The charade of the church attacks – Abhijit Majumder

“The meltdown of the great church attack story was reported in trickles — a single-column story here and there, a passing byte. No channel had a debate on it or stood corrected. Nobody asked who jumped the gun, who tarred the nation’s image, or who created the communal discourse in the first place. International media, too, seemed to be a part of this collusion of silence. Apart from creating baseless fear among minorities, what the media and intelligentsia have achieved is to further erode their own credibility. Social media has time and again shown the mirror to the mainstream in the last couple of years on matters of biased reportage and poor fact-checking.” – Abhijit Majumder

St Sebastian's Church, DelhiThe fire that started at the St Sebastian Church in Delhi’s Dilshad Garden on December 1, 2014, had caught on to national media by January and was raging internationally by February. 

The narrative was the same: Minorities are under siege in India, churches are being attacked, nuns raped. 

Narendra Modi’s critics asserted on social media that their dark clairvoyance had come true: With him heading the government, the violent Hindu right wing fringe had become the mainstream. 

“Church leaders have speculated that the Hindu far right might also be behind the church attacks,” the New York Times wrote. 

US President Barack Obama too swiftly took to the pulpit: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.” 

Ex-cop Julio Ribeiro to boxer Mary Kom to former Navy chief Sushil Kumar spoke about growing fear and insecurity among Indian Christians. 

And then, it all started unraveling. 

Sushil Kumar IsaacWhile a special investigative team is looking into the Dilshad garden church fire, pesky children were found behind the Jasola church stone-throwing, short circuit behind Rohini crib burning, a drunken dare behind Vikaspuri vandalising, and a burglary at Vasant Kunj church. 

A church which was attacked in Hisar was an illegal construction. However, it was perhaps the only communal one among recent church attacks, with the accused planting a Lord Hanuman idol inside it and blaming the priest of dodgy conversion attempts. 

The Navi Mumbai church attack grabbed headlines till it was found to be the handiwork of gamblers exacting revenge for church authorities setting the police after them. 

In West Bengal, mainstream and social media suspected Hindu fundamentalists behind the rape of a 72-year-old nun till the accused, Bangladeshi Muslims, were tracked down and arrested. 

Former IPS officer Julio Francis RibeiroAnd now, a jilted Muslim lover has been arrested for the attack on an Agra church, belying earlier claims that it was a communal incident. 

Disbelievingly, almost disappointedly, those who strung together a neat narrative of intolerant India watched each bead of untruth explode. Ribeiro even admitted to exaggerating the threat to Christians. 

But the mainstream media, which so enthusiastically spotted and reported a trend, did not report a fraction as comprehensively how it was never a trend in the first place. 

The meltdown of the great church attack story was reported in trickles — a single-column story here and there, a passing byte. No channel had a debate on it or stood corrected. 

Nobody asked who jumped the gun, who tarred the nation’s image, or who created the communal discourse in the first place

Mary KomInternational media, too, seemed to be a part of this collusion of silence. Apart from creating baseless fear among minorities, what the media and intelligentsia have achieved is to further erode their own credibility. 

Social media has time and again shown the mirror to the mainstream in the last couple of years on matters of biased reportage and poor fact-checking

One can’t shrug it all off as trolling. But here is the real danger: If a communal attack actually takes place (we know what happened to Graham Staines or Arul Das), mainstream media reports could be taken with extreme scepticism. 

The truth could get buried in the ashes of past lies. The bigger danger to the minorities is not from their perceived enemies but their irresponsible champions. 

Bias and lies breed anger, and often harden the stance of otherwise liberal, tolerant people. And it is never wise to keep announcing the arrival of the wolf. – Daily Mail, 25 April 2015

» Abhijit Majumder is a journalist and the Managing editor of Mail Today.

Fr. Dominic Emmanuel SVDCardinal Archbishop  Baselios Cleemis

The Godhra Riots Postscript: The Masterminds – Nicole Elfi

Godhra Junction

Nicole ElfiA study of the masterminds behind the Godhra riots

In May this year, the people of India chose their Prime Minister. Over twelve years, several inquiry commissions — the Tewatia Committee (2010), the Nanavati Commission (2008), the Special Investigation Team (2011) under the Supreme Court — cleared Narendra Modi of all charges of having masterminded or, at least, encouraged the Godhra riots.[1]

Still, his detractors — politicians and ideology-driven activists in India, the US and Europe — have continued to label him “merchant of death”, “butcher”, “Nazi”, “fascist”, “murderer”, etc. Let us examine the facts and see whether they can point to the riot’s real mastermind.

Haji BilalThe Role of Congress Members

On 27 February 2002, when a coach of Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya went up in flames at Godhra railway station, a Congress member of the Godhra municipality, Haji Balal, led a mob and stopped the fire-fighting vehicle on its way to the station. The fire crew reported that “he had been visiting the fire station at night for the past few days on the pretext of watching films on television.” Haji Balal, a few days earlier, had the clutch plates of one of the main fire-fighting vehicles removed; in the second vehicle, the nut connecting the pipe to the water tank was spirited away.[2]

Haji Balal who, according to locals, proudly proclaimed himself the “Bin Laden of Godhra”, is among eleven people convicted for criminal conspiracy and murder and sentenced to death by a special fast track court in the high-security Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad on 22 February 2011.[3]

Other Congress members were also “booked for the carnage”.[4] The attack on the pilgrims was carried out “according to what was planned earlier under the directions of [the late] Maulvi Umarji”,[5] a religious leader of the Ghanchi Muslims of Godhra.[6] “All the acts like procuring petrol, circulating false rumour, stopping the train and entering in coach S/6 were in pursuance of the object of the conspiracy,” concluded the Nanavati Report. “The conspiracy hatched by these persons further appears to be a part of a larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the Administration.”[7]

“Destabilise the Administration”: Narendra Modi had assumed office as Gujarat Chief Minister on 7 October 2001, four months earlier. Incidentally, Maulvi Umarji got a ticket to campaign for the Congress in December 2002 state election in Gujarat.

In order to quickly gather a crowd of angry Muslims to the Godhra station and attack the train, so that no one would guess who was pouring petrol in the S6 and S7 coaches, rumours that a Ghanchi Muslim girl had been abducted by the Kar Sevaks were spread by the Jamiat-Ulema-E-Hind (JUH), a long-standing ally of the Congress.[8]

Narendra ModiFrom the start of the crisis, Narendra Modi appealed to the people to remain calm and exert self-control. On five occasions between 27 and 28 February, “CM addressed Media, Assembly and General public and everywhere the genesis and intention was one and the same, to punish the culprits responsible for the Godhra incident in an exemplary manner, so that it did not recur ever again.”[9] He announced an ex-gratia payment of 200,000 rupees to the next of kin of those killed in the Godhra incident and ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident.[10]

On 1st March, less than two days after the tragedy and while riots were raging, Modi requested the chief secretaries of neighbouring states of Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan to send ten companies of armed police from each state to assist the government in “handling law and order situation”. As the sociologist and author Madhu Kishwar points out,[11] all three states then had Congress governments, and all three turned down the request.

