SACW | 18 June, 2003
Wed, 18 Jun 2003 04:07:57 +0100
South Asia Citizens Wire | 18 June, 2003
#1. Pakistani lawyer challenges religious law in court (Juliette Terzieff)
#2. Indian MPs' maiden visit to Pakistan begins
#3. To Have & Have Not: Kidnappings, bombings, assassinations,
extortion, bribery-just another week in Karachi (Tim Mcgirk)
#4. Kashmiri Students in India Face Discrimination (Rama Lakshmi)
#5. India: Excavations at the site of the Babri Moque
- Statement issued by Sahmat at a press conference
- Excavation shows no evidence of temple: SAHMAT
- Historians lambast magazine report on Ayodhya
#6. India: PUCL-Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan (VSA) Withdraw from the
Nanavati-Shah Commission Hearings on the Gujarat massacres of 2002
#7.India: Satyagraha to save Gandhian Institute of Studies, from the
#8. India: Saffron through the political prism (Ram Puniyani)
San Francisco Chronicle
June 17, 2003, Page A - 6
Pakistani lawyer challenges religious law in court
Juliette Terzieff, Chronicle Foreign Service
Islamabad, Pakistan -- Aslam Khaki is the product of a strict
religious upbringing, but he has nonetheless built his legal career
taking on explosive cases that challenge Pakistan's religious elite
and their interpretation of Islam.
While controversy ripples across the nation over passage of
legislation in the Northwest Frontier province to implement religious
Shariah law and several decrees enforcing sex segregation, Khaki has
no doubts over the direction Pakistan should take.
Outraged over moves to Islamize the province, he filed a petition
challenging the new act with Pakistan's Supreme Court. The court held
a hearing on the issue last week, but has yet to rule.
"Enacting legislation like this is impractical, illegal and inane,"
the 48- year-old Shariah lawyer said in an interview. "Not only does
Islam prohibit the imposition of one's views on others, but it is
enshrined in our own constitution that every individual has religious
Riding high after their unprecedented victory in last October's
elections in the fundamentalist region that borders Afghanistan, a
six-party alliance -- most of whose leaders subscribe to the same
Deoband school of thought as the ousted Taliban leadership -- has
been pursuing the goal of creating a society hauntingly reminiscent
of the former Afghan regime.
HARSH TREATMENT OF WOMEN
The alliance -- known as the United Action Forum, or UAF -- saw a
major victory late last month with the unanimous passage of the
Shariah Act 2003, a provincial law that could pave the way for harsh
constraints on the public, especially women.
"Our society is being pushed toward orthodoxy, toward intolerance.
This so- called Shariah act will enable mullahs to create very
suffocating cultural and social atmospheres that are wholly not
conducive for either democracy or guarantees of people's basic
rights," said Afrasiab Khattak, head of the Human Rights Commission
Shariah law, based in the moral and religious teachings of the Koran,
is already enshrined in Pakistan's constitution but is loosely
enforced by the federal government, which favors a mix of Islamic and
secular Western-style law.
In his Supreme Court challenge, Khaki relied heavily on a
constitutional provision stating that federal legislation takes
precedence over provincial laws, arguing that the Northwest Frontier
measure is redundant and any attempt to implement it is illegal. "The
mullahs in charge of the provincial government cannot touch the real
issues. They stand no chance of eradicating poverty or unemployment,
so they have to excel elsewhere," Khaki said in an interview. "Their
real achievement is that they have made themselves into dark shadows
across the face of Islam."
The Islamist alliance swept into power on a growing wave of
anti-American sentiment, vowing to eradicate poverty, obscenity and
vulgarity in favor of the formation of a true Islamic society. It has
issued bans on men coaching women's sports and male doctors treating
women. Music on public transportation has been banned. Party
activists-turned-vigilantes have taken to enforcing their will on the
Nighat Orakzai, one of a dozen female legislators in the Northwest
=46rontier province assembly, said, "Women's rights are human rights,
and with this government there is no room for either."
The arguments on both sides go straight to the heart of how
Pakistanis choose to identify themselves, a point not lost on
President Pervez Musharraf.
"We don't want the vision of the Taliban. They were narrow-minded
people who lacked tolerance. We want a progressive and civilized
Islamic society," the president said recently. "The time has come for
Pakistan to speak out and decide what kind of system it wants."
While most liberals would like to see Turkey -- a secular democracy
in an overwhelmingly Muslim population -- as a model of governance
for this struggling nation, clerics and rural tribesmen lean more
toward an Iranian style.
"People have little knowledge of religious provisions, fear fatwas
(religious decrees) or blasphemy charges, so those of us who do know
have to act," he said.
