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March 27, 2015

India: Smruti Koppikar - Maharashtra CM has no will to probe my father's murder: social reformer Govind Pansare's daughter

Smruti Koppikar - Maharashtra CM has no will to probe my father's murder: social reformer Govind Pansare's daughter
There is a concerted effort to stamp out the state's rationalist, progressive intellectual tradition, alleges Smita Pansare.

Friday marked one month since Govind Pansare, 82, died of the injuries sustained in an attack on him while returning from his morning walk in Kolhapur. The 150 police teams formed to track down the murders have not been able to crack this case yet. His wife, Uma, who was injured in the attack, is recovering. The family has not even been shown sketches of suspected attackers.

His daughter, Smita, accompanied by Left leaders, met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis in his office on Thursday to press for a speedy investigation into the death of the social reformer, who was a committed member of the Communist Party of India. Disappointed with the direction-less investigation, she said, “Fadnavis has taken pride in the progressive and liberal tradition [of Maharashtra], the Shahu-Phule tradition, but when an old warrior doing work to sustain that tradition is killed, he does nothing”.

This is the first interview she has given since her father's murder.

Why did you take this matter to the Chief Minister’s office?
One month has gone by. That’s quite a long time in a murder investigation, especially because the police seem to have no clues, the probe is going on in a pretty much direction-less manner and nothing of consequence is shared with the family at all. There’s no point in Mr. Fadnavis saying that he has put more than 150 police teams on the job. What have they done? What are they doing? If, with such an enhanced level of investigation, we are no closer to knowing anything more than we did a month back, where is this investigating heading?

So, you weren’t satisfied with his response.
Not at all. Neither I nor my family nor any of the leaders who went with me came away satisfied with Fadnavis’ replies or convinced about his intentions to get to the bottom of this murder. He gave the same clichéd answers and mouthed the same statements that he has been saying since the attack occurred on February 16: we have formed police teams, they are working, it was a heinous attack and so on.

What would you and your family want Fadnavis to do?
He’s the chief minister. He’s also the home minister. For him to merely say that the attack was “a failure of the system” is to shirk his responsibility. We want him to say, “I take full responsibility for this attack. It happened under my watch and I will get to the bottom of this at the earliest." I want to see his political will behind this investigation. It has been missing, completely and visibly missing, since the first day of the investigation. Unless there’s political will right from the CM’s office, this probe will yield nothing. The CM is not willing to say this or lend his weight to the issue. That, for us, adds to the heartbreak. This was not the Maharashtra we knew or lived in.

Pansare’s murder has been widely compared to the fatal attack on the rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar in August 2013. Would you say the investigation seems to be similarly floundering?
Of course, it is. We still don’t know who or which organisation killed Dr Dabholkar and for what reason. This is true of Comrade Pansare’s murder too. Mr Fadnavis was the leader of opposition when Dr Dabholkar was murdered. He had launched a tirade on the then government and slammed the then chief minister. Pull out his statement and see how he had thundered. Now he is sitting in that chair. What has he done? Why isn’t he even saying this much: "I take responsibility"?

You suggested that there was a political motive in attacking Comrade Pansare. Would you elaborate?
Indeed, this is a political murder. The police may be going through their usual theories of personal rivalries and inter-family disputes and things like that, which are laughable. It’s ok upto a point because may be the police procedure demands it. But the core issue here is that Comrade Pansare was killed for his political thoughts, the work he was doing to spread the progressive ideology and the threat to posed to the establishment or organisations opposed to this ideology. It’s pretty simple. He was killed because he was Comrade Govind Pansare representing a certain progressive and liberal ideology. The probe must move in that direction. It isn’t. And the CM is not pushing it in that direction either. Mr Fadnavis has earlier taken pride in the progressive and liberal traditions, the Shahu-Phule tradition, but when an old warrior doing work to sustain that tradition is killed, he does nothing.

Have you communicated your suspicions formally to the investigating teams?
Yes, we have. We have told them our suspicions. We have shared our theories. We have cooperated in every way but we have not heard anything concrete or of substance from them. My mother told them that there were two young men speaking in Marathi astride a motorbike that morning as she and Comrade Pansare left for their morning walk. The two youth came up to them and asked, "Where do the Mores live?" to which my mother said there isn’t a family by the name More in this lane or area as far as she knew it, and proceeded for the walk. The attack happened when they were returning. Were these the same two men who carried out the attack? If they spoke in Marathi and asked for information, doesn’t that give these 150 police teams any clue at all? Whoever carried out the attack would not be hanging around here for a month. Until they are nabbed, there’s no chance that we will ever get to know who the masterminds were and what their motives were.

