Upholding Secularism, Pluralism and Free Speech: A JNU Manual – Abhinav Prakash

Jawaharlal Nehru, JNU Campus, New Delhi

CPIM) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury addressing students at JNU New Delhi

Abhinav Prakash Singh“Such was the terror unleashed in the JNU campus that Hinduism was virtually non-existent in public life there until the late 90s and driven underground even in the personal realm. … Newcomers are seized upon by the comrades and slowly indoctrinated. Young B.A. students are made to sit in the ‘discussion’ where Hindu deities are ridiculed and abused. … It is to be noted that no such discussion is ever done with regard to Islam or Christianity, which are instead praised to the skies by the atheist and Islamist comrades.” – Abhinav Prakash

Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Logo The English media is again on a hysterical overdrive about freedom under threat and supposedly “rising intolerance” in India. 

In this cabal, they have been enthusiastically joined by the legions of liberal warriors emanating from the Left citadel of the Kremlin on the banks of Yamuna: the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). 

The people of India are being bombarded with the incessant sermonizing about secularism, freedom of expression, virtues of free debate—with left-liberals posing as the guardians of these ideas in these “turbulent times.” 

It is therefore imperative to bring forth their own record on such matters. And so, what example can illustrate this better than the case of JNU, where these forces have reigned supreme since its inception? 

In the JNU campus, the much-vaunted secular ideals vanish in thin air with the constant abuse and harassment of Hindus and their religious beliefs. 

Open ridicule of Hindu deities is the favorite pastime of the liberal-progressive comrades in comfortable cahoots with the Islamists. 

Alien interpretations are foisted upon the Hindu traditions and beliefs. These are then made the pretext of calling for the annihilation of Hinduism in a thinly concealed violent language. 

In fact, such was the terror unleashed in the JNU campus that Hinduism was virtually non-existent in public life there until the late 90s and driven underground even in the personal realm. 

Hardly anyone dared to keep a murti of her deity in her room. People took special care to not to sport kalava—the sacred thread around the wrist, or tilak or be caught visiting the temple outside the campus. 

It was simply unthinkable to publicly celebrate any Hindu festival in the JNU campus. Even the Bengali students had to go out of the campus to CR Park to celebrate Pujo. They always were careful to wipe out any traces of worship before entering the campus. 

This strangling silence was broken with the beginning of the celebration of Durga Puja in a hostel room in the Periyar Hostel in late 90s. It was made possible due to the growth of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which provided some modicum of protection to Hindus from the usual targeted violence of the cadre of the left parties. 

Even then, when the Durga Puja was first celebrated at a public place in 2001, the then Islamist Dean of Students, M. H. Quraishi, stood in the front of the Durga Puja Pandal and exhorted the Leftist and Islamist legions to break the havan kund and throw the murti and pandal out of the campus. 

This was foiled as they had grossly underestimated the growing Hindu unity due to the resentment against the unabated, unrelenting religious persecution. Seeing the fast assembling crowd of Hindus, the Communist and Islamist paper tigers simply fled and Quraishi was so terrified that he hid in the home of a Hindu warden of the nearby Kaveri Hostel. 

However, this anti-Hindu communalism has continued till date. 

Newcomers are seized upon by the comrades and slowly indoctrinated. Young B.A. students (of the School of Languages) are made to sit in the “discussion” where Hindu deities are ridiculed and abused. They are made to feel embarrassed for worshiping stones, trees and harbouring superstitious beliefs. 

Hindu students, especially from the SC/ST or OBC backgrounds are mentally harassed for being Hindu and sometimes, are aggressively pressurized to boycott Hindu festivals and throw the picture or the murti of their deity, they may have, into the dustbin. 

It is to be noted that no such discussion is ever done with regard to Islam or Christianity, which are instead praised to the skies by the atheist and Islamist comrades. 

Wahabbism is quite strong in the campus with the active patronage of the Left parties. 

This year, a Shia student contesting elections in the School of Language from ABVP was violently threatened by the Islamists who wanted to thrash him on the spot for simply saying that hysteria over ghar wapsi is hypocritical as even Quran calls for spreading Islam. 

