Press Release- Release All Activists of the PFI Charged Under UAPA and Sedition Immediately and Unconditionally


COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS

185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025

29/04/2013

Protest Against the Criminalisation of Muslim Youth!

Scrap UAPA and All Draconian Laws!

 

 

On the 23 April 2013, around 11 in the morning, twenty one activists aged 20-25 of the Popular Front of India (PFI) were arrested from a building that was under construction at Naraath, Kannur district, Kerala. The arrest as reported in the press was done under the leadership of DySP P. Sukumaran of the Kerala police. After the 21 activists were taken away from the site of the arrest, the police claimed to have seized two country bombs, one sword and materials that can be used for making country bombs along with literature of Popular Front of India and Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI). All these were displayed before the media at the site.

After the much publicised display of seizure materials before the media the police was quick to slap Sec 18 of the draconian UAPA as well as 153-B of the Sedition Act on the 21 activists. These draconian clauses were beside the sections slapped under the arms/explosives act and on unlawful assembly. The police also declared that they are looking into the ‘terror links’ of these activists. And that they will raid every office of the PFI throughout the State. Some sections of the media even went ahead to say that the possible links of these activists with the recent blast that took place near the BJP office in Bangalore is also being looked into by the police. And as this is being written the Karnataka police have already stated the possible role of SDPI in the Bangalore blast.

The first and foremost question that comes up is the haste with which the police evoked draconian laws such as UAPA and Sedition act on the activists of PFI for possessing a couple of bombs and some literature which was already in the public domain as it was distributed among the people in the campaign against the growing threat of Hindu communal fascism. This is typical of the modus operandi of all investigating agencies that enthusiastically implicate Muslim youth in every blast case or conspiracy or waging war against the state that one has witnessed in the states of UP, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc. It is significant that the arrests and sudden evoking of the UAPA is happening in Kannur district of Kerala known for violent partisan clashes between rival political parties (be it CPM, BJP/RSS, Congress) trying desperately to gain supremacy over their adversaries. As long as it is a fight between CPM and the RSS/BJP/Bajrang Dal/VHP combine as opposing parties, the rules of the game are simple. One can hear constant appeals from the ‘civil society’ for ‘peace’ and ‘harmony’ and the need to move away from the politics of an eye for an eye. It generally becomes a discourse on violence in abstract without any critical reference to the context (socio-politico-economic) in which this is being addressed. The need to shun violence completely from politics is foregrounded against the vote bank politics indulged in by the Congress, CPM, BJP or the UDF and LDF. Beyond that there is not even any inkling of a ‘terror plot’ let alone the question of ‘waging war’ against the state. But it goes without saying that there has been no dearth of reports of capture of bombs and weapons from the office of the CPM save incidents of RSS/BJP activists dying while moving with / making bombs in the same district.

Once there has been assertion from the side of the Muslims in terms of open and militant campaigns against the growing trends of Hindu communal fascism in the State in particular and the Indian subcontinent in general, the discourse of the ‘politics of peace’ has taken a different turn. Sooner than later one is witness to the state sponsored discourse on Kerala becoming a hub of ‘Islamic terror’ and highly publicised/sensationalised arrests of youth alleged to have been involved in ‘terror plots’. Beyond that, if any such ‘plots’ ever got proved before the court of law was not of much interest for ‘literate Keralam’. The PFI neatly fits into the logic of this narrative of the imminent ‘Islamic threat’ as any such mobilisation of the minorities away from or other than the established permutation and combination of the electoral donkey in UDF and LDF will disturb the electoral applecart of the Congress, CPM or even the BJP which is yet to make its electoral presence in Kerala.

It is still vivid in our memories that when the IT Cell, of the Kerala Special Branch Police’s illegal swoop into the mails of more than 250-odd Keralites in the state (most of them Muslims) was exposed before the public, instead of taking action on the officers responsible for such incriminating acts from the investigating agencies, the police threatened their own officer who stood against such acts of impunity and arrested the lawyer who was giving legal advice to the conscientious officer. The media house that carried the story was threatened and the leading journalist who published the story was not spared.

The timing of such sensationalised arrests and the spawning of speculation of a larger plot with the entry of the Karnataka police and reports in the media of the ‘involvement’ of the SDPI in the Bangalore bomb blast before the BJP office all indicate the same old game plan of an increasingly criminalised and communalised police and investigating agencies of India. As we have time and again mentioned the UAPA sanctions the perception of the reality as authentic not the reality itself. So for a motivated (on communal lines) police officer to quickly assume that the youth arrested from the building in Naraath can’t be but a ‘terrorist’ or can only think and act in an ‘unlawful’ manner or are capable of ‘waging war against the state’ fits perfectly with the ideology of the perception as reality and hence the arrests and knee jerk reaction of slapping UAPA and charges of sedition on the twenty one of them. A considerable section of the media which hatches such spurious stories only mystifies the perceptive reality and does not make any responsible effort to disentangle the often muddled versions of the investigating agencies and the police covering up their acts of impunity under the garb of the so-called ‘war against terror’.