You seem to suggest a political conspiracy.
The motive behind Comrade Pansare’s murder is political, completely political. There are people and organisations that want the Left, the progressive-liberal ideology in Maharashtra, to end. There seems to be some larger plan to finish off people who represent these streams of thought. It is common to say that even if a person is killed, his thoughts do not die. But the truth is that the movement takes a hit, if the people targeted are veterans of a movement, there is a setback. It takes years for leaders to evolve. So, if there’s a pattern to these killings and threats, then it is that there’s a conspiracy to finish off the rationalist, progressive and liberal tradition in Maharashtra.

How do you plan to keep the pressure on the government?
We have to find ways to do that because getting to the very core of this is most important. Comrade Pansare was my father but he was more than that; he represented a certain stream of thought. I plan to do everything possible, knock every door that’s there, to see that we get the answers.

http://scroll.in/article/715129/Maharashtra-CM-has-no-will-to-probe-my-father's-murder:-social-reformer-Govind-Pansare's-daughter

India: CJP Update on Gulberg Trial in Special Sessions Court and Naroda Appeal in the Gujarat HC

From: Teesta Setalvad
Fri, Mar 27, 2015 at 6:51 PM

Dear All,

Updates on two ongoing cases today. Gulberg Trial still at the Special Sessions Court stage (will do a more detailed update soon--SIT delayed the trial for over two years refusing to give us (Survivors +CJP) critical documents that reveal the role of senior police officers, then CP PC Pandey, then Joint CP MK Tandon then DCP Gondia and Chudasama.)

The trial resumed a few weeks ago in the Trial Court (the fourth Judge is now hearing the trial. Final arguments are on. Our arguments under section 319 are being led by adv SM Vohra (in January 2010, senior Mihir Desai had made these very same arguments before the first judge BU Joshi that we had to seek transfer of the case away from after his behaviour towards the Survivors was very offensive--for the transfer we had to go up to the SC !!!--it took over 18 months!!!!)

Even today I received a call from Vohrasaab saying how the SIT was trying to mislead the lower Court saying that SC had agreed to a mere departmental inquiry into the role of these officers. This is simply not true. The SC has left the issue of culpability to the lower courts. So now we have to bring this to the notice of the Sessions court!!

It is a harrowing battle that requires daily monitoring and a united team. I sometimes wonder how we do it. It would not be possible without the wonderful team we have in Mumbai and Ahmedabad.

Meanwhile the man who even today appears as SIT special PP, RC Kodekar has been conveniently appointed a special PP by the state of Gujarat. The woman lawyer who appeared fist for Raees Khan Pathan in the Gujarat HC, then for the state of Gujarat opposing Javed and my ABA, Manisha Luvkumari has also today been appointed as special public prosecutor by the state of Gujarat. Please see

http://www.khaleejtimes.com/kt-article-display-1.asp?xfile=data/international/2015/March/international_March495.xml§ion=international

Teesta

p.s. Below is a newsclipping on the Patia case (I had sent a detailed update yesterday). Monday the case resumes at the Gujarat HC and activists presence in the Court, lawyers presence as also monitoring by HUMAN RIGHTS groups would be great.

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31805&articlexml=Pande-Gondias-inaction-led-to-Gulbarg-killings-27032015005063

Mar 27 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad)

`Pande, Gondia's inaction led to Gulbarg killings'

Ahmedabad:

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

The victim-witnesses of Gulbarg Society massacre case stated before the special SIT court on Thursday that dereliction of duty on the part of then police commissioner P C Pande and then DCP P B Gondia had resulted in the murder of 69 persons at the housing society during the riots of 2002.The witnesses have demanded that Pande, Gondia, then joint police commissioner M K Tandon, and former investigator S S Chudasama be made accused in the massacre case. They had filed a petition under section 319 of the CrPC on basis of evidence that had come on record during the trial.

The lawyer of the victims, S M Vora, submitted that Pande and three others did not take sufficient action to protect lives. He cited call details to assert that Pande had remained in his office at Shahibaug from 11 am to 6 pm while the killings had occurred between 3 and 5 pm.Pande had inputs from the Intelligence Bureau, but he did not act or send any police reinforcements to protect lives, the lawyer said.

Advocate Vora claimed that Gondia had kept sending false messages to police control room saying that they were running out of weapons and cartridges.On the contrary , evidence suggests that they had enough weapons to control the crowd, the lawyer said. Gondia had sought additional cartridges but each policeman with him had had 50 cartridges along with a .303 rifle, the lawyer submitted.

The SIT will reply to this on Friday . Sixty-nine persons were killed at Gulbarg Society on February 28, 2002.

http://epaperbeta.timesofindia.com/Article.aspx?eid=31805&articlexml=High-court-begins-hearing-appeals-in-Naroda-Patia-27032015005058

Mar 27 2015 : The Times of India (Ahmedabad), Ahmedabad: TIMES NEWS NETWORK

High court begins hearing appeals in Naroda Patia case

Amid protests from the victim-survivors that the bench headed by Justice Ravi Tripathi should not hear the Naroda Patia massacre case, Gujarat high court on Thursday started hearing the appeals against the conviction in this post-Godhra massacre case.There are nearly 100 appeals which include appeals against conviction of 32 persons, including former minister Maya Kodnani, to life imprisonment.The prosecuting agency ­ the Supreme Court-appointed SIT ­ has also sought enhancement of punishment in several cases except Kodnani and questioned the acquittal of 29 persons.Moreover, the victims too have questioned the acquittal of the 29 accused persons.

