Saturday, May 30, 2015

Why BJP needs to change the mindset of its members against minorities - By Keki Daruwalla - The Economic Times, Mumbai, INDIA.

The Economic Times

Why BJP needs to change the mindset of its members against minorities

PRINT HEADLINE: So what if there's been no riots. *

May 30, 2015, 5:53 AM IST  in ET Commentary | EconomyIndiaLifestyle | ET
By Keki N Daruwalla
In his press conference last Saturday, finance minister Arun Jaitley stated that the minorities in India are safe and there is “no social tension”. This is true in many respects. *[Balabhgarh, Haryana riots happened just after Arun Jaitley declared about No Riots in 100 days of Modi rule. GM]
There has been no sectarian riot worth the name since the NDA government came to power in May 2014. But is this the measure of the well-being of minorities? No houses burnt, no Muslim or Christian stabbed, so all is hunky-dory? When asked about the provocative statements against minorities made by some BJP leaders, which have included ministers in the Narendra Modi government, Jaitley responded by saying that they had been “instructed not to make them.” But the sentiments embedded in those statements have already told a story of bigotry.
Taken in totality, the impact of such statements made over the last six months, including by those satellite organisations of the far-right, is alarming. Rajeshwar Singh of the Dharam Jagran Samiti, the man reportedly behind the RSS’ ghar wapsi programmes, stated in Etah, UP, that “India will be made free of Muslims and Christians by 2021. India is the country of Hindus alone.” There’s also the infamous quote of minister of state Niranjan Jyoti dividing the electorate into ‘children of Ram’ (Ramzada) and ‘illegitimate’ (haramzada) others.
In April, the Shiv Sena publication Saamna wrote how Muslims are used as a vote bank, so their voting rights should be scrapped. At a public meeting in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh Shiv Sena chief Anil Singh elucidated, “Muslims will get empowered automatically once they agree to undergo vasectomy and confine their families to two children.” Even Sanjay Gandhi think of pitching vasectomy as empowerment.
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat couldn’t have pleased too many Christians when he stated that Mother Teresa’s humanitarian work was motivated by a mission to convert. And now comes the news that road signs in Delhi with Muslim names have been defaced. This can’t be very reassuring. The silver lining in all this talk is that it doesn’t resonate with a majority of Indians, including those in the majority community.
Our discourse oscillates between ‘love jihad’ and ‘ghar wapsi’. One doesn’t know if one should laugh or cry. Hedge your women in (as if they aren’t hemmed in already with thorn and bramble) so that no ‘outsider’ (read: Muslim) runs away with your bahu-beti. An 80% majority afraid that ‘their women’ will be enticed by the 15-20% — can there be a better example of national, or should we say sectarian, paranoia? When you think of power flowing from the ballot box, you come across the same fear. A far-right Hindutva leader tells people to have four children. The Akal Takht tells each Sikh to have at least three.
Where are we headed? As if the billion-and-a-quarter population of India was not calamity enough. You can’t walk without someone jostling you, or crushing your toes. We would need to ask the Almighty for another gulf somewhere, lined with a dozen countries whose inhabitants sit on oil and don’t wish to work, and who need South Asian minions to do their chores, run their trains, drive their cars and clean the snot from the noses of their children.
Has our lukewarm family planning programme gone for a toss already? There was hardly a mention of family planning in any party manifesto during the election campaigning in 2014 from the BJP or the Congress or from any other party. The reservation virus and the theory that doles are all that minorities need, as was the thinking in the UPA regime, have profound faultlines.
It encourages people to think in terms of blocks — whether casteist, communal, ethnic or tribal. Herd thinking is the worst thing that can happen to us. We are regressing into biradari, caste-panchayats and khaps, with thought processes of the masses moving into 17th century paradigms. Nothing could be more reactionary.
Some hoped that in the 21st century, the harshness of the nation state would be rubbed off the slate and what Ashish Nandy calls the “aggregates organised around cultures and civilisations, including those previously marginalised” would come into their own. This does not seem to be the case with India at the moment.
The need of the hour is not gagging the far-right, but changing the mindset of its members. And finance minister, sir, let us raise the level of debate at least a few notches.
(The writer is former additional director, R&AW, and former member, National Commission for Minorities)
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own. [Why editors of ET are getting nervous when truth comes out? GM]

Friday, May 29, 2015

What keeps Yogendra Yadav mum on Haryana riot?