Teesta Sitalwad & Javed AnandThe Campaign

Let us recall that the BJP-led NDA alliance had been in power at the Centre since 1998, confirmed by fresh elections in 1999. A 15-million-rupee campaign by journalist-activist Teesta Setalvad and her husband Javed Anand, funded by the Congress Party and Communists to “politically isolate the BJP”,[12] failed to convince the Indian people, who voted the BJP to power. And the crusaders had to swallow the obvious — that the streets of India remained peaceful during the NDA regime.[13]

They however found a fertile ground in the US, especially with the evangelical lobbies.[14] On 1st April 2002 Teesta Setalvad created “Citizens for Justice and Peace” (CJP), an NGO “outsourced by the Congress to the job of attacking Modi”, as Madhu Kishwar put it.[15] The activists approached the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a U.S. government-funded body, with known roots in the evangelical movement, whose “original intention was to protect Christians around the world … to review facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom internationally — and to make policy recommendations to the President, Secretary of State, and the Congress”.[16] Testifying before the USCIRF, Teesta Setalvad alleged that the BJP had conducted: 

successful pogroms and attacks against the countries religious minorities, … recent state-sponsored Genocide of the Muslim Community in Gujarat … Brutal destruction of life, through rape, quartering of bodies, urinating on them and incarcerating [sic] them so that there is no trace or evidence of their remains … desecrating over 270 religious and cultural shrines belonging to the community … through systematic planning and targeted action by armed militias ideologically driven by the vision of a supreme and exclusive Hindu rashtra (state). … Over 2,000 lost their lives, 500 are missing and 250-300 girls and women were gang-raped before being quartered, burned and killed.[17]

This “testimony” from India is what fed countless self-styled human rights organizations and intellectuals in India and in the West. They drank in Setalvad’s words and regurgitated them as articles and “reports” with a plethora of gory details.

As regards the number of riot victims, invariably quoted in thousands, the then Police Commissioner P.C. Pande, in a statement to the Special Investigating Team, declared, 

… it was incorrect to say that 1000 people lost their lives in Ahmedabad City during the riots of 2002, whereas the actual number of deaths between February 28th 2002 and April 30th 2002 was 442, of whom 113 were Hindus and 329 Muslims. … All offences committed were duly and properly registered including by sending police officers to relief camps and therefore, no important crime remained unregistered.[18]

According to the Congress-led UPA government’s statement in Parliament on 11 May 2005, the final figures of those killed in the Godhra riots are 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus.[19] In any case, the endlessly repeated figure of “2000 Muslim victims” has no basis in actual fact.

Sanjiv Bhatt IPSThe SIT and Sanjeev Bhatt

Facts cannot so easily be wished away. And they were nailed by the Nanavati Report and the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), headed by former Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief R.K. Raghavan in response to a petition filed by Jakia Nasim, Ehsan Jafri’s[20] widow, and Teesta Setalvad, which alleged criminal conspiracy by Narendra Modi’s government.[21] Jakia Nasim’s testimony before the Nanavati Commission and Supreme Court in 2002 and 2003 was that “the mob would have lynched all of them but for the
timely action by the police”. Four years later, her praise turned into complaint — except that the poor lady was not even aware of what she complained or petitioned about: “She has no personal knowledge of the allegations mentioned in the affidavits filed by R.B. Sreekumar during the years 2002, 2004 and 2005 on his own”, said the SIT.[22]

Let us explain: The SIT, appointed on 23 March 2008, investigated two retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officers, one of them being R.B. Sreekumar just mentioned, to whom we will shortly return. The second one, Sanjeev Bhatt, then Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence in the Gujarat government, claimed after years of silence that he was present at a law and order meeting convened
by the Chief Minister on 27 February night at his residence. At this meeting, which lasted 15-20 minutes, Sanjeev Bhatt claims that the Chief Minister said that “for too long the Gujarat police had been following the approach of balancing the action against Hindus and Muslims … that the situation warranted that the Muslims be taught a lesson, … it was imperative that Hindus
be allowed to vent out their anger….”[23]

As it turned out, none of the officials present even remembered the presence of Sanjeev Bhatt. Interrogated independently later, they denied any such talk by the Chief Minister, who, they asserted, said instead that the Godhra flare-up was very unfortunate and should be handled with a firm hand. The discussions centred around maintenance of law and order in view of the call for a bandh on the next day and the availability of forces. Ahmedabad Police Commissioner P.C. Pandey categorically stated that no instructions to allow any freedom to law-breakers were given by the Chief Minister. According to Prakash S. Shah, then Additional Secretary (Law & Order), the Chief Minister instructed all the officers that “communal peace and harmony be maintained at all costs and all possible steps be taken to control the possible communal flare-up.”[24] 

As for Sanjeev Bhatt’s testimony, the SIT called fax messages produced by him “not genuine”, “forged document, fabricated subsequently by someone with a vested interest.”[25] “This conduct of Shri Sanjiv [sic] Bhatt in arranging, prompting and controlling the witness [a witness produced by him] to corroborate his statement is highly suspicious and undesirable.”[26] And from the location of his mobile phone, his claim of being present at the said meeting at the Chief Minister’s residence proved to be false. “Shri Sanjiv Bhatt is a tainted witness and therefore, cannot be relied upon keeping in view his background in the police department as he was involved in criminal cases of serious nature and departmental inquiries are also in progress against him.”[27] Cases against him included inflicting torture in custody leading to death, abduction, extortion and unprovoked firing, killings and planting narcotics with a view to blackmail. SIT head R.K. Raghavan concluded that Bhatt had lied and brought in tutored witnesses to falsely implicate Modi.[28] The Gujarat Vigilance Commission recommended his suspension twice (on 15-07-2002 and 19-10-2006) for professional misconduct, but each time he managed to evade prosecution.[29] 

A last brush stroke on Sanjeev Bhatt’s erratic comportment is given by senior lawyer Ram Jethmalani in a Sunday Guardian article. The man “handed over charge and his official computer, leaving all his emails in an unprotected mode for all to read”… The state government forwarded the material to the SIT for investigations, and thanks to this irresponsible gesture, authorities harvested details of his “hobnobbing with the Opposition Congress party in a thoroughly illegal and almost seditious manner to concoct evidence against the Chief Minister and the state of Gujarat”. To this end Bhatt was in constant touch with top Congress party leaders, from whom he received not only guidance, but “packages” and “materials”, as per his own statement.[30]

Teesta SetalvadAn Activist’s Career

Activist Teesta Setalvad built a successful career on the Godhra issue and on demonizing Narendra Modi, for which she has been covered with national and international awards. Let us mention just a few: 

• In August 2002, the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana [Communal Harmony] Award instituted by the Congress (I), jointly with Harsh Mander (former IAS officer and NAC board member),[31] “for their outstanding contribution towards communal harmony and national integration”. 

• In 2003, the Nuremberg International Human Rights Award (jointly with Ibn Abdur Rehman, a Pakistani “peace and human-rights advocate and veteran communist from Pakistan”).[32] 

• The New York-based Parliamentarians for Global Action’s 2004 Defenders’ of Democracy Award, for her efforts “to ensure justice for the victims of the genocide in Gujarat. 

