Sunday, August 30, 2015

World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation on SEPTEMBER 1st 2015

Pope Francis announces World Day of Prayer  for the Care of Creation on September 1st

Pope Francis has invited all Christians to observe September 1st as the 'World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation' (cfr letter and other details below)

This day is significant on several counts: it will help focus once again on the path-breaking Encyclical of Pope Francis 'Laudato Si: On the Care of our Common Home' which was released a little over two months ago; it will reiterate the Christian position that to be true witnesses of Christ in the world of today, we need to respond to the ecological crisis through a profound spiritual conversion.

Christians are invited to also share this day with all men and women of goodwill in our common endeavour on the 'Care of our Common Home'. 

September also marks the month during which Pope Francis will address the US Congress in Washington and then on September 25th in New York, he will be addressing the UN General Assembly's Summit on the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals.  He is expected to focus on contentious environmental issues in both his addresses.

The UN Summit is in fact seen as a preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 21) which will be held in Paris beginning November 30th.

Let us celebrate September 1st in prayer and fellowship and towards greater commitment to look at endemic issues which affect our common home.

Fr. Cedric Prakash sj
"PRASHANT"   (A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052,Gujarat, INDIA
Tel :+91 (0)79-27455913/66522333
Cell : 9824034536
Fax:+91 (0)79-27489018

Pope Francis announces
 World Day of Prayer
 for the Care of Creation
Pope Francis announces a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation”  - REUTERS
Pope Francis announces a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” - REUTERS
10/08/2015 11:35
(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has decided to set up a “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which will be celebrated on September 1st annually.
He made the announcement in a letter to the heads of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity.
Listen to Lydia O’Kane's report
Below in English is Pope Francis' letter announcing the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” 
To my Venerable Brothers
Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah TURKSON, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
Cardinal Kurt KOCH, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity
Sharing with my beloved brother the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew his concerns for the future of creation (cfr Encylical Letter. Laudato Si, 7-9) and taking up the suggestion by his representative, the Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum who took part in the presentation of the Encyclical Laudato Si on the care of our common home, I wish to inform you that I have decided to set up also in the Catholic Church, the “World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation” which, beginning this year, will be celebrated on the 1st of September, as the Orthodox Church has done for some time now.   
As Christians we wish to offer our contribution towards overcoming the ecological crisis which humanity is living through.  Therefore, first of all we must draw from our rich spiritual heritage the reasons which feed our passion for the care of creation, always remembering that for believers in Jesus Christ, the Word of God who became man for us, “the life of the spirit is not dissociated from the body or from nature or from worldly realities, but lived in and with them, in communion with all that surrounds us.” (ibid., 216).   The ecological crisis therefore calls us to a profound spiritual conversion: Christians are called to “an ecological conversion whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them.” (ibid., 217).  Thus, “living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience.”(ibid).
The annual World Day of prayer for the Care of Creation offers to individual believers and to the community a precious opportunity to renew our personal participation in this vocation as custodians of creation, raising to God our thanks for the marvellous works that He has entrusted to our care, invoking his help for the protection of creation and his mercy for the sins committed against the world in which we live.  The celebration of the Day on the same date as the Orthodox Church will be a valuable opportunity to bear witness to our growing communion with our orthodox brothers.   We live in a time where all Christians are faced with identical and important challenges and we must give common replies to these in order to appear more credible and effective.  Therefore it is my hope that this Day can involve, in some way, other Churches and ecclesial Communities and be celebrated in union with the initiatives that the World Council of Churches is promoting on this issue.
Cardinal Turkson, as President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,  I asking you to inform the Justice and Peace Commissions of the Bishops’ Conferences, as well as the national and international Organizations involved in environmental issues about the establishment of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, so that in union with the needs and the local situation , this celebration can be rightly marked with the participation of the entire People of God: priests, men and women religious and the lay faithful.  For this reason, it will be the task of this Dicastery, in collaboration with the Episcopal Conferences to set up relevant initiatives to promote and illustrate this Day, so that this annual celebration becomes a powerful moment of prayer, reflection, conversion and the adoption of appropriate life styles.  
Cardinal Koch, as President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, I’m asking you to make the necessary contacts with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with the other ecumenical organisations so that this World Day can become the sign of a path along all believers in Christ walk together.  It will also be your Dicastery’s task to take care of the coordination with similar initiatives set up by the World Council of Churches. 
Whilst I look forward to the widest possible cooperation for the best start and development of the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation, I invoke the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God and of St. Francis of Assisi, whose Canticle of the Creatures inspires so many men and women of goodwill to live in praise of the Creator and with respect for creation.  I support this pledge along with my Apostolic Blessing which I impart with all my heart to you, my dear Cardinals, and to all those who collaborate in your ministry.  
From the Vatican, 6th August 2015
Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

