Archive for August, 2007

Punish the Guilty of the Anti Muslim Pogrom of 1992-1993

August 11, 2007

Excerpts from the Srikrishna Commission report that probed the communal riots in Mumbai in Dec 1992 – Jan 1993.

From January 8, 1993 at least there is no doubt that the Shiv Sena and Shiv Sainiks took the lead in organising attacks on Muslims and their properties under the guidance of several leaders … [Bal] Thackeray acted like a veteran general commanding his loyal Shiv Sainiks to retaliate by organised attacks against Muslims.

For more excerpts, see A welter of evidence: How Thackeray & Co. figure in the Srikrishna Commission Report.

Successive governments in Maharashtra have kept the full report hidden from public view, and have shown no intent to act on its findings. Here’s a petition that seeks Justice for All.

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To: citizens of Mumbai, India and the world

Justice for All

The convictions of the accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts case are intended to be a form of redress for the 250 families who lost dear ones in the serial blasts and aim to send the message that the Indian system delivers justice for all crimes, especially mass crimes of unspeakable brutality. But the bomb blasts of March 12, 1993 were only the external symptoms of a cancer that had gnawed away at Mumbai’s vital organs with the abject failure of the state machinery to protect the city’s Muslim population during the horrendous communal riots of December 1992 and January 1993. More than three times as many Mumbaikars were killed in the riots that preceded the bomb blasts but the lack of action against the perpetrators of the riots who are named in the Srikrishna report is clear evidence of the operation of a double standard of justice, one for the majority community and the other for the minorities. India and it systems of democracy, executive, judiciary and legislature, need to reflect.

The bomb terror of March 12, 1993 must be recalled with the same horror as the mob terror of December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives all over the country. The causes of the blasts, too, must be revived in public memory. As the Srikrishna report observed: The serial bomb blasts were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Bombay in December 1992 and January 1993. The common link between the riots and the blasts was that of cause and effect.

Information obtained under the Right to Information Act makes it clear that successive state governments, no matter what their political persuasion, have decided to shield the guilty. The motivations of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena parties in refusing to implement the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission are obvious: among the individuals named in the report are several of their leaders and cadres, including Bal Thackeray, Manohar Joshi, Gopinath Munde and Madhukar Sarpotdar. What is more shocking is the role of the so-called secular parties. Though the manifestos of both the Congress Party and the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999 and 2004 promised to implement the recommendations of the report, these promises remain unfulfilled.

The report also lays bare the biased role played by 31 police officers, including RD Tyagi, who as then joint commissioner, shot dead nine persons at the Suleiman Usman Bakery labelling them Kashmiri terrorists. Another senior police officer, NK Kapse was promoted after a departmental inquiry exonerated him of any guilt in shooting down seven persons at the Hari Masjid located at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Marg. Save one policeman who was dismissed from service, all others have escaped lightly despite being found guilty of complicity in acts of murder and arson.

The RTI findings also demonstrate a complete absence of vigour in pursuing riot-related cases through the judicial system. Cases have been closed in a seemingly arbitrary fashion and appeals have not been filed against acquittals in the lower courts. If a genuine peace is to return to Mumbai, there must be justice. Continued injustices cause schisms to widen, wounds to fester. Justice can only be truly served by implementing the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission report. We urge the state government to do so immediately. It must devote as much energy and resources to obtaining justice for the victims of the Mumbai riots as it mustered up for the victims of the Mumbai bomb blasts. We also believe that the process must be visible and transparent. Only then will the deep wounds caused by the targeted violence of 1992-1993 heal, bringing enduring peace.


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Lajja

August 11, 2007

The Islamic fundamentalists are at it again! Taslima Nasreen, in Hyderabad to release the Telugu version of her work, Shodh (Revenge), was attacked by legislators of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and a mob led by them. According to The Hindu:

[Taslima] looked in disbelief as they hurled abuses against her. Demanding to know who had mustered the guts to invite her to Hyderabad, they wanted Ms. Nasrin to be handed over to them.

Without further warning, they began throwing books, bouquets, chairs, and whatever they could lay their hands on at her. Some persons in the mob almost got hold of her but Narisetti Innaiah, rationalist and chairman of the Center for Inquiry, who was her host, shielded her. He was injured in his face. A couple of journalists who went to their rescue also sustained injuries in the scuffle.

