[sacw] SACW #2 | 5 Jan. 03
Sun, 5 Jan 2003 04:56:29 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire #2 | 5 January 2003
CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY -- GUJARAT 2002: A report on the
investigations, findings and recommendations of the Concerned
FOREIGN EXCHANGE OF HATE- IDRF and the American Funding of Hindutva
A report on the US-based organization -- the India Development and
Relief Fund (IDRF), which has systematically funded Hindutva
operations in India.
#1. An open letter to Narendra Modi (Rajdeep Sardesai)
#2. A long haul for secularists (Praful Bidwai)
#3. Watch Them Turn (Dilip D'Souza)
#4. 1984 Riots and Justice (G K S Sidhu)
#5. Acquittal of a politician [in the 1984 anti sikh riots] (Naunidhi Kaur)
#6. The enemy lies within (Shashi Tharoor)
An open letter to Narendra Modi
By Rajdeep Sardesai
My dear Narendrabhai:
Firstly, many, many congratulations on your famous victory in Gujarat.
Elections are often only about the end result, the means do not
matter, only the ends do. Let's be honest. You ran a strategically
brilliant campaign, one that was based on whipping up public emotion
and stirring a religious identity. I still remember the classic ad
that you ran on voting day.
The Congress party's campaign ad was a long sermon by Shankarsinh
Vaghela on the development of Gujarat, written in small type, and
with very little that we hadn't heard of in the last 55 years. Your
ad was simple and direct. In bold type, you just reminded the reader
of the old Haqueeqat classic, "Ae mere Vatan ke Logon" and asked the
voter of Gujarat to treat their franchise as a homage to the dead. No
specific mention of Godhra or Akshardham, as per Election Commission
rules, but a clear recall of recent events. Little wonder then that
the next ad club function should honour you and your faithful ally
Arun Jaitley with the copywriter of the year award.
I also remember your campaign pitch on the last day of campaigning.
While a complacent Congress party was relishing the concept of
cashing in on the anti-incumbency mood, you were waving a news item
that you claimed was a fatwa asking the Muslims of Gujarat to vote
100 per cent for the Congress. Of course, you didn't have to tell the
voter the entire truth: that there was no real fatwa, that all that
had happened was that some unknown Muslim cleric in faraway Uttar
Pradesh had issued an appeal to voters to support the Congress party,
and that the advertisement in Gujarati newspapers had been inserted
by members of the Sangh Parivar. The fatwa worked, and you were able
to ensure that Hindus came out in large numbers to vote for you and
I will also not forget the manner in which you were able to
successfully use the demonisation of Musharraf as a vote-gathering
technique. You were able to translate anti-Pakistani sentiment into a
potent state election issue. What Musharraf had to do with the
Gujarat elections is unclear, but somehow you were able to convince
the voter that Islamabad was monitoring every move in Gandhinagar.
"If I win, the entire country will celebrate, if the Congress party
wins, crackers will be burst in Pakistan." It was yet another classic
one-liner, designed to stir the kind of jingoism that may not end the
low-intensity conflict on the border, but will certainly add to your
unique brand of macho politics.
I must also commend you on how you were able to redefine the entire
concept of Gujarati Gaurav or pride. Until now, we thought that a
state's self-image was defined by notions of peace, communal amity,
economic progress and social development. But you were able to
convince the Gujarati voter that the state was a victim of a
vilification campaign, that anyone who tried to raise uncomfortable
questions about the post-Godhra violence was an anti-national,
pseudo-secularist who should be hanged by the people of Gujarat.
As a representative of the English language media in particular, I
admired the manner in which you were able to blame the media for
virtually everything that had gone wrong in the state, from the
killing of innocents on the Sabarmati Express, to the loot and mass
murders that followed to the large-scale exodus of Muslim families
from their homes.
