‘The illusion called Secularism’
By Mukul Sinha,

(Following is the text of the First Shahid Azmi Memorial Lecture, held on 11th February 2012 at Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh, Mumbai, organized by Friends, Comrades and Students of Advocate Shahid Azmi. Mumbai based 32 year young lawyer Azmi, was shot dead at his office on 11th February 2010. At the time of his murder, he was fighting many terror related cases, including for those falsely accused in the Malegaon blasts and Mumbai Terror Attack.)
Two words that have occupied the maximum space in the sphere of political discourse all across the globe in the last two decades are (i) Terrorism and (ii) Secularism. ‘Terrorism’ appears to have replaced the word ‘communism’ which the west had identified as the main enemy till the collapse of the Soviet Union. Secularism is projected as the higher stage of bourgeois democracy where people of different religious or ethnic groups enjoy equal rights without any discrimination. Terrorism is identified as the villain bent upon destroying this super structural advancement of the western civilization and dividing the civil societies whereas secularism unites the people! Not surprisingly most of the western countries have been singing paeans to this deception. The Indian State in concert with them has literally penned their own secular song:
“Sur Mile Mera Tumahara
Woh Sur Baneh hamara…”
But after all the song and dances are over, have these nation states been able to resolve their ‘minority’ issues? A perfunctory look at the recent history would show that even in the twentieth century, the attitude of the majority towards the minorities was one of total domination. An excerpt from Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar’s book, “We or Our Nationhood Defined” would establish this attitude without any ambiguity:
“German Race pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by purging the country of the Semitic Races-the Jews. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for Races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”.
“It is worth bearing well in mind how these old Nations solve their minorities’ problem. There are only two courses open to the foreign elements, either to merge themselves in the national race and adopt its culture, or to live at its mercy so long as the national race may allow them to do so and to quit the country at the sweet will of the national race. From this stand point, sanctioned by the experience of shrewd old nations, the foreign races in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and hold in reverence Hindu religion…”
In contest with this extreme Hindu nationalist position, the Congress promoted an ambiguous nation state theory: the soft Hindu state propagated by leaders like Purusotham Tandon and Madan Mohan Malaviya and the ‘secular’ state of Nehru. This ambiguity of the leaders of Congress towards secularism continues even till now and the slogan of “Sarva Dharma Samabhav” continues to deceive the minorities. At this stage, we may note some of the recent pronouncement of the Supreme Court on this subject:
“The word ‘secular’ is commonly understood in contradistinction to the word ‘religious’. Although the idea of secularism may have been borrowed in the Indian Constitution from the West, India has adopted its own unique brand of secularism based on its particular history.
The First Amendment to the American Constitution mandates that, ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. In other words, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect ‘a wall of separation between Church and State’.
Similarly, the Australian Constitution also prescribes that,’the Commonwealth shall not make any laws for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion’. Under the Indian Constitution however there is no such ‘wall of separation’ between the State and religious institutions…”
The above observations of the Apex Court in the case of T.M.A. Pai Foundation v. State of Karnataka, quite correctly sums up the dichotomy in the concept of the Indian secularism. This ambivalent attitude towards secularism is reflected in the judicial pronouncements also. In the case of Valsamma Paul (Mrs) v. Cochin University, the Apex Court felt that ‘pluralism of Indian culture and religious tolerance is the bedrock of Indian secularism. It is based on the belief that all religions are equally good and efficacious pathways to perfection or God-realisation. (Sarva DharmaSamabhav?) It stands for a complex interpretative process in which there is a transcendence of religion and yet there is a unification of multiple religions’.
As a contradistinction, we may extract another view of the Apex Court; in the case of *I.R. Coelho v. State of T.N., the Court held that ‘the fundamental rights have always enjoyed a special and privileged place in the Constitution. Some of the rights in Part III constitute fundamentals of the Constitution like Article 21 read with Articles 14 and 15 which represent secularism, etc. The role of the judiciary is to protect fundamental rights. A modern democracy is based on the twin principles of majority rule and the need to protect fundamental rights.’ This judgment brings us to the moot questions- do the minorities get the equal protection of law in secular India?
Keeping aside the larger question of economic or social justice to the minorities, we may limit our discussions to the two basic questions: (1) affording equal protection of law to the minorities and (2) the efficacy of the criminal justice system of delivering justice to the minorities. At this stage it becomes necessary to recall some of the major events of violence in secular India to assess the extent to which the minorities get the “equal” treatment in law.
The Nellie massacre took place in Assam during a six-hour period in the morning of 18 February 1983. The massacre claimed the lives of 2,191 people (unofficial figures run at more than 5,000) from 14 villages of Nagaon district. Most of the victims were Bengali-speaking Muslim women and children who had immigrated to the region. A group of media personnel passing by the region were witness to the massacre. No one has been punished for the most gruesome genocide!
On May 17, 1984, rioting began in Bhiwandi and spread to Bombay. Rioting continued till May 27. According to official statistics, the riots left 278 dead, 1115 injured, and 11,453 arrested. The large majority of all three categories were Muslim.
The anti-Sikh riots in 1984 were four days of mayhem in the northern parts of India, particularly Delhi, in which armed mobs set fire to Sikh homes and businesses, killed unarmed men, women and children and attacked gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship. The violence, which left almost 3,000 people dead, was a reaction to the assassination of the country’s Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on Oct. 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh and SatwantSingh. After 28 years of the carnage, there are very few that have been punished for the heinous crime.
The Bhagalpur riots that was sparked off on 24th October, 1989 was one of the series of riots organized by the Sanghparivar in connection with the Babri Masjid demolition movement. It was sparked off by a procession carrying bricks for Shilapujan for building the Ram temple in Ayodhya ,organized by BJP, VHP, Bajrangdal .116 persons were killed in the village Logai alone in Bhagalpur district on October 27, 1989.The rioters in Logai buried the bodies in a field and planted vegetables.The irony is that out of 1486 killed during October, 1989 in Bhagalpur, though 1383 were Muslims but it were the Muslims who were punished; the Court awarded life imprisonment for one and ten years imprisonment for 11 persons in 1996. Beside this, two dozen Muslims had earlier received similar punishments. The Mumbai riots started after the Babri Mosque demolition on 6 December 1992. This was followed by celebratory processions by Shiv Sena and BJP activists and targeting of Muslim localities. It is commonly believed that the riots occurred in two phases. The first was mainly a Muslim backlash as a result of the Babri Masjid demolition ..The second The second phase occurred in January 1993, with most incidents reported between 6 January and 20 January. Around 900 (575 Muslims, 275 Hindus, 45 unknown and 5 others) persons died in the violence and police firing.
The Gujarat violence of 2002 and thereafter
On 27-2- 2002, 58 passengers died in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express which burned down to ashes near the Godhra Railway station following a altercation between the Karsevaks who were traveling in the train with the Muslim tea vendors of the Godhra railway station. 58 dead bodies were brought to Ahmedabad and paraded in the street of Ahmedabad .
By 10 am in the morning on 28-2-02 the saffron bands were on the road leading crowds up-to 20 thousands – attacking everyone that was Muslim. At the end of the day, three of the most gruesome offence was committed at (1) Naroda Patia- 100 dead; (2) Gulberg Society-70 dead and eight girls are still missing; and (3) Pandarwada – 100 dead. By next two weeks, over 1000 innocent Muslim men, women and children were brutally killed. Several thousand had to run away, crores worth of property were destroyed in the cities, every single Muslim business establishment was specifically targeted; for the first time, the violence was taken to villages and Muslims of hundreds of villages had to run away.
No FIRs were allowed to be taken from any victim and police officers filed omnibus FIRs, carefully avoiding to give any details, sabotaging the very foundation of investigation. Investigating Officers at police station level refused to take orders from higher officers and listened only to the local BJP leaders. After sabotaging the evidence,the trial of the cases were handed over to Public Prosecutors. Who were also VHP/BJP activist. (result – Acquittal like in the Best Bakery Case) . Bail was granted for asking in murder, rape and in cases of arson.
Matters didn’t end there….
The next phase of the plan started unfolding from the end of 2002: The plan was to profile the entire Muslim community of Gujarat as a breeding ground for Islamic terrorist. The Prevention of Terrorist Act (Pota) was thus used against innocent youth, and hundreds were picked up between April 2003 to December 2004. Gujarat never had terrorist ever before but, Gujarat Government used Pota, to create terrorist in Gujarat. POTA was thus used as the “Production of terrorist Act” and not as the “Prevention of terrorist Act”.
Next, it had to be put in the minds of the people that the Islamic terrorists were bent upon eliminating the “Great Savior”. Thus started the encounters; Salim Pathan, Sadik Jamal, Javed, Israt Jahan, Shohrabuddin and many more were unfortunate innocent “terrorists”, who had to be killed to establish that Narendra Modi was in constant danger. Every six months one dead person was required to sacrifice at the altar of Modi and in every FIR that followed the encounter deaths of such hand piceked “terrorists”, a line was invariably added that “the accused had come to Gujarat to kill the Chief Minister”! The Supreme Courts interference has now exposed this game plan fully.
Besides the above cases of mass violence, in the last decade, especially after the 9/11 event in New York, several cases of “bomb blasts” have taken place all over the country killing many innocents. The blame of course was shifted on the Muslims ‘confirming’ their terrorist tendencies; the exposure of the Malegaon blast, Mecca Masjid blast at Hyderbad etc has however revealed the hidden agenda of the Hindu terrorist group to spread anarchy and hate against the minorities.
How has the Indian judiciary and other democratic Institutions reacted to the repeated instances of mass violence or the encounters and bomb blasts? At the lower rungs of the justice delivery system, the proximity of the police, prosecutor and the politician has as a rule, denied a fair deal to the minorities. In any communal conflict, the majority community has successfully turned the prosecution on its side and in severe situations like in Gujarat, even the judiciary in the State has faltered.
Few instances will suffice to establish this point. In the case of the death of the 58 passengers of the Sabarmati Express on 27th Feb, 2002, the session court awarded death penalty to eleven accused and life sentence to 20 more accused whereas in the Best Bakery case, all the accused were acquitted by the sessions court despite the brutal murder of several persons. POTA was invoked in the Sabarmati express case and 100 or so accused remained in jail for over eight years as under trial whereas all the accused in most of the 3000 or cases involving the brutal murder of over 1000 Muslims were bailed out within few months. POTA was never invoked in such cases though the Muslims all over Gujarat were terrified and helpless against the mob-violence supported by the state.
Besides these cases during the main phase of violence, hundreds of Muslim Youth were detained under POTA in connection within Haren Pandya murder case, Tiffin bomb case (no one was really injured in this case) and one omnibus case strangely called the ISI conspiracy case. All the cases ended in conviction of the Muslim accused and several are undergoing life sentences.
It is must however said that the Apex Court has time and again intervened to protect the fundamental rights of the minorities but in a country of over a billion people with a sizable percentage of minorities, even with the best intentions, it would be impossible for a single court to protect the basic structure of the constitution and afford equal protection of law to the minorities when the players in the State themselves pitch for the majority community.
Secularism is therefore an ambiguous word slipped in the preamble of the Constitution during the dark days of emergency by way of the 42nd amendment of the constitution in 1976. In our country, it has become purely a political slogan for and against the minority during the elections.
In the international arena, the declaration of US of its resolve to wage a “War on Terror” after the 9/11 event, has forced the genuine secular force to retreat as otherwise they would be seen to be siding with the “Islamic Jehadis”. This political propaganda has hit the shores of all countries with their rightist forces queuing up to support the “war on terrorism” to please their western masters.
Interestingly, the campaign of the BJP led Sangh Parivar against the Muslims has also changed after the 9/11 event. Prior to 2001, the campaign used to revolve around demand demolition of the Babri Masjid and the building of the Ram temple as a retaliation to the alleged past oppression of the Muslim rulers. After 9/11, the campaign shifted in profiling the Muslims as terrorist and the death of the 58 karsevaks of the Sabarmati express was used to demonise the entire community.
Defenders of secularism must therefore take lessons from the reality of the present day. While we shall salute warriors like Shahid Azmi, we must realize that this struggle has to be waged by the masses as a part of their larger struggle for democracy.
(Dr. Mukul Sinha is a trained scientist turned eminent Trade-Union activist and lawyer based in Ahmedabad, who has unearthed crucial facts about the Godhra carnage and the post-Godhra anti-Muslim pogrom and conducted successful trails of fake encounters.)

