SACW | 31 May 2006 | Kashmir; Freedom of expression and censorship; 'conversions and freedom of religion
aiindex at mnet.fr
Tue May 30 22:53:46 CDT 2006
South Asia Citizens Wire | 31 May, 2006 | Dispatch No. 2254
(i) Waiting in the Valley (AG Noorani)
(ii) Keep talking (Balraj Puri)
 UK: Defend Free expression support the
re-opening of the MF Hussain Exhibit
(i) Reinstate Indian art exhibition - letter
to the Guardian - with complete list of names)
(ii) Awaaz South Asia Watch Press Release
 Legislation on Freedom for Religion in Secular India
(i) God Forbid (Edit, The Times of India)
(ii) Faith fracas (Manoj Mitta)
 India: Mob Censorship:
Boycott Aamir Khan ? (Rakesh Sharma)
 India: Events
- NAPM convention (Bangalore, May 30-31 to June 1)
- Film Release '7 Islands and a Metro' by
Madhushree Datta (Bombay, June 2)
- 2Nd Visa-Free and Peaceful South Asia
Convention (Lahore, August 6-9, 2006)
The Hindustan Times
May 30, 2006
WAITING IN THE VALLEY
(May 29, 2006)
How well do we understand the Kashmiri Mind? Did
Jawaharlal Nehru, the architect of Kashmir's
union with India, understand it? He warned the
Lok Sabha, on June 26, 1952: "Do not think you
are dealing with a part of UP, Bihar or Gujarat.
You are dealing with an area, historically and
geographically and in all manner of things, with
a certain background. If we bring our local ideas
and local prejudices everywhere, we will never
consolidate... real integration comes of the mind
and the heart and not of some clause which you
may impose on other people".
Two months later, on August 25, 1952, he wrote a
long confidential note to the state's Premier (
as he was then called) Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah
while on a holiday at Sonamarg. He confided that
'towards the end of 1948', he had in his own mind
ruled out a plebiscite; public statements
notwithstanding. 'The only desirable future for
the State is with a close association with India,
retaining her autonomy in most ways.' He wanted
Sheikh saheb to get the state's Constituent
Assembly to endorse the accession. 'What has
sometimes worried me is what happens in Kashmir,
because I have found doubt and hesitation there.'
The UN 'cannot override our wishes in this
matter' and 'we are superior to Pakistan in
military and industrial power'. The people of the
Valley 'though highly gifted... are not what are
called a virile people'. They needed the
protection of 'a strong suzerain power' adding
'the common people are primarily interested in
few things - an honest administration and cheap
and adequate food'.
Indira Gandhi gave him precisely this
prescription from Srinagar on May 14, 1948 : "I
feel that all this political talk will count for
nothing if the economic situation can be dealt
with. Because, after all, the people are
concerned with only (one) thing - they want to
sell their goods and to have food and salt."
Was the situation as desperate as that? She
certainly thought so. "Most of the officials in
the police, etc, are still the old ones and they
are all (Muslim) Leaguers." She was ill-informed.
The League did not exist there. Only the Sheikh's
National Conference and the rival Muslim
Conference did. She added "This is the talk of
the town. They say only Sheikh Saheb is confident
of winning the plebiscite."
He was battling against the tide of public
opinion even in 1948. Hence the proposal he gave
to the British Commonwealth Secretary Patrick
Gordon-Walker in New Delhi on February 20, 1948
in Nehru's presence which he reported to London:
"Just before Nehru left, Sheikh Abdullah said he
thought the solution was that Kashmir should
accede to both Dominions" with its 'autonomy
jointly guaranteed' by them. It would delegate
foreign policy and defence 'to both jointly'. He
had discussed it with the PM. Gordon-Walker took
it up with Nehru who said he would be prepared to
accept a solution broadly on the lines of that
proposed by Sheikh Abdullah.
Sheikh Saheb was opposed to a plebiscite. The
vote would be close, perhaps 60:40 in India's
favour. Both Nehru and he knew that there was
strong pro-Pak feeling in Kashmir.
By the time Nehru wrote his Note of August 25,
1952 that feeling had increased. Sheikh Saheb was
a beleaguered man, as indeed, was Nehru himself.
Both found the politics of the Jan Sangh
repulsive and popular support for their
respective policies on Kashmir weakening. Nehru's
Note sought to save his position, but imperilled
the Sheikh's. Less than a year later Nehru
ordered his dismissal from office and his
imprisonment. The documents prove that to the
Nehru's note, a seminal document was fatally
flawed. He banked on the people's acquiescence.
It was a total misunderstanding of their psyche.
