There will never be another Asghar Ali


 Jyoti Punwani
Mumbai Mirror | May 15, 2013, 12.00 AM IST
There will never be another Asghar Ali
Asghar Ali Engineer passed away on Tuesday. He was 74
By: Jyoti Punwani

Scholarly, courageous and secular, Asghar Ali Engineer spent his life combating regressive beliefs and practices while presenting a modern, humanistic interpretation of Islam

The passing away of Asghar Ali Engineer leaves everyone poorer. He wasn’t only the face of the Bohra reform movement – a movement for human rights supported by the tallest intellectuals of the country. He was a scholar of Islam, whose interpretation of it was progressive and humanistic, embracing the egalitarian ideals of Marxism and feminism. The world, including the bastion of conservative Islam, Saudi Arabia, invited Engineer to share his knowledge and liberal reading of his religion.

Engineer was a brave man. Assaulted six times, twice almost fatally, by orthodox Bohras, simply for fighting constitutionally against the absolute hold of the Syedna over the community, it would have been easy for him to give up a fight he began openly in 1973, with an article in The Times of India. The social boycott against him declared by the Bohra clergy cut him off for years from his family, including his mother, and in his words, “almost drove (me) mad”.

The political establishment, all the way up to Indira Gandhi and Vajpayee, stood solidly behind the Syedna. Yet, Engineer remained a Reformist throughout, and not just in his personal life. Under his guidance, the Reformists became a force to reckon with, with women at the forefront of the movement. He showed the same courage in openly organising support for the Shahbano judgment, when the Muslim establishment mounted acampaign against it.

For me, Asghar Ali Engineer was many things – a fount of knowledge and a guru, yet one so devoid of arrogance that I was able to, over the past 20 years, interact with him as a friend. I first met him as a member of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, of which he was both founder and vice-president. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, CPDR members used to demonstrate holding placards in a narrow lane across the road from Badri Mahal, Fort – that was as close to the Bohra headquarters as the police would allow us to get. Yet this insignificant bunch of youngsters, led by Engineer and a few other Reformists, would be considered enough of a threat to be stoned by orthodox Bohras. I used to be terrified, but not the much older Engineer.

As a novice in journalism, I turned to Engineer for everything concerning Muslims – be it history, the freedom movement, communal politics. Always ready to share his immense knowledge, he never grew impatient at my endless questions. I would interview others too, but no one had his rounded, secular, yet scholarly perspective.

In 1984, after seeing the partisan conduct of the police towards the Shiv Sena, during the riots that broke out in Bhiwandi, Thane and Mumbai, I told him I supported those young Muslims who felt revenge was the only solution. “No, never,” was his immediate response. “Revenge will only set off an endless cycle of violence, which will help no one, Muslims least of all.”

His way was to change minds. But that will take forever, I replied. Yet that’s what he never stopped trying to do through his writings and interactions with youngsters, policemen and IAS trainees. Every communal riot was investigated by him personally, or by his team, to trace the root causes, for as he said, religion was not the cause of conflict, its political use was.

Engineer won many awards, but the one that suited him best was the Right Livelihood Award or the Alternate Nobel, given to him in 2004 “for promoting religious and communal co-existence, tolerance and mutual understanding”.

With all his qualities, Engineer was essentially a simple man. I remember him walking outside his ramshackle building holding his little daughter Seema’s hand; remonstrating and embarrassed as his wife grumbled to me about being left behind for weeks as he travelled all over the world; chuckling at some wry comment on the irrelevance of pseudo-secularists.

Engineer had told his family he would like to be buried where his friends from the Progressive Writers Association, Kaifi Azmi, Jan Nisaar Akhthar and Ali Sardar Jafri, were. No doubt, he’ll be happy reciting Urdu poetry with them. But we, who still need him, will wonder where to find another like him.

WHEN ENGINEER BOWED BEFORE THE SYEDNA

The first and last time Engineer bowed in front of the Dawoodi Bohra high priest was when he was physically forced to by a marshal in the Syedna’s chamber. He had been taken there by his father, himself a priest, after his matriculation result was declared. Seeing others “fall on their knees and crawl with folded hands to the Syedna’s chamber, where he sat on a high chair like a king, (then) prostrate, lie with face down in submission before him,” Engineer refused, believing that sajda was to be performed only before Allah. Abusing him as ‘shaitaan’, a marshal caught his neck and forced it down. (From A Living Faith, Engineer’s autobiography)

 

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases #WTFnews


Protests erupt inside & outside court, shoe flung at the judge

30 Apr 2013, , AGENCIES

Unhappy with acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in an anti-Sikh riots case, a man hurled a shoe at the judge as protests erupted inside and outside Karkardooma court here today after pronouncement of the verdict, with police detaining several people.

Protesters gave a tough time to police as they tried to enter the court complex this afternoon. A large number of people had gathered outside the court before the pronouncement of the verdict and tried to enter the courts but police prevented them.

Anticipating trouble, police had deployed personnel in strength and barricaded the area but some of the protesters managed to enter the complex. However, they could not enter the courtroom.As soon as the judge acquitted the Congress leader while convicting five persons, angry protesters shouted slogans against Kumar and tried to enter the complex. Complainant Jagdish Kaur sat on protest inside the courtroom saying she would not leave until justice is done.

One of the victims, who lost her son and husband in the riots after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, said there was “no justice” for them. “There is no justice for us. My son was killed, my husband along with his brothers were killed. There was reign of terror for three days (during the riots). People were burnt alive,” the victim said. Police detained several protesters, including the one who threw a shoe at District and Sessions Judge J R Aryan after the pronouncement of the judgement.

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases

Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: April 30, 2013 21:34 IST

New Delhi Sajjan Kumar, a former Congress MP, has been acquitted by a special CBI court of all charges in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases against him. He was accused of murder and of instigating a riotous mob that killed five Sikhs in Delhi’s cantonment area on November 2, 1984. Five other people accused in the case have been convicted, three of them of murder.