It is high time that the UAPA and all such anti-people, draconian laws which criminalise all forms of dissent/political expression of the vast sections of the people be scrapped forthwith. We at the CRPP strongly condemn such motivated arrests of activists of people’s movements and stand for their right to freedom of expression and dissent. Since the motivation to slap charges of UAPA and Sedition on the PFI activists is political it becomes important to demand the unconditional release of all the activists as to expect a ‘fair’ trial for them would be live in a mystified world. The CRPP calls upon all the freedom loving and democratic people of the subcontinent to join hands to defeat these criminal, communal and fascist designs of the Indian state and its counterpart in the UDF-led Kerala government.

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani

President

 

Amit Bhattacharyya

Secretary General

 

MN Ravunni

Vice President

 

P Koya

Vice President

 

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations

 

“Modi go back”: Protest against Narendra Modi’s Karnataka visit


Submitted by admin4 on 28 April 2013 – twocircles.net

By TwoCircles.net Staff Reporter,

Bengaluru: A section of civil rights activists and concerned citizens gathered in the state capital, under the coalition banner of Karnataka Komu Souharda Vedike (KKSV), to protest against Narendra Modi’s visit to the state.

The protest which took place in city’s Anand Rao Circle today was part of a campaign, “to stop the Gujarat chief minister;” who is accused of perpetuating the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in his state, “from entering Karnataka to campaign for the forthcoming elections.”

 

 

“Modi go back” resonated in the air as protesters kept shouting the slogans.

Writer and critic Agni Shridhar who was part of the protest said, “Modi, like any other citizen of this country has a constitutional right to enter any state, and this protest is not against his right to enter. This protest is against the butcher and mass murderer of people belonging to the minority community; it is against his crimes. The people of Karnataka do not want such a person to enter our state, we would not agree to it morally”.

Freedom fighter H.S. Doreswamy, Senior journalists Indudhar Honnapur, KKSV President KL Ashok and Human rights activist and advocate T Narasimha Murthy were among the noted participants.

Modi is all set to campaign in Bangalore this evening, which BJP party workers believe would turn the tables in their favour in this election.

 