• In 2006, the Nani Palkhivala Award. In her acceptance speech, Setalvad was all praise for an IPS officer to whom she dedicates her award, someone “who stood mighty in the face of a murderous and vindictive Gujarat administration.”[33] 

• In 2007, the Padma Shri Award from the Government of India, which since May 2004 had been run by a Congress-led coalition. – Scribd, 2014

» This is a postscript to The Godhra Riots: Sifting Fact from Fiction, by the same author

» Read the second part of this article, the ISRO Spy Scandal  story, on Scribd here 

» Nicole Elfi is a French author who lives in Auroville. This article © Nicole Elfi, 2014

 Notes & References

  1. From Commission of Inquiry Report of Justice G.T. Nanavati & Justice A.H. Mehta (henceforth “Nanavati Report”), p. 175: 229. The report is available on the website of the Gujarat government: http://home.gujarat.gov.in/homedepartment/downloads/godharaincident.pdf (accessed May 2014).
  2. From Justice Tewatia Committee Report, short for Gujarat Riots: The True Story; Facts Speak for Themselves – Godhra and After, A Field Study by Justice D. S. Tewatia, Dr. J.C. Batra, Dr. Krishan Singh Arya, Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, Prof. B.K. Kuthiala. Council for International Affairs and Human Rights, Governing Body for the Term 2001-03. See “Staff of the Fire Brigade”. Online at: www.gujaratriots.com/index.php/2010/04/justice-tewatia-committee-report/ (retrieved June 2014). Also Nanavati Report, p. 86, 88, 89: 128, 130-131.
  3. Dasgupta, M. 2011. “11 get death in Godhra train burning case”, online at: www.thehindu.com/news/national/11-get-death-in-godhra-train-burning-case/article1500325.ece (retrieved July 2014).
  4. Among them, President of the District Congress Committee, Farooq Malla and Congress activist of Godhra Municipality, Abdul Rehman Dhatia. Tewatia Report, “Fifty-Eight Pilgrims Roasted Alive”.
  5. Nanavati Report, p. 159-160: 214; p. 175.
  6. Gujarat’s minister of state for home Amit Shah’s interview by Sheela Bhatt, 27.02.2003, online at: www.rediff.com/news/2003/feb/27inter.htm (retrieved June 2014).
  7. Nanavati Report, p. 175: 229.
  8. Nanavati Report, pp 40-41: 51-52, p. 49: 68; pp. 158-159: 213.
  9. Special Investigation Team (SIT) Report, p. 241. The Supreme Court handed over all records pertaining to 2002 riots to SIT on 20.01.2010; SIT submitted its final report on Modi’s role in 2002 Gujarat riots, on 25.04.2011.
  10. SIT p. 21.
  11. Kishwar, M.P. 2013. “Modinama 7, When Congress State Governments Snubbed Modi’s Request for Additional Police Force”, online at: manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1704 (retrieved May 2014).
  12. Wikipedia, Communalism Combat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communalism_Combat . “In a 1999 interview, Javed Anand said that before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections, his monthly magazine Communalism Combat (published by Sabrang Communications since August 1993) requested and received funds from the Congress Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and the Communist Party of India and ten individuals to run advertisements attacking the Sangh Parivar and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)”.
  13. See Elst, K. & Rao, R.N. 2002. Gujarat after Godhra: Real Violence, Selective Outrage, Har-Anand, Delhi.
  14. See Balakrishna, S. 2014. “Narendra Modi’s visa denial still an unhealed wound” online at: indiafacts.co.in/narendra-modis-visa-denial-still-an-unhealed-wound/? (retrieved May 2014).
  15. Kishwar, M.P. 2013. “Modinama” 13, “RB Shreekumar: Hero No. 2 of Secular Brigade” – Part I, online at: manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1730 (retrieved May 2014).
  16. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Commission_on_International_Religious_Freedom (retrieved May 2014).
  17. Teesta Setalvad’s testimony to the USCIRF, online at: http://web.archive.org/web/20070713194116/www.uscirf.gov/events/hearings/2002/june/0 6102002_setalvaTestimony.html (retrieved June 2014)
  18.  SIT pp. 92-93.
  19. See “Gujarat Riots: the true story”, online at: www.gujaratriots.com/index.php/2008/05/myth-1-2000-muslims-were-killed-in-the-gujarat-riots/ (retrieved July 2014). Narendra Modi’s interview for Seedhi Baat/Aaj Tak, in India Today, 04.11.2002, online at: www.indiatoday.com/itoday/20021104/conf.shtml#co (retrieved July 2014).
  20. About Ehsan Jafri see Elfi, N. 2013. “The Godhra Riots: Sifting Facts from Fiction”, online at: scribd.com/doc/174541552/The-Godhra-Riots-Sifting-Fact-from-Fiction-Nicole-Elfi .
  21. SIT pp. 16, 18-19.
  22. SIT p. 16.
  23. SIT pp. 22-25.
  24. SIT pp. 25-27, 34, 522.
  25. SIT pp. 523-530.
  26. SIT p. 41.
  27. SIT p. 241.
  28. SIT pp. 540-41. Also Dasgupta, M. 2012. “SIT rejects amicus curiae’s observations against Modi”, online at: thehindu.com/news/national/article3401728.ece (retrieved June 2014).
  29. SIT pp. 48-51. Kishwar, M.P. 2013. “Modinama 6, Heroes of the Secular Brigade: A Glimpse into the Doings and Misdoings of Sanjiv Bhatt”, online at: http://manushi.in/articles.php?articleId=1703&ptype=campaigns (retrieved July 2014).
  30. Jethmalani, R. 2011. “UPA, media have a brazen mission to demonize Modi”, online at: sunday-guardian.com/analysis/upa-media-have-a-brazen-mission-to-demonize-modi (retrieved July 2014). Also Kishwar 2013: 6, op. cit.
  31. The National Advisory Council (2004-2014) was a body set up by the first UPA government to advise the Prime Minister of India. Sonia Gandhi served as its Chairperson from its inception to its end.
  32. Nuremberg International Human Rights Award, online at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_International_Human_Rights_Award
  33. Teesta Setalvad “Nani A Palkhivala Award 2006 Acceptance Speech”, online at: www.countercurrents.org/comm-setalvad100207.htm (retrieved June 2014).

India is no communal tinderbox – Amish Tripathi

Amish Tripathi“According to the US Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 alone, there were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the United States. That single year’s gun-related death toll in the US is more than twice the total number of deaths in all the religious riots in India cumulatively in the last 50 years.” – Amish Tripathi

I recently returned from an extended stay in the United States on a fellowship programme and I must at the outset state that the Americans are, by and large, a very friendly and sociable people.

The ones I met were also quite politically correct. Therefore, I was surprised by a question put forth by a concerned American: “Do you think there might have been some positive outcomes of European colonial rule in India, what with its mission of ‘a white man’s burden’, such as keeping Hindus and Muslims from annihilating each other?”

When confronted by my confounded look, the man asked: “But aren’t religious holocausts quite common in post-Independence India?”

That set me thinking. How did he get the impression that India is like Syria or Iraq? Honestly, though, one couldn’t blame him.

He reads Western press reports on India, written by clueless Western journalists — clueless because most of them haven’t bothered to learn an Indian language or live outside the bubble of anglicised-elite enclaves in India.

They frequently portray India as a communal tinderbox. These Western journalists garner their opinions with help from our elite English-language media, where secular as well as religious extremists have traditionally held a disproportionately loud voice: The former because they are insiders in this group and the latter because our English-language media loves a controversial copy.

Many of these secular-extremist journalists write searing articles on the massive religious violence in India. Words like ‘genocide’, ‘holocaust’ and ‘pogrom’ are bandied about freely.

