporate censorship

Opinion: Twitter’s apparent willingness to censor a user to protect its corporate friends damages the company’s image as a champion for free speech.

UPDATE: Guy Adams’s Twitter account has been restored, as of about 1:35pm ET.

By now, you’ve likely heard about the debacle surrounding British journalist Guy Adams’s Twitter account, which was suspended by Twitter after Adams topped off a tirade against NBC’s time delayed London Olympics coverage by publishing the work email address of Gary Zenkel, NBC’s executive in charge of its Olympics broadcast.

If not, here’s a quick primer: Adams, as Twitter explained to him in an email, had violated the microblogging service’s privacy policy by publishing Zenkel’s email address. Twitter forbids the posting of “another person’s private and confidential information.” As the media has been quick to point out, however, it is not entirely clear that Adams actually violated anything.

For a moment, let’s ignore the fact that Adams posted Zenkel’s work email address — not his personal address, nor his phone number or home address — which some might consider “public” by nature. Twitter’s rules go on to explain that, “If information was previously posted or displayed elsewhere on the Internet prior to being put on Twitter, it is not a violation of this policy.” While it is now quite difficult to find any links through a Google search that were not published after Adams’s Twitter suspension, Chris Taylor of Mashable was able to find Zenkel’s email posted online prior to the current hoopla. And now, of course, Zenkel’s email address has been re-posted all over the Web.

But it’s clear at this point that Twitter — NBC’s “official narrator” for the 2012 Olympics — simply used its privacy policy as an excuse to shut up Adams. As the Telegraph reports, it was Twitter, not NBC, that first noticed Adams’s harsh criticism of the network. Twitter brought Adams to NBC’s attention, and NBC subsequently filed the complaint form that led to Adams’s inevitable account suspension.

As far as censorship on Twitter goes, this is deeply disturbing on several levels. First, it shows that Twitter is willing to bend its rules for users to meet its own ends. (If Twitter is NOT bending its rules, I’d love to hear from Twitter how that is possible. Sadly, the company is staying mum on the matter.) Second, it shows that Twitter’s commitment to transparency and free speech on its network has as much value as Monopoly money.

Back in January, Twitter announced that it had changed its censorship policy so that censored tweets would only appear censored in the country whose government issued the takedown order. Twitter would also post any instance of censorship on the independent watchdog site ChillingEffects.org. The move sparked outrage amongst users who saw the policy change as Twitter bending to totalitarian governments that seek to silence their citizens.

At the time, I defended Twitter’s new policy: Rather than increase censorship on Twitter — a platform that served a vital role in Iran’s Green Revolution, the Arab Spring uprisings, and the Occupy Wall Street movement — the new policy would actually decrease censorship, since removed tweets would only appear invisible to residents of a single country, not the whole world, as was previously the case. It was not Twitter we should be boycotting, I said, it was the totalitarian governments that seek to imprison the ideas of their people.

While I stand by that logic, this NBC disaster proves that oppressive regimes are not the only enemy Twitter users need to worry about: Twitter’s very existence as a company is a problem.

Twitter may be willing to stand up to governments who push around its users, but it is apparently not beyond doing some shoving itself. Since Twitter has so far refused to further explain its suspension of Adams’s account, we can only assume that the fateful move was born of greed — a need to build a relationship with a corporate behemoth like NBCUniveral. What’s to prevent Twitter from roughhousing its users again for similar reasons? Nothing, obviously.

Of course, all of this should be expected. Twitter is, after all, a company, not a publicly owned service like 911. And companies ultimately exist to make money. Rather than join the media pile-on that is currently underway, I wanted to believe that there was some socially justifiable reason for Adams’s account suspension. But as someone who once defended Twitter against those who thought it held the ideals of free speech above its bottom line, however, I must admit that this whole sad saga with NBC and Adams was, disappointingly, inevitable. So the next time you try to pose as a champion of your users and for free speech in general, Twitter, forgive me for taking a more skeptical stance. You are, it seems, just the same as the rest.