Raised in a conservative but tolerant household in central Punjab,
Khaki attended school -- and then taught -- in the madrassas
(religious schools) there and in the Northwest Frontier. Many of the
men now leading the UAF religious alliance were among his classmates.
"At a certain point I faced a crisis of conscience, because what the
mullahs said did not match up with what I knew of Islam -- and if the
mullahs were right, then Islam was wrong," he said.
After further study of the Koran and Islamic jurisprudence, Khaki
concluded that the mullahs' rigid interpretations were in error. He
settled on a career that proved to be extremely unpopular even within
his own family, taking on cases that challenged unjust laws and
defending those accused of blasphemy and victims of religious
Relatives and friends still verbally chastise Khaki's wife and
daughter, who is also a qualified lawyer, for his career choices.
Khaki and his father, a mullah who runs a 250-student strong
madrassa, don't always see eye-to-eye on the issues.
While the family has stuck by Khaki's decision to challenge the
mullahs head-on, he has become a target for derision and occasional
Khaki's Supreme Court challenge has captured the attention of
Pakistanis eager to stave off Taliban-like extremism in the Northwest
"Harassment abounds, there is no protection," Khattak, the human
rights activist, warned. "The more laws are passed, the more
activists of these parties will take to the streets to impose their
will. A line must be drawn."
The Daily Times, June 18, 2003
Indian MPs' maiden visit to Pakistan begins today
* Pakistani-India People's Forum says visit to strengthen
* Indian delegation will meet politicians and industrialists
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: The first ever delegation of 10 Indian parliamentarians will
arrive in Lahore via the Wahga Border on a nine-day visit to Pakistan
The visit has been arranged and hosted by the Pakistan-India People's
=46orum for Peace and Democracy (PIPFPD). Member of the Upper House of
the Indian parliament Kuldip Nayar is the coordinator of the
Sources told Daily Times that the delegation was previously headed by
Lok Sabha Member Maulana Asad Madni, who is also the head of the
Jamiat Ulemae Hind (JUH), but his entry to Pakistan was blocked as
the Pakistan Foreign Office directed its high commissioner to India
not to allow him to do so. The maulana is a controversial figure in
Pakistan due to his opposition to the freedom struggle in Kashmir.
His father, Maulana Hussain Madni, was a very vocal opponent of the
partition of the subcontinent.
During the informal visit, the delegation would also meet Senate
Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro, Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz
Elahi, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leaders and other political
The PIPFPD has planned an impressive itinerary for the Indian MPs,
which would start formally from June 18. The schedule includes a
meeting with MMA leaders in Islamabad. The Jamaat-e-Islami has also
requested the PIPFPD for a meeting with the delegation.
Lahore: According to the planned schedule, the delegation would visit
the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) and will have a
meeting with industry representatives on June 18. This would be
followed by a reception and lunch, hosted by the Lahore University of
Management Sciences (LUMS) at its campus. There would be an open
dialogue on peace between the Pakistan and India at the office of the
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in the afternoon which
would be followed by a dinner hosted by the Punjab chief minister.
The delegation would attend a meeting with a women's NGO on June 19
in the Pearl Continental Hotel. The Pakistan Institute for National
Affairs (PINA) has also arranged a dialogue with the Indian MPs
during the afternoon at the Holiday Inn. The MPs would later attend a
dinner hosted by India Pakistan Soldiers Initiative for Peace (IPSIP).
Islamabad: The delegation would reach Islamabad on June 20. They
would attend a lunch hosted by member of the National Assembly MP
Bhandara at the Marriott Hotel.
They would join a gathering arranged by their hosts in Pakistan, the
PIPFPD and close the day with a dinner hosted by the Senate chairman.
On June 21, the Indian delegation would attend a dialogue organised
by the Policy Research Institute, to be followed by a lunch and
dinner hosted by Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPPP)
leader Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan. It would be attended by a number of
political personalities of the country.
The MPs would meet Millat Party chief and former Pakistani President
Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari on June 22. They would hold meetings
with a number of Pakistani parliamentarians. PML-QA President
Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain would host a dinner for the delegation later
Karachi: The delegation would leave for Karachi on June 23. It would
attend a presentation of a community project by Dr Arif and a lunch
hosted by Mr Haroon Ahmad at the Pearl Continental Hotel. In the
afternoon, the MPs will join a public meeting arranged by the local
chapter of the PIPFDP.
On June 24, the delegation would attend a meeting with
industrialists, arranged by former commerce minister Razzak Daud.
This would be followed by a meeting with lawyers organised by Senator
Syed Iqbal Haider. The Sindh Democratic Alliance (SDA) would host a
dinner in the evening for the delegation.