The Language of Narendra Modi


MODI1

Vol – XLVIII No. 18, May 04, 2013 | Nonica Datta

Narendra Modi‘s oratory captivates his audience. A demagogue’s agenda is facilitated via language, which becomes a site of power and violence in the political public sphere. This article looks at Modi’s emotionally-charged speeches which are emblematic of his larger political language.
Nonica Datta (nonica.datta@gmail.com) teaches history at Miranda House, University of Delhi. Her latest publication is Violence, Martyrdom and Partition: A Daughter’s Testimony (OUP, 2009)
Narendra Modi has been speaking a lot these days. His willingness to speak is striking, especially as he acquires centre-stage in BJP. In modern politics, Modi’s language has multiple meanings that shape his relationship with the public. The metaphors that he uses are often the same in all his speeches. But the sameness in his language has a structure to it which needs unpacking.
I try to listen carefully to what Narendra Modi has been saying? Recently, I listened to Modi’s speeches at the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) crucial two-day National Council meeting in New Delhi and at other influential public forums. And I found that his speech at the BJP’s National Council meeting, in particular, conveys his vocabulary and rhetoric and unfolds his political language, its intentions and the implicit agenda. It connects with his other speeches, a miscellany of ideas and declarations, presenting a cycle of repetitive speech.
The Theatre and the Language
Like on that day and many other days, Modi began his speech with a patriotic trope, “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. A captive audience chanted in unison. Moving his hands, lowering his voice, and then raising it to the right effect, Modi was all set to perform. He spoke in Hindi, sometimes using English words. His voice had a nasal tinge. It was both low and high pitched, soft and harsh. The Gujarati accent was unmistakably evident. His speech was not just words. It was also his tone, gestures, movements of his hands, eyes and body. His pauses were short to suit his words. There were gaps in between.
Tellingly, Modi’s speech is emblematic of his larger political language. If you sort through his rhetoric, you will find nothing new. Modi’s language evokes his big project – dreaming of a new India. A critique of the Congress’ flawed idea of India is central to his language. So, point by point, he always targets the dynastic Congress. It is a party that has “sacrificed the interests of the nation” for the “interests of the one family”, he says. “To take the country forward is not in the nature of the Congress, it is in not in their blood”, he adds. “When we got freedom from the British we got swarajya, when we free ourselves from the Congress we will get surajya”, he goes on. Unlikely words to be combined: swarajya (self-rule) and surajya (good governance), but here they are combined to make eternal continuities and affinities between British and Congress rule.
Modi says that we got swarajya, self-rule, once the British left. And we will gain surajya, good governance, once we get rid of the Congress. He likens the Congress to a termite. He urges his karyakartas (party workers) to work “with a determination to help the people uproot the Congress”. How? He says, “The sweat of BJP karyakartas is the best medicine to do so”.
Modi celebrates the role of his karyakartas, and their purusharth (hard work): “BJP’s win in Gujarat is not a victory of one person but the victory of lakhs of karyakartas, a victory of BJP’s ideology, the faith of the people in the party’s political culture, the guidance of senior leaders and the victory of the people”. Like a cricket commentary, the news of BJP’s success has spread far and wide, he says.
The karyakartas are critical subjects in Modi’s language. He expresses his continuing debt to them. They are the committed workers of his political project. They are his political collective. The karyakartas, as a mobilising force, are urged to take on the task of translating his ideology into action.
Modi says, “Whenever we have got a chance to serve, we have given something to the nation”. Though not totally linear, his speech focuses on development in Gujarat. The Gujarat that Modi invokes is a Gujarat of “asha” (hope). If there’s hope, there’s trust (vishvas), he emphasises. That’s not enough. He asks his “people” to nurture an aspiration (armaan). Using a popular idiom, Modi asks them to think big, and to move forward. The notion of aspiration and good governance shapes his vision of India. But his idiom is local.
Modi’s language tries to forge a connection with “people”, and he sees himself as a “facilitator”, a “catalytic agent” to help them imagine a new and clean India. Almost enacting a commercial Hindi film dialogue, he says, “BJP is with a mission, [pause] Congress is for commission”.
Stereotypes and Repetitions
Modi speaks of the need to develop India on the model of jan bhagidari, that is through people’s participation. His commitment to “development in Gujarat” is conveyed via his different programmes. He says that when he became the chief minister in 2001, the state had a revenue deficit of Rs 6,700 crore, while today the state has a surplus of Rs. 400 crore. He says that both ends have been met: power companies are making profits and people are getting electricity.
The trope of darkness replaced by light is an essential component of Modi’s emotionally-charged narrative, a trope which ensures deliverance from the Congress rule and a march towards development. Raat itni lambi hogi, andhera itna kada hoga (the night would be so long, darkness would be so harsh). Remembering two of his heroes, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and Vivekananda, Modi says, “Even if darkness is all around, what prevents us from lighting the lamp? Come, let us set forth from here and light the lamp with the lotus, spreading the brightness of development”.
Modi applauds Vajpayee government’s nuclear tests. But he unsettles his own language by invoking Lal Bahadur Shastri, the somewhat forgotten political leader of the 1960s.
Modi’s language shapes a new political public sphere of power and domination to manufacture consent among his karyakartas. His rhetoric against the Congress, his model of a “grand state and nation”, his confidence in the “mass base” of his karyakartas, his stubborn faith in development and progress are the recurring themes in his vocabulary. Listening to him one notices that though his script is almost stereotypically repetitive, his repertoire carries a new gesture each time he speaks. His language is interspersed with humour and sarcasm; but no ironies. With the approaching 2014 general elections, his speech at his premier political organisation is full of contradictions, ambiguities, inconsistencies, silences.
Modi’s language, this may be noticed in almost all his recent speeches, camouflages much than reveals. Incorporating his karyakartas in his “nation”, he is mainly thinking of a masculinised India. Who are excluded: Muslims, women, Dalits, Adivasis and other marginalised sections. Isn’t Modi addressing a primarily urban, elite, technocratic Hindu nation? And of course, the karyakartas he talks of have been perpetrators of his political agenda of violence. When Modi says, “We have given something to the nation”, what does he exactly mean? What about the Gujarat genocide of 2002? Is this his project of erasure at work?
Compelling Speech
Modi’s manipulative communication conveniently hides his larger agenda. This has parallels with demagogues in world history. Like in other histories of fascism, in other parts of the world, the Fascist project is realised via securing people’s vote and their active political participation. Fascism develops through the popular and catalytic language of a leader in the political public sphere, which manoeuvres consensus of the ordinary people. Germans’ support for Hitler during the Third Reich testifies to the enormous and widespread appeal of the fascist language among people.
Historically, dictatorships have been committed to the project of development, progress and growth. Stalin was most appreciated for the level of economic development that was achieved under his rule. Stalin’s Russia was a model of a great industrial nation. But his act of mass killings makes him a mass murderer. Russians are still struggling to cope with that moment of their violent past, and the contradiction of whether Stalin was a “villain” or a “hero”.
A demagogues’ agenda is facilitated via language, which becomes a site of power and violence in the political public sphere. The crimes of Fascism and Stalinism were founded on language. Fascism, Roland Barthes says, does not prevent speech, it compels speech. Demagogues combine the language of development with that of exclusive nationalism and patriotism. They often talk of the poor and poverty. They have many things to hide. They silence alternatives, plurality, and difference.
Modi graphically talks of inflation and the poor man reeling under price rise. “Chulha nahin jalta” — “the hearth is not lit”. He only appears to address social conflicts. His idea of development is elitist and hollow. The metaphor of light that he invokes signifies a lamp of development that foments a consumerist ideology and culture. The unmistakably spiritual tone of his language, borrowed from Vivekananda, is a way to legitimise his prejudicial idea of development and a global India mixed with patriotism, which he defines via blood, sacrifice, sweat. Does Modi’s idea of development address inequities in society? It does not appear to. To resurrect Shastri is Modi’s way of moderating his political rhetoric through the symbol of the kisan (peasant), which is framed to work towards his popular image as a mass leader.
Modi’s silences are dangerously telling. So are his utterances. His language has many shades of grey. Might it not be better to see and declare that Modi’s language has been instrumental in sanctioning the practice of violence and development? As Hannah Arendt writes, “The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is to a more violent world”.