These 10 Excerpts From Indian Textbooks Are Seriously Terrifying

These 10 Excerpts From Indian Textbooks Are Seriously Terrifying

Note: This article was originally published on Homegrown.
Indian textbooks have been making news for all the wrong reasons lately. The unearthing of some appalling mistakes in social science textbooks taught to English-medium government schools in the state of Gujarat have drawn attention to exactly what it is that impressionable minds are being exposed to in the country. 50, 000 students in Gujarat belonging to Classes 6-8 are being bombarded with some genuinely bizarre information, the curriculum having been decided by a panel of experts from the Gujarat State Board for School Textbooks (GSBST) and Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT). As India Today reports, the state government has taken measures to review these textbooks, the revised versions of which will be out in markets by the next academic season.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons Image source: Wikimedia CommonsInterestingly though, in June, more than 42, 000 state government schools received free copies of textbooks written by Dina Nath Batra taught as reference literature, with titles like ‘Indianisation of Education (Shikhan nu Bhartiyakaran)’ and ‘Brilliant India’. In case you missed it, Batra, founder of the Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti, was in the news earlier this year for his agitation against Indologist Wendy Doniger’s book ‘The Hindus: An Alternative History’ resulting in Penguin Books India actually withdrawing from sale and pulping all existing copies, much to the dismay of people who actually care about forced censorhip.
A biased interpretation of events being relayed through education goes much further back than you’d think. The Partition of India, for instance, has been depicted in textbooks in India and Pakistan respectively; two conflicting versions of a shared history. The book History Project, a Lahore-based project by Ayyaz Ahmad, Qasim Aslam and Zoya Siddiqui, explores these discrepancies in a fascinating read.
The truth is, however, that the education system has been flawed long since; influenced by a system that it should keep a healthy distance from.
This got us wondering about what other absurd information was really out there, being circulated. Here’s a list of quotes from Indian textbooks over the past 10 years that will leave you quite speechless:
I. They (non-vegetarians) easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes.
The Class 6 Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) textbook titled ‘New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises’ explain in a matter-of-fact tone to 11-year-olds how people who eat meat are more prone to criminal behaviour. They will have you believe that meat-eaters are susceptible to urges to resort to violence and enjoy cheating, swearing and forgetting promises.
In response to NDTV’s story on the quote, at the time of publication, in 2012, CBSE chief Vineet Joshi explained, “We only recommend books for Class IX onwards. Books are chosen by individual schools. There is no monitoring of content of school books.”
The textbook also encourage girls getting married between the ages of 18 to 25 to ‘get married without a bad name is a dream of every young girl.’ An official of S Chand Publication said, after the controversy, that they would discontinue the textbook and replace them with revised ones.
II. Instead (of celebrating birthday with cakes and candles), we should follow a purely Indian culture by wearing swadeshi clothes, doing a havan and praying to ishtadev (preferred deity), reciting mantras such as Gayatri mantra, distributing new clothes to the needy, feeding cows, distributing ‘prasad’ and winding up the day by playing songs produced by Vidya Bharati.
Shikhan nu Bhartiyakaran (Indianisation of Education) by Dina Nath Batra, a name you should get familiar with quickly, is against the celebration of birthdays with cakes and candles deeming it a ‘western practice’. They would like us to forego the cake (why would you want to forego the cake?) and candles and instead indulge only in celebrating in ways that pertain to a ‘purely Indian culture’. They would also recommend charity work, finding and feeding cows and go as far as to suggest birthday night tunes.
This is a part of the Gujarat primary school syllabus as reference literature now, as of the announcement in June, 2014.
III. (The Indian map should include) ‘countries like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma’ (as it’s all a) ‘part of Akhand Bharat… Undivided India is the truth, divided India is a lie. Division of India is unnatural and it can be united again…’
Current macro-geopolitical norms don’t sit particularly well with Batra, he believes that the demarcated borders are, in fact, ‘a lie’.
In a book titled ‘Tejomay Bharat’ (Shining India) he talks about how India’s neighbours shouldn’t be recognised as different countries at all, and how it is all, actually a larger country that requires unification. This is also a part of the current Gujarat primary school syllabus as reference literature now, as announced in June, 2014.
IV. In a Social Science English-medium textbook for Standard 8 published by the Gujarat Council of Educational Research and Training (GCERT), it is published that after Partition in 1947, a new nation was born called, ‘Islamic Islamabad’ with its capital, ‘Khyber Ghat’ in the Hindukush Mountains.
This textbook officially crosses the line between a biased version of events being circulated to straight-up misinformation. Pakistan was evidently called ‘Islamic Islamabad’ after the Partition and the capital has been shifted into a mountain range. Dadabhai Navroji, Surendranath Bannerjee and Gopal Krishna Gokhale were also cited as being ‘extremists’ within the Congress Party pre-independence when they were actually regarded as moderates at the time.
V. Once Dr Radhakrishnan went for a dinner. There was a Briton at the event who said, “We are very dear to God.” Radhakrishnan laughed and told the gathering, “Friends, one day God felt like making rotis. When he was cooking the rotis, the first one was cooked less and the English were born. The second one stayed longer on the fire and the Negroes were born. Alert after His first two mistakes, when God went on to cook the third roti, it came out just right and as a result Indians were born.”