The delegation is scheduled to return to Lahore on June 25. They
would attend a coffee party hosted by peace activist Nusrat Jameel
and attend the "Meet the Press" programme at the Lahore Press Club.
They would return to India the same day via the Wagha Border.
=46ounding member of the PIPFPD and a prominent peace activist Dr
Mubashar Hassan told Daily Times that the delegation's visit was a
response by the Indian MPs to a similar trip to New Delhi undertaken
by their Pakistani counterparts last month. He said it was an
informal visit and its sole objective was to promote people-to-people
contact between the citizens of the two countries.
Time, June 16, 2003 / Vol. 161 No. 23
To Have & Have Not
Kidnappings, bombings, assassinations, extortion, bribery-just
another week in Karachi, Pakistan's largest and most populous city
BY TIM MCGIRK / KARACHI
The Washington Post
Tuesday, June 17, 2003; Page A12
Kashmiri Students in India Face Discrimination
By Rama Lakshmi
MUZAFFARNAGAR, India -- Three months ago, Ejaz Husain Jaan was just
another Kashmiri student living away from home, nervously studying
for his finals and taking short breaks to catch the World Cup cricket
scores on television.
Now, he is in jail, facing terrorism charges for allegedly aiding a
plan to blow up important government buildings, an accusation he
"I came out of Kashmir to study, not to be a terrorist," said Jaan,
23, looking tired and bewildered as he stepped out of a crowded
courtroom in Uttar Pradesh state recently. "In Kashmir, there is
always a threat of the gun -- the army's or the militants'. I wanted
to escape the climate of fear and violence.
"But now all my career hopes are destroyed. I could not even finish
my tests," he said, starting to cry.
According to human rights groups in New Delhi, scores of Muslim
students, traders and professionals who quit violence-wracked Kashmir
for other parts of India in search of education and job opportunities
have faced increased harassment and discrimination in the past three
A report by the People's Union for Democratic Rights said Kashmiri
Muslims in New Delhi suffer from "a deep sense of insecurity and
vulnerability" and are victims of police harassment, humiliating
searches, intimidation, arbitrary detentions and demands for bribes
by local policemen under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
The climate of suspicion, many said, has sharpened since December
2001, when gunmen suspected of being Islamic rebels fighting for
Kashmir's secession from India attacked the Parliament complex in New
Delhi. Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, has been ravaged
since 1989 by a separatist revolt that has claimed more than 35,000
lives, according to official estimates.
"The last 14 years have been a dark period for the people of Kashmir.
Many people have tried to escape the violence and come out to study
and work, but they face suspicion wherever they go," said Mehbooba
Mufti, the chief of Kashmir's ruling People's Democratic Party. "The
stereotype is that every Kashmiri holds a gun. Do Kashmiris have to
rip open their hearts each time to prove they are not militants?"
Indian officials said there is no campaign to harass Kashmiris
because of their religion or their roots.
"We have to be vigilant," said a senior police officer who asked not
to be named. "We don't pick up Kashmiris at random, we follow our
intelligence inputs and phone tapping. We cannot always wait for the
attack to take place; we have to prevent it also."
But human rights activists argued that the police often act on the
basis of flimsy evidence and that the process lacks accountability.
"We are not saying India should be soft on terrorism, but the state's
coercive powers must act like a surgeon's scalpel rather than come
down like a hammer," said Ravi Nair, who heads the South Asia Human
Rights Documentation Center. "With every case of harassment of an
innocent, the gulf between Kashmiris and the rest of India widens."
Discrimination and harassment are a simple fact of daily life for
many Kashmiris living outside their home state, said Afshan Gul, 23,
a film student in New Delhi, who complained of innumerable searches
and questioning by police.
"The searches and questions do not stop when you show your identity
card," she said. "For a Kashmiri Muslim, it usually begins after you
show it. They don't just search you, they rip off your dignity, too."
More than a decade of violence by Islamic militants has hardened
perceptions about Kashmiri Muslims among some Indians as well as the
police. The bias, Kashmiris said, permeates everyday activities from
finding an apartment to finding a job.
"The moment the landlords got to know I was a Kashmiri Muslim, they
would make excuses to say no," said Khursheed Ahmed Qazi, 38, a
businessman who spent several months looking for an apartment in the
capital last year. "The bias against us was clear."
Abrar Ahmad Dewani, 24, a computer student from Kashmir, said that
when he interviewed two years ago for a job as a Web site designer
for a New Delhi company that makes bathroom fixtures, the questions
had nothing to do with his skills.
"The man looked at my [r=E9sum=E9] and said, 'Are you a Kashmiri?
Kashmiris are terrorists,' " recalled Dewani. "I said . . . 'I don't
want to work for you.' I felt humiliated."