 

 

How the support of the neo-middle class has been crucial to Modi’s rise


A class of his own

Christophe Jaffrelot : Wed Apr 17 2013
modi

 

In December, Narendra Modi won the Gujarat election with the support, not only of the middle class, but also of what the state BJP called the “neo-middle class” in its manifesto. According to the CSDS pre-electoral survey, not only did 57.4 per cent of the richest voters go the BJP way, but 54.2 per cent of the middle income bracket voters also did the same (against 28 and 34.4 per cent for the Congress respectively — which got the vote of the poor). This neo-middle class is made of aspiring groups that tend to change their political colour after migrating to an urban milieu. The shift is particularly striking in the case of the OBCs: while the Kolis vote more for the Congress when they are in a rural context (53 per cent), they move to the BJP the moment they join a semi urban constituency (that is, one with 25 to 75 per cent of urban voters) — 65 per cent of them do so. This shift is even more dramatic when the upwardly mobile OBCs end up in a city.

Rural constituencies of Gujarat are the only places where more voters support the Congress, while semi-urban and urban constituencies are almost fully behind the BJP. But the urban/rural divide is a proxy for class. What the above data shows is simply that caste identities — and caste-related political cultures — are submerged by class considerations when formerly rural groups come to the city, hoping to join the lower middle class. Their new ethos — or at least their aspirations — make them turn to Modi’s BJP and its promise of jobs in the name of “development”.

The propensity of the neo-middle class to support Modi’s BJP in Gujarat can be easily explained without even factoring in the communal element (although it is arguably more developed in the urban context, notably because of recurring riots). The BJP of Gujarat simply paid more attention to the material interests of the urban middle class than to any other group, as is evident from its election manifesto. Among the relevant items of this carefully drafted document, one can cite the promise to construct 50 lakh houses, the increase of the age limit for entry into government jobs from 25 to 28, English medium schools, Rs 2,000 crore for flyovers and underpasses in cities, the building of mono rail in places other than Ahmedabad (where the project has already been planned) and insurance schemes. These are, typically, promises aiming at wooing the urban middle class.

But there’s no need to further scrutinise pre-electoral promises. The actual polarisation of Gujarat’s society speaks for itself. Modi’s policy, over the last 10 years, has benefited the urban middle class more than anybody else. If Gujarat ranks only 11th out of 23 states in terms of the human development index, it’s because groups in rural Gujarat continue to lag behind. Indeed, Gujarat is a case of social polarisation with the new rich in the cities and most of the groups that are at the receiving end concentrated in the villages. There, the number of families below the poverty line has jumped from 23.39 lakh in 2000 to 30.49 lakh in July 2012, according to the rural development commissioner. Unsurprisingly, 9 lakh of the 11 lakh houses without electricity, according to the Gujarat 2011 census, are in rural areas. In terms of education, the excellent report of the NGO, Pratham, shows that rural Gujarat was lagging behind states like Haryana.

Dalits and Adivasis (11.3 and 16.5 per cent of the state population, respectively) are particularly affected. For instance, the percentage of tribal underweight children (0-5 years old) is much higher in Gujarat than the tribal average at the national level (64.5 per cent compared to 54.5 per cent). The under-five mortality rate of tribal children is also much higher. Similarly, the percentage of Dalit participation in the NREGA programme is three times less in Gujarat (7.83 per cent) than in India at large (22.67 per cent). In fact, development has meant socio-economic polarisation, because Gujarat is a typical case of growth without development for all. The Gujarat chapter of the India Human Development Report of 2011 concluded that “the high growth rate achieved by the state over the years has not percolated to the marginalised sections of society, particularly STs and SCs, to help improve their human development outcomes”.

That the middle class cares only for its interests is fair enough. But over the last two years, it has seemed that it was more and more concerned by corruption and the criminalisaton of politics — evident from the Anna Hazare movement which, arguably, was driven by the middle class.

Here, the record of Gujarat suggests a paradox. In this state, the middle class supports the BJP government in spite of uneven indicators in terms of the rule of law and a number of tainted former members of the government on the radar screen of the judiciary. Today, five Gujarat-based police officials — including senior IPS officers — are behind bars, waiting for their trial in Mumbai. They’ve been accused of being responsible for at least one of the many alleged fake encounters that have taken place in the years 2003-2006 in Gujarat. The most famous of these cases are those regarding Sohrabuddin, his wife Kauser bi and their friend Tulsiram Prajapati.

The CBI, in its chargesheet, named Amit Shah, the then minister of state for home, as the kingpin of the conspiracy. He was arrested in 2010, spent over three months in jail and, while on bail, was not allowed to return to Gujarat, lest he interfere with the investigators. He came back two months before the last state elections, was re-elected and, by all accounts, has again become a close aide of the chief minister. Maya Kodnani, also a former member of the state government, has been convicted for involvement in the 2002 violence in Ahmedabad. The Supreme Court has ordered the transfer of several cases to Maharashtra “to preserve the integrity of the trial”.