The Hindu reports Akbaruddin Owaisi, MIM leader in the Andhra Pradesh assembly, as saying:

There is a fatwa against her and the fatwa is one and all for the entire Muslim world, whether it is Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasrin … If Taslima makes another visit to Hyderabad, yes we will try to implement the fatwa on her.

The Deccan Herald quotes him as saying:

Muslims are proud of what our legislators and workers have done, because we can never tolerate any insult to Prophet Mohammed.

The Indian Express quotes MIM president Sultan Salahuddin Owaisi as saying:

When the Bangladesh government has shunted Taslima out of the country, why is the Indian government protecting her? She brought disrespect to Islam and we taught her a lesson.

This guy seems to be aflicted with a rather severe case of foot in mouth, for the Deccan Herald quotes him as saying:

Our partymen deserved a pat on their back for what they have done. I feel we should have done more.

As the Times of India has noted, MIM’s thuggery is punishable under several sections of the Indian Penal Code. Ironically, while the MIM MLAs — Syed Ahmed Pasha Qadri, Afsar Khan and Moazzam Khan — were let out on bail, Taslima now faces a case of promoting enmity between different groups on ground of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language, etc., and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony.

NDTV suggests that the attack on Taslima was intended to unite the Muslim community behind MIM.

The attack on Taslima serves twin purposes, one to mobilise the muslim vote in its favour in the municipal elections next year and two, to neutralize the CPM’s efforts to make inroads into its bastion, the old city area.

If the MIM wants to defend the Muslim community, how about taking on the Sangh Parivar? No, that would require courage. Besides, as Javed Akhtar has noted:

These (the attackers) are the same people who criticise Bajrang Dal and VHP. What is the difference between them and the Hindu fundamentalist organisations.

[While the Hindu fundamentalists and their Islamic counterparts might be equally repugnant, their ability and propensity to violence can hardly be compared. See, for instance, The Asymmetries of Communalism]

As Akhtar further notes: Fundamentalists are getting bolder and bolder as they can get away with almost anything. That is the problem. This is indeed a problem, for the state often colludes with the local religious elite to silence iconoclastic opinions. But that’s for later.


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Coca-Cola Kicked Out of University of Illinois!

August 6, 2007

[Source: Coalition Against Coke Contracts]

In another landmark victory for student campaigns against Coca-Cola, the company has been kicked out of the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. U of I is the third university this summer — following Smith College in the U.S. and the Banaras Hindu University in India — to have terminated its beverage contract with Coca-Cola. Coalition Against Coke Contracts (CACC), the group that led the campaign at UIUC, dedicates this victory to the indomitable fighting spirit of communities ravaged by Coke — from Colombia to India.

Coca-Cola has been the exclusive beverage provider at the University of Illinois since 1997. According to the terms of the contract, only Coke products were sold on campus. Such monopolistic arrangements have been emblematic of the growing corporatization of education. The contract between University of Illinois and Coca-Cola received much criticism from students, faculty, staff and the local community for, among other reasons, the company’s labor & human rights abuse and environmental degradation in India, Colombia, Indonesia and Turkey.

In Colombia, for instance, Coca-Cola’s union busting efforts in collaboration with the paramilitaries have resulted in the death of eight union leaders since 1989. Similarly, workers in Coke bottling plants in Turkey and Indonesia have been routinely subjected to violence and intimidation upon attempting to unionize. In India, the company is involved in massive extraction and pollution of ground water. The pollution control board of Kerala, India, has found out that Coca-Cola is responsible for dumping toxic waste into the fields and water around its plants. Further, independent investigations of Coca-Cola products in India have been found to include high levels of pesticides.

For the past two years, CACC, a student & community group in Champaign Urbana has forcefully demanded that the University end its business relationship with Coca-Cola in light of the company’s egregious records. It has further demanded a public statement from the administration regarding, what has been stated by Chancellor Hermand as Coca-Cola’s recalcitrance on the afore-mentioned issues. More than 25 local groups joined the coalition, holding numerous dialogs with the administration and organizing public actions. Even as the current contract with Coca-Cola expired on June 30, CACC organized the last day of contract action that involved soda-tasting of a range of locally produced beverages.