29 May 2015 05:05 PM, IST

What keeps Yogendra Yadav mum on Haryana riot?
Yogendra Yadav addressing Swaraj Abhiyan members in Ahmedabad on 26 May 2015 (Photo credit - Swaraj Abhiyan)


New Delhi, 29 May 2015: Four days have passed since the rioting and arson in Atali village of Faridabad district in Haryana left over 200 Muslims homeless and over a dozen of them wounded, but ‘son of the soil’ Yogendra Yadav of Swaraj Abhiyan, a faction of Aam Aadmi Party, has not yet uttered a word on the violence in his home state. Crudely speaking, he could be making a ‘fine balance’ not to antagonize his potential voters from the majority community in Delhi’s neighbouring state which is set to be the venue for his electoral debut after leaving AAP.
The incident took place in Atali village on 25th May evening but Yadav was so busy in Gujarat event of his Swaraj Abhiyan that day that he could not say a word on the riot. But on 26th May also, his all-time active twitter and facebook pages remained silent on the riot but active on the Gujarat event. Similar were 27 and 28 May. It was only today i.e. 29th May when Yadav has 'woken up' – and that too just to retweet Swaraj Abhiyan’s post saying: “Swaraj Abhiyan has been trying to douse the fire in village Atali of Faridabad distt right from the day it erupted.” The text is followed by a link which takes one to Yadav’s facebook page where yesterday he had actually shared a Haryana lawyer Ramzan Chaudhary’s post on the Atali violence. It is clear: he or his group did not want to take any stand on this issue.
Was he really so busy that he could not take out a couple of minutes to clearly and directly denounce the communal violence in Haryana? Maybe. Or maybe he is behaving like a 'smart politician' who does not antagonize any.
Hasnu Khan at hospital in Faridabad

Atali Violence

Till 5 PM on 25th May, almost everything was normal in this village of a mixed population of Hindus and Muslims. But what happened in next two hours that day has changed the look of the village for long and divided the hearts perhaps for years and decades to come. The loot, arson and rioting targeting Muslims in the Atali village once again signifies that the menace of riot continues thriving in India irrespective of which political party rules the country or states.

Muslim women from Atali village taking shelter at Ballabgarh police station

Dozens of homes, vehicles and shops of Muslims were ransacked and put on fire by a mob of the Hindu majority community as they were against the reconstruction of an old mosque whose title suit was contested in the court. Hundreds of members of the minority community had to flee their homes to save their lives while dozens of them were wounded as the rioters chased and attacked them with crude sharp weapons. Even four days after the rioting, over 200 people are still sheltered in the premises of Ballabgarh city police station.