Here are 10 developments in the case:
  1. In court, the families of riot victims protested as the Congressman’s acquittal was announced. A man named Karnail Singh threw a shoe at the judge and has been arrested.
  2. An eyewitness in the case, Jagdish Kaur, who claims to have seen Sajjan Kumar leading a mob that killed her husband and father 29 years, broke down in court.
  3. Outside court, an elderly man said, “Where do we go now? How much longer do we fight for justice. It’s been 29 years. We have gone from being young men to old.” “Today,” he said, “is worse than 1984.” The families of the victims have said they will appeal against the verdict.
  4. In its concluding arguments in the case last week, the CBI had told the court that there was a conspiracy of “terrifying proportion” between Mr Kumar and the police during the riots 29 years ago.
  5. The Delhi cantonment riots case was registered against Sajjan Kumar in 2005 on the recommendation of the Nanavati Commission. The CBI had filed two chargesheets against him and the other accused in January 2010.
  6. Mr Kumar, who was then the Congress MP from Outer Delhi, is also accused of instigating a mob during riots in the Sultanpuri area. Six people were killed in the violence there.
  7. The Delhi High Court deferred a decision in that case yesterday and posted the next hearing for May 15. The High Court is hearing Mr Kumar’s petition challenging a trial court order to frame charges against him in the Sultanpuri case. He is accused of murder and rioting and spreading enmity between two communities in that case. He is also facing trial in another case related to anti-Sikh riots in the Nangloi area of Delhi.
  8. In 2010, the Supreme Court had refused to quash charges against Mr Kumar and said the trial would continue against him. It had also pulled up the CBI for failing to conclude its arguments and taking too much time.
  9. Earlier this month, a Delhi court reopened an anti-Sikh riots case against another Congress leader Jagdish Tytler. He is accused of inciting a mob that killed three men during the riots.
  10. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. 3000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone. In the 29 years since the riots, only 30 people have been convicted, none of them high-profile politicians, though several Congress leaders have been accused of inciting violence.

 

Gujarat – Different riot, same story #antisikhriots


MIDDAY

17APR2013

 

Ranjona Banerji, Mid Day 

Just as anyone who lived in Delhi through the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 or the Mumbai riots of 1992 and 1993 knows what happened, that is true of Gujarat 2002 as well. Trying to get to office on February 2008 – a day after the attack on the Sabarmati Express — was a harrowing experience, dodging mobs out on the roads in Ahmedabad, looting and burning.

The policemen who I saw that day stood quietly in corners, away from the mayhem. They looked away when they were exhorted to help.

What the investigation, broadcast by a news channel this week, into the police wireless reports from February 27 onwards shows is that there were some police officers who were well aware of what was happening and were asking for help even as the situation got out of control. Also evident from the innumerable messages from the State Intelligence Bureau is that there was awareness about the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal gathering forces and fear over the outcome. The riots were not spontaneous or sudden, as claimed by the state and Central governments.

All this was evident on the streets on Ahmedabad. While a restaurant near my residence in that city was being vandalised, people in cars called for hand carts on their cell phones to carry away the discarded furniture. The restaurant only served vegetarian food but its name was ambivalent and could well have been Muslim. The anti-Muslim rhetoric and cries of “revenge” for the Godhra attack were everywhere.

College professors visited the newspaper office where I worked, initially shame- faced and then slipping in lines like “ but maybe they deserved it”, harking back to the raids on the Somnath temple by Mahmud of Ghazni.

The government took too long to respond, the police commissioner never left his office — even though there was mayhem on the streets outside and victims arriving in hundreds in camps a stone’s throw away. The army also came too late. Riots are always shameful and shocking and rarely if even spontaneous. But usually even the most cynically manipulative of governments makes an attempt to control proceedings. In Gujarat in 2002 however it seemed as the riots were allowed to continue — with incidences of violence stretching into months.

There is some anger and resentment — perhaps understandable — that is there is too much focus on Gujarat when rioters elsewhere have escaped. This is definitely true.

Jagdish Tytler appears defiantly free, defending himself on TV when victim after victim named him for the attacks on Sikhs after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The worst example is perhaps Mumbai. The hand of the Shiv Sena in the riots is well known.

The Srikrishna Commission indicted the party from its late chief Bal Thackeray downwards. Nothing happened to the Sena and nothing happened to the investigations into the riots. The case into the1993 bomb blasts which followed the riots has seen closure, with much public attention.

So far, the public discourse about riots has been disquieting, even toxic.

If religious minorities — like Muslims in Gujarat 2002 or in Bombay 1992- 1993 — are the targets then we fall into a lose- lose spiral of accusations of false secularism, demands of ubernationalism, complaints of appeasement and what is nothing short of majoritarian bullying. We seem unable to accept that religion per se — whether it is used by Muslims or Hindus or anyone else — cannot and must not be a justification for violence. Governments do not like to probe riots too deeply because they feel that given the amount mass level anger or hatred exposed, such wounds are best left untouched and ignored.

Gujarat then is the first opportunity to India to clean up its act. It is thanks to the Supreme Court alone — as far as a Constitutional authority goes — that the Gujarat riots have seen any move towards justice.

Unfortunately, the apex court had to step in because of the reluctance of the state government to move on the cases against rioters. Therefore, while there may be inherent unfairness about riots in the past, this is one opportunity to provide a template for justice in the future.

 

Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist.

You can follow her on Twitter @ranjona

 

25th Anniversary of Paash – A Punjabi Poet who died for opposing Fanaticism #mustshare


SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013

The Most Dangerous – Poem by Paash

Most treacherous is not the robbery
of hard earned wages
Most horrible is not the torture by the police.

Most dangerous is
To be filled with dead peace
Not to feel agony and bear it all,

Leaving home for work
And from work return home
Most dangerous is the death of our dreams.

Most dangerous is that watch
Which runs on your wrist
But stands still for your eyes.

Most dangerous is that eye
Which sees all but remains frostlike,
Most dangerous is the moon
Which rises in the numb yard
After each murder,
But does not pierce your eyes like hot chilis

By Gurpreet Singh

Twenty-five years ago when leftists across the world were commemorating the hanging of Bhagat Singh—a towering revolutionary who fought against the British occupation of India—another progressive voice was silenced by the terrorist bullets in Punjab, India.

Paash, whose real name was Avtar Sandhu, was gunned down by Sikh separatists on March 23, 1988.

It was a sheer coincidence that his murder came on a historic day that commemorated the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his two comrades, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were hanged together by the British government on March 23, 1931. But the political ideology of Paash, who was born in 1950, made him inseparable from them.


True to his commitment toward the secular and progressive ideology of Bhagat Singh and his comrades, Paash was assassinated for his writings, which opposed religious fundamentalism. 

Much like Bhagat Singh, Paash was opposed to religious fanaticism of every shade and pulled no punches while criticizing both Hindu and Sikh extremists.

Yet the terrorists, owing allegiance to the Khalistan Commando Force seeking a separate theocratic Sikh homeland, shot him dead. 