For the new beverage contract, the University of Illinois has decided to comply with the State’s decision to grant pouring rights to Pepsi. CACC has always been vocal about supporting local businesses and vendors over big corporations. The numerous soda-tasting events organized by CACC over the the past year received an overwhelming response. CACC welcomes the University’s decision not to do business with Coca-Cola and hopes that the retail stores outside the contract with Pepsi will take into account the choice of campus community and provide locally manufactured beverages.

Earlier this year, the Urbana Champaign campus made a historic decision to put an end to its racist mascot, thanks to a broad-based campus-wide movement. Non-renewal of the contract with Coca-Cola is another step toward creating a progressive campus. CACC hopes that the University administration will take affirmative steps toward making sure that it does not enter into business relationships with corporations that have no respect for human and labor rights. Finally, the inclusion of progressive student groups in long-term decision making would be a positive way of achieving this.

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[Source: India Resource Center]

New Delhi (August 6, 2007): The Coca-Cola company has lost its contract with the University of Illinois, giving another boost to the international campaign against Coca-Cola.

Students and faculty at the University of Illinois, a prestigious public university with over 40,000 students, have campaigned for over two years to end the 10-year, exclusive pouring rights agreement with Coca-Cola because of the company’s unethical practices in India and globally.

The Coca-Cola company has created severe water shortages around its bottling operations across India, and one of its largest bottling plants has been shut down by the government because of pollution.

This is a tremendous victory for the campus community and sends a strong message to the Coca-Cola company that it must respect human rights and the environment, said Shivali Tukdeo of the Coalition Against Coke Contracts, a broad coalition of campus and community groups that led the campaign to remove Coca-Cola from campus.

More than 20 colleges and universities in the US, UK and Canada have removed Coca-Cola from campuses as a result of student-led initiatives to apply pressure on the company for its practices in India and internationally.

We welcome the decision in Illinois to remove Coca-Cola and the action goes a long way in pressuring the Coca-Cola company to do the right thing in India, said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, a community group that is campaigning for the closure of Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Mehdiganj in north India.

In an unusual arrangement, the state of Illinois negotiated new contracts for beverages for the state which covers over 2000 vending machines and 29 facilities across the state, including the University of Illinois and Northeastern University.

The Coalition Against Coke Contracts enjoyed widespread support from the campus and community, and also approached the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and petitioned university administrators to end the contract with Coca-Cola.

The state selection committee included Mr. Mike Bass, Executive Assistant Vice President for Business and Finance at the University of Illinois. Mr. Bass admitted that financial considerations were not the only criteria used for rejecting the contract with Coca-Cola.

The decision from Illinois is a clear message to Coca-Cola that the campaign will continue to take a toll on its profits and image until it gets serious about addressing the concerns in India, said Amit Srivastava of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that worked closely with the Coalition Against Coke Contracts at the University of Illinois.

For more information, visit India Resource Center and Coalition Against Coke Contracts.


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Tsundur massacre: 21 get life sentence

August 2, 2007

This from The Hindu:

Twenty one persons have been sentenced to life imprisonment and 35 others one year’s rigorous imprisonment and a penalty of Rs. 2,000 each in the sensational Tsundur massacre case that rattled the nation. Eight Dalit persons were hacked to death in broad daylight on August 6, 1991, with over 400 persons chasing them on the road and along the bund of an irrigation canal, in Tsundur village of Guntur district … the judge acquitted 123 out of the 179 accused persons.

More from The Hindu:

It was for the final judgment that Mandu Tulasamma, a widow at Ambedkar Colony here, has been waiting with bated breath. Ever since she lost her two sons in the brutal carnage against Dalits unleashed by persons belonging to upper castes on August 6, 1991 in the village, she has been waiting for justice to be meted out to her.

And when Special Judge Anis pronounced the verdict, Tulasamma broke down. Quickly gaining her composure, she angrily said: I was denied justice, as the guilty have been let off. The perpetrators of the heinous crime would still roam freely in the village. Recalling the events on the fateful day, she said: There was no trace of my younger son the whole day. The next day, someone said that they had seen his body in a canal. My elder son Narayana broke down on hearing the news and he died of heart attack.

