Archive for the ‘islamic fundamentalism’ Category

Resources on the Mumbai terrorist attacks

December 2, 2008

Analyses of the ghastly attacks

Calls to Action

Asian Human Rights Commission on the Mumbai attacks

December 2, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
AHRC-STM-305-2008
December 02, 2008

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission

INDIA: ‘Super cop’ is no solution to terrorist threat

The Mumbai terrorist attack was one more occasion for the Indian politicians to call for calm, peace and national unity. Political parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist) convened a special Politburo session and repeated the rhetoric, in addition to demanding that the Government of India approach the UN Security Council. The Hindu fundamentalists like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) made use of the incident to stir up further anti-Pakistan, essentially anti-Muslim, sentiments.

The Union Home Minister Mr. Shivraj V Patil resigned. The Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh convened urgent meetings with high-ranking officers, ministers and defence chiefs. The meeting decided to speed-up the formation of a Federal Investigation Agency and to set up four new centres of the National Security Guards (NSG) in the country.

The final word was that of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress. Mrs. Gandhi gave the ultimatum that her party will tolerate no more terrorism and called upon the Indians to eradicate it from the country. The question is whether the Government of India has any responsibility to prevent such incidents, or whether the people has to embark upon justice delivery themselves?

Among many other things, the Mumbai terrorist attack serves as the latest reminder of the condition of the law and order apparatus in the country, and of the police in particular. As stated after many other former incidents of similar nature, India’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), claimed that it had passed over information to the Maharashtra State Police well in advance that a terrorist attack on the city was very likely. The RAW further put the blame upon the local police for its lack of preparedness.

The fact remains that the Maharashtra State Police, like any other state police force in the country, can hardly do anything to avert these incidents. The state of policing in the country is in such demise that it has completely severed its contact with the people. Most police officers contact the members of the public only to demand bribes. Corruption in the police service is at such levels that even in order to lodge a complaint the complainant has to pay a bribe.

Police brutality is so rampant in the country that the sight of a police uniform is enough to scare an ordinary person, particularly among the poor population. Information, independent of its nature, has to be forced out of the ordinary people. Information obtained under the threat of violence is tainted and cannot be acted upon. Terrorists are different from the ordinary people in the sense that they have money, better training and equipment at their disposal to achieve their goals. They can bribe the police and are in fact doing so.

To expect an ordinary Indian to approach the local police with information is an impossibility in the country. An example is the statements made by the parents who lost their children in the infamous 2006 December Noida serial murder case. The case began after the recovery of the skeletal remains of missing children in Nithari village in the outskirts of Noida city close to New Delhi.

The investigation of the case relieved that when the parents approached the Noida police to lodge complaints about their missing children, the police refused to register their complaints. When the parents persisted, they were chased away by the police with the threat that if they returned false cases would be registered against them accusing them of selling their children. The parents went away from the police station, since they were poor and could not afford to pay bribes to the police to get their complaints registered. An administration that expects the ordinary public to freely approach the local police with information is consciously ignoring the reality.

The public mistrust in the local police is not the result of an overnight incident. It is the crystallization of years of experience. Without drastic changes in policing, this mistrust will not only continue, but will increase. Every incident of police failure brought to the people’s attention will further isolate the police from the people. A law enforcement agency which lacks the trust of the people cannot maintain law and order. An officer who serves in such a police force essentially suffers from demoralisation.

No government, state or central, that has governed the country has ever tried to address the deep-rooted problems of policing, and thereby the law and order in India. Politicians across the board use the police for their short-term political interests. The police reciprocate their affinity to the people in power by letting them to be exploited.

Today in India, the police serve the rich and the powerful. The police is a demoralised state agency that lacks the hope of improving their own condition. A police force that cannot investigate a petty crime efficiently cannot prevent terrorism, it can only promote it.

The Mumbai incident like many other former incidents will soon be forgotten. Those who will remember it are those who lost their loved ones. But unfortunately they do not have the political or financial clout to influence the policy makers in India.

The windfall of the Mumbai incident for the Government of India is evident. The Federal Investigation Agency will soon be formed. They will also assume the role of a ‘super cop’. The super cop and the Agency he represent will be an additional reason for the ordinary policeman for further demoralisation. India does not need a super cop. It rather requires a normal and people-friendly police force.