By Siddharthya Swapan Roy,

Despite the somewhat eclipsed visibility of the proposed PREVENTION OF COMMUNAL AND TARGETED VIOLENCE (ACCESS TO JUSTICE AND REPARATIONS) BILL, 2011, it’s already showing the promise of becoming a turning point in India’s attempts at becoming an inclusive, harmonious and socially just nation. The most visible of sign is the opposition it is getting even in this early stage from the usual suspects – the BJP/RSS led Right. They are trying hard to project the Bill as ‘inherently evil’ hoping to polarise civil opinion against it and scuttle its adoption in the parliament.

Threat to National Unity?

Despite being one of the biggest beneficiaries of overseas funds, the Right has perfected the habit of giving unto themselves the title of being the “only true patriots”. And having done so they embark on carrying out the worst of anti-national excesses with an air of impunity from law and accepted norms of human rights. The drum beating about how this Bill’s a threat to (what they call) national unity has started on similar lines.

Fact is, one doesn’t automatically become ‘patriotic’ by being born into a certain religion with a certain caste. If there’s any way of being ‘truly patriotic’ then its by owing allegiance to the Constitution of India and imbibing its spirit of liberty equality and fraternity. Every time the Right defies the Constitution’s spirit (whether by curbing of liberty through moral policing or negating equality by calling for economic/social boycott of minorities or discouraging fraternity by way of hate speeches), they are the ones being anti-national. In all the 52 pages of the Bill there is nothing that can even remotely be termed to being against liberty-equality-fraternity. So how’s it anti-national? Its claims notwithstanding, the Right is not certifying agency of patriotism in India.


As a corollary of the ‘anti-national’ declaration, the Goebbelisian network of Right propaganda has started milling out rumours about how the Bill is anti-majority. Now the draft summarises the Bill as one which is meant –

To respect, protect and fulfill the right to equality before law and equal protection of law by imposing duties on the Central Government and the State Governments, to exercise their powers in an impartial and non-discriminatory manner to prevent and control targeted violence, including mass violence, against Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and religious minorities in any State in the Union of India, and linguistic minorities in any State in the Union of India; to thereby uphold secular democracy; to help secure fair and equal access to justice and protection to these vulnerable groups through effective provisions for investigation, prosecution and trial of offences under the Act; to provide for restorative relief and reparation, including rehabilitation and compensation to all persons affected by communal and targeted violence; and for matters connected herewith and incidental thereto.

So the Right’s claim is tantamount to saying the Majority (Open category Hindus) go around being partial and discriminatory, enacting acts of targeted or mass violence against the caste, religious, linguistic and other minorities of India thereby sabotaging India’ secular democracy. And in the aftermath of having done all of the above take all steps to prevent justice and relief to the affected people!
Its a relief to note that like many other claims of the Right, their claim of representing the majority of India is also a lie and the majority of India has time and again proven its allegiance to seculraism.

The Bill is for Muslims?

The Right has attempted to project the Bill as one drafted solely for the protection of Muslims in India and is an outcome of the Gujarat riots. Firstly, protecting the lives and dignity of 138 million of our countrymen is reason enough to have a law and the Gujarat riots are in fact a harsh wake up call to about how democratic systems can go very wrong when hijacked by bigots. But that’s not what this Bill is about. Hatred for the numerically less dis-empowered and the desire to bully them is an idea which can metamorphose into various manifestations and cross geographical borders and timelines with ease. The Dalits burnt in Jhajjar and the migrant workers thrashed in Mumbai may, at peaceful times, look different. But as victims of the vile mentality that being the majority amounts to having a licence to violate minorities, they hardly have any difference. Terming the Bill as something for the Muslims is nothing but the age old technique of divide and rule – a design to target one minority at a time.

This and similar other lines of talk has been the mainstay of the Right’s opposition to the Bill.

Sadly the Congress led UPA’s miserable performance in all sectors from economy to security coupled with the unprecedented corruption, lends itself to the shrill rhetoric of the Right diminishing the space for reason and civil debate. Bathed in the values of neo-liberalism the media adds to the woes by dishing out dinner time entertainment throwing up bogus and extreme debates like either “corrupt or communal’ leaving no real alternatives.

Under such adverse circumstances countering the Right will involve a multi faceted approach.

Public Discussion and Debate

The Bill must avoid the very serious pitfall of “leave it to the experts”. The emergence of messiahs who’ll rid India of all evils may appear attractive in the short term, but is in general antithetical to the spirit of India’s multi-cultural democracy and specifically to a Bill which seeks to promote inclusiveness. Its a bill which portends an important social legislation, hence its only right that it be discussed openly in society in participative ways. Given the fact that riots etc tend to be complex phenomenon with many actors and layers, public participation will enrich and nuance the Bill and empowered it to tackle real life situations. Also public discussion will help dispel myths about it and let people know how it can help make their lives better. The bluff of fear mongers can be effectively called when we discuss concretely what the Bill contains as opposed to being fed interpretations of it.
Its common knowledge that personal beliefs and affiliations of judges, law enforcement officers and other key individuals can alter the fate of historic cases. So without adequate sensitisation, any legislation, however legally sound, is bound to fail. Public debate aided by sustained activism is the only way to achieve this.

Also genuine doubts and grey areas of the Bill (for eg Central intervention in riot affected states and its potential misuse) can be effectively addressed through participative debates.

Taking Lessons from Comparative Study

Similar laws need to be examined and studies need to be done about how similar anti-atrocity anti-discrimination laws work – both in India and elsewhere. A very important step in this regards is taking stock of the performance of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Both the Bill and the mentioned law have a lot in common in terms of the issue they seek to address – exploitation and harassment of minority by majority. The law faced (and faces) similar criticism from the usual suspects – ‘anti-majority’ ‘will be misused by the minority’ etc. As laws they’ll have to fight against similar, often deep rooted, social prejudices that permeate Indian legislative, executive, judiciary and media. The efficacy of the SC/ST Act and its mechanisms (fast track courts, special judges etc which is common to both) needs to be revisited and lessons learnt.

United Effort

From Birmingham Jail in the April of 1963 Martin Luther King Jr wrote to his comrades about how he “…cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – prophetic words for any struggle for emancipation.

Its but obvious that the silence of one group when the rights of another is trampled, will only embolden the oppressor to turn to another group after it is done with the first. Those at the receiving end of discrimination, whether caste, religious, linguistic, ethnic, sexual or economic, must come together as one to buttress this bill as another step towards a just India.

Besides social justice, struggles for economic justice (workers rights, land rights and so on) are equally important.
Firstly, history stands witness that in times of economic crises, the Right quickly concludes that the fault lies with a specific identity and justifying their vile acts that follow – Jews were blamed for robbing the Germans of their ‘rightful’ wealth, North Indians are blamed for Mumbai’s civic mess and Blacks were blamed for the London’s looting.

Secondly economic oppression forms a very big part of communal and targeted atrocities. While physical violence may last for a short time, ranging from a few hours to a few days, economic torture can last for years together either preceding following or even acting independently of physical violence. Economic boycott, forcible occupation of farmlands, forcible closure or damage to shops, cartelisation by one community depriving other communities of adequate remuneration in a trade and other modes of attacks on livelihood are rampantly used against minorities. Therefore economic empowerment of the minorities is a strong deterrent to the oppressors as it 1)gives monetary strength to the minorities to withstand boycott to an extent 2)acts as a disincentive for others who may be engaged in trade with the minority.

So if this Bill is to see the light of day, activists must ally their forces with those seeking food security, minimum wages, labour and farmer rights and so on.

Increased Democratic Participation

The hands of peace and democracy needs to be strengthened by shunning groups that practice or promote violent ways. Recalling Modi’s rendition of Newton’s third law in the aftermath of Godhra, we should note how every act of violence is cunningly used as a justification of more violence and polarising even the well intentioned and robbing the movement of crucial public support.
All pro-harmony people must agree to pressurising their leaders, elected representatives, government officials etc to take clear stands on the issue of minority rights. The media too needs to be told in no uncertain terms that it has to give up its growing penchant for shrill, rhetorical and polarising debates.


Their Prime Ministerial ambitions running high, the Right may well be looking to rake up communal tensions so their reaction must be treated as a warning sign by right thinking citizens, politicians and intellectuals alike. Given the violent and repressive history of Hindutva politics, its necessary that those at the receiving end of the violence come together and ensure safe passage for the Bill. While our lands have seen much more bloodshed than desirable in the name of identity, it is a historic truth that our diverse peoples have spent far more time time living together in peace. A tradition worth fighting for.

(Siddharthya Swapan Roy is a political activist and freelance writer based in Pune, Maharashtra. He’s reachable at siddharthyaroy@gmail.com)

[Following is the text of the First Prof. Iqbal Ansari Memorial Lecture delivered by Mr. Harsh Mander on 13 October 2011, India Islamic Culture Centre, New Delhi]

For any teacher, the highest tribute is the love of one’s students. It is Dr Iqbal Ansari’s students who have organised this annual Memorial Lecture series to honour his memory. It is an extraordinary privilege for me to speak this evening in memory of a great son of India, a teacher of English, and a man who was a passionate human rights worker until his last day. Much of his adult life, he battled the recurring blood-letting in organised episodes of mass communal violence in India. The organised hatred, the suffering of the survivors, and the impunity of the perpetrators of these targeted hate crimes, caused him life-long anguish. But never once did he lose hope and faith that the secular democratic foundations of the Indian republic would ultimately prevail. Each new episode of violence and impunity only stirred him into even greater urgency to seek solutions, within the framework of the Constitution.

In the later decades of India’s struggle for freedom from British colonial rule, an immense groundswell of popular support and mass mobilisation had surged behind Mahatma Gandhi. The majority of people of this land shared his vision for the new India, of a resolutely secular nation, with freedom and equal rights of citizenship for people of every faith, community, caste, class, colour and gender. There was also influential mass support for more radically egalitarian and democratic ideologies of the left and dalit movements. However, leaders of the Muslim League fought for and secured an independent Islamic nation carved out from Muslim majority segments of India, convinced that people of diverse faiths cannot live together with peace and equality. Extremist Hindu organisations were also implacably opposed to Gandhi’s humane and inclusive Hinduism and nationalism, and one from among their ranks assassinated him just months after India became free.

The tolerant and pluralist secularism of modern India is rooted in millennia of the civilisational experience of Indian people, a civilisation in which every major faith in the world found a home, was nurtured, and evolved, alongside a rich and challenging diversity of sceptical, rationalist, atheistic and agnostic beliefs. Indian secularism entails therefore not a denial of faith, but equal respect for all faiths – including always the absence of faith – with all the symbols, philosophical trappings and ethical imperatives of these different systems of belief. It derives from an unbroken multi-hued tapestry of practice and teachings of tolerance and love, including those of Buddha, Ashok, Akbar, Kabir, Nanak, the Sufi saints and Bhakti reformers, and Gandhi. It is overlaid in its modern incarnation of democratic secularism with not just equal respect for all faiths, but also the guarantee for the practitioners of these diverse faiths of equal rights and protection under the secular law of the country.

Two years after Gandhi fell to the bullets of his assassin; the Constitution of independent India – drafted by one of India’s most revered leaders from a community which traditionally was subjected to the most savage caste discrimination, BR Ambedkar – secured further the secular, socialist and democratic foundations of the nation reborn. This secular Constitution pledged equal freedoms and rights to all citizens regardless of the god they worshipped or chose not to worship, regardless of whether they were women or men, regardless of their caste, wealth, ethnicity, the colour of their skin, and the language they spoke. Although the state had no religion, the Constitution guaranteed all people the freedom to not just follow but also to propagate their own religion.