As the HC began hearing, senior counsel Nirupam Nanavati initiated arguments and read out statements of 11 witnesses, who named Kodnani in this case. The lawyer also highlight ed the contradictions in statements. He even gave consent to the application for intervention filed by victim-witnesses.

Further hearing was kept on Monday .

Ninety-seven persons, mostly women and children, lost their lives on February 28, 2002.For this massacre, 32 persons were convicted to life imprisonment by special SIT court in August 2012, while 29 others were acquitted. When the HC granted bail to Kodnani last year, the order was challenged before the SC by a witness. The apex court ordered the HC to hear the appeals expeditiously and complete them within six months.

Accordingly , the hearing was put on fast track and the bench of Justice Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari fixed March 23 to begin final hearing. This led some witnesses make a representation before the acting chief justice on Wednesday to transfer the case to some other bench.

http://indianexpress.com/article/cities/ahmedabad/naroda-patiya-trial-was-conducted-against-me/99/

Naroda Patiya : ‘Trial was conducted against me’

By: Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published on:March 27, 2015 2:17 am

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday started hearing the petition of former minister Maya Kodnani challenging the trial court’s order that sentenced her to life imprisonment in 2012 in Naroda Patiya massacre case. The argument was centered around the conspiracy part involving Kodnani as “kingpin” of the massacre.

All 31 convicts have appealed against the sentence but her petition was taken up on priority given the Supreme Court order that the court expedite her petition.

Appearing for Kodnani senior counsel Nirupam Nanavati argued that the trial court had based its conclusion on the former minister on “presumption and assumption.”

He said that there are in all 11 witnesses whose statements, including eye witnesses implicate Kodnani out of a total of 327 who were examined in the trial court. Nanavati pointed out that there are two contradictory versions stated by the 11 witnesses. One set of witnesses have said that Kodnani was at Noorani Masjid, Naroda Patiya locality at around 9 am who came there in a white Maruti car and stayed for roughly 30 minutes.

They have said that Kodnani interacted with crowd and instigated them. Some witnesses have said that she was seen near Natraj Hotel at around 11 am. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) charge sheet records her presence at 11 pm.

“In the morning of February 28, 2002 she was present at state legislative assembly representing Naroda. And 8:40 am, as per record, condolence resolution was passed and assembly was adjourned. At Sola Civil Hospital dead bodies from Godhra (of those who died in Sabarmati Express train carnage case) had been kept. She came to Sola since certain people who died were from Naroda. The prosecution case is that at 9 am she was at Noorani Masjid.”

Citing trial court’s judgment Nanavati said that “The judge says because I am an MLA and interacted with persons, addressed in high pitched voice and I hatched a conspiracy with 20,000 people.

But nobody knows what exactly I talked.” Nanavati told the court that the trial judge believed some part of statements of witnesses and some part of the same witnesses was rejected.He argued that the trial court appreciated statements that Kodnani was present at the spot and instigated the mob but it refused to believe statements that said that she distributed weapons kept in the boot of her car.

The court also refused to believe witnesses who had testified that she even opened fire. Nanavati said that while describing Kodnani as “kingpin” the trial court has used words like “probability, assumption and presumption.” Nanavati also criticized the Supreme Court-appointed SIT that investigated the case saying that “as a prosecutor the SIT suppressed material and omitted facts to get conviction instead of revealing the truth before the trial court.”

Nanavati cited a Supreme Court judgment saying that a public prosecutor’s job is not merely getting the accused convicted but to come to a truthful conclusion even if it favours the accused. “The SIT during the trial dropped statements of several witnesses since they have stated that I (Kodnani) was never there on the spot. Their names were dropped from the list of witnesses to secure conviction. This is not the prosecution’s case. They can’t do it, as per the Supreme Court order,” Nanavati said.

”My presence at Noorani Masjid is not believable since the crowd of other community was already there and there was tension. It wasn’t safe for me. It was easy to identify me since I used to wear white clothes and drove in white Maruti car.

There is no circumstantial evidence proving the conspiracy. My coming to the spot is the only circumstantial evidence, no mobile details, no other evidence connects me to the so-called conspiracy. The conspiracy should have been prior to the actual offence that took place,” Nanavati said adding that the statement of Kodnani’s security guard was taken, that also didn’t say that there a prior meeting for conspiracy.