Otherwise people will increasingly start taking things in their own hands. One need not look very far to see examples of this. The day before yesterday, in Khatoli town of Muzzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh state, a person was lynched by the public for suspected theft. In 2008 there were more than a dozen cases of public lynchings reported in India. Hence, people have started taking things in their own hands long before Mrs. Sonia Gandhi’s request. There is no doubt that the Indians are united – in their distrust of the police and the politicians.

The national media and the civil society groups in the country have a greater responsibility in this juncture. If the media and the civil society groups in the country try to reflect more of the people’s voice than vested interests, there is an increased possibility for these institutions to in fact persuade policy makers and politicians to meet the people’s demand. The relatively lesser degree of impartiality and openness of the media and the civil society in India are the two serious impediments that prevent these institutions from reaching out to the people. On this front they somewhat equate themselves with the Indian police.

The Government of India is likely to initiate farcical policies on the pretext of countering terrorism in the country without addressing the deep-rooted problems in policing. The continuation of these policies also means the failure of the media and the civil society organisations in the country. It will be a n unfortunate reflection of their lack of understanding of the realities at the grass roots.

# # #

About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.

—————————–
Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building,
998 Canton Road, Kowloon, Hongkong S.A.R.
Tel: +(852) – 2698-6339 Fax: +(852) – 2698-6367

Indo-Pak condemnation of Mumbai bloodbath

December 2, 2008

This Joint Statement was released to the press simultaneously in Pakistan and India on November 30 2008.

Mumbai bloodbath
We are deeply shocked and horrified at the bloody mayhem in Mumbai, which has claimed more than a hundred and ninty lives and caused grievous injuries to several hundred people, besides sending a wave of panic and terror across South Asia and beyond. We convey our profound feelings of sorrow and sympathies to the grieving families of the unfortunate victims of this heinous crime and express our solidarity with them.

As usual, all sorts of speculations are circulating about the identity of the perpetrators of this act of barbarism. The truth about who are directly involved in this brutal incident and who could be the culprits behind the scene is yet to come out and we do not wish to indulge in any guesswork or blame game at this point. However, one is intrigued at its timing. Can it be termed a coincidence that it has happened on the day the Home Secretaries of the two countries concluded their talks in Islamabad and announced several concrete steps to move forward in the peace process, such as the opening of several land routes for trade – Kargil, Wagah-Attari, Khokhropar etc –, relaxation in the visa regime, a soft and liberal policy on the issue of release of prisoners and joint efforts to fight terrorism? Again, is it just a coincidence that on this fateful day the Foreign Minister of Pakistan was in the Indian capital holding very useful and productive talks with his Indian counterpart? One thing looks crystal clear. The enemies of peace and friendship between the two countries, whatever be the label under which they operate, are un-nerved by these healthy developments and are hell bent on torpedoing them.

We are of the considered opinion that the continued absence of peace in South Asia – peace between and within states – particularly in relation to India and Pakistan , is one of the root causes of most of the miseries the people of the region are made to endure. It is the major reason why our abundantly resource-rich subcontinent is wallowing in poverty, unemployment, disease, and ignorance and why militarism, religious and sectarian violence and political, economic and social injustice are eating into the very vitals of our societies, even after more than six decades of independence from colonial rule.

At this moment of unmitigated tragedy, the first thing we call upon the Governments of India and Pakistan to do is to acknowledge the fact that the overwhelming majority of the people of India and Pakistan ardently desire peace and, therefore, the peace process must be pursued with redoubled speed and determination on both sides. The sooner the ruling establishments of India and Pakistan acknowledge this fact and push ahead with concrete steps towards lasting peace and harmony in the subcontinent, the better it will be not only for the people of our two countries but also for the whole of South Asia and the world. While the immediate responsibility for unmasking the culprits of Mumbai and taking them to task surely rests with the Government of India, all of us in South Asia have an obligation to join hands and go into the root causes of why and how such forces of evil are motivated and emboldened to resort to such acts of anti-people terror.

It is extremely important to remind the leaderships of Pakistan and India that issuing statements and signing agreements and declarations will have meaning only when they are translated into action and implemented honestly, in letter and spirit and without any further loss of time. It assumes added urgency in the prevailing conditions in South Asia , with the possibility that so many different forces prone to religious, sectarian and other forms of intolerance and violence may be looking for ways to arm themselves with more and more sophisticated weapons of mass murder and destruction. The bloodbath in Mumbai must open the eyes of our governments, if it has not already happened.

