March 16, 2018

India: Inter-caste love marriage - Pushpanjali’s story is one of grand love and its devastating loss Natasha Badhwar

livemint.com, Mar 10 2018

The audacity to start anew

Pushpanjali speaks about her inter-caste love marriage as if it is a living story. Photo: Natasha Badhwar
Pushpanjali speaks about her inter-caste love marriage as if it is a living story. Photo: Natasha Badhwar
I deliberately slowed down to keep pace with Pushpanjali Panda as our group began to walk away from the Believers Church, Santinagar, in the Kandhamal district of Odisha. I wanted to absorb some of her energy. Leave something from me with her.
After the emotionally charged meeting we had just had in the church premises, there was a sense of relief at stepping out under the blue evening sky. I asked for her phone number and typed it into my phone. I called the number I had saved and when the mobile phone in Pushpanjali’s hand buzzed, I was assured that she now had my number too.
“What do you do here?” I asked Pushpanjali as we walked along a row of small one-room homes, each sharing its walls with the other.
“I am a tailoring instructor,” she said with a wide smile.
“Will you show me your sewing machine?” I asked her. I was immediately interested.
Pushpanjali and I broke away from our group and took a detour to her home. As she opened the lock, I commented on the many keys she had in her key chain, considering the home was just a one-room tenement with a kitchen. She laughed and made an explanatory gesture.
As soon as the door opened, a shaft of light led my eye to the photographs on the opposite wall. Here was the story of Pushpanjali’s grand love, as well as its devastating loss—represented in two photo frames balanced on an unpainted cement wall.
I instinctively stepped closer and tried to straighten the photograph of her husband, Dipesh Singh Digal. Along with his name, I read—Date of birth: 1970. Date of death: 2008. The second photograph showed Digal and Pushpanjali as a young couple, posing together in a studio.
Digal had been a pastor. He had been hunted and killed by a mob during the violence committed by Hindu groups against the Christian community in Kandhamal in 2008. It struck me that he had been just a little older than me. Pushpanjali must be a few years younger than me. Their only daughter, Monalisa, was now 20 and working in a garment factory in Chennai. A family torn apart, struggling to stay together.
Santinagar, where Pushpanjali now lives, is a small clearing by the highway in Kandhamal, where the district administration has allotted space to a few families who were among the 60,000 people forced to flee their homes to escape the violence in 2008. More than 5,000 homes had been destroyed and displaced families are still being warned against trying to return to their villages. Their fields and land have been usurped. Witnesses have turned hostile and victims have little access to either justice or compensation for their loss.
Two weeks ago, I had reached Kandhamal with a group of volunteers of the Karwan-e-Mohabbat, a civil society initiative committed to seeking justice for victims of hate crimes and building peace between communities. We were enabled by the presence of Father Manoj Nayak and Ajaya Singh, both of whom are from Kandhamal and work amongst the survivors despite threats to their lives. At Santinagar, we spent a few hours meeting with the community, sitting together on the floor of the newly built church.
“We are here to break the silence around hate crimes,” says Harsh Mander, each time he introduces the Karwan-e-Mohabbat in a new place. “We will tell your story to others. We will collectively seek justice.”
When Pushpanjali narrates the events of her life, she starts from the beginning. With a shy smile that widens immediately, she tells us that she is from a Brahmin family. Her husband was a Dalit. They fell in love and she married him against the wishes of her family. She moved to Kandhamal with him.
Pushpanjali speaks about her inter-caste love marriage as if it is a living story. As soon as this thought crossed my mind, I pressed pause on it. Of course her story is alive for her. She is alive, isn’t she? Just listen to her. Be present.
Ten years ago, when a group of men came to Pushpanjali’s home looking for her husband, the pastor, she told them the name of the neighbouring village where he had gone. She had no idea that she was speaking to men who would kill him. Her lips tremble as she recalls the brutality with which Digal was lynched and his body mutilated. His head was crushed with a stone, and his body burnt with petrol and thrown into a ditch.
After killing Digal, the mob had come to their home. Pushpanjali locked their nine-year-old daughter and herself inside and refused to open the doors despite threats from the mob that they would burn down the house. Then she recognized some young men in the crowd.
“I called them out by their names and spoke to them. I asked them how they could become our enemies like this,” she recalls. For some reason, this seemed to inhibit the men from further violence. They spoke to others in the mob and said, “Let’s leave from here.”
Pushpanjali’s life events reminded me of a news story I had read about a Hindu woman in Gujarat in 2002 who had run towards a mob that was attacking her Muslim husband and tried to protect him with her body. Somehow the woman’s decision to face up to danger and intervene physically in the violence has stayed with me as a visual memory.
Pushpanjali’s tearful narration also evoked the desperate courage of Sikh women during the anti-Sikh violence in 1984 who had struggled to hide their young children even as they heard the screams of the men in their family being attacked and burnt alive in the streets outside. We had met many of them when the Karwan had spent a day in Tilak Nagar, Delhi, last year. Thirty-four years later, they were still holding their families together despite crushing poverty, mental health crises and state apathy.
None of these women had meant to be so heroic. They had risen from their trauma because they could not afford to be defeated. They are women who have so much to give even when they have been left with nothing at all. They have the audacity to start anew.
They don’t need a Women’s Day salute to honour them. They need space in the narrative of our society and country. They need justice and validation. Their share of the earth and sky.
Natasha Badhwar is a film-maker, media trainer and author of the book My Daughters’ Mum.
The writer tweets at @natashabadhwar +
First Published: Fri, Mar 09 2018