Let me also say that I will never forget the manner in which you were
able to use the Godhra incident for political benefit for months on
end, and suggest that somehow all Muslims in the state were linked to
an act of villainy by a group of criminals from the minority
community. I distinctly remember how you had posters put up all over
the state of the burning train compartment. I also remember how you
got a family member of one of the Godhra victims to be present at the
inauguration of your party office. I remember your yatra to Godhra
where you shared the anguish of the people who had lost their loved
ones in the train tragedy. Somehow, I don't recall you ever reaching
out to those living in the Shah Alam camp, or Naroda Patiya or the
numerous other refugee camps in the state. Nor did I ever see you in
the company of Muslim children who saw their entire families being
burnt alive before their eyes.
I must also admire the manner in which you were able to use the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad cadres in the political campaign. Until now, we
were always told that the VHP was a socio-cultural organisation that
had little to do with day-to-day politics. You made sure that the VHP
fiction was buried once and for all, and that Praveen Togadia was
transformed from cancer surgeon to a political rabble-rouser.
The strategic alliance that you struck with the VHP ensured that you
could eat your cake and have it too. Whenever you found yourself
under pressure from any constitutional authority, you quickly passed
the baton to the VHP. Then, whether it was the post-Godhra rioting,
vitriolic Muslim-bashing, abusing Lyngdoh or assaulting the media,
you always had the VHP as your accomplice, ensuring that the line
between the mob and the government was totally erased.
Finally, I must salute you for the way you stood up to virtually
anyone who questioned the politics of 'Moditva'. I remember how you
defied the entire RSS establishment when they wanted to give an
election ticket to your rival Haren Pandya, and even got yourself
admitted to hospital as mark of protest. But most of all, I will not
forget how you even put the prime minister in his place.
When Mr Vajpayee asked you to follow the 'Raj Dharma', you quietly
listened to him, and then went about doing your own thing. A weakened
Vajpayee was reduced to being your self-appointed advocate by the end
of the elections. Indeed, in the last few election meetings, I didn't
even see a single poster of Vajpayee or even of the original Hindutva
mascot, L.K. Advani. This victory then is yours and yours alone.
While you celebrate your triumph, may I leave you with a final thought?
Now, that you've won the battle, will you win the war? Could you
become the chief minister of each and every one of the five crore
Gujaratis, Hindus and Muslims, you now claim to represent? You could
perhaps start with paying a weekly visit to the homes of those who
still live in fear and despair. It may not fit in with your
worldview, but it would at least convince some of us that Gujarat's
Chote Sardar is more than just a hero of hatred.
Affectionately yours, Rajdeep Sardesai.
The writer is Managing Editor, New Delhi Television.
Volume 20 - Issue 01, January 04 - 17, 2003
A long haul for secularists
The BJP's triumphalism is misplaced, but the struggle to mount a
powerful ideological challenge to Hindutva has become more uphill for
NOTHING since Lal Krishna Advani's rath yatra of 1990 has boosted the
hubris and the gross arrogance of the Sangh Parivar as strongly as
the Gujarat Assembly results. The Bharatiya Janata Party now
triumphantly says that the "roadmap for the future is clear": it is
poised to wrest back each State held by its opponents and also emerge
victorious in the next Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP National Executive meeting on December 23-24 declared the
Gujarat election verdict "a mandate" for and an endorsement of its
core "ideological positions" and expressed confidence that it "will
prove to be a turning point in India's history" and that "cultural
nationalism... will find wide scale (sic) acceptability all over the
country". This followed the crowning of Narendra Modi not just as
Chief Minister of Gujarat - in a spectacular ceremony in an Ahmedabad
stadium - but as the mascot of a new, virulent Hindutva. The Vishwa
Hindu Parishad (VHP) expectedly exults over the Gujarat results. Its
most rabid elements like Praveen Togadia stridently declare that
India will become a Hindu rashtra in two years' time.
Even Atal Behari Vajpayee has joined the chorus. He told Dainik
Bhaskar that the Gujarat elections "will help the nation understand
secularism in the proper perspective"; Gujarat has released "new
energies", which must be skilfully used to "help us preserve the
values of our [presumably Hindu] life". The scales should now fall
off many Vajpayee-supporters' eyes.
The BJP has cited all sorts of reasons for its victory, including
"good governance", and the popularity of "cultural nationalism" and
its "commitment to eliminate terrorism". It portrays the results as a
punishment to secularists for their "Hindu bashing". In reality, the
BJP's victory is not as pervasive and comprehensive as it seems.