Before the hearing could start Mumbai-based lawyer Mihir Desai, representing victims, told the division bench headed by justice Ravi R Tripathi that there is an application for recusal, justice Tripathi said, “We do not entertain such applications.” Desai’s statement was based on a note given to acting Chief Justice VM Sahai and Registrar General where it was said that the case should be transferred to other bench since justice Tripathi had recused himself in a connected matter in the past.

http://www.dnaindia.com/india/report-naroda-patiya-case-hc-starts-hearing-appeals-of-convicts-2072298

Naroda Patiya case: HC starts hearing appeals of convicts

Friday, 27 March 2015 - 10:22am IST | Place: Ahmedabad | Agency: PTI

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday commenced hearing on the appeals filed by 31 convicts of the Naroda Patiya riot case of 2002, who have challenged their conviction by a special trial court in August 2013.

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday commenced hearing on the appeals filed by 31 convicts of the Naroda Patiya riot case of 2002, who have challenged their conviction by a special trial court in August 2013.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ravi Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari, heard the contentions of one of the convicts and former state minister Maya Kodnani. Kodnani's counsel N D Nanavati argued the trial court had erred in the judgement by believing in the testimonies of 11 witnesses whose statements he said are replete with contradictions. There is no substantial evidence against Kodnani, which can lead to her conviction, said Nanavati.

A special trial court had on August 30, 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for killings and hatching a criminal conspiracy.

There are around 100 appeals in the case, including those of the convicts and of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), besides those of the survivors who have sought enhancement of punishment of the convicts. The hearing is likely to continue on Monday.

As many as 84 survivors of Naroda patiya riot case had on Wednesday written a letter to the acting chief justice of the High Court to change the division bench headed by justice Ravi Tripathi. The HC had last month decided to expedite the hearing of appeals in the case. 97 people belonging to the minority community were killed in the massacre that took place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.

http://thefirstmail.in/news/news-details/59404-naroda_patiya_case_hc_starts_hearing_appeals_of_convicts

Naroda Patiya case: HC starts hearing appeals of convicts

Posted On : 27 Mar, 2015 Source : PTI Place : Ahmedabad

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday commenced hearing on the appeals filed by 31 convicts of the Naroda Patiya riot case of 2002, who have challenged their conviction by a special trial court in August 2013. A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ravi Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari, heard the contentions of one of the convicts and former state minister Maya Kodnani.

Kodnani's counsel N D Nanavati argued the trial court had erred in the judgement by believing in the testimonies of 11 witnesses whose statements he said are replete with contradictions. There is no substantial evidence against Kodnani, which can lead to her conviction, said Nanavati.

A special trial court had on August 30, 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for killings and hatching a criminal conspiracy. There are around 100 appeals in the case, including those of the convicts and of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), besides those of the survivors who have sought enhancement of punishment of the convicts.

The hearing is likely to continue on Monday.

As many as 84 survivors of Naroda patiya riot case had yesterday written a letter to the acting chief justice of the High Court to change the division bench headed by justice Ravi Tripathi. The HC had last month decided to expedite the hearing of appeals in the case.
97 people belonging to the minority community were killed in the massacre that took place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002

http://in.shafaqna.com/EN/IN/101134-Naroda-Patiya-case-HC-starts-hearing-appeals-of-convicts

Naroda Patiya case: HC starts hearing appeals of convicts

Friday 27 March 2015

The Gujarat High Court today commenced hearing on the appeals filed by 31 convicts of the Naroda Patiya riot case of 2002, who have challenged their conviction by a special trial court in August 2013. A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ravi Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari, heard the contentions of one of the convicts and former state minister Maya Kodnani. Kodnani s counsel N D Nanavati argued the trial court had erred in the judgement by believing in the testimonies of 11 witnesses whose statements he said are replete with contradictions. There is no substantial evidence against Kodnani, which can lead to her conviction, said Nanavati. A special trial court had on August 30, 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for killings and hatching a criminal conspiracy. There are around 100 appeals in the case, including those of the convicts and of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), besides those of the ... The Gujarat High Court today commenced hearing on the appeals filed by 31 convicts of the Naroda Patiya riot case of 2002, who have challenged their conviction by a special trial court in August 2013.

A two-judge bench, headed by Justice Ravi Tripathi and Justice R D Kothari, heard the contentions of one of the convicts and former state minister Maya Kodnani. Kodnani s counsel N D Nanavati argued the trial court had erred in the judgement by believing in the testimonies of 11 witnesses whose statements he said are replete with contradictions. There is no substantial evidence against Kodnani, which can lead to her conviction, said Nanavati.

A special trial court had on August 30, 2012 awarded life imprisonment to Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi and 29 others for killings and hatching a criminal conspiracy. There are around 100 appeals in the case, including those of the convicts and of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), besides those of the survivors who have sought enhancement of punishment of the convicts.

The hearing is likely to continue on Monday.

As many as 84 survivors of Naroda patiya riot case had yesterday written a letter to the acting chief justice of the High Court to change the division bench headed by justice Ravi Tripathi. The HC had last month decided to expedite the hearing of appeals in the case. 97 people belonging to the minority community were killed in the massacre that took place a day after the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.