This quote is ridiculously racist and makes Dr Radhakrishnan, our first vice-president, sound like a man with a strange sense of humour who likes to ruminate on God’s culinary skills and mix them with some golden, old passive-aggressive analogies regarding humans. This quote made me look at my own roti in a wholly different light. I find that as long as they are hot and liberally slathered with butter, I am quite content.
This quote is also from one of Dina Nath Batra’s books, Prernadeep -3, provided as reference literature to students in English-medium primary schools in Gujarat. Go figure.
VI. The pilot and the Indian together thrashed the negro and tied him up with rope. Like a tied buffalo, he frantically tried to escape but could not. The plane landed safely in Chicago. The negro was a serious criminal…and this brave Indian was an employee of Air India.
We reject racism of any form. Such views on a particular community cannot be accepted in today’s India. Any racialism propagated on an institutional level will be detrimental to the Indian society and can create havoc in future,” Mnaya Davis, an African student leader in Delhi, told Telegraph, deeming the portrayal in the textbook “medieval” and “racist”.
This deeply offensive quote is from Prernadeep -2, provided as reference literature to students in English-medium primary schools in Gujarat. The wait for ‘achche din’ continues.
Image source: Wikimedia CommonsImage source: Wikimedia CommonsVII. A donkey is like a housewife… It has to toil all day, and, like her, may even have to give up food and water. In fact, the donkey is a shade better… for while the housewife may sometimes complain and walk off to her parents’ home, you’ll never catch the donkey being disloyal to his master.
I had to read this one twice in quick succession out of horror, to believe my eyes. Published in Rajasthani textbooks, 14-year-olds were being taught to compare a housewife to a donkey, suggesting that not only does she ‘toil all day,’ she might need to sacrifice food and water like the donkey. The donkey has been venerated for being loyal to a man, unlike the housewife who likes to whine and visit her parents’ home.
The Bharatiya Janata Party took umbrage to the excerpt leading to state education official A.R. Khan’s statement that “protests have been taken note of, and the board is in the process of removing the reference,’’ but not before explaining amiably to NBC News that ‘the comparison was made in good humour.’
VIII. Hitler lent dignity and prestige to the German government within a short time, establishing a strong administrative set-up.
Move over, Leni Riefenstahl. In a chapter titled ‘Internal Achievements of Nazism,’ this Gujarat school textbook rubbishes the Holocaust and projects Hitler as the true leader. It’s quite disturbing to think of the 13 to 15-year-olds that studied this textbook, walking around thinking that one of the most horrifying attempted genocides of the 20th century was, in fact, only a story about an authoritarian’s dignified rise to power.
A senior official from the state education department told the BBC that the discrepancies were due to poor translations from Gujarati into English, claiming that the textbook was being quoted out of context.
IX. The condition is one of arrested development or a natural deviation, and beyond that, homosexuality is a disease. It exists among all callings and at all levels of society. A prison sentence may do more harm than good. Psychotherapy is useful in some  cases. Tribadism can be quite compatible with normal heterosexual behaviour. On the other hand, some lesbian women can be so morbidly jealous of such women with whom they are in inverted love, that they are sometimes incited to commit even murder.
The 22nd edition of Modi’s Medical Jurisprudence and Toxicology talks about drama, lesbianism and, eventually, a suspected murder, in this gem that dubs homosexuality a ‘disease.’ It also suggests psychotherapy as a ‘useful’ remedy in a tone that reminds you of someone shaking their head dejectedly, talking about a lost cause.
X. Female homosexuality is known as tribadism or lesbianism. According to Greek mythology, women of Isle of Lesbos practised this perversion… The practice is usually indulged in by women who are mental degenerates or nymphomaniacs (excessive sexual desire).
The Essentials of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology – Dr K. S. Narayan, Reddy and Dr O. P. Murthy, 32nd edition, 2013, accuses women  who wear their sexuality however they want to, of being depraved and being guilty of ‘excessive sexual desire’ and, hence, nymphomaniacs.
The word ‘lesbian’ did originate from the Greek Island of Lesbos, but not because all the women there ‘practised this perversion’. The word can be traced back to the 19th century but really came into use in the 1970’s with the lesbian feminist era. The poet and intellectual Sappho used to live in Lesbos in 600 BC, her material targeted by religious fundamentalists for her love poems to other women.The book differentiates natural and unnatural sexual offences. Sodomy, anal coitus, lesbianism and bestiality have been named under unnatural sexual offences. Natural offences have been called as rape, adultery, and incest.
The 2012 edition of ‘Principles of forensic medicine including toxicology, Apurba Nandy Reprinted, 2012’ claims that incest is still not an offence in India, while classifying sex offences under the highly questionable headings of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’. I would really like to understand what a ‘natural’ sex offence is – is it more ‘natural’ to want to rape someone, commit adultery or indulge in incest as opposed to being inclined towards bestiality?
This textbook is being taught in AIIMS, Delhi, BMC College, Bangalore, Kerala University of Health Sciences, BLDE University, Bijapur, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay College, Rajkot, JSS University, Mysore and Indian Academy of Forensic Medicine, Goa.
It may not seem of pressing consequence to shed light on, or even reform, some of these excerpts but let’s be very clear about just how debilitating such teachings really are for the future of our country. The students at whom a lot of this bigoted, uninformed, discriminatory information is being spewed at, have no reason not to believe what they’re being taught. And they, esteemed readers, are going to be the ruling class for you and your children when they come of age. Now that’s a bright future to look forward to.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Painful Patel Punch: A National Social Re-engineering Experiment! BY R.K.MISRA (August 25th 2015)

