Thursday, February 28, 2008

Leaders Express Concern At Surge In Hindutva Violence

BANGALORE, FEB. 28, 2008, 09.30 Hrs (CBCI News):
 
Christian leaders expressed "serious concern at surge in Hindutva violence as General Elections draw near"; seek CBI probe in Orissa violence during Christmas 2007 and allege complicity of police, bureaucracy alleged in many States.
 
The following is the text of the Press Statement issued on Thursday, 28th February 2008, at the Press Club, Bangalore, by Dr John Dayal, President, All India Catholic Union and Member, National Integration Council of India, Fr Adolph Washington, President, Indian Catholic Press Association, Fr Dr Ambrose Pinto, Mr Mariaswamy, Convener, Karnataka Dalith Christian Federation, and Mr Sam Joseph, All India Christian Council, Karnataka unit.
 
1. On the 6th anniversary of the massacres of Gujarat 2002, India's Christian Community joins other minorities and the Dalit and OBCs in welcoming President Pratibha Patil's assurance in the 2008 Budget Session of Parliament that "the Government will remain ever vigilant against the machinations of any anti-social and anti-national groups seeking to disrupt law and order, communal harmony and the unity and integrity of our Republic."
 
We also welcome the assurances of the Prime Minister's New 15 Point Programme hoping to ensure that benefits of the development programmes flow equitably to the minorities. But we also hope that the poor of the Christian Community, especially Dalit Christians will also benefit from the special programmes earmarked for Minorities. Our experience so far has been that the Christian community remains entirely untouched by such programmes.
 
2. But the guilty the mass murders of Muslims in 1993 and 2002 remain unpunished, as do those involved in the anti Sikh violence of 1984. The killers, rapists and attackers of Christian Nuns ad Pastors, the desecrators and destroyers of churches – an average of more than 200 hundred cases a year since 1998 -- also remain unpunished. In almost all cases, the assailants have been identified as members of the Sangh Parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the Adivasi Kalyan Sangh and their local units under various names.
 
3. We are deeply disturbed that despite the Union government' claims of vigilance against communal forces, the Sangh Parivar has been given a free run of the country. As the Bharatiya Janata Party targets power in Parliament and Major State Assemblies in the coming General Elections, including in Karnataka, the militant and armed Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal have unleashed terror in many States. Last Sunday, the Sangh gangs had the audacity to attack a Church in the heart of the National capital of New Delhi, while also carrying out simultaneous attacks on Churches in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and other states.
 
4. Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have also not been immune to the Sangh conspiracy to polarize society and to target both Muslim and Christian religious minorities. In Karnataka, it is widely known that the Sangh Parivar, once again aided and abetted by the bureaucracy and the police, is Communalising the environment and is demanding that Churches and Mosques not be allowed to be constructed in region such as Udipi. Devangere and other districts are also affected, and even in the capital of Bangaluru, it is becoming difficult for the community to even voice its protest without being accosted by the Sangh Parivar. Terrorism and political extremist violence are real threats to the nation, but the Sangh Parivar poses no less threat to the nation.
 
5. The situation, of course, remains critical in the Kandhamal District of the state of Orissa, where the BJP is a partner in the government – and the police are entirely siding with the Sangh Parivar. During Christmas 2007, over a 100 big and small churches were utterly destroyed, over 700 houses and 40 Christian shops burnt widespread arson, five convents, five presbyteries, the states major leprosaria ashram, seven hostels and training centres were set on fire. Even a cow was killed by Sangh terror mobs. Police and magistrates watched in most cases. Five Christians were killed in the mob violence, as also a Hindu. But while many arrests have been made, and even pastors tortured in the hunt for his killers, the murderers of the Christians go scot free. The arsonists are in fact members of so called government peace committed.
 
Three thousand Christians are in refugee camps in sub human conditions, the women subject of humiliation. Basic human dignity has been violated, and daily needs are not met. School going children face a bleak future wit no books, no coaching and no nourishment other than a fit barely fit for human consummation.
 
The police are refusing to register First Information Reports, and in fact turning on the Christian community. The senior administrators have as yet not been able to give any genuine assurance of tree rehabilitation of the victims who lost their houses to Sangh arsonists. The government must take steps to show to the world that Lakhmanand Saraswati, widely known to be behind the anti Christian violence, is not above the law. He and his hordes continue to spew hate, and terrorize the Christian victims.
 
The community desperately needs legal aid. It cannot trust the Judicial Commission headed by a retired judge which was announced two month ago, but is yet to start its work., Even before it begins it work, the commission has come under the pressure of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP ministers in the State government who have clearly made known that they expect the retired Orissa High Court Judge to indict the Christians for conversion rather than to identify the killers and the men who burnt the churches and the homes.
 
We reiterate our demand for a Government of India probe through the Central Bureau of Investigations.
 
6. The suffering of Dalit Christians remains unabated. The Supreme Court has had to repeatedly adjourn hearings in the Writ Petition by the Public Interest Litigation Centre and Dalit groups because of the Central government's refusal to commit itself as it did earlier for Dalit Sikhs and Buddhists. The National Commission headed by former Chief Justice Jagan Nath Misra accepted their demand for inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes. But the National Commission of Scheduled Castes headed by Dr. Buta Singh has said this can be done only through a fresh set of quotas. This will not be possible unless the Supreme Court raises the limits of reservations above 50 per cent. Effectively, government, court and commissions have been passing the buck to each other while millions of Dalit Christians and Muslims suffer a double discrimination.
 
7. We also call on the Supreme Court to ensure the neutrality of the subordinate judiciary, the district magistracy and the State police forces. The Supreme Court must also encourage the rebuilding of Civil Society which is currently in a state of hibernation and has been struck dumb out of fear of the Sangh Parivar. The religious minorities are being demonized as threats to national security, and therefore fit target of Sangh and official terror. Certain sections of the media have also fallen into this trap and are publishing or broadcasting stories without a shred of evidence.
 
Instead of chastising the few voices of protest from Human rights activists such as Ms. Teesta Setalvad, the highest court in the land must help strengthen the civil society and human rights movement in the country which alone can unite the minorities and the marginalised to face the onslaught of the Sangh Parivar, and to help preserve the unity and integrity of secular India.
 

 
 

Monday, February 25, 2008

SPEAKER EXPRESSES SURPRISE OVER CJI'S REPORTED STAND ON HEARING TEESTA SETALVAD....

 
Speaker expresses surprise over CJI's reported stand on hearing Teesta Setalvad
 
Venkitesh Ramakrishnan
 
Stresses the need for judicial accountability, clear demarcation of roles
 
New Delhi: Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee expressed surprise over Chief Justice of India K. G. Balakrishnan's reported statement that he would not hear social activist Teesta Setalvad or anybody associated with her. Talking to Hindu The on the eve of the budget session of Parliament, Mr. Chatterjee wondered whether anybody in this country could be denied a hearing in a court of law. He also expressed doubt whether the Chief Justice has been recoded properly or not.
 
The Speaker observed: "I do not know of any procedure known to law or the Constitution that would allow this [a denial of a hearing before a court of law]. You can dismiss something on merit. You can refuse to admit a petition. But you cannot say that you would not hear X and Y."
 
The Chief Justice made the remarks pertaining to Ms. Setalvad in the Supreme Court on February 19 while expressing outrage over an article written by the Mumbai-based social activist.
 
The article titled "Shame, shame: A travesty of justice" criticised the Supreme Court for its handling of the bail applications of 84 persons accused in the criminal case relating to the Godhra calamity of February 2002, which was followed by widespread violence against Muslims in Gujarat. The article was originally published in Mathrubhumi weekly. The Chief Justice referred to the article in court and termed it "shameful." He added: "If she [Ms Setalvad] is representing these persons [the Godhra accused], we do not want to hear them."
 
The question relating to the remarks of the Chief Justice on Ms. Setalvad came up in the context of the Judges (Inquiry) Bill, 2006, which is expected to be advanced in the forthcoming session of Parliament.
 
The Bill has the objective of establishing a National Judicial Council (NJC) to conduct inquiries into allegations of incapacity or misbehaviour by High Court and Supreme Court judges. Asked specifically whether it would be enough to give a statutory basis to the existing in-house procedures of inquiry, as visualised in the present Bill or whether outside elements should be involved in the scrutiny of various segments of the judiciary, the Speaker said he had nothing to say about the merits of the Bill since his job entailed him only to pronounce whether a bill had been passed or not.
 