one of several houses looted, ransacked and set on fire in Atali village

The Politics of Beef In India - By John Dayal - Human Rights Activist

Dr. John Dayal

Issues of Rights and Justice for the Minorities and the marginalized in India

The Politics of Beef In India

Food, faith and politics
 “Congratulations Maharashtra: It is now safer to be cow than a woman, Dalit or Muslim in the state”, a Tweet by anonymous but popular commentator @RushieExplains went viral on social media when the President of India, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee, signed into law a twenty-year old legislation banning the slaughter of cows, bulls bullocks in that state, making it the 23rd state to criminalize the production or eating of beef and beef products, in fact the possession of the meat, a serious offence inciting a five year prison term. The irony was because the current punishments under Indian law 2 years for drunken driving, the sort indulged in by film stars and billionaires, 2 years for manslaughter, three years for theft, 5 years for cow slaughter, 7 years for conversions by priests, specially if involving Tribals and Dalits to Christianity. Indian law has no punishment for marital rape.
 The cow as the holy animal of Hindus has always been a disputed belief. Prof D N Jha in his book ‘The Myth of the Holy Cow’ explains this misrepresentation of cow’s holiness. Rigveda has references of cow being one of the most commonly consumed food item among the Brahmins. The practice of cow slaughter was an integral part of the Aryan cult. Jha writes cow and bull meat was one of the favourite delicacies of the Hindu deity Indra. Swami Vivekananda, whose name is now a chant in the corridors of power said: ‘You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.’ [Vivekananda speaking at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (2 February 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhist India’, cited in Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3, (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536].  Further research sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established that “Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmanas, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. [C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), p. 217].
Not many Indians, even if they are non-vegetarians, can really afford meat of any kind in the manner that it is consumed in the rest of the world where the flesh of animals, birds or fish is the main staple, and starch, grain or potato, and vegetables the accompaniment. In South Asia, the starch is the staple, and the protein whether flesh or from pulses, the condiment to make it palatable or moist. This has to do with the purchasing capacity of the people, rather than any dietary preferences. And unlike the West where prime cuts of quality beef can be really expensive, the meat of the buffalo, the old and exhausted cow and bulls and bullocks of no further use to the farmer or tradesman are butchered, is about the cheapest protein consumed by religions and ethnic minorities and the Dalits. But even then, the consumption figures are low.
The decision to curtail or ban the meat of the cow, then, is a matter not so much of faith, or economics, as of practical politics, even though the governments claim that bovines enrich the soil and the environment by helping farmers on synthetic fertilizers. The argument is easily countered by critics who point out that marginal farmers can hardly afford to take care of cattle no longer useful as milch or draught animals who then are turned out to die miserably of starvation.
The Congress was the first to poeticize the cow, so to say, and Mahatma Gandhi and his peers in the early 20th century used it to full measure. It would be remembered that the electoral symbol of the cow for years was a pair of bullocks under yoke, succeeded later by a cow and calf. The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh and its political wing, the Bharatiya Janata Party, has hijacked the iconography and the political symbolism. The general elections, and the elections to the state assemblies, some of which the BJP won, culminated in the humiliating drubbing in the Delhi polls. The one cheerful strain through the last year has been the fact that the core vote share of the BJP has remained at just over 30 percent, or a third of the voting public. It is this core that the BJP has to preserve as it cobbles coalitions and economic arguments to win in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. It desperately needs to win big in these two mammoth states which send a good number of members to the Rajya Sabha where the BJP government is in a minority and has been defeated on the Vote of Thanks to the Address of the President. With UP and Bihar in its fold, it can in the next two years get a majority in the two houses of Parliament and be able to enact ay law it wants to. The emotional appeal of the cow will be very useful, even if the misogynist statements of some RSS luminaries put off a section of the people now supporting the party.
 This entry was posted in Democracy, Theocracy and tagged , ,  onApril 19, 2015.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Ballabhgarh Communal 'Tension' [sic]: Homes torched, 150 Muslims seek shelter at a Haryana police station - Written by Aniruddha Ghosal - THE INDIAN EXPRESS

The Indian Express

Ballabhgarh Communal 'Tension' [sic]: Homes torched, 150 Muslims seek shelter at a Haryana police station

The violence in Atali began Monday evening, the flashpoint of a five-year dispute over the construction of a mosque.

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Muslim families at Ballabhgarh city police station on Wednesday night after fleeing riots in their village.(Express Photo by: Gajendra Yadav)

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Ballabhgarh (haryana) | Updated: May 29, 2015 10:37 am

It’s almost midnight but sleep doesn’t come easy to 150 Muslims at the Ballabhgarh City police station. Their homes burnt, their neighbours now foes, they have nowhere to go. The police station is the only shelter for these residents of Atali, a village in Ballabhgarh roiled by communal violence.

The violence in Atali began Monday evening, the flashpoint of a five-year dispute over the construction of a mosque. Adjacent to a temple, the mosque was torched and the Muslims of the village fled. They have since been camping at the police station.

One tent, four desert coolers, one carpet and two porta cabins — that’s the sum total of the facilities made available to them.

“We don’t have food. We don’t have clothes. We have to depend on people in the city. The children are falling sick in the heat. When we told members of the minority commission about this, they gave us the coolers,” said Nizam Ali who lived three houses away from the torched mosque.

The administration has provided food, but the Muslims camping at the police station say it is too little. “Much of the food is coming from well-wishers, local NGOs and relatives. Bananas, rice, some rotis and dal. That’s all we have eaten in the past few days,” said Mumtaz who has now run out of money to buy milk for her 5-year-old son.

A delegation of Muslims had returned to the village to check the extent of damage to their homes. But they hurried back. All agreed going back was not an option, not as of now.

Faridabad Police Commissioner Subhash Yadav said many families don’t want to go back home because they feel that it is unsafe. “They went back under police protection on Wednesday and realised that most of their homes have been completely burnt. They are staying at the police station and we’re trying to make other arrangements.”

At the police station, everyone has an ordeal to narrate and cellphone photographs to share. “All our money has been looted. The school books have been burnt. Our clothes are gone, our cars torched. We have nothing left. How can we go back?” asked Fakrudeen Haji who had a transport business.

“We kept calling police, but they didn’t come. They still haven’t arrested the accused and they are asking us to return home. How can we? We refuse to leave the police station until we are sure we will be safe,” Isak Lambardar said. His house was directly opposite the mosque and, at the time of the attack, men had gathered there for the evening prayers.