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Painful Patel Punch: A National Social Re-engineering Experiment!


Society is like a stew. If you don’t stir it scum floats to the top. But those who do so must bear the burden of the stink.
Both stirred and shaken, Gujarat is going through turmoil-filled days as it’s affluent and  numerically strong patidar (patel) community mounts a fierce assault for OBC reservation that is straining the fabric of inter-community harmony to it’s tensile limits.

Fearful of a Patidar led-Anandiben Patel- government caving in to their demands, a counter-movement against it is building up as well.Two days ahead of the Patel’s biggest ever show of  community strength on August 25, the Other Backward Classes(OBC) mobilized  members from the 146 communities in it’s fold  for a dharna  near the Sabarmati ashram in  Ahmedabad on August 23.The SCs and STs symbolically joined  it  and the tone and tenor were distinctly repudiatory of the  Patels.”Any move by the government or any community to snatch our rights will first ensure  this government’s pack up and thereafter  force us,  the laboring class to take to a naxalism style stir". warned their leaders. Within hours the first indicators of the  caste tensions building  up came to the fore  when Patels and Thakores(an OBC caste) clashed with lethal weapons in Ranosan village of Mehsana district in North Gujarat leaving 12 of them injured. This is the very village from where the Patidar agitation started over  45 days ago.