His death shocked secularist Punjabi scholars in B.C. where a Paash Memorial Trust is still active and continues to hold events in his memory once a while.

Although Paash lived in California, he never made it to Canada. He was visiting India at the time of his murder.

It was thanks to Maxim Gorky’s Mother that Avtar Sandhu came to be known as Paash. Born in a peasant family, he loved to identify himself after Pasha, the hero of the classic novel by the same name.

This pen name gave him a new identity which remained with him until his assassination. There were some striking similarities between legendary Pasha and Paash as both stood for the working class and opposed both the establishment and theocracy.


Paash started writing poetry during his early teens and was an ardent reader, who had a personal library that housed books on range of subjects including science, philosophy, and literature. Though he wrote essays and published two Punjabi journals, Haak and Anti 47, as well as a “wall newspaper“, he gained much prominence as a poet. 

His poetry was so popular that its translation from Punjabi into other languages attracted attention widely, both outside Punjab and all of India. Even some Bollywood stars were among his admirers.

In the late 1960s he became involved in the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, but slowly he became fed up with its politics and instead joined with supporters of the ultra-leftist Naxalbari movement. It believed in an armed struggle for the sake of landless farmworkers.

He borrowed the idea of publishing a wall newspaper from Chinese revolution. It is a separate matter that he was not a sectarian leftist and remained critical of the flaws within Communist parties and groups.

Paash was briefly jailed for being a Naxalite but this did not deter him from writing for poor and against state repression. His poems were frequently smuggled out of prison and published. His rebellious poetry was widely circulated among the youngsters. Even a section of police and bureaucracy was influenced by his poetry.

It is not surprising that the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party of India, opposed an attempt to include one of his highly provocative poems in the school curriculum. 

Paash also opposed the state of emergency imposed by the Congress government from 1975 to 1977, and expressed his anger at the then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in his poetry.

He even returned a paycheque to a Hindi newspaper that censored lines about Gandhi in his poem as a mark of protest.

It was his journal Anti 47 that provoked the Sikh separatists. Since he studied a lot, he questioned and denounced their separatist ideology by quoting from Sikh scriptures. He shamed them by arguing that the real Sikhism was all about equality and compassion—and not fascism.

The title of the journal symbolized a challenge to another attempt to divide India on religious lines like in 1947, when Muslim Pakistan was separated from India.

As a result, he was gunned down by the extremists in his native village Talwandi Salem. As one says, you can kill a person but not an idea. Paash may have been murdered physically, but his rebellious rhymes will continue to live.

Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Canada’s 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings

#India- The Politics of Death Penalty


death-penalty

Rajindar Sachar

 

 

One had always heard perjorative remarks about politics and morality being distant neighbors, notwithstanding the life long struggle by Gandhiji to have some kind of connect between these. This was demonstrated with a telling thud in the way Central Government has dealt with the case of Afzal Guru a resident of J & K who was held guilty in attack on Parliament and sentenced to death by the Supreme Court in 2005. The lower court thereupon fixed 20th October 2006 as date of execution. However the wife of Guru filed a mercy petition before the President who after giving personal hearing to her, asked for some clarifications from the Home Ministry, which was never sent.

 

Guru had also in 2006 sent petition through the jail to the President. He never   received   any   reply   to   this  application, but nevertheless was

hanged on the morning of 9th February, 2013. Excepting for few officials, none including the family of Guru knew of the impending execution. I am personally against the death penalty, being follower of Gandhiji, J.P., Dr. Ambedkar.  But even if we have death penalty, the manner in which hanging has been carried out in this case certainly outrages principles of humanity.

 

I am also concerned with the low in politics where hanging of one person becomes the subject of slinging match between two major political parties Congress and B.J.P. For the last so many years BJP has ad-nauseam made the issue of hanging of Guru as one of its major political strategy and to seek to project the delay by the Congress government as antinational, unpatriotic and most mischievously as a Muslim appeasement question. Congress was upto now explaining the delay as an administrative question. But it would appear that core group of Congress has now decided that it was necessary to hang Guru to counter the challenge of B.J.P., because of the proximity of General Elections to Parliament in 2014, and may be to advance the date of Election  at  convenient date  in  2013.  So since a month back Digvijaya Singh Congress General Secretary, suddenly and without any provocation invited questions on TV on Guru and making a very pointed statement demanding Guru’s hanging.

 

Having so decided UPA Government went about Guru’s hanging in the vilest of human Rights violations. No where in the world, where a modicum of rule of law exists, can the government hang its citizen without informing his family prior to it and allowing them to meet him. Human dignity of Guru was violated by denying him this right. Government’s clumsy claim that a speed post was sent on 7th February from Delhi to the family of Guru in J & K and since the family did not contact the government, they went ahead with hanging. Such a convoluted explanation will immediately invite the taunt “Tell that to the Marines”. Admittedly letter was received by the family on 11th February, when Guru had already been hanged on 9th February. Can one even imagine the deep permanent scar left on the family especially the wife and small child.

 

I have no doubt that there was premeditated decision by the Home Ministry not to allow the family to meet Guru (because this would become public knowledge) and presumably it will naturally result in some demonstrations especially in J & K and Delhi. Admittedly Mr. Shinde, Central Home Minister telephoned Omar Farouk Chief Minister of J & K a couple of days earlier informing him of the decision to hang Guru and asking for his reaction – Omar is stated to have raised no objection, but asked only to be told earlier to the date of hanging. The further news report suggests that Home Minister a few days later himself talked on phone to Omar and in the accepted style of conspirators told him in code language that “the event he had told him earlier will be done in a day or so”. What more proof is required to show complete disregard for well established norms by the government.

 

This hush on the plea of security is laughable. No doubt there would have been some demonstrations and protests, but so what – it is a normal feature in democracies, unless it is the governments plea that its security machinery is so incompetent that it could not deal with demonstrations   by   angry    supporters    of     Guru    and  that  it also apprehended a Navy Seal Expedition like done by USA government to kidnap Osama Bin laden in Pakistan.

 

Bonafide of governments intention to hang immediately is also being questioned, considering that government knew that Supreme Court is still examining the question that if there is delay of over 2 years in disposing of the mercy petition, no execution should take place – in Guru’s case delay is over 7 years – was not that enough reason to suspend hanging of Guru in the meanwhile.

 

The killers of Indira Gandhi were allowed to meet their family members before hanging. Has the functioning of Central government become so sullied that their own precedents have no relevance.