Attack on Durban Writer Zainab Priya Dala for appreciation of Rushdie and Statements Condemning the attack

http://mg.co.za/article/2015-03-24-dala-attackers-enhance-stereotype-that-muslims-are-violent/

Mail & Guardian

'Dala attackers enhance stereotype that Muslims are violent'

24 Mar 2015 10:56 Fatima Asmal

The SA Muslim community condemns assaults on author Zainub Priya Dala in Durban after she expressed admiration for Salman Rushdie’s writing style.
Admiration for the writing style of Salman Rushdie resulted in author Zainub Dala being violently attacked. (Reuters)

Zainub Priya Dala – whose debut novel What about Meera was due to be launched at the festival on Human Rights Day – was attacked after a Time of the Writer event in which she expressed her admiration for Salman Rushdie’s writing style, in Chatsworth, Durban.

After she made the remark, a number of teachers and their learners walked out of the event. Dala’s vehicle was forced off the road by three men in a car the next day. A knife was held to her throat, and she was hit in the face with a brick, while her attackers called her “Rushdie’s bitch”.

A Durban-based advocacy group, South African Muslim Network (Samnet), condemned the attack in a pictograph that it mass circulated on various social media platforms, including Facebook and Whatsapp.

“Samnet unequivocally condemns the attack on Zainub Priya Dala,” the pictograph stated. “This intolerance is an antithesis of the teachings of the Quran and the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

“The assailants should be ashamed of themselves. If they are under the illusion that they are defending some Islamic principles or position they are sorely mistaken in this regard [and] are in serious need of education on Islamic law and values and the teachings and principles of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).”

‘No basis for attack’
This was notwithstanding Salman Rushdie’s views on Islam, the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad, Samnet chairperson Faisal Suliman told the Mail & Guardian: “There is no basis in Islamic teachings for the kangaroo style attack on Zainub Dala – this further enhances the stereotype of Muslims being violent and intolerant and further undermines the good work and the peaceful life of coexistence led by the vast majority of Muslims all over the world.”

Various Muslim writers also expressed their shock at the incident. “I find it utterly reprehensible that this can happen in this day and age and in this country where more than anything we are supposed to have learnt the constructive importance of respecting the diversity of opinion and people,” said author Shubnum Khan. “It’s our personal freedom to say what we want without fearing for our lives.”

“It’s such sickening intolerance and the fact that it culminated in physical violence, towards a woman no less, is horrific … I hope this incident creates more discussion about the kind of intolerance we are cultivating in our societies, because something like this is just totally unacceptable.” Cape-based journalist Shafiq Morton described the incident as ‘a despicable act of cowardly urban terror’, and a ‘total violation of Dala’s constitutional rights’.

“While a person may harbour misgivings, and even hurt, about the content of Rushdie’s Satanic Verses, nothing can ever justify intimidation and assault as a response to it,” he said.

“Writers drink from many sources – Ms Dala also cited Arundhati Roi – and to isolate one influence is to insult the integrity of the author. The dangerous assumption is that because the author was influenced stylistically by Rushdie, she automatically endorses his choice of subject matter.”

== Statement From PEN South Africa in Mail & Guardian ==


Mail & Guardian

Violent intimidation of writers must not be tolerated

24 Mar 2015 13:18 PEN South Africa

The savage attack on Zainub Dala shows the terror of the freedom to use words, and the desire to obliterate them.
Author Zainub Priya Dala. (Supplied)

On Wednesday March 18 author, Zainub Priya Dala was violently attacked as she left her hotel during the Time of the Writer Festival in Durban. A woman driving alone, she was harassed by three men who forced her off the road, cornered her, held a knife at her throat, smashed a brick in her face, and called her “Rushdie’s bitch”. The day before she had been asked about writers she admired: Salman Rushdie’s name had figured on a long list of others. People walked out in protest.

Writers do not fear difference of opinion. On the contrary, we thrive on difficulty, on complexity, on posing vexed questions and exploring unresolved ideas. We sketch characters with conflicting emotions, fraught relationships with their families, their lovers and their gods, we place them in troubled circumstances, sometimes offer them redemption. This is the stuff of good drama, of engaged fiction. We gravitate towards, not away from, debate and nuance, knowing that the more considered the idea the better the text.

But what we do not thrive on, and what we will not tolerate, is violent intimidation. Like us, Dala is a writer. She is a reader. She is both a consumer of and producer of words. She would not have avoided a conversation; she would not have shut down a debate. But debate, conversation and engagement are not possible in the face of violence.

And this type of violence – cowardly, sinister, designed to create fear in the moment and silence in the future – is the sort that simultaneously demonstrates its terror of words and its desire to obliterate them. In South Africa, our freedom of speech and movement is a fundamental right. Our Constitution insists on them. It is the same Constitution that protects the rights of those uncomfortable with or offended by Rushdie’s work.