There was scant respect for their wishes. Nor did
Pakistan acquiesce in the status quo. We have now
reached a stage, as a former editor reported from
Srinagar on April 28, 2004, 'no area in Kashmir's
electoral fray would dream of condemning the
Such is the depth of the feelings, which few care
to acknowledge lest it spell secession. It does
not. Time has not stood still. Equities have
arisen on all sides, India's included. But public
opinion in India needs to reckon with the harsh
truth. What the late Hiren Mukherjee said on
February 25, 1994 is still true: 'Even today
perhaps the best of us do not quite realise the
depth of Kashmiris alienation and are unready to
ponder ways and means of overcoming it'.
The two harsh truths are two sides of the same
coin - Kashmir's alienation and India's justified
rejection of its secession in any form.
Two very promising developments suggest that a
solution is possible. One is President Pervez
Musharraf's recent formulations which come within
inches of the criteria which Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh has propounded. We can have a
solution other than the Sheikh's constitutional
bigamy, based on the realities of 2006 but reckon
with the wishes of the people and the concerns of
The other is a blurring of the divide between the
separatists and the accessionists on three
fundamentals. There is a Kashmir dispute;
Pakistan is a party to it; and the militants must
be brought on board in the peace process. What is
little realised is that the accessionists' sense
of injury is as deep as that of the separatists.
If one reads the proceedings of the State
Assembly on June 20-26, 2000 on the autonomy
report, one is struck by the constant bitter
denunciation of Sheikh Abdullah's arrest of
August 8, 1953, references to the freedom
struggle in the state; to the UN and to the
conditional character of the accession - the
condition being restoration of the robbed
That is evident also in the Assembly's
proceedings on March 2 this year. It adopted a
resolution acknowledging the PM's sincerity to
'resolve this issue according to the aspirations
of the people of the state'. A significant word,
'wishes' was added by an amendment.
There is a yearning for reunion of both parts of
the state; if not de jure, de facto in the daily
lives of the people. There is a strong bond
between the cultures of Jammu and the Valley. We
tend to overlook also the people's religious
sentiments as if they are unsecular. But Sheikh
Abdullah was deeply religious and staunchly
There is an air of expectancy in the state. The
key to a solution lies in an Indo-Pak accord.
People look up to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
and President Musharraf to resolve the dispute.
They know that this is a rare combination of two
deeply committed leaders of manifest sincerity.
If they fail, it might not recur for long.
Kashmir would relapse into frustration and
renewed terror with consequences for India and
Pakistan too terrible to contemplate.
o o o
The Times of India
May 30, 2006
Prime minister Manmohan Singh was greeted by
deserted streets in Srinagar when he went there
to hold the round-table conference. Neither he
nor his predecessor had received such a hostile
reception in recent years.
Obviously the hostility was not directed against
him but against the round-table. Throughout
Singh's stay, militant attacks continued. Apart
from the security establishments, the targets
included 13 civilians and tourists.
The month had, in fact, started with a massacre
of 36 civilians, all Hindus, in a single day in
the hilly areas of Jammu. It had shocked people
all over the state.
First, the magnitude of killings was almost
unprecedented. Second, the tragedy had followed a
period of comparative lull. The April
by-elections were the most peaceful polls ever
held since the onset of militancy in Kashmir.
The record polling was no less due to cooperation
of militants. This was acknowledged by candidates
of mainstream parties. Even the separatist
parties recognised the legitimacy of the election.
They argued that people who pay taxes had a right
to elect their representatives who would monitor
how their tax money was spent.
The conclusions drawn by policy-makers that the
elections showed that people were reconciled to
recognise the authority of elected
representatives to decide the future of the state
was strongly resented by the people and
But nobody in New Delhi had an idea of this
resentment and the strong reservations regarding
participation in the round-table. In fact,
government was hopeful that separatists,
particularly the Hurriyat led by Mirwaiz, would
participate in discussions.
Again, there was an element of mystery about the
way Hurriyat postponed its decision till a day
before the round-table started. Did it wait to
see popular reaction and the militants' position?
In any case, the failure to anticipate the
Hurriyat's decision is fairly obvious. The
conference, however, noted the importance of
The PM's commitment to zero tolerance to human
rights violations is categorical and, therefore,
welcome in this context. However, one must
rethink the division between violence committed
by security forces and terrorists.
The nature of act is more important than who
commits it. In no case, abuses by one side are a
justification or a provocation by the other to
commit similar excesses.
There could even be joint watchdog committees to
carry on a campaign against excesses by either
side. The time is also ripe for India to remove
restrictions on international human rights bodies
like Amnesty International and Asia Watch.
Demilitarisation, initially mooted by President
Pervez Musharraf, and supported by some
mainstream parties in Kashmir also needs to be
At the start of the peace process, he had assured
that Pakistan would not be used for cross-border
terrorism. Now he assures that infiltration would
stop if India accepts demilitarisation.
Does the new condition imply that Pakistan is no
longer in a position to check activities of
militants? Its implications should be debated.