We urge upon the governments of India and Pakistan to immediately take the following steps:

  1. Cessation of all hostile propaganda against each other;
  2. Joint action to curb religious extremism of all shades in both countries;
  3. Continue and intensify normalization of relations and peaceful resolution of all conflicts between the two countries;
  4. Facilitation of trade and cooperation between the two countries and in all of South Asia. We welcome the fact that the Srinagar-Muzaffarab ad and Poonch-Rawlakot borders have been opened for trade and that the opening of the road between Kargil and Skardu is in the pipeline.
  5. Immediate abolition of the current practice of issuing city-specific and police reporting visa and issue country-valid visa without restrictions at arrival point, simultaneously initiating necessary steps to introduce as early as possible a visa-free travel regime, to encourage friendship between the peoples of both countries;
  6. Declaration by India and Pakistan of No First Use of atomic weapons;
  7. Concrete measures towards making South Asia nuclear-free;
  8. Radical reduction in military spending and end to militarisation.

Signatories

India:

1. Kuldip Nayar, journalist, former Indian High Commissioner, UK., Delhi
2. S P Shukla, retired Finance Secretary, former Member, Planning Commission, Delhi
3. PEACE MUMBAI network of 15 organisations, Mumbai
4. Seema Mustafa, Journalist, Delhi
5. Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
6. Dr. Ramesh Awasthi, PUCL, Maharashtra
7. Jatin Desai, journalist, Mumbai
8. Prof. Ritu Dewan, University of Mumbai
9. Prabir Purkayashta, DSF, Delhi
10. Prof. Pushpa Bhave , Mumbai
11. Paromita Vohra, filmmaker, Mumbai
12. Achin Vanaik, CNDP, Delhi
13. Meena Menon, Focus on the Global South, Mumbai
14. Romar Correa Professor of Economics, University of Mumbai
15. Anjum Rajabally, film writer, Mumbai
16. Anand Patwardhan, filmmaker, Mumbai
17. Kamla Bhasin, SANGAT, Delhi
18. Dr. Padmini Swaminathan, MIDS, Chennai
19. Sumit Bali, CEO, Kotak Mahindra Prime Limited
20. Dr Walter Fernandes, Director, North Eastern Social Research Centre, Assam ,
21. Rabia, Lahore Chitrkar
22. Rakesh Sharma, filmmaker, Mumbai
23. Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
24. Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, JNU, Delhi
25. P K Das, architect, Mumbai
26. Neera Adarkar, architect, Mumbai
27. Datta Iswalkar, Secretary, Textile Workers Action Committee, Mumbai
28. Madhusree Dutta, filmmaker, Majlis, Mumbai
29. Amrita Chhachhi, Founding member, PIPFPD
30. Mazher Hussain, COVA, Hyderabad
31. Prof. Manoranjan Mohanty, Delhi
32. Prof. M C Arunan, Mumbai

Pakistan:

1. Mr. Iqbal Haider, Co-Chairman, Human Rights Commission Pakistan and former federal Minister of Pakistan
2. Dr. Tipu Sultan, President, Pakistan Doctors for Peace & Development, Karachi
3. Dr. Tariq Sohail, Dean, Jinnah Medical & Dental University , Karachi
4. Dr. A. H.. Nayyar, President, Pakistan Peace Coalition, Islamabad
5. Justice (Retd) Rasheed A. Razvi, President, Sindh High Court Bar Association
6. Mr. B.M.Kutty, Secretary General , Pakistan Peace Coalition, Karachi
7. Mr. Karamat Ali, Director, PILER, Karachi , Founding member, PIPFPD
8. Mr. Fareed Awan, General Secretary , Pakistan Workers Confederation, Sindh
9. Mr. Muhammad Ali Shah, Chairman , Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Karachi
10. Mr. Zulfiqar Halepoto, Secretary, Sindh Democratic Front, Hyderabad
11. Professor Dr. Sarfraz Khan, Area Studies Centre ( Central Asia), Peshawar University
12. Syed Khadim Ali Shah, Former Member National Assembly, Mirpur Khas
13. Mr. Muhammad Tahseen, Director, South Asia Partnership (PAK), Lahore
14. Mrs. Saleha Athar, Network for Women’s Rights, Karachi
15. Ms. Sheema Kermani, Tehreek-e-Niswan, Karachi
16. Ms. Saeeda Diep, President, Institute of Secular Studies, Lahore
17. Dr. Aly Ercelan, Pakistan Labour Trust, Karachi
18. Mr. Suleiman G. Abro, Director, Sindh Agricultural & Forestry Workers Organisation, Hyderabad
19. Mr. Sharafat Ali, PILER, Karachi
20. Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Shah, PILER, Karachi
21. Mr. Ayub Qureshi, Information Secretary , Pakistan Trade Union Federation
22. Ms. Sheen Farrukh, Director, Interpress Communication Pakistan , Karachi
23. Mr. Zafar Malik, PIPFPD, Lahore
24. Mr. Adam Malik, Action-Aid Pakistan , Karachi
25. Mr. Qamarul Hasan, International Union of Food Workers (IUF), Karachi
26. Prof. Muhammad Nauman, NED University , Karachi
27. Mr. Mirza Maqsood, General Secretary, Mazdoor Mahaz-e-Amal
28. Ms. Shaista Bukhari, Women Rights Association, Multan