The struggle for freedom was never just a battle against colonial bondage, but also one for the India that would be rebuilt when the colonial rulers left Indian soil. It is significant that many of those who gave most for the secular democratic idea of India, such as Gandhi and Maulana Azad, were deeply devout practitioners of their respective religious faiths. And foremost among those who fought for religious states, Jinnah –father of the Pakistani nation – was not a practising Muslim most of his life, and Savarkar, founder of militant Hindu nationalism which he called Hindutva, was an avowed atheist. The battle is not, and never indeed was, between the actual teachings of any religion. It was about whether political mobilisation and institutions should be build around identity and difference, or on acceptance of, respect for and even celebration of diversity.

Despite the solemn guarantees of the Constitution of free India and the proud and shining legacy of Gandhi and the non-violent struggle that he led – dimmed a little but by means extinguished by the slaughter that accompanied Partition – pseudo-religious fascistic organisations continue to challenge the secular democratic vision for India. Their onslaughts grew more militant since the 1980s, with a resurgence of their aggressive alternate politics of difference and hate, and their propagation of a homogenised, combative, patriarchal and upper-caste version of the essentially pluralist majority Hindu faith. Since then, their mobilisation has been organised most powerfully around the symbol of a crumbling medieval mosque, the Babri Masjid, in a small town called Ayodhya, which they claim had been constructed after demolishing a temple built to commemorate the birth-place of revered Hindu deity Ram. A massive mob assault on this Muslim place of worship in the sacred Hindu town of Ayodhya resulted in its brutish demolition in 1992. As the highest courts of the country unconscionably prevaricated in their attempts to arbitrate the rival claims to the disputed site, extremist Hindu organisations continued to demand stridently that the site of the destroyed mosque be handed over for the construction of the Ram temple regardless of the decision of the courts, or independent historical and archaeological evidence. The movement to build a grand Hindu temple at the precise site of the Babri mosque, is not about competitive reverence for Ram or Allah, but an assault on the idea of secular democratic India itself, and the ancient traditions of equal reverence for all faiths, as well as the modern Constitutional guarantees of equal protection and equal rights as equal citizens before the majesty of the secular law of the land.

~ ~ ~

Since Independence, India has seen scores of group attacks on people targeted because of their religious identity . Such violence is described in South Asia as communal violence. While there is insufficient rigorous research on numbers of people killed in religious massacres, one estimate suggests that 25,628 lives have been lost (including 1005 in police firings) . The media has regularly reported on this violence, citizen’s groups have documented grave abuses and State complicity in violence, and government-appointed commissions of inquiry have gathered extensive evidence on it from victims, perpetrators and officials. Despite this, it has been remarkably difficult to hold perpetrators and State authorities accountable for committing, encouraging, aiding or enabling (including through deliberate inaction) such violence.

There are many who believe that the pursuit of legal justice by the survivors actually blocks prospects for reconciliation, because the testimonies of survivors would result in the arrest and trial of their disjoined neighbours. In Gujarat after the 2002 carnage, some well- meaning organisations in fact have actively and successfully brokered the negotiated return of Muslims to their villages, accepting on behalf of the victims the condition that they would not give evidence of the names their attackers to the police or in courts. They regard such negotiated home-coming of internally displaced people on highly unequal conditions, to be processes of forgiveness and reconciliation.

However, I believe that no authentic reconciliation is possible if it is built on the foundations of persisting injustice. The return of survivors transacted on the condition of abandoning all their prospects of securing justice as guaranteed under the law of the land for all citizens, for slaughter, rape, arson or loot, is not reconciliation in the sense of a restoration of trust and goodwill, but it is capitulation by a crushed and hapless people. Forgiveness is authentic only if the person who forgives has the option not to forgive. In Gujarat, we are witnessing not forgiveness but abject surrender. It is interesting that Gandhi also stressed that real forgiveness can only come from a situation of strength and agency of the person who has suffered. He says that ‘Abstinence is forgiveness only when there is power to punish; it is meaningless when it pretends to proceed from a helpless creature’. He illustrates this with a metaphor: ‘A mouse hardly forgives a cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her’.

Contemporary India has a troubled history of sporadic blood-letting in gruesome episodes of mass violence which targets men, women and sometimes children because of their religious identity. The Indian Constitution unequivocally guarantees equal legal rights, equal protection and security to religious minorities. However, the State’s record of actually upholding the assurances in the secular democratic Constitution has been mixed.

The Centre for Equity Studies is engaged in an on-going study which tries to map, understand and evaluate how effectively the State in free India has secured justice for victims of mass communal violence. It does so by relying primarily on extracting the State’s own records relating to 4 major episodes of mass communal violence – beginning with Nellie 1983, Delhi 1984 , Bhagalpur 1989 and Gujarat 2001, primarily using the powerful democratic instrument of the Right to Information Act 2005. In this way, it tries to hold up the mirror to governments and public authorities and institutions, to human rights workers and to survivors themselves – of official documents, supplemented by reports of Judicial Commissions of Enquiry (which are routinely set up after major episodes of mass communal violence, and typically forgotten subsequently) – to evaluate the accountability and impunity of public officials after episodes of mass violence.

International law lays down that States owe victims of gross human rights violations reparation , and reparation includes (1) access to justice in the form of criminal prosecution, (2) access to truth, and (3) material and non-material restitution. The Indian State has substantially failed victims of mass violence on all these counts. Particularly in the massacres before Gujarat in 2002, there have been very few criminal trials relative to incidents of serious violence. The record of cases brought at least to trial has been a little better in Gujarat, only because of greater civic activism, not because of the efforts of State institutions to secure justice. On the contrary, the State in Gujarat has resisted efforts to ensure justice to the survivors of the brutal mass violence.

Many of those who are engaged with this study have experience of working directly with survivors of mass communal violence, and learning from the narratives and experience of victim survivors. There is also a very large body of information, of reports of judicial commissions, of investigations by civil rights groups, of academic research and journalism available on episodes of mass communal violence. All of these suggest a recurring pattern of structural injustice and impunity leading up to, during and in the aftermath of such mass violence. These lay out the broad hypothesis of this study, which we tried to test against the State’s own records.

The study does not investigate the build-up and prevention of such episodes of mass communal violence. It investigates the access of victims to protection, justice and reparation after communal violence actually breaks out. Our hypothesis is that many victims of mass communal violence do not succeed in registering their complaints with the police. Where the State has a shaky record in failing to protect people from mass violence, and is perceived as partisan, victims have little confidence in its ability to pursue their complaints. But the greater problem is the climate of fear and both official and non-official intimidation which renders it difficult to register complaints after episodes of communal violence. Where victims have complained, the police is known to often refuse to register these complaints, or to register complaints but deliberately leave out crucial details narrated by the victims about the events, perpetrators and witnesses. Investigation is often found to be slipshod, and large numbers of complaints are closed without the alleged perpetrators being charged with and tried for offences. Trials are long, and have often been unsuccessful. As with criminal trials, the process of compensating victims is also typically very protracted. Survivors and activists, also testify that securing compensation is very cumbersome, and can take many years, and rates and standards of financial assistance extended to survivors of mass communal violence tend to be far too low to enable survivors to rebuild their lives. And finally, there is scant official disclosure on the State’s response to mass violence, and therefore a denial of survivors to ‘truth’.

In summary our hypothesis is that the Indian State has failed, in very large measure, to prosecute perpetrators, to account for its own failures, to compensate victims, and to tell citizens about what it did or did not do.

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Communal violence and its aftermath in India has always been characterised by injustice and partisanship by State authorities. But the carnage of Gujarat in 2002 stands apart not only because of the unprecedented denial of relief and rehabilitation to the survivors by the elected State government of Gujarat, but also because of the extent of the open, deliberate and defiant subversion that it witnessed of the criminal justice system, with the complicity of all its arms: the police, the prosecution and the judiciary. The charge of deliberate justice subversion is of course consistently denied by the State government, and indeed by the central government that was in office at the time of the carnage. For instance, the then Deputy Prime Minister Mr. LK Advani in a television interview dismissed the claim that there has been an extremely grave and deliberate subversion of justice in the aftermath of the Gujarat carnage 2002. He suggested that whatever failures occurred were the routine outcome of the general collapse of the criminal justice system in country, and that there was nothing distinct in the experience of Gujarat. But in fact what Gujarat witnessed after 2002 was not a spectacular State failure, but a remarkable State success, because the State succeeded in achieving what it set out to accomplish, and this was the subversion of all institutions of criminal justice with the sole objective of ensuring that those guilty for the massacre are not punished.

In the scathing words of the judges of the Supreme Court of India , the bench of the highest court in the land gets ‘a feeling that the justice delivery system was being taken for a ride and literally allowed to be abused, misused and mutilated by subterfuge’. The National Human Rights Commission earlier spoke in a similar vein of ‘a large-scale and unconscionable miscarriage of justice’ and stressed the imperative of the restoration of ‘justice and the upholding of the values of the Constitution of the Republic and the laws of the land. That is why it remains of fundamental importance that the measures that require to be taken to bring the violators of human rights to book are indeed taken.’ The failures of the state government to heed its counsel ultimately moved the National Human Rights Commission to respond to what it described as the ’damage to the credibility of the criminal justice delivery system and negation of human rights of victims’, by the extremely unusual step of itself filing an application before the Supreme Court for transfer of five major criminal cases connected with the 2002 carnage for their trial outside the state of Gujarat.

These damning observations about these large cases applied equally to literally thousands of cases in which justice has been cynically and efficiently subverted by State authorities in Gujarat, in the aftermath of the carnage if 2002. My colleagues and I applied to the Supreme Court that out of a total of 4252 FIR’s registered after the carnage, 2208 ‘summary reports’ were filed with the magistrate’s court. This means that these cases were closed even without submitting them to trial, based on police claims that they were unable to collect any evidence against the accused, or that the crime itself did not take place. If this was not challenged, it would mean that one could kill, rape and pillage openly, and would not have to even once see the inside of a police station or court-room. The impunity with which the next slaughter could be executed can then well be imagined. The extent of bias of the lower judiciary is evidenced by the fact that more than 200 courts in 17 districts passed these completely illegal orders of closure. Also, more than 300 accused had been acquitted in a short time span of over a year, with very few appeals filed by the State government. The closure of cases or acquittal of the accused in more than half the cases registered after the massacre in the short space of around one and a half years, was all the more extraordinary, given the normally sluggish pace of criminal justice in our country. It was the cumulative outcome of deliberately faulty police complaints and investigation, discriminatory arrests and bail and the intimidation of witnesses and biased prosecution and judges.

Many of the cases that were closed were deliberately destroyed in this way at the stage of the filing of the police complaint, known as the FIR or First Information report, itself. The accused were not named, and instead the violence was attributed to anonymous mobs. In many cases, omnibus FIRs were filed in advance by the police, clubbing large numbers of incidents involving sometimes hundreds of witnesses and accused in single complaints to render investigation completely unwieldy and confused, and in which often the victims were accused of instigating the mobs. Subsequent complaints by victims were then subsumed under the police FIRs, and the names of many of the main accused eliminated. Even those of the accused who were charged with grave crimes were released on bail frequently without opposition from the local police, enabling them to intimidate witnesses at will. Often false complaints – informally called ‘cross cases’ – were filed against the few complainants who managed to get their complaints registered, to browbeat them into not pursuing their complaints. There was also a discriminatory communally motivated pattern in the persons arrested and released on bail.

Investigation in many cases was assigned to tainted police officers accused of abetting or even participating in the massacre. The observations of the Supreme Court (again made in the context of the Best Bakery slaughter) apply to the large majority of the cases: that ‘the role of the investigating agency itself was perfunctory and not impartial… it was tainted, biased and not fair… without any definite object of finding out the truth and bringing to book those who were responsible for the crime’. Witnesses and survivors allege that the police did not take down their testimonies properly, deliberately omitting details and the names of the accused.

Once trials began, prosecution was frequently deliberately shoddy and partisan, and it was not unusual for public prosecutors to be often openly active members of the Sangh and affiliated organisations. The accused were frequently not arrested, under the specious claim that they are ‘absconding’, whereas they openly walked free, threatening and intimidating the witnesses with impunity. Once again, the Supreme Court expressed anguish about the ‘improper conduct of trial by the public prosecutor’ and added that when ‘a large number of witnesses have turned hostile it should have raised a reasonable suspicion that the witnesses were being threatened or coerced’. It added: ‘The public prosecutor appears to have acted more as a defence counsel than one whose duty was to present the truth before the Court. … The prosecutor who does not act fairly and acts more like a counsel for the defence is a liability for a fair judicial system, and courts could not also play into the hands of such prosecuting agency .’