Finally, the round-table decided to set up a
working group to study concrete measures to
evolve harmonious relations between the regions
of the state, first recognised by the Delhi
agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh
Abdullah in 1952.
Regional tensions have been the main source of
vitiating Centre-state relations and creating
other complications. The PM said that the working
group would "deal with effective devolution of
power among different regions to meet regional,
sub-regional and ethnic aspirations for ensuring
good governance and forging efficient ties
between Srinagar and New Delhi".
Studies already done on the subject could be the
basis for such an exercise. An offer may be made
to separatists to either cooperate with such
official exercises or to interact in parallel
A dialogue on an appropriate system to remove
internal tensions and to create harmony within
the state is not only essential but also a
prerequisite for a solution to the Kashmir
The writer was an invitee to the round-table conference on Kashmir.
 DEFEND FREE EXPRESSION REOPEN THE HUSAIN EXHIBIT
May 30, 2006
REINSTATE INDIAN ART EXHIBITION
As scholars of south Asia and its rich traditions
of artistic, social, religious and political
expression, we condemn the forced closure of the
exhibition of works by renowned Indian artist MF
Husain at Asia House in London, following
harassment by groups claiming to represent Hindus
(Letters, May 26). Groups such as Hindu Human
Rights and the Hindu Forum of Britain are
wielding the same tactics used by organisations
in India. These groups are known for repeatedly
attacking the works of artists and intellectuals,
undermining India's constitutional right to
freedom of thought and expression.
The Hindu Forum of Britain and Hindu Human Rights
accuse Asia House of not "consulting" with them
before putting on the exhibition. Consultation
should not be a requirement for artistic
These are unelected groups, not known for
consulting democratically with the community
before putting pressure on others in the name of
Hinduism. Their actions would not be sanctioned
by most Hindus. Hindu traditions have an
extensive history of diverse representations of
deities, include nude and erotic images of gods
and goddesses. Hinduism has never possessed a
concept of censorship of the kind that these
authoritarian groups wish to promote. We urge
Asia House to reopen this exhibition - by doing
so it will honour the rich and diverse traditions
of expression arising from Hinduism and from
(A full list of signatures is also available at http://tinyurl.com/jtttc)
Dr Chetan Bhatt, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Professor Rajeswari Sunderrajan, University of Oxford
Dr Priyamvada Gopal, University of Cambridge
Professor David Hardiman, University of Warwick
Dr Eivind Kahrs, University of Cambridge
Dr Sudeshna Guha, University of Cambridge
Dr Manali Desai, University of Reading
Dr Francesca Orsini, University of Cambridge
Dr Rashmi Varma, University of Warwick
Dr Amrita Dhillon, University of Warwick
Professor Benita Parry, University of Warwick
Dr Suman Gupta, Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies, Open University
Dr John Smith, University of Cambridge
Dr Subir Sinha, SOAS, University of London
Dr Subha Mukherji, University of Cambridge
Dr Pablo Mukherjee, University of Warwick
Dr Ananya Kabir, University of Leeds
Baidik Bhattacharya, University of Oxford
Stuti Khanna, University of Oxford
Dr Uttara Natarajan, Goldsmiths College, University of London
Dr Dwijen Rangnekar, University of Warwick
Nikita Sud, University of Oxford
Dev Saif Gangjee, London School of Economics
Dr Kaveri Gill, University of Cambridge
Manmay Zafar, University of Oxford
Michael Collins, University of Oxford
Nazneed Ahmad, University of Oxford
Dr Janet Wilson, University of Northampton
Weimin Tang, University of Oxford
Aishwary Kumar, University of Cambridge
Srijana Das, University of Cambridge
Srila Roy, University of Warwick
Professor Shirin Rai, University of Warwick
Dr Susan Daruvala, University of Cambridge
Dr Alison Donnell, Nottingham Trent University
Dr Parita Mukta, University of Warwick
Dr Phiroze Vasunia, University of Reading
Dr Sunil Amrith, Birkbeck College
Professor Barbara Harriss-White, University of Oxford
Mallarika Sinha Roy, University of Oxford
Dr Bishnupriya Gupta, University of Warwick
Swagato Sarkar, University of Oxford
o o o o
AWAAZ SOUTH ASIA WATCH PRESS RELEASE: TUESDAY 30 MAY 2006
Email: contact at awaazsaw.org, Telephone: (+ 44) 020 8843 2333
* RE-OPEN THE MF HUSAIN EXHIBITION
* STAND FIRMLY AGAINST FUNDAMENTALIST INTIMIDATION
* DEFEND FREEDOM OF ARTISTIC EXPRESSION
Awaaz - South Asia Watch urges Asia House, London to re-open the exhibition
of the work of renowned Indian artist, MF Husain. Awaaz condemns the forced
closure of the exhibition following violence, harassment and intimidation by
fundamentalists claiming to represent the views of British Hindus. The
fundamentalists who vandalised the paintings reflect the authoritarian
ideologies and tactics of militant Hindu Right groups in India.