BJP president Rajnath Singh has not only inducted Narendra Modi into the party’s apex decision-making bodies, the parliamentary board and central election committee, but he has also appointed Amit Shah as one of the general secretaries of the party. And among the new national council members from Gujarat, figures also Babubhai Katara, a former BJP MP from Dahod who had been arrested in 2007 for human trafficking and was suspended from the party.

In this context, L.K. Advani has lectured his colleagues to ensure that the BJP remained “a party with a difference”. But was it because the middle class cares for political cleanliness?

 

The writer is a senior research fellow at CERI, Sciences Po, Paris and professor of Indian politics and society at the King’s India Institute, London, and non-resident fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace

express@expressindia.com

 

Activist seeks info on terror camps, MHA provides Shinde’s clarification #RTI


Neha Shukla, TNN | Apr 5, 2013,

RSS Flag

LUCKNOW: In what could be described as a double whammy for the
Congress, after Union home minister Sushilkumar Shinde made a U-turn
on his comments on Hindu terrorism, the ministry of home affairs did
not provide information about terror camps being operated by the
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Bharatiya Janata Party, when asked
under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.

The ministry, instead, provided the copy of Shinde’s clarification and
said the “home minister has issued a clarification on February 20,
clarifying the position.”

The political furore over Shinde’s comment on BJP and RSS conducting
terror camps, though died down after the minister tendered an apology,
caused embarrassment to the government. In an RTI response, the
ministry denied information. The questions could be irrelevant since
the minister has already apologised for his comment.

Shinde had said, during Congress’ Jaipur conclave, in January, “We
have got an investigation report that be it the RSS or BJP, their
training camps are promoting Hindu terrorism.” He later clarified that
he meant saffron and not Hindu terrorism. The comment was strong
enough to leave BJP livid, which demanded that the minister either
apologise or be sacked. Shinde later backpedalled and retracted his
statement by issuing a clarification and also regretting his
statement.

In January, activist Urvashi Sharma had sought certified copies of all
records available with the government based on which the home minister
had accused RSS and BJP of conducting terror training camps and
promoting “Hindu terrorism”, from the PMO. The response which came
more than two months after the application was made, said the
government has no records available on any of the information sought.

The query had also sought certified copies of information on location
within India and/or abroad of RSS and BJP terror training camps;
certified copies of records available with the government on action
taken against BJP and RSS to ban them for running terror training
camps; certified copies of prevailing national/international
rules/regulations/treaties/Government Orders as per which “terrorism”
has been divided on the basis of religion/caste/creed/sect etc.;
certified copies of list and all records available with the government
on cases of infiltration and/or insurgency and case wise actions taken
by government.

 

Narendra Modi, the man and the message


April 4, 2013, The Hindu

 

Democratic voices have so far allowed the Gujarat Chief Minister to get away with the invocation of his “development” mantra. India needs to know more about him

During a recent three-week stay in the United States, I was often asked to explain the Indian media’s current obsession with Narendra Modi. The only reasonably cogent answer to give was the convergence between the corporate ownership of the electronic media and Mr. Modi’s corporate bank-rollers. The Gujarat Chief Minister’s induction in the Bharatiya Janata Party central set-up has been celebrated as if he has already been invited by the Rashtrapati to form the next government at the Centre.

Like most Indian political leaders, Mr. Modi is a non-biodegradable entity. He will not disappear. Machinations by the BJP central leadership may delay his storming the party headquarters, but he is not going to be talked out of his national ambitions. It is only the voters who can knock the stuffing out of him and his outsized pretensions.

Mr. Modi promises to do things differently and better than what is being done in New Delhi or even in the other BJP ruled States. Not only is he contemptuous of the Manmohan Singh style of consensus approach to resolving contentious issues, he is also derisive of his own party and its leadership. He believes the BJP has become too flabby as an organisation and that most of its impresarios are compromised and tired.

That is between him and the BJP. It is another year before the country goes to the national polls, and 12 months is a long enough a time to smoke Mr. Modi out of the comfort zone of the so-called Gujarat model. Democratic India is now obliged to look beyond and beneath the veneer of the Gujarat model.

Leaders like Nitish Kumar may or may not be able to reconcile to the Narenda Modi-Amit Shah approach to the fundamental secular nature of our constitutional and political design. The vast majority of the decent majority will find it difficult to put aside the Gujarat Chief Minister’s unreconstructed stance to what happened to the minorities under his watch in 2002. What is more, Mr. Modi remains unapologetic and unrepentant, even as a gaggle of public relations experts has been deployed to put a gloss over the massacre and its narrative of cultivated intolerance. Just as Mr. Modi remains unbent, Decent India will remain unimpressed and unconvinced.

But the 2002 violence is only a small part of the Modi offer. Apart from a tough, designedly anti-Muslim line, the country would want to know what he stands for. So far the Gujarat Chief Minister has trafficked in the “development” slogan. He has half-heartedly sought to revive Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s shout of “Indian century”.