A look at the detailed election results shows that the party won just
under 50 per cent of the vote (to be precise, 49.79 per cent). Given
the 62 per cent poll turnout, this means 31 per cent of the
population supported it, giving it a total of 10.13 million votes.
However, the votes of the secular parties (the Congress(I), the
Nationalist Congress Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal(U),
the CPI(M) and CPI) together add up to 8.62 million. In addition,
"Independents" won 1.17 million votes. It is estimated that perhaps
70 per cent of these were bagged by rebel Congress candidates. If
these votes are added, the total secular vote goes up to 9.44
million, only marginally (7 per cent) lower than the BJP's.
The BJP thus gained considerably from Opposition disunity. In
addition to the 53 seats bagged by the Congress(I) and Jatanta DalU),
the secular parties lost by narrow margins in as many as 40
constituencies, where the combined vote of the Number 2 and 3
candidates exceeds the BJP's. Absent vote division, the BJP would
have lost all 40.
What is special about Gujarat is not a Hindutva wave so much as the
BJP's ability to raise its vote-share by six percentage points,
despite having organised India's worst pogrom of a minority in 55
years. The success is all the more telling, given its appalling
record of governance, which saw index after social index plummet, and
growth slow down from 10 per cent-plus in the mid- and late- 1990s to
only 1 per cent now, leaving a wasteland of closed factories.
Disgracefully, the BJP's vote was especially high precisely in the
two regions - northern and central Gujarat - where the post-Godhra
violence was most acute.
One of the main reasons for this dark victory is the electorate's
polarisation along religious lines which the BJP effected. However,
it would be wrong to attribute its success to polarisation alone.
Also significant was the Congress(I)'s "soft Hindutva" line and
failure to confront the BJP on communalism and nationalism. The
Congress(I) concentrated exclusively on "development". More
generally, two sets of factors seem to have been at work. The first
is in many ways Gujarat-specific, and the second more generic,
present in many other States.
The first set of factors has to do with some conservative right-wing
peculiarities of Gujarati society, politics and culture. Gujarat has
seen not a loosening of hierarchies, but a hardening of caste
divisions over two centuries amidst a general absence of social
reform - just when some other parts of India were being reshaped by
reform movements. Perhaps no other State matches Gujarat in throwing
up a substantial class of proprietary farmers (the patidar Patels)
which so dominates its economic, social and religious life. The
Patels' ascendancy coincided with the rise of conservative cults such
as the Swaminarayan sect, in contrast to the cultural "renaissance"
and modernisation processes that were gathering momentum in some
other regions in the 19th century.
The Patels, the Banias and the Brahmins of Gujarat retain a tight
hold over state power, the economy and social institutions. They have
steadfastly refused to share power with other groups. Indeed, they
have beaten down challenges from below with violent street-level
agitations - for instance the anti-Dalit, anti-Muslim mobilisation in
1980-82, and the campaign against OBC reservations in 1985-86.
Gujarat is thus an oddity or paradox: one of India's most urbanised
and industrialised States, but socially, one of the most conservative
and backward. Gujarat has a Muslim minority that is culturally highly
integrated and assimilated - its 130 Muslim communities speak no
other language than Gujarati - but is reviled and ghettoised. Gujarat
is, relatively, highly prosperous, but it has among India's lowest
wage levels, and highest rates of exploitation. Surat's diamond
industry and Alang's shipbreaking yard are revolting instances of
Nowhere else has economic neoliberalism been as deeply and widely
implemented as in Gujarat. And nowhere else has the same kind of
rapid deindustrialisation occurred, wiping out the country's second
largest textile-mill economy in the 1980s, and more recently, a range
of modern industries, especially chemicals. These processes, along
with the advanced commercialisation of all social relations, have
produced enormous stresses and dislocations - for instance, growing
destitution among now-unemployed mill workers, crime, intensification
of caste prejudices, and new rivalries between Dalits and Muslims in
collapsing city centres.