As Patel leaders demonstrating superb managerial prowess  and financial resource management  are making known their resolve to carry the agitation  beyond  the boundaries of the state, the contours of a larger design are slowly beginning to emerge. With the state government  now veeering round to state that it is neither feasible  nor possible to accede to their demand, the new slogan emerging is ‘either us reservation or no reservation’. This in effect means  that either the Patels should be given reservation in the OBC category or there should be no reservation for anybody.

As a further indication of their resolve to escalate the stir the patidar leadership has also reached out to retired Col. Kirori Singh Baisla who successfully led the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan even blockading traffic  passing through  their state to the country’s capital for a day.

Gujarat has been the crucible for important political experiments since long. It was the Dandi march initiated from Sabarmati ashram in Ahmedabad  on March 12,1930 by  Mahatma Gandhi leading to the salt satyagraha, and  civil disobedience movement which triggered off massive public indignation taking India to freedom 17 years later. Again it was the student led Navnirman agitation  from Ahmedabad in 1975 which led to the fall of the first Chimanbhai Patel headed Congress government. This purely student led  stir  triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to the rise of Jayprakash Narayan, followed by clamping of Emergency  and ultimately the installation of the Morarji Desai headed, first non-Congress government at the centre in 1977. 

Ironically it was Chimanbhai Patel who had subsequently quit the Congress and lent covert support to a  Patidar led anti-reservation stir that  ensured the fall of yet another Congress government in Gujarat ,this time  headed by Madhavsinh Solanki. The government fell within four months of being elected in 1985 with a majority of 149 seats in a House of 182  seats , a record that remains unbeaten to this day, not even by Narendra  Modi.

Another major political experiment was  the one spearheaded by the Hindu Dharma Jagran Manch (HJM) an affiliate of the VHP and the Bajrang Dal carried out in December 1998 in the solely tribal Dangs district in South Gujarat bordering Maharashtra.This was after Swami Aseemanand- who  subsequently figured in cases of hindu terror and spent extended time behind bars-was posted in  Dangs in 1995 by the RSS to set up an ashram and undertake ‘tribal welfare’activities. It was thereafter that a ‘shabari mahakumbh’was held here in 2006.Raising the bogey of threats to the ‘hindu tribal  majority’ a string of Christian places of worship were attacked  beginning Christmas  in 1998.The violence targeting Christian tribals and missionaries spread to other areas of  South Gujarat. Such was the national and international outcry over the incidents that took place during BJP chief minister Keshubhai Patel’s rule that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi had to visit Dangs. The violence against the minority Christian community had a twofold objective. Firstly to prevent  tribal conversions  to Christianity through creation of a fear psychosis   and secondly to divide the  tribals who formed  the core of the Congress vote-bank.

There are reasons to believe that Gujarat is once again the subject of a pilot project on social engineering. There is not an iota of doubt that a spirited and energetic youth leadership is spear heading the  agitation with  dedication and drive. But  it is also clear from the  speed  and skill, finesse and financial acumen with which  it is spreading like wildfire  that there are  sharper watchful eyes, who, while allowing it to progress are monitoring it all the way. Political analysts see in it a larger game-plan.

Both the RSS and the present Prime Minister are known to be votaries of a single point reservation-only for the economically backward class. Thus, if Modi and the RSS could have their way they would want to do away with  caste-based reservation. Not even easier said, much less easier done. 

As has been the case on numerous other occasions, no better place to carry out  an experiment under controlled conditions than Gujarat. For one, the Sangh Parivar and the various  RSS organs have been able to strike deep roots over the almost 20 year old BJP rule post-1995. A case in point is the spread of the innocuous  ‘pag pada sangh’, which is VHP shaded,and  has struck deep roots right into homes. It is now almost a ritual that on sacred occasions people-men, women even children-walk to key places of worship, some as distant as 350 kms away with public spirited people and organizations making arrangements for their rest, recuperation and  food  enroute. Many such organizations exist in a variety of spheres ensuring  penetration and pursuance powers for the Parivar organs in the social fabric of the state.