Peace Is Doable

The Displaced of Ahmedabad

November 2, 2007

[Excerpted from an article in the Economic and Political Weekly by Neera Chandhoke, Praveen Priyadarshi, Silky Tyagi, Neha Khanna]

In his pre-election speeches, chief minister Narendra Modi repeatedly makes two firm statements. The first of these statements codes the suggestion that any comment or criticism, which continues to harp on the communal carnage that was visited upon the heads of the Muslim community in 2002 by members of his party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and other allied organisations of the Hindutva brigade, should be abandoned. These comments/criticisms, alleges Modi, remain far too preoccupied with the past. Apparently the past, for Modi, is another country. Observers of the Gujarat scene, he proposes, should rather look to the future, which promises to be a luminous one for an already “Vibrant Gujarat”, provided he is elected to power once again.

At stake here is a rather barefaced denial of history, particularly of the history of communalism in the state. This is simply bad politics, because as any first year student of political science knows, good politics is always constructed upon an awareness of history. Does Gujarat really want to hand over its future to a man who has such a lamentably short memory?

The second of Modi’s comments completely denies the existence of a rather deep Hindu-Muslim divide in the state. Modi insists that he himself speaks for, and represents all people in the state of Gujarat. However, “representation” happens to be a deeply problematic concept, and Modi who is in the business of politics, should be conscious of this. We as citizens of India, of which Gujarat is a part, must ask this question: can Modi even begin to represent the interests, or more precisely the pressing needs of that category of the population which his government has refused to recognise, or cater to – Muslim families who were displaced by communal violence in 2002? Are these interests fated to be unrepresented just because they do not fit into the self-representations that have been formulated and disseminated by Modi and his ilk for electoral purposes? In effect, Modi not only wants people to forget that the communal carnage of 2002 ever happened, he does not want to acknowledge that five years after the pogrom, the victims of violence still continue to suffer through the production and reproduction of different sorts of violence. Surely this is not the section of society that he represents, because if he was representing this section of society, as the chief minister of a state that ranks first in the country in terms of per capita income, he would have done something to ameliorate the terrible and inhuman conditions that these people live in.

Victims of Violence

Though a considerable amount of research has gone into documenting and analysing the communal carnage in Gujarat in 2002, little work has been done on what happened to the people who survived. Where did they go? How have they reconstructed their lives? With the help of which agency? What has the state done for them? These are some of the anxiety ridden questions that our research team has sought to address, through an investigation of the resettlement colonies of Ahmedabad into which the victims of the 2002 violence have been herded. The answer to the last question is easy to negotiate. The government of Gujarat has done practically nothing for the people who might have managed to survive the pogrom, but who lost their family members, livelihoods, hearths, and their homes in the process.