 

Even now with all this inhuman and defenseless exercise, the central government is refusing to return the body of Guru to the family. Both in law and morality, the family is entitled to the body of Guru so that it can be buried with all the usual religious ceremonies at a place of their choosing, so  that  they can visit the grave like others can. No silly prison rule to refuse the body to the family on the puerile excuse of public disorder can be pleaded in defense. The government in order to conceal its own illegalities, insensivity and violation of Human Rights has got caught in its own web and succeeded in projecting Guru in death larger than in life.

 

The Central government should not muddy the situation any further. It has already allowed itself to be cornered by B.J.P. in the communal cauldron, inviting a legitimate comment that in the matter of belief in secularism, the difference between B.J.P. and Congress is that between tweedledum and tweedledee – the former being openly anti-secular and the later being also the same but concealing it under a thin ice which dissolves at the altar of electoral strategy.

 

As an epilogue, should we not consider that instead of governments repeating in future such nauseating violation of the Human Rights,  India should follow the course of at over 140 countries which have agreed to abolish the death penalty and have put a moratorium on any more hangings.

 

Dated: 20/02/2013

New Delhi

 

#India- Air attacks in Mizoram, 1966 – our dirty, little secret


19 FEB, 2013,  ABHEEK BARMAN,ET BUREAU

The original villages, crops and granaries were destroyed to deny wandering insurgents shelter and food.

The original villages, crops and granaries were destroyed to deny wandering insurgents shelter and food.
One month and four days after becoming prime minister of IndiaIndira Gandhi was faced with a problem familiar to her father, Jawaharlal Nehru: an insurgency in the north east. On February 28, 1966, the Mizo National Army (MNA) revolted against India and fighting broke out across the region. In response, the Indian state did two unprecedented things.

By March 2, the MNA had overrun the Aizawl treasury and armoury and was at the headquarters of theAssam Rifles. It had also captured several smaller towns south of Aizawl. The military tried to ferry troops and weapons by helicopter, but was driven away by MNA snipers.

So, at 11:30 am on March 5, the air force attacked Aizawl with heavy machine gun fire. On March 6, the attack intensified, and incendiary bombs were dropped. This killed innocents and completely destroyed the four largest areas of the city: Republic Veng, Hmeichche Veng, Dawrpui Veng and Chhinga Veng.

Locals left their homes and fled into the hills in panic. The MNA melted away into surrounding gorges, forests and hills, to camps in Burma and the then East Pakistan. The air force strafed Aizawl and other areas till March 13. One local told a human rights committee set up by Khasi legislators GG Swell and Rev Nichols Roy that, “There were two types of planes which flew over Aizawl — good planes and angry planes. The good planes were those which flew comparatively slowly and did not spit out fire or smoke; the angry planes were those which escaped to a distance before the sound of their coming could be heard and who spat out smoke and fire.”

This was the first— and only — time that the air force has been used to attack Indians in India. It cleared Aizawl and other cities of the MNA, but did not finish off the insurgency, which would last for another 20 years. Till the 1980s, the Indian military stoutly denied the use of air attacks in Mizoram in 1966.

By 1967, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act was in force in the area that is now Mizoram. That year, the eastern military brass, led by the then Lt General Maneckshaw, and government decided to implement the second terrible thing it did in Mizoram. This was called ‘regrouping of villages.’

At the that time, there was one road coming south from Silchar in Assam, that traveled all the way down to where the state’s limits ended. To the east and west of this road were vast tracts of forests, hills and ravines, dotted with hundreds of villages.The military plan was to gather villagers from all over, and cluster them along the side of this road. These new, so-called Protected and Progressive Villages (PPVs), were nothing but concentration camps, minus gas chambers. The movement was supposed to be voluntary — people in some far off hamlet were supposed to jump with joy when told to give up their land, crops and homes to trek hundreds of miles and live behind barbed wire. Actually, the military told villagers to take what they could carry on their backs, and burn everything else down. Elders signed ‘consent’ papers at gunpoint.

In every case, villagers refused to move. When they were coerced to march, they would refuse to burn down their properties. Then, the military officer and his men would torch the whole place down. They would march in a column guarded by the military, to their designated PPV.

Life here was tough: each resident was numbered and tagged, going and coming was strictly regulated and rations were meagre. In the PPVs’ confines, tribal conventions broke down. In the scramble for scarce resources, theft, murder and alcoholism became widespread.

The regrouping destroyed the Mizos’ practice of jhum, or shifting cultivation. There was little land inside the PPVs and their original jhum areas had been left far behind in the interiors. Farm output fell off a cliff. Mizoram suffered from near-famine conditions, supplemented by what little the military could provide, for the next three years.

Why were the villagers herded into the PPVs? The military reckoned that keeping villagers under their eyes would keep them from sheltering insurgents or joining the MNA. The original villages, crops and granaries were destroyed to deny wandering insurgents shelter and food.

These ideas were picked up by our officers from the colonial British playbook. The British had regrouped villages during the Boer war in the early 20th century, in Malaya, where they interned Chinese in special camps and in Kenya where villages were uprooted to crush the Mau Mau revolt.

The British could get away with all this because they were inflicting pain on a subject population. The Indian establishment had no such fig leaf: it was giving grief to its own citizens.

The scale of the Mizoram regrouping was awesome. Out of 764 villages, 516 were evacuated and squeezed into 110 PPVs. Only 138 villages were left untouched. In the Aizawl area, about 95% of the rural population was herded into PPVs. No Russian gulag or German concentration camp had hosted such a large chunk of the local population.

The first PPVs were dismantled in 1971, but the last ones continued for another eight years. The MNA revolt ended in 1986. No government has expressed regret for the bombing and regrouping.

 

#India- Ending the silence- 1984 anti-Sikh Riots


HISTORY

Ending the silence

VIKRAM KAPUR, Frontline

Many questions still remain unanswered about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Unless we face them squarely to give the event a sense of an ending, its ghosts will continue to haunt us.

BEDI/ AFP 

NOVEMBER 2, 1984: A building belonging to Sikhs burning in Daryaganj.

WHY do you write so much on Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the anti-Sikh riots it spawned, I am often asked. Sometimes the question comes with the admonishment: What can such writing possibly do except open old wounds? After all, 28 years have passed. Punjab is peaceful and, moreover, the country has a Sikh Prime Minister. So why don’t you simply move on like everyone else and let all that be? At other times, the question comes accompanied by a genuine concern for my literary well-being. There is nothing to gain by writing about the events of 1984, I am told. No one remembers them outside India; so the chances of finding a foreign publisher are remote. Even in India, 1984 accounts for little more than a historical footnote. Certainly, it is nowhere near as prominent as the destruction of the Babri Masjid or the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. So why write about it?