The Supreme Court reserved its gravest strictures for the trial court. It stated: ‘The courts…are not expected to be tape recorders to record whatever is being stated by the witnesses. … They have to monitor the proceedings in aid of justice… Even if the prosecutor is remiss in some ways, it can control the proceedings effectively so that the ultimate objective i.e. truth is arrived at. ’ It observed significantly that truth should prevail over technicalities which protect the innocent and punish the guilty and the confidence in courts must be restored. ‘When the investigating agency helps the accused, the witnesses are threatened to depose falsely and prosecutor acts in a manner as if he was defending the accused, and the Court was acting merely as an onlooker and there is no fair trial at all, justice becomes the victim.’

The injustice was further compounded by the large-scale arrest of people of the minority community, and the strenuous resistance by the police to their applications for bail. Men and even boys were charged with murder and attempted murder in cases where police fired and killed innocent people, or powerful people were sought to be charged, in order to build pressure on the victims by filing ‘cross cases’ against them. All of this continues. Witnesses remain under great pressure to not give evidence against those who attacked them and destroyed their homes, even as a condition for returning to the homes of their ancestors or under threat of being prosecuted themselves on false charges. With openly biased police, courts and prosecution, criminal cases against the accused are sinking like stones in a turgid pool.

The brazenly partisan exercise of state authority is even more evident in the unapologetically discriminatory application of the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act 2002 (POTA) exclusively against minorities. Several hundred youth arrested under cases of POTA in Gujarat have been Muslim, except for one Sikh. Most of the POTA accused have languished for years in prison without bail. By contrast, despite the brutal carnage which took more than 2000 lives, not one of the accused were booked by the state government under POTA. The central government refused to repeal POTA retrospectively, so these cases persist.

The comprehensive and wanton failure of every institution responsible for criminal justice in Gujarat – the police, prosecution and judiciary – and the deliberate denial of justice with the objective of securing freedom for those accused of the gravest crimes of massacre, rape and arson from even the processes of the legal system let alone ultimate penalties, is clearly not a routine collapse. It seems reasonable to speculate that this was the outcome of systematic planned subversion of justice in a manner not unlike the planning of the massacre itself.

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There are many groups of people, and State as well as non-State institutions who bear responsibility for the crimes and inhumanity of the Gujarat carnage and the dishonour of its aftermath. These are the elected political leadership of the government, fascistic communal organisations, the judiciary and the prosecution. I choose to focus in particular here on the special culpability of one of them – with which I have served for two decades – the higher civil services (including the police). This is a vocation whose central calling is the upholding of justice, of law, order and the protection of vulnerable people. Default in the performance of one’s duty by a civil or police officer in a riot is not only the crime of a citizen who turns one’s face away from injustice, because of indifference, fear or complicity. It is a crime of much graver magnitude, akin to that of a surgeon who wantonly kills his patient on the operation table.

Half a century after India shed its colonial shackles, it continues to retain a peculiarly hybrid bureaucratic framework that is in many ways essentially incongruous in a democracy. On the one and, it holds on to many of its colonial trappings, and public servants who are not elected exercise enormous unaccountable power over several aspects of the lives of ordinary people, both at the local level and in the framing of policy and law. But, at the same time, during the decades that the State in India assumed leadership of nation-building and social justice, this same bureaucracy was charged with combating poverty and protecting the rights of dalit and tribal people, women and the working classes. It is this that attracted many of us to the civil services.

I spent 20 of the best years of my life in the Indian Administrative Service, living with my family in remote, tribal, districts of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, I do not regret a single day. No other employment could have enabled me to see and learn so much from the resilience, struggles and humanism of people in distant corners of my land. Like many colleagues I found enormous opportunities to implement my beliefs about land reforms, laws and programmes for tribal and dalit equity, justice and programmes to combat poverty as well as to fight corruption.

And yet, even as I worked with the opportunities that the system afforded, I could see from the start its fatal flaws and rapid corrosion as a democratic institution. It recruited many of the country’s better talents, but did little to make them genuinely accountable to the people they were mandated to serve. There were and continue to be in the ranks of the civil service women and men of the highest integrity and moral courage. But increasingly there are signs of a spirit of abject, sometimes humiliating subservience, as several civil servants habitually obey without protest even illegal and unjust directions of political superiors.

In the aftermath of the grim and bloody birth of a dismembered Indian nation in 1947, the leaders of the struggle for Indian Independence had resolved to retain a powerful bureaucracy inherited from the colonial legacy of governance. Their expectation was that it would act as a sturdy bulwark, a ‘steel frame’ to strengthen the unification of a vast, diverse, volatile land. In the decades that elapsed after Independence, a slow but steady decline set in, not only with the growth of indifference, unaccountability, corruption, sloth, arrogance, but most dangerously, partisanship and complicity with injustice and sectarian politics. One low was hit during the Emergency from 1975-77, where few stood up against dictatorship and the subversion of the entire Constitution. And with the shameful abetment of mass violence in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, the decline became precipitous in conjunction with the ascendancy of fundamentalist fascistic militant ideologies in the country. Sections of the police, civil and military administration bared their active sympathies with these divisive ideologies –ignoring that these contradict fundamentally the letter and the spirit of the secular democratic Constitution of India that they are pledged to uphold – while the large majority opportunistically aligned with these to advance their careers.

As a result, the corroded ‘steel frame’ dissolved and in the ‘laboratory’ of Gujarat in 2002, the country witnessed its complete ignoble collapse. The savage carnage in many parts of Gujarat that followed the horrific burning of a railway compartment in Godhra on February 27, 2002, and the systematic and wanton subversion of all civilised norms of relief and rehabilitation of the survivors in the bleak months that followed, are testimony to the collapse and perversion of the State machinery to an unprecedented degree. The majority of State authorities in Gujarat not only actively connived with a planned and orchestrated massacre of a section of the population, specially targeting hapless women and children. In the months that followed, they abetted and assisted for the first time in the country’s history the deliberate subversion of all civilised norm of relief and rehabilitation of the survivors. In other words, they enabled and assisted not only the murder, rape and plunder of legions of innocent people and their properties. They went further to assist the ruling political class of the State to prevent the organisation of even elementary temporary shelters with basic facilities in relief camps, or grants and loans to assist the destitute and bereaved survivors to rebuild their shelters and livelihoods. This brazen, merciless treatment, with State abetment, of victims of mass violence like unwanted diseased cattle, or like enemy populations, marks a new low in the governance of this nation. It heralds the completion of the unresisting transition of the civil and police administration from protectors to predators of the people.

Until the 1980s, there was an unwritten agreement in our polity that even if politicians inflamed communal passions, the police and civil administration would be expected to act professionally and impartially to control the riots in the shortest possible time, and to protect innocent lives. There were several failures in performance, and minorities were targeted in many infamous riots, but the rules of the game were still acknowledged and in the majority of instances adhered to, which is why the higher civil and police services were regarded to be the steel frame vital to preserve the unity and plurality of the country.

The 1980s saw the breaking of this unwritten compact which has led to the corrosion and near-collapse of the steel frame. It became the frequent practice for the higher civil and police authorities to be instructed to actively connive in the systematic slaughter of one community, and to do this by delaying sometimes by several days, the use of force to control riots. Local State authorities complied, and rioters were unrestrained by State power in their mass murder, arson and plunder.

Why is the decisive and timely use of State coersive force-lathis, tear-gas and bullets by police, para-military and military contingents – so vital a duty of the State in a communal situation? In every other kind of public disorder – such as labour, student or peasant protests – the broad consensus across a wide section of liberal opinion is that a democratic State must never use brute force to suppress democratic dissent. Only in the rarest of cases, and with a wide range of checks and balances to prevent human rights abuse, may a democratic State apply the principle of minimum necessary use of force to restore public order and security, respecting the right of democratic dissent and the expressions of public anger against perceived injustices and grievances.

In situations of sectarian violence, the responsibility of the State is completely different from any other. A humane and responsive democratic government must apply in all such situations – of communal riots, or violence against minorities or dalits – the principle not of minimum necessary application of force, but instead the responsible, accountable, lawful but maximum possible use of force that the State can muster in the shortest possible time, while always still respecting and safeguarding human rights. This is because unlike other expressions of public anger, communal violence targets almost invariably people who are most vulnerable and defenceless, it is fuelled by perilous and explosive mass sentiments of irrationality, unreason, prejudice and hatred, and its poison spreads incrementally over space and time. Its wounds do not heal across generations. The partition of our country continues to scar our psyche half a century after its bloody passage. A whole decade of terrorists in Punjab traced their origins to the marauding of the 1984 rioters. As I held on my lap a six year old boy in a camp in Ahmedabad, recounting the killings of his parents and six siblings, I felt broken by his pain that can never heal, but wondered at the same time how he would deal with his anger when he grows up. Likewise, the ashes of the horrific burnings in Godhra have stirred up their own poison. But it is important to understand that the cycles of hatred did not begin in the railway compartments of Godhra, and they will not end in the killing fields of Gujarat.

It is for this reason that every moment’s delay by State authorities to apply sufficient force to control communal violence is such an unconscionable crime: it means more innocents will be slaughtered, raped and maimed, but also that wounds would be opened which may not heal for generations. Civil and police authorities today openly await the orders of their political supervisors before they apply force, so much so that it has become popular perception that indeed they cannot act without the permission of their administrative and political superiors, and ultimately the chief minister. The legal position is completely at variance with this widely held view. The law is completely unambiguous, in empowering local civil authorities to take all decisions independently about the use of force to control public disorders, including calling in the army. The magistrate is not required to consult her or his administrative superiors, let alone those who are regarded as their political ‘masters’. The law is clear that in the performance of this responsibility, civil and police authorities are their own masters, responsible above all to their own judgement and conscience. There are no alibis that the law allows them.

It may be argued that this may be an accurate description of the legal situation, but the practice on the ground has sanctified the practice of political consultation before force is applied. Only to convince you that I speak from the experience of myself handling many riots, I could contest this with my own experience in the major riots of 1984 and 1989, where as an executive magistrate I took decisions about the use of force and in the former case calling in the army, without any consultation. I could similarly contest this with the experience of many women and men of character in the civil and police services across the country, who would similarly testify to salutary application of force, to control more difficult communal violence, without recourse to political clearances. There can be no dispute that given administrative and political will, no riot can continue unchecked beyond a few hours.

However, I will not substantiate this with my own experience, or those of older officers. It gives me greatest pride and hope, amidst the darkness that we find ourselves in today, to talk of the independent action taken by a few young officers in Gujarat and neighbouring Rajasthan during the 2002 crisis itself. Rahul Sharma was posted as the Superintendent of Police, Bhavnagar for less than a month when Godhra killings and the subsequent massacre all over Gujarat unfolded. Following the Godhra tragedy, he deployed a strong police contingent for the Gujarat Bandh called by the VHP the next day on 28 February, 2002. Unlike the rest of Gujarat, the day passed off without much trouble in Bhavnagar. But the next day, Rahul learned that a mob of around 2000 men armed with swords, trishuls (tridents), spears, stones, burning torches, petrol bombs and acid bottles, was about to attack a madrassa with around 400 small Muslim boys between the age of 12 and 15. Rahul rushed there was a police force of around 50 people. Seeing that the force was hesitant to open fire on the armed mob, Rahul himself took the rifle from a fellow constable and opened fire. As some attackers fell to police bullets, the crowd stopped in its tracks and faded away.

Rahul then made an entry in the logbook saying that he had fired from the constable’s gun to save the lives of the children. He also gave an order that any policeman with a gun not opening fire to save human lives from a violent mob would be prosecuted for abetting murder. This gave a clear signal to the police force that their leader the Superintendent of Police meant business, was willing to take full responsibility for his actions and was prepared to stick out his neck any distance to uphold his duties. This had an immediate effect on his force, and Bhavnagar was a town where more rioters were killed in police firing than innocent victims in actual rioting. For this, Rahul was moved out from Bhavnagar in a mere month of his assuming charge. He is quoted in the Outlook as saying, ‘I’m not one to run away from transfers. I take these things in my stride.’