Kula Nirmoolana Porata Samithi district secretary K. Krishna said at least 100 of the accused were let off and his organisation would appeal in the High Court seeking justice.

Here’s something from the PUCL on the tardy progress made in this case. VB Rawat sets the massacre in context in this Sabrang article:

Just a year before the Tsundur massacre, the then Prime Minister VP Singh had announced the implementation of the Mandal Commission report on August 7, 1990, which the Hindu upper castes vociferously opposed. They took to the streets. The myth of Hindu tolerance stood exposed. Mandal may not have helped the Dalits but they were in fact the first to support it. During this process, as in other parts of the country, Andhra saw many Dalit groups joining hands with the OBCs. There were talks of a grand Bahujan alliance even in the villages.

Outraged by the growing self-assertiveness of Dalits, the upper castes were itching for an opportunity to teach the downtrodden a lesson. And the Tsundur massacre, among many other mass killings of Dalits, was an expression of this pent-up fury. Today, 13 years after the ghastly massacre, the Tsunduru Dalits face a challenge not only from the powerful Reddys locally but also their masters occupying powerful positions in the state. Andhra Pradesh politics has long been dominated by two powerful castes. The Reddys, who have ruled for the most part since Andhra came into being, and the Kammas, who formed the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to counter Reddy domination. Reddys are the dominant landowning community in Andhra Pradesh and Dalits have been the biggest victims of their feudal fantasies.

Here’s an account of the massacre, excerpted from Rawat’s article:

The government of Andhra Pradesh was under Reddy rule when the Tsundur massacre took place. Though the then chief minister, Janardhan Reddy happened to be Christian, a different faith makes no difference. Indians take their caste along with them when they shift their loyalties to other holy books and seers. Reddy’s government tried to quietly bury the gory incident but this did not work.

In all, nine people died in the August 6, 1991 attack. Their bodies were cut into pieces, put in gunny bags and thrown into Tungbhadra drainage as well as adjacent canals. Those who died were: Jaladi Mathaiah (40), Jaladi Imaneul (38), Jaladi Isaac (25), Mallela Subba Rao (35), A. Rajamohan (25), Sunkuru Samson (28), D. Jayaraj (30), Mundru Ramesh (21) and Mundru Parisudha Rao (35). Among the injured were Sambaiah (50), P. Jakraiah (52) and D. Dhanraj (25).

All the Dalits fled from the village following the killings. The murders were so brutal that Mundru Parisudha Rao, elder brother of Mundru Ramesh, who went to see the bodies at the hospital in Tenali, was so shocked that he died of a heart attack. A Dalit doctor who performed the post-mortem examination on the bodies in Tenali was said to have been so traumatised by the condition of the bodies that he later committed suicide. Many relatives became psychologically disturbed.

A survivor, P. Jakraiah, who is now around 75 years of age, is paralysed and has a memory problem. It is difficult for him to narrate the incidents that took place in 1991. When a badly injured Jakraiah had asked for water, they (Reddys) urinated in his hand. Even today, 13 years later, he gets agitated as he recalls that time.

Another Dalit who survived the lynching mob is D. Dhanraj. His story of survival is that of a brave and valiant man. A witness to the murder of five others, Dhanraj himself was beaten mercilessly. His legs and hands were broken and he was brought to a banana orchard owned by Munanaga Reddy, a physically disabled person. Dhanraj alleges that since Munanaga was incapable of running he could not participate in the mass lynching. Hence, to facilitate his participation in the carnage, Dhanraj was brought to Munanaga’s orchard near the canal. When a semi-conscious Dhanraj pleaded for water, those guarding him urinated in his hand. Shortly, his captors went to the nearby bridge across the canal, leaving Dhanraj in the field. A parched Dhanraj crawled towards the canal. Jumping into the canal, he was carried away with the current. About a kilometre downstream he heard the voices of his neighbours and some Dalit women who had come in search of their men and he cried out for help. They brought Dhanraj home and then took him to Tenali draped in a saree because the Reddys refused to allow any men to leave Tsundur even for medical treatment.

Also see: Hidden Apartheid: Caste Discrimination against India’s Untouchables



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