And a few days later, candidates of all Left parties condemned these “anti-Islam” remarks and “Islamophobia” during the presidential debate. 

AISA at JNUAnd in 2014, when a Muslim girl contested the elections for the post of president, cadres of the uber-red All India Students’ Association (AISA) went to Muslim students with her picture with her Hindu boyfriend and fiancé asking them not to vote for her as she is no longer a Muslim. 

But the actual workings of secularism and pluralism can be seen from the example of a simple hostel election last year. 

In 2014, in the election for the post of the president of Sutlej Hostel, there were only two candidates. One was a Kerala Muslim and other a Bihari Hindu. 

Typically, hostel elections are the local affairs of the concerned hostel and both the candidates were anyway not from any party. But the Left parties especially Democratic Students’ Front (DSF) (a breakaway Students’ Federation of India (SFI) faction) converted this into an election for secularism. It simply means that the Muslim candidate must win, which he did. 

To the utter shock of the people, Left cadres went around shouting the slogan “Secularism Up Up! Communalism Down Down!” 

And what did this victory of “secularism” really mean? The newly elected president and the majority Muslim hostel committee immediately tried to ban the upcoming Diwali celebration because of “financial and political issues” but in its magnanimity allowed Hindus to celebrate it by “taking permission from the concerned authorities.”

The notice was withdrawn when Hindus united and challenged him to dare celebrate Eid or Ramzan in the hostel in the future, which of course became an issue of much hue and cry about “fascists threatening the secular fabric of the campus.”

Actually, no Hindu festival passes without an abusive poster calling for its ban and threatening Hindus with annihilation along with the choicest of abuses. 

And when such abuses are challenged, shouts emerge from the rooftops that “freedom of expression” and “secularism” are under threat as Hindus have dared to talk back. 

MahishasurThe Left’s commitment to “debate and discussion” was on full display during the Mahishasura Day controversy. It was started by the AISA-spawned AIBSF, and when this bogus-racist construct was challenged by various organizations they were dismissed as anti-Dalit, fascist and Hindu communalist even when Dalit and Tribal forums too opposed it. 

The combined strength of the Left parties ensured that no platform or avenue was available to question this phony construct. Their standard reply to any academic challenge even to the basis of such constructs—for example the Aryan-Dravidian theory—was choicest of abuses like “you bloody barbarian Hindus … why are you afraid of re-interpretation of history?” “You are fascists, killers of Muslims in Gujarat,” “you are naturally unfit for any dialogue,” etc. 

This then is the hard truth of the Left’s commitment to free speech and the pretense of any “debate culture” in its intellectual citadel of JNU. 

In fact, for the Left, freedom of speech is always a one-way traffic. 

In November 2005, they disrupted the speech of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh because they were opposed to his visit in the campus. We were told, “an advocate of neo-liberalism has no right to speak.” 

The former Prime Minister could only continue when police forcibly removed the sloganeering students from the venue. 

In August 2008, the then US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, Richard A. Boucher, had to cancel his visit to the American Studies Division in the School of International Studies due to a brute display of mob power by Left parties. 

We were again told, “an agent of US imperialism has no right to speak.” Mr. Boucher was supposed to speak on the Indo-US Nuclear Deal but as Prof Kamal Mitra Chenoy enlightened the “masses” that “It was not prudent on part of the administration to invite Boucher for the lecture at a time when the nuke deal is a debatable issue and pending before the Nuclear Suppliers Group.” 

In April 2014, the Ambassador of Israel was invited to interact with the students of the West Asian center of School of International Studies. The Ambassador of Israel has never been allowed to enter the JNU earlier as the administration was always threatened with violence by the Left and Islamist cadres. 

This time, they failed to get wind of his visit and the event passed without any incident. 

However, later, the Left parties went about the systematic demonisation of the Professor involved and went hysterical over this “unethical and despicable act.” 

Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) warned the administration against any act of dealing with Israeli authorities and its institutions in future. 