Heady proposition

The bottom line is that Mr. Modi is supposed to be endowed with such outstanding leadership qualities that he would transform India in the same decisive manner as Gujarat presumably stands transformed. A heady proposition, especially for the upper middle class consumers of the “national” media discourse.

Two key ingredients in this Gujarat leadership business need to be underlined. First, the Chief Minister has enthralled the Gujarat voters as the mascot of “Gujarati asmita.” In other words, a gentle stoking of Gujarati sub-nationalism. This foray into parochialism is a perfect fit for a parochial leader. But the rest of India is not entirely without its pride; and, it remains to be seen whether the Modi project has the capacity to plough the asmita message in the vastness of a plural and diverse India. It is a minor detail but a significant one: for all his alleged charismatic gifts, outside of Gujarat Mr. Modi has not been able to make any difference to the BJP’s electoral fortunes.

So far Mr. Modi has marketed himself as the uncompromising custodian of an uncompromising Gujarati pride, but now he is being advised to reposition himself as an “India First” salesman. Perhaps his media consultants mistakenly believe that the India of 2013 suffers from some kind of national identity crisis and that slogan would help position Mr. Modi as the new national shaman. Unless the country finds itself in a catastrophic situation before the next general election, it is difficult to appreciate what vulnerabilities and fears Mr. Modi can be made to be seen as addressing. No doubt, there is anger and anxiety which manifest spectacularly from time to time but India is also strangely at peace with itself; there is no sense of national fragility, no sense of national ignominy whereas the rest of our neighbourhood continues to flirt with anarchy and instability.

Personality cult

The second element of the Modi leadership is the unmistaken personality cult. Admittedly, all Chief Ministers get to dominate their State governments. Strong personalities like Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu, Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Navin Patnaik in Orissa or, earlier, Ms Mayawati in Uttar Pradesh define the tone and tenor of the State government and its working habits and practices.

Authoritarianism in different shades and colours can be felt in all State capitals. But Mr. Modi is the first Chief Minister to make a virtue out of it. Now that Mr. Modi and his cheer-leaders have decided to field him in the national arena, questions would need to be asked about his commitment to democratic values. The Chief Minister has given sufficient indications that his model of leadership means absence of institutional restraints and accountability. The new edition of the Lok Ayukta passed in Gujarat is only a curtain-raiser. A “strong” leader will not countenance any checks on his powers.

Politically, he has already made his friends and rivals irrelevant in Gujarat. What is amusing is that the BJP’s assorted spokespersons, who otherwise very articulately and passionately demand accountability, transparency and answers from all and sundry, find themselves having to rationalise the Gujarat Chief Minister’s authoritarian proclivities and record. The other day, Uma Bharti, the newly anointed general-secretary in the BJP, allowed herself to recall on a Hindi television channel that even Subhash Chandra Bose had said that after Independence India could do with a spot of dictatorship. These are early days but the Modi group-think is already performing its tricks.

Self-styled autocrat

A party that has for the last three decades — from the time of the Emergency in 1975 — taken pride in its opposition to anti-democratic manifestations and claims is now saddled with a self-styled petty autocrat. Mr. Modi has cultivated for himself an image of a leader who does not believe in routine civilities. Nor is he averse to taking offence or giving offence. Very much like Nana Patekar, the comic criminal in the movie, Welcome, telling a frightened Anil Kapoor that his men could “shed blood, as well as spill blood.”

And, lastly, Mr. Modi’s leadership model simply means an unalloyed corporate raj. The “economic miracle” that Mr. Modi has performed in Gujarat is predicated on the working assumption that it is the primary duty of the administration to make it possible for the corporate houses to make profit, whatever the social dislocation or cost. And much to the delight of all his corporate admirers, he has done an admirable job of silencing all dissent.

The message is clear: he will encounter no trade unionism, no adivasis’ protest, no civil society voice. The vast majority of the Indian electorate will want to know which elements of the social welfare architecture, put in place by the UPA regime, he would dismantle.

Let us make no mistake. The much-touted Modi leadership is a maximalist proposition, uncompromising in the pursuit of what he believes is to be done in order to achieve India’s destiny. The middle classes, which have suffered because of the recent economic down-turn, are prepared to lend a particularly attentive ear to this meretricious blunt straight-forwardness. It is the task of democratic, progressive, liberal and secular voices across the political spectrum to make Mr. Modi spell out the essentials of his leadership offer in all its un-pretty details.

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist, a former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow)

 

Why memories of Gujarat 2002 stay


AJAZ ASHRAF, The Hindu , April 2, 2013

 

Riots under BJP rule are the culmination of the Sangh Parivar’s ideological impulse to keep communal tensions alive while for Congress they are tactical instruments

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Rajnath Singh’s decision to accord a prominent role to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is presumably based on the belief that the diverse Indian electorate would forgive him for the communal mayhem of 2002, as it often has the Congress for the riots under its rule. This can be presumed from the comments Mr. Singh made at a function in Delhi in early February. In a recriminatory tone, he had then asked, “Our opposition parties allege that BJP is the party which creates enmity between Hindus and Muslims. Did riots not take place during Congress rule?”