In neighbouring Rajasthan, the Superintendent of Police of Ajmer, Saurabh Srivastava, with a young sub-divisional magistrate in his first charge and his small force, doused communal fires in Kishangarh on March 1, 2002, which had the potential of inflaming the tinder box of the entire State. They controlled an enraged armed mob of over a thousand men bent on attacking minorities in a pitched battle for over four hours.

It is sometimes also argued that the entire higher civil and police services have become politicised beyond repair, therefore whatever their legal and moral duties they today lack the conditions in which they can reasonably be expected to perform them. Once again, I would strongly contest this alibi. In the twenty years of my life in the civil service, I always found that despite the decline in all institutions of public life, there continue to survive democratic spaces within it to struggle to act in accordance with my beliefs without compromise. One may be battered and tossed around, in the way that young police officers who opposed political dictates to control the recent rioting in Gujarat were unjustly transferred. But in the long run, I have not known upright officers to be terminally suppressed, repressed or marginalised. On the contrary, I value colleagues, in the civil and police services, usually unsung and uncelebrated heroes, who have quietly and resolutely performed their duties with admirable character and steadfastness. Few in the civil and police services can in all honesty testify to pressure so great that they could not adhere to the call of their own conscience.

It is not that there are no costs, but then if the performance of duties was painless, there would not be many who would fail in the performance of their duties. The costs are usually of frequent transfers, and deprivation of the allurements of some assignments of power and glamour, which are used to devastating effect by our political class to entice a large part of the bureaucracy today.

When I stand witness to the massacre in Gujarat enabled by spectacular State abdication and connivance – or to the national disgrace of the subversion of all civilised norms of relief and rehabilitation – I confront the cold truth that the higher civil and police services are today in the throes of an unprecedented crisis. The absolute minimum that any State must ensure is the survival and security of its people, and elementary justice. If State authorities wantonly let violent mobs target innocents without restraint – or connive with the most cynical and merciless designs to deny them the elementary means for human survival – and they continue to do this with impunity and without remorse or shame, then citizens of the country need to resolutely demand accountability and fundamental reforms. They cannot permit the collapse or subversion of the State, and its metamorphosis from an institution for justice and security, the protection and welfare of the people, into one that victimises as State policy a segment of its population, treating them as ‘children of a lesser god’.

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Many hoped that Independence would progressively bring an end to violent communal strife and pogroms in India. But after 63 years of freedom, millions of Indian people continue to live with lurking fear in their hearts: fear of violence which can snuff out their lives and loved ones, violate their bodies, and devastate their homes and livelihoods. Among these are persons of the Scheduled Castes and Tribes, religious minorities, especially Muslims, and in tribal areas, Christian converts, and linguistic minorities. I have spoken to ordinary people of Muslim faith in many corners of the country. When they recall their lives, it is always as life lived in the space between riots. Each of them negotiates everyday living with unspoken trepidation that one day – any day – everything that they love and live for can be destroyed in one brief storm of hate. And in many tribal areas, communal organisations have succeeded in driving and deep and dangerous wedge between people who converted to Christianity, and others – often of the same tribe – who have not. Scheduled Castes and Tribes have lived with subjugation and fear of violence for centuries. And migration has fuelled fear and violence against linguistic minorities who travel to other states in search of dignified work.

Long after the fires of torched homes, looted shops and desecrated places of worship are doused and the blood on the streets dries; after slaughter, rape, plunder and expulsion are accomplished; wounds rarely heal. Survivors live out their lives haunted by the fear of recurrence, the anguish of betrayal, and the dying of hope and trust.

We have witnessed too often in this country women, men and children attacked only because of their identity as dalits or tribals, religious or linguistic minorities. As we have observed in this lecture, a recurring feature of most such brutal episodes of blood-letting in anti-dalit and anti- minority hate crimes and mass violence, is that elected and selected public officials fail to uphold their most sacred Constitutional duty – to secure equal protection to every citizen, regardless of their caste, faith or linguistic identity. They fail not because they lack the mandate, authority or the legal powers. They fail because they choose to fail; because of the pervasive prejudice and bias against these disadvantaged groups which permeates large segments of the police, magistracy, judiciary and the political class.

But this enormous moral crime of public officials enabling massacre is not recognised explicitly as a crime for which they can be criminally punished. Far from it, officials who have been named as guilty of bias and worse in numerous Judicial Commissions of Enquiry have very rarely been even administratively penalised; contrarily, guilty police and civil officers have enjoyed illustrious careers, and political leaders under whose watch such carnages have occurred have reaped rich electoral harvests of hate.

A similar culture of impunity surrounds those who instigate and participate in the killings, arson and rape. Impunity is the assurance that you can openly commit a crime and will not be punished. This impunity admittedly does arise from infirmities in and corrosion of the criminal justice system, which require long-delayed police and judicial reform. But it is important to recognise that the collapse of the justice machinery is massively compounded when the victims are disadvantaged by caste, religion, or minority language. You are more likely to be punished when you murder a single person in ‘peace-time’ with no witnesses, than if you slay ten in broad daylight observed by hundreds of people.

We have carefully studied several major episodes of targeted violence, and discovered that despite these being separated vastly by time and geography, despite the victims sometimes being dalits, sometimes Muslims, sometimes Christians, and sometimes say Tamils in Karnataka – there is a chillingly similar pattern of systematic and active subversion of justice. The impunity of the accused begins immediately after the violence. Preventive arrests and searches usually target dalits and minorities. Police refuse to record the names of the killers, rapists and arsonists, and instead refer to anonymous mobs. If victims assert excessively, ‘cross-cases’ are registered against them, accusing them of crimes. Arrests are partisan, and the grant of bail even more so. Accused persons from the dominant group find it easy to get bail in weeks, or at most months, while those caught in cross- cases are not released sometimes for years.

This openly discriminatory treatment of the accused based on whether they are from dominant or discriminated groups, is one way to coerce them to ‘compromise’. This means extra-legal out-of-court ‘agreement’ by victims to turn ‘hostile’, to retract from their accusations in court. To accomplish this, victims are also widely intimidated and threatened, offered inducements or threatened with exile or social and economic boycott. Police investigation is deliberately shoddy, and the majority of cases are closed even before they are submitted to trial. Those few cases that reach the court are demolished by prosecution who often do not even disguise their aim to protect the accused rather than establish their guilt, and judges who often share their bias.

Therefore many in this country pin great hopes on a law which could help end communal violence. This Communal Violence Bill has been in incubation for an extended seven years, ever since the UPA government was first elected in 2004 with a mandate to end the politics of fear, hate and division in the country. But despite two drafts by the Government, in 2005 and 2010, there was wide rejection of, and disappointment with, what the government has on offer. The government versions of the law had very little in common with what secular opinion, and minority leaders, believes are essential to such a law.

Successive government drafts of the Communal Violence Bill mainly aim to greatly enhance the powers of the police, on the premise that these increased powers are needed to enable police and governments to take decisive steps to prevent and control mass communal violence. The draft Bill provides for governments to declare areas in which communal violence is imminent, or has actually broken out, as ‘communally sensitive’ areas. In these areas, for the duration of the notification, the police would function with expanded powers, and there would be enhanced punishment for crimes committed in this area, and special courts would hear the criminal cases that arise.

The assumption of the government drafts is that if only the powers of police and governments are augmented in communally charged times and areas, they would control communal violence effectively and decisively. This assumption flies in the face of the actual experience of successive communal pogroms. Did governments in Assam in 1983, Delhi in 1984, Mumbai in 1992-93, Gujarat in 2002 or Kandhamal in 2008 fail to prevent slaughter and arson because they lacked sufficient powers? Do we really believe that these governments were unable to control violence because they lacked the legal muscle? Or was the truth that they did not want to control the violence; but instead they deliberately enabled the slaughter? That they wanted to reap political advantage from a violently polarised polity, and were assured that they would legally be able to get away with such a crime?

If government officials and political leaders wish to act, the law as it stands is more than adequate to empower police and officials to prevent and control communal violence. No riot can continue for more than a few hours without the active will of the political leadership of governments that violence should persist and indeed spread; and the active abetment of police and civil officials to prolong the slaughter and arson. Communal carnages occur because they are systematically planned and executed by communal organisations, and because governments which are legally and morally charged to protect all citizens, deliberately refuse to douse the fires, and instead allow rivers of innocent blood to flow.

As already observed, I regard such abetment of slaughter by public officials to be one of the gravest crimes possible in public life. To protect minorities from communal pogroms and mass violence, we do not need a law which adds further to the powers of police, civil authorities and governments. Ironically, such a law will achieve the exact reverse of what it claims to seek. The consistent experience of minorities is that greater powers in the hands of police would only be used against them. There is great unease with declaring regions as ‘disturbed areas’: in large swathes of India’s North-East and Kashmir, people have lived in the shadows of similar declarations, which give extraordinary powers to security forces. These routinely lead to crushing of people’s elementary democratic freedoms.

We need a very different law, not one which makes police and public officials more powerful, but instead one which forces them to be legally answerable to the people who they are responsible to serve and protect effectively and impartially. In present law, public officials can at best be charged with active conspiracy and participation in mass violence (although even this is rarely done). But the worst crimes of police and civil authorities, and those in command positions like Chief Ministers, are of deliberately and maliciously refusing to take action to prevent and control violence. We need law to recognise such deliberate inaction – because of which killings, rape and violence continue unchecked for days and sometimes weeks – to be grave and punishable crimes against humanity.

The law also needs to recognise new crimes, especially of forms of gender violence during communal carnage. The narrow definition of rape does not envisage the many forms of gendered crimes that are common in mass violence situations, such as stripping and parading women, mass disrobing by the attacking men, insertion of objects into bodies of women, cutting breasts and killing of children in the womb. The procedures for recording complaints, investigating and trials also need to be sensitive to the suppression, fear and sense of public shame which shrouds in silence most such episodes of targeted violence against women.

In most episodes of communal violence, states are partisan also in extending relief and compensation. The survivors of the Nellie massacre of 1983 were paid a mere 5000 rupees for each death, against a total of around 7 lakh rupees for the families of those killed in the Sikh massacre of 1984. Such an implied hierarchy of official valuation of human lives of people of different persuasions and ethnicity is intolerable. The government in Gujarat in 2002 refused even to establish relief camps, and forced the pre-mature closure of the privately established camps. The law therefore must establish binding standards for awarding compensation after communal violence, and duties relating to rescue, relief camps, rebuilding of homes, livelihoods and places of worship.

The National Advisory Council has produced a draft law to prevent communal violence and end impunity, by making public officials legally answerable to the people for their acts – and failures to act – which lead to the brutal and criminal loss of innocent lives. The NAC draft law is currently under debate, and we are sure it can be further improved in many ways. However, to discourage targeted hate-crimes in future, we are convinced that what is required is a law which creates the offence of dereliction of duty of public officials who deliberately fail in their Constitutional duty to protect targeted vulnerable groups. This must be coupled with the principle of command responsibility, which ensures that responsibility for failing to act is carried to the level from which orders actually flow. This public accountability is at the heart of the NAC draft Bill. We are convinced that if such a law existed, the massacres at Khairlanji and Chundur, Delhi, Gujarat and Kandhamal, would have been controlled and justice better accomplished.

We also need a law which established binding duties and standards for relief and rehabilitation, because these do not exist. Indian criminal law is also based on the assumption that the State is always on the side of the victim, against the accused, and therefore primarily the rights of the accused need to be protected. The State investigates, prosecutes, and also adduces evidence and appeals. The victim has limited rights in this process. The reality of targeted violence against non-dominant groups is that a biased State may in these cases be on the side of accused and actively hostile to the victim. This Bill seeks to correct this bias, by incorporating a number of rights and protections of victims in post-conflict criminal justice..

I have spoken to victims of caste and communal carnages in many parts of the country, and found that the most important reason that they cannot find closure even years later is because legal justice is not done. ‘How can we forget, even less forgive, if we see every day the man who raped our daughter or killed our father, walk free; when not once has he had to even see the inside of a police station or a court? How can we believe we are equal citizens of this land?’