We were again told in so many words “Who has the right to speak?” And even when rumors of the possible visit of then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi spread after his speech in SRCC, Delhi University, the Left parties began mobilising its cadre to stop Modi from setting foot inside the campus. 

In 2001, when JNU decided to start a Sanskrit Centre, Left parties tried their best to scuttle it by force. In earlier stages, they would simply demolish the walls of the under-construction center at night. 

Instead of putting out a reasoned opposition, if any, they used to mock “will JNU now produce panda-pujaris?” Never mind the fact that the JNU had an Arabic Persian Centre and Left parties fall over each other to ensure that more and more madrassas are recognised by the JNU for admission to ‘any’ course. 

Before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Left parties decided to campaign for Arvind Kejriwal in Varanasi. They used the name of the JNUSU despite written opposition from at least ten councilors. No debate was allowed, no deliberation was done and no resolution authorising the use of the JNUSU platform in favour of a candidate was passed. 

Last year in September, in the first council meeting of the newly elected JNUSU, a resolution was presented to condemn the Islamic State and Boko Haram by 12 councilors. 

All Left parties closed ranks to block the resolution simply by abstaining from the vote. Again no debate, no discussion. No rationale was given as to why they refused to condemn jihadi groups when they were passing resolution after resolution condemning the Indian State and the ‘fascist’ government and calling for self-determination by Kashmir and North-Eastern States. 

And this year,when the ABVP won a central panel seat as joint secretary, the very first comment from the JNU president and other members was that they don’t consider him a member of JNUSU! 

The only OBC member of the panel is being treated as an untouchable who is kept out of any deliberation and talked about in a derogatory manner. Here is a sample.

The ABVP is the largest party in the campus and the only non-Left party but no space is ever ceded to its viewpoints in any debate or general body meeting. 

The resolutions or point of order put forward by its members in any school GBM or JNUSU meeting is not only never read but it is told to them on face that it’s the prerogative of the chair and it wont be read—“Do whatever you want!” 

It seems that the only time the Left remembers free speech and ‘debate culture’ is when they have to defend Hinduphobia, racism and abuse of Hindu deities. 

Speakers and xenophobic pamphlets openly calling for the annihilation of Hinduism and destruction of India as a political and civilizational entity are welcome but ambassadors of states and prime ministers of India are not. 

“Kremlin on the Jamuna” as Wikileaks described it, has failed to fulfill its stated purpose of “tolerance, for reason, for the adventure of ideas and for the search of truth.” 

And it’s an infinite tragedy for India that such people still preach democracy, liberty and tolerance with a straight face. – IndiaFacts, 29 October 2015

» Abhinav Prakash is a research scholar in economics from JNU. His interests span the social issues, politics, history, economics and religion.And one day he hopes to grasp the reasons behind rise and fall of civilisations.

Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) at JNU

Durga Puja at JNU



Prashanth Poojary is no Akhlaq and Moodbidri is no Dadri – Pradeep Thyagaraja

Prashanth Poojary

Pradeep Thyagaraja“Incidents like Dadri put India’s delicate yet unique plurality at risk, as per the Indian Secular Media. But incidents like Moobidri don’t.” – Pradeep Thyagaraja

As per the Hindu calendar, we have just concluded the Pitru Paksha for the year 2015. While in most of the families, the sons and daughters were offering shraadh for their deceased elders and ancestors. The unfortunate family of Poojary had to perform the funeral rites for their 29-year-old son, Prashanth Poojary.

From past one month we have seen the widespread coverage of a Muslim man called Aklahq who got lynched by a Hindu mob for allegedly stashing beef at his house in a far-flung village called Dadri in Uttar Pradesh. We have also seen many political parties approaching the bereaved family assuring them all the facilities, cash compensations, etc. Many film fraternities and Secular journalists have written open letters, Facebook posts, tweets expressing their concern over the growing dissent in the country. Surprisingly, we have also seen PETA activists asking Hindus to stop prying in others’ food practices . Even the President and the Prime Minister has come out, addressed the media and expressed their condolences and have appealed for harmony among the communities.