Not just the votaries and apologists of the BJP but even ideologically neutral individuals often echo the sentiments Mr. Singh expressed. From Jabalpur (Madhya Pradesh) in 1961 to Bharatpur (Rajasthan) in 2012, the Congress has palpably failed to control communal hotheads from running amok periodically. Yet the party hasn’t been tagged communal, and still garners a substantial chunk of the minority as well as secular votes. What explains the dichotomy in the public response to the riots under the BJP rule as compared to those under the Congress governments?

ELEMENTAL

For one, the phenomenon of communal riot is an elemental aspect of the Sangh Parivar’s ideology, an extreme manifestation of its politics which is predicated on articulating and redressing the grievances of Hindus, real or imagined, the provenance of which lies either in the medieval past or in post-Independence public policies the saffron brigade perceives as unjustifiably favouring the minorities.

This worldview pits the Hindus against the minorities, particularly the Muslims, until such time the inexhaustible list of grievances is addressed. The politics emanating from this worldview consequently spawns an ambience of tension among communities, reduced or heightened depending on the exigencies of circumstances but never allowed to dissipate. In other words, the inter-community tension, signifying the abnormal in politics, has no possibility of closure in the immediate future. It is designed to become our daily state of existence.

The tension is stoked at pan-India, State and district levels. The Ram Janmabhoomi movement sought to meld the Hindus, with all their class, caste, linguistic and regional divides, into a monolith, through a demand asking Muslims to voluntarily relinquish their custody of the Babri Masjid. Of similar nature are the demands for relocating mosques abutting the Krishna and Shiv temples in Mathura and Varanasi. These symbols of pan-India Hindu mobilisation are augmented through the manufacturing of disputes over places of worship of local significance. Into this category fall the protracted disputes over the Bhagyalakshmi temple at the base of the Charminar in Hyderabad, the Baba Budangiri-Guru Dattatreya shrine in Karnataka, and the Bhojshala complex in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh.

In addition, there are hundreds of places of worship and graveyards in mofussil towns whose ownerships are contended between Hindus and Muslims. No doubt, some of these disputes date back decades but, over the years, myriad groups comprising the Sangh Parivar have taken over the leadership of these ‘little battles of liberation’. For variety, Christian priests are attacked and churches vandalised on the charges of converting Hindus to Christianity.

In this culture of inter-community tension, alternatively fanned and allowed to simmer, the riot is the logical culmination of an insidious process. It is akin to a person experiencing a nervous breakdown after suffering acute mental agony for months; it is similar to living life on the edge, uncertain though you are about the precise moment of the inevitable fall off the precipice. Indeed, communal tension in perpetuity is less traumatic only in degrees to an outbreak of a riot.

The sheer salience of tension-riot in the politics of BJP is precisely why a localised inter-community conflict under its rule acquires a resonance countrywide. It is perceived as illustrative of the fate awaiting the minorities in an India in which the BJP exercises untrammeled power. The 2002 riot of Gujarat was horrifying not only because of its barbarity but also because it was viewed to have been ideologically driven and, therefore, bound to be replicated elsewhere.

By contrast, the riots under the Congress rule, even the ones its activists spearhead, are instrumental rather than ideological. Barring the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984, the riots under the Congress rarely spill beyond a parliamentary constituency or two. The motive behind such mayhem is usually a local Congressman wanting to win an election from a constituency; a riot or communal tension rarely becomes a tool for political mobilisation countrywide, again, the 1984 riots being the exception. Though cynical, the breakdown in inter-community relationship is almost always followed by attempts to restore the earlier social harmony.

ATONEMENT

No doubt, the Congress was justifiably implicated in the 1984 riots. It symbolically atoned for its guilt by appointing Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister, and he, on August 12, 2005, apologised not only to the Sikh community in Parliament, but also to the entire nation “because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood in our Constitution”.

More significantly, the Congress is forgiven because the riots under it are often (not always, though) the handiwork of organisations owing allegiance or belonging to the Sangh Parivar. It’s a conclusion several commissions of inquiry appointed to probe riots have reached. There are just too many to be quoted. But sample what the Joseph Vithayathil Commission on the Tellicherry riots of 1971 said. It traced the origin of communal tension in the town to the RSS’s decision to establish its units there. In an incident the rioters accosted one Muhammad and offered him the following choice, “If you want to save your life you should go round the house three times repeating the words, ‘Rama, Rama’.” The commission noted, “Muhammad did that. But you cannot expect the 70 million Muslims of India to do that as a condition for maintaining communal harmony in the country”.

More than 40 years after Tellicherry, tension-riot remains the Sangh Parivar’s defining strategy of achieving its ideological goal of turning India Hindu. This is why we remember the riots under the BJP and not those under the Congress, which too has been responsible for the spilling of blood and untold misery.