"However," Mr. Chatterjee added, "as a citizen of this country and as a lawyer who had practised for many decades, it is a matter of agony if there is even a whisper of an allegation against a judicial officer … But the fact is that allegations against judicial officers are becoming a reality. One Chief Justice has said that only 20 per cent of the judges are corrupt. Another judge has lamented that there are no internal procedures to look into the allegations. Therefore, the necessity of a mechanism is being emphasised by the judges themselves. Then the question arises as to how this mechanism would be brought about and as to who would bring it. The fact of the matter is that the judiciary is the only unique institution that has no accountability to the people in a democracy. In this overall context, it is absolutely essential to involve outside elements in the process of judicial accountability."
 
The Speaker emphasised, in his interview to Hindu The, that an impression was being wrongly given and propagated of a judiciary-versus-parliament situation. "What is this 'versus' business? The legislature has its own area, the judiciary has its own area, and the executive has its own obligations. My only contention is that nobody should assume the role of infallibility. If the legislature is not doing its job, the people will kick us out. It has happened in the past and it has showed that we are a mature democracy."
 
 
Judiciary should encourage fair criticism: Pranab
 
Rakesh Bhatnagar. New Delhi
 
External affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday joined the chorus on judicial delays that has resulted in people taking law into their own hands. He underlined the need for strengthening judicial infrastructure.
Mukherjee kept himself away from the divergent perceptions of president Pratibha Patil and chief justice KG Balakrishnan on judicial delays and its effects on governance. "A constant problem is that of reconciling the conflicting demands of judicial independence and tenure with the demands of accountability and essential levels of judicial competence," said Mukherjee. "In my view, constructive criticism should be encouraged," Mukherjee said in his valedictory address at the all-India seminar on judicial reforms organised by the Confederation of Indian Bar, headed by senior advocate Pravin Parekh here on Sunday.
Mukherjee also sought reducing the gap between high expectations of the people from the judiciary and the dismal achievement in certain areas of dispensation. President Patil's dismay at the dispensation system was influenced by fresh reports on the public lynching of an offender and the CJI said it was due to the deficit in governance.
SC judge Ashok Bhan expressed his displeasure at the misinformation put out by the media about the judiciary. "No body can accuse the judiciary of delays," he said and called upon the government to provide 50 judges for a million population against the existing 1.5 judge ratio. At a similar function two years ago, president APJ Kalam had warned that if longevity of cases continued, people would resort to extra-judicial methods. The then law minister had warned of agitations like the naxalite violence due to judiciary's approach and the then CJI YK Sabharwal had said the justice delivery system has reached its 'nadir'.
 
 
 
 
legalwoes - More judges won\'t help courts: Speaker
 
Nagendar Sharma and Satya Prakash
 
New Delhi
 
A DAY after President Pratibha Patil slammed the judiciary for huge pendency Lok Sabha , Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has questioned the decision to increase the number of Supreme Court judges, saying it would not solve the problem until the courts did better scrutiny at the time of admitting petitions.
 
Speaking to a group of re porters, Chatterjee said: "My humble experience is more the number of judges, more would be the arrears. I would prefer quality and determination, not showmanship. Much greater scrutiny is required at the time of admission of cases."
 
Chatterjee said the decision to increase the number of Supreme Court judges would prove to be counter-productive, as has been seen in high courts and lower courts. He appealed to the judiciary to give priority to cases of public importance.
 
"How many of the petitions really deserved even admission and how many of the cases would ever be disposed off on merits? I may not be misunderstood for holding the view that mere increase in the number of judges will only result in more pending cases and inevitably more delay," he said.
 
The Speaker criticised the judiciary for resisting any change in the procedure for appointment of judges and questioned the procedure, saying: "India is perhaps the only country in the world where judges appoint themselves. They have completely taken this power and judiciary is the only institution which has no accountability ."
 
Chatterjee said it was essential to involve people from outside the judiciary in the appointment of judges.
 
Meanwhile, on Sunday, was External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's turn to give some advice to the judges.
 
Addressing a seminar on Judicial Reforms organised by Confederation of Indian Bar, he asked Judges to display functional excellence.
 
"A judge has to be possessed of excellence not only from within but he should also visibly display the functional excellence, which is necessary to fulfil the constitutional promise of justice by the judiciary as a whole."
 
nagendar.sharma@hindustantimes.com JUDICIAL DILEMMA ¦ On Saturday, President Pratibha Patil said that pendency in cases was frustrating common people. ¦ She had warned against people taking law into their hands and mobs lynching accused. ¦ Speaker Somnath Chatterjee says judiciary must concentrate on public importance matters. ¦ He slammed judiciary for resisting accountability measures.
 
 
 
 
Speaker ire on plan for more judges
 
'Increasing Numbers Won't Do, Quality Of Judges Matters'
 
Manoj Mitta | TNN
 
New Delhi. Without mincing words on a plan to increase the strength of the Supreme Court, Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said on Sunday: "In my humble experience of 50 years, the more the judges, the more the arrears. I prefer quality to quantity and a greater display of determination rather than showmanship.''
Speaking to a few journalists, Chatterjee said the arrears could be reduced if judges exercised "greater scrutiny'' at the admission stage. He lamented the growing trend of judges admitting petitions "in galore''and the "competitive liberalism'' among them to entertain petitions just to pass interim orders.
In an unusual attack on a bill due to be introduced shortly in Parliament, he said the trend of admitting petitions for the sake of passing stay orders was clear as those matters don't come up for final hearing for years, adding to arrears.
"We hardly discuss the role of the bench and the bar in the proliferation of cases,'' he said, adding, "The test of popularity of a judge seems to be how liberal he or she is in admitting cases and giving interim orders, often without even touching the papers."
Chatterjee also pointed out that the arrears problem was aggravated by the failure of the judiciary to fill up vacancies. Striking a discordant note on the pending judges (inquiry) bill, which seeks to provide a statutory basis to the existing in-house procedure of judicial accountability, he rejected the claim that the involvement of outsiders would compromise the independence of the judiciary. "With all respect to judges, it is essential to involve outsiders. The whole notion of insularity is wrong and it's time this assumption of judicial infallibility is discarded,'' he said.
Chatterjee's view tallies with the recommendation of the standing committee, headed by Congress MP Sudarshan Nachiappan, that eminent members from outside the judiciary should be associated with the selection as well as accountability of judges.
Candid as ever, Chatterjee reacted adversely to CJI K G Balakrishnan's outburst on activist Teesta Setalvad for criticising the SC's delay in hearing the bail pleas of 84 accused in the Godhra case. On the CJI's declaration that he wouldn't hear the plea of anybody associated with Setalvad, Chatterjee wondered, "Can anybody be denied a hearing in the court of law? You can dismiss a case on merits. But how can a judge say he won't hear somebody?"
Refuting reports of a judiciary vs legislature battle, he said that while he did not believe in confrontation, "I respond when there is a deliberate denigration of Parliament."
 
 
 
 
Concern over CJI's observations
 
Special Correspondent
 
NEW DELHI: Intellectuals, artists and women activists have expressed deep concern over the observations of Chief Justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan against human rights activist Teesta Setalvad in open court on February 19.
 
Not only Ms. Setalvad but thousands all over the country were disturbed and anguished by the inordinate delay in dealing with the cases of victims of Gujarat riots in the Supreme Court, they said in an open letter to the Chief Justice.
 
Mr. Justice Balakrishnan had taken strong exception to an article written by Ms. Setalvad criticising the apex court for the delay in disposal of the cases.
 
"You may be aware that the issue of court delay has also been raised in Parliament, in the National Integration Council, and other fora. In this context, to single out for public criticism Teesta Setalvad, a citizen who has crusaded tirelessly for the rights of victims both inside and outside the court at great personal cost, may tend to send a wrong message," the letter said.
 
"In a democracy, every wing of the State, including the judiciary, needs to have a healthy and robust attitude towards critiques which are not motivated in any sense of the word. Are such remarks, especially without giving an opportunity to a committed activist to be heard befitting of the highest court in the land," the letter said.
 
The task of ensuring judicial accountability and sensitivity at the highest levels was a heavy responsibility, which ultimately rested on the shoulders of the Chief Justice.
 
"Since the Supreme Court is the final arbiter, we request that this issue may be examined in the proper context, and we hope for your intervention to ensure that the faith that people have reposed in the judicial system may be vindicated and upheld," the letter said.
 
The signatories include Brinda Karat, Vina Mazumdar, Jayati Ghosh, Githa Hariharan, Rajni Palriwala, Syeed Mirza, M.K Raina, Indra Chandrashekhar, Rajan Prasad, Virendra Saini, Ram Rehman, Madan Gopal Singh, Madhu Prasad, Urvasi Butalia, Ayesha Kidwai, Hafsa Noomani, Naheed Taban, Rahul Roy, Vineeta Bal, Nirmalangshu Mukherjee, Archana Prasad, Vandana Prasad, T.K. Rajalakshmi, Sudha Sundararaman, Primila Loomba, Kalpana David, Jyotsna Chatterjee and Sughra Mehdi.
 