Unfortunately, Prashanth Poojary ‘s murder didn’t get such coverage in the national media. Can there be a more unfortunate life than that in which the parents outlive their children?

What really happened

Prashanth Poojary belongs to a humble Hindu family, which runs a family business of selling flowers in Moodbidri, Karnataka. 29-year-old Prashanth Poojary was also involved in the organized efforts and operations to stop illegal cow slaughter and smuggling of cows. As per a report in a popular print media paper,  Prashanth Poojary was “guilty” of being the member of Bajrang Dal.

As per the reportage, the “alleged” murder of Prashanth Poojary took place like this:

“According to the information, six men in two motorcycles came to the market around 7 AM, to the place where Prashanth Poojary and his father regularly sells flowers. They attacked Poojary with sharp weapons and fled the spot.”

We must prudently look into the selective reporting of such incidents and their choice of words. They were very apprehensive in not revealing the religion of those “alleged” perpetrators. Prashanth’s father gave the names of the “alleged” attackers to the police. Yet, the police didn’t reveal the names of the “alleged” offenders neither they’ve shown progress of any kind as far as the case is concerned. Bajarang Dal’s regional convener Sharan demanded the police to take necessary action. Alok Mohan, the Additional Director-General of Police, assured the public that they are on the trawl of offenders and they will be arrested soon.

VHP and BJP protests

Addressing the press meet in Moodbidri, VHP district president Jagadish Shenava exposed some shocking facts to the public while demanding 25 lakh rupees as a compensation for Prashanth Poojary’s family.

He said, “From past two years in the state, groups like SDPI (Social Democratic Party of India) and PFI (Popular Front India) goons have been involved in anti-national activities, cattle smuggling, slaughtering of cattle, love jihad to disturb the harmony among the communities”.

He also alleged that, “The Congress government in Karnataka has withdrawn many cases that was lodged against PFI and SDPI in which they were allegedly involving in the terrorist activities. Since the case withdrawal, the incident of cow smuggling and slaughtering has increased”.

VHP also said that, they will raise funds of 10 lakh rupees for Prashanth’s family. Karkala BJP MLA Sunil Kumar has urged the state government to give a compensation of 25 lakh. BJP MP Nalin Kumar Kateel also demanded a compensation of 25 lakh rupees to the family of Prashanth Poojary. He also hinted that, the Congress leaders are behind the incident. He criticized the district minister P. Ramanath Rai of Congress for being silence on the issue.

Eyewitness of the murder found dead

Sixty-six-year-old Vaman Poojary, who was an eyewitness of Prashanth Poojary ‘s murder died under mysterious circumstances. Vaman Poojary was a tender coconut vendor that owns the shop right next to the flower shop of Prashanth Poojary.

Circumstantial evidences also reveal that Vaman Poojary was traumatized upon witnessing murder of Prashanth Poojary and he wasn’t conversing with anyone since then. He probably would have been facing threats to his life too. But according to the police, Vaman Poojary “may” have committed suicide for reasons unknown.

Dadri vs. Moodbidri

Our media has no qualms in declaring the religion of the mobs that “allegedly” attacked Aklaqh of Dadri. Even the CM of Delhi Arvind Kejriwal went ahead and called the attackers Hindu. Would he or the media follow a similar standard while reporting Prashanth Poojary’s incident? No.

The attackers became “alleged attackers” and their religion, names, etc. Well … they were concealed like they are always concealed in similar cases!

Incidents like Dadri put India’s delicate yet unique plurality at risk, as per the Indian Secular Media. But incidents like Moobidri don’t. – The Frustrated Indian, 18 October 2015

» Pradeep Thyagaraja is a Technology Specialist at Bengaluru.

