March 04, 2007

Background Note - Independent Peoples' Tribunal On Fascism's Rise and the Attack on the Secular State

Background Note


MARCH 20-22, 2007


Jawaharlal Nehru about eighty years back had said that ‘if fascism comes to India it will come in the form of communalism’. Most leaders and intellectuals did not realize the gravity of the formulation. They did not have to, for the reason that most individuals or organized communalists occupied positions at the farthest end of the periphery of Indian socio-political ethos. No one took them seriously or in other words they were not perceived as a threat to secular democratic fabric as it was weaved by the leadership after India own its freedom.

Subsequent pronouncements of the Supreme Court laid down that secularism forms part of the basic structure of the constitution. In S.R. Bommai’s case the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court said, “The state has no religion. It stands aloof from religion.”

When the secular forces and civil society were engaged building the nation and grappling with the questions of development such as eradication of illiteracy, poverty, epidemic, floods and famines, the communal formations both Hindu and Muslim, abetting each other, were busy creating a communal mindset. Drawing strength from the fabricated history and fictitious present day realities, the hate campaigns, unleashed by especially the Hindu right , gradually corroded the secular and democratic fabric of the country. They are no more on the periphery. Through covert and overt operations they today occupy fairly large spaces particularly in northern parts of India. The Gujarat genocide perpetrated by these forces shook the people of the country. The enormity of operation as was unfolded in Gujarat makes it imperative for civil society to look at the process of genocide closely and draw lessons.

Activists are aware about these dangers and different strategies have been adopted to battle them. Grass root mobilizations, sensitisation workshops, training sessions, academic intervention, and judicial challenges have all been adopted to a greater or lesser degree. Though information about the spread of fascist forces and strategies adopted against them is available from all parts of the country we believe that at this juncture we need to have a macro level picture of the spreading cancer. No doubt this can be done through national level seminars or partially even through e- mails, etc. But there is no substitute for actually hearing testimonies of victims and activists and based on this arrive at a macro level picture.


We have been involved in a number of peoples' tribunals and our experience has shown that though, these tribunals represent only one aspect of the strategy, they are an important tool. Tribunals serve the following objectives:

1. For any political and social change to occur an in depth understanding of the problem is required.
2. The testimonies of the victims and the report of the Tribunal can be used for legal initiatives to strengthen the secular structure of the state.
3. The tribunals act as a recorder of history which may otherwise be lost
4. The issue gets much more media coverage and gets highlighted in public spaces.
5. The Report is used by organizations for lobbying of their issues.
6. The report, if properly done, has tremendous credibility at the national and international level and at times can influence courts and policy makers.

After the Gujarat carnage and particularly after the change of government at the Centre, it was thought that the communal build up was on hold or on the decline. However reports from all over India, including the South and Central states, indicates an alarming spread of fascist ideology and activities and a deeper penetration into education and the arms of the state. It is a cancer that seems capable of growing in all political environments.


The Independent Peoples' Tribunal, which is planned, is a small step towards this. The object is to have a panel of judges, which include retired High Court and Supreme Court judges, academicians, journalists and other media persons, activists as also retired police officers, bureaucrats and media persons. The panel will take testimonies of different groups and individuals- victims, activists and academicians from across the country and draw a nation wide picture of the rising face of fascism.

The dates for the IPT are March 20-22, 2006. It will be organised at Indian Social Institute, Lodi Road Institutional Area, New Delhi.


Anhad and Human Rights Law Network have taken the initiative to organise this Tribunal. The task is stupendous. Obviously it cannot be undertaken by one or two organisations. We need to make it a collective national level effort. We would therefore request you/ your organization to participate in this effort. Participation would involve all or at least some of the following:

1. Being a joint co organiser of this process
2. Identifying issues nationally as well as locally which need to be taken up by the Tribunal
3. Identifying and contacting other groups which can be part of this process as also names of panel members
4. Helping to identify 15-20 individual/ groups from your state to depose at the Tribunal.
5. Volunteering to compile the existing material on the issue.
6. Assisting in Report preparation
7. Fund raising for the project