At another job interview, a prospective employer told him he was
"very scared of Kashmiris."
The circumstances surrounding the arrest of Jaan and three other
students in March shook the small group of Kashmiri undergraduates
studying in Uttar Pradesh, who said they came under increased
surveillance from the police and became the target of public
suspicion and scorn.
"The police searched all the rooms of the students. My professor told
me not to call him or visit him. Everybody in college looked at us
with suspicion," said Abdul Rashid, 26, a graduate student who lived
in the room next to Jaan's. "The neighbors would look at us and say,
'Look, the terrorists are coming' or 'What are you bombing next?' "
Jaan said he was interrogated in dark rooms for nine days without a
lawyer. He said the police forced him to sign several blank pages
that he feared could be used as confessions.
Police said they found maps of India's "vital installations" in
Jaan's possession and that phone records show he received calls from
a leader of the banned militant group Jaish-i-Muhammad.
Despite the perils, young Kashmiris say they will continue to leave
home because of the lack of jobs in their state.
"I have no choice but to leave Kashmir," said Tanweer Sadiq, 25, a
recent computer science graduate who is applying for jobs in New
Delhi. "There are no jobs in Kashmir. I knew I would have to battle a
stereotype when I [went] there, but it is still worth taking a
chance. It's a question of my career."
=A9 2003 The Washington Post Company
Statement issued by sahmat at a press conference in
Delhi addressed by historian Professor Irfan Habib and
archaeologist Professor Suraj Bhan. Professor Bhan has
been at Ayodhya.
8, Vithalbhai Patel House, Rafi Marg
Telephone- 3711276/ 3351424
The Archaeological Survey of India's excavations at the site of the
Babri Masjid, Ayodhya are now drawing to a close , though the ASI
has sought the High Court's permission to continue the work till
the end of this month, apparently to enable them to excavate two or
three trenches in the so-called " Sanctuary" where the Ram Lalla
image is now placed. By this time the ASI has dug up and destroyed
what the karsevaks had not demolished, namely the floors and
foundation-walls of the Masjid. In any archaeological operation
elsewhere such treatment of monumental remains would be deemed
totally unprofessional and impermissible.
All this has been done in the expectation, enflamed by the earlier
Tojo-Vikas International's geo-physical survey report ( undated), on
the basis of which the Allahabad High Court ( Lucknow Bench) was
pleased to order the excavation. This Report spoke of "anomalies"
and " pillars" below the Babri masjid, and so suggested that
structural remains would be found beneath the mosque. It may be
recalled that SAHMAT issued a statement on 8 March doubting the
credentials of this Company , questioning its surveying methods and
finally its interpretation of its data. SAHMAT pointed out that the
Company itself provided for a wide range of possibilities from its
data, but selected for specific mention only such of these as might
please their employers. It was, on the face of it, a thoroughly
unprofessional piece of conduct on their part.
In pursuit of Tojo-International's predicted pre-Masjid structures
the ASI dug up 82 trenches by 5 June 2003. Except for a small area
around Ram Lalla the entire area of the Masjid Complex including Ram
Chabutra has been dug up to depths of several meters. The ASI
submitted its first progress report to the High Court on work done
till 24 April 2003 when as many as 52 trenches ( 4x4 meters each)
had been excavated. SAHMAT in its statement on 6 May, showing that
the only structural remains the ASI had actually found were those
associated with the construction of the Mosque or of the period of
Muslim habitation. The pervasive presence of animal bones with cut
marks and Muslim glazed ware, and the entire absence of even a
trace of anything that could indicate structural remains of a
temple. The ASI report seemed only to clutch at straws, which on
close scrutiny could be seen as contrary to the details it had
Matters have become definitively clear with the ASI's latest
progress report that deals with the latest period, 22 May to 5 June,
covering 30 new trenches, so that now the entire Mosque complex and
much of the surrounding area has been covered.
In trench after trench, no structural remains below the Mosque's
floor level have been found at all. The structural remains found in
some trenches are all of construction associated with the Mosque,
viz., brick walls, Mosque-floors, lime mortar, etc. The " structural
bases", which were mentioned with some enthusiasm in the first
Progress Report, but were, alas, found to be uniformly of
brick-bats and so neither load-bearing nor in any way associated
with any known tradition of Hindu temple architecture, are now
termed " pillar bases". Only seven have been claimed to be found in
six trenches , only out of the thirty excavated. No alignment or
uniformity of level is claimed for them.