 

Shall we film the President ? #FOE #Censorship


 

Why doesn’t India make prez movies?

Priyanka Dasgupta, TNN

(Still from Politics of Love )

India doesn’t have a Presidential form of government. Censor Board of Film Certification will not clear a film about our President that’s even remotely controversial.

Indian Presidents have largely led uneventful lives that haven’t interested our directors enough to make movies on that.

The above are just three of the many reasons often put forward when asked about the conspicuous absence of any movies made on the President of our country. The only cinematic indulgence with a rashtrapati has been in the form of Kunaal Roy Kapoor’s The President is Coming starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Shernaz Patel and Subhash Kapoor’s “Phas Gaye Re Obama” starring Rajat Kapoor, Neha Dhupia and Amole Gupte. Unless, of course, one includes Mallika Sherawat’s “Politics of Love” on the unexpected romance that develops between an Indian-American, Democratic campaign worker Aretha Gupta ( Mallika Sherawat) who falls for an African-American Republican Kyle Franklin ( Brian White) before the 2008 US Presidential Election.

While Indian cinema finecombs reality to find drama in real life, those surrounding the President’s life, scandals and controversies have never been a fodder for celluloid. Forget biographical movies, we haven’t even seen any attempts like “Wag The Dog” (about how a spin-doctor and a Hollywood producer join to “fabricate” a war in order to cover-up a presidential sex scandal), “In The Line of Fire” (about a disillusioned and obsessed former CIA agent who attempts to assassinate the President of the United States and the Secret Service agent who tracks him) or “Vantage Point” (about how the attempted assassination of the American President is told and re-told from several different perspectives). Speculations are rife that Hollywood is making Reagan on the man who once co-starred with a chimp and went on to become the head of the country.

Though it’s not completely incorrect to say that Indian Presidents have largely led uneventful lives, Pranab Mukherjee nomination has been quite engaging. The will-she-won’t-she tension over Mamata Banerjee’s support, her facebook campaign for APJ Abdul Kalam and EC rejecting Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s vote in the presidential election — all that ensured that this year’s presidential poll vaults have entered drawing room conversations. Once in drawing room conversations, has the plot of making of India’s 13th President lent itself to cinema?

Says Anuvab Pal, the script writer of “The President is Coming”, “I don’t think there is anything more to add in fiction that hasn’t already been done in the press about Pranab Mukherjee’s presidential candidature. I would be interested in penning a script on Pranab Mukherjee’s difficulty as a finance minister. I generally like political stories. My new play, “The Bureaucrat”, is getting packed houses because we love to make fun of politics. People stay away from it because they feel if a politician, or party, thinks it’s a mockery of them, they might get into trouble. So, people self-censor.” Pal thinks it would be interesting to write a film on the Indira Gandhi and Giani Zail Singh relationship. “The difficulty would be to make it engaging for the youth today,” he says.

Shyam Benegal, who made a biopic on Netaji, sees no point in India aspiring to make movies on presidents simply because the West has been doing them. “We have a different form of government. Why should we ape the West? We are a nation with work in progress. If I were to make any film, it would be about the political system. If the President gets featured, it would be incidental.”

But for Goutam Ghose, who has made a documentary on Jyoti Basu, a feature film on Pranab Mukherjee is an exciting proposition. “Saying that the Censor Board will create problems or that we don’t have a Presidential form of government is just an alibi. In India Win’s Freedom, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has argued that India wouldn’t have been divided had our country adhered to a truly federal structure. Lord Mountbatten’s mission messed up the whole thing and partition became a reality. We keep on saying that our President doesn’t have much power. But the Constitution does guarantee our President a lot of power. I’d be interested in making a movie that examines how Pranab babu, rises above the problems between the Centre and state, to truly use his power and ensure that India becomes a federal nation. A plot on how a person, who has served so many portfolios, handles power to address issues of the subaltern classes in India interests me as a director,” Ghose says.