In India, organisations such as the extremely violent Bajrang Dal, the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad and other organizations linked to the fascist-inspired
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) , have repeatedly attacked MF Husain
and other artists, filmmakers, intellectuals and cultural practitioners. In
1998, Hindu Right groups attacked and ransacked Husain's Bombay home, one of
several such attacks on the artist and his work. Hindu Right groups have
regularly attempted to undermine the freedom of thought and expression
enshrined in the Indian constitution and reflected in the vibrancy of Indian
In Hindu traditions there is an extensive history of wide and diverse
representations of the sacred deities, including nude, erotic and other
depictions. Hinduism has never possessed a concept of censorship or
blasphemy of the kind that authoritarian groups wish to promote. A key
reason the exhibition is being attacked is because MF Husain is a Muslim.
Groups involved have used religious claims to mask a political agenda that
owes to the Hindu Right, an agenda which has caused considerable violence
and misery in India since the 1980s.
Hindu Right groups in Britain have previously used tactics of intimidation
to attempt to prevent films on the 2002 Gujarat carnage being shown in
London. Contrary to any Hindu tradition, they have also appointed themselves
to police in an authoritarian way the representation of Hindu deities and
icons in the UK.
The Hindu Forum of Britain and Hindu Human Rights accuse Asia House of not
'consulting' with them before putting up the exhibition. But they are not
democratically-elected representatives of Hindu populations or opinion in
the UK and represent little beyond their limited and chauvinistic political
agendas. The Hindu Forum of Britain has actively supported or defended the
RSS's UK projects as well as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The Hindu Forum of
Britain has attempted to present these as ordinary religious organizations,
whereas they are in fact political organizations of the Hindu Right.
We urge Asia House not to give in to the bullying and intimidation tactics
of Hindu fundamentalists and to reinstate the exhibition of works by one of
the subcontinent's most acclaimed artists. Asia House must reject the
intolerance, narrow-mindedness and political interests of the Hindu Right.
By re-opening the exhibition, Asia House will genuinely honour the rich and
diverse traditions of expression arising from Hinduism and from India.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. The RSS was created in the 1920s as a semi-paramilitary movement and its
origins were inspired by Italian Fascism and German Nazism. The assassin of
M.K. Gandhi was a former RSS member. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) is the
RSS's religious front and has been repeatedly indicted for acts of violence
and hatred in India over several decades. The ideology of the RSS and its
vast network of organizations is Hindutva, an intolerant worldview of Hindu
supremacy, anti-minority hatred and an exclusive 'Hindu nation'. The RSS
and VHP have an extensive network of branches in the UK, organised through
the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and the VHP UK. The National Hindu
Students Forum, which has opposed the exhibition, is also very closely
associated with the HSS.
For further Information contact: Awaaz Secretariat on: (+44) 020 8843 2333
or email contact at awaazsaw.org
Awaaz - South Asia watch is a UK based South Asian secular network committed
to challenging all forms of religious hatred and intolerance. Awaaz - South
Asia Watch is a project of The Monitoring Group.
[ Legislation on Freedom for Religion in Secular India ]
o o o
The Times of India
May 26, 2006
Editorial: GOD FORBID
Is one's religion a police matter? If the answer
is no, and religion in a secular country is a
private affair, why is it necessary to report to
the government if one changes religion?
That is what the Chhattisgarh government is
proposing, along with a panoply of punitive
measures such as fines between Rs 50,000 and one
lakh and jail terms up to five years for those
who fail to do so.
If the draft Bill becomes law it will be an
extremely repressive piece of legislation that
also incorporates provisions against those who
convert people "forcibly".
If "forcibly" means converting people at the
point of a sword or gun that isn't a clear and
present danger, and existing laws are good enough
to take care of this if it should happen.
The only point of such legislation on religious
issues can be to harass those who choose to
convert, as well as agencies that may have played
a role in this process.
The intent behind the law has been articulated
openly by Chhattisgarh's home minister Ram Vichar
Netam. It is to prevent people from switching
But if one's religion is not freely chosen it
becomes like the caste system one can't change
what one is born into. That is surely against the
spirit of any religion.
Similar legislation is also being introduced or
has already been passed in other NDA-ruled
states, the one in Rajasthan having the Orwellian
title Freedom of Religion Bill 2006.
Any modern liberal society works on the principle
of competition and choice. In the economic sphere
we call it capitalism, in the political sphere
democracy, in the religious sphere secularism.
The last is enshrined in Article 25 of the
Constitution which, notably, allows Indian
citizens not just to "practise" but also to
"propagate" one's religion.