Over the years, I have put the same question to myself. I am not a Sikh. No one I knew was ever targeted in those riots. The mob came nowhere near my home in South Delhi. All I saw of the actual devastation was a burnt vehicle that had not been removed from the road and a razed gurdwara awaiting kar seva. That too, after the riots abated. My abiding memory of the day of the assassination is a flag I saw flying at half mast in a foreign consulate (I cannot recall which one) while walking home from school. At the time, I had no idea what could possibly make a flag fly at half mast in a foreign consulate. Yet, I distinctly remember my chest tightening with the thought that something was not right. My abiding memory of the three days of rioting that followed is a TV screen showing dignitaries shuffling past the Prime Minister’s body lying in state, the propriety manifest in the scene contrasting sharply with the mayhem playing out elsewhere.

The most telling anecdote I have from those days that involved someone I knew occurred more than a month after the riots subsided. A school friend who happened to be a Sikh visited me at home. After he had left, our chowkidar, an ex-Army havildar from Haryana, told me, “These days you should keep your distance from Sikhs, baba. They are no longer good people.” Those words brought home the extent to which the world can change in a few days. I had known that friend for years. We sat next to each other in school. Now, a wall that we had no role in constructing threatened to come between us.

Yet, despite not being touched by it, it is in that madness that I have found a groundswell of creative inspiration. Writers do not select their material. Their material selects them. Thus goes the old adage. As the Israeli writer Etgar Keret reminds us, stories that matter are those that come from somewhere inside the writer. Anyone can pluck something out of thin air. But for something to have value, it has to come from something. On the basis of that, I can only conclude that even though my involvement was no more than that of a bystander, somehow those events became as much a part of me as my DNA.

Terrible cost

Two thousand seven hundred and thirty-three men, women and children were killed in the three days of rioting, according to official estimates. A sitting Prime Minister was assassinated for the first time in Indian history. There was incalculable damage to property and other assets. Furthermore, the riots served to radicalise thousands of Sikhs who otherwise would not have had anything to do with the Khalistan movement, and paved the way for an insurgency that not only terrorised Punjab for most of the next decade but cast a shadow that reached all the way to Delhi. There were also instances of members of a ruling party actively participating in the bloodletting of a section of the citizenry while the government, the police and the administrative machinery sat about doing nothing. Rather, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi attempted to explain away the riots with the now infamous statement: “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”

All these years later, however, it is not what happened in 1984 that rankles. It is the fact that the “corpse” of 1984 continues to show enough signs of life to play out, to the letter, what the American novelist William Faulkner said about the past. (Faulkner, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1949, said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”) The recent stabbing of Lieutenant General Brar, who led Operation Bluestar which brought about the Prime Minister’s assassination, is merely the latest indication that 1984 is still alive and kicking.

RAVEENDRAN/ AFP 

THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RIOTS, in which over 2,700 men, women and children were killed, have still not been brought to book. A Sikh woman widowed by the riots, during a protest near Parliament House in New Delhi on October 31, 2002.

A journalist engages with history as it happens. A historian deals with it in retrospect. A biographer concerns himself with the actions of its principal actors. For all three, facts form, or should form, their major stock-in-trade. A literary writer, on the other hand, is more concerned with the heart beating at the core of the body of facts. Like Salman Rushdie in Midnight’s Children, he or she is willing to compromise on accuracy to get at the essence of things by giving that passage of events a recognisable face. Hence, Partition has its Saleem Sinai, the Russian Revolution its Dr Zhivago, the First World War its Paul Baumer, the Victorian age its Pip….

For me, the most compelling face of the 1984 riots emerged more than 20 years after they transpired. In 2005, following a lecture at a Delhi college, I met a 20-year-old Sikh man who would later become the inspiration for a short story. As part of the lecture, I had read an excerpt from my first novel that deals with the 1984 riots. Maybe that was what made the young man come over at the end of the lecture and ask if he could have a word. He waited patiently until I had finished with everyone else. Then we walked over to the college canteen. Over a cup of tea, he shared his story.

Confronting the truth

He said he had been told by his mother that his father was working in the Gulf while he was growing up. As he grew older, he started to wonder why his father never phoned. Then he wondered why his mother was always scrounging to make ends meet. Other families where fathers worked in the Gulf never seemed to want for anything. Finally, one day he brought matters to a head with his mother and demanded to know what had actually happened to his father. His mother broke down in the face of incessant questioning and told him that his father had been murdered in the 1984 riots. She had concocted the story about him working in the Gulf to spare him the heartbreak.

After he had finished, I did not know what to say. Everything he had told me was as far away from my childhood as you could possibly get. For me, Dad had been a given while growing up; it was inconceivable to imagine growing up without him. For that young man, his father had existed in a lie. In order to sustain the lie, his mother would have concocted other lies. She would have authored letters and told him they came from his father. She would have bought presents and passed them off the same way. She would have built expectation by conjuring dates when the father was due to come home only to dash it later by saying he could not for some reason…. For the ruse to work for any length of time, members of the extended family had to be in on it. Were so many people participating in a lie in order to save their little one from heartbreak? Or was it part of their own desire to keep their loved one alive, if only in fiction?

Whatever else it did, such a childhood had clearly marked him. If he had not told me he was 20, I would have put his age closer to 30. I was reminded of the passage in the German author Erich Maria Remarque’s First World War classic All Quiet on the Western Front where the battle-scarred narrator, Paul Baumer, says about himself and his mates: “Young? None of us is more than twenty. But young? Young men? That was a long time ago. We are old now.”

In the end, I asked him how finding out the truth about his father felt. He told me it was hard at first. While he had sensed his mother was lying to him, he was unprepared for the brutal nature of the truth. (His father was set on fire and burned to death.) With the passage of time, however, he had come to terms with it. The truth helped give the matter closure. He no longer had to live wondering about his father.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES 

A SIKH MAN who cut his hair and shaved his beard to hide his religious identity during the riots shows his identity card.

Closure is what the events of 1984 have lacked. Following the stabbing of Lieutenant General Brar, the airwaves have been rife with speculation about the ghosts of 1984 rising. Recently, a cache of arms was seized in Punjab. There have been claims that money is being collected in gurdwaras abroad to create mayhem in India, and jobless Sikh youth are being radicalised through incendiary rhetoric and doctored films. An Operation Bluestar memorial, which has raised the hackles of a number of Army veterans, is planned in Amritsar.