The religious extremists, on the other hand, play up a sense of historical or communal hurt (depending on the religion of the target group) and relentlessly call for retribution.

Do these merchants of fear have a point? The corporate world has a dictum: In god we trust; for everything else, show me data. What do the numbers say about religious violence in India? Yes, we have had religious riots.

There have been human tragedies, no doubt about it. And we must learn how to crank up our administrative system to prevent these tragedies and to deliver speedy justice if they do occur.

Christopher ColumbusWe have had nearly 60 religious riots (incidents where more than five people have been killed) in India since the mid-1960s leading to a total death toll of over 13,000 (Source: Outlook).

I will repeat that they have been terrible tragedies. Also, in no manner do I mean to belittle the suffering of the victims of religious riots.

But were any of these riots holocausts, where millions have been killed? No.

A holocaust is what Adolf Hitler carried out in Germany (six million deaths in the 1940s), what Winston Churchill consciously precipitated in pre-Independence eastern-India (1.5 to 4 million deaths in the 1940s), the Partition riots (1 million deaths) or what Pakistan did in Bangladesh (1 to 3 million deaths in the 1970s) or what is happening in Syria right now (191,000 deaths and counting).

US Gun ShopThe Native American population was approximately 10 million in North America when Columbus famously landed. It was ultimately reduced to less than a million by the time the genocide stopped. Once again, without belittling the suffering of the victims of Indian religious riots, we need to be careful with the words we use.

Admittedly on an unrelated issue, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, in 2010 alone, there were over 30,000 gun-related deaths in the United States.

That single year’s gun-related death toll in the US is more than twice the total number of deaths in all the religious riots in India cumulatively in the last 50 years.

Now, I am not saying that everything is perfect in India. I am proud of my country, but pride should not blind us to our problems. There is indiscriminate killing taking place in India right now.

But it’s not happening due to religious violence. Five lakh female fetuses are illegally aborted annually in India ie 500,000 girls are killed in the womb every year.

This is 185,000% more than the annual deaths due to religious violence. Many more girl-children die from the systematic malnutrition that they are subjected to. Even when they grow up, Indian women suffer systemic harassment and violence.

It’s not just the government that oppresses them, but our entire society itself. If we want to save Indian lives, if we want to prevent a holocaust and gross injustice, this is where we need to focus. Across all religious/linguistic/caste/social segments, by far the most oppressed group in India today, is women.

It seems that scare-mongering about religion suits the purpose of our ‘secular’ and ‘religious’ extremists. I agree that religious differences are a problem; I would venture to add, it’s a global problem that the human species is grappling with.

But I seriously don’t think India is going to sink into a morass of religious violence. While some of our myriad communities may not be in perfect harmony with each other, we’ve learnt to co-exist, by and large, without resorting to mass violence.

For all the fearful words that are used to describe religious people in India, a vast majority of Indians are like you and me: Deeply religious, profoundly liberal and unwilling to kill for our faith.

The numbers prove that clearly. Sadly, we are not so non-violent when it comes to our girl-children and women.

If we truly love the idea of India, we should focus on the issue of women’s oppression, rather than attacking religion to assert our liberalism.

Sometimes, it’s better to let the data speak, rather than allowing fantastic prose to hog the limelight. You never know what agenda lies hidden beneath the prose. – Hindustan Times, September 12, 2014

» Amish Tripathi worked in the financial services industry before he became the best-selling author of the Shiva Trilogy and other books. Twitter: @authoramish

Protesting rape in Bangalore

The Roti Fiasco: How the media communalised a non-issue – Ashok Chowgule

 Maharashtra Sadan at K.G. Marg in New Delhi

Ashok Chowgule“One of the Shiv Sena MPs took a rubbery chapatti and took it near the mouth of a member of the staff, asking him whether he could eat the rubbish that was being served.  The Marathi journalists who had covered the incident live gave no indication that the action of the MP was of a communal nature, and in fact he stopped his action within one minute when the staff said that he was fasting.  However, the English media, when they covered the event some days later, projected that the staff was singled out because he was a Muslim.” –  Ashok Chowgule

The Indian ExpressOn July 23, 2014, the front page of The Indian Express carried an article that claimed that a Shiv Sena MP force-fed a Muslim employee of the caterer of Maharashtra Sadan even as he was observing fast on account of Ramazan.  Given the practice of secularism in India, this report created a furore in the media that wears the badge of secularism supposedly proudly on its sleeve. 

And then there was a competition amongst the secularists to determine who would outdo the other in being more vicious.  And columnists had a field day in being provided what they thought was an easy target.  The event apparently had the necessary ingredients – a bugbear as a political party, and a Muslim as a victim.  The secularists truly salivated. 

However, two days later, The Hoot, a web-based news publication, came out with data that would indicate that the facts were very different than what the secularists imagined.  It is not that The Hoot sent out a reporter out in the field.  It just that the author of the article read the relevant newspapers of the days following the date of when the event actually happened, and talked to the concerned reporters. 

The main revelation in The Hoot report was that the event happened on July 17, that is SIX days before The Indian Express carried the story.  The concerned reporters realised that it was a small incident, and so carried the story in an inside pages, and given the small space that the incident deserved. 

The Hoot report is available here.

And from this report, we can gleam facts which the secular English media does not wish to provide to its readers.  Even since the Sadan was opened for occupancy in June 2013 (a year before the incident The Hoothappened), those using the facilities were complaining about the service.  At the time it was the MPs from the secular dispensation that were in majority – namely the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party.  The complaints were nearly in all aspects of the facilities, and not just the catering service. 

After the May 16 elections, the level of complaints reached a different scaled.  The Congress and the NCP were disseminated in the elections, and the number of seats that they won reduced from 17 and 8 to 2 and 4, respectively.  The Shiv Sena and the BJP increased their seats  from 10 to 18 and 9 to 22. 

There were thus many first-time MPs, who are yet to be provided the standard family accommodation that they are eligible for.  The earlier occupants have been taking their own time to vacate, and so these MPs were housed in the Sadan in single rooms.  Obviously they had to rely on the management of the Sadan to provide for cleaning services and also the food. 

One of the feature of the Sadans built by the various states is that the food happens to be a cuisine from the state. It was like promoting the cuisine in the country’s capital, and the restaurants in the Sadans are visited by the people living in Delhi.  This was not the case in the Maharashtra Sadan. 

The management of the Sadan would not provide for any special requests of those staying at the Sadan – like special food for those observing fasts on a religious day. 

For nearly a month, the MPs were making attempts to cajole the management to make improvements.  These fell on deaf ears.  They asked for a meeting with the resident manager, which was fixed for 9am on July 17.  The manager decided not to be present.  After waiting for some time, the MPs left the Sadan to go to the Lok Sabha, since the session was on. When they returned for lunch at 12:30pm, the manager was nowhere to be seen. 

Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare The frustration lead to anger, and some of the MPs went into the kitchen to protest with the staff that was present.  One of the Shiv Sena MPs took a rubbery chapatti and took it near the mouth of a member of the staff, asking him whether he could eat the rubbish that was being served.  The Marathi journalists who had covered the incident live gave no indication that the action of the MP was of a communal nature, and in fact he stopped his action within one minute when the staff said that he was fasting.  However, the English media, when they covered the event some days later, projected that the staff was singled out because he was a Muslim. 