In this situation, Hindutva functions as a cohering force and a
source of ideological legitimisation for the rule of the globalising
neo-liberal upper-caste elite. It is buttressed on the ground by new
evangelical Hindu movements which proselytise among the tribals and
play upon the "Sanskritisation" aspirations of other plebeian layers.
Gujarat is unique for the sheer spread and power of the VHP, with
branches in 55 per cent of the 18,000 villages. Along with religious
cults and gurus, the VHP has drummed up an aggressive form of Hindu
identity assertion. Its penetration of schools and textbooks is
extensive. Given the weakness of Gujarat's Left and of its liberal
intelligentsia - infinitesimal in relation to commercial
entrepreneurs - there has been little resistance to the Sangh
Parivar's growth. A decade of BJP rule has consolidated Hindutva's
hold. No other State matches Gujarat in its ideological stranglehold
over civil society and state institutions, including the police.
THE generic factors in the Gujarat verdict are extremely important
too. They will come into play immediately in Himachal Pradesh and the
other States going to the polls soon. Broadly, they include the BJP's
appeal to bellicose nationalism; second, its claim that it is
uniquely committed to defending "national security" against
"terrorism", on which the secular parties are "compromised"; and,
third, its xenophobic portrayal of Islam and Muslims as "outsiders",
with "extra-territorial" loyalties, who cannot be trusted at this
"critical juncture" when India's security is gravely threatened, like
the United States', by jehadi terrorism.
It should be clear that even in the short run, no sustained
ideological-political challenge can be mobilised against the Sangh
Parivar unless these claims are exposed as misleading, exaggerated,
or downright hollow. Yet, it is undeniable that they appeal to many
people, especially urban, upper-caste, high-income strata. Just as
bellicose nationalism has struck root over the past two decades,
elite opinion in India has shifted rightwards under the impact of
neo-liberal economics, Social-Darwinism, imitation of role-models of
"success" and "competition" defined in misanthropic terms, and
increasing fascination with force as the main means of resolving
differences and disputes.
These ideas, like Mera-Bharat-Mahan nationalism, have gone largely
unchallenged by the Centre-Left at the level of social discourse. At
the level of parliamentary or strategic debate, there is often a
competition among centrist parties to appear more loyal than the
king. Thus, certain groups that criticised the government's handling
of the Kargil crisis (for instance, intelligence failure) ended up
railing at it for not taking the war to its logical culmination!
Since September 11, terrorism - strictly of the non-state, and
preferably Islamic, variety - has become a powerful shibboleth which
it is not easy (or popular) to attack. Given today's Islamophobic
climate, particularly in the United States, many Indians who would
have preferred to be fence-sitters on the issue of religion and
politics, now sympathise with the view that there is an "organic"
link between Islam and terrorism, and that Indian Muslims are partial
All these propositions are utterly, completely misconceived. The
Sangh Parivar's claim to nationalism finds no validation in the
freedom movement's history. It did not participate in it. Sections of
it collaborated with the colonial state, preferring to regard Muslims
as the greater evil. Parivar nationalism is hate-filled and negative.
It severs the nation from the people.
The BJP must be roundly condemned for saying, in reply to the VHP's
Hindu rashtra demand, that India has been a "Hindu Nation" for
thousands of years and will never become a "theocratic state". This
"theocracy" business is a red herring. The core of communalism is not
about the rule of priesthood, but about the primacy of one group by
virtue of religion. This primacy has no place in democracy -
especially in a richly plural, composite culture such as India's.
India was never a "Hindu Nation" in any real sense. For about 2,000
years, non-Hindus have been integral to what is called India -
Buddhists, animists, Jains, atheists, Christians, agnostics, Muslims,
ancestor- or nature-worshippers. It makes no historical or
sociological-political sense to term ancient or medieval India a
"nation". This is a quintessentially modern phenomenon. Nor will it
do to talk about one continuous Indian "civilisation". Civilisations
arise, grow, decline and die.
For a thousand years or more, Muslims have been inseparable from
India's material life: languages, arts, crafts, economic practices,
literatures, music, administrative systems, forms of social
intercourse, and politics, as we have known all these. Muslims'
integration in Independent India and their commitment to it is one of
the greatest stories of cultural-political assimilation anywhere.