India's also a signatory to the universal
declaration of human rights, Article 18 of which
states "everyone has the right to freedom of
thought, conscience and religion; this right
includes freedom to change his religion or
Since NDA-ruled states appear intent on
overturning this tenet of secularism by passing
anti-conversion laws, BJP should quit accusing
other parties of "pseudo-secularism"; its own
stands acutely exposed.
Once we go down this road, and religion becomes a
matter for state authorities to concern
themselves with, what's next? A religious police,
like Saudi Arabia or Taliban-ruled Afghanistan?
To stop going down this slippery slope we must
refrain from policing religion, and respect the
principle of religious choice.
o o o
The Times of India
May 27, 2006
"Anti-conversion laws are unconstitutional and
contrary to the highest ideals of India's
founding fathers." Pope Benedict XVI chose his
words carefully when he famously pulled up
India's envoy to Vatican on May 18.
Much as it might have sounded like a platitude,
the pope's statement was actually drawing
attention to a little-known constitutional
compromise made by the Supreme Court of India on
the issue of religious conversions.
The pope may be technically wrong in calling
anti-conversion laws "unconstitutional". After
all, way back in 1977, a five-judge bench of the
Supreme Court did uphold the constitutionality of
the first two anti-conversion laws, which had
been enacted in Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.
It was on account of that judgment in the Rev
Stanislaus case that five more states enacted
anti-conversion laws - though the latest one in
Rajasthan has been returned by governor Pratibha
Patil for reconsideration.
But the pope can't be faulted for alleging all
the same that anti-conversion laws were "contrary
to the highest ideals of India's founding
This is because, contrary to the SC verdict in
the Rev Stanislaus case, the Constituent Assembly
saw the right to convert others to one's own
religion as a logical extension of two
fundamental rights: the right to 'propagate'
religion (Article 25) and the larger freedom of
speech and expression (Article 19).
The intention of the founding fathers is evident
from the extensive debates they had before
incorporating the term 'propagate' in Article 25.
In fact, the initial draft of the provision
related to freedom of religion was silent on the
issue of conversions.
It was only after deliberations in forums such
as Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee, Minorities
Sub-Committee and the Advisory Committee that the
Drafting Committee headed by B R Ambedkar deemed
it fit to incorporate propagation as a part of
the right to religion.
Given the fact that the nation in 1949 was still
recovering from the trauma of a partition
effected on religious grounds, some of the
members of the Constituent Assembly vehemently
opposed the idea of introducing any right to
They contended that a person should be entitled
only to profess and practice religion, not to
Those apprehensions about conversions were
countered by, ironically enough, a right-wing
member of the Drafting Committee, K M Munshi, who
is to date revered by the Hindutva brigade for
his initiative in restoring the Somnath temple.
In an authoritative pronouncement, Munshi
explained that the word 'propagate' was inserted
specifically at the instance of Christians, who
he said "laid the greatest emphasis" on it "not
because they wanted to convert people
aggressively" but because it was "a fundamental
part of their tenet".
Alternatively, Munshi said: "Even if the word
were not there, I am sure, under the freedom of
speech which the Constitution guarantees, it will
be open to any religious community to persuade
other people to join their faith."
Munshi went on to exhort the Constituent Assembly
that whether it voted in favour of propagation or
not, "conversion by free exercise of the
conscience has to be recognised".
In the event, the House retained the word
"propagate" in Article 25, implying thereby that
one has a fundamental right to convert others to
one's own religion. But when the Supreme Court
set out to interpret Article 25 in the Rev
Stanislaus case, it departed from the tradition
of looking up Constituent Assembly debates.
In a flagrant omission, the judgment delivered by
then chief justice of India A N Ray made no
reference whatsoever to the discussion in the
Constituent Assembly on Article 25.
Instead, the bench took recourse to dictionaries
and concluded that the word 'propagate' meant not
a right to convert "but to transmit or spread
one's religion by an exposition of its tenets".
Reason: "If a person purposely undertakes the
conversion of another person to his religion, as
distinguished from his efforts to transmit or
spread the tenets of his religion, that would
impinge on the freedom of conscience guaranteed
to all citizens of the country alike."
In other words, anybody engaged in conversion is
automatically liable to be punished. The police
do not have to take the trouble of proving that
conversion was based on extraneous factors such
as force, allurement, inducement and fraud.
Thus, the anti-conversion laws became even more
draconian after going through the hands of the
Supreme Court. Whatever the validity of its
verdict, the Supreme Court should have displayed
the rigour of taking into account the contrary
view of the founding fathers.
Its judgment would have commanded greater
credibility if it had deigned to acknowledge and
explain why it disagreed with the founding
fathers on such a sensitive issue.
It's a pity that this monumental failure of the
Supreme Court has remained unnoticed even after
the pope pointed out that anti-conversion laws
were "contrary to the highest ideals of India's
In the pseudo nationalist outrage that followed
his statement, the government told Parliament
that Vatican had been told in "no uncertain
terms" of India's displeasure.