Will the ghosts of 1984 rise? I sincerely hope not. However, at the moment, that entire period resembles an erratic narrative meandering in the absence of inspiration. There is no telling where something so rudderless might go. If civil society and people of conscience continue to relinquish its stewardship, then its authorship may very well fall into the hands of those who wish to push it into retro mode, and we could find ourselves facing a tragic déjà vu.

As a nation, we prefer to use silence to deal with our historical mistakes. Hence, our ghosts hang around. In the immediate aftermath, silence has its uses. Then memories are too raw and wounds too fresh for a constructive dialogue. After a suitable amount of time has passed, however, silence is counterproductive. By letting the unresolved linger, silence allows resentment to fester. The events of 1984 have lacked the kind of rigorous reflection and self-examination that would give them closure. Many of the questions remain to be answered. Responsibility has not been affixed for the crimes. The decisions taken at the time have not been dissected in any great detail for their veracity. For instance, how and why were things allowed to deteriorate to the point where it became necessary for the army to enter the Golden Temple? That was, after all, the event that set the whole tragic cycle in motion. It demands to be placed under a microscope.

Political expediency

In part, all of that is the direct result of political expediency. Just like the Gujarat riots of 2002, what happened in 1984 was politically motivated and the political fraternity is understandably hesitant to examine or prosecute itself. The Bharatiya Janata Party has dragged its feet over the Gujarat riots. In the same way, the Congress has been reluctant to revisit 1984. It was 2010 before the Central Bureau of Investigation framed charges against the senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his role in organising the riots. There are others who have escaped prosecution altogether.

When it comes to righting historical mistakes, we would do well to take our cue from others. The fact that there is no chance that the Holocaust will ever be reprised is not because what happened then is shrouded in secrecy. Rather, it is because it has been shouted so loudly from the rooftops that we are sick to the gut. By the same token, one big reason why Germany has been able to move on from the monstrosity that was Nazism and the crimes of the Holocaust is that it was willing to stare them in the face. (The Germans had no wish to repeat their mistake following the First World War, where they refused to take responsibility for their defeat and opened the way for Hitler to seduce them by blaming the entire debacle on the Jewish minority.) Hence, guilt was fixed where it needed to be fixed. In a number of cases, it was admitted with genuine remorse. Those guilty of the most heinous crimes were punished. The necessary apologies were made….

South Africa has attempted to do something similar with apartheid. While it has not been entirely successful, it has managed to emerge as a functioning multiracial democracy, a far cry from its troubled neighbour Zimbabwe. Even our much-maligned neighbour Pakistan came clean by making the Justice Hamoodur Rehman Commission of Inquiry report into their military failure of 1971 public. The same, however, cannot be said about the Henderson Brooks report dealing with our military failure in the 1962 India-China war. Even though 50 years have passed since the event, it remains classified.

The silence surrounding the events of 1984 has guaranteed that they have generated little reflection and practically no self-examination. A lot happened in 1984. Just the fact that a sitting Prime Minister was assassinated for the first time in Indian history is enough cause for discussion. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, President Lincoln almost a hundred years earlier. To this day, the American press and intelligentsia debate those events. By comparison, the focus on Indira Gandhi’s assassination has been minuscule. In fact, the entire epoch seems to have leapfrogged the stage of reflection and stock-taking altogether and looks ready to enter the realm of contested history. The religious leadership of the Sikhs is hell-bent on declaring those who died for the Khalistan cause martyrs. Others view such attempts with a mixture of revulsion and shock.

After the beginning, possibly the most important thing in a story is its ending. A satisfying ending can salvage a mediocre story by making it memorable. If anything, the recent rumblings in Punjab should tell us the last thing we need with regard to the events of 1984 is more silence. By steadfastly remaining topical, that passage of history continues to prove how insufficient the sense of an ending we have provided for it is. Like the young Sikh man I met in 2005, it needs the kind of irrevocable closure that cannot be supplied by silence. The sooner we realise that and move to resolve the things that keep it topical, the earlier we will put it to rest.

Vikram Kapur is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. His website is www.vikramkapur.com






#India #Punjab #IndiraGandhi -Remembering A Dark Moment Of Our History


 

31 Oct 2012 | GOVERNANCE | By VBRAWAT, Halabol Blog

It was early morning of 31st October that Indira Gandhi was preparing herself for an interview to a foreign TV channel at her residence at Safdarjang Road and walking towards the office at Akbar Road.  As soon as she reached the gates of her house, the guards at duty, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh fired at her. Mrs Gandhi was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The news of attempt on prime minister’s life spread like wild fire but unfortunately India under the strict government information control was just getting information through All India Radio and Doordarshan that Mrs Gandhi was attacked and doctors at AIIMS were trying to save her life.

There was no information and after some time people started spreading rumors. The BBC had declared that she was dead and this information had already been broadcasted by all the international radio stations but back home Doordarshan and Akashwani were just playing ‘bhakti sangeet’ and melancholy music.

The justification was that no senior politician was in the the capital. President Jail Singh was on an official visit to South Korea, while Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in West Bengal. Vice Presidents and other senior leaders too were out of Delhi and hence no one was there to guide the government – resulting in total chaos that led to rumors in the street resulting in anti-Sikh violence. By the evening, the 6 pm news on the radio and TV officially announced that Mrs Indira Gandhi died in a terrorist attack at her residence around 9 am. By that time, the president and other senior leaders were back to Delhi.

In the late evening, President Jail Singh swore in Rajiv Gandhi the new prime minister of India along with a few other ministers. The fact is that there was no parliamentary board meeting that time but president Jail Singh fulfilled his loyalty to late Indira Gandhi by asking Rajiv to form the government. The anti-Sikh sentiments were running high during that period and slowly the country saw the worst ever governance at the Centre.

While Radio and TV were showing Indira Gandhi’s dead body over and over again, there was no constraint on the government not to broadcast the anti-Sikh sloganeering being raised by Congress workers. Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahega, Indira Tera Naam Rahega… Khoon Ka Badla Khoon Se Lenge’, were some of the provocative slogans on the air. The local political leaders of the congress party had already started whipping up passions and Sikh establishments and business institutions were targeted. By the evening the Sikhs became an alien in this country. The country was moaning for Indira Gandhi but the Hindus had decided to teach the Sikhs a lesson for their act. Reasoning was lost in the din of noise and as the governance remained completely lost; the people were allowed to die on the street by the hooligans.