India: Gauri Lankesh murder probe - Second suspect tied to Goa blast, is an activist of Sanatan Sanstha, the radical Hindutva outfit

 Gauri Lankesh murder probe: Second suspect tied to Goa blast

Three other men linked to the Sanatan Sanstha — Jayaprakash alias Anna, 45, from Mangalore; Sarang Akolkar, 38, from Pune; and, Rudra Patil, 37, from Sangli — are also accused in the case and have been declared missing.

Written by Johnson T A | Bengaluru | Updated: March 16, 2018 8:23 am

A second suspect identified in the murder of journalist Gauri Lankesh could be a man from Maharashtra who was declared missing and against whom an Interpol red-corner notice was issued at the instance of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for links to a bomb blast in Goa nine years ago, official sources told The Indian Express.
Sources identified this suspect as Praveen Limkar, a 34-year-old from Kolhapur and an activist of Sanatan Sanstha, the radical Hindutva outfit. Limkar had been declared missing along with four others after he was accused by the NIA of playing a major role in an October 19, 2009, blast in Madgaon where two Sanatan Sanstha men were killed while transporting an IED to be planted at a Diwali programme, said sources.
Three other men linked to the Sanatan Sanstha — Jayaprakash alias Anna, 45, from Mangalore; Sarang Akolkar, 38, from Pune; and, Rudra Patil, 37, from Sangli — are also accused in the case and have been declared missing.
Read | ‘Impressed’ by role in Gauri Lankesh killing, accused was given second target: Bengaluru Police
The NIA has listed the four missing men among its most wanted suspects, with red corner notices having been issued against their names by Interpol.
On March 9, the Karnataka police Special Investigation Team (SIT) identified the second suspect as “Praveen”, following the arrest seven days earlier of K T Naveen Kumar, a 37-year-old activist of the Hindu Yuva Sena with links to the Sanstha. Lankesh, 55, was shot outside her home in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017.
Read | Gauri Lankesh murder probe: SIT exploring conducting various tests on accused, says official 
According to sources, Kumar claimed that “Praveen’’ worked with him in surveying the home of Lankesh, who was an outspoken critic of radical Hindutva groups. Investigators zeroed in on Limkar after comparing descriptions provided by Kumar and other witnesses who had reported seeing the second suspect in the early part of investigations, sources said.
“The pictures available for Praveen Limkar are quite old and there is no 100 percent guarantee that the person identified is the same individual,’’ sources said.
Gauri Lankesh, Gauri Lankesh killer, Gauri Lankesh murder case, Karnataka Journalist murder, Hindu Yuva Sena, Naveen Kumar, Sanatan Sanstha, Lankesh Patrike, Indian Express A protest against the murder of Gauri Lankesh in New Delhi. Gauri was killed outside her house in Bengaluru on September 5, 2017. (Express Photo/Tashi Tobgyal/File) Limkar was a journalist actively involved in the activities of the Sanstha, according to investigations in Maharashtra in the shooting of the rationalist, Narendra Dabholkar, in Pune in 2013.
The Sanstha has claimed that it cannot be held responsible for its missing members. Speaking to reporters in Bengaluru after the Lankesh murder, an advocate of the Sanstha, Sanjay Punalekar, had claimed that some members may be absconding from the law out of fear of being wrongly accused in criminal cases.
Kumar, the first to be arrested in the case, was detained under the jurisdiction of the Upparpet police station in Bengaluru on February 18 based on a complaint filed by a crime branch officer that he was found carrying prohibited bullets at the city bus stand.
After investigations revealed links between Kumar and the murder of Lankesh, the SIT placed him under arrest. Links between Kumar and the Sanstha emerged in the course of investigations, including evidence that he had organised a meeting of the Sanstha and its sister unit, Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, in his hometown Maddur in 2017.
A forensic analysis of four empty cartridges and the four bullets fired to kill Lankesh has shown that markings on them match with those found on the bullets and cartridges fired to kill the Kannada scholar and researcher M M Kalburgi, 77, in the northern Karnataka town of Dharwad on August 30, 2015.
Forensic analysis suggests that Lankesh and Kalburgi were shot with the same 7.65 mm pistol, suggesting the involvement of one outfit or group behind the two killings.
The findings from the comparison of ballistic evidence from the Lankesh and Kalburgi cases adds to existing evidence from the shooting of leftist thinker Govind Pansare, 81, in Kolhapur on February 16, 2015 — the same 7.65 mm countrymade gun used in the Kalburgi murder was found to have been used.
A comparison of ballistic evidence found in the Pansare case with that of evidence in the shooting of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, 69, in Pune on August 20, 2013, has revealed that the second gun used to shoot at Pansare was used to shoot Dabholkar.