This has withstood the worst stresses produced by the rise of
"identity politics" over the past two decades, in particular both
political Islam and political Hinduism.
It is truly remarkable that not a single Indian Muslim has recently
joined a violent Islamic movement anywhere in the world: whether in
Afghanistan, Kashmir, North Africa or Pakistan. To underrate this
community's prodigious restraint and good sense is to indulge in
The BJP must be thoroughly contested on the issue of terrorism too.
Its leadership has no comprehension of terrorism - not just its
origins, but of how to fight it. Legislating draconian laws, setting
up special "fast-track" courts, and staging fake "encounters" do not
solve the problem of terrorism. That is amply demonstrated by the
discontent and suffering in Kashmir, the sorry experience with TADA
(Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act), and the
latest verdict in the first trial under POTA (Prevention of Terrorism
If the BJP is to be electorally defeated, it must be challenged at
the ideological level. But that is not enough. It has to be pursued
into civil society and into the institutions it has infiltrated:
tribal villages, primary schools, Dalit settlements, cultural
organisations, youth groups, professional associations. This cannot
be done by parties which are mere election machines.
There has to be a movement, through society and in politics, based on
cooperation between progressive parties, civil society organisations
and the intelligentsia. This will be a long haul. Communalism is a
historic menace. It seeks to destroy the legacy of the Enlightenment
and of modernity itself. It can only be fought comprehensively,
January 04, 2003
Watch Them Turn
Heard about two inquiries into Indian atrocities that are going on as
you read this, both of which, for now, are expected to produce
reports sometime this year? One is an inquiry into the crimes in
Gujarat in February and March 2002: the killing of 60 Indians on that
train in Godhra and the massacre of a thousand or more Indians that
followed throughout the state. The other is an inquiry into the
slaughter of 3,000 Indians in Delhi in 1984, following Indira
What is common to these two inquiries, you might ask. That is, apart
from what is common to every such inquiry in India: they meander
along at taxpayer-paid glacial speeds, cope with deliberate delays,
are forced to ask for repeated extensions, eventually produce reports
that nobody reads and governments refuse to act on, and are then
forgotten. They are also the perfect screen for governments that have
no desire to punish criminals and still want to pretend that they do.
All those apply to these two inquiries, I'm positive.
But there's one more intriguing detail about these two. They are both
headed by the same judge: Justice G T Nanavati.
One honourable judge is simultaneously inquiring into two of India's
most shameful episodes, two of our country's greatest crimes. I mean
no disrespect to a judge I don't know at all. Has Justice Nanavati
been saddled with two enormous tasks, in the knowledge that therefore
both reports will be even slower in coming than either one would be?
Are the politicians and bureaucrats who gave him these jobs off
somewhere, laughing at how easily they have managed to pull yet more
sheepskin over our eyes? How easily they have got you and me nodding
our heads, thinking lofty thoughts such as 'the wheels of justice are
turning,' and 'the law will take its own course'?
If we are thinking those thoughts, of course, we've forgotten that
inquiry commissions have nothing to do with the law and justice in
the first place. Among other things, that's because they are not
courts of law, cannot punish people, and governments are not required
to act on their recommendations anyway. Besides, with Nanavati, a
small bit of news from a few days ago is a pointer to the
hopelessness of both his inquiries and the cause of justice.
A man called Sajjan Kumar, a powerful Congress leader from Delhi, was
acquitted in what was the last existing attempt to bring him to
justice for his crimes during the killings of Sikhs in 1984. Sure,
the wheels of justice turned for Sajjan Kumar, the law did take its
own course. For 18 years the wheels turned. They turned and turned
more till we reached, on December 23, the dead end we could have
predicted all the way back in 1984: the case against the man was
And this happened even though the guilt is down in black and white in
inquiry report after inquiry report, and will no doubt figure in
Nanavati's report too, when it makes its appearance. Oh yes, many
bodies inquired into the slaughter of the Sikhs and issued many
reports. Take a deep breath, now, and hold tight as I run quickly
The first inquiry connected with the 1984 massacre was when police
officer Ved Marwah headed a committee to investigate the role of the
police in the massacre. Six months after the tragedy, the Rajiv
Gandhi government appointed Justice Ranganath Misra to investigate
'allegations in regard to the incidents of organised violence.'