Between the time the incident happened to the time when it was reported in The Indian Express, the management of the Sadan made no effort to rectify the situation. In fact the caterer decided to play a victim and discontinued the service at the Sadan.  Instead of reporting this high-handedness, the editors at The Indian Express decided to make it into a communal issue.  And the other publications and the electronic media also decided to be even more vicious. 

Even after The Hoot report, the media went on its communalisation spree.  

Then there is the incident relating to the remarks by the Telengana state BJP president in context of the appointment of Saina Mirza as the brand ambassador for the newly formed state.  His full statement on the subject was: “We respect and feel proud of what Sania Mirza has achieved as a sports person who Sania Mirzabrought laurels to the country. But you have made a person born in Maharashtra, brought up in Hyderabad and is a daughter in law of Pakistan – as a brand ambassador of Hyderabad. Especially in the context of your recent rule that only people who have their ancestor origins in Telangana before 1956 are eligible for education scholarships, aren’t these double standards?” 

He was speaking about the double standards, but the secular media chose to highlight a few words.  And just as in the case of the Maharashtra Sadan, the objective was the same – to communalise an issue where there is not even a trace of communalism.  The objective is not to sympathise with Sainaji but to try and put the BJP on the defensive.  This strategy does not succeed anymore because of the army of Internet Hindus. 

(For more on the case of Sainaji, please go here.)

Now that the blatant double-standards have been exposed, will the media apologise for what they have done.  Personally, I do not expect it to happen.  You do not apologies to the Hindus in general.  And apologising to the Shiv Sena and the BJP?  God forbid. – Hindu Vivek Kendra, 30 July 2014

» Ashok Chowgule is the Working President (External) of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

 

The Tapan Ghosh Interview – Souvik Ganguly & M. Santosh

Tapan GhoshTapan Ghosh is the founder and head of Hindu Samhati, West Bengal. He has been a tireless activist fighting for Hindus and Hindu causes in the state at immense personal risk. The following interview first appeared in Bong Voice.

How did the idea of founding an organization like Hindu Samhati strike you?

Well, it was the farthest thing from my future plan, when I opted out of RSS and VHP in 2007. I was frustrated with several things at that point of time and had thought of taking a break. It was the sheer pressure from my friends from all parts of the globe, which forced me to start Hindu Samhati. People seemed desperate to deny me a relaxed life. (laughs)

How has your journey been so far? Are you satisfied with the work that Hindu Samhati has done so far?

Journey was not easy. As you can very well imagine, it can never be easy for an organization like us. Not with an administration with ‘Muslim appeasement’ as the top most priority in place.

I am satisfied with the work that we have done in the last six and a half years. Having said that, I must confess, we are nowhere near to meeting the requirement of West Bengal. May be, we have managed to cater to one per cent of the total needs of West Bengal. There is a lot to be done, but the satisfaction is that, at least we have started.

Muslim aggression in rural areas has crossed all limits. I do not have any political backing. I do not have anything to offer to the common people of West Bengal. I cannot give posts, Panchayat memberships, widow allowance, school admissions, or anything for that matter. Still, I am always overcrowded. You need to understand why? Is it my credit? No. The credit goes to “Islamic Jihad-e-Junoon”. Jinnah had once said, “every Muslim heart has Pakistan inside it. However you may try, but you can never wipe that out.”

The conquering attitude of Muslims has affected the rural Hindus in a huge way. These victims do not get any response from political parties, thanks to their “secular” agenda. A rape is first checked for secularism, before being addressed as an issue. This is when the parents of the rape victim come to me as a last resort. You will be surprised by the number of such issues. We are still limited to only eight districts of West Bengal. We need to develop our infrastructure to be able to cater to the exact need of West Bengal.

You have been arrested by Mamata government . . .

Yes, but that was not the first time. I have never been a blind critic of anybody. Mamata’s naked and shameless Muslim appeasement is destroying West Bengal, but I cannot say that the entire onus of the current situation of West Bengal is on her. How will I forget that Salim, ‘Khonra Badsaah’ and Sahajahan Shekh (Sandeshkhali) have not been created by Mamata Banerjee? She has supported the growth of these anti social elements, but did not produce them. It is CPI-M, who had given birth to these elements. They had thrived on CPI-M’s lap once and now have shifted to Mamata’s lap.

Why do you think the political parties need these criminals?

It is natural, that these elements would boost the strength of any party. But, the main question is elsewhere and that is what the secularists would try to avoid. Supporting criminals should hit the image of the party in the concerned locality.

However, knowing that there will be a political loss, the parties are still supporting these elements. This is where you must understand the link between minority block vote and supporting criminals. The minority section is not getting displeased even when these minority criminals are being encouraged. The major section of the minority is in favor of these criminals as both are from the same religion.

Criminals can never be a major problem in any society if they do not get a structured social support. There is no scarcity of Hindu criminals as well, but they have never enjoyed social support. That is the sole reason why they were never a major threat. We can criticize CPI-M and Mamata for being a support system but can we ignore the actual source of this problem?

You have called Aamir Khan, a “dogla” in a recent tweet. Would like to elaborate?

He is the greatest “dogla” on Earth. When Narendra Modi was denied a US visa, Manmohan Singh had protested on the grounds of Indian honor. A group of celebrities headed by Aamir Khan criticized Manmohan Singh for his protest. Narendra Modi was communal then for him and now the same Aamir Khan is meeting Modiji and speaking good things about him. He is nothing but a two-faced person.

What do you feel about the current political condition of West Bengal?

Total chaos. It is completely out of Mamata’s control. I do not do politics. So, I am not looking for any political mileage when I say that Mamata has been able to do a good job in the context of development. She has been successful in several spheres of development, but the process in which she does her work is not good. Her threatening and arrogant attitude is not acceptable.

The way Adhir Choudhury controls Baharampur, she is trying to control West Bengal. She is unable to understand that this process can never be long-lasting.

In the context of law and order, Mamata is a complete failure. It is now out of her hands.

Corruption and extortion have reached the extreme line. I work within the system so I know that the police department is being used as a money collecting machine. A big chunk of share from the collected money goes to a noted leader of TMC.

Would like to name anyone?

No. I cannot. I do not wish to die right now. (smiles)

I would put it this way: Mamata wanted to do a lot of good things. She failed because of her inexperience and incompetency. Structured destruction of the administration by CPI-M for 34 years has also played a crucial role.

How can you develop a place without having a strong grip on law and order? Mamata is a good opposition leader, but as an administrator she has failed to deliver. She has to cater to her secular outlook and cannot take many steps, which must be taken to roll the development model.

You have always raised your voice against Muslim violence in West Bengal and illegal inflow of Bangladeshi Muslims. How do you propose to tackle this issue?

It is impossible to tackle. The root of Muslim violence is not a handful of rotten elements. People committing violence can be dealt with a structured law and order mechanism, but it is impossible to tackle the ones who support and provide shelter to these offenders. It is a myth that illegal immigrants from Bangladesh are responsible for Muslim violence in West Bengal. Local Muslims are responsible for the violence. The Masjid and Madrasah network along with the Haj system is responsible for Muslim violence in general. Haj is nothing but a brain washing machinery to boost violence.

How do you rate Narendra Modi as a prime minister?

Too early to comment. I have a lot of hope, but cannot comment before 6 months.

Whom will you blame for the current ISIS problem in Iraq?