Weeping Cow

The double standards of our civil society – Balbir Punj

Balbir Punj“Is it not ironical that the Leftists of various hues arrogate themselves the leadership of secular and democratic values while their record on these counts is dismal? During the fateful years preceding Independence in 1947, the Communists actively worked with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the British for the creation of Pakistan—a country whose foundation was wedded to theocracy and has subsequently emerged as a petri-dish of terror in the region.” – Balbir Punj

Swami Lakshmanananda SaraswatiThe daylight killing of Karnataka scholar M. M. Kalburgi in Dharwar is an act that deserves downright condemnation from the entire civil society. Surprisingly, most of those leading the charge against the evil deed represent ideologies and organisations that usually endorse violence in the name of social justice and demand leniency for those who are convicted of heinous crimes such as murders and bomb explosions. One cannot recall even one of them raising his/her voice when octogenarian Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati’s frail body was riddled with bullets on August 23, 2008, in the deep forests of Kandhamal district of Odisha. His murderers broke open the door of the toilet when he was busy with his ablutions.

What was Swamiji’s fault? He had spent a lifetime serving the poor tribals in the remote forests of the backward state, helping them save their ancestral faith and identity from those who believe in buying souls in exchange for a loaf of bread, or use the tribals as fodder in their war against the state of India on behalf of their foreign masters (read China).

Brinda Karat (CPI-M)On September 30, 2013, nearly five years after the dastardly assassination of the 82-year-old highly revered Swami and four of his disciples, seven persons—all Christians—were convicted for the hate crime. The Swami and the string of institutions he used to run were major irritants to both the Maoists and the Church which are active in the area, pushing their respective agendas. Even as this column is being written, a prominent multi-edition South-based English daily this morning (Sept. 4), has carried an edit page article by a top CPM leader in which she has termed the judgment in the Swamiji’s murder case “atrocious”.

Defending those convicted, she says, their “crime is that they are Adivasi, they are Dalit, they are poor and they are Christian”. See the contradiction. While hell is being raised over Kalburgi’s murder, a campaign is simultaneously on to secure the release of those found guilty of killing the Swami and four of his devotees. Should those claiming to be speaking on behalf of civil society attribute motives to the judiciary? The conviction followed professional investigations by the police and went through the due process of law, which provided enough opportunity to those found guilty to defend themselves. Kalburgi’s murder was surely an un-Hindu act, and those who committed it deserve no sympathy whatsoever.

The law should take its own course and the guilty must certainly be made to pay for it. However,  can there be double standards in such cases? Should the ideology and faith of the victim and perpetrator colour the response of civil society to such sordid crimes?

Godhra Train BurningDo we remember what the first reaction of the ‘secularists’ was when 59 kar sevaks returning from a pilgrimage to Ayodhya were roasted alive by a mob fired by religious zeal at Godhra on the fateful morning of February 27, 2002? It’s a matter of eternal shame for them that in their initial reaction, they sought to blame the victims for their fiery end.

One multi-edition English daily (which claims to have the highest circulation and readership in the National Capital Region) carried an editorial the following day which said that the kar sevaks had brought upon themselves their horrible fate with their highly ‘provocative’ action of visiting Ayodhya and raising slogans hailing Lord Rama!

After the UPA was voted to power in May 2004, within four months (September 2004) its Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav (an icon of ‘secularism’ ) appointed an inquiry into the Godhra episode headed by Justice Umesh Chandra Banerjee. In tune with the ‘secular’ line, the Banerjee committee held that it was an “accidental fire”, implicitly absolving all the criminals of their heinous deed. Later, the Gujarat High Court declared the formation of the committee ‘unconstitutional, illegal and null and void”. The high Court further termed the committee’s formation a “colourable exercise of power with malafide intentions”.

Generally, the intellectuals and activists who are guilty of such double standards belong to the Left, and they lay exclusive claim to secularism. It is because of such intellectual dishonesty on their part that violence against political and ideological opponents is central to public discourse in Kerala and West Bengal, the two states in which the Communists have enjoyed a dominant position over the past three decades and more.

Jinnah with MountbattensIs it not ironical that the Leftists of various hues arrogate themselves the leadership of secular and democratic values while their record on these counts is dismal? During the fateful years preceding Independence in 1947, the Communists actively worked with Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the British for the creation of Pakistan—a country whose foundation was wedded to theocracy and has subsequently emerged as a petri-dish of terror in the region.