Justice Misra submitted his report in August 1986. Another six months
later, in February 1987, the government tabled his report in
Parliament and, on Justice Misra's recommendation, promptly appointed
three more commissions. Yes, three more.
The Jain-Bannerjee commission was to look into cases that were not
registered or not adequately investigated. The Kapur-Mittal
commission had to identify guilty police officers. The Ahuja
commission was supposed to come up with the exact number of people
killed. (Six months later, Ahuja had the figure: 2,733).
Jain-Bannerjee's first recommendation was to register a case of
murder against Sajjan Kumar. One of his accomplices, Brahmanand
Gupta, immediately went to court to shut down the Jain-Bannerjee
inquiry on legal technicalities; two years later, he succeeded. In
March 1990, the V P Singh government appointed the Potti-Rosha
committee, taking care to correct the legal problems that had
resulted in the Jain-Bannerjee fiasco. In August 1990, Potti-Rosha
issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits victims
of the violence had submitted. There was one against Sajjan Kumar. A
CBI team went to Kumar's home to file the charges; his supporters
locked them up and threatened them harm if they persisted in their
designs on their leader. As a result of this intimidation, when
Potti-Rosha's term expired in September 1990, Potti and Rosha decided
to disband their inquiry.
Within two months, the Delhi administration appointed the
Jain-Aggarwal committee to resume Potti-Rosha's work. Over the next
three years, Jain-Aggarwal recommended several cases based on the
filed affidavits, including against Sajjan Kumar and other Congress
leaders like H K L Bhagat. In 1994, the Delhi administration
appointed the Narula Advisory Committee to 'review the status' of the
recommendations made by Potti-Rosha, Kapur-Mittal and Jain-Aggarwal.
Among many observations, Narula specifically mentioned the repeated
failure of the police to proceed against Bhagat and Kumar.
In 2000, the Vajpayee government appointed the Nanavati Commission.
By my count, that's the ninth official commission, over 16 years, to
investigate the killings.
There were unofficial inquiries too. PUCL, those now much-maligned
'human rights wallahs,' produced a searing expose of the slaughter
titled Who Are The Guilty? The BJP sent its cadres out to do a survey
and concluded that 2,700 people had been killed in those few dreadful
days. By the beginning of 1985, two more sets of human rights wallahs
had produced reports severely critical of the Congress and its
government: Citizens for Democracy under Justice V M Tarkunde, and a
Citizens Commission led by Justice S M Sikri, once Chief Justice of
India. And there was a Citizens Justice Commission -- yes, still more
human rights wallahs -- that formed to help the Ranganath Misra
Commission collect affidavits and evidence.
If you are reeling from this list of inquiries, there is an even more
egregious aspect to them. Not one resulted in even a single case
filed and pursued against anyone, certainly not Sajjan Kumar.
Yet there were two cases, no thanks to inquiries, that actually
brought Kumar to court. The police filed the first in 1984, accusing
Kumar and 10 accomplices of instigating riots in the Sultanpuri area
of Delhi, killing 49 people. In early 2000, Additional Sessions Judge
R C Yaduvanshi dismissed that case, citing the police's failure to
produce sufficient evidence against the men. (See my column Few
Notice The Terror).
The CBI filed the second case in 1990, acting on a complaint by a
Sikh widow called Anwar Kaur. She accused Kumar of leading the mob
that killed her husband in Sultanpuri on November 1, 1984. 'They were
armed with lathis and other weapons,' she told the judge in a 1999
hearing. 'They hit my husband with lathis till he died.' After that,
the killers pulled mattresses from her house and placed them on her
husband's body, drenched everything in kerosene and sent him up in
'Sajjan Kumar,' Anwar Kaur said at that hearing, 'was standing there
and instigating the mob.'