The question of freedom of expression, of speech, has occupied South African writers for decades and is one that has changed shape over the years as we’ve moved from repression to democracy and into the troubling era of the “secrecy Bill”. As South Africans, as writers, we have not always experienced freedom but we have always known what we were fighting for, sometimes at a fatal cost.

We have always known that freedom of expression is, at its deepest, most profound level, the right to speak without fear. It is the knowledge that sharing an opinion with the public should at best be met with passionate engagement, at worst with disinterested dismissal. It is, in its simplest form, the right to speak. It is also the right to listen and to be heard.

There is no glory to be had in attacking an unarmed woman alone. There is nothing heroic about attempting to intimidate people into silence. This was an unconscionable and shameful act. Above all, it was criminal.

As writers, as South Africans, we wish to make this plain: we will not be silenced and intimidated by brutish thuggery. We stand in solidarity with Dala. She is one of us, and in the tradition of our country’s resistance and resilience, we say clearly and unanimously that an injury to one is an injury to all.

PEN South Africa, the local chapter of PEN International, a worldwide association of writers; Njabulo Ndebele, Nadia Davids, NoViolet Bulawayo, Rustum Kozain, Mandla Langa, Margie Orford, Phillippa Yaa de Villiers, Imraan Coovadia, Gabeba Baderoon, Fourie Botha, Imran Garda, Kirsten Miller, Thando Mgqolozana, Ben Williams, Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho, Dilman Dila, Siphiwo Mahala, Fiona Snyckers Helen Moffett, Nthikeng Mohlele, Percy Zvomuya, Jacob Dlamini, Zakes Mda, Ivan Vladislavic, Elinor Sisulu, Rachel Zadok, C.A. Davids, Tiah Beautement.


=== Statement distributed by SAMNET - The South African Muslim Network ====

JOINT STATEMENT ON VIGILANTISM
Human rights are the basic and inalienable rights that are divinely bestowed on every human.
Currently we are witnessing atrocities of the worst kind plastered daily in the media headlines. The need of the hour is the revival of the Islamic spirit of not only justice and equity, but also of compassion and mercy. The first step is for us to embrace this spirit within our own lives, a step which we all have the power to do.

Recently Sister Zainub Dala expressed the view at an academic workshop that she admired the creative ability and writing style of Salman Rushdie and Arundhati Roy. It is alleged that in response to that statement 3 males stopped her car, held a knife to her and assaulted her with a brick, leaving her with physical injuries and severe trauma.

In Shariah it is unlawful for any person to take the law into his or her own hands. Even if a lawful authority finds that a crime has been committed, the punishment can be meted out only by the lawful authority. The position is no different under South African Law. If this were not the case then the result is vigilantism, kangaroo courts, lawlessness and social anarchy. The alleged wanton aggression of the 3 thugs is sheer criminality. In the case of sister Zainub, she committed no crime.

In terms of the South African constitution, we have (within certain parameters) freedom of expression and freedom of belief. Here all faiths have greater freedoms than that enjoyed by most countries in the World.

In fact, we are the envy of most Muslims who visit our country from abroad. The criminal acts of the intolerant misguided few can have harmful repercussions. The result will be disharmony with the other communities in South Africa, restrictions on the cherished freedoms enjoyed by all citizens and even xenophobic attacks on minorities.

While there is no indication of the religious affiliation of the assailants, as a matter of principle in the Shariah, regardless of whoever they are, the Muslim community is united against the un-Islamic actions on sister Zainub, which are unequivocally condemned.

We call on all to disassociate themselves from and to denounce such acts of delinquency. We also urge everyone to be extra vigilant and help us remove this cancer of hate crimes, whether in writing, or speech or action.

This statement is supported by:

UNITED ULEMA COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA (UUCSA)
MUSLIM JUDICIAL COUNCIL OF SOUTH AFRICA (MJC)
HABIBYA SOOFIE MOSQUE - WESTVILLE
SOUTH AFRICAN MUSLIM NETWORK (SAMNET)
WOMEN’S CULTURAL GROUP (WCG)
JUMMA MUSJID TRUST – GREY STREET MUSJID
ASSOCIATION OF MUSLIM SCHOOLS (AMPS)
ISLAMIC MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (IMA)
MINARA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
MUSLIM VISION 2020
ISLAMIC BURIAL COUNCIL

March 26, 2015

India: RSS' Lawyers Move Court to Claim Taj Mahal as a Shiva Temple

DC | J. Venkatesan | March 26, 2015

New Delhi: At a time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is keen on avoiding any controversy on religious issues, six advocates with RSS leanings moved the Agra city civil court on Wednesday seeking a declaration that the Taj Mahal is actually a Shiva temple!

The plaintiffs, Hari Shankar Jain and five others, named Lord Agreshwar Mahadev as the main plaintiff to claim ownership of the property, now under the control and maintenance of the Archaeological Survey of India. The suit seeks a direction to remove all alleged burials under the Taj Mahal; as well as to restrain worship by Muslims and to allow worship of Lord Shiva by Hindus. This suit was filed even as the title suit for the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi site in Ayodhya is pending adjudication in the Supreme Court.