India: R Prasad‏ cartoon following the Gorakhpur ByPoll where the BJP lost in march 2018

R Prasad‏

उत्तरपूर्वी राज्यों में भाजपा का उदय और अल्पसंख्यक-विरोधी एजेंडा

उत्तरपूर्वी राज्यों में भाजपा का उदय और
अल्पसंख्यक-विरोधी एजेंडा
-राम पुनियानी
पिछले कुछ दशकों से पर्चों, पोस्टरों और अन्य तरीकों से अनवरत यह प्रचार किया जा रहा है कि ईसाई मिशनारियां बड़े पैमाने पर लोगों को ईसाई बना रहीं हैं। और इस सिलसिले में अधिकांश उदहारण उत्तरपूर्वी राज्यों के दिए जाते हैं। इस प्रचार का इस्तेमाल पूरे देश में, विशेषकर चुनावों के दौरान, ईसाई समुदाय के खिलाफ नफरत फ़ैलाने के लिए किया जाता है। इसी जहर ने पास्टर ग्राहम स्टेंस की जांच ली, कंधमाल में भयावह हिंसा भड़काई और देश के अलग-अलग हिस्सों में चर्चों पर हमले का सबब बनी। ऐसे में, भला भाजपा, जो राममंदिर का झंडा बुलंद किये हुए है, जो गाय को माता बताती है और जो हिन्दू राष्ट्रवाद की पैरोकार है, क्यों और कैसे उत्तरपूर्वी राज्यों में हाल में हुए चुनावों में विजय हासिल कर सकी। आखिकार इन राज्यों में ईसाईयों की खासी आबादी है, बीफ यहाँ लोगों के रोजाना के खानपान का हिस्सा है और जहाँ ढेर सारी जनजातियाँ हैं, जिनके अलग-अलग और परस्पर विरोधाभासी राजनैतिक हित हैं एंड जो अलग-अलग संगठन बनाकर, अपनी-अपनी जनजातियों के लिए अलग राज्यों की मांग करती आ रहीं हैं। 
उत्तरपूर्व के हर राज्य में स्थितियाँ अलग-अलग हैं। और इसलिए भाजपा ने यहाँ के लिए जो चुनाव रणनीति बनाई है वह काफी लचीली है। पार्टी के पास संसाधनों की कोई कमी नहीं है, उसकी प्रचार मशीनरी अत्यंत सक्षम है और उसके पितृ संगठन आरएसएस के स्वयंसेवक उसके लिए पूर्ण समर्पण से काम कर रहे हैं। और यही कारण है कि वह एक के बाद एक राज्यों में सफलता के झंडे गाड़ रही है। असम में उसने बांग्लादेशी घुसपैठियों का मुद्दा उठाया और यह डर दिखाया कि अगर उन्हें रोका नहीं गया तो मुसलमान पूरे राज्य में छा जायेगें एंड हिन्दू अल्पसंख्यक बन जायेगें। उसने अलगाववादी संगठनों से गठजोड़ बनाने में भी कोई गुरेज़ नहीं किया।  इस क्षेत्र के अधिकांश निवासियों की यह धारणा है कि कांग्रेस ने इलाके के विकास पर पर्याप्त ध्यान नहीं दिया। भाजपा एक ओर तो अपनी विचारधारा से असहमत व्यक्तियों के बारे में गालीगलौज की भाषा में बात करती हैं और उन्हें राष्ट्रविरोधी बताती है, वहीं उसे ऐसा संगठनों से हाथ मिलाने में कोई संकोच नहीं है जो अलग-अलग राज्यों या देश से अलग होने की बात करते आ रहे है। त्रिपुरा