America all the way. They have a strange knack of creating Frankenstein monsters. The US has never done anything to maintain a democratic and secular balance of the world. They have always treated their interest as the only priority. This attitude has bitten them back in the past and will bite them again in future. They just do not learn!

The main doctrine of Islam speaks of momin and kafir, Dar-ul-Islam and Dar-ul-Harb. Muslims are instructed by their religion to convert the entire world into momin and Dar-ul-Islam. It is a shame that the powerful nations of the world have might, but lack the will to control this chaos. Muslim terrorism is a snake fed by the Americans, but the source is Islam.

Can you relate the same Frankenstein model in West Bengal?

The current so-called secular parties will have their hands burnt in future. History warns them, but they are too short-sighted to see. East Bengal stands as a burning example. All secular leaders of East Bengal having Hindu origin had to seek shelter in West Bengal. Jogen Mondal, founder of Scheduled Caste Federation had formed an alliance with Muslim League and had supported Pakistan. He was the first law minister of Pakistan. That very person had to take disguise and run to save himself. He finally took shelter in India. He sent his resignation to the PM of Pakistan from India. He realized the blunder that he had done the hard way. Same fate awaits the current pseudo-secularists of West Bengal.

What is secularism for you?

In the academic context, the answer would be different. In the practical side of things, secularism in India is nothing but farce. It is a synonym for Muslim appeasement and is the foundation stone of total destruction of India. The nation got divided on the basis of two nation theory. Congress had opposed the idea. My question is, if you do not support two-nation theory, why did you opt for partition? The only practical person in Indian politics, Dr. Ambedkar had clearly stated that, if population exchange is not done, the process of partition will remain incomplete. This inevitable part of partition was not done by the pseudo-secularists back then.

You have always voiced against Love Jihad and Land Jihad. How do you plan to tackle these issues?

West Bengal will be destroyed if these issues are not taken care of. The controlling has to come from the national level. One good sign is that, Hindus are becoming conscious about these issues.

What is the future of BJP in West Bengal?

No comments.

You have requested the central government to reinstate the last two paragraphs of our national song, “Vande Mataram”. Did you get any positive feedback?

It is too early to get a feedback. It is important to understand that, pseudo-secularists are not only sitting in the opposition benches. There are some of them within the setup as well. “Doglas” like Aamir Khan need to be neutralized before taking such steps. We will need to give it some time.

What are your future plans?

To develop strong and spontaneous Hindu resistance all over West Bengal.

Any message for our readers?

A race, which doesn’t recognizes its history is sure to perish. It is important for us to be conscious about the threats and the counter measures. – Bong Voice – 28 June 2014

Hindu Samhiti

Bangladeshi infiltrators into India

See also

Indo-US Relations: Kamal Mitra Chenoy gives false testimony to US Commission on Religious Freedom – IndiaFacts Staff

Anti-Modi campaign from US

Felice GaerPreface

In its commitment to a better future for India, Hinduism, & public discourse, the researchers at IndiaFacts have dug up something explosive from the past. Something that has significant bearing on how Prime Minister Narendra Modi should fashion his policy towards the United States of America. In short, this concerns a treasonous and anti-national testimony against Narendra Modi delivered on foreign soil by an Indian citizen.

The name of this Indian citizen is Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a former professor on political theory and international relations at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi. Kamal Mitra Chenoy was also a central committee member of the Communist Party of India (CPI). He is now a prominent member of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) founded and headed by Arvind Kejriwal, who became the chief minister of Delhi earlier this year and resigned after just 49 days in office.

On 10 June 2002, Kamal Mitra Chenoy was in the US. The researchers at IndiaFacts were unable to obtain any information whether Kamal Mitra Chenoy mentioned to the concerned Indian authorities as to the actual reason for visiting the US. But the fact is that he was definitely present in the US on 10 June 2002.

On Monday, 10 June 2002, Kamal Mitra Chenoy was in Room 1302, Longworth House Office Building,
Washington, D.C. He was on Panel 1 whose topic title was: Events on the Ground in Gujarat. This panel was the first panel of the United States Commission On International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), which had conducted a hearing, whose full title reads thus:

UNITED STATES COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

HEARING ON COMMUNAL VIOLENCE IN GUJARAT, INDIA 

AND THE U.S. RESPONSE

The hearing began at 9:12 A.M. and Kamal Mitra Chenoy was present at the appointed time.

On the same Panel 1 was also present Najid Hussain, a research scientist in Marine Studies at the University of Delaware. Najid Hussain is also the son-in-law of the deceased and former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jaffri from Gujarat.

The hearing was chaired by the former Commissioner of the USCIRF Ms. Felice D. Gaer who now directs the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Committee.

At the time of the hearing, Kamal Mitra Chenoy was profiled by the USCIRF and the Hearing as “Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Deli.” (spelling of “Delhi” as “Deli” reproduced here as is in that report IndiaFacts has accessed).

Prof Kamal A. Mitra ChenoyVerbatim testimony of Kamal Mitra Chenoy to the USCIRF

The first testimony before the USCIRF was by Mr. Hussain followed by Kamal Mitra Chenoy.

The following is the unedited version of Kamal Mitra Chenoy’s testimony before the USCIRF’s hearing chaired by Ms. Felice Gaer. No formatting has been changed.

CHAIRMAN GAER: Mr. Chenoy, would you present your testimony, please.

MR. CHENOY: Madam Chairperson, members of the Commission, ladies and gentlemen, Gujarat has been a state polarized by religious sectarianism, or what we call communalism, for quite some time. There were riots even prior to the partition of India and the creation of India and Pakistan, but the current phase really starts from 1969 when the earlier form of the dominant party in the ruling coalition departed, and the party of the earlier form departed, Jana Sangh had been involved in fomenting the riots. And the riot immediately prior to the events of February, March, and April is also instructive because the fanatics attacked Christians in Gujarat, especially around Christmas 1998 and January 1999. And particularly in the tribal district of Dangs. Christian churches, places of worship, were burnt down. Christians were attacked, priests were beaten up, and the police, the FIR arrest department, and the civilian bureaucracy was involved. In fact, in February 1999, the Director General of Police Intelligence of Gujarat sent out a secret circular dated 2nd February, 1999, where he asked for a census of all Christians and also asked that who–which are the foreign countries that encourage these Christian communities, how much money do they get, and then wanted to know what is the type of trickery being used by the Christian missionaries for their defilement activities, that is, for conversion. And this was an officially-sponsored campaign by the Gujarat government, which actually got approval from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee when our prime minister went to Dangs for the first time in January 1999 where he said that there should be a national debate on conversion, even though the right to practice and propagate religion is a fundamental right under the Indian Constitution. So it is not that the attacks, though they have been by far the most brutal against Muslims, are not also against attacks on minorities in general.

Now, about this whole area of retaliatory violence, the incidents in Godhra that is with the Sabarmati Express followed a series of incidents on that train where the Hindu volunteers mistreated and humiliated Muslim men and women traveling by that train towards Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh, or coming back towards Ahmedabad. And these instances were reported in the press. In early morning of the 27th February, the train was almost five hours late, and at the railway station an altercation took place over the nonpayment by the Hindu volunteers for the tea and snacks they had had. And then there was an attempt to abduct a young teenaged Muslim girl, Sophia, who was waiting for another train. They were not able to take her into the train, but the rumor of a Muslim girl being abducted reached the slums next to the railway station, and the attack that started barely a kilometer away from the railway station when the train stopped with the pulling of the alarm chain was based on these rumors and attention at the railway station.