Coming back to Kalburgi’s murder case, one should not hazard a guess either about the identity of the murderers or their motives till the police investigations conclude. However, killing someone for his/her views is alien to Indian traditions and philosophy.

The New Encyclopaedia Britanica says, “In principle, Hinduism incorporates all forms of belief and worship without necessitating the selection or elimination of any. It is axiomatic that no religious idea in India ever dies or is superseded; it is merely combined with the new ideas that arise in response to it.

Hindus are inclined to revere the divine in every manifestation, whatever it may be, and are doctrinally tolerant, allowing others—including both Hindus and non-Hindus—whatever beliefs suit them best.”

Muhammad bin Qasim was an Umayyad general who conquered the Sindh and Multan regions along the Indus River (now a part of Pakistan) for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was born and raised in the city of Taif (in modern-day Saudi Arabia). Qasim's conquest of Sindh and southern-most parts of Multan enabled further Islamic expansion into India.Where is the scope for any violence in such a pluralistic tradition? Distortions in the system crept in following the arrival of Islam (Muhammad bin Qasim in early eight century) and the Christian clergy led by Saint Francis Xavier  (in 1542) as invaders. The entry of foreign inspired Communist ideology, with its concepts of “class enemies and wars” in the 1920s, further added to this creed of intolerance and bigotry.

In the past century, global history was stained in innocent blood by Stalinist excesses in the name of exclusive claims to Marxist-Leninist ideological purity in Russia and eastern Europe, and Nazi-fascist atrocities on ethnic grounds on Jews in Germany.

History may repeat itself first as a tragedy and then as a farce. But the lesson of self-proclaimed revolutions, whether in the name of the dictatorship of the proletariat or of the monopolists of purity in the name of religion, is the same: unity through diversity of thought and respect for it is the best bet to real and sustained democracy in action. – The New Indian Express, 4 September 2015

» Balbir Punj is a Delhi-based commentator on political and social issues. E-mail: punjbalbir@gmail.com

The pathology of the rich white American family – Chris Hedges

Chris HedgesRich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq. They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. … Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a war on terror. Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.” – Chris Hedges

George Bush and Saudi KingThe pathology of the rich white family is the most dangerous pathology in America. The rich white family is cursed with too much money and privilege. It is devoid of empathy, the result of lifetimes of entitlement. It has little sense of loyalty and lacks the capacity for self-sacrifice. Its definition of friendship is reduced to “What can you do for me?” It is possessed by an Dick Cheney, George W. Bush & Donald Rumsfeldinsatiable lust to increase its fortunes and power. It believes that wealth and privilege confer to it a superior intelligence and virtue. It is infused with an unchecked hedonism and narcissism. And because of all this, it interprets reality through a lens of self-adulation and greed that renders it delusional. The rich white family is a menace. The pathologies of the poor, when set against the pathologies of rich white people, are like a candle set beside the sun.

There are no shortages of acolytes and propagandists for rich white families. They dominate our airwaves. They blame poverty, societal breakdown, urban violence, drug use, domestic abuse and crime on the pathology of poor black families—not that they know any. They argue that poor black families disintegrate because of some inherent defect—here you can read between the lines that white people are better than black people—a defect that these poor families need to fix.

Peddle this simplistic and racist garbage and you will be given a column at The New York Times. It always pays to suck up to rich white families. If you are black and parrot this line, rich white people are overcome with joy. They go to extreme lengths to give you a platform. You can become president or a Supreme Court justice. You can get a television talk show or tenure at a university. You can get money for your foundation. You can publish self-help books. Your films will be funded. You might even be hired to run a company.