 

 
 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Demand action on Justice Ranganath Misra Commission Report

A museum of resistance to come up in Gujarat
Posted February 19th, 2008 by Tarique Anwar

By TwoCircles.net news desk

Gulberg Society: A Museum of Resistance. Yes, this will be the name of the museum of its own kind to come up in Gujarat, and also in India for the first time. The museum will map several instances of communal violence and victimization perpetuated over decades in India.

Be it the survivors from Meerut or Bhagalpur, victimised Kashmiri Pundits or Muslims of Jammu & Kashmir or Sikh survivors of 1984 – all victims of violence, regardless of community, will find a space and a voice at the museum. A brainchild of social activist Teesta Setalvad, the museum of resistance (only Bangladesh on the subcontinent has one such resistance museum) will consist of films, documents, art and literature related to communal violence.

The Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace have been working on the project for one year. Why they chose Gulberg Society for the museum has logic. On 28th February 2002 as Gujarat was scarred deeply through well planned pogrom, Gulberg Society in Ahmedabad witnessed 70 of its people massacred. For over six years, these two organizations have together resisted the sale of this housing society to hawks from among the criminals. The space today is empty but full of battered memories of the victims and survivors.

These NGOs have devoted the better part of two and a half decades combating the forces of communalism, hatred and division. By establishing this museum, they want to institutionalise their efforts for the future.

The museum will be a professionally built institution that will acknowledge the horrors and scale of communal conflict that has plagued independent India and contain widespread documentation of the same. Victim survivors of those acts of violence will be the soul and centre of this museum.

To make their dream project a reality, the organizations need individual and generous contributions. Contributions should be made to Sabrang Trust, Mumbai. These will be publicly displayed in a scroll of honour. The members of the Board of Trustees of these two organizations include prominent citizens of the country Vijay Tendulkar, Alyque Padamsee, Javed Akhtar and Rahul Bose.

This has been a precious project, close to our hearts for the past six months to a year.

We also know that there will be bumps and roadblocks on the road ahead, as a vindictive state tries to thwart us at every juncture. We know that this idea, one of its kind, must be located in Gujarat (Only Bangladesh on the subcontinent has one such resistance museum). We know, therefore that this must become a reality. Part of the battle against the state wll be building up a Movement for the Gulberg Society--Museum of Resistance with the support of each and all of you.

For this we need you. And all your ideas. For the victim survivors of Gujarat 2002, for those of us at Sabrang and Citizens for Justice and Peace who have devoted the better part of two and a half decades battling the forces of communalism, hatred and division, this will be an effort, unqiue and the first, to institutionalise these efforts for the future. All documentation, posters and films that we have accessed, and archived, including our own will be housed in the Gulberg Society---Museum of Resistance. Narratives of survivors, communities will enjoy a special focus here.

We also would like to invite you to a Day Night Vigil at the Gulberg Society on February 28, 2008 to commemorate Six years of the Genocide of Gujarat 2002 and to formally inaugurate this idea and movement.

Gulberg Society: A Museum of Resistance

Gulberg Museum of Resistance will be a professionally built institution of resistance that acknowledges the horrors and scale of inter community conflict that has plagued independent India and contain widespread documentation of the same. Victim survivors will be the soul and centre of this museum of resistance and will every year commemorate the February 28, 2002 with prayers and remembrances. Films, documents, art and literature on the subject will be available on the site that will become a live centre of activities for the anti-communal movement in the country. No one will, when this project is complete, be able to arrive in Ahmedabad city without paying a visit to what transpired here in 2002.

Be it Gulberg Society, Meghaninagar, Ahmedabad, Naroda, Sardarpura or Odh, the locations of orgies of violence stand as ghostlike relics even today. The tiny blocks, apartments and homes within Gulberg Society in the city of Ahmedabad have evidence of the depth and scale of the violence unleashed in the damaged and scarred walls, cracked by ravaging furnaces of flames that charred electric connections. Room after room and home after home in this society will be sombre reminders to us all, supporters of the resistance, of the horrors unleashed by communal violence.



For this to happen and to ensure safe passage of sale to the survivors, we are inviting individual and generous contributions that will make this dream come true. Contributions should be made to Sabrang Trust, Mumbai. These will be publicly displayed in a scroll of honour.

In remembrance of Gujarat 2002 before and after

Hailing from India's largest religious minority, Gujarat's survivors today live in hope of justice that has in most cases, been delayed if not denied. Nineteen of Gujarat's 25 districts were torn apart by bitter targeted strife that left 2,500 dead. To date, of the total of 413 'missing' bodies, 228 have not been found. Four hundred girls and women were victims of sexual violence. Over 1,68,000 persons were turned, overnight by a remorseless administration into internally displaced persons. Totally, 23,873 homes were seriously damaged or totally destroyed. A total of 14,330 shops, informal businesses and 1,100 hotels were irretrievably damaged. Six years later, the victim survivors face a denial of justice and pathetic compensation. Of the 566 Mosques, Dargahs, Madrassas and Churches specifically targeted in the violence, 167 have still not been repaired. Few were repaired through state funds, a vast majority through community funding.

Members of the Board of Trustees of Sabrang and CJP:

Vijay Tendulkar (President), IM Kadri (Vice-President), Arvind Krishnaswamy (Treasurer),Alyque Padamsee, Javed Anand, Cyrus Guzder, Javed Akhtar, Gulam Mohammed Peshimam, Nandan Maluste, Anil Dharkar, Rahul Bose and Cedric Prakash.

Link: http://www.sabrang.com/



WAS CJI RAP ON TEESTA TOO HARSH ?

THE TIMES OF INDIA
21 Feb 2008, 0122 hrs IST, Manoj Mitta, TNN
NEW DELHI. The last time any strictures were passed on her was in 2003, when the Gujarat HC infamously upheld the acquittal of all the accused in the Best Bakery case.

The following year, the Supreme Court not only ordered a retrial in Mumbai but also expunged all adverse references to activist Teesta Setalvad in the HC verdict. So, why does the same Supreme Court now find an article of hers on Gujarat riots "shameful" and declare that it would not entertain the grievances of anybody associated with her?

The outburst of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan on Tuesday is surprising given that the article titled, "Shame, shame: A travesty of justice," seems to be a legitimate critique of the Supreme Court for its handling of the bail applications of the 84 persons accused of the Godhra coach fire.

Published this month in Malayalam magazine Mathrubhoomi in CJI's home state Kerala, Setalvad's article gives the sequence of the excuses trotted out by the court over six hearings in the last one year for not being able to hear the bail applications of so many Godhra accused. This is despite the fact that most of the accused, as the article asserts, are "innocent" as they were picked up on the basis of "cooked up police witnesses" and one of them is a "100% blind boy."

Further, it is almost three years since the Central Pota Review Committee held that none of the alleged offences in the Godhra case warranted the invocation of the draconian law designed to deny bail. Though terror charges against MDMK leader Vaiko were dropped on the recommendation of the same panel, the courts have failed to follow that precedent in the Godhra case.

More seriously, Setalvad's article makes out a case of "discriminatory justice". While hundreds of Hindu accused in the post-Godhra riot cases are roaming free, the Muslim accused in the Godhra coach burning case have been languishing in jail for six years for want of a hearing of their bail applications.

"Can such a blatantly discriminatory scheme of dispensation of criminal justice win the faith of a community that is at the receiving end? Can no questions be asked about the system in operation in the Supreme Court? Which matters get automatic priority and which do not?" are some of the questions asked by Setalvad as a consumer of justice.

Justice Balakrishnan's attack on Setalvad without giving her an opportunity to defend herself is reminiscent of the very lapse of the Gujarat high court that the Supreme Court corrected in 2004.

"Observations should not be made by courts against persons or authorities unless they are essential or necessary for decision of the case," Justice Arijit Pasayat ruled, while deleting HC's strictures on Setalvad.