Innocent lives were lost. Children became orphans; women became widows and parents saw their children getting burnt in front of them. This was the scene at the street at India’s capital. Shamelessly, the government had no time and it looked like that it was instigating the crowd to act. There was no governance for the next three-four days. Aakashwani and Doordarshan were dutifully showing the crowd and their anti-Sikh chanting.

This continued till the cremation of Indira Gandhi took place in which a large number of international leaders too participated. The only thing was that there were not many Sikhs in the entire programme except for President Jail Singh and Congress leader Buta Singh. It is ironical how Sikhs were kept out and completely isolated for so many days in the Indian political establishment.

Rajiv spoke to the nation that ‘Indira was not just my mother but the mother of nation’. He spoke of everything except the violence on the street. The sarkari news agencies never bothered to inform people about the violence on the street. “The situation is tense but under control”, was a trademark statement. It was not just Delhi – the anti-Sikh violence took place everywhere with police and administration allowing things to happen.

Why innocent Sikhs should be punished by criminal mobs because a prime minister was assassinated by people who happened to be Sikhs. There was no sane voice who could tell the nation that entire community couldn’t be held for the crime of two individuals. There was no one in the government who could speak that the first thing for the new government to do was to restore law and order. Even when army was required, it looked, it was delayed deliberately. And at the end of the three days, India had debris of human masses – killed by the political people for their political purposes.

And as it happened, justifications were ready from the criminals. “The Sikhs need to be taught a lesson,” they said. They were celebrating and distributing sweets, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was shot, said the others. “If we do not teach them a lesson, they will destroy India,” said many. And the pattern was similar to what the forces of Hindutva do. The fact is that they too participated in this whole exercise.

It needs to be understood that Indira Gandhi became a ‘Hindu’ leader when she was shot by her Sikh security guard and Rajiv became the aspiration of Hindus who were being threatened by the Sikhs. He was a son, an obedient one, who needed to be supported and it was that reason that during the subsequent general elections, the country gave a huge mandate to the Congress Party. It was an election which was built up on a hate campaign against a community and if I dare say a completely communally mandated one at that. The fact was that the Congress had realized the popular sentiments and communalized atmosphere in the country, and they felt it was the right time for them to strengthen that further and hence they promoted anti-Sikh sentiments and violence in different parts of the country.

The victims of the communal violence instigated by the political goons of the Congress Party have not yet got justice. Court proceedings are delayed while the criminals roam freely in Delhi. Some of them were awarded as key ministries in the subsequent cabinets as well as in the party. The scars of those pogroms are still in the hearts of the people because of the deliberate delays and attempts to save the criminals by the power elite of the country.

In fact, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to justify anti-Sikh violence by, “Jab Ek Bada Ped Girta Hai Toh Aas-Paas Ki Dharti Hilti Hi Hai” [When a huge tree falls, it’s natural that the surrounding earth shakes]. It was not a speech of a seasoned political leader but a politician who was playing politics with the dead bodies. And a massive mandate does not justify the killing and violence. The Congress’s game was replicated by the BJP in Gujarat and the victims belonged to another minority this time.

It has to be understood that in the schemes of things of our major political parties, the value of a majority community is important and for that they are ready to dump the minority voices and their rights. Hence, Rajiv Gandhi and his Congress did not care for the Sikhs when the matter was communalized and the Hindus felt that the Congress needed to be strengthened. In the similar case of Gujarat, Modi sidetracked all the criticism of justice to Muslims and went on his tirade against them.

A similar pattern is being witnessed now in Haryana when no party is ready to take on the Khaps for their anti-constitutional statements and violence against Dalits. It effectively shows that the Indian state is primarily a Brahminical state that just works on the sentiments of the so called upper caste Hindus and only stereotypes the minorities. The difference between an act of violence by an individual is actually painted as the voice of the community and then punishment is given by the ‘people’ and is justified by the power elite as the sentiments of the ‘majority’.

It is not for nothing that when we see the pattern we find strange similarities of violence against minorities in Delhi and Gujarat. One shudders to think what would have happened if Gandhi was killed not by Nathuram Godse, a Brahmin but by some Muslim or Dalits?  But a Brahmin killing Gandhi did not result in violence against them in the country. In fact, there was justification of their theory of killing Gandhi.

India cannot become a truly democratic society if she fails to protect the people who do not practise the same religion or values as the power elite do. The rule of law must be applied in all circumstances and political deaths should not be used as hate propaganda against one community to get the political benefit for the other. The threat of communalism looms large on the country and can take it back to primitive age of horror and terror. It is time that Indians rise above their narrow communal mindset and behave as citizens of the country. All the citizens of the country need protection and failure to protect them by officials needs to be punished severely including formation of special courts for their trials.

The criminals of Delhi’s anti-Sikh riots must be punished at the earliest and all those innocents who lost their near and dear ones need to be rehabilitated and protected so that they continue to have faith in the constitution of the country and their hopes are not totally belied in the politicization of a crime.

 

 

 

Resist Silent Emergency!-‘People’s Hearing on FABRICATED CASES’-Sept28-29


Dear Friends,

Sub: Invitation to a ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’

Venue: Constitution Club, New Delhi

Dates: September 28 – 29, 2012, Friday, Saturday.

The nightmare of the infamous Emergency of Mrs. Indira Gandhi was supposed to be over in 1977 when it was lifted after two years due to large scale public protest. Political parties, institutions and individuals who defended Emergency were discredited. The sigh of relief evoked a hope for a functioning democracy in India.

But today, we are entering into a similar phase of authoritarian governance without any formal declaration of Emergency. This Silent Emergency has regulated, controlled and restricted all space for democratic public protests against ruling governments. Custodial deaths and encounter killings have become a routine phenomenon. Rape, murder, loot, torture and arrests in Manipur, Nagaland and other north eastern states as well as Kashmir have even crossed the excesses of the Emergency period. Many discriminatory laws have been enacted to silence the Media without a censorship. Several discriminatory laws were enacted to enhance and strengthen the power of the State over civil society and crush dissent.

Laws to facilitate the corporate control and loot over the resources of people are being enacted. This has also become a major reason for the human rights violations against adivasis, dalits, minorities, farmers, fisher people, workers, activists and human rights movements. The human rights defenders who take up burning issues of the people are being targeted. False cases are being fabricated against activists, people’s movements, media, theatre activists, minorities, self-determination movements, dalits and adivasis in a major way. Thus thousands of innocent people are languishing in Indian jails without any trial.