At the police station, children and women lie under the solitary tent. Most men have settled on mats near the trees at the police station. There is no breeze, and it is still hot at 1 am. The police station is quiet. But every now and then, wails break the stillness of the night.
First Published on: May 29, 2015 4:37 am


Judge John P. O’Donnell with mannequins showing the gunshot wounds to Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams. CreditTony Dejak/Associated Press
CLEVELAND — A police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase in 2012 and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants, both of them black, was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.
The trial of the white officer, Michael Brelo, following harrowing episodes in communities such as Baltimore, Staten Island and Ferguson, Mo., played out amid broader questions of how the police interact with African-Americans and use force, in Cleveland and across the country.
Officer Brelo, 31, was one of 13 officers who fired 137 rounds at Timothy Russell and his passenger, Malissa Williams, who were killed after a chase through the area on Nov. 29, 2012. Officer Brelo fired his Glock 17 pistol 49 times, including at least 15 shots after he reloaded and climbed onto the hood of Mr. Russell’s 1979 Chevrolet Malibu and the other officers had stopped firing.

The chase started downtown after reports of gunfire from the car; prosecutors said the noise apparently was the result of the car’s backfiring. More than 100 officers pursued the car for more than 20 miles at speeds that reached 100 miles an hour. They began firing when the car was stopped and cornered.

Continue reading the main storyVideo

Verdict in Cleveland Police Shooting

A Cleveland police officer who climbed onto the hood of a car after a chase and fired repeatedly at its unarmed occupants in 2012 was acquitted of manslaughter on Saturday by an Ohio judge.
 By Reuters on Publish DateMay 23, 2015. Photo by Tony Dejak/Associated Press.

While Officer Brelo did fire lethal shots at the two people, testimony did not prove that his shots caused either death, according to the ruling of Judge John P. O’Donnell of the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court. “The state did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant, Michael Brelo, knowingly caused the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams,” he ruled.
Officer Brelo, a former Marine who had opted for a bench trial, sat stoically throughout the four-week trial. On Saturday, he could be seen shifting in his seat, at times sitting back, and at other times resting his head in his hands. At one point, he made a quick sign of the cross. He embraced his lawyers after the verdict. He remains on an unpaid suspension.
Defense lawyers said their client had feared for his life and believed gunfire was coming from Mr. Russell’s car. No gun was recovered, and prosecutors said Mr. Russell and Ms. Williams had been unarmed.
Patrick A. D’Angelo, one of Officer Brelo’s lawyers, said his team was “elated” with the verdict, and he blamed an “oppressive government” for bringing the charges. “We stood tall; we stood firm,” Mr. D’Angelo said, “because we didn’t do anything illegal. We didn’t do anything wrong.”
But the verdict does not mean the end of scrutiny of the case or of police issues in Cleveland.
Federal officials will review the trial testimony and evidence, and a city panel is investigating Mr. Brelo’s actions and police conduct in the episode. Five supervisors face misdemeanor charges for their oversight of the case.
There are also two ongoing investigations of police shootings in November. One is looking into the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy who was holding a replica gun when a white Cleveland police officer shot him. That shooting, captured on video, has also garnered national attention and resulted in protests.
In the other, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor’s office is investigating the death of Tanisha Anderson. Ms. Anderson, a 37-year-old black woman whose family said she suffered from bipolar disorder, lost consciousness and died in police custody after being placed face down on the pavement. The medical examiner ruled her death a homicide


The windshield and hood of Timothy Russell’s Chevrolet. CreditAaron Josefczyk/Reuters

The verdict on Saturday was met with anger by many, particularly blacks. Last year, the Justice Department found a pattern of “unreasonable and unnecessary use of force” within the department.
Representative Marcia L. Fudge, a Democrat whose district is based in Cleveland, said Judge O’Donnell’s verdict was “a stunning setback.”
“The verdict is another chilling reminder of a broken relationship between the Cleveland police department and the community it serves,” she said. “Today we have been told — yet again — our lives have no value.”
At a midafternoon news conference, Cleveland’s mayor and police chief said there had been a number of nonviolent demonstrations in the city and that officers were working to keep the protests under control.
“So far, the protesters are making their voices heard, but they are doing it in a peaceful and very respectful way,” Mayor Frank Jackson said just after 4 p.m. “Police are doing an excellent job of monitoring the situation and protecting everyone’s rights — protesters and everyone else.”
A protest march continued into the evening, with more than 100 demonstrators chanting and blocking traffic downtown. There were several tense moments, including some minor scuffles and games of cat-and-mouse with the police, and unruliness with Cleveland Indians fans leaving the baseball stadium, but the event remained largely peaceful. The crowd dwindled as the evening went on, and the police first made a handful of arrests after 9 p.m., the time protesters were ordered to disperse.
DeVrick Stewart, 29, of Cleveland, said he had been marching since the morning and saw broad issues with how the police treat people.
“I came out because this seems to be a world issue,” said Mr. Stewart, who mentioned both the Brelo case and Tamir Rice’s death. “It’s not a white or black issue. It’s a police versus society issue.”