Hindustan Times (Bombay)
May 26, 2006
BOYCOTT AAMIR KHAN ?
by Rakesh Sharma
Friday, May 26, 2006 is the beginning of yet another chapter in the history
of Indian fascism. Aamir Khan is to be boycotted in Gujarat for expressing
an opinion about resettlement of the Narmada oustees and the Vadodara
violence. He is to be silenced into submission. Saffron-clad,
trishul-wielding activists have been on the prowl 'peacefully', persuading
theatre owners to not release the film Fanaa. As part of their
responsibility towards "5 crore Gujaratis", they will leave no stone, sword
or trishul unturned to protect their " swabhimaan and asmita". Just as they
did in 2002.
It is not as if attack and intimidation are new tactics now being suddenly
unleashed by the BJP. In 2002, NDTV's coverage of the carnage so angered
Modi that he ordered a blackout of the Star News signal. Rajdeep Sardesai's
vehicle was attacked minutes after he left CM Modi's home. On election day,
a mob of party workers surround Barkha Dutt, right outside the BJP office.
Two men standing next to my camera start chanting - "strip her, strip her".
Barkha has the presence of mind to dash into the party office itself to
escape the mob. Many others weren't so fortunate - many print media
reporters get beaten up, a TV journalist has his arm broken, News channels
have their outdoor broadcast vans ransacked. Their crime: they dared to
report the truth as they saw it, refusing to buy the 'party line'.
Fascism feeds on terror. Create a fear psychosis and reap an electoral
harvest. Terrorise well-defined targets and send out chilling messages. On
Feb 28, 2002, two well-chosen Muslim targets were attacked. Ehsan Jafri, the
Congress leader who had campaigned against Modi in Rajkot and Prof J S
Bandukwala, noted civil liberties activist and a known critic of the
politics of hate. Jafri was hacked to death; the professor somehow escaped,
[though his home was destroyed by the very people who invited him to deliver
the Savarkar Memorial lecture on Feb 26, 2002]. The message: If Bandukwala
with his 'national and international' contacts and Jafri as an ex-member of
Parliament with his 'Delhi' connections can't even save themselves, no
Muslim is safe. Post-carnage, many in Gujarat raise their voice to appeal
for peace and justice. Again a target is chosen - Mallika Sarabhai. The
message: if old-money, connected families like the Sarabhais can be
persecuted, don't you dare speak against us!
Post -2002 Gujarat is already witnessing segregation in schools. Women and
schoolgoing children are afraid of crossing the 'border'. Ghettos have
sprung up in cities, small towns and villages. Jobless youth often speak of
how H-class gets all jobs while M-class (Muslims) don't. My film Final
Solution records an impassioned pracharak exhorting the crowds - "buy only
from Hindu shops and ride only on Hindu rickshaws". Non-Hindu police
officers find it tough to get executive assignments; conscientious IPS
officers who prevented bloodshed in their districts cool their heels in
punishment postings. Hindu girls marrying Muslim men either get 'rescued' by
Babu Bajrangi and his troops or get killed, like Geetaben or Bhartiben. VHP
leaders suggest benignly, "Muslims are our younger brothers; they must
respect the elders and then they will get their rights". Other
hindutva activists are content with much simpler solutions - Muslims
should have no
right to vote, compulsory sterilisation of Muslim men at the birth of the
second child, banning of Hindu-Muslim marriages, jail terms for the person
converting to Islam and the Moulvi who aids him or the ultimate solution -
Muslims must leave India and go to Pakistan. Echoes of Nazi Germany?
Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram symbolises the crisis of our times. In 2002, its
gate were shut to Muslims seeking shelter. It is here that Medha Patkar was
dragged by her hair, in full view of journalists and video cameras, in
police presence, by a valiant youth called Amit Thakkar. Now, in his avataar
as a BJP Yuva Morcha leader, he thunders, "Aamir Khan has insulted the five
crore population of Gujarat by supporting Medha Patekar (sic)...Then he made
nasty comments about chief minister Narendra Modi. There is no place for any
anti-Gujarati in Gujarat". His national President, Dharmendra Pradhan is
even more belligerent, determined to prevent any Aamir film, old or new,
from being screened in Gujarat. BJP's national leadership declines comment.
Says Arun Jailtley, "The party has nothing to do with the campaign.".He
fails to condemn the politics of intimidation and fear unleashed by his own
partymen in Gujarat. But, then, why should Jaitley, former Law Minister,
stand up for Article 19 of the Indian constitution guaranteeing freedom of
speech or Article 25 concerning freedom of conscience and free profession?
Enjoy your rights, but very quietly. Raise any questions and earn the
sobriquet - "enemies of Gujarat or Hindutva "! Hitler, Himmler, Goebbels
would have smiled in approval. Senator McCarthy would have chomped on his
fat cigar to suggest a House un-Gujarati activities committee to investigate
all the enemies of Gujarat. If Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Miller and Dashiel
Hammet could be persecuted, why not Aamir Khan?