On December 23, 2002, Additional Sessions Judge Manju Goel acquitted
Kumar in Anwar Kaur's case. The CBI, Her Ladyship observed, had
failed to produce sufficient evidence against Kumar. The witnesses
the CBI produced in court, she also observed, had many flaws in their
So ended one more attempt to punish powerful men who instigate
killing and looting; who subject us to the regular riots that are now
an indelible part of our Indian tapestry. All because our law and
order authorities are strangely unable, when it comes to powerful
men, to produce 'sufficient evidence' in court.
Outraged at this perversion of justice, are you? Well, when I've
shown signs of such outrage, several people have said to me: 'But
think of the kind of life Sajjan Kumar and H K L Bhagat have had to
lead all these years.' That is to say, OK, they haven't been
officially punished, but they have lived a hunted existence since
1984. As if it must be some kind of comfort to know that
taxpayer-paid police protection is the only punishment this man will
ever get. Still, that's all the comfort we get. That's what we have
Then again, you could wait for Justice Nanavati's report. Make that
reports, plural. Of course, you could also wait for the wheels of
justice to turn and the law to take its own course. Wait, in other
words, for the next massacre of ordinary Indians.
December 28, 2002
Letter to Editor
1984 Riots and Justice
Justice delayed is justice denied but if justice is denied even after
delay than we can well imagine the agony in the minds of affected
people and their faith in judiciary. Few people will absolve Sajjan
Kumar from involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The Ranganath
Mishra Commission clearly indicts the police for not recording cases
against anyone in authority as the ruling party engineered riots. A
number of panels had held Sajjan Kumar, J Tytler, H K L Bhagat, etc,
guilty of leading and inciting the mob to burn, loot and murder
Sikhs. The Illustrated Weekly of India in November 1984 came out with
candid picture of those involved in riots but was banned immediately.
Such organised violence spanning over three days can never be
imagined without the active involvement of those in power. In case of
parliament attack court issued death warrants in one year but in the
case of anti-Sikh riots case was filed in 1989, after five years, and
charge sheet was filed in 1994, after 10 years. In all 12 persons
were absolved of any crime. For thousands of Sikhs killed by mob not
even a single prosecution took place even after 18 years.
The gory crime of burning missionary Stains and his two young kids in
jeep is still fresh in our minds. There had been mudslinging in
political parties as to political affiliation of one accused Dara
Singh but no prosecution till date. The case of Gujarat will be no
different, where Muslims were at the receiving end. The party
responsible for organised violence is back in power. The whole nation
witnessed the shameful acts but accused will roam free, the reasons
for which are not hard to fathom.
It is unfair to expect a victim to lodge an FIR instantly after crime
more so it is impossible to lodge FIR where whole family is murdered
and only accused are eyewitness to that incident. The judiciary
should come out to rescue of helpless victims, technical hitches
should not be a ground to let off culprit, it can rely on panel
reports, photographic evidence, independent confirmation or it should
take into consideration the lapse of time in which witnessed can be
harassed or influenced so as to contradict himself. Is India truly a
secular and democratic country? Let us search our souls.
G K S Sidhu
Frontline, Volume 20 - Issue 01, January 04 - 17, 2003
Acquittal of a politician
in New Delhi
The acquittal of former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar in a case relating
to the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 raises questions about the role and
effectiveness of the prosecution in pursuing the investigations.