The Right to Information changed on its head the relationship of public servants with the people, by enabling them to question them for the probity of their actions. We believe that the Communal Violence Bill must carry this further, by enabling them to ask whether them whether they did all they should to protect all citizens against mass violence, regardless of their religious faith, gender, caste and ethnicity. Only such a law can stem the rivers of innocent blood that flow periodically across this land. Only such a law can secure secular democracy in India. Only such a law would be a true tribute to the memory of persons like Dr Iqbal Ansari who struggled through their lives for the dream of an India free from fear and riots.

[Mr. Harsh Mander, a former civil servant who took voluntary retirement in the wake of the Gujarat Carnage, is an eminent social activist, writer and member of National Advisory Council (NAC), Govt. of India. He has founded and works with Aman Biradari, a people’s campaign for secularism, peace and justice; Nyayagrah, for legal justice and reconciliation for the survivors of communal violence; and Dil Se, which works with street children, and homeless people. In addition, Mr Mander is the Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India to advise it in the Right to Food case on hunger and state responsibility, and the Director of the Centre for Equity Studies (working on public policy for the poor). He is associated with several social causes and movements, such as for communal harmony, tribals, dalits, minorities and disability rights, the right to information, custodial justice, homeless people and bonded labour. His books include ‘Unheard Voices: Stories of Forgotten Lives’ and ‘Fear and Forgiveness: The Aftermath of Massacre’. He has been awarded with the Rajiv Gandhi National Sadbhavana Award for peace work, and the M.A. Thomas National Human Rights Award 2002. He was also a close associate of Prof. Iqbal Ansari and a great admirer of his works. ]

Aligarh, November 11, 2011 (Press Release): The Department of Political Science of Aligarh Muslim University is holding a two- day national seminar on “Minority Rights in India: Vision and Reality” on 14 – 15 November 2011. A number of renowned scholars, academics, jurists, policy makers, analysts, practitioners, civil society representatives, and researchers are participating in the event to discuss minority rights situation in India from inter-disciplinary perspective, informed Dr. Aftab Alam, Director of the Seminar.

The Seminar will be inaugurated by Justice M.S.A Siddiqui, Chairman, National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions. Govt. of India. Other prominent speakers include Mrs. Faouzia Khan, Minister of State for Minority Development, Govt. Of Maharashtra, Syed Shahbuddin, former diplomat and Member of Parliament and President, All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat; and Maulana Mohammad Fazlurrahim Mujaddi, Rector Jamea-tul Hidya, Jaipur and member of the high power committee to monitor the Govt’s schemes related to minorities’ development.

Despite constitutional safeguards minorities in India have been discriminated against and their rights have been more than frequently violated. Muslim minority suffers from development deficit as highlighted by the Sachar Committee report, said Dr. Aftab Alam. According to him there has been continued neglect both by the Central and State governments in the public policies to redress the development deficit of Muslim minority. Unfortunately no other provision of the Constitution has perhaps been so much undermined as the Article 30 of the Indian Constitution which was meant for ensuring educational development of the minorities. The complaints about the denial of permission/NOC for establishing minority educational institutions and refusal of recognition/affiliation have become very common, said Dr. Alam. Administrators of minority educational institutions face immense difficulties starting from establishment to getting recognition to day to day administration.

The issues like Secularism, Religious Conversion and Freedom of Religion, Communal Riots/Pogrom and Minorities’ Right to Physical Existence; The Role of State and Police during Communal Violence, role of National Commission for Minorities and National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Empowerment of Minorities and Question of Reservation and educational and cultural rights of minorities are expected to be discussed during the two day brain- storming technical sessions of the seminar, said Dr. Aftab Alam.

Victims of 'War on Terror'

After every terror strike India’s Muslim youth are fearful — of encounters, illegal detention and torture. How long must Muslims live under suspicion of being terrorists or supporting terrorism? The sense of insecurity has become part of our lives, says Mahtab Alam

Serial Bomb Blasts in Delhi. Where are you? Are you safe?” read a text message on my Mobile, by Sonali Garg, a friend of mine from Delhi. It was late in the evening of September 13th, 2008. “Oh My God! That’s really horrible. I am fine though and in Bihar. Hope you, your family members are all right,” I replied before forwarding this message to other friends in Delhi. During those days, I was in Bihar, surveying the aftermath of the flood that had struck the Kosi region of the state in the second week of August that same year. Village after village had vanished in the flood. It was reportedly the worst flood ever seen by the people of that area. Most of them were left with no other alternative but to shift to the rehabilitation camps.
On 13th September 2008, the sun went down to serial bomb blasts in Delhi, killing 26 persons and injuring many more. In all, five bomb blasts within the time span of 30 minutes created havoc amongst the Delhiites. I heaved a sigh of relief as all the messages I received in reply to my forwarded message were positive. My friends were all fine. The last reply I received was around midnight by a senior colleague of mine, A R Agwan, a former assistant Professor of Environment Sciences with whom I had conducted many workshops for Human Rights’ Activists in different parts of India, saying that he was all right and had been sleeping, thus the delay in replying.
Still shaken by the news, I tried moving on with my work, thinking that the worst was over. But I was to be proved wrong. Around noon the next day, I received a frantic call from the Secretary of the Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), a Delhi based civil rights’ group I was working with then as a Coordinator. He sounded tense and the poor network added to the problem. All I was able to make out, in interrupted tones, was that the situation in Delhi, especially Jamia Nagar, a Muslim populated area of South Delhi, was very bad. A pall of fear pervaded all in the area. The police had been randomly picking up Muslims from the area. I was asked to come to Delhi as soon as I possibly could.
Not satisfied with the details, I tried ringing A R Agwan, as he was based in that area. I grew worried when around twenty calls made to his mobile through the day went unanswered. Knowing him, it was quite unusual of him to react in this manner. Immediately after Iftar (since it was the month of Ramadhan), I proceeded to the nearest Cyber Cafe to book my ticket for Delhi. An e-mail I received struck me numb with horror and rendered me incapable of any action for a few minutes. It was hard to believe that A R Agwan was under arrest! He had been picked up by Delhi Police’s Special Cell, equivalent to the Anti-Terror Squad or Special Task Force of other states.
A R Agwan, is a prominent social activist and has been attached with many social and human rights’ group. With a clear record, and an even clearer conscience, his arrerst sent shockwaves in the community. The leaders of the Muslim community were completely outraged by the arrest. His neighbours did not know how to react. Enquiries to other activists of the situation revealed that apart from Agwan, three other people had been detained from the area. After much pressure from community leaders, social and religious organizations, Agwan was released, along with Adnan Fahad, a DTP operator in his late twenties, who was also into some small Publishing business. They were arrested around 11 AM in the morning and freed in the late evening around 7:30 P M. Illegal detention would have been prolonged hadn’t the community leaders and activists pressurized the Delhi police for their release.
On 17th September, immediately after coming back to Delhi, I went to meet Agwan. He was still recovering from the shock, having been forcibly subjected to the worst hours of his life. He completely failed to understand why he had been picked up. “They asked me about my whereabouts on the day of the blasts, my activity in the evening that day. I told them I was at home meeting two non-muslim friends from Hyderabad. They had come over to discussing the opening up of an NGO. Then they questioned me about the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and its people. They pressed me to give names of some SIMI people in my locality, and I told them that I didn’t know anything, but they kept insisting”. The interrogators also asked him about Abul Bashar, a Madarsa graduate, who was arrested from Azamgarh the month before and was later projected as the mastermind of the Ahmedabad serial blasts. “I told them I knew not more about Abul Bashar than what had appeared in the media”, Agwan recalled. Not content with this response, they further alleged that Bashar had his cell number and that he had stayed at his home. Agwan flatly denied the charges. “But they did not believe me and wanted to put words in my mouth. They just wanted me to confess to something with which I had absolutely no connection”. “It was like there was no rule of law and the Police had become a Law unto themselves,” he told me, still unable to reconcile himself to what he had undergone. “When they realized that it would be too difficult to further my custody, as pressure was mounting from different sections of society to release me, they offered to drop me to my home. I refused to go with them.” “I told them that I was afraid that they would take me to some other place and torture me severely so that I confess to their charges, as had been done to hundreds of Muslims across the country”. “I asked them to ask my family to come and collect me”.

The fear that Agwan underwent reminded me of the stories that I had heard at the Impendent People’s Tribunal on the ‘Atrocities Committed against Minorities (read Muslims) in the Name of Fighting Terrorism’ at Hyderabad in August the same year (2008). We were told spine chilling stories of arbitrary detention and torture by the victims of ‘war on terror’, families of the accused who were in jails and human rights activists across the country barring Kashmir and North-eastern states of India. The common complaints were that they were punched, kicked, beaten very badly. In order to humiliate them so that they break down, the interrogators made them stand for long hours and hung them upside down. In custody, they were denied all basic amenities and were forced to drink water from the toilets. Moreover, they were subjected to electric shocks by the police officials and made to repeat what the police were saying. One of them recounted,”The interrogators repeatedly used name calling, sexually profane abusive language with me. The torture continued from about midnight/one o’clock until morning.” In most of the cases, the first question that they were asked was, “Why have you people become anti-nationals? You all are bloody Pakistanis.”