The ASI's report also lists finds yielded by the excavation. It
needs to be noted that in trench F3, the " 1.61 metre high
decorated black stone pillar ( broken) with Yaksha figurines on four
corners" is one of the black pillars which had belonged to the
Babri Masjid and was broken up when the Babri Masjid was destroyed
by the karsevaks. It has been retrieved from above the Babri Masjid
floor, and is, therefore, no new discovery and has nothing to do
with any possible temple remains below the Mosque. On the other
hand, all other finds suggest either Muslim habitation ( " Arabic
inscription of holy verses", glazed tiles) or ordinary medieval
In view of all this, the VHP and its supporters are now falling
back on " faith". But they are unable to produce any scriptural
authority or any document to show that Lord Rama was really born
exactly at this spot. In other words, the " faith" they are talking
about is only faith invented by them.
Others, of the BJP camp faced with the debacle that the excavations
have placed them are speaking of a " compromise". The conditions of
this " compromise", so far appearing in the press, are that (1)
Muslims can build a Mosque 10 k.m. away from the Babri Masjid site,
and (2) the Hindu claims on Mosques at Varanasi and Mathura will
not be pursued.
One does not understand whom these proposals are expected to fool.
The present main mosque at Ayodhya is itself barely 1 =87 km from the
Babri Masjid site, and there are other mosques in the town. Any one
who owns land can build a mosque at any distance from the mosque :
so what is the sense of the 10 km restriction?.
Secondly, any change in the religious status of a place of worship
from what it was on 15 August 1947 is barred by an Act of
Parliament, 1991. What the proposed compromise suggests is that this
too is an open issue, which it is not.
Finally, what is forgotten is the heinous crime carried out on 6
December 1992. No talk of compromise has any meaning when the
perpetrators of that outrage walk not only free, but are in control
of the state itself. They must, above all, be first brought to book.
o o o
The Times of India
Excavation shows no evidence of temple: SAHMAT
PTI[ TUESDAY, JUNE 17, 2003 09:54:44 PM ]
NEW DELHI: Disfavouring any move to "broker a compromise" in the
Babri Masjid dispute, a socio-cultural organisation on Tuesday
claimed that findings of the ASI excavations have showed no evidence
of a temple so far.
"The realisation that their claims of a temple below the mosque was
being negated by the excavation results so far, organisations like
the VHP have started talking of faith...In other words the 'faith'
they are talking about is the one invented by them and hence it
should be disapproved," SAHMAT Member Irfan Habib told reporters here.
The government has also started talking about a "compromise", he
said, adding any such formula would be "an insult to the secular
nature of the Indian Constitution."
"The structural bases, which were mentioned with some enthusiasm in
the first Progress Report (by ASI), were found to be uniformly of
brick-bats and so neither load-bearing nor in any way associated with
any known tradition of Hindu temple architecture," he claimed.
Reacting to reports in a section of the media claiming that "some
evidence showing the presence of a temple" were found, Archaeologist
Suraj Bhan said "these reports were fabricated." Claiming that the
ASI team has "completed the work of kar sevaks," Habib alleged that
"by this time the ASI has dug up and destroyed what kar sevaks had
not demolished, namely the floors and foundation walls of the Masjid.
In any archaeological operation elsewhere such a treatment of
monumental remains would be deemed totally unprofessional and
"When the initial reports of the excavation proved that the findings
of the Tojo-Vikas International's survey, which spoke of 'anomalies'
and 'pillars' below the Babri Masjid, were wrong the ASI could have
stopped at that. But instead it went on and 'demolished' the entire
structure," he charged.
o o o
Historians lambast magazine report on Ayodhya
Press Release, June 16, 2003
People's Union for Civil Liberties, Baroda [India] and Vadodara Shanti Abhiy=
13 Pratap Kunj Society, Karelibaug, Vadodara 390 018
Phone: 2464210, 2462328 Fax No: 2340223
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com,
PUCL-Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan (VSA) Withdraw from the Nanavati-Shah
The PUCL-VSA, who were active in relief and rehabilitation during the
violence on Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat, have withdrawn from the
proceedings of the Nanavati-Shah Commission scheduled to start its
hearings at Vadodara on June 16, 2003. PUCL-VSA had earlier submitted
an affidavit to the Commission based on the PUCL-VSA investigations
into the violence in Vadodara city and surrounding villages. They
have now submitted a second affidavit stating that, in view of their
lack of faith in the inquiry proceedings, they will not participate
in them further.
According to representatives of the PUCL-VSA, many Muslim victims and
witnesses to key incidents in last year=92s violence would not be
willing to appear before the Commission to depose and be
cross-examined. This is because of the atmosphere of fear and
insecurity prevailing among the Muslim victims a fact best
exemplified by the Best Bakery case one of the key cases recommended
by the NHRC to be examined by the CBI. In the said Best Bakery case
many key witnesses have turned hostile, whereas in several
independent reports by groups including the esteemed NHRC, these very
same witnesses had testified on what they had seen. And today they
tell a different tale, to the extent of declaring that the aggressors
had in fact been saviours.