की वाममोर्चा सरकार की ईमानदारी तो सत्यनिष्ठा तो संदेह से परे थी परन्तु वह जनता की महत्वाकांक्षाओं को पूरा करने में असफल सिद्ध हुयी। वह ओबीसी और आदिवासियों की आरक्षण सम्बन्धी मांगों को पूरा नहीं कर कई और युवाओं को रोज़गार के अवसर निर्मित करने के मामले में उसका रिकॉर्ड बहुत ख़राब रहा। इससे भाजपा को यह मौका मिल गया कि वह आम लोगों को विकास का स्वप्न दिखा कर अपनी और आकर्षित कर सके। 
त्रिपुरा में भाजपा ने मुख्यतः दो मुद्दों पर जोर दिया। पहला था विकास। यद्यपि अब यह स्पष्ट हो गया है कि भाजपा का विकास का नारा खोखला है और उसका उद्देश्य केवल वोट कबाड़ना है परन्तु फिर भी वह त्रिपुरा में मोदी को “विकास पुरुष” के रूप में प्रस्तुत करने में सफल रही।  मानिक सरकार के शासन में, कर्मचारियों को नए वेतन आयोगों की सिफारिशों को लाभ नहीं दिए जाने के कारण भी शासकीय कर्मचारियों और उनके परिवारों में भारी रोष था। आज जहाँ देश के अन्य हिस्सों में कर्मचारियों को सातवें वेतनमान का लाभ दिया जा रहा है, वही त्रिपुरा सरकार अब भी पांचवें वेतनमान पर अटकी हुयी है। त्रिपुरा में भाजपा ने यह प्रचार किया कि वहां “हिन्दू शरणार्थी हैं और मुसलमान घुसपैठिये”। उनका उद्देश्य बंगाली हिन्दू मतदाताओं को प्रभावित करना था। आरएसएस के स्वयंसेवक, आदिवासी इलाकों में लम्बे समय से धार्मिक आयोजनों और स्कूल आदि खोल कर माणिक सरकार का तख्तापलट करने में सफल रहे क्योंकि यह सरकार आदिवासियों को रोज़गार के अवसर उपलब्ध करवाने में पूरी तरह असफल रही। बीफ के मामले में भाजपा ने दोमुहीं नीति अपनाई। उसने कहा कि यद्यपि वह अन्य राज्यों में गौहत्या और बीफ को प्रतिबंधित करने के पक्ष में है परन्तु उत्तरपूर्व में वह यह नीति नहीं अपनाएगी। परन्तु जानने वाले जानते हैं कि आरएसएस-भाजपा द्वारा उठाये जाने वाले अन्य मुद्दों की तरह, पवित्र गाय का मुद्दा भी एक समाज को विभाजित करने का एक राजनैतिक हथियार है और समय आने पर, वह केरल और गोवा की तरह, उत्तरपूर्व में भी बीफ और गौहत्या को मुद्दा बनाएगी।  (अंग्रेजी से हिन्दी रूपांतरण अमरीश हरदेनिया)

March 15, 2018

India: In Odisha, no blood spilt but the fires of communal hatred are touching the skies | Harsh Mander

scroll.in - March 03, 2018

In Odisha, no blood spilt but the fires of communal hatred are touching the skies
In three incidents, the Karwan team finds a common instrument used to subjugate disadvantaged castes and minorities – arson.