And the torture wasn’t limited to those arrested. The police made sure to use every trick to make those arrested confess to their will. The family members too were subject to similar torture. The police ensured that the most inhuman torture was meted out to them. Ataur Rahman, in his mid-sixties, lived in Mumbai with his family which included an engineer son who was an accused in the July 2006 Mumbai blasts. At the tribunal, he had told us, “My house was raided in the night and I was taken to an unknown destination. After keeping me in illegal custody for several days, I was formally shown to be arrested on July 27, 2006, and an FIR was lodged against me. Me, my wife, my daughter and daughter-in-law were paraded before my arrested sons while being abused by the police officers continuously. My sons and I were beaten up in front of each other. The women of the family were called up by the ATS daily and were asked to drop their burqah (veil) before my arrested sons. Adding to their humiliation, my sons were abused in front of the women folk. An officer beat me up and threatened me that the women of my family were outside and they would be stripped naked if I did not remove my clothes before my children and other police officers. They brought in other arrested accused and I was stripped naked in their presence…”
The witch hunting of Muslims only intensified after the blasts on September 13th, which was followed by the infamous ‘encounter’ at Batla House of Jamia Nagar area of South Delhi. On September 23rd, a meeting had been organized in Delhi to discuss the police excess and the communal witch hunt, which was attended by well known lawyers, activists, journalists, academicians and community leaders. While the meeting continued, we received the disturbing news of the picking up of a 17 year old boy, Saqib. The men who had taken the boy were unknown and hence we decided to lodge a complaint with the local police station. Initially reluctant to entertain us, the presence of senior lawyers, Jamia teachers and journalists pressured them into register our complaint. We were later informed that the Delhi Police special cell had picked him up for questioning. When Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonzalves and the boy’s relatives approached the Special Cell, they had another surprise in store. The cops said -“hand over his brother and take him!” Saqib’s is not a unique case. People are picked up indiscriminately everyday and are harassed, some of them reportedly brutally tortured. Like Saqib, there are some victims in the area, but most of them prefer to remain quiet to avoid further harassment. Moreover, they fear about who would employ or give a house on rent to a ‘suspected person’. Today, even after three years of the Delhi bomb blasts and the Batla House ‘encounter’, the residents live in fear. A situation has been created wherein every Muslim is seen as a terror suspect, if not a terrorist. The infamous SMS which reads thus, “Every Muslim is not a terrorist, but all terrorists are Muslims,” had first made several rounds after July 2006 Blasts in Mumbai. This has always been believed as nothing but the gospel truth. The implicit message among a major section of the public is that every Muslim is a potential terrorist, regardless of whether he is a believer, an agnostic or an atheist.
Take the case of Shaina K K, a journalist and a declared agnostic, while receiving an award recently had to comment with the following words, “See, I happen to be a Muslim, but I am not a terrorist”. The clarification was given because of the feeling that if one belonged to the minority community, they would but be profiled. Shahina has a personal experience of it, so she would know. She has been falsely framed for ‘intimidating’ witnesses in the Abdul Nasir Madani case. Her only ‘crime’ was that she investigated the case of Kerala People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Abdul Nasir Madani, who is an accused in the infamous Bangalore blasts case, and asked the question, “Why is this man is still in Prison,” in the form of an article which appeared in Tehelka, based on the facts. Madani had already spent 10 years in prison as an under-trail in the Coimbatore blast case of 1997 and who was later acquitted in 2007. It was only last month that Shahina managed to get an anticipatory bail, which put an end to her ‘underground’ life. Another Muslim journalist from Bangalore, working with a leading news-weekly was grilled several times in the same case.
In fact, this writer also had a similar personal experience but thankfully, to a lesser degree of threat to his life during a fact finding visit of Giridih Jail in the state of Jharkhand, in July 2008. I was branded a Maoist along with two other friends, and illegally detained for five hours by Giridih Superintendent of Police, Murari Lal Meena who is now being promoted to the rank of DIG, Special Branch of the Jharkhand Police. Later I was informed by the PUCL Secretary of Jharkhand, Shashi Bhusan Pathak, who was the local organiser of the visit and had contacted officials concerned for our release, that Mr. Meena had told him, “Since the guy (meaning me) comes from a frontier area of Bihar which borders Nepal and has studied at Jamia Millia Islamia New Delhi, he is a Pucca Aatankwadi (Hardcore Terrorist)!” He had also threatened to put us behind bars in the same prison without any hope of being bailed out for at least a year.
In the month of July this year, just a few days before the recent Mumbai blast, a Muslim photo-journalist of Mid Group, Sayed Sameer Abedi, was detained for taking innocuous photographs of a traffic junction and an airplane. He was threatened, roughed up and even called a terrorist because of his Muslim name. According to a report in Mid Day, at the police station, when Sub-Inspector Ashok Parthi, the investigating officer in his case, asked him about the incident and he explained everything, emphasizing that he had done no wrong, he was told by the inspector, “Don’t talk too much, just shut up and listen to what we are saying. Your name is Sayed, you could be a terrorist and a Pakistani”. The inspector also told him that he (the inspector) was asked by the seniors to inform the Special Branch and file all kinds of charges, including those of terrorism, against him (Sayed).
Unfortunately this is not limited to police and security agencies. The common men also somehow believe that Muslims are responsible for the all the terror strikes. They are the real culprits! This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it is deepening day by day. In 2001, I was on my way to Patna by train. I noticed an old man consistently asking a bearded Muslim youth in his teens for an English magazine that the youth was reading with much concentration. He politely asked the old man to wait till he finished reading the article. Unmoved by the politeness and angered at this rebuttal, he abused the youth by calling him and other Muslims terrorists, who were destroying India’s sanctity after having destroyed America. He further voiced his prejudice by commenting that all Muslims belong to Pakistan and should leave for that place. I was a kid of fifteen and didn’t want to be identified as a Muslim, so thought it unwise to comment. Moreover, the matter had subsided when the youth gave over the magazine to the old man (which the old returned proclaiming unashamedly that he wasn’t literate in English).
I took this to be a matter in isolation, and tried not to give much attention. However, at home, I was faced with questions of a similar nature from a non-Muslim friend who enquired me about my whereabouts. He was surprised on hearing that I was studying at Jamia Millia Islamia in Delhi, which he had thought to be a madarsa. Quelling his doubts, I told him it was just like any other University (Delhi University as example). I still face this question, time and again. It is almost like under living under constant suspicion. Thanks to our media and security agencies, which leave no stone unturned to prove this wrong despite the fact that over the years, it has been proved that Muslims have no monopoly over terrorism. In the last three years, I often ask myself the ask question, ‘Am I Safe?’ To be frank and honest, I doubt it. I am not confident about whether I am safe or not. However, my biggest worry is that the ordinary Muslim youth, who doesn’t have the network of people like Agwan or me, as they are in real danger.
After every blast every Muslim youth fears that he could be next. They can be, in fact, are, easily picked up, tortured, packed and thrown into jails, sometimes even killed in cold blood. In India today, to be a Muslim is to be encounter-able, to be constantly suspected of being a terrorist, to be illegally detainable and severely tortured, to have the possibility of being killed without being questioned, no matter whether one is a believer, agnostic or an atheist. Recent communal witch hunt in the wake of Mumbai blasts only proves that. And if that is not the case, why hasn’t a single non Muslim person, as named voluntarily by Swami Aseemanad, in his confession, detailing role of Hidutva outfits in several blasts? Why have two of the prime accused, belonging to Hindutva outfits, of Malegaon blasts been granted bail while bails of the Muslims accused in the same case are refused time and again. How long will the Muslims of India have to bear the Burden of being a Muslim? People have started considering this (sense of insecurity) as a part and parcel of their lives. I still have no answer to the question, ‘Will this never end?’ , once asked by a teacher of mine, when I informed her about the illegal detention of Mohammed Arshad, an Engineering student from Azamgarh who was later released. I can only wish my answer would soon turn affirmative!
(Mahtab Alam is a Civil Rights’ Activist and Independent Journalist based in Delhi. He can be contacted at activist dot journalist at gmail.com)

NCM: A year of inaction

Posted: January 7, 2011 in Uncategorized
Tags: , ,

By Kashif-ul-Huda,

The Minorities Commission as a non-statutory body was set up in 1978. In the days following Babri Masjid demolition it was made a statutory body and in 1993 it came to be called National Commission for Minorities (NCM). Its main object is to safeguard the interest of minorities but its power is even less than the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, and National Human Rights Commission. Lacking any effective tool it is merely a spectator that can make some noise but not be part of the game.

Annual Conference of the State Minorities Commission is organized on Wednesday March 31st in Delhi, the last one held on January 20th, 2009 offered 17 recommendations but a year later the “Action Taken Report” on these recommendations suggest anything but action. Read on:


1. State Minorities Commissions (SMCs) should be set up in the States where they do not exist. Uniformity in power and organization for all SMCs.

18 states and UTs responded. Declined Punjab, Lakshadweep, Chandigarh, Himachal Pradesh, Daman & Diu. Madhya Pradesh sees no need for a change of status for this state minority commission. Andaman & Nicobar, Assam, Haryana, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Puducherry, Tripura, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Kerala are considering the proposal.

2. Proposal for IGNOU to setup study centres in Minority Concentration Districts (MCDs).

Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) is ready to set up study centers provided states bear the cost of establishment of these centres and recurring expenses. Only Madhya Pradesh is talking to IGNOU regarding this.

3. Constitutional status to the NCM pending since 2004.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Third Amendment) Bill 2004, and the NCM (Repeal) Bill was to be presented in February 2009 but with the dissolution of 14th Lok Sabha the process of notification has to start afresh and no action has been taken in this regard in 15th Lok Sabha.

4. Communal Violence Bill.

No information available whether amendments suggested by NCM became part of the Bill.

5. Sachar recommendations should be implemented fully in letter and spirit.

Only Tripura instructed various departments to take up these recommendations.

6. Enanched compensation for 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims not paid in many cases.

Bihar, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, and Uttaarnchal was asked to settle their pending cases. Only four states responded. No cases pending in Bihar, HP, MP but 701 cases pending in UP.

7. Need to look into MCD identification criteria.

Mewat was added as an MCD but no change in criteria was suggested.

8. State Minorities Commissions should be given power to implement, monitor and review PM’s new 15 Point Programme.

Eight states responded to this recommendation but none changed their mind about it only in Karnataka that SMC is monitoring the programme.

9. Independent, permanent and centralized institutional mechanism to monitor and evaluate the implementation of govt. schemes.

Only Tripura has setup state level and district level committees for monitoring. Finance Ministry referred the matter to Minority Affairs which did not reply even after repeated reminders. No other state responded to this important recommendation.

10. Programme awareness campaigns in local languages especially Urdu.

MP published the booklet of schemes but does not mention in which language. Delhi is satisfied in publishing advertisements of programmes in Urdu and Punjabi newspapers. Tripura published booklets containing Central and State schemes in Bengali and English.
No other state responded.

11. Amendment of the Bodh Gaya Temple Act so that only Budhists are in the management committee.

NCM sought legal opinion and forwarded the recommendation to Bihar.

12. Protection and perseveration of old religious monuments by ASI.

ASI suggested that namaz should be allowed in mosques under ASI control. No response from ASI.

13. Minorities should be represented in selection committees for public appointments.

Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir,
Karnataka, Manipur, Punjab and West Bengal have not responded to this recommendation.

Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Karnataka, MP, Manipur, Tamil Nadu are the only states that clearly say that they have minorities among is selection committee for the state public service commissions.

Goa clearly states that it has no representation of minorities in its Public Service Commission. Gujarat, Kerala, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, and UP say that their selection boards are all according to laws without clearly saying if they have any minority member in their PSCs. Tripura requested all departments including police to include minorities in their selection boards.

UPSC says that it has created an additional column to gather candidates’ religion during application process.

14. Dalit Christians and Muslims should be given reservation on part with SCs.

No response from the government which is a long overdue recommendation of NCM, first made in 1995.

15. Ensure access to education and delivery of quality education.

Reduced to Madrasa Modernization and scholarship scheme. Most of the states did no respond.

16. Simplified process to issue minority status certificate to educational institutions.

Only MP issued the directive in 2007.

17. Easy access to credit flows to minorities.

Directives issued by Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of India to at least 15% lending to minorities but no information about the success of this initiative.

Courtesy: TwoCircles.net- http://www.twocircles.net/2010mar30/national_commission_minorities_year_inaction.html

Read the rest of this entry »

By Angana Chatterji

Dissident Voice
November 13, 2003

In Orissa, over the last five years the Sangh Parivar’s tentacles have spread and thickened. Minorities, refugees, and the poor — the social crevices in which they live narrow from neglect. The disenfranchised struggle to confront social violence. The annexation of territory and resources from the subaltern, the imposition of virulent ideologies and alienating economies, have produced diverse identity politics defining contested practices of citizenship. At the intersections of globalization and hyper nationalism, Hindutva intervenes, unravelling the fragile fabric of democracy.

The communalization of education is a serious concern across India. Sectarian education campaigns undertaken by Hindu extremist groups demonize minorities through the teaching of fundamentalist curricula. Such corruption of education incites the political and social fires of communalism. The RSS has spearheaded the movement, successfully penetrating into the educational systems of both the grassroots and centralized regulatory commissions. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has fashioned an institutional umbrella that is having a damaging impact on education at the grassroots. The RSS has established Vanvasi Kalyan Parishads, Vivekananda Kendras, Sewa Bharatis and other groups to advance the ideological agenda of Hindu nationalism. The RSS administers 9,300 Ekal Vidyalayas in adivasi areas. For the diversity of cultures allied under the rubric of ‘adivasi’, the ongoing reality of Hinduization offers evidence of their gradual and brutal incorporation into this caste system.

Created by the RSS in 1978, the Vidya Bharati Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan network focuses on moral, extracurricular and physical education for ‘mind, body and spirit’. The Vidya Bharati system supervises over 18,000 schools across India, with 1.8 million students and 80,000 teachers. A shared curriculum is used across the country. The Vidya Bharati operates 60 graduate institutions. About 5,000 Vidya Bharatis are endorsed by Education Boards primarily in states where the Bharatiya Janata Party is in power..

Known as Shiksha Vikas Samiti, Vidya Bharati directs 391 Saraswati Shishu Mandir schools with 111,000 students in Orissa. The RSS has constructed a network of educational institutions across the state. Initially the RSS maintained a public distance between the Sangh and Vidya Bharati. In recent years, as Hindutva consolidates its position in Orissa, the RSS has actively declared its affiliation with these schools. Rashtra Deepa, the RSS Oriya weekly, regularly chronicles some of the academic aspirations of the Sangh Parivar. Most RSS run schools are affiliated with the State Board of Education and adhere to the state approved curricula. As the Sangh infiltrates into regulatory bodies and actively leads the rewriting of textbooks and reorganization of the curriculum, the classroom transforms into an agent of Hindutva.