In addition, the PUCL-VSA find that human rights defenders, social
workers, and lawyers of the minority community fighting cases for
justice have all been threatened and face a serious threat to their
The PUCL-VSA also record with shock and concern the comments made by
a senior member of the Commission, Justice Nanavati, a former judge
of the Supreme Court. In late May 2003, Justice Nanavati has been
reported extensively in the media to have said, "The evidence
recorded so far does not indicate any lapse on the part of the police
or administration in controlling the communal clashes in several
parts of the state." Thereafter, Justice Nanavati reportedly backed
out and stated that the media had misquoted him. But a TV channel
reported that Justice Nanavati, in an interview with the channel, had
said the Gujarat riots were not one-sided and that there was limited
evidence against the VHP. "There is no real evidence that has been
brought to name individual Bajrang Dal or VHP leaders," the TV
channel quoted Justice Nanavati as saying. The PUCL-VSA considers
such a pronouncement by a member of the Commission a serious breach
of judicial propriety. The Commission has yet to initiate hearings at
Vadodara and Ahmedabad, both among the worst affected during the
communal violence of 2002. The Commission=92s proceedings so far,
instead of inspiring confidence in an already demoralized group of
potential deponents, most of whom come from poor and deprived
backgrounds, have sown serious doubts about the impartiality,
fairness and sincerity of the investigation. In fact the attitude of
the Commission has affected the resolve of many witnesses, already
under severe pressure, to depose openly and fearlessly before it. The
Nanavati-Shah Commission has followed a procedure of holding in
camera hearings at which individuals are only allowed to depose
singly. Such a procedure is over-awing and intimidating to many
individuals from disempowered backgrounds, so that they may fail to
present their cases and evidence effectively. Apart from this there
is the already mentioned issue of safety of these Muslim deponents
outside the setting of the Commission=92s hearings, a fact aggravated
by the reluctance of the government machinery in the State to assure
the safety of citizens of the minority community.
Given the above, the PUCL-VSA has no option but to refuse to
participate in this futile exercise. The entire process, carried out
in an atmosphere hostile to the victims, investigated by a police
force accused of grave lapses and misdemeanour during the violence,
argued and heard by prosecutors and judges appointed by a government
charged with abetting the violence, and enquired into by a judicial
commission of questionable credentials, is not designed to bring out
the truth or deliver justice.
Denial of justice on such a scale will have disastrous long-term
consequences for any society. The Nanavati-Shah Commission has made
no attempts to inspire confidence among potential deponents and
victims of last year=92s violence by publicly clarifying its stand and
commitment to a fair inquiry. Concerted appeals to victims and
witnesses to appear before it, and a public apology for any reported
statements in the media that amounted to pre-judging and exonerating
the State Police, one of the main accused in last year=92s violence,
would have helped to redeem the faith of ordinary Indians in the
process of Justice and Truth. As things stand, PUCL-VSA cannot be a
party to a charade that will end up as a fraud on the nation and
bring with it a grave miscarriage of justice.
=46or PUCL Vadodara Shanti Abhiyan
Signed by the following PUCL-VSA members: Kiritbhai Bhatt,
Jagadishbhai Shah, Isaacbhai Chinwalla. Mansoor Saleri, JS
Bandukwalla, Jehanara Rangrez, Chinu Srinivasan , Deeptha Achar
(firstname.lastname@example.org), Iftikhar Ahmed , Johannes Manjrekar , Maya
Valecha , Nandini Manjrekar , Raj Kumar Hans , Renu Khanna , Rohit
Prajapati , and Trupti Shah and many more.
A Satyagraha in form of an indefinite Dharna has started at the
Gandhi Vidya Sansthan, Varanasi from 16th June, 2003 in protest of
illegitimate appropriation of the institute. About 150 persons
participated in a peaceful Satyagrah that aims at saving the Gandhian
Institute of Studies, Varanasi from the jaws of ideological terrorism
of the Sangh Parivaar. The first day saw a substantial police force
on the grounds of the campus but they appeared tentative regarding
the matter and their role in it. The Satyagrahis gave full
co-operation to the administration in maintaining peace and order and
pursued their agitation in truest spirit of the Gandhism in defence
of which they were fighting.
The agitationists view this battle not as just another one but part
of a larger struggle of increasing ideological terrorism of the Sangh
Parivaar, and a systematic and systemic uprooting of Gandhian thought
Backdrop of the Matter
Gandhian Institute of Studies, Varanasi, located in the precincts of
Sarva Sewa Sangh, was founded by Jaya Prakash Narayan in 1960 to
promote research in Gandhian thought and its practice. In a travesty
of laws of land, the institute has been appropriated by handful of
people, some of whom are in no way related to the Institute.