1. Overview of Rise of Anti Democratic Forces in India
ß Increasing spread of majority communalism
ß Growing intensity of riots and spread to newer areas
ß Failure of the State machinery
ß Links between the government/ state and non-state actors – use of the law to promote anti-democratic forces
2. Education
ß Communalisation of Mainstream Education
ß Changes in Curriculum
ß Spread of communalisation through schools run by various communal groups
ß Attacks on minority schools
ß Funding grants – discrimination in distribution of grants
ß Discrimination of secular scholars and academicians
3. Communalisation of Culture
ß Rewriting of history
ß Insistence on Unitary Versus composite culture
ß Attacks on places of worship- Ayodhya, Kashi, Mathura, Bhoj Shala destruction of places of worship in Gujarat and other states, attacks on churches at various places
ß Dress Code
ß Policing of Culture
4. Role of Media
ß Media- especially the role of vernacular media, electronic media
5. Conversion
ß Extent of conversion and how big is it really an issue?
ß Anti conversion laws
ß “Hinduisation” of tribals
ß Connected issues such as separate census of Christians
6. Hate Speech
ß Extent and nature of hate speech
ß Circulars and handbills issued by communal organisations against Muslims and Christians
ß Legislative response to hate speech (S.153A, 153B, 505 of the Penal Code)
ß Judicial response to hate speech
ß Administrative failure to respond to hate speech
7. Riots and Other Attacks
ß History and causes of major riots in different parts of India
ß Impact of riots on various communities
ß Role of the fundamentalist organizations in riots
ß Role of administration in riots
ß Paramilitary forces of communal groups
8. Police Force
ß Reports of various Enquiry Commissions on Role of Police
ß Police involvement in riots
ß Scuttling of investigations by the police
ß Religion wise composition of the Police force
9. Administration
ß Reports of various Enquiry Commissions on Role of Bureaucracy, Involvement of bureaucracy in riots
ß Communalisation of bureaucracy
ß Penetration of communal forces in bureaucracy
10. Legislation
ß Conversion laws
ß Anti cow slaughter laws
ß Repeal of Assam Migrants Act
ß Art. 370A of the Constitution
ß Misuse of TADA, POTA, Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Prevention of Unlawful Activities Act and related legislation
11. Judiciary
ß Recent judicial trends in issues concerning secularism- such as judgments on Elections, Bommai Judgment, Communalisation of Education Judgment, Conversion cases, etc.
ß Role of the judiciary in important cases such as Anti Sikh riots, Bombay riots and Gujarat pogrom
12. Other Quasi Judicial Institutions
ß Minority Commission
ß Women's Commission
ß Election Commission, (To be taken up at Delhi and at such other places where the Commissions have been called upon to act- such as Gujarat)
ß Identity/ Impact on reservation/ welfare schemes and other issues close to Dalits
13. Communalisation amongst Dalits and Tribals
ß Recent trends of communalisation amongst Dalits and tribals
ß Participation of Dalits and tribals in recent riots, Identity politics, impact on reservation
ß Impact on welfare schemes and issues close to Dalits
14. Impact of Communalisation on women
ß Impact on women during riots
ß Impact on women's rights due to communalisation of society,
ß Cult of male supremacy
ß Distorted picture of Hindu women from mythology
15. Attack on Secular Organisations
ß Description of attacks on organizations- here we need to give a geographical spread as also description based on attacks on different community groups- such as Missionary schools, NGOs, individuals working on issues concerning secularism, etc.
16. Other ways of Spreading the hatred by communal groups
ß Extent and spread of different in India communal groups, (both majority and minority groups)
ß International connections of these organizations and their funding
ß Distribution of weapons
ß Attempts to make communal persons national heroes
ß Changes in the National Anthem and Flags law
ß Vande Matram controversy
ß Jingoism around Pakistan and Bangladeshi immigrants
ß Economic Boycott
17. Minority Communalism
ß The growth of fundamentalist organisations
ß Impact on women’s rights due the growth of fundamentalist forces
18. Rise of Militarism, the International situation and Fascism
ß Hyper Nationalism, the rise of militarism and nuclearisation within the country – India as a Super Power
ß Islamic Phobia
ß Militarisation of daily life
ß The U.S. hegemony and rise of fundamentalism after September, 11th
ß Selective targeting of fundamentalism by the Western countries
ß Situation in Pakistan and its impact on India