In this context of the Silent Emergency in our country we would like to invite you to attend the ‘PEOPLE’S HEARING ON FABRICATED CASES’ which has the following objectives:

1. To defend fundamental rights, human rights and the Indian Constitution to preserve our democracy

2. To popularize some of the most brazen cases of fabrication of false charges against political dissidents and members of the Muslim, dalit and adivasi communities

3. To facilitate further legal action for freedom of these innocent people

4. To generate pressure on the mainstream media to play a more socially responsible role

5. To generate pressure on the institutions of Indian State for the release of undertrials.

The Programme:

The organizers expect the participation of around 50 victims, their family members or friends whose testimonies will be heard by a jury comprising of judges, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists and artists. After listening to all the presentations the Jury will report their observations and conclusions with clear recommendations for various institutions of the Indian State.

Organisers: Solidarity Youth MovementKerala, Indian Social Action Forum – INSAF, PUCL, AISA, SIO, Right to Food Campaign, KSMTF (Kerala Swathantra Matsya Tizhilali Federation), PPSS (Anti Posco Movement), ICR, Focus on the Global South, Justice for Maudany Forum, Visual Search, Moving Republic, SAHELI, Pedestrian Pictures, National Campaign Against Fabrication of False Cases, http://www.fabricated.in, Jamia Teachers Solidarity Assiciation, Jamia Student Solidarity Forum, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan, National Adivasi Alliance, Kabani – The Other Direction, Human Rights Alert, Dalit Human Rights Movement (DHRM) – Kerala, Forum for Democracy and Communal Amity, Action for Social Equality, INSOCO – Indian Solidarity Committee for freedom democracy & human rights, Center for Harmony and Peace – Varanasi, PUDR, Socialist Front, Student of Resistance.
People’s Hearing on Fabricated Cases

Sept 28-29 Constitution Club, New Delhi

Programme Schedule

28-09-2012, Friday

Inaugural Session: 10am – 11.30am

11.30am – 1.30pm
Issue
Speaker

1
Koodankulam Anti Nuclear
P K Sundaram

2
Anti POSCO Struggle
Abhay Sahoo

3
Jaitapur Anti Nuclear
Vaishali Patil

4
Farmers Group, Madhya Pradesh
Dr. Sunilam

LUNCH BREAK

2.30pm – 6pm
Issue/Case
Speaker

5
Journalist Mhd Ahmed Kazmi
Shauzab Kazmi

6
Soni Sori
Himanshu Kumar

7
Gujarat Fabricated Cases
Zakiya Soman

8
Faseeh Mahmood
Sabih Mahmood, Manisha Sethi

9
Journalist Shahina KK
Shahina KK

10
Seema Azad, UP
Seema Azad

11
Jharkhand
Dayamani Barla

12
Odisha
Prafulla Samantara

13
Chattisgharh
Ajay T.G

14
DHRM, Kerala
Suresh

15
Email Surveillance Victims, Kerala
T. Mohammed Vellom
29-09-2012, Saturday

10am – 1.00pm
Issues
Speaker

16
Kashmir & North East
Anjum Zamrud Habib, Babloo Loitongbam, Kaka D Iralu, Neena Ningombam

17
Abdul Nasar Maudany
Dr. Sebastin Pol, Omar Mukhtar
LUNCH BREAK

2.00pm – 3.30pm
Issues
Speaker

1
Prisoners Issue
SAR Geelani

2
Repressive Laws
Preeti Chauhan, PUDR

3
Increasing repressive state under neoliberalism
Colin Gonsalves
3.30pm – 6.00pm

Concluding Session: Comments from the Jury

Jury:
Justice Rajindar Sachar
Dr. Binayak Sen
Saba Naqvi
Ajit Shahi
Dr. Ram Puniyani
K Satchidanandan

In support of Aseem Trivedi, now being tried in India for sedition for drawing cartoons


 

On September 9, 2012, in IndiaLiberty, by Sanjeev Sabhlok
I had never heard of Aseem Trivedi before, but I am shocked to read today that he has beenarrested and will be tried for SEDITION! – for what? For cartoons that depict his anger at the massive corruption by the Indian government. [Also see this news of his arrest.]

Apparently, in India, it is criminal to depict the state for what it is: a monster that is sucking up the blood of the people of India.

I myself had depicted this in 1975:

In my view (depicted in this picture) Indira Gandhi had disemboweled the poor even as she pretended to care for them. I was 15 years old when I made this. Seditionist? No. I had a strong sense of integrity even then, and strongly cared for India. To care for your nation is NOT sedition.

Apparently Trivedi has shown disrespect to national symbols. But what about those who LOOT the country? Are they showing respect merely because they are escorted by Z level security?

What is more important: symbols or reality?

In my view the government of India is showing the GREATEST disrespect to national symbols. Trivedi has got it right. The socialists have racked India and made tens of private mansions for each of themselves in the name of the poor. They have destroyed truth. They have destroyed liberty.

Trivedi’s website has already been shut down by the Indian government. Unfortunately, for the Indian government (and governments worldwide) the Pandora’s box of liberty – the internet – has been opened and no one can shut it down. Liberty will triumph.

In support of Aseem Trivedi, I’m re-publishing all his cartoons that I can find on the internet. If I’ve missed any please send them over.

I hope people like Shailesh will try to understand this – that democracy is NOT God. It is NOT a sufficient condition for the defence of liberty. It is a step towards that journey but that journey requires strong leaders to join politics and cut the ever-extending reach of the government. Only vigorous defence of liberty can save India’s democracy from degenerating into tyranny. Not PR. Let’s get the priorities right. We need leaders RIGHT NOW, to defeat the current government (and opposition!), and establish a new order based on liberty. Instead of idle debates, it is time for action.

DISCLAIMER: BY POSTING ASEEM’S CARTOONS I DO NOT MEAN TO EXPRESS ANY ENDORSEMENT OF HIS STYLE (WHICH IS VERY AGGRESSIVE). BUT I BELIEVE THIS WORK IS NOT SEDITIOUS. IT IS WELL WITHIN THE FREE RIGHT OF ANY POLITICAL CARTOONIST ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD TO PRESENT THE POLITICAL SITUATION AS HE SEES IT. THE GOVERNMENT OF INDIA MUST GET USED TO THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE ARE ENTITLED TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES EVEN IN OFFENSIVE WAYS.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

===THE CARTOONS==