Now, there was a mob of around 2,000 “Ganchi” Muslims from that slum, and about 1,500 Hindu volunteers on the train, so it was actually a kind of religious sectarian riot, not only an attack by one side. But, tragically, the Muslims had firebombs, the Indian versions of Molotov cocktails. And one coach, and only one coach seemed to have been singled out for attack. And in that coach first 58 people were killed and the 59th died in hospital, mainly women and children. 

Now, the Chief Minister of Gujarat Narendra Modi went to the site and said this has been planned by the ISI, that is, Pakistani Intelligence, and another minister, State Minister for Health Ashok Bhatt said Godhra has a notorious reputation, and went on to say, “We suspect that many Pakistanis live here illegally.” The Home Minister Gordhan Zadafia, who’s also a senior Vishwa Hindu Parishad activist, said, “The bogie burning is a terrorist act similar to the attack on the American Center in Kolkata.

The culprits in both cases are the same.” In other words, Pakistani-backed terrorists. And then he gave a dire threat, and I’m quoting, “We will teach a lesson to those who have done this. No one will be spared, and we will make sure that the forces behind this act will never dare repeat it.” Then the chief minister insisted that the bodies of the killed from the Godhra area should be transported back to Ahmedabad. They reached there the early morning of the next day. This was broadcast over the radio. Frenzied mobs gathered and had religious rites, and there were cries for retaliation and revenge.

Before that, on the 27th February, late evening, the chief minister had a meeting with top civil and police officials where they were told that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had called for a bandh. A “bandh” is a kind of total strike where even vehicle traffic is stopped, and the VHP called for it with the ruling party, the BJP, supporting it. And in this meeting the chief minister told those officials that they were not to intervene. They were not to do anything which, and I quote, “hurt Hindu sentiments.”

Najid HussainSo then, now I want to just make a point about what Mr. Hussain has already pointed out, too. You see the kind of targeting that was done, these people had precise lists of Muslim establishments, institutions, residences, workshops, shrines. A number of the commercial establishments that were attacked, there were minority Muslim shareholders. After the earlier riots, many of these bodies had non-Muslim names, including hotels, restaurants, workshops and so forth, yet these were marked out with precision and attacked. Cooking gas was in short supply in Ahmedabad for weeks before the 28th February.

Yet these rioters carried thousands of cylinders of cooking gas which were used to explode buildings and burn people. They were led in buses, including luxury buses, in trucks, because cooking gas cylinders are heavy; you can’t just carry them. So this was a very systematically organized attack. And according to information through the National Human Rights Commission, Minister of State for Home Affairs Gordhan Zadafia flashed a victory sign while passing by mobs on the 28th of February and the 1st of March.

Minister for Health Ashok Bhatt was involved. The police control rooms in the capital, Gandhinagar and in the city of Ahmedabad were occupied by Civil Supplies Minister I.K. Jadeja and by Minister Ashok Bhatt.

All this, by the way, is illegal, and the real tragedy of the situation is that for the first time, violence also spread extensively to rural areas, and the tribal people, the Adivasi were involved (which, by the way, was what Dangs and the attack on Christians three years earlier was all about, to bring in a religious fanatic polarization amongst the tribals). And the related organizations of the BJP, that is the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal and others, had been working in these tribal areas, the economic situation was also extreme for the tribals. It was their fourth year of drought. So these people were all brought in, and you had this most brutal killing.

Now, on the state complicity, I would also like to submit that under Indian law the district magistrates, who are the local civil administration heads, have the right to call out the Army if there is a civil disturbance. No district magistrate did that. It is incumbent on the police to protect citizens, and if they think a cognizable crime is being committed, they have the right to fire.

Yet in the bulk of the incidents on 28th February and 1st March, the firing was on Muslims who were defending themselves. So in the list of the dead from police firing, there’s a disproportionate amount of Muslims. Then after the incidents of violence where curfew was imposed, overwhelmingly curfew was imposed on Muslim areas. Then, in the relief camps, there is limited government support, and there are 150,000 people there, limited government support in terms of foodstuffs. But it does not suffice with the population. The biggest camp at Shah Alam, which at one stage had 12,000 inmates, had just 22 toilets and less than that places where people can bathe. And now with the rains coming, the monsoon, there is no physical shelter for those people to stay. There is no security provided to these camps in terms of police, and, actually, the majority of Muslims, given their experience, do not trust the police; they would prefer the Army.

Now, the most serious thing in this is that it is not only that the local administration and the local politicians are involved, but even the union home minister, a couple of days after Godhra, said that this is an attack planned by Pakistani Intelligence. Now, if you say that an attack is planned by Pakistani Intelligence, you are implying that the Muslims are acting as Pakistani agents. Pakistan is a traditional enemy of India, so, in other words, the Muslims represent the enemy, and this has been part of the religious fanatic propaganda by the Sangh Parivar from the beginning–that Pakistanis operate in India through Indian Muslims. So Indian Muslims actually have extra-national loyalties and cannot be trusted.

Then even after–and this is why the Commission by appeal must take this seriously–even after the riots were over, Intelligence Bureau reports by the police have been reported in the press as saying that the chief minister is going to rural areas and still think that there is one community which is responsible for all of this. And I would conclude with two submissions:

No. 1: This is going to go on and may spread beyond Gujarat because it works for political mobilization of the kind of Hindu fanaticism that the BJP practices. So please do not think that this is over and this may not spread to other parts of India.

No. 2: and I end with this: This is likely to lead to extremism amongst the affected parties, not only in Gujarat but in the troubled state of Kashmir. The incident of Gujarat has been seen to show that India is not really a secular state, and Muslims and minorities are oppressed, which will further fuel extremism in Kashmir. And we now have reports that Al-Qaeda and others have moved into the Kashmir Valley. So two nuclear-weapon arms states which are in a military confrontation, and there Gujarat has profound implications, not only for the future of Indian multiculture democracy, but for relations between Pakistan and India, and for peace in the entire subcontinent. So really Gujarat is exceedingly important. Thank you once again for this opportunity. – IndiaFacts, 22 May 2014

Godhra Junction

Must Read

Indian secularism is not secular – Maria Wirth

Maria Wirth “Media and politicians … call parties that represent a religious group, ‘secular’, instead of ‘religious;’ which would be the correct term. When the state gives in to demands by the big religious bullies it is also—falsely of course—called ‘secular’. But WHY would the government do this? It clearly plays with fire. Does it want to give its citizens a firsthand experience of what the Dark Ages were like? In the interest of all Indians it would be wise for the State to simply ignore the powerful, dogmatic religions and focus on all its citizens equally. This means being ‘secular’.” – Maria Wirth

Religion & PoliticsFor years I did not know what opportunities to practice equanimity I had missed, till I finally got a TV set some 3 years ago. In the beginning, I certainly did not remain calm under all circumstances. What intense emotions in just an hour of listening to panelists on the news channels! However, slowly I learned to sit back. I could admire the quick-wittedness and the amazing ability to talk or rather shout while listening.

These anchors and panelists are no doubt intelligent, nevertheless their choice of topics is often pathetic, and they get some points consistently wrong. One such point is ‘secular’ or ‘secularism’. Since secularism is mentioned daily in Indian media and since it is a western ‘invention’, I would like to put it into perspective.