SHAME, SHAME, A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE

by Teesta Setalvad
Come February-March 2008, six years down after post independent India's worst ever communal carnage, victims, perpetrators and masterminds not only roam free but have now, obtained redoubled electoral legitimacy. In year 2002 itself, those accused who were politically powerful and monied in caste and monetary terms obtained easy bail from Gujarat's courts. (the Citizens for Justice and Peace has placed a tabulation of over 600 bail orders on the record of the Supreme Court demonstrating this and Tehelka's Operation Kalank has some further evidence in this regard). In sharp contrast, six years down, 84 persons accused of the Godhra coach fire ---- most of the accused are innocent having just been picked up on the basis of cooked up police witnesses, one is a boy 100 per cent blind!!--still rot in Gujarat's jails years after the incident.
The fact that many of them are ill, one is blind; the fact that their families have been reduced to penury and indignity while the main accused and masterminds of the post-Godhra carnages not only roam free but rule Gujarat by action and word, raises the niggling, troublesome question once again. Discriminatory justice. Can a discriminatory system of justice be viable in principle, given what our Constitution espouses? What does this reality mean in practical terms, given that today we also face the challenge of another kind of terror, internationally supported bomb terror? Can such a blatantly discriminatory scheme of dispensation of criminal justice win the faith of each and every system, particularly a community that is at the receiving end of such a system.
Bail is a natural and normal remedy for any accused according to our system of criminal jurisprudence. Even draconian laws, anti terror laws that have questionable provisions on bail, simply do not allow for sustained and continued detention of persons in this fashion. How then can Indian democracy, booming in its growth rate, shining with the glitter of development explain away the dark crevices of sustained institutionalised torture and prejudice?
Some interesting points in this shameful tale are: Godhra Hindu Victims of the S-6 Coach of Sabaramati Express also asked for Transfer of the Godhra Trial Out of Gujarat in SC. In October 2003 Hindu victims of the Train Burning Filed a case for Transfering the Godhra Trial out of Gujarat. It was following this application by CJP that the Godhra Trial was stayed by the SC in November 2003.
There has been no bail order for the Godhra accused since October 2004 from the Courts.The last bail order was granted by the Gujarat High Court on October 30, 2004. The court has simply not heard any bail applications since. One of the 22 absconding accused, a maulvi, was implicated in the crime by an accused/witness, Sikandar, who stated that the maulvi was allegedly seen on the terrace of a Masjid at Godhra (ostensibly planning the conspiracy) although it was later established that the Maulvi was in Maharashtra and not even in Godhra on the relevant day. There were many serious discrepancies in the arrests, glaring inconsistencies that have been pointed out to the state, which simply refuses to address these concerns.
Worst of all, after a change of government at the center in 2004 and the repealment of POTA, the Central Review Committee after examining the issues at hand, ruled that POTA is not applicable to Godhra, May 2005.
Legal provisions under POTA allow for the review of individual cases by a central review committee to prevent misuse of the Act and its draconian provisions. A decision by the Central Review Committee on May 16, 2005 ruled that none of the alleged offences in the Godhra case warranted the invocation of POTA. However, the committee's decision has not been taken into consideration by either the Gujarat government or the POTA court. Matters relating to bail for the accused, especially in view of the decision by the Central Review Committee, have been brought before the apex court. However these too have faced repeated delays.
Finally, the Supreme Court permits Accused to File Writs for Bail, No Bail after Six Hearings. Following an order of the Supreme Court in late 2006, giving liberty to all accused to file for bail while hearing the matters relating to the findings of the Central POTA Review Committee, seven separate such applications have been filed. Despite six-seven hearings in the matter, the matter has not been seen fit to be heard.
Tomorrow the matter comes up before the Supreme Court. Will justice be done?
In the ultimate analysis, genuine secularism and constitutional governance must mean that issues of mass violence, accountability, transparency, impunity for mass murderers and government officials, are not merely the stuff of election campaigns but the basis on which the balance sheets of our public servants and representatives are drawn. Only then would we have made the transition from a purely electoral democracy to true constitutional democracy.

Accompanying BOX
Judiciary Watch
Once more a serious denial of basic fundamental rights has been caused today by the delay caused by either insensitive or unaccountable listing procedures of the registry of the apex court of India, the Supreme Court.
As a result, 84 of those allegedly accused of the Godhra train burning (one of whom is near hundred per cent blind) have been denied their personal liberty for six years. Bail is the fundamental prerequisite inalienable fundamental right to any and every accused under Indian criminal law and civilized form of jurisprudence. Even draconian anti-terror laws that are severely contested because they vest untested powers on the police and executive, do not ever condone custody for such a long time.
Here's the Chronology of the Godhra Bail Matters before the Supreme Court
Chronology:
22.2.07. Through an order of outgoing SC Judge Justice BP Singh, the SC ruled that the Godhra accused could fie bail applications before the SC. The matter being considered was the Report of the Central POTA Review Committee that had held that the provisions of the POTA legislation could not be applied to the Godhra case.
10.4.2007 Bail applications are filed in the SC
9.4.2007. Matter is listed by the Registry but not heard because the Court is hearing the All India Judges Association Matter. Plus the summer vacation is after two days. The SC thus directs hat the bail applications should be listed for " final disposal" on 18.7.2007 after the vacation. What happens after these directions? After the vacation and on SC's reopening on 18.7.2007, there is no sign of the matter.

First week of August 2007. The matter is again listed on a miscellaneous day at which point, accused reps and counsel travelling at their own cost from Godhra again point out to the court that this matter must be listed on a non-miscellaneous day so final arguments can be completed.
For two and a half to three months no matters are listed as Judges are sitting on the Constitution Bench. Thereafter though matters are shown as pending on the SC list o November 18-19 they are not listed by the Registry.
21.11.2007 Matter is again mentioned by legal reps of the bail accused after which Court asks Registry to list.
First Week of December 2007. Again Bail Matters that are clubbed with POTA Review Committee Matter are listed on a miscellaneous day which means that arguments an never be completed.
12.12.2007. Matters are shown as listed before the Chief Justice and Panchal. Hence again reps of bail accused mention the matter on 11.12.2007 pointing out that since Justice Panchal hails from Gujarat and his brother is a Public Prosecutor for the state of Gujarat, the matter could not be before him. The Court agrees. Again, what does the Registry do?
12.12.2007. Fully knowing the circumstances behind which the matter had been mentioned on 11.11.2007, the Registry still lists the matter before Justices Agrawal and Singhvi. (Justice Singhvi had heard the POTA REVIEW COMMITTEE matter earlier and hence would face similar issues as Justice Panchal). Sure enough, the next day Justice Singhvi says " not before me." One more chance to argue the matter and get bail for the victims is lost.
12.12.2007. Agitated, the reps of the bail accused mention the matter again the same afternoon before the Chief pointing out this repeated problem from the registry. The CJ directs that the matter should be mentioned in the second week of January after which he would constitute a special three judge bench and list it for the third week of January.
17.1.2008 Unmindful it appears of the CJ's order, the Registry lists it on Thursday which may be a non miscellaneous day but which also means that arguments will spill over to the following week. In the first instance the matter is shown as listed before Justices Bhan, Sinha and Mathur. Late the evening before, that is on Wednesday 16.1.2007 it is shown as appearing before the CJ, Ravindran and Panchal. What does it mean that the Registry again lists it before a Judge who cannot hear the matter. On 17.1.2008 Once again, the CJ says it would be posted next week or at the earliest. Personal liberty is denied and no questions ae asked as to what is going on within the Registry of the highest court in the land.
Can no questions be asked about the systems in operation in the Supreme Court of India?
Which matters get automatic priority and which do not?
Which matters suffer because of the delays and interim orders of the Supreme Court?
Is there no prioritization of cases where issues of personal liberty, denial of basic fundamental rights, mass crimes and impunity to the rich and powerful is concerned?
If we can ask no questions, we will receive no answers.
The time has come to question the basic accountability procedures of the highest court in the land.
Has the Supreme Court of India lost its soul and is it turning a blind eye to cases related to fundamental rights violations?
If so, where then do we turn?
--TS

Saturday, February 16, 2008

PETITION TO THE NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION RE. REPEATED GANGRAPE OF A PTC COLLEGE STUDENT BY HER PROFESSORS IN PATAN, NORTH GUJARAT....

5th February 2008
 

The Chairman
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)
Faridkot House
Copernicus Marg
New Delhi 110 001
 

Dear Sir,
 
Both, the electronic and print media have brought to our attention, the shocking incident of gang rape of a young girl by her Professors in the Primary Teachers Training College at Patan, in North Gujarat.
 
The very thought that such a dastardly act could take place, is revolting.
 
Apparently,  according  to  media  reports,  there are about ninety-eight girls from the institution who have come forward and provided incidents of sexual harassment and exploitation.
 
All this, we  feel,  is  clearly  in  violation  of  human  rights  and  human dignity.  It  becomes  all  the more odious when these things happen in a centre of learning.
 
We therefore petition  National Human Rights Commission to act expeditiously in this matter to ensure that the Government of Gujarat immediately dismisses from service all those responsible for these heinous acts and that you also urge the Judiciary to take this case in its fast-track Court so that justice is meted to the perpetrators of this crime.
 
We await your response.
 
Yours sincerely,
 

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Director
PRASHANT
(A Centre for Human Rights, Justice & Peace)
Hillnagar,  Drive-in Road
Ahmedabad 380 052
Tel: +91 79 27455913,  66522333
Fax: +91 79 27489018
email: sjprashant@gmail.com
www.humanrightsindia.in
 
 
 

Thursday, February 07, 2008

ATTACKS ON CHRISTIANS IN ORISSA...PLEASE SIGN THIS ONLINE PETITION URGENTLY


Dear Friends,
 
I have  read and signed the online petition:
 
       "Protection of the Rights of the Christian Minorities in Orissa"
 
hosted on the web by PetitionOnline.com, the free online petition
service, at:
 
http://www.PetitionOnline.com/orissa/
 
I  agree with what this petition says and I am sure you will
agree, too.   
 