That the victims of violence were herded into poorly funded and grossly inadequate relief camps is well known. In a short time, these camps were rapidly wound up, and the inhabitants, after being given pathetically inadequate funds as “compensation”; funds sometimes as low as Rs 1,200, were now on their own, thrown onto the mercy of a society that had proved complicit in the carnage, either actively or through studied silence. The state government, recognising neither the plight, nor the needs of the victims of communal violence, simply refused to take any action which would help these people to rebuild their shattered lives. At this point a few civil society organisations, predominantly the Islamic relief committee, stepped in to help people relocate and resettle. Some land was acquired on the outskirts of the city, and the victims were resettled in four pockets – Juhapura, Ramol, Vatva and Dani Limda. All of these “colonies” are on the periphery of Ahmedabad, and are poorly connected to the city where most of the jobs are generated. The 729 households that have been relocated in 15 such colonies in Ahmedabad have been displaced mainly from eastern Ahmedabad, from areas such as Naroda Patia, Gomtipur, Daria Pur, Gomti Pur, Saraspur, Bapu Nagar Jamal Pur, Rakhial, and other inner city areas that have repeatedly suffered from periodic outbursts of communal violence right since 1969.

But the legal status of the land upon which these shanty towns have been constructed is contested, because much of it is agricultural land. This has instilled dread among the residents that they still live in temporary settlements, which can be easily mowed down by the bull dozers of the Ahmedabad municipal corporation (AMC). Not only are most resettlement colonies remotely located from the city where jobs are to be found; they are far away from schools and health clinics that are an indispensable prerequisite of living a life free of oppression. In sum these displaced Muslim families are fated to remain outside the reach of all the amenities that a vibrant Gujarat might perchance offer to those who form an integral part of society and the polity.

It is clear that for the present government these families just do not form an integral part of Gujarati society and politics; they have been expelled both spatially and socially to the margins of the city. In these bare, stark, inhospitable areas, civil society organisations constructed rickety one room tenements, without water supply, without electricity, without access to internal roads because there were none, and without sanitation and sewerage for families. And it is here, in these barren spaces, that the victims of the carnage in Ahmedabad have been settled, and expected to begin their life anew, amidst even more deprivation that they faced in their original habitats.

[snip]

Role of NGOs

Since the state government continues to be in the denial mode, non-governmental and other civil society organisations have stepped in to support the victims of communal violence. Notably whereas a small group of such organisations has done a commendable job in resettling victims of communal violence, and it is because of their concerted effort that these people have been able to survive, a majority of civil society organisations have proved indifferent to the cause. The cloud of Hindutva obviously hangs heavily on civil society organisations. Post carnage, the relief work was carried out predominantly with the help of the resources of the Islamic Relief Committee (IRC) along with few more agencies such as Action Aid.

The role played by some of the civil society organisations has been highly commendable, and the victims are all praise for them. Organisations like Aman Biradri and Jan Vikas, for example, have waged a long battle against the indifferent attitude of the state agencies towards the victims of communal violence, and the issue of the relocation of these victims. The documentation carried out by some of these organisations has gone a long way in exposing the callous attitude of the state towards victims of violence, and in fixing responsibility. It is with the help of these organisations that displaced families have been able to press for their rights, and put their demands before the government at the local level. That the plight of these victims has not been subsumed completely in the state-sponsored din about “Vibrant Gujarat” and the benefits of globalisation is due entirely to these organisations.

For instance, on February 1, 2007, the Antarik Visthapit Haq Rakshak Samiti, Centre for Social Justice and ANHAD, along with some other organisations conducted the “Convention of the Internally Displaced” in Gujarat. Thousands of internally displaced households gathered in the convention, and demanded “recognition, reparation and rehabilitation”. Discussions on several issues and problems such as livelihood of the internally displaced, discrimination, exclusion, and economic boycotts, police intimidation, the problems of the children, youth and women of this category highlighted several crucial issues. The convention was successful in exposing the lie of the state government’s claim that the rehabilitation of “riot” victims had been accomplished. The convention also provided the victims with a forum where they could share their troubles and come together to fight these predicaments. Apart from the demand for the provision of basic amenities and livelihood, the convention suggested forcefully that there should be a national policy for rehabilitation for people displaced due to communal violence.

One positive outcome of this convention was that the Election Commission recognised that the inhabitants of these colonies should get election cards even though they could not establish residence, simply because they have not been given the required documents by the agencies that have relocated them. The second positive outcome is that there is hope that these families will be given BPL ration cards, even though they cannot render proof of residence, such as sale deeds, rental receipts or electricity bills.