Sunday, Jan 05, 2003
The enemy lies within
MY avowal of my own Hinduism in my last column has elicited a
surprising - and in many cases surprised - response from readers. Why
should it have? Must every believing Hindu automatically be assumed
to believe in the Hindutva project? It is hardly paradoxical to
suggest that Hinduism, India's ancient home-grown faith, can help
strengthen Indianness in ways that the proponents of Hindutva have
not understood. In one sense Hinduism is almost the ideal faith for
the 21st Century: a faith without apostasy, where there are no
heretics to cast out because there has never been any such thing as a
Hindu heresy, a faith that is eclectic and non-doctrinaire, responds
ideally to the incertitudes of a post-modern world. Hinduism, with
its openness, its respect for variety, its acceptance of all other
faiths, is one religion which should be able to assert itself without
threatening others. But this cannot be the Hinduism that destroyed a
mosque, nor the Hindutva spewed in hate-filled speeches by communal
politicians. It has to be the Hinduism of Swami Vivekananda, who more
than a century ago, at Chicago's World Parliament of Religions in
1893, articulated best the liberal humanism that lies at the heart of
his (and my) creed: I am proud to belong to a religion which has
taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe
not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as
true. I am proud to belong to a country which has sheltered the
persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all countries of the
earth. I am proud to tell you that we have gathered in our bosom the
purest remnant of the Israelites, who came to southern India and took
refuge with us in the very year in which their holy temple was
shattered to pieces by Roman tyranny. I am proud to belong to the
religion which has sheltered and is still fostering the remnant of
the grand Zoroastrian nation. I remember having repeated a hymn from
my earliest boyhood, which is every day repeated by millions of human
beings: "As the different streams having their sources in different
places all mingle their water in the sea, so, O Lord, the different
paths which men take through different tendencies, various though
they appear, crooked or straight, all lead to Thee." .... [T]he
wonderful doctrine preached in the Gita [says]: "Whosoever comes to
Me, through whatsoever form, I reach him; all men are struggling
through paths which in the end lead to me." Vivekananda went on to
denounce the fact that "sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible
descendant, fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth".
His confident belief that their death-knell had sounded was sadly not
to be borne out. But his vision - summarised in the Sanskrit credo
"Sarva Dharma Sambhava, all religions are equally worthy of respect"
- is, in fact, the kind of Hinduism practised by the vast majority of
India's Hindus, whose instinctive acceptance of other faiths and
forms of worship has long been the vital hallmark of Indianness.
Vivekananda made no distinction between the actions of Hindus as a
people (the grant of asylum, for instance) and their actions as a
religious community (tolerance of other faiths): for him, the
distinction was irrelevant because Hinduism was as much a
civilisation as a set of religious beliefs. In a different speech to
the same Chicago convention, Swami Vivekananda set out his philosophy
in simple terms: Unity in variety is the plan of nature, and the
Hindu has recognised it. Every other religion lays down certain fixed
dogmas and tries to force society to adopt them. It places before
society only one coat which must fit Jack and John and Henry, all
alike. If it does not fit John or Henry, he must go without a coat to
cover his body. The Hindus have discovered that the absolute can only
be realised, or thought of, or stated through the relative, and the
images, crosses, and crescents are simply so many symbols - so many
pegs to hang spiritual ideas on. It is not that this help is
necessary for everyone, but those that do not need it have no right
to say that it is wrong. Nor is it compulsory in Hinduism .... The
Hindus have their faults, but mark this, they are always for
punishing their own bodies, and never for cutting the throats of
their neighbours. If the Hindu fanatic burns himself on the pyre, he
never lights the fire of Inquisition.
It is sad that this assertion of Vivekananda's is being contradicted
in the streets by those who claim to be reviving his faith in his
name. Of course it is true that, while Hinduism as a faith might
privilege tolerance, this does not necessarily mean that all Hindus
behave tolerantly. Nor should we assume that, even when religion is
used as a mobilising identity, all those so mobilised act in
accordance with the tenets of their religion. Nonetheless it is
ironic that even the Maratha warrior-king Shivaji, after whom the
bigoted Shiv Sena is named, exemplified the tolerance of Hinduism. In
the account of a critic, the Mughal historian Khafi Khan, Shivaji
made it a rule that his followers should do no harm to mosques, the
Koran or to women. "Whenever a copy of the sacred Koran came into his
hands," Khafi Khan wrote, Shivaji "treated it with respect, and gave
it to some of his Mussalman followers".
Indians today have to find real answers to the dilemmas of running a
plural nation. "A nation," wrote the Zionist visionary Theodor Herzl,
"is a historical group of men of recognisable cohesion, held together
by a common enemy". The common enemy of Indians is an internal one,
but not the one identified by Mr. Togadia and his ilk. The common
enemy lies in the forces of sectarian division that would, if
unchecked, tear the country apart - or transform it into something
that all self-respecting Hindus would refuse to recognise.
(To be continued)
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