Manubhai Patel of the Gujarat Multiplex Owners' Association says, "There is
no political pressure, we have done it voluntarily" Single-screen cinema
owners issue ads in newspapers on May 23, promising a release of the film.
By the evening, a TV channel reports that they too have 'voluntarily' joined
the boycott. The Gujarat Druggists and Chemists Association wants to
boycott all products being endorsed by Aamir Khan. Leaders from the Congress
wonder "why is Aamir talking about political issues?" V K Malhotra and
Shatughan Sinha of BJP ask Aamir to apologise.
Aamir's crime? He suggested that Narmada oustees must be rehabilitated. Is
there anyone in India or among the allegedly deeply offended "5 crore
Gujaratis", who believes that the people of Narmada valley have no rights?
That their homes and livelihoods should be destroyed as soon as possible,
without resettling them? That their villages and towns must be flooded
immediately by raising the height of the dam so that the people of Gujarat
can benefit? That the Narmada protestors can and must exchange their fertile
lands for distant, barren plots? That their children can and should grow up
in an urban slum of their choice? That their women have the option of
working as maids, bargirls and prostitutes in any city of their choice
within and outside Gujarat?
Imagine a government notification to set up solar power substations or
rainwater harvesting reservoirs to meet power and water shortage in our
cities, acquiring all of Greater Kailash in Delhi, Mylapore in Chennai,
Jubilee Hills in Hyderabad, Vile Parle in Mumbai or Paldi in Ahmedabad.
Imagine the furore. The 24/7 media coverage. The Residents' welfare
associations demonstrating. The flood of court cases, frayed tempers and
street-level skirmishes and finally, politicians making soothing noises. Do
the people of Narmada valley not have the same rights as you and I in the
urban middle class? Ironically, the state and central governments display
remarkable haste in legalising illegal constructions in Delhi and Ulhasnagar
through ordinances, bypassing the legal system completely. Should the State
be selective? Isn't welfare of all its people its obligation? Why does it
bend to accommodate law-breakers in our cities while ruthlessly evicting its
villages and tribal hamlets? Should we raise our voice against such blatant
and partisan injustice? If your answer is no, then we might as well toll the
death knell of our Democracy. If yes, then that's precisely what Aamir has
Politics of intolerance marks Hindutva fascism, just as it did in Nazi
Germany in the 1930s. Attacks on intelligentsia, too, are another common
ground. Stormtroopers vandalise libraries, institutions and art exhibitions
routinely. Party members in censor boards merrily ban and mutilate films or
harass film-makers. The BJP is only following a time-tested pattern -
intimidate any independent voice into silence!
Though Hema Malini, Dharmendra, Vinod Khanna and other TV or film stars
within the BJP failed to speak against the Gujarat carnage, I hope they will
at least respond to this full-scale assault on a Bollywood colleague. A
suggestion already doing the rounds is for the entire film industry to stop
releasing new films in Gujarat. Others caution about rampant piracy - with
the State looking the other way; DVDs for Fanaa are already on offer for Rs
160 in Ahmedabad . Will the Shahrukhs and Hrithiks, Subhash Ghais and Boney
Kapoors of the film industry stand up and be counted when it matters? Or is
the Bollywood family just a big myth, concocted for money-spinning awards
nights and glitzy extravaganzas on foreign shores?
Finally, let's turn to another voice from history - Julius Caesar. "Beware
the leader who bangs the drum of war in order to whip the citizenry into a
patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both
emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war
have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has
closed the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry.
Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded patriotism will offer
up all of their rights unto the leader, and gladly so. How do I know? For
this is what I have done. And I am Caesar." Just substitute the term
patriotism for Gujarati Asmita or Swaabhimman!
Will we refuse to learn lessons from history and fail to protest? The
Gujarat BJP's message is loud and clear - "shut up or else..."
(The author is an independent film-maker and can be contacted through
NATIONAL ALLIANCE OF PEOPLE'S MOVEMENTS
c/o Chemical Mazdoor Sabha, 1st floor, A wing, Haji Habib Bldg,
Naigaon Cross Rd. Dadar (E), Mumbai-400014. (Ph.
022-24150529, napm at riseup.net )
Press Release/ May 29, 2006
NAPM CONVENTION EXPECTED TO LAUNCH STRUGGLE
AGAINST USURPATION OF PEOPLE'S RESOURCES, RIGHTS
: PROMINENT ACTIVISTS ARRIVE IN CITY
Sandeep Pandey, Aruna Roy to Participate /
Special Lectures by P. Sainath, L.C. Jain
As the prominent activists of people's movements
started arriving in Bangalore for the 5 th
Bi-annual National Convention of the National
Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), the
movements are preparing to launch a national
people's movement against the policies that leads
to the destitution, displacement and inequality
along with the onslaught of the privatization,
neo-liberalization and globalisation.