No Substitute

However, private initiatives in resettling such massive numbers of the displaced cannot substitute for state action. For one, given the limited resources at the disposal of these agencies, relocation has been partial and insufficient, and falls well short of the requirements of the residents. Neither the poorly constructed houses, nor the pathetic state of facilities and services, can give the victims a sense of security, or a feeling that they are being compensated for a major lapse of justice. Secondly, since the colonies are a product of initiatives by non-governmental organisations, they are obviously not in accordance with the “city plan”. The victims of communal violence continue to pay for the sins committed by others in 2002, because the status of these colonies as unplanned or unauthorised, gives the civic agency a pretext to deny basic amenities to the inhabitants. Thirdly, the land on which colonies are constructed is privately bought, in most of the cases by the Islamic Relief Committee. This does not help either. According to city authorities these lands are “not for residential purposes”, and purchase of this land for residential use is not legal. This breeds trepidation and uncertainty among people, who have lived amidst fear most of their lives.

Two more consequences should be noted here because these are of some import. One, the manner in which the victims of violence were relocated, and the non-response of the state when it came to the pressing problem of looking after citizens who have been rendered jobless and homeless for no fault of their own, has led to new kinds of conflicts and tensions within colonies. Bagh-e-Aman in Vatva area is witness to one such tension. Here 12 families were relocated from various parts of the city which had witnessed intense violence. Rehabilitation was accomplished through the collective efforts of the Islamic Relief Committee, private initiatives, and the people themselves. However, some people who belonged to this area had rebuilt their lives after the communal violence, mostly on their own, and without any external support. Now they face the odd problem of not being recognised as “relocated” in the same way as the 12 families, which have been rehabilitated with outside help. Even as the state agencies have been forced to take cognisance of the 12 relocated families because of litigation in various courts, they refuse to recognise other affected households as displaced. As a result about 100 households are deprived of government schemes or compensation. Consequently these households do not even have voter identity cards.

Troubling Development

Secondly, our research team discerned a rather troubling development in these colonies. Since the state has refused to step in to rehabilitate the displaced, Islamic organisations have provided the major chunk of resources for the purpose. For example, the land on which victims have been relocated was mostly purchased by these Islamic organisations. But the land deeds remain with the IRC, even after families have started to live in these colonies. As no land entitlement has been given to the victims, people believe with good reason that they live in semi-permanent relief camps, that they are dependent upon other agencies, and that they have not really been rehabilitated. There have also been instances where the IRC has put its own set of conditionalities on people, if they want to live in these colonies.

Most of these problems emanate from the conflict of priorities of the victims and civil society organisations on the one hand, and the IRC on the other. Residents told us that the IRC prefers the construction of mosques to health clinics, madrasas to schools, and that the organisation insists on dress codes for women, read purdah. The residents, on the other hand, are more concerned about incomes, health, and education for their children. In general, there is some evidence that the IRC has been trying to influence people to abandon their traditional life practices, and follow rigid and doctrinaire versions of Islam. This is the natural outcome of state fundamentalism and neglect of religious minorities; for when religious civil society organisations step into the vacuum, they are likely to extort their own price for helping people. Fundamentalism always breeds counter-fundamentalism, and it is the lives and the futures of ordinary people that are at risk here.

Vibrant Gujarat, For Whom?

The plight of riot victims in Ahmedabad, and in Gujarat in general, raises some very critical questions about the state of democracy in Gujarat, and the capacity of the present leadership to represent the concerns of the ordinary people, irrespective of their religious denomination. As the state prepares for yet another assembly election, the pathetic condition of the majority of people who were hit by communal violence in 2002 begs many questions. For one, can Narendra Modi speak of a “Vibrant Gujarat” when a substantial numbers of its citizens live in want and despair? Secondly, why have political parties such as the Congress not taken up this issue? Is this due to the fear that they will lose the “Hindu” vote? Will the Congress Party that proclaims copyright over secularism really make common cause with BJP leaders who led the communally charged mobs in 2002? And if so where do people who have been wronged for no fault of their own, go? Do any of the political parties who are contending for power in Gujarat, but who are supremely indifferent to the plight of minorities, have an answer? It is election time in Gujarat, and elections are meant to hold the ruling classes accountable for their acts of omission. It is time that the electorate in the state judges the government for what it has not done for the marginal sections of society, and not what for it has done for the already privileged.

[This study forms part of the Cities Component of the Crisis States Programme of the London School of Economics and Political Science.]

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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