Some facts about the institute that are pertinent to the matter are as follo=
1. The institute is located on the land of Sarva Sewa Sangh and
not on that of government.
2. The buildings and other assets of the institute were
developed by U.P. Gandhi Smarak Nidhi and funds solicited by JP for
3. The institute is an autonomous body of which the registration
has been renewed
(Renewal no. 803,2003; File no. 2.11137; Dated 31/01/2003)
4. Due to political pressure and manoeuvring a letter had been
issued from Registrar Office Lucknow for rescinding its registration
5. The institute incumbents had lodged a petition against the
above at Allahabad High Court.
6. A stay order was issued by the court on the issue of
rescinding the registration renewal of the institute.
(Order no 23650, 2003; Dated 23/05/2003)
7. Even before this, some people had advanced a petition for
Society of the Institute at the Fourth Additional District Court. The High
Court issued a Stay Order against this of which the details are:
Order No. 13628, 2003 Date 22/4/2003
8. Prof. Kusumlata Kedia, who declares herself to be the Executive
Director of the Institute was suspended and later dismissed from the
Institute on grounds of lack of discipline, breach of duty and
activities detrimental to the Institute=92s spirit, mission and
9. ICSSR (Indian Council for Social Sciences Research) had been
that giving grants to the institute since 1977 has been stopped doing
so since 1999.
But funds have been arranged from some alternative sources and thus
the demand of the Satyagrahis is that the all hindrances towards the
smooth functioning of the institute (like lock-out etc) be removed
and people indulging in such illegal and unrighteous activities be
directed out of the Institute campus.
=46rom Indian Currents- June 16, 2003
Saffron through the political prism
-- Ram Puniyani
To be able to choose ones faith is the prerogative of individuals
not only in democratic societies but has been so even in pre-modern
times. Religions have generally spread through the saints of
particular religions, but since the history as understood today is
the history of kings, they are supposed to have spread the religions
through their Jihads, Crusades, Dharmayuddha and what have you.
In current times it is petrodollars or blankets and aspirin, which
are supposed to be the bait for religious conversions. Our social
understanding of the process of religious conversions has made the
journey from force to allurement. And so the Hindu Patriotic (RSS)
force is seriously peeved by the conversions to Islam and
Christianity, which are supposed to be aplenty around. It is
probably with all this in mind that Ram Madhav, the spokesperson of
RSS, brought up the RSS nightmare of conversions yet again. (June 7,
2003) The logic of condemning conversions leads this intolerant
ideology to brand other religions with all sorts of things, which
have no relevance in the social and political milieu of the day. On
one hand Madhav criticizes Christianity as intolerant, exclusivist
and supremacist religious doctrine, on the other he condemns the
Papal exhortation to carry out evangelism in the country. It goes
without saying that RSS has been very appreciative of
"Anti-Conversion" laws promulgated in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat and
invokes the other states to follow suit.
Why is it that RSS is relentlessly carrying on this anti conversion
tirade? Is conversion a new phenomenon of India society? Or, for that
matter is conversion something new on the horizon of the World? How
come RSS and its politics Hindutva has woken up to this grave
problem of Indian society, now? The conversion of some Dalits to
Islam in Meenakshipuram two decades earlier gave a boost to the RSS
progeny VHP to come to the fore and create ruckus on the issue. As
such it remained as one of the many issues. From last five years it
has been one of the major issues, which has been taken up by
Hindutva politics. The burning alive of Graham Stuart Staines along
with his two minor sons in January 1999 was the major event, which
shook the conscience of the majority of the country, barring, of
course, the Sangh Parivar for whom it was the spontaneous anger of
local populace against the conversion activities of the Pastor.
The same time saw the attack on nuns, burning of Bibles and fatal
attacks on two other people in Orissa itself. While the Iron Man,
home minister Lal Krishna Advani, rushed to the defense of his
sister organisation Bajrang Dal, the perpetrators of the crimes,
Bajrang Dal members, have as usual been treated with kid gloves. The
Justice Wadhwa Commission of Inquiry which went into this gruesome
tragedy did make two significant observations. One was that there
was no increase in the Christian population of the area where the
Pastor was working and two that Staines was not involved in
conversion activities. That apart the popular impression sunk that
Christian Missionaries are here to convert. It should be noted that
Indian Christianity is 16-17 centuries old and that during so many
years of so-called proselytisation activities the population of
Christians today is just 2.18% as per the 2001 census. Interestingly
while on one hand the Christian missionaries are facing the charge
of conversion the population off Christians is on the decline.