In Cuttack's Gurudijhatia village, a woman who lost her life savings when upper caste neighbours burnt down her hut weeps. | Sanjukta Basu / Karwan e Mohabbat

Harsh Mander

The first day of the Karwan e Mohabbat (caravan of love) in Odisha revealed a state torn apart by the same ruptures of communal and caste mobilisation against religious minorities and disadvantaged castes that lacerate many parts of the country. But in Odisha we found that after the Kandhamal massacre of nearly a decade back, when Hindutva groups had killed over 50 Christians and attacked their homes and places of worship, the breaches between religious groups and castes have not led to many examples of targeted murders. Instead, in all the three episodes the Karwan team looked at on the first day of their Odisha travels, it was instructive to observe that the chosen instrument of subjugation of suppressed castes and minorities was the same – of arson, setting on fire their homes, a place of worship and their shops, rather than murderous attacks on the bodies of the victims.

In the first village we visited, Gurudijhatia in Cuttack district, it was the homes of Dalit residents that had been set on fire by their upper caste neighbours. The immediate provocation seemed political. For over 25 years, they had voted in Ranjan Acharya as their village sarpanch. In the panchayat elections in the summer of 2017, Acharya put up his teenaged son Deepak. He was backed by the ruling Biju Janata Dal, although nominally panchayat elections exclude party affiliations. A rival candidate decided to contest the polls. A former school teacher, he too had a long association with the ruling party, but since he had been overlooked for this candidature, he decided to fight as a rebel independent candidate. The Dalits of the village conferred and took what for them was a momentous decision – to vote for the rival candidate. “His [Deepak Acharya’s] father had done nothing for us even though we had been loyal to him for 27 years,” said one resident. “We thought, let us give a new man a chance.”

For a community that was landless and at the bottom of the caste heap, it was a brave decision. And taking the guarantees of the Constitution of electoral freedom at face value, they voted against Deepak Acharya. Deepak Acharya won by a significant margin. But it was not lost on him and his father that the Dalits of his village had dared to vote against him. Many of the Dalit men pulled cycle rickshaws in neighbouring Cuttack city. A day after the polls, as these men made their way to Cuttack, they found their path blocked. A few blows fell on them. The elders of the village were assembled, and they advised restraint on all sides. But later the same day, a large crowd of upper caste young men gathered, pulled the Dalit residents out of their homes, and set these on fire.

When we visited, the huts were burnt-out shells. The families had moved in with relatives. The continuing fear was palpable. An old woman wept quietly, recalling that their life savings had been lost in the fire. Men from both communities were jailed for brief periods. Even though the Dalits had been attacked and their homes burnt, the police were scrupulous in ensuring an even count between the communities of the men sent to prison. Even the possibility of justice seemed remote for the survivors of the violence. No state help was forthcoming for them to rebuild their homes. The best they could hope for was an end to the informal social and economic boycott, so they could find work again on the farms of their upper caste neighbours. And live without fear of another attack. The next time they stand before an election booth, they have been taught their place and it is a lesson they are not likely to forget, not for generations.

A Dalit member of Rajesh Naik's fellowship joins the Karwan team in praying for peace and truth. (Credit: Sanjukta Basu / Karwan e Mohabbat)

Prayers in hiding

In the second village in Bhadrak district that we drove to in the afternoon, it was a Christian place of worship that had been set afire and demolished. About 17 families from surrounding villages had over the last two decades decided to convert to Christianity. They were led by a man in his forties – for his safety, we will not name him or his village. Let us call him Rajesh Naik. He recalled he had read a pamphlet as a young man. It spoke of the shubha samachar or “auspicious news” that Jesus Christ had died to save them, free them from the burdens of sin and bondage, and lead them to heaven in the after-life. He found himself drawn from his soul to the pamphlet, and read the address at its bottom. It was of a Protestant church in Kolkata. He had completed his studies in electric engineering at an Industrial Training Institute. He decided to find his spiritual path in life, and took a bus to Kolkata. He spent two years there, and while there converted to Christianity.