In the case of the Patidar stir, intelligence agencies have already supplied to authorities the names of  BJP and other sister set up leaders involved in  behind-the scene-organisational affairs. The chief minister, Anandiben Patel  and other senior leaders also had a closed door meeting with RSS leaders at Modi’s  old  ‘Sanskardham’ office on the outskirts of Ahmedabad on August23. At the end of it a statement for public consumption said that social harmony in the state should not be disturbed and we are discussing what role we can play in easing  tensions.

It is common knowledge that Patels constitute one of the largest block of BJP supporters. They moved away from the Congress  in the aftermath of 1985.This tilt  followed the attempt to marginalize  them through  the KHAM (Kshatriya,harijan,adivasi,muslim)  configuration,  successfully implemented by former chief minister Madhavsinh Solanki.Modi also tightened his grip over Gujarat in the almost 13 years that he held sway in the state. Thus Gujarat is the ideal place for a controlled experiment of this nature which involves building public opinion for such a major  but  extremely sensitive political experiment. Why otherwise would the  BJP Patel MLA whose office was vandalized by the agitators refuse to file a police complaint? Why have 37 Patel legislators and seven ministers been virtually silent spectators? Why has the government been taking a soft as satin approach to the agitation? It is only now when voices are being raised by the OBCs and the SCs and STs that it has begun to make some bold paper announcements.The instructions to the cops, however is to exercise great caution.

If the RSS has an agenda, Narendra Modi has an unorthodox delivery mechanism stretching beyond the strangulating confines of the government .This enables  forward movement as well as withdrawal without being seen to be doing either. Have we not noticed it in the sudden rash of high profile ‘ghar  wapasi’ events  that started hogging media space after a series of rash public utterances by BJP-Sangh constituent leaders? It was deliberate and planned, mainly to  bring the issue into sharp focus for purposes of a national debate on an anti-conversion law, variants of which have already been implemented in Gujarat.The purpose served, a quiet withdrawal and it  died down soon after.For those who know the inner mechanics,’ ghar wapasi’ is a year round continuing programme of the parivar being pursued  quietly. As is said, the greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly hidden in the shadows. So do disasters.


Islamic State blows up ancient temple in Syria

IANS/Damascus | August 24, 2015
Mideast Syria PalmyraThis file photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, shows the general view of the ancient Roman city of Palmyra, northeast of Damascus | AP
The Islamic State (IS) militants blew up an ancient temple in Syria's Palmyra city, a media report said. Temple of Baal Shamin or "Lord of the Heavens" was blown up by the IS militants, who rigged it with large quantities of explosives before sending it up in flames, Xinhua reported on Monday quoting the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
The temple is located just meters away from the famous Roman Theatre at Palmyra.
The British-based watchdog group cited information and narratives by people who escaped Palmyra as stating that the detonation of the temple happened a month ago.
Palmyra contains the monumental ruins of a great city that was one of the most important cultural centres of the ancient world.

On Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 6:09 PM, Teesta Setalvad <> wrote:





TEESTA SETALVAD Monday, August 24, 2015

Wali Gujarati whose tomb was damaged and then destroyed in Ahmedabad. There is no sign of it
MUMBAI: This week, August 19, 2015, the Supreme Court will have heard for the 27th time the appeal of the Gujarat government in the matter re-building of several dozen shrines destroyed, due to state inaction and complicity, during the Violence of 2002.

Why is this narrative relevant here and now? We have been witness to a curious spectacle in the last week of a prominent politician promenading in a Mosque. And public discourse has, surprisingly chosen to overlook this particular narrative, blurring as it were its trajectory.

Building on the documentation mentioned above, a group of community leaders had, since 2002, petitioned the Gujarat High Court on the state’s responsibility towards re-building those religious and cultural places that had been willfully desecrated.