Lets have a look at the census data of last four decades, 1971-
2.60%, 1981-2.44%, 1991-2.32% and 2001-2.18%. But here a new
argument has been slipped in that the census data is not a true
reflector of the population of Christians as there is a group of
Crypto Christians who are Christians but do not declare so, in order
to take advantage of reservation and other benefits. The whole
debate is extremely pathetic. One has pity for a society, which
ignoring its core issues of poverty, hunger, disease and unemployment
is forced to keep talking about such non-issues. The Papal
exhortations have been there from centuries; the institutions have
been there from centuries. If they were to work like what they
proclaim the population profile of world would have undergone
drastic changes. Madhav and his ilk, while deeply disturbed about
the missionaries going to far flung places to implement converting
agenda, totally overlook the heavy presence of Christian mission
schools and hospitals in cities, where the same type of people who
also go to the remote places work. Why is Madhavs clan not worried
about these urban centers spreading Christianity? One remembers that
the political cousins of Madhav, the Shiv Sainiks, threatened a
Christian school principal in Mumbai for not giving admission to
some children as was recommended by him.
Here the argument comes up that the urbanites like Shiv Sainik and
RSS followers whose children study in mission schools are impervious
to the allurement of Christian propaganda while poor adivasis are
vulnerable to the guiles of missionaries. These banal arguments
apart, one knows that at the heart of the heart conversion is not
the issue. It is the struggle for Hindutvising the Adivasis that the
whole exercise of anti-Christian propaganda is all about.
The rise of Sangh Parivar politics faced a big obstacle at the
electoral front. Though it has been inching towards the electoral
hegemony bits by bits, the big chunk of Adivasis remained aloof from
the cultural and political Hindutvaisation of society. Also the
enlightenment process brought to the Adivasis by the missionary
education process created an awareness of their social and political
interests. And these are in contrast to the interests of the elite
social base of the RSS. The Gujarat tragedy has brought to fore
another use, which can be made of the Adivasis. Through cultural
manipulations of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram the Hindutvaisation has been
accompanied by an intense Anti Muslim and anti Christian sentiments.
These have also been added up by economic measures where the local
Muslims are projected as the exploiters. And this indoctrination has
bee made use of in providing the foot soldiers for RSS politics of
It is remarkable as to how cultural symbols can be used and decades
of social work done by the missionaries and other Human rights
groups can be washed off while bringing the worst out from the
adivasis. And the signal coming from other states also give a
pointer to this direction. The importance of cultural symbols is
very clear in most an Adivasi areas. While Hanuman is presented as
the idol, Shabri Mata is the new goddess, which has been brought
forward. The combination could not have been more symbolic. Ram is
the upper caste icon, Hanuman, the devotee of Ram, is idol for
Adivasis, and Shabri, the destitute, who feels overwhelmed due to
Ram sharing her berries, is the new Devi for these groups.
The pronouncements of had always been there in one form or the other.
People do not convert for few Aspirins or a couple of blankets. It is
a total relationship, which prompts people to change their faith. In
Indian society the chief cause of conversion has been the
Brahminical social order with its caste rigidities, which has forced
the low caste to seek options, which are socially more just. Right
from Swami Vivekananda, who states the major converts to Islam came
from low caste Shudras to the present post-Jhajjar conversions, via
the efforts of Dr. Ambedkar, conversions have been a major escape
clause for the low caste. In India most of the religions were refuge
for those oppressed by Brahmin-Landlord combine. Hinduism, since
Brahminism dominates it, has another problem as well. Each caste is
segregatory. The low caste feels more comfortable with followers of
Allah or Christ than those who are having the same path for
One cannot become a Brahmin except as a reward for the good deeds of
the past life. But one can become a Christian, Muslim or Buddhist,
for example, by a choice exercised through ones will power.
Brahminism, whose values are dominant in Hinduism is exclusionary in
the social sense. Madhav may be disturbed that Pope claims that
salvation is possible only through his path, but at the same time
that path is open to all those who want it. In case of Madhavs
Brahminical Hinduism there is a no entry board for others. In Madhavs
Hinduism, his acolytes like Dilip Singh Ju Dev are indulging in
political proselytisation, but to what caste these Adivasis are
converted to be a mystery. Each religion has its own ways.
At political level to bring in these matters is a deliberate ploy to
distract the attention from social and political issues. It is an
attempt to maintain status quo. These non-issues are being forced on
the society, which has become very communalised by now. Whether one
gets salvation or not after death may be of lot of interest to
clergy and Madhav, but whether one gets ones livelihood while alive
is what has to be the issue of debate today and now.
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