Protesters who were arrested on Saturday after the acquittal of Officer Michael Brelo of the Cleveland Police Department. CreditTony Dejak/Associated Press

Timothy McGinty, the Cuyahoga County prosecutor, said in a news conference after the verdict that the investigation had led to several changes that he believed would prevent deaths, including better use-of-force training and increased penalties for officers who disregard department policies. As a result of the changes, “there will never have to be another Brelo trial,” he said.
Five police supervisors have been charged with dereliction of duty, a misdemeanor, for failing to bring the fatal chase under control. “We look forward to presenting another vigorous prosecution,” Mr. McGinty said.
In a statement, the United States attorney’s office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice said they would review the testimony and evidence.
“We will continue our assessment, review all available legal options and will collaboratively determine what, if any, additional steps are available and appropriate given the requirements and limitations of the applicable laws in the federal judicial system,” the statement said.
In 2013, the Critical Incident Review Committee was formed to review the shooting. Cleveland’s police chief, Calvin D. Williams, said during a news conference that, so far, 72 officers had been suspended without pay. One supervisor was fired, and two more were demoted. Administrative charges against three officers were dismissed. The review was paused during Officer Brelo’s trial, but was expected to resume after the verdict.

Nine of the police officers disciplined for their roles in the shooting have filed a federal lawsuit against the city for racial discrimination. The officers — eight whites and one Hispanic — claim that they were disciplined more harshly because they were not black.
After the verdict, Officer Brelo’s future with the department remained unclear. Stephen S. Loomis, the president of the Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, said Officer Brelo was going on a vacation with his family, but it was not known if he would be able to return to work.
During the trial, prosecutors argued that Officer Brelo’s actions crossed the line from justifiable to reckless when he climbed onto the car’s hood, but the judge disagreed.


Malissa Williams, left, and Timothy Russell.CreditCleveland Police Department

Before rendering his verdict, Judge O’Donnell spoke from the bench about widespread tensions between the police and African-Americans, mentioning Ferguson and Baltimore.
“In many American places, people are angry with, mistrustful and fearful of, the police,” he said. “Citizens think the men and women sworn to protect and serve have violated that oath or never meant it in the first place.”
But Judge O’Donnell said he would not let those sentiments cloud his verdict, and he found that Officer Brelo had reasonably perceived a threat from Mr. Russell’s car. The decision to continue firing from the hood was protected by law, he ruled, clearing Officer Brelo of all charges. The shooting was “reasonable despite knowing now that there was no gun in the car and he was mistaken about the gunshots,” Judge O’Donnell said.
“I reject the claim that 12 seconds after the shooting began, it was patently clear from the perspective of a reasonable police officer that the threat had been stopped,” he said, contrasting the prosecutors’ claims that the justifiable action ended when Officer Brelo climbed onto the hood.
Officer Brelo will remain on unpaid suspension while the review panel that was formed after the shooting continues its investigation into his actions and those of 12 other officers involved, Chief Williams said. In November, the City of Cleveland agreed to pay $3 million to settle wrongful-death lawsuits brought by the families of Mr. Russell and Ms. Williams.
Surrounded by members of Mr. Russell’s family on Saturday afternoon, Paul Cristallo, a lawyer for the family, said relatives were “hugely disappointed” with the verdict. He said that the police created the chaotic circumstances that ultimately led to Officer Brelo’s acquittal. Police officers are trained to de-escalate tensions with civilians, he said, but that “doesn’t include surrounding them with 62 cars and having 13 officers shooting at them.”
“Fleeing and eluding shouldn’t get you the death penalty,” he added.

Mr. Russell’s sister, Michelle, lamented that the trial had relied on the version of events told by police officers, and said her brother and Ms. Williams were never able to tell their side of the story. The police officers were angry, she said, and acted with a “mob mentality.”
“They knew that night that once they caught up to Tim and Malissa that they were going to let them have it,” she said. “And that’s exactly what happened.”
But in closing arguments, Mr. D’Angelo said his client believed he was under attack when he fired on the car. “What would make him want to shoot through the windshield at another human being?” Mr. D’Angelo said. “Could it be that he was shot at? Could it be that he reasonably perceived that the occupants of the Malibu were shooting at him? That’s what all the other officers perceived. That’s what Officer Brelo perceived.”