America Hate Black PeopleRich white families, their sycophants opine, have tried to help. Rich white families have given poor people numerous resources and government programs to lift them out of poverty. They have provided generous charity. But blacks, they say, along with other poor people of color, are defeated by self-destructive attitudes and behavior. Government programs are therefore wasted on these irresponsible people. Poor families, the sycophants tell us, will not be redeemed until they redeem themselves. We want to help, rich white people say, but poor black people need to pull up their pants, stay in school, get an education, find a job, say no to drugs and respect authority. If they don’t, they deserve what they get. And what the average black family ends up with in economic terms is a nickel for every dollar held by the average white family.

Starting at age 10 as a scholarship student at an elite New England boarding school, I was forced to make a study of the pathology of rich white families. It was not an experience I would recommend. Years later, by choice, I moved to Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood when I was a seminary student. I lived across the street from one of the poorest housing projects in the city, and I ran a small church in the inner city for nearly three years. I already had a deep distaste for rich white families, and that increased greatly after I saw what they did to the disenfranchised. Rich white people, I concluded after my childhood and Roxbury experiences, are sociopaths.

Roxbury, Boston 1974: Black student about to be stabbed with US flag pole.The misery and collapse of community and family in Roxbury were not caused by an inherent pathology within the black family. Rich people who treated the poor like human refuse caused the problems. Layers of institutionalized racism—the courts, the schools, the police, the probation officers, the banks, the easy access to drugs, the endemic unemployment and underemployment, the collapsing infrastructures and the prison system—effectively conspired to make sure the poor remained poor. Drug use, crime and disintegrating families are the result of poverty, not race. Poor whites replicate this behavior. Take away opportunity, infuse lives with despair and hopelessness, and this is what you get. But that is something rich white families do not want people to know. If it were known, the rich would have to take the blame.

Michael Kraus, Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner, social scientists at the University of California, did research that led them to conclude that the poor have more empathy than the rich. The poor, they argued, do not have the ability to dominate their environments. They must build relationships with others to survive. This requires that they be able to read the emotions of those around them and respond. It demands that they look after each other. And this makes them more empathetic. The rich, who can control their environments, do not need to bother with the concerns or emotions of others. They are in charge. What they want gets done. And the longer they live at the center of their own universe, the more callous, insensitive and cruel they become.

The rich white family has an unrivaled aptitude for crime. Members of rich white families run corporations into the ground (think Lehman Brothers), defraud stockholders and investors, sell toxic mortgages as gold-plated investments to pension funds, communities and schools, and then loot the U.S. Treasury when the whole thing implodes. They steal hundreds of millions of dollars on Wall Street through fraud and theft, pay little or no taxes, almost never go to jail, write laws and regulations that legalize their crimes and then are asked to become trustees at elite universities and sit on corporate boards. They set up foundations and are admired as philanthropists. And if they get into legal trouble, they have high-priced lawyers and connections among the political elites to get them out.

Percent of adult males incarcerated by race and ethnicity (2009).You have to hand it to rich white families. They steal with greater finesse than anyone else. If you are a poor black teenager and sprint out of a CVS with a few looted bottles of shampoo, you are likely to be shot in the back or sent to jail for years. If there were a Olympiad for crime, rich white families would sweep up all the medals; blacks would be lucky to come within a mile of the first elimination trial. I don’t know why black people even try to compete in this area. They are, by comparison, utter failures as criminals. The monarchs of crime are rich white people, who wallow in their pilfered wealth while locking away in prisons a huge percentage of poor men of color.

Christopher ColumbusRich white families are also the most efficient killers on the planet. This has been true for five centuries, starting with the conquest of the Americas and the genocide against Native Americans, and continuing through today’s wars in the Middle East. Rich white families themselves don’t actually kill. They are not about to risk their necks on city streets or in Iraq. They hire people, often poor, to kill for them. Rich white families wanted the petroleum of Iraq and, by waving the flag and spewing patriotic slogans, got a lot of poor kids to join the military and take the oil fields for them. Rich white people wanted endless war for the benefit of their arms industry and got it by calling for a war on terror. Rich white people wanted police to use lethal force against the poor with impunity and to arrest them, swelling U.S. prisons with 25 percent of the world’s prison population, so they set up a system of drug laws and militarized police departments to make it happen.