His father was furious, he said, and his back still carries the scars of the beating he received. His mother and brother, the community elders, his friends and neighbours tried to dissuade him, but he was firm that he would live his life as a Christian. His father then disinherited him from his share of the family land. Naik found a young woman who was similarly drawn to the teachings of Christ. They married and raised a family. Over the years, more than a dozen families from various castes in surrounding villages converted to Christianity. From the savings from his work as an electrician, Naik saved money to build a small one-room chapel, which he raised on cement pillars with a roof of asbestos sheets.

Every Sunday morning, Naik would lead the prayers in this chapel. There was no major church in the vicinity, no trained and formally ordained priest to guide them in their worship. Naik became the religious head of his small community, which he described as a fellowship. On the land adjoining the chapel, he created a small graveyard, in which two members of their fellowship were buried.

One Sunday morning in August, just months before our visit, a group of men from the villages – men Rajesh Naik recognises, all members of the Bajrang Dal and other Sangh organisations – surrounded the chapel, shouting fearsome slogans. The small congregation ran away in fear, and the mob burnt down the chapel and knocked down the gravestones, desecrating and turning over the graves. Although they gave the names of the men who destroyed the chapel to the police, no action had been taken. The small Christian community lives in fear, but still takes at face value the promise of the Constitution that guarantees them their freedom of faith. They refuse to give up their chosen religious faith or their routine of meeting every Sunday to pray together. They meet quietly in different homes by turn, but even as they pray, they worry about another mob attacking them.

Before we left, Naik urged us to gather in the home of a Dalit brother and join them in prayer. John Dayal, the senior comrade of the Karwan team, led the prayer, saying the gathering had people of many faiths, including an agnostic like me, and he sought protection and well-being for all. Naik followed with his own prayer, speaking of their sins and the redemption he had found in Christ.

Karwan e Mohabbat member John Dayal leads the prayers at the hut of a member of Rajesh Naik's fellowship. (Credit: Sanjukta Basu / Karwan e Mohabbat) 
Karwan e Mohabbat member John Dayal leads the prayers at the hut of a member of Rajesh Naik's fellowship. (Credit: Sanjukta Basu / Karwan e Mohabbat)

WhatsApp message sets off tension

Our last halt for the day was Bhadrak town. Here, the communal tension, again from a few months ago, had seen around 25 shops set on fire. This is a town with almost an equal number of Hindus and Muslims living together since Mughal times. They live in separate settlements, although a small number of families live in the midst of the other community. It is a town of long interregnums of communal peace, interrupted from time to time by brief but bloody outbreaks, the last of which was in 1991 and saw many dead. In April 2017, tension flared up after two teenaged school friends exchanged private messages that were disrespectful of each other’s faith. The message fell into the hands of a member of a communal organisation that has been trying hard to deepen the communal divide between the religious groups. He extracted a portion of the post that was disrespectful to Hindu gods and circulated it on WhatsApp.
The aftermath was predictable, with crowds gathering, armed with sticks, daggers and cans of petrol. They set out to attack the homes of the Muslims who lived in the midst of Hindu settlements. The saving grace was that there were a number of respected seniors who gathered under the banner of the Gandhi Peace Foundation and stood between the mobs and Muslim homes. This act saved many lives. But the crowds then turned to the marketplace and set fire to many shops owned by Muslims. The next day, in retaliation, a group of Muslim youth set fire to a smaller number of shops owned by Hindus.
At a meeting at the Gandhi Peace Foundation, we took heart that unlike in most places we had traversed during the Karwan, there were still women and men from both communities in Bhadrak willing to come forward visibly to rebuild social relations. Everyone gathered in the room testified to the role the administration played in enabling the violence to continue, when it could have stemmed it at the start. They pointed also to the arrest of a much larger number of young men from the minority community, on graver charges. Some spoke openly, some in muffled tones, about the role played by organisations of the Sangh to divide the communities to gain politically at the hustings.