The suit claimed ownership for the building complex along with a building (claimed to be a masjid) towards the west and a replica building in the east, along with the garden, western, eastern and southern gates situated within a boundary wall over Khasra No. 12 measuring 77 bighas and four biswas.

The suit claimed the entire temple was the seat of Lord Agreshwar Mahadev Naagnatheshwar since time immemorial, and that the property belonged to the deity. It said: “The property in suit is not a burial ground and has never been so in the past. There exists no real grave in the entire suit property. The use of the suit property for purposes other than Hindu ‘pooja’ and worship of the deity is unlawful and has become unconstitutional since the enforcement of the Constitution. The deity is a perpetual minor under Hindu law. The property once vested in the deity continues to be the deity’s property and even the King could not have taken or transferred the possession of HIS property.”

http://www.deccanchronicle.com/150326/nation-current-affairs/article/%E2%80%98rss%E2%80%99-lawyers-now-move-court-claim-taj-mahal

March 25, 2015

Big time Hindutva seminar on Indus-Sarasvati (Harappan) Civilzation etc opens at IIC Delhi 26-28 March 2015

"The Indus-Sarasvati (Harappan) Civilzation Vis-A-Vis The Rigveda" 3rd International Seminar at Multipurpose Hall, Kamaladevi Complex, Main Building, India International Centre (IIC), Lodhi Estate > 26th to 28th March 2015

Day 1: Chaired by Shri Jag Mohan
Former Union Minister, GOI
Chief Guest
Dr. Mahesh Sharma
Honb’le Minister, Ministry of Culture, Tourism & Civil Aviation, GOI
Guest of Honor
Shri K.K. Mittal
Adl. Secretary, Ministry of Culture, GOI
Keynote Address
Padma Bhushan Shri B.B. Lal
Former DG, Archaeological Survey of India, GOI

Venue : Multipurpose Hall, Kamaladevi Complex, Main Building, India International Centre (IIC), 40 Max Mueller Marg, Lodhi Estate, New Delhi-110003

The event is organised by Draupadi Trust whose Chairperson is Neera Misra

among listed speakers are : David Frawley, Koenrad Elst, Yevette Claire Rosser, Michel Danino and other such

March 24, 2015

Salil Tripathi: Why Hindu nationalists would rather honour Gandhi's assassin

The Independent (UK) - 24 March 2015

Why Hindu nationalists would rather honour Gandhi's assassin

Nathuram Godse, the anti-Muslim extremist who murdered India's founding father, is revered as a hero by some supporters of the new Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, who can never forgive the partition of their country

Salil Tripathi

When David Cameron unveiled a bronze statue to honour India’s founding father, Mohandas Gandhi, he might not have realised it, but he gave an unintended shot in the arm to Indian Gandhians.

Television networks in India showed images of the ceremony and newspapers applauded the British recognition. For many Indians, the recognition didn’t come 67 years late; rather, it was timely. Since the election of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party to power last May, organisations supporting the Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been vocal in demanding statues to commemorate Gandhi’s assassin, Nathuram Godse.

As Gopalkrishna Gandhi, academic and former governor of West Bengal state who happens to be Gandhi’s grandson, said at the ceremony in London: “The fact that London.... raises a statue for him even as India has some people contemplate a temple for his assassin, shows that Gandhi’s work for freedom of belief and expression succeeds in the most unbelievable ways.”

The British Prime Minister spoke of giving India’s founding father a permanent home in London, and among those honoured outside the Houses of Parliament Gandhi was the only one to have opposed the British empire.

Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin; he claimed to be motivated by patriotism and blamed Gandhi for Partition, which explains his appeal to nationalists Nathuram Godse, Gandhi’s assassin; he claimed to be motivated by patriotism and blamed Gandhi for Partition, which explains his appeal to nationalists (Rex)
The timing had its irony: almost 85 years ago, on 12 March 1930, Gandhi had embarked on the famous 240-mile march from his base at Sabarmati ashram, in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad in India, to the coastal town of Dandi, to protest at the salt tax the British had imposed. And with that march he launched a campaign of civil disobedience that ultimately led to India’s independence from British rule 17 years later. That old animosity is forgotten; now Gandhi stands in Parliament Square alongside his protégé, Nelson Mandela, and his former rivals Jan Smuts and Winston Churchill. Smuts, who jailed Gandhi, later in life said he felt he was unworthy of wearing the sandals Gandhi had made for him as a gift; Churchill, who opposed Gandhi’s politics, had once called him a “half-naked fakir”.

