Tuesday, August 25, 2015

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

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Islamic State blows up ancient temple in Syria

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

On Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 6:09 PM, Teesta Setalvad <teestateesta@gmail.com> wrote:





TEESTA SETALVAD Monday, August 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Writers note: We at Communalism Combat were among those to document the district-wise cultural and religious desecration In Gujarat (totaling 237 shrines) and the documentation can be viewed athttp://www.sabrang.com/cc/archive/2002/marapril/rdestruction.htm)

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

Monday, August 24, 2015


                                                                    ARE NOT NEGOTIABLE

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

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

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


"The Midnight Knock!"by Fr Cedric Prakash (in INDIAN CURRENTS) August 24th 2015

The Midnight Knock!

The Midnight Knock!
Sanjiv Bhatt, the Gujarat State Police Officer who had the courage to take on NarendraModi over the 2002 riots was unceremoniously sacked from the services on August 19th 2015!  
A written Order served to him by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India dated August 13th 2015 signed by a Deputy Secretary cites indiscipline very particularly absenting himself from work without permission and that he “ Sanjiv Bhatt had remained defiant and flagrantly flouted the rules with complete disregard to discipline which should otherwise have been the hallmark of an officer of a uniformed force”. The Order served on him also says that he was given ample opportunity to present his side of the case but did not do so. Bhatt obviously has a different version of this; he immediately tweeted a response saying that he was removed on the basis of “ a sham inquiry and fabricated charges”.  
Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim to have been part of the midnight meeting of February 27th / 28th 2002 convened by the then Chief Minister NarendraModi was not accepted by the Government authorities and by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was appointed by the Supreme Court to probe nine cases of the 2002 Gujarat Carnage. Bhatt however has remained adamant saying that he was there; besides he has also been very vocal and vociferous in alleging that NarendraModi was the architect of the Gujarat Carnage which killed almost 2000 Muslims and left thousands more brutalised and homeless. The fact remains that ever since he took on Modi and the power of the State, Bhatt has been at the receiving end of a vindictive Government and system which seems to have been all out to get him.
Sanjiv Bhatt has served the Indian Police force for 27 long years; he joined the Service in 1988 and was allotted the Gujarat cadre. In 1990, he was accused of torturing a person in police custody in the wake of some riots in Jamnagar district. The person died of kidney failure a little later; once again in 1998 he was accused of another custodial torture case. However, from both these cases, he emerged unscathed.
A high point in his career was being appointed as the Superintendent of the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad. As Superintendent, he became extremely popular with the prisoners and worked towards prison reforms. But the Government and his other seniors really did not like this. In just over two months, he was transferred for apparently being “too friendly” with the prisoners.   This transfer resulted in a huge backlash within the prison. More than half of the 4000 plus prisoners went on a hunger strike protesting against his transfer; about six of them even slashed their wrists in open defiance against Sanjiv’s bosses; but they did not relent much to the dismay of the prisoners.
Sanjiv Bhatt has regularly courted controversy but has also shown himself as a tough cop. When the movie ‘Singham’ was released in 2011, many in Gujarat and elsewhere saw in “Inspector BajiraoSingham” a fair bit of Sanjiv Bhatt. Singham fights against injustice, prejudice and corruption using his own brand of ethics and justice; but was not afraid to take on the system.
Bhatt completed his schooling at St. Xavier’s Loyola Hall, Ahmedabad and in 1985 he obtained an MTech degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. In 1987, he married Shweta also from Ahmedabad. They have two children Akashi who is a young Doctor and will shortly be pursuing her higher studies in Oxford and Shantanu who is doing his architectural studies in Newcastle, UK. Another point which has hurt the establishment is that in the last Gujarat Assembly Elections in 2012 Shweta Bhatt stood against NarendraModi as a joint Opposition candidate. Modi of course won those elections convincingly.
Reacting to his dismissal, Sanjiv Bhatt posted on his facebook page and tweeted “ many friends have been asking me for my reaction on my removal from the Indian Police Service.   All I have to say is that, at the age of 24, with a passion and fire that still continues to rage in me, I chose the Indian Police Service because I saw it as a career that would add action and purpose to my life.   And I have not been disappointed one bit.   In fact, I have enjoyed every moment of the last 27 years in the IPS.   The Government of the day has decided to remove me from service after conducting a sham, ex parte inquiry on completely fabricated charges of ‘unauthorised absence from duty’.   Mind you, this so-called ‘unauthorised absence from duty’ pertains to the period when I was deposing before the SIT (investigating into the Zakia Jafri complaint) and the Nanavati commission (inquiring into the Gujarat riots). Be that as it may, the bottom-line is that if the Government of the day does not require my services...so be it.   I pray to God that He may continue to kindle and stoke the passion and fire that has possessed me all these years.   May He continue to lead me in my just pursuits.
Whatever the merits or the demerits of Sanjiv Bhatt be, one thing quite transparent is that the Government has been all out to get him! This is evident from the fact that Sanjiv Bhatt was systematically denied his promotion to the rank of Inspector General of Police (IGP) when most of his batch-mates were promoted several years ago.
Bhatt has now emerged as another victim of the “midnight knock” which takes place so often when the powers just want to get rid of someone. But that knock has also meant that Sanjiv Bhatt has become yet another hero to the resistance that is gradually but surely emerging in the country.
When he heard of his father’s dismissal from the services, Shantanu who was in London wrote a moving tribute to his father which has since gone viral; he concludes his letter saying “ and lastly, I would like to congratulate you for getting freedom from the shackles of this rancorous government which tries to break and antagonise anyone who tries to speak up against them, or tries to stand up for what is right! In this new chapter of your life, I would wish you all the very best for pursuing whatever makes you happy and satisfies you and we as a family will always be behind you, supporting every decision you take!”
A powerful message for every citizen in the country today!
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace.)
(Published on 24th August 2015, Volume XXVII, Issue 3 4 )
- See more at: http://www.indiancurrents.org/detailedarticle.php?d=679#sthash.NAxylJSg.dpuf