With the increasing impetus on the privatization of education, the RSS has been actively inaugurating schools in areas across Orissa where the government fails to provide public funding. The vigorous assertion of Sanskrit provides for the erasure and Hinduization of minority languages. History, science, geography, literature, religious texts are interpreted into Hindutva. These texts, written in Oriya, are taught in schools and available in bookstores. The texts weave disparaging and malevolent fictions about minority groups, inciting Hindus to revenge history. The curriculum is censored and obscurantist, interpreted to legitimate the sanctity of a ‘Hindu worldview’ in India and the assembling of a Hindu state. It enables Hindu nationalism in advancing ‘righteous’ violence for ethnic cleansing. The RSS broadcasts this education as ‘holistic’, patriotic and accessible.

These schools are financed by individual donations and contributions from various charitable organizations such as the Mumbai based Bhansali Trust. These schools also offer income generation and computer skills. They serve as gathering places for Sangh organizations providing youth contact with Hindutva leaders. Parents say they are drawn to RSS run schools because they are affordable and profess to educate children in culture and religion, history and ritual.

Students receive ideological training through extra-curricular activity as well. They participate in development work and disaster relief, politicizing education and linking it to social service. An RSS worker in Bhubaneswar speaks with pride. “We ask people to devote one hour a day for their country, in the name of the motherland. To gather in a field and play Indian games; with sticks, swords, other exercises, teach youth to march, some musical instruments. And then we workers discuss the ideology of the RSS — what Hinduism is, how Hindu culture was great and how it is fading, how the youth must become involved to revive and purify it.”

Through regular educational camps, he continues, the RSS recruits teachers and campaigners. Their task is to draw people to the Sangh. “To convince people that the country is in danger, the motherland is in danger. To tell people that no matter who they are, if they return to Hinduism there is place for them in the nation.” After training, RSS state and district units send campaigners to serve within the different wings of the Sangh Parivar, and to the rural areas to recruit and organize the Sangh cadre.

The RSS holds month long training sessions across Orissa during summer vacations to attract students and young children. From these sessions, the RSS recruits for the Officers Training Camps (OTC). Held twice a year, the OTC provides schooling in self-defense and leadership. Around 500 people attend each year. On completion, approximately100 join the organization as campaigners. Graduates take an oath, “I will devote my body, mind, and money (tana, mana, bhana) to the motherland.” For about 10 recruits, this develops into a lifelong, intense and full time commitment. Each December, the RSS organizes the Sita Shibir, a 7-10 day winter camp. The families of attendees finance the camps. The growth of the RSS testifies to the success of these camps. The RSS boasts of 50,000 shakhas in India, 2500 in Orissa with a 100,000 strong cadre.

In Orissa, the RSS charges that aggressive Hinduization is a ‘rational’ and warranted response to, among other factors, the growth of missionary activity leading to an increase in the Christian population. In fact, Christians constitute less than 3 percent of the population in the state, with a 1 percent increase since 1981. The Christian population in India does not record any appreciable increase from 2.6 percent in 1971, to 2.43 in 1981, 2.34 in 1991, and 2.6 in 2001.

History is animated through extra curricular activities, seminars and workshops. New heroes, timelines, events emerge to construct India’s antiquity, to naturalize her geo-political borders, to define her heritage as Hindu. History is rewritten to determine belonging and un-belonging. Difference is represented as ‘other’, a threat to the integrity of India as a Hindu nation, unless manipulated and straitjacketed. A whole new generation is being grown indoctrinated in Hindutva. It is a devious strategy to teach hate to the young.

Note: Information used in this article is derived from multiple sources, including interviews with persons affiliated with Sangh organisations.

Angana Chatterji is a professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco (http://www.ciis.edu/faculty/chatterji.htm). Email: Angana@aol.com


MAJORITY RULE is a principle of democratic governance provided the majority is not defined in terms of creed, caste, sex or any other circumstance of birth. No one is born a Hindu or a Muslim, or a Christian or a Sikh: there are no definitive and decisive genetic markers that would identify, on their own, whether the parents of a child were Hindus or Christians, Brahmins or casteless, rich or poor, educated or uneducated.

In a true democracy today, majority must be defined only on the basis of acceptance or rejection of a programme of action that would be in the interests of the nation as a whole, that would most help secure for the country’s citizens rights as, for example, enshrined in the U.N. Charter of Human Rights. A democratic country is that the Constitution of which commits the nation to secularism and equality for all its citizens without discrimination, and guarantees its governance to be totally delinked from all divisive activities such as religion.

Constitutionally, India is one of the best democracies in the world; its citizens are expected to be committed to, amongst other democratic values, scientific temper which, by definition, demands that one rises above religious dogma and learns to think, live and work within a framework of reason and without bias or prejudice. Unfortunately, in our country we have been, more often than not, ignoring the constitutional, moral and ethical obligations of a democracy, and misconstruing and misinterpreting the concept of majority rule as a principle of democratic governance. The terms, majority and minority, have been given meanings and used in contexts which would be alien to a true democracy. Thus, we have minority educational institutions, a minority commission, and one kind of “majority” (of no consequence in a real democracy) wishing to cleanse the nation of all those who don’t belong to it, unless such “minorities” are willing to live de facto, as second, third or fourth-class citizens under the dictatorial rule of the so-called majority.

The rise of organisations such as RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and, as a reaction, organisations such as Jamiat-e-Islami and the fundamentalist Muslim organisations in Kashmir, and the many policies of the earlier and the present (BJP-led) governments in the last three decades or so, are proof of the above contention. In this respect we are tending towards being no different from theocratic states such as Pakistan, Israel or Iran, or authoritative ones like the erstwhile USSR and its satellite communist countries.

Before it all gets out of hand, we and the rest of the world must recognise the fallacy of the terms, “majority” and “minority”, with the meaning that is being increasingly given to them out of context of the principles of democratic governance. In the world of today, no matter what we do, we can never do away with “minorities”, for if we remove one kind of minority, other kinds will immediately spring up on the centre-stage.

Les us assume that we get rid of all religious minorities in the country. To think that India will then be a homogeneous nation — one unified Hindu raashtra — is, to say the least, the height of stupidity. The Hindus themselves are far from being a homogeneous community. Replete with divisions and subdivisions, the Hindus have no less heterogeneity than there is between various religions, so much so that even today, amongst the true (die-hard) Hindus, it is considered a sacrilege to have marriages across divisions of caste, creed, sub-caste, linguistic groups, familial profession, social status and so on.

Therefore, if we were to be a “pure” Hindu nation, “cleansed” of all of our so-called obnoxious, unpatriotic non-Hindu minorities, we would still have majority-minority equations of other kinds. What about Brahmins versus non-Brahmins? One has only to look at the history of Tamil Nadu in the last century in this regard. What about the Hindi-speaking versus the non-Hindi-speaking? What about the Kapus and Kammas of Andhra, and the Yadavs and non-Yadavs or the Thakurs and non-Thakurs of the North? One does not have to go back long in history to recall the Bengali-Assamese divide. The north Indian and south Indian divide is only too well known.

Major imbalances

Then there are those (a minority) who live on the hills and others (the majority) who live on the plains. In fact, it might amuse the majority of the plains that the hill minority, the pahadis, refer condescendingly to the people of the plains as desis, and chide their naughty little girl if she does not behave, that she would be married off to a desi! Unfortunately, under the weight of all these majority-minority equations lie buried and forgotten the real divides that cut across all communities and religions, that separate the rich from the poor, the haves from the have-nots, and the educated from the uneducated. What is most worrying is that those obsessed with cleansing the country of certain religious minorities have neither the time nor the inclination to address these major imbalances.

What is true of Hinduism would also be true of Islam and Christianity. Pakistan, a Muslim nation, has consistently witnessed rioting between Shias and Sunnis; Pakistan does not even recognise the Sufis as Muslims. Ireland, a Christian nation, has seen a major conflict between Catholics and Protestants spanning half-a-century.

We don’t need to cleanse the nation of its minorities as perceived by organisations like the RSS and VHP. What we really need to cleanse is our minds and the way we slot fellow human beings, and to ensure that equal opportunities are provided to all our citizens from birth to optimise individual development.

(Writers are eminent scientists.)

Courtesy: The Hindu Daily-


By Anubhuti Vishnoi, Indian Express,

New Delhi : On HRD Minister Kapil Sibal’s agenda for 2011 is a special roadmap for minorities, and work on developing it is set to start on Wednesday. Experts will help the ministry chart out a ‘Minority Agenda’ that will look at ways to ensure the revival of the Urdu language, to help create sustainable employment opportunities for Urdu speakers besides preservation of art and craft forms associated with the language and to bring Urdu within the three-language formula popular in CBSE schools.

The ‘New roadmap to empower the Urdu-speaking population’ is on the agenda of the Annual General Meeting of National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language (NCPUL) that will meet on Wednesday and will be chaired by Sibal. Among those who will attend the meet are prominent educationist P A Inamdar, social worker Kamal Farooqi, Vice Chancellor of Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Chairman CBSE, DG Doordarshan, and Chairman, Commission for Scientific & Technical Terminology.

This roadmap will focus particularly on bringing in vocational education and opening the doors to technical education for Urdu speakers and will find a reflection in the approach paper to the 12th Plan as well.
“The idea is to reinforce that good technicians or experts need not have complete knowledge/mastery of English language but can also excel in the field while primarily speaking in Urdu. The aim is to focus on enhancing the capabilities and capacities of the Urdu-speaking population to enter these professions and we hope to do the same by developing equivalent technical terminology in the Urdu language,” said an official in the HRD ministry.

Mainstreaming Urdu and redefining it through inclusion in the three-language formula is also on the meeting’s agenda. The three-language formula reiterated in the National Policy of Education, 1986 provides for Hindi, English and a modern Indian language in the Hindi-speaking states and Hindi, English and a regional language in the non-Hindi speaking states. Later the Gujral committee recommended a modified version of the formula to accommodate Urdu in it. However, Urdu speakers still feel that enough has not been done to preserve the Urdu language at school level.

The NCPUL, meanwhile, is working on developing synergy between Urdu, Persian and Arabic languages to enhance literary linkages with Central and West Asia.
Besides tying up with the Arab cultural centres in India and abroad, NCPUL is also working on translating Indian epics like Mahabharat and Ramayana in Urdu, Arabic and Persian besides boosting sharing of contemporary works across the regions.

Source: http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/733460/

By Asit Jolly,The Asian Age 

Chandigarh: Significantly changing tack to include the denial of civil liberties of common citizens in addition to its familiar constituency of Sikhs accused of sedition and terrorism, the separatist Dal Khalsa on Tuesday invited the UK-based Amnesty International to probe “the continuing abuse of human rights in Punjab.”

The group, which openly espouses the cause of a “Sikh Homeland”, has, in a five-page missive addressed to the international watchdog’s Easton Street offices in London, listed what it claims are instances of “violations of rights of prisoners, political dissenters and common citizens over the past one year.”

For the first time, also detailing instances where the Punjab police was used to crush democratic protests by teachers, doctors, farmers and workers, the letter states: “Punjab continues to reel under custodial tortures, illegal detentions, harassment and long confinement in jails.”
In fact the letter is a somewhat surprising damnation of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party government, accusing it of deploying the police for political purposes.

“We still live in the shadows of a past under the brutal jackboots of the entire state machinery about which there has been absolutely no accountability and the issues that led to what came to be known as the Punjab problem still persist,” states the letter signed by Dal Khalsa’s political secretary Kanwar Pal Singh.

The Sikh group also condemned the state government for introducing what it says are “draconian” legal provisions like the recently amended Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act against political dissenters, the new Special Security Group Act giving police protection from prosecution on the lines of the controversial central Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the Prevention of Damega to Public & Private Property Act “which effectively kills peoples’ right to peaceful protest on any issue.”

The Dal Khalsa letter includes a catalogue of Sikhs arrested or detained on charges of terrorism over 2010 as well as cases of former Khalistani terrorists, like Lal Singh alias Manjit Singh and Major Singh who are still being held in jail despite completing life terms, and Daljit Singh Bittu, who was arrested on fresh sedition charges but has been denied bail for more than six months.

Courtesy: The Asian Age-http://www.asianage.com/india/sikh-group-wants-amnesty-probe-rights-violation-800