I request you to go through this Petition and also sign it.  Thanks !
 
Warm  wishes,
 
Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
Director
PRASHANT

 

Monday, February 04, 2008

LISTENING TO GRASSHOPPERS - Genocide, Denial And Celebration....by Arundhati Roy (Outlook, February 4th 2008)


I never met Hrant Dink, a misfortune that will be mine for time to come. From what I know of him, of what he wrote, what he said and did, how he lived his life, I know that had I been here in Istanbul a year ago I would have been among the one hundred thousand people who walked with his coffin in dead silence through the wintry streets of this city, with banners saying, "We are all Armenians", "We are all Hrant Dink". Perhaps I'd have carried the one that said, "One and a half million plus one".*
[*One-and-a-half million is the number of Armenians who were systematically murdered by the Ottoman Empire in the genocide in Anatolia in the spring of 1915. The Armenians, the largest Christian minority living under Islamic Turkic rule in the area, had lived in Anatolia for more than 2,500 years.]
 

***
In a way, my battle is like yours.
But while in Turkey there's silence,
in India, there is celebration.
***
 
I wonder what thoughts would have gone through my head as I walked beside his coffin. Maybe I would have heard a reprise of the voice of Araxie Barsamian, mother of my friend David Barsamian, telling the story of what happened to her and her family. She was ten years old in 1915. She remembered the swarms of grasshoppers that arrived in her village, Dubne, which was north of the historic city Dikranagert, now Diyarbakir. The village elders were alarmed, she said, because they knew in their bones that the grasshoppers were a bad omen. They were right; the end came in a few months, when the wheat in the fields was ready for harvesting.
 
"When we left...(we were) 25 in the family," Araxie Barsamian says. "They took all the men folks. They asked my father, 'Where is your ammunition?' He says, 'I sold it.' So they says, 'Go get it.' So he went to the Kurd town to get it, they beat him and took all his clothes. When he came back there—this my mother tells me story—when he came back there, naked body, he went in the jail, they cut his arms...so he die in jail.
 
And they took all the mens in the field, they tied their hands, and they shooted, killed every one of them."
 
Araxie and the other women in her family were deported. All of them perished except Araxie. She was the lone survivor.
 
This is, of course, a single testimony that comes from a history that is denied by the Turkish government, and many Turks as well.
 
I am not here to play the global intellectual, to lecture you, or to fill the silence in this country that surrounds the memory (or the forgetting) of the events that took place in Anatolia in 1915. That is what Hrant Dink tried to do, and paid for with his life.
 
***
Most genocidal killing from the 15th century onwards
has been part of Europe's search for lebensraum.
***
 
The day I arrived in Istanbul, I walked the streets for many hours, and as I looked around, envying the people of Istanbul their beautiful, mysterious, thrilling city, a friend pointed out to me young boys in white caps who seemed to have suddenly appeared like a rash in the city. He explained that they were expressing their solidarity with the child-assassin who was wearing a white cap when he killed Hrant.
 
The battle with the cap-wearers of Istanbul, of Turkey, is not my battle, it's yours. I have my own battles to fight against other kinds of cap-wearers and torchbearers in my country. In a way, the battles are not all that different. There is one crucial difference, though. While in Turkey there is silence, in India there's celebration, and I really don't know which is worse.
 
In the state of Gujarat, there was a genocide against the Muslim community in 2002.I use the word Genocide advisedly, and in keeping with its definition contained in Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The genocide began as collective punishment for an unsolved crime—the burning of a railway coach in which 53 Hindu pilgrims were burned to death. In a carefully planned orgy of supposed retaliation, 2,000 Muslims were slaughtered in broad daylight by squads of armed killers, organised by fascist militias, and backed by the Gujarat government and the administration of the day. Muslim women were gang-raped and burned alive. Muslim shops, Muslim businesses and Muslim shrines and mosques were systematically destroyed. Some 1,50,000 people were driven from their homes.
 
Even today, many of them live in ghettos—some built on garbage heaps—with no water supply, no drainage, no streetlights, no healthcare. They live as second-class citizens, boycotted socially and economically. Meanwhile, the killers, police as well as civilian, have been embraced, rewarded, promoted. This state of affairs is now considered 'normal'. To seal the 'normality', in 2004, both Ratan Tata and Mukesh Ambani, India's leading industrialists, publicly pronounced Gujarat a dream destination for finance capital.
 
The initial outcry in the national press has settled down. In Gujarat, the genocide has been brazenly celebrated as the epitome of Gujarati pride, Hindu-ness, even Indian-ness. This poisonous brew has been used twice in a row to win state elections, with campaigns that have cleverly used the language and apparatus of modernity and democracy. The helmsman, Narendra Modi, has become a folk hero, called in by the BJP to campaign on its behalf in other Indian states.
 
As genocides go, the Gujarat genocide cannot compare with the people killed in the Congo, Rwanda and Bosnia, where the numbers run into millions, nor is it by any means the first that has occurred in India. (In 1984, for instance, 3,000 Sikhs were massacred on the streets of Delhi with similar impunity, by killers overseen by the Congress Party.) But the Gujarat genocide is part of a larger, more elaborate and systematic vision. It tells us that the wheat is ripening and the grasshoppers have landed in mainland India.
 
It's an old human habit, genocide is. It has played a sterling part in the march of civilisation. Amongst the earliest recorded genocides is thought to be the destruction of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War in 149 BC. The word itself—genocide—was coined by Raphael Lemkin only in 1943, and adopted by the United Nations in 1948, after the Nazi Holocaust. Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines it as:
 
"Any of the following Acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [or] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

Since this definition leaves out the persecution of political dissidents, real or imagined, it does not include some of the greatest mass murders in history. Personally I think the definition by Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, authors of The History and Sociology of Genocide, is more apt.Genocide, they say, "is a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator." Defined like this, genocide would include, for example, the monumental crimes committed by Suharto in Indonesia (1 million) Pol Pot in Cambodia (1.5 million), Stalin in the Soviet Union (60 million), Mao in China (70 million).
 
All things considered, the word extermination, with its crude evocation of pests and vermin, of infestations, is perhaps the more honest, more apposite word. When a set of perpetrators faces its victims, in order to go about its business of wanton killing, it must first sever any human connection with it. It must see its victims as sub-human, as parasites whose eradication would be a service to society. Here, for example, is an account of the massacre of Pequot Indians by English Puritans led by John Mason in Connecticut in 1636:
 
Those that escaped the fire were slaine with the sword; some hewed to peeces, others rune throw with their rapiers, so they were quickly dispatchte, and very few escaped. It was conceived they thus destroyed about 400 at this time. It was a fearful sight to see them thus frying in the fyre, and the streams of blood quenching the same, and horrible was the stincke and sente thereof, but the victory seemed a sweete sacrifice....

And here, approximately four centuries later, is Babu Bajrangi, one of the major lynchpins of the Gujarat genocide, recorded on camera in the sting operation mounted by Tehelka a few months ago:

We didn't spare a single Muslim shop, we set everything on fire...hacked, burned, set on fire...we believe in setting them on fire because these bastards don't want to be cremated, they're afraid of it.... I have just one last wish...let me be sentenced to death...I don't care if I'm hanged...just give me two days before my hanging and I will go and have a field day in Juhapura where seven or eight lakhs of these people stay...I will finish them off...let a few more of them die...at least 25,000 to 50,000 should die.
 
I hardly need to say that Babu Bajrangi had the blessings of Narendra Modi, the protection of the police, and the love of his people. He continues to work and prosper as a free man in Gujarat. The one crime he cannot be accused of is Genocide Denial.
 
Genocide Denial is a radical variation on the theme of the old, frankly racist, bloodthirsty triumphalism. It was probably evolved as an answer to the somewhat patchy dual morality that arose in the 19th century, when Europe was developing limited but new forms of democracy and citizens' rights at home while simultaneously exterminating people in their millions in her colonies. Suddenly countries and governments began to deny or attempt to hide the genocides they had committed. "Denial is saying, in effect," says Professor Robert Jay Lifton, author of Hiroshima and America: Fifty Years of Denial, "that the murderers did not murder. The victims weren't killed. The direct consequence of denial is that it invites future genocide."
 