George W. Bush & Tony BlairThe beauty of making others kill on your behalf is you get to appear “reasonable” and “nice.” You get to chastise poor people and Muslims for being angry fanatics. You get to spread the message of tolerance with a cherubic smile—which means tolerating the crimes and violence of rich white people. Compare a drive-by shooting in Watts with the saturation bombing of Vietnam. Compare a gangland killing in Chicago with militarized police shooting a person of color almost every day. No one else knows how to churn out corpses like rich white people. One million dead in Iraq alone. And the rich and powerful kill staggering numbers of people and never go to prison. They can retire to a ranch in Crawford, Texas, and paint amateurish portraits of world leaders copied from Google Image Search.

Donald TrumpThere is no decadence like the decadence of rich white people. I knew a billionaire who in retirement spent his time on a yacht smoking weed and being catered to by a string of high-priced prostitutes. The children of rich white families—surrounded by servants and coddled in private schools, never having to fly on commercial airlines or take public transportation—develop a lassitude, sometimes accompanied by a drug habit, that often leads them to idle away their lives as social parasites. Mothers never have to be mothers. Fathers never have to be fathers. The help does the parenting. The rich live encased in little kingdoms, one guarded by their own private security, where the real world does not intrude. They are cultural philistines preoccupied with acquiring more wealth and more possessions. “Material success,” as C. Wright Mills wrote, “is their sole basis of authority.” They meld into the world of celebrity. And the organs of mass media, which they control, turn them into idols to be worshiped solely because they are rich. Public-relations specialists manufacture their public personas. Teams of lawyers harass and silence their critics. Acolytes affirm their sagacity. They soon believe their own fiction. 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1965 wrote what is known as the Moynihan Report, or “The Negro Family: The Case for National Action.” The report concluded that “at the heart of the deterioration of the fabric of Negro society is the deterioration of the Negro family.” The oppressed were to blame for their oppression. Social programs alone could not save the poor. The report offers a classic example of a neoliberal economic model repacked as an ideology.

Police guard Greek ATMsThe pathologies of the rich will soon drive us over an economic and ecological cliff. And as we go down, the rich, lacking empathy and understanding, determined to maintain their privilege and their wealth, will use their Praetorian Guard, their mass media, their corporate power, their political puppets and their security and surveillance apparatus to keep us submissive. “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account is a crime that has never been discovered, because it was properly executed,” Honoré de Balzac wrote of the rich in his novel Le Père Goriot. 

Bertrand Russell QuoteThe rich executed a coup d’état that transformed the three branches of the U.S. government and nearly all institutions, including the mass media, into wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. This coup gives the rich the license and the power to amass unimaginable wealth at our expense. It permits the rich to inflict grinding poverty on growing circles of the population. Poverty is the worst of crimes—as George Bernard Shaw wrote, “all the other crimes are virtues beside it.” And the ability of a rapacious power elite to let children go hungry, to let men and women suffer a loss of dignity and self-worth because there are no jobs, to abandon cities to decay and squalor, to toss the mentally ill and the homeless onto the streets, to slash the meager services that give some hope and succor to those who suffer, to lock hundreds of thousands of poor people in cages for years, to wage endless war, to burden students with crushing debt, to unleash state terror and to extinguish hope among the least fortunate exposes our wealthy oligarchs as the most dangerous and destructive force in America. – Truthdig, 17 June 2015

» Chris Hedges, whose column is published weekly on Truthdig, has written twelve books. He is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute in New York City, and has taught at Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University and The University of Toronto. He currently lives in Princeton and teaches prisoners at a maximum-security prison in New Jersey. In 2012, Hedges notably sued President Barack Obama after the passing of the National Defense Authorization Act. Unfortunately, the Obama Administration appealed, and the decision was overturned. In 2014 the the Supreme Court denied to review Hedges v. Obama. The act still allows for presidential authority for indefinite detention without habeas corpus. 

Black church burning in the USA

Black Church Fires June 2015

Friedrich Nietzsche Quote

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


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