But there is a greater irony. Even as Britain celebrates Gandhi, a Hindu nationalist organisation in India called the Hindu Maha Sabha, wants to build statues honouring Nathuram Godse all across India. Godse is the man who assassinated Gandhi on 30 January 1948. A week before the anniversary of Gandhi’s death this year, local authorities in the northern Indian city of Meerut had to seal a spot where activists of the Hindu Mahasabha wanted to erect a Godse statue. In another city, activists named a bridge after Gandhi’s assassin before its formal inauguration. Authorities hastily removed Godse’s name from the bridge.

The Hindu Maha Sabha has urged the pro-Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government in Delhi to name 30 January the “day of courage”. It has planned other statues for New Delhi, Ambala (where Godse was executed), and at least 14 other cities in India. In late February, O Panneerselvam, the chief minister of the southern state of Tamil Nadu, told his state legislature that no Godse statue would be permitted in his state.

The ashes of Gandhi being carried through the streets of Allahabad in 1948 The ashes of Gandhi being carried through the streets of Allahabad in 1948 (Getty)
The fascination with Godse has two motives. First, some militant Hindus blame Gandhi for allowing India’s Partition. They hold Gandhi and Congress Party leaders responsible for acquiescing with Muslim League demands that led to India’s division at independence into two parts: a larger Hindu-dominated India which chose secularism, and a smaller Islamic state, Pakistan (which would split in 1971 into Pakistan and Bangladesh). The Partition was a traumatic episode, in which perhaps a million people died and some 14 million were forcibly displaced, and its wounds continue to haunt the two countries. After a decade, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is in power, and militant Hindus, who form a sub-set of the BJP’s supporters, are keen to honour their heroes.

Second, Godse’s popularity within that fringe is not only because of his killing Gandhi, but also because of an emotional speech he gave at his trial, in which he explained why he saw himself as a patriot. The speech was banned by the Indian government of the time because of fears that distributing it would polarise communities. But that ban gave the speech a samizdat-like reputation. The advent of the internet made it more easily accessible.

In 2001, a play based on Godse’s speech was staged in India, and briefly it became popular. It was banned for some time after its first staging in 1997. Godse’s fans now describe him as a misunderstood patriot: a martyr for the Hindu cause. But Ramachandra Guha, a Bangalore-based author who has written extensively about Gandhi, said: “I don’t think most of those who invoke Godse have read his speech; rather, they detest Gandhi and his ideas.”

The new statue in Parliament Square, unveiled earlier this month The new statue in Parliament Square, unveiled earlier this month (Getty)
To be sure, Godse’s appeal is not extensive. Rajmohan Gandhi, historian and academic who is another of Gandhi’s grandsons, said: “The fascination seems harboured only by a small section. Like most societies, India contains some who are intrigued by killers of a national hero. A second reason is Gandhi’s image as a friend of Muslims. Dislike of Muslims produces approval of the assassin in some.”

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, president of the Centre for Policy Research, points out the ideological dimension of the debate: “The left has as much of an investment in exaggerating the apocalyptic reach of the right as the right does in feeling hurt about everything. Even in Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [an organisation with close ties to the Bharatiya Janata Party] strongholds, the number fascinated by Godse is quite small.”

But Mehta suggests that there is a deeper undercurrent in the debate around masculinity and the effeminate nature of Indians, which the Indian sociologist Ashis Nandy has written about. In her book The Clash Within, the American philosopher Martha Nussbaum has pointed out the anger and frustration among many Hindus who believe that Gandhi’s politics of passive resistance and civil disobedience made Hindus an effeminate community.

These Hindus have turned to more militant heroes from Hindu iconography for inspiration. Godse, having shot Gandhi, becomes their natural idol. The Indian economy is growing, and it has a ruling party that talks of a more assertive India keen to recapture its lost pride. In the search for new heroes, some Indians seem to be turning to the nation’s villains.

Hashimpura acquittals - implications for India’s democracy: Press release from Justice for Hashimpura Committee on 24 March 2015

Full text of the press release issued by Justice for Hashimpura Committee at its widely attended public meeting held at the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi on 24 March 2015. The meeting was opened with initial remarks by Prof. Apoorvanand and by Vrinda Grover, the widely respected human rights lawyer. Justice R. Sachhar (Former Chief justice of Delhi High court), Advocate Rebecca John, Shri W. Habibullah, Tapan Bose, Uma Chakravarty, Harsh Mander, Shabnam Hashmi, Kavita Krishnan, John Dayal, Kamal Chenoy, Usha Ramanathan expressed grave concern at the continuing state of impunity as they spoke in solidarity with the victims of Hashimpura killings. They also underlined the alarming consequences of the systematic and systemic failure of criminal justice system. They pointed out that the injustice for the Hashimpura victims was part of a growing pattern where victims of vulnerable, minority and marginalized communities such as Muslims, Christians, Dalits, Adivasis are being denied justice for the atrocities committed on them. This has serious implications for India’s democracy. The meeting concluded with a determination expressed by all to continue to seek justice and accountability for these targeted custodial killings.
[see Full text here: http://www.anhadin.net/article269.html

[photos below by Mukul Dube]