Delhi, 1984: Congress contribution to India's genocide history
Of course today, when genocide politics meets the Free Market, official recognition—or denial—of holocausts and genocides is a multinational business enterprise. It rarely has anything to do to with historical fact or forensic evidence. Morality certainly does not enter the picture. It is an aggressive process of high-end bargaining, that belongs more to the World Trade Organisation than to the United Nations.The currency is geopolitics, the fluctuating market for natural resources, that curious thing called futures trading and plain old economic and military might.
 
In other words, genocides are often denied for the same set of reasons as genocides are prosecuted. Economic determinism marinated in racial/ethnic/religious/national discrimination. Crudely, the lowering or raising of the price of a barrel of oil (or a tonne of uranium), permission granted for a military base, or the opening up of a country's economy could be the decisive factor when governments adjudicate on whether a genocide did or did not occur. Or indeed whether genocide will or will not occur. And if it does, whether it will or will not be reported, and if it is, then what slant that reportage will take. For example, the death of two million in the Congo goes virtually unreported. Why? And was the death of a million Iraqis under the sanctions regime, prior to the US invasion, genocide (which is what Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, called it) or was it 'worth it', as Madeleine Albright, the US ambassador to the UN, claimed? It depends on who makes the rules. Bill Clinton? Or an Iraqi mother who has lost her child?
 
Since the United States is the richest and most powerful country in the world, it has assumed the privilege of being the World's Number One Genocide Denier. It continues to celebrate Columbus Day, the day Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas, which marks the beginning of a Holocaust that wiped out millions of native Indians, about 90 per cent of the original population. (Lord Amherst, the man whose idea it was to distribute blankets infected with smallpox virus to Indians, has a university town in Massachusetts, and a prestigious liberal arts college named after him).
 
In America's second Holocaust, almost 30 million Africans were kidnapped and sold into slavery. Well near half of them died during transportation. But in 2002, the US delegation could still walk out of the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, refusing to acknowledge that slavery and the slave trade were crimes. Slavery, they insisted, was legal at the time. The US has also refused to accept that the bombing of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and Hamburg—which killed hundreds of thousands of civilians—were crimes, let alone acts of genocide. (The argument here is that the government didn't intend to kill civilians. This was the first stage in the development of the concept of "collateral damage".) Since the end of World War II, the US government has intervened overtly, militarily, more than 400 times in 100 countries, and covertly more than 6,000 times. This includes its invasion of Vietnam and the extermination, with excellent intentions of course, of three million Vietnamese (approximately 10 per cent of its population).
 
None of these has been acknowledged as war crimes or genocidal acts."The question is," says Robert MacNamara—whose career graph took him from the bombing of Tokyo in 1945 (1,00,000 dead overnight) to being the architect of the Vietnam War, to President of the World Bank—now sitting in his comfortable chair in his comfortable home in his comfortable country, "the question is, how much evil do you have to do in order to do good?"
 
Could there be a more perfect illustration of Robert Jay Lifton's point that the denial of genocide invites more genocide?
 
And what when victims become perpetrators? (In Rwanda, in the Congo?) What remains to be said about Israel, created out of the debris of one of the cruellest genocides in human history? What of its actions in the Occupied Territories? Its burgeoning settlements, its colonisation of water, its new 'Security Wall' that separates Palestinian people from their farms, from their work, from their relatives, from their children's schools, from hospitals and healthcare? It is genocide in a fishbowl, genocide in slow motion—meant especially to illustrate that section of Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which says that genocide is any act that is designed to "deliberately inflict on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or part".
 
The history of genocide tells us that it's not an aberration, an anomaly, a glitch in the human system. It's a habit as old, as persistent, as much part of the human condition, as love and art and agriculture.
 
Most of the genocidal killing from the 15th century onwards has been an integral part of Europe's search for what the Germans famously called Lebensraum—living space. Lebensraum was a word coined by the German geographer and zoologist Freidrich Ratzel to describe what he thought of as the dominant human species' natural impulse to expand its territory in its search for not just space, but sustenance. This impulse to expansion would naturally be at the cost of a less dominant species, a weaker species that Nazi ideologues believed should give way, or be made to give way, to the stronger one.
 
The idea of lebensraum was set out in precise terms in 1901, but Europe had already begun her quest for lebensraum 400 years earlier, when Columbus landed in America. The search for lebensraum also took Europeans to Africa: unleashing holocaust after holocaust. The Germans exterminated almost the entire population of the Hereros in Southwest Africa; while in the Congo, the Belgians' "experiment in commercial expansion" cost 10 million lives. By the last quarter of the 19th century, the British had exterminated the aboriginal people of Tasmania, and of most of Australia.
 
Sven Lindqvist, author of Exterminate the Brutes, argues that it was Hitler's quest for lebensraum—in a world that had already been carved up by other European countries—that led the Nazis to push through Eastern Europe and on toward Russia. The Jews of Eastern Europe and western Russia stood in the way of Hitler's colonial ambitions. Therefore, like the native people of Africa and America and Asia, they had to be enslaved or liquidated. So, Lindqvist says, the Nazis' racist dehumanisation of Jews cannot be dismissed as a paroxysm of insane evil. Once again, it is a product of the familiar mix: economic determinism well marinated in age-old racism, very much in keeping with European tradition of the time.
 
It's not a coincidence that the political party that carried out the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, was called the Committee for Union & Progress.'Union' (racial/ethnic/religious/national) and 'Progress' (economic determinism) have long been the twin coordinates of genocide.
 
Armed with this reading of history, is it reasonable to worry about whether a country that is poised on the threshold of "progress" is also poised on the threshold of genocide? Could the India being celebrated all over the world as a miracle of progress and democracy, possibly be poised on the verge of committing genocide? The mere suggestion might sound outlandish and, at this point of time, the use of the word genocide surely unwarranted. However, if we look to the future, and if the Tsars of Development believe in their own publicity, if they believe that There Is No Alternative to their chosen model for Progress, then they will inevitably have to kill, and kill in large numbers, in order to get their way.

Advani's chariot of fire: And so the Union project was launched
 
In bits and pieces, as the news trickles in, it seems clear that the killing and the dying has already begun.
 
It was in 1989, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union, that the Government of India turned in its membership of the Non-Aligned Movement and signed up for membership of the Completely Aligned, often referring to itself as the 'natural ally' of Israel and the United States. (They have at least this one thing in common—all three are engaged in overt, neo-colonial military occupations: India in Kashmir, Israel in Palestine, the US in Iraq.)
 
Almost like clockwork, the two major national political parties, the BJP and the Congress, embarked on a joint programme to advance India's version of Union and Progress, whose modern-day euphemisms are Nationalism and Development. Every now and then, particularly during elections, they stage noisy familial squabbles, but have managed to gather into their fold even grumbling relatives, like the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
 
The Union project offers Hindu Nationalism (which seeks to unite the Hindu vote, vital you will admit, for a great democracy like India). The Progress project aims at a 10 per cent annual growth rate. Both these projects are encrypted with genocidal potential.
 
The Union project has been largely entrusted to the RSS, the ideological heart, the holding company of the BJP and its militias, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal. The RSS was founded in 1925. By the 1930s, its founder, Dr Hedgewar, a fan of Benito Mussolini, had begun to model it overtly along the lines of Italian fascism. Hitler too was, and is, an inspirational figure. Here are some excerpts from the RSS Bible, We or Our Nationhood Defined by M.S. Golwalkar, who succeeded Dr Hedgewar as head of the RSS in 1940:
 
Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to take on these despoilers. The Race Spirit has been awakening.

Then:

In Hindustan, land of the Hindus, lives and should live the Hindu Nation.... All others are traitors and enemies to the National Cause, or, to take a charitable view, idiots....
 
The foreign races in Hindustan...may stay in the country, wholly subordinated to the Hindu Nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment—not even citizen's rights.

And again:
 
To keep up the purity of its race and culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races—the Jews.Race pride at its highest has been manifested here...a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by.
 
(How do you combat this kind of organised hatred? Certainly not with goofy preachings of secular love.)
 
By the year 2000, the RSS had more than 45,000 shakhas and an army of seven million swayamsevaks preaching its doctrine across India. They include India's former prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, the former home minister and current leader of the Opposition, L.K. Advani, and, of course, the three-times Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi. It also includes senior people in the media, the police, the army, the intelligence agencies, judiciary and the administrative services who are informal devotees of Hindutva—the RSS ideology. These people, unlike politicians who come and go, are permanent members of government machinery.
 
But the RSS's real power lies in the fact that it has put in decades of hard work and has created a network of organisations at every level of society, something that no other organisation can claim.
 
The BJP is its political front. It has a trade union wing (Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh), a women's wing (Rashtriya Sevika Samiti), a student wing (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad) and an economic wing (Swadeshi Jagaran Manch).
 