By the way, the Hague Convention of 1954 (or the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict) recognised that the preservation of "cultural heritage is of great importance for all peoples of the world" and that "damage to cultural property belonging to any people whatsoever means damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind." India is a signatory to this convention.

In 1972, a protocol to this Convention was adopted, which identified "cultural heritage" as, among other things, "monuments, architectural works, works of monumental sculpture and painting, elements or structures of an archaeological nature, inscriptions, cave dwellings and combinations of features, which are of outstanding universal value from the point of view of history, art or science". Every State that had acceded to the Hague Convention, it held, recognised that "the duty of ensuring the identification, protection, conservation, presentation and transmission to future generations of the cultural and natural heritage situated on its territory, belongs primarily to that State."

At its General Conference meeting in 2001, UNESCO adopted a resolution that sought to define the circumstances under which an act could be construed as a "crime against the common heritage of humanity." It reiterated the need for all member-states to accede to and observe the various conventions it had evolved over the years. And it authorised the Director-General of the organisation to formulate for the next session of the General Conference, a "Draft Declaration" which would define the circumstances under which the "Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage" could be deemed to have taken place. Given the clear mandate of the Indian Constitution and our laws, not to mention the international law, the administration of districts and the government of Gujarat was clearly liable.

How did the GOG respond to this consistent effort by community leaders to right the wrongs unleashed upon them? With stiff, bitter resistance. In fact, the attitude of the state of Gujarat was so intransigent that, on 8.2.2012 (the same day that the SIT , headed by RK Raghavan, late in the evening filed a Closure Report on the Zakia Jafri Criminal Complaint) the High Court of Gujarat had passed a stinging Order against the government. The Gujarat Government, stung by this reprimand, but unashamed in its absence of either remorse or reparation, hastily filed an appeal. In this appeal, the GOG hotly contested what the High Court had decreed was the fundamental right of all citizens.

In this appeal that has dragged on and is again, now before the Supreme Court, the government had then argued that it was anti-Constitutional to use state government money to build shrines of a particular community. All through 2012, the state government keeping its tradition of 2002 and post 2002 brand of ‘governance’ alive, had stiffly resisted, in pretty crass terms any attempts to make good or compensate this cultural loss.

The story continued in the Supreme Court of India. After the appeal had been promptly filed against the High Court decision, pretty efficiently by government standards and at the first hearing on July 9, 2012, the state government displayed the same arrogant obduracy. Tushar Mehta, then advocate general for the state, had argued orally that the State exchequer could not be used for building and repairing religious sites (never mind that it was due to State inaction at best, and complicity at worst that had led to the destruction in the first place).Fortunately, the Supreme Court was unconvinced. The SC had sharply rebuked Mehta saying, “You [State] compensate if a house is washed away in a flood or if it is damaged in an earthquake or tsunami. Then why not in the case of a religious place?”

Much water has flown under the proverbial bridge since then and we should have by now known what is today the Union government's, (State (Gujarat) and Central (India)] stand on the question, under changed circumstances as it were. There have been several hearings in the interim in the state’s appeal in the Supreme Court, it is three years since the date (on 27.8.2012) that the government of Gujarat promised to present a scheme for the repair and restructuring of the shrines.

And times, as we always say, have changed. Today, firm in its desire to retain a grip on power, power that was unashamedly sought and gained with a majoritarian vote (the spread nationally was at 31 per cent) the party in power is willing to risk even driving its bloodhounds a bit crazy as it gingerly steps within a Masjid’s doors.

Last week while in Ahmedabad, post sunset, as the lights flickered on, I bent my head as I strolled through the Shah-e-Alam Durgah at Dani Limda in Ahmedabad. Aiyyub, my friend was with me, recounting the five months spent at the Durgah turned relief camp. As we walked, humbled and awed through the vast sacred spaces that today seemed so immense, I shivered as I remembered 2002, when teeming with 12,500 internally displaced persons, it had seemed so small, so crowded.

Its’ warmth and protective precincts had provided succour to battered women and broken men, bewildered children who had had their childhoods torn away, in the space of 72 hours. A cruel, horrible 72 hours.