(Ajaz Ashraf is a Delhi-based journalist. E-mail: ashrafajaz3@gmail.com)

 

Prime suspect to turn prosecution witness in Shehla Masood case #RTI


Dailybhaskar.com | Mar 30, 2013,
EmailPrintComment
Bhopal/New Delhi: In a fresh twist to the murder of RTI activist Shehla Masood, Bhopal Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Dhruv Narayan Singh is all set to be the prime prosecution witness in the case. Singh was the prime suspect in the killing of Masood in Bhopal in August 2011.
Singh was recently quizzed by CBI after which the decision to make him the prosecution witness was taken, said reports. Bhopal-based interior designer Zahida Pervez and her friend Shaba Farooqi were also interrogated by CBI that revealed the BJP MLA had nothing to do with Masood’s killing.
It is to be noted that the BJP legislator was allegedly close to Shehla Masood and interior designer Zahida Pervez, who masterminded her murder.
Reportedly CBI sources said that the BJP MLA was reluctant to become a witness in the case. However, he agreed to their request later.
The flashback
Masood, an environmentalist and RTI activist was shot dead by three hired assassins outside her Bhopal residence in August 2011, allegedly at the behest of Zahida Parvez.
She was constantly living in threat, as revealed by her in an interview before her death.

 

Should malnourished children of Gujarat eat Modi’s roads and factories? #JusticeKatju


TAGS: Markandey Katju |Narendra Modi | Arun Jaitley |BJP | Pakistani newspaper |Gujarat riots | Gujarat riots 2002
(Left) Markandey Katju and Narendra Modi(Left) Markandey Katju and Narendra Modi
(Left) PCI Chairman Markandey Katju and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi
 Two weeks after stirring controversy over his remarks

Two weeks into controversy over his remarks in his blog against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the Press Council of India (PCI) chairman, Justice (retired) Markandey Katju, has targeted the BJP heavyweight once again.
In his latest attack on Modi, Katju has written in a Pakistani newspaper, criticising the Gujarat chief minister, holding him responsible for the 2002 riots in the state.

The BJP hit out at the former Supreme Court judge over his latest article “Should malnourished children of Gujarat eat roads, electricity and factories, which Modi has created?”

Gujarat BJP leader Jay Narayan Vyas said, “I am not surprised with this. Justice Katju is a retired justice. They (people in Pakistan) would try to establish a relation similar to Nazism. It proves that it is an irresponsible statement. There are some reasonable restrictions also. The enemy country uses it for making a case at international level.”

“We can’t expect them to leave such an opportunity. They have related the Nazi massacre with the Gujarat case. Justice Katju should follow the reasonable restrictions. The government has acquired a soft status on the cross-border terrorism. The UPA government is divided in many segments. It think the government has failed in this aspect also like in economic aspect,” Vyas said holding the UPA government responsible for the PCI chief’s attack on Modi.

BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said, “What Justice Katju writes is not taken seriously by anyone. But if someone writes about internal Indian politics in Pakistan, then an issue rises that if a judge can get involved in internal politics. He mentioned that he wrote so as an independent citizen. If Katjuji wants to do politics, then he should do politics.”

“Everybody has a freedom to write and express. He says he is writing in his capacity as a citizen… He is an active member of ‘hate Modi campaign’. He is doing politics. He cannot separate his two roles when he is already heading a constitutional body,” he said.

Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, however, defended the PCI chief and the UPA government in the latest controversy.

“Justice Katju is a retired officer. In our nation, everyone has a right to put forth his/her views. Where does it get published, we cannot have a control over that,” the minister said.

Read more at:http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/narendra-modi-markandey-katju-pakistani-newspaper/1/251673.html

 

Garvi Gujarat (Pride of Gujarat): Communal Violence, Culpability and Modi-statecraft


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread
 
A panel discussion with
Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director, Human Rights Watch
and
Biju Matthew, Campaign to Stop Funding Hate, South Asia Solidarity Initiative
Moderated by Preeti Sampat, Department of Anthropology Candidate, CUNY Graduate Center
March 15 @ 1:30 pm
Room: 5307
The Graduate Center, CUNY
365 Fifth Avenue
Sponsored by The Center for Place, Culture and Politics
The Committee for the Study of Religion at the CUNY Graduate Center
and The Department of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center
“Authorities in India’s Gujarat state are subverting justice, protecting perpetrators, and intimidating those promoting accountability 10 years after the anti-Muslim riots that killed nearly 2,000 people. The state government has resisted Supreme Court orders to prosecute those responsible for the carnage and has failed to provide most survivors with compensation. Instead of prosecuting senior state and police officials implicated in the atrocities, the Gujarat authorities have engaged in denial and obstruction of justice”
(HRW 2012: http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/02/24/india-decade-gujarat-justice-incomplete).
11 years after the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat state of Western India in February 2002, controversial Chief Minister of Gujarat from the Bhartiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi is being mooted by some sections as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2014 General Elections in India. Implicated in several reports, Modi continues to shun responsibility and gloss over the carnage of 2002 with claims of Gujarat’s development, protecting perpetrators with impunity. Join the panelists as they discuss issues of state culpability, the divisive communal politics of the Hindu-right and the Hindu-right’s continual attempts to obscure their agenda of violent injustice.    

 

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