Its front organisation Vidya Bharati is the largest educational organisation in the non-governmental sector. It has 13,000 educational institutes including the Saraswati Vidya Mandir schools with 70,000 teachers and over 1.7 million students. It has organisations working with tribals (Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram), literature (Akhil Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad), intellectuals (Pragya Bharati, Deendayal Research Institute), historians (Bharatiya Itihaas Sankalan Yojanalaya), language (Sanskrit Bharti), slum-dwellers (Seva Bharati, Hindu Seva Pratishthan), health (Swami Vivekanand Medical Mission, National Medicos Organisation), leprosy patients (Bharatiya Kushtha Nivaran Sangh), cooperatives (Sahkar Bharati), publication of newspapers and other propaganda material (Bharat Prakashan, Suruchi Prakashan, Lokhit Prakashan, Gyanganga Prakashan, Archana Prakashan, Bharatiya Vichar Sadhana, Sadhana Pustak and Akashvani Sadhana), caste integration (Samajik Samrasta Manch), religion and proselytisation (Vivekananda Kendra, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Jagaran Manch, Bajrang Dal). The list goes on and on...
 
On June 11, 1989, Congress prime minister Rajiv Gandhi gave the RSS a gift. He was obliging enough to open the locks of the disputed Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which the RSS claimed was the birthplace of Lord Ram. At the National Executive of the BJP, the party passed a resolution to demolish the mosque and build a temple in Ayodhya. "I'm sure the resolution will translate into votes," said L.K. Advani. In 1990, he criss-crossed the country on his Rath Yatra, his Chariot of Fire, demanding the demolition of the Babri Masjid, leaving riots and bloodshed in his wake. In 1991, the party won 120 seats in Parliament. (It had won two in 1984). The hysteria orchestrated by Advani peaked in 1992, when the mosque was brought down by a marauding mob. By 1998, the BJP was in power at the Centre. Its first act in office was to conduct a series of nuclear tests. Across the country, fascists and corporates, princes and paupers alike, celebrated India's Hindu Bomb. Hindutva had transcended petty party politics.
 
In 2002, Narendra Modi's government planned and executed the Gujarat genocide. In the elections that took place a few months after the genocide, he was returned to power with an overwhelming majority. He ensured complete impunity for those who had participated in the killings. In the rare case where there has been a conviction, it is of course the lowly footsoldiers, and not the masterminds, who stand in the dock.
 
Impunity is an essential prerequisite for genocidal killing.India has a great tradition of granting impunity to mass killers. I could fill volumes with the details.
 
In a democracy, for impunity after genocide, you have to "apply through proper channels". Procedure is everything. In the case of several massacres, the lawyers that the Gujarat government appointed as public prosecutors had actually already appeared for the accused. Several of them belonged to the RSS or the VHP and were openly hostile to those they were supposedly representing. Survivor witnesses found that, when they went to the police to file reports, the police would record their statements inaccurately, or refuse to record the names of the perpetrators. In several cases, when survivors had seen members of their families being killed (and burned alive so their bodies could not be found), the police would refuse to register cases of murder.
 
Ehsan Jaffri, the Congress politician and poet who had made the mistake of campaigning against Modi in the Rajkot elections, was publicly butchered. (By a mob led by a fellow Congressman.) In the words of a man who took part in the savagery:

Five people held him, then someone struck him with a sword...chopped off his hand, then his legs...then everything else...after cutting him to pieces, they put him on the wood they'd piled and set him on fire. Burned him alive.

The Ahmedabad Commissioner of Police, P.C. Pandey, was kind enough to visit the neighbourhood while the mob lynched Jaffri, murdered 70 people, and gang-raped 12 women before burning them alive. After Modi was re-elected, Pandey was promoted, and made Gujarat's Director-General of Police. The entire killing apparatus remains in place.
 
The Supreme Court in Delhi made a few threatening noises, but eventually put the matter into cold storage. The Congress and the Communist parties made a great deal of noise, but did nothing.
 
In the Tehelka sting operation, broadcast recently on a news channel at prime time, apart from Babu Bajrangi, killer after killer recounted how the genocide had been planned and executed, how Modi and senior politicians and police officers had been personally involved. None of this information was new, but there they were, the butchers, on the news networks, not just admitting to, but boasting about their crimes. The overwhelming public reaction to the sting was not outrage, but suspicion about its timing. Most people believed that the expose would help Modi win the elections again. Some even believed, quite outlandishly, that he had engineered the sting. He did win the elections. And this time, on the ticket of Union and Progress. A committee all unto himself. At BJP rallies, thousands of adoring supporters now wear plastic Modi masks, chanting slogans of death. The fascist democrat has physically mutated into a million little fascists. These are the joys of democracy. Who in Nazi Germany would have dared to put on a Hitler mask?

The Dehumanised: Dalit massacre, Jehanabad, 1997
Preparations to recreate the 'Gujarat blueprint' are currently in different stages in the BJP-ruled states of Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka.
 
To commit genocide, says Peter Balkian, scholar of the Armenian genocide, you have to marginalise a sub-group for a long time. This criterion has been well met in India. The Muslims of India have been systematically marginalised and have now joined the Adivasis and Dalits, who have not just been marginalised, but dehumanised by caste Hindu society and its scriptures, for years, for centuries. (There was a time when they were dehumanised in order to be put to work doing things that caste Hindus would not do.Now, with technology, even that labour is becoming redundant.) Part of the RSS's work involves setting Dalits against Muslims, Adivasis against Dalits.
 
While the 'people' were engaged with the Union project and its doctrine of hatred, India's Progress project was proceeding apace. The new regime of privatisation and liberalisation resulted in the sale of the country's natural resources and public infrastructure to private corporations. It has created an unimaginably wealthy upper class and growing middle classes who have naturally become militant evangelists for the new dispensation.
 
The Progress project has its own tradition of impunity and subterfuge, no less horrific than the elaborate machinery of the Union project. At the heart of it lies the most powerful institution in India, the Supreme Court, which is rapidly becoming a pillar of Corporate Power, issuing order after order allowing for the building of dams, the interlinking of rivers, indiscriminate mining, the destruction of forests and water systems. All of this could be described as ecocide—a prelude perhaps to genocide. (And to criticise the court is a criminal offence, punishable by imprisonment).
 
Ironically, the era of the free market has led to the most successful secessionist struggle ever waged in India—the secession of the middle and upper classes to a country of their own, somewhere up in the stratosphere where they merge with the rest of the world's elite. This Kingdom in the Sky is a complete universe in itself, hermetically sealed from the rest of India. It has its own newspapers, films, television programmes, morality plays, transport systems, malls and intellectuals. And in case you are beginning to think it's all joy-joy, you're wrong. It also has its own tragedies, its own environmental issues (parking problems, urban air pollution); its own class struggles. An organisation called Youth for Equality, for example, has taken up the issue of Reservations, because it feels Upper Castes are discriminated against by India's pulverised Lower Castes. It has its own People's Movements and candle-light vigils (Justice for Jessica, the model who was shot in a bar) and even its own People's Car (the Wagon for the Volks launched by the Tata Group recently). It even has its own dreams that take the form of TV advertisements in which Indian CEOs (smeared with Fair & Lovely Face Cream, Men's) buy over international corporations, including an imaginary East India Company. They are ushered into their plush new offices by fawning white women (who look as though they're longing to be laid, the final prize of conquest) and applauding white men, ready to make way for the new kings. Meanwhile, the crowd in the stadium roars to its feet (with credit cards in its pockets) chanting 'India! India!'
 
But there is a problem, and the problem is lebensraum. A Kingdom needs its lebensraum. Where will the Kingdom in the Sky find lebensraum? The Sky Citizens look towards the Old Nation. They see Adivasis sitting on the bauxite mountains of Orissa, on the iron ore in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh. They see the people of Nandigram (Muslims, Dalits) sitting on prime land, which really ought to be a chemical hub. They see thousands of acres of farm land, and think, these really ought to be Special Economic Zones for our industries; they see the rich fields of Singur and know this really ought to be a car factory for the People's Car. They think: that's our bauxite, our iron ore, our uranium. What are those people doing on our land? What's our water doing in their rivers? What's our timber doing in their trees?
 
If you look at a map of India's forests, its mineral wealth and the homelands of the Adivasi people, you'll see that they're stacked up over each other.So, in reality, those who we call poor are the truly wealthy. But when the Sky Citizens cast their eyes over the land, they see superfluous people sitting on precious resources. The Nazis had a phrase for them—├╝berzahligen Essern, superfluous eaters.
 