Scars of Kandhamal

The next day, we travelled to Kandhamal, where 10 years ago, across nearly 500 villages, Christian minorities were killed and raped and their homes burnt and looted. I will write a separate account of their unhealed wounds, of many families still too frightened to return to their homes, and the spectacular subversion of justice.
On our last day in Odisha, after our return from Kandhamal, we went to the Bhubaneswar Railway Station where in May a group of cow vigilantes, who claimed membership of the Bajrang Dal, had gone on a rampage when they found 25 cows being transported on a train. It did not matter to them that these cows were being shifted by the Tamil Nadu veterinary department from Salem to their counterparts in Meghalaya. They attacked the transporters and railway officials, chained two innocent men (including a passenger who had nothing to do with the transport of the animals) to an iron pole and beat them, released the cows, and held up the train for two hours. The railway officials did nothing to restrain the attackers, who proudly spoke of their feats in front of television cameras. Eight men were ultimately arrested but released on bail in just a few days. The cows were sent to Meghalaya on another train a few days later.
We left Odisha with sombre memories of these many fires – of Dalits homes, of a Christian place of worship, of Muslim and Hindu shops. Common to each of these were organisations on a mission to intimidate religious minorities and disadvantaged castes and compel them to submit to the power and will of the majority. We carried the grief of the families whose loved ones were killed or raped in the Kandhamal carnage, bereft of justice and healing. We encountered a seething Odisha but a land in which blood has not flowed the way it did 10 years ago. However, fires of hate have since risen to the skies in many parts of the state, vigilantes roam, and hearts have been filled with dread and fear. Meanwhile, the state government, the “secular” Opposition and even progressive civil society just stand by.

India: Hindu-Muslim and RSS Chief Bhagwat

Hindus, Muslims and RSS Chief Bhagwat

by Ram Puniyani

RSS is one of the only organizations, which claims to be cultural and controls the political agenda of the National ruling party. Over years taking further its agenda of Hindu rashtra, it has grown and is the largest organization in the country. Its Chief, Sarsangh Chalak (Supreme Dictator) is one who not only controls the RSS, but indirectly exercises control over all the affiliate organizations like BJP, VHP, Bajrang dal, ABVP and hundreds of outfits scattered in most of the arenas of our social and political life. Its Chief keeps spelling out its agenda on occasions, the one held at Agra, Rashtroday Samagam (National Awakening Conclave, 24 Feb 2018), was one such where he spoke on issues related to the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. Many of the formulations presented by him may sound very bizarre, but seems these are the subtle expressions of deeper agenda of this organization. He said that Hindus should unite, and not fight along caste lines. Hindustan is the country of Hindus, and they have no other place to go. What he is calling as fight along caste lines, as such are the movements for social justice. Struggle against the caste structure of Hinduism has been old, the initial one’s were in the form of Lord Gautama Buddha’s teachings and later Saints like Kabir, Tukaram and Namdeo articulated anti caste sentiments in their works of profound wisdom. What is being called as fight along caste lines begins during colonial period with efforts of the likes of Jotirao Phule who ensured that education reaches the untouchables. Ambedkar took this further and struggles for caste equality picked up. It is at this point of time that Hindu Mahasabha and RSS, who were upset due to social changes parallel to freedom movement that they started talking of Hindu Unity! They stand for social status quo while likes of Ambedkar will go for annihilation of caste. So Ambedkar burnt Manu Smriti and later became the Chairman of drafting committee of Indian Constitution, which gives us Equality. This lofted principle of equality was also backed up by affirmative action from the state to ensure that equality does not remain on paper but state is the agent to bring in substantive equality. Hindu nationalist politics; as it is for status quo; opposed reservations and affirmative action. On the pretext of merit, it launched ‘Youth for Equality’. One understands those who are on the side of social equality have been talking of measures to eradicate structural inequality and work towards social justice. So What Bhagwat says may sound innocuous, but it hides the deeper agenda of his organization, and that is also manifested when different leaders from this stable call for changing Indian constitution and when their ideologues like Golwalkar stand to praise Manusmriti and as they feel uncomfortable with Indian Constitution. What does he mean that Hindus have no other place to go? He may be unaware that many Indians, Hindus, included have been undertaking economic migrations all over the World. While US, Canada, Australia and UK are the hot favorites, there are many other countries where Hindus have been emigrating and settling. His statement is factually incorrect. Also saying, this land belongs to Hindus is a simplification. As such the barometer of who is an Indian is Indian Constitution. Who came to constitute India becomes clear from the composition of freedom movement in which people from all religions participated in equal measure. In earlier history also this land has been thriving with diversity when nomadic tribes initially and kings of different dynasties Shaaks, Huns, Muslim, came as invaders in North, while Zoroastrians came through sea route and initial Islam and Christianity came to Malabar Coast in Kerala. Even word Hindu initially began as a geographical category, and Hindu as religion, came to be constructed much later. It is true that India is multi religious, but to say that all those living here are Hindus is a travesty of truth. To say that Hindus celebrate diversity as Bhagawat said; is a bigger lie. Hindutva ideologue Savarkar went on to define Hindu as one who regards this land as Holy land and father land. Golwalklar focused on the greatness of scriptures, so where do Muslims and Christians stand in this scheme of things? As such even large sections of Sikhs, Buddhist and Jains will also not like to be labeled as Hindus. As far the diversity, he is right that large section of Hindus in the mould of Gandhi respect other religions and diversity emerging from that. As far as the agenda of RSS combine is concerned, it is based on sectarianism and narrowness. The central agenda of their politics is not around economic betterment, social and gender justice but is structured around divisive issues which lead to intolerance. Their major issues Ram Temple, Mother Cow, Love Jihad, Vande Matmram and Ghar Wapasi are constructed around rejecting the diversity. Most of the utterances of this combine are far away from what the Indian Constitution says. His assertion that all those who regard Bharat Mata as their mother, again is in a mould which is far away from Indian Constitution’s values. Constitution tells as we are India that is Bharat. To bring in Bharat mata ki Jai, which people from some religions may not be comfortable with is a deliberate ploy to bring narrowness and intolerance in our political life. To say that Muslims are also Hindus, is an intimidating statement. First to say they are Hindus and then to insist that as Hindus they have to respect scriptures like Manusmriti, to worship lord Ram and cow, seems to be a clever move. Bhagwat calls Rana Pratap's battles as part of freedom struggle. This is not innocuous, Rana Pratap fought for his Mansabdari (status) against Akbar, not for India against British. As per Bhagawat battle against Muslim king automatically makes you part of freedom movement not knowing that even Akbar was represented by Raja Mansingh in the battle about which he is referring to!