Preparations have been finalized to hold the
convention at the Workers' Training Centre
(Nandidurg Road, Bangalore), that will be
starting of from Wednesday (May 30). It will
continue on May 31 and conclude on June 1. The
three day convention will conclude with "People's
Rally for People's Rights" on June 1, 2006 at
4:00 pm from Shivaji Nagar Stadium to Mahatma
Representatives of organizations struggling
against the urban, rural, and workers'
displacement, from Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh,
Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Delhi to W.Bengal,
Kerala, Karnataka and Tamilnadu, those
opposing the privatization and national or
multinational corporates like Coca Cola in
Plachimada (Kerala) or Varanasi (U.P.) or
Rajasthan and Maharashtra, fisher people's
organizations from all over the coast and farmers
and farm labourers' organizations from various
states have started arriving. Prominent activists
like Aruna Roy, Dr. Sandeep Pandey, Rajendra
Singh, Mona Das (JNU Students' Organization),
along with Thomas Kochery, Sanjay M.G., P.
Chenaiah, D. Gabriele and Medha Patkar will be
participating in the Convention. Special Lectures
by noted Economist Dr. L.C. Jain (Alternative
Policy Perspective, May 31, 9:00 am to 12:00 pm),
Ajit Jha (Experiences of Latin America, May 31,
3:30 pm to 5:30 pm) along with renowned
journalist, P. Sainath (Globalisation and Equity
on May 30, 6:30 pm to8:00 pm) are organised.
Noted writer Arundhati Roy may participate in
the rally on June 1st.
The NAPM meeting is being held at the time when
the centre and state governments have been
allowing the corporate powers to usurp the
natural resources of people and transferring the
public utilities, including public transport,
health, water supply and education to the private
hands. While all over India the people have been
resisting the onslaught, the governments have
become insensitive and inimical to the struggles
and their demands. The Union and state
governments have been repressive, violent and
have tried to obfuscate and divert the issues,
like that in the struggle of Adivasis in
Kalinganagar & Narmada, the Fisher people of
Gangavaram, the Labourers in Gurgaon, the
Farmers of Maan, the slum dwellers and toilers in
Mumbai, Delhi. Unfortunately the judiciary too
failed to protect the fundamental and
constitutional rights of the common people for
the sake of anti-people concept and practice of
development as envisaged by the governments and
On the other hand the issue of reservations has
once again brought forth the false dichotomy
regarding the merit and social justice. There is
a need to have a fresh perspective towards the
reservation policy. It is neither doling out
'special favour' nor the issue of the rights. It
is an opportunity to release, widen or deepen the
productive and creative potential of this
country, which had been hitherto confined to only
a part of the population. Similarly, the
controversies about the movies and literary works
such as recent Amir Khan controversy has
alerted us about the dangers of the fascist
tendencies inherent in our social-political
structure and the efforts to fan the communal,
Taking into account the present challenges and
the status of people's struggle, the NAPM
convention is expected to come out with the
analysis, strategy and programme.
Sanjay M.G. P.
o o o o
Majlis & Point of View
cordially invite you to the premiere show of
7 ISLANDS AND A METRO
Duration 100 minutes
Y B Chavan Auditorium
on Friday 2nd June, at 7 pm°©
This non-fiction feature tells a tale of Bom Bahia/Bombay/Mumbai
through a tapestry of fiction, cinema vérité, art objects, found
footage, sound installation and literary texts.
The narrative is structured around debates between
Ismat Chugtai and Sadat Hasan Manto
over the art of chronicling these multi-layered overlapping cities.
Flavia Agnes, Majlis
Bishakha Datta, Point of View
Please join us for tea at 6.30 pm before the screening.
RSVP (022)55727252 (022)26415708
o o o
2ND VISA FREE AND PEACEFUL SOUTH ASIA CONVENTION TO BE HELD IN
LAHORE, PAKISTAN FROM AUGUST 6-9, 2006
As an extension of efforts undertaken during the Indo-Pak peace march
and as a strategy to widen and consolidate the peace constituency in
South Asia, this year 2nd VISA FREE AND PEACEFUL SOUTH ASIA
CONVENTION is being organized in LAHORE, PAKISTAN and other events
shall also take place between 6th to 9th August, 2006. August 6, is
Hiroshima Day and August 9, Nagasaki Day.
Buzz on the perils of fundamentalist politics, on
matters of peace and democratisation in South
Asia. SACW is an independent & non-profit
citizens wire service run since 1998 by South
Asia Citizens Web: www.sacw.net/
SACW archive is available at: bridget.jatol.com/pipermail/sacw_insaf.net/
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed in materials carried in the posts do not
necessarily reflect the views of SACW compilers.
More information about the Sacw