Contrary to the general perception in India, secular is not the opposite of communal. Communal as such is not objectionable either. It simply means ‘pertaining to a community’. In Germany, elections to local bodies are called “communal elections” (Kommunalwahlen).

Secular means worldly and is opposite to ‘religious’. Now ‘religious’ in this context refers to Christianity, i.e. to a well-organized, dogmatic religion that claims that it is the sole keeper of the ‘truth’, which God himself has revealed to his Church.

And what is this revealed truth? In short: the human being is born in sin, which dates back originally to Adam and Eve. But fortunately, some 2000 years ago, God had mercy on humanity and sent his only son Jesus Christ to earth to redeem us by dying for our sins on the cross, then rising from the dead and going back to his father up in heaven. However to be able to get the benefit of Jesus’ sacrifice, one must be baptized and become a member of the Church, otherwise one will be singled out for eternal hell on Judgment Day.

Francis Xavier SJUnderstandably, such claims did not appeal to those who used their brains, but for many centuries they had to keep quiet or risk their lives. The reason was that for long the Church was intertwined with the State, and harsh laws made sure that people did not question the ‘revealed truth’. Heresy was punished with torture and death. Even in faraway Goa, after Francis Xavier called the Inquisition to this colony, unspeakable brutality was committed against Indians. In many Muslim countries till today, leaving Islam is punishable by death.

Significantly, those centuries, when Church and State were intertwined, when the clergy prospered and the faithful sheep suffered are called the Dark Ages. And the time when the Church was forced to loosen its grip, is called the Age of Enlightenment, which started only some 350 years ago. Scientific discoveries, which could no longer be brushed under the carpet, played a crucial role for showing the Church her place. Now, more Europeans dared to oppose the stranglehold of religion. Many went to prison for doing so.

Slowly, the idea that reason, and not blind belief in a ‘revealed truth’, should guide society, took root and this lead to the demand for separation between State and Church. Such separation is called secularism. It is a recent phenomenon in the west.

Today, most western democracies are ‘secular’, i.e. the Church cannot push her agenda through State power, though most western democracies still grant Christianity preferential treatment. For example in Germany, the Constitution guarantees that the Christian doctrine is taught in government schools. Further, the Churches have retained special labour laws that make it obligatory for Church employees (alone in Germany over one million) to conform to Christian norms. Nevertheless, the present situation is a huge improvement over the Dark Ages when one had to pretend to believe unbelievable dogmas.

In India, however, the situation was different. Here, the dominant faith of the Indian people never had a power centre that dictated unreasonable dogmas and needed to be propped up by the State. Their faith was based on Voltaireinsights of the rishis and on reason, intuition and direct experience. It expressed itself freely in a multitude of ways. Their faith was about trust and reverence for the One Source of all life. It was about doing the right thing at the right time according to one’s conscience. It was about The Golden Rule: not to do to others what one does not want to be done to oneself. It was about having noble thoughts. It was about how to live life in an ideal way.

However, this open atmosphere changed when Islam and Christianity entered India. Indians, who good naturedly considered the whole world as family, were despised, ridiculed and under Muslim rule killed in big numbers only because they were ‘Hindus’ (which is basically a geographical term). Indians did not realise that dogmatic religions were very different from their own, ancient Dharma. For the first time they were confronted with merciless killing in the name of God. Voltaire, who fought the stranglehold of the Church in Europe, had accurately observed, “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities”.

Guru Nanak left a testimony how bad the situation was, when he cried out in despair: “Having lifted Islam to the head, You have engulfed Hindustan in dread…. Such cruelty they have inflicted, and yet Your mercy remains unmoved….” (Granth Sahib, Mahla 1.360 quoted from Eminent Historians by Arun Shourie).

During Muslim rule Hindus had to lie low for fear of their lives, and during British rule they were ridiculed and despised by missionaries, and cut off from their tradition with the help of ‘education’ policies. Naturally, this took a toll on their self-esteem. In fact, till today, this low self-esteem especially in the English educated class is evident to outsiders, though it may not be so to the persons concerned. Swami Vivekananda’s efforts to give Hindus back their spine did not impact this class of people. Nevertheless, it is a great achievement that Hindu Dharma survived for so many centuries, whereas the west succumbed completely to Christianity and over 50 countries to Islam in a short span of time.

A "secular" Dalit ChristianComing back to secularism. Though Hindu Dharma survived and never dictated terms to the State, ‘secular’ was added to the Constitution of India in 1976. There might have been a reason, as since Independence, several non-secular decisions had been taken. For example, Muslim and Christian representatives had pushed for special civil laws and other benefits and got them.

However, after adding ‘secular’, the situation did not improve. In fact the government seemed almost eager to benefit specifically the dogmatic religions (for which secularism was coined) and occasionally had to be restrained in its eagerness by the courts.

This is inexplicable. Why would ‘secular’ be added and then not acted upon? And the strangest thing: ‘secular’ got a new, specific Indian meaning. It means today: fostering those two big religions which have no respect for Hindus and whose dogmas condemn all of them to eternal hell.

It is a sad irony. Can you imagine the Jews honouring the Germans with preferential treatment instead of seeking compensation for the millions of Jews killed? Yet Islam and Christianity that have gravely harmed Indians over centuries get preferential treatment by the Indian State, and their own beneficial dharma that has no other home except the Indian subcontinent, is egged out. And to top it, this is called ‘secular’!

Obviously Indians have not learnt from the European experience. Hindus have not yet realized the intention of the dogmatic religions, though they say it openly: Finish off Hinduism from the face of the earth. Hindus still ‘respect’ them, though this respect is not and cannot be reciprocated as long as those religions claim that their God wants everyone to worship exclusively Him. Hindus don’t realize that an ideology that uses God as a front does not become sacred, but all the more dangerous.

Hindu Golden RuleMedia and politicians do their best to muddy the water. They call parties that represent a religious group, ‘secular’, instead of ‘religious;’ which would be the correct term. When the State gives in to demands by the big religious bullies it is also—falsely of course—called ‘secular’. But WHY would the government do this? It clearly plays with fire. Does it want to give its citizens a firsthand experience of what the Dark Ages were like? In the interest of all Indians it would be wise for the State to simply ignore the powerful, dogmatic religions and focus on all its citizens equally. This means being ‘secular’.

However, western secular states are not role models either. There is a lot of depression, drug abuse, alcohol and people are generally not happy in spite of doing everything to ‘enjoy life’. Here, India has an advantage over the west. Her rishis have left a great heritage of valuable treatises not only dealing with how to live life in an ideal way, but also how to conduct economy, politics, management, etc. If those guidelines are considered, and if India becomes a state based on her ancient dharma, she has good chances to regain the lost glory as the wealthiest and most advanced country in the world whose citizen are open-minded and contented. If not, probably the west discovers this treasure trove and adopts it … first. – Maria Wirth Blog, 2 May 2014

» Maria Wirth is German and came to India for a holiday after finishing her psychology studies at Hamburg University. With the blessing of a number of saints, she continues to live in India, sharing her insights with German and Indian readers through articles and books. However, when in recent years, she noticed that there seemed to be a concerted effort to prevent Indians—and the world—from knowing how valuable this ancient Indian heritage is, she started to point out the unique value of Indian traditions.

Indian secularism is anti-secularism!

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