Those days, the lines between the dark of the night and broad daylight had blurred. Rapes and murders could, and were allowed to take place, for hours, as the rays of the sun moved relentlessly over the scene, not even shaming the offender. During those days, I remember how, the shrine of Wali Gujarati was torn down on the night of February 28-March 1. It was just across the office of the then commissioner of police, PC Pande. Three days later, in the presence of prominent persons, a tarred road was constructed over the place where the shrine had once stood, obliterating a symbol and reality that had stayed the course, for centuries.

Not just at Shahibaug, near the Police Commissionerate, but in many locations in Gujarat those days there had been official sanction for such obliteration. After shrines belonging to the faith of the Minority (including Christians) were destroyed, the idol of a Hulladiya Hanuman(riot Hanuman) idol had been installed there with darshans and artis also being held.

Born in Aurangabad in 1667, Wali Gujarati was and is regarded as the founder of the modern Urdu poem. He travelled widely and was also known as Wali Aurangabadi or Wali Dakhani. Ironically, he was a frequent traveller to Gujarat and wrote lovingly of its centres, especially Surat. He died in Ahmedabad in 1707, on one of numerous visits to the city. Then, the people of this region, Gujarat, subscribing to a richer and inclusive worldview, built a tomb for him in Ahmedabad and proudly laid claim to his legacy by bestowing upon him the title of Wali Gujarati.

The mosque of Malik Asin (Asas, Imadul Mulk) at Ahmedabad, built in the reign of Sultan Mahmud Begada (1458-1511) was also one of the shrines that had been destroyed. A protected monument built in stone, this structure was destroyed within hours and with military precision, in an operation involving the use of a crane and bulldozers. At around the same time, the mosque of Muhafiz Khan at Ahmedabad was also badly damaged. Among the other shrines destroyed is the tomb of Ustad Faiyaz Khan in Vadodara, which was attacked and wreathed in burning tyres in early March of 2002. Extensive damage was inflicted on the fa├žade of the structure commemorating a man who the erstwhile ruling dynasty of Varodara declared in 1912, was the greatest singer in the realm.

But then, that was then, and this is now. The worm, as they say, has turned.

(Writers note: We at Communalism Combat were among those to document the district-wise cultural and religious desecration In Gujarat (totaling 237 shrines) and the documentation can be viewed at

Teesta Setalvad
'Nirant', Juhu Tara Road,
Juhu, Mumbai - 400 049

Monday, August 24, 2015


                                                                    ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE

One morning at our Law College, when our new teacher to "Introduction to the Rights" entered the classroom, the first thing that he did was to ask the name of a student who was seated on the first bench: "What is your name?"
"My name is Juan, Sir."
"Leave the classroom and I don't want to ever see you in my class ever!" screamed the unpleasant teacher.
Juan was bewildered. When he got hold of his senses, he got up quickly, collected his belongings and left the classroom.
All were scared and angry; however nobody spoke anything.
"Well...." said the new teacher, "whom do the enacted Laws serve?"
We were afraid, but slowly gained confidence and we began to answer his questions.
"So that there is an order in our society."
"No!" The teacher answered
"To accomplish them."
"So that the wrong people pay for their actions?"
"No! Is it that nobody knows to answer this question?!"
"So that there is justice," said a girl timidly.
"At last! That's it.... so that there is justice. And now, what is the use of justice?"
All began to feel uneasy by such rude attitude. However, we followed answering....
"To safeguard the human rights...."
"Well, what more?" asked the teacher.
"To differentiate the right from the wrong.... to reward the good...."
"Ok, that is not bad; however... answer this question: Did I act correctly when expelling Juan from the classroom?"
All were quiet, nobody answered.
"I want a decisive and unanimous answer!"
"No!" we all replied in unison.
"Could you all say I committed injustice?"
"And why did nobody do anything in that respect? So why do we need Rules and Laws if we don't have the necessary will to practice them? Each one of you has the obligation of when you witness an injustice. All of you! Do not stay quiet, never again! Go and call Juan," he said staring at me.

On that day, I received the most practical lesson in my course of Law.

When we don't defend our Rights and particulary the rights of OTHERS, we lose our Dignity, and Dignity (like JUSTICE!) is not negotiable.