March 14, 2018

India: 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case - Swami Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ file missing from court

The Times of India

Mecca blast case: Aseemanand’s ‘disclosure’ missing from court
TNN | Mar 14, 2018, 05:35 IST
HYDERABAD: A key document in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case containing a disclosure by Hindu right-wing member Swami Aseemanand, which could seal the fate of the trial, has gone mysteriously missing from a lower court’s custody.
The revelation came after chief investigating officer and CBI SP T Rajah Balaji on Tuesday began recording his evidence. Balaji filed the first chargesheet before the case was transferred to the NIA.

On May 18, 2007, a bomb blast inside the Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers killed nine people and injured 58 others. Later, more people were killed when the police opened fire on protesters. As part of the trial, more than 160 witnesses were examined by the court that includes victim, RSS pracharaks and several others.

Aseemanand was granted bail in April 2017 on the condition that he can’t leave Hyderabad and Secunderabad.

On Tuesday, K Ravinder Reddy, the fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge cum special court for NIA cases, came down heavily on court officials after several documents pertaining to the case couldn’t be traced. The proceedings of the case had to be stalled by more than one and half hours before officials could trace some of the documents that were exhibited before the court.

Balaji was taken by surprise after a key two-page document relating to the reported disclosure made by Naba Kumar Sarkar aka Swamy Aseemanand before CBI, explaining the alleged conspiracy, was not traceable. The document, marked as “Memo of Disclosure” No 88 in NIA chargesheet, reportedly contains names of senior RSS leaders.

The missing document is believed to be of much importance and can seal the fate of Aseemanand in the case, investigators said.

During investigation, the CBI officer examined 68 witnesses in the case, out of which 54 have turned hostile, including DRDO scientist Vadlamani Venkat Rao, who is the prosecution witness No 151 in the case.