The struggle for lebensraum, Friedrich Ratzel said after closely observing the struggle between Native Indians and their European colonisers in North America, is an annihilating struggle. Annihilation doesn't necessarily mean the physical extermination of people—by bludgeoning, beating, burning, bayoneting, gassing, bombing or shooting them. (Except sometimes. Particularly when they try to put up a fight. Because then they become Terrorists.) Historically, the most efficient form of genocide has been to displace people from their homes, herd them together and block their access to food and water. Under these conditions, they die without obvious violence and often in far greater numbers. "The Nazis gave the Jews a star on their coats and crowded them into 'reserves'," Sven Lindqvist writes, "just as the Indians, the Hereros, the Bushmen, the Amandabele, and all the other children of the stars had been crowded together. They died on their own when food supply to the reserves was cut off."
 
The historian Mike Davis says that between 12 million and 29 million people starved to death in India in the great famine between 1876 and 1892, while Britain continued to export food and raw material from India. In a democracy, Amartya Sen says, we are unlikely to have Famine. So in place of China's Great Famine, we have India's Great Malnutrition. (India hosts 57 million—more than a third—of the world's undernourished children.)

Nandigram 2007: Even the CPI(M) has its own armed militia
 
With the possible exception of China, India today has the largest population of internally displaced people in the world. Dams alone have displaced more than 30 million people. The displacement is being enforced with court decrees or at gunpoint by policemen, by government-controlled militias or corporate thugs. (In Nandigram, even the CPI(M) had its own armed militia.) The displaced are being herded into tenements, camps and resettlement colonies where, cut off from a means of earning a living, they spiral into poverty.
 
In the state of Chhattisgarh, being targeted by corporates for its wealth of iron ore, there's a different technique. In the name of fighting Maoist rebels, hundreds of villages have been forcibly evacuated and almost 40,000 people moved into police camps. The government is arming some of them, and has created Salwa Judum, a 'people's militia'. While the poorest fight the poorest, in conditions that approach civil war, the Tata and Essar groups have been quietly negotiating for the rights to mine iron ore in Chhattisgarh. Can we establish a connection? We wouldn't dream of it. Even though the Salwa Judum was announced a day after the Memorandum of Understanding between the Tata Group and the government was signed.
 
It's not surprising that very little of this account of events makes it into the version of the New India currently on the market. That's because what is on sale is another form of denial—the creation of what Robert Jay Lifton calls a "counterfeit universe". In this universe, systemic horrors are converted into temporary lapses, attributable to flawed individuals, and a more 'balanced' happier world is presented in place of the real one. The balance is spurious: often Union and Progress are set off against each other, a liberal-secular critique of the Union project being used to legitimise the depredations of the Progress project. Those at the top of the food chain, those who have no reason to want to alter the status quo, are most likely to be the manufacturers of the "counterfeit universe".Their job is to patrol the border, diffuse rage, delegitimise anger, and broker a ceasefire.
 
Consider the response of Shahrukh Khan to a question about Narendra Modi. "I don't know him personally...I have no opinion...," he says. "Personally they have never been unkind to me." Ramachandra Guha, liberal historian and founding member of the New India Foundation, a corporate-funded trust, advises us in his book—as well as in a series of highly publicised interviews—that the Gujarat government is not really fascist, and the genocide was just an aberration that has corrected itself after elections.
 
Editors and commentators in the 'secular' national press, having got over their outrage at the Gujarat genocide, now assess Modi's administrative skills, which most of them are uniformly impressed by. The editor of The Hindustan Times said, "Modi may be a mass murderer, but he's our mass murderer", and went on to air his dilemmas about how to deal with a mass murderer who is also a "good" chief minister.
 
In this 'counterfeit' version of India, in the realm of culture, in the new Bollywood cinema, in the boom in Indo-Anglian literature, the poor, for the most part, are simply absent. They have been erased in advance. (They only put in an appearance as the smiling beneficiaries of Micro-Credit Loans, Development Schemes and charity meted out by NGOs.)
 
Last summer, I happened to wander into a cool room in which four beautiful young girls with straightened hair and porcelain skin were lounging, introducing their puppies to one another. One of them turned to me and said, "I was on holiday with my family and I found an old essay of yours about dams and stuff? I was asking my brother if he knew about what a bad time these Dalits and Adivasis were having, being displaced and all.... I mean just being kicked out of their homes 'n stuff like that? And you know, my brother's such a jerk, he said they're the ones who are holding India back. They should be exterminated. Can you imagine?"
 
The trouble is, I could. I can.
 
The puppies were sweet. I wondered whether dogs could ever imagine exterminating each other. They're probably not progressive enough.
 
That evening, I watched Amitabh Bachchan on TV, appearing in a commercial for The Times of India's 'India Poised' campaign. The TV anchor introducing the campaign said it was meant to inspire people to leave behind the "constraining ghosts of the past". To choose optimism over pessimism.
 
"There are two Indias in this country," Amitabh Bachchan said, in his famous baritone.
 
 
One India is straining at the leash, eager to spring forth and live up to all the adjectives that the world has been recently showering upon us. The Other India is the leash.
 
One India says, "Give me a chance and I'll prove myself."
 
The Other India says, "Prove yourself first, and maybe then, you'll have a chance."
 
One India lives in the optimism of our hearts; the Other India lurks in the scepticism of our minds.
 
One India wants, the Other India hopes... One India leads, the Other India follows.
 
These conversions are on the rise.
 
With each passing day, more and more people from the Other India are coming over to this side. ...
 
And quietly, while the world is not looking, a pulsating, dynamic, new India is emerging.
 

And finally:
 

Now in our 60th year as a free nation, the ride has brought us to the edge of time's great precipice....
 
And one India, a tiny little voice in the back of the head is looking down at the ravine and hesitating. The Other India is looking up at the sky and saying it's time to fly.
 

Here is the counterfeit universe laid bare.It tells us that the rich don't have a choice (There Is No Alternative), but the poor do. They can choose to become rich. If they don't, it's because they are choosing pessimism over optimism, hesitation over confidence, want over hope. In other words, they're choosing to be poor. It's their fault. They are weak. (And we know what the seekers of lebensraum think of the weak.) They are the 'Constraining Ghost of the Past'. They're already ghosts.
 
"Within an ongoing counterfeit universe," Robert Jay Lifton says, "genocide becomes easy, almost natural."
 
The poor, the so-called poor, have only one choice: to resist or to succumb. Bachchan is right: they are crossing over, quietly, while the world's not looking. Not to where he thinks, but across another ravine, to another side. The side of armed struggle. From there they look back at the Tsars of Development and mimic their regretful slogan: 'There Is No Alternative.'
 
They have watched the great Gandhian people's movements being reduced and humiliated, floundering in the quagmire of court cases, hunger strikes and counter-hunger strikes. Perhaps these many million Constraining Ghosts of the Past wonder what advice Gandhi would have given the Indians of the Americas, the slaves of Africa, the Tasmanians, the Herero, the Hottentots, the Armenians, the Jews of Germany, the Muslims of Gujarat. Perhaps they wonder how they can go on hunger strike when they're already starving. How they can boycott foreign goods when they have no money to buy any goods. How they can refuse to pay taxes when they have no earnings.
 

Stamp out the Naxals: They have no place in Shining India
People who have taken to arms have done so with full knowledge of what the consequences of that decision will be. They have done so knowing that they are on their own. They know that the new laws of the land criminalise the poor and conflate resistance with terrorism. (Peaceful activists are ogws—overground workers.) They know that appeals to conscience, liberal morality and sympathetic press coverage will not help them now. They know no international marches, no globalised dissent, no famous writers will be around when the bullets fly.
 
Hundreds of thousands have broken faith with the institutions of India's democracy. Large swathes of the country have fallen out of the government's control. (At last count, it was supposed to be 25 per cent). The battle stinks of death, it's by no means pretty. How can it be when the helmsman of the army of Constraining Ghosts is the ghost of Chairman Mao himself? (The ray of hope is that many of the footsoldiers don't know who he is. Or what he did. More Genocide Denial? Maybe). Are they Idealists fighting for a Better World? Well... anything is better than annihilation.
 
The Prime Minister has declared that the Maoist resistance is the "single largest internal security threat". There have even been appeals to call out the army. The media is agog with breathless condemnation.
 
Here's a typical newspaper report. Nothing out of the ordinary. Stamp out the Naxals, it is called.
 
 
This government is at last showing some sense in tackling Naxalism. Less than a month ago, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asked state governments to "choke" Naxal infrastructure and "cripple" their activities through a dedicated force to eliminate the "virus". It signalled a realisation that Naxalism must be stamped out through enforcement of law, rather than wasteful expense on development.
 

"Choke". "Cripple". "Virus". "Infested". "Eliminate". "Stamp Out".
 
Yes. The idea of extermination is in the air. And people believe that faced with extermination, they have the right to fight back.By any means necessary.
 
Perhaps they've been listening to the grasshoppers.
 

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This is an abridged version of a lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy in Istanbul on January 18, 2008, to commemorate the first anniversary of the assassination of Hrant Dink, editor of the Turkish-Armenian paper, Agos.