Saturday, July 31, 2010

Together, they ran the Home Ministry. If Amit Shah is in the dock, Modi cannot remain unscathed

By Rana Ayyub-

SINCE THE sensational arrest of Gujarat junior Home Minister Amit Shah last week, the BJP has been crying hoarse about a Congress conspiracy; about the CBI being a “Congress bureau of investigation”; and of how the case against Shah is built on legally flimsy grounds. There are grains of truth in all of this. Shah’s arrest measures very high on India’s political Richter scale. It is not just that he is the first serving minister in the history of independent India to be arrested on charges as serious as murder, extortion, suppression of evidence and conspiracy, among other things. What makes his arrest even more explosive is the fact that a political hyphen joins him to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Not only did Shah hold an astonishing 10 ministries in the Modi dispensation, he was the Minister of State for Home, which was helmed by Modi himself. There is very little Shah could have been doing without Modi’s knowledge: there is very little mud one can throw on Shah which would not stick to his mentor.

So, yes, it would be difficult to deny the ambiguous roles the CBI has played recently in cases involving Quattrocchi, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav. The Congress certainly has a lot to gain from trumping Narendra Modi, and through him, the BJP. And it is true some aspects of the evidence against Shah would probably look thin in court. But unfortunately for the party, the scales weigh heavily in favour of Shah’s complicity and direct involvement in a vast spectrum of crimes. TEHELKA has been tracking the Sohrabuddin ‘encounter’ story since 2007 and was the first to publish the call records that proved to be Shah’s undoing (Gujarat Home Minister called cops arrested for killing Tulsi Prajapati, 3 July). Now, it has fresh information that proves Shah will find it extremely difficult to subvert the wheels of justice that have begun to grind around him.

“There is no doubt this arrest is a big challenge, but we will fight it legally. How can you call this evidence?” says a senior BJP leader, requesting anonymity. “What value do the stings have? Will they stand in court?”

To counter these questions, the story so far in a nutshell. Sohrabuddin, an extortionist, was killed by Gujarat police on 26 November 2005. His wife Kauser Bi was raped, sedated with chemicals and burnt. Sohrabuddin was declared an LeT terrorist on a mission to kill Modi, the ‘encounter’ touted as a badge of Gujarati pride. A year after the first ‘encounters’, in December 2006, Tulsi Prajapati, the only eyewitness and a Sohrabuddin accomplice, was also shot dead.

Soon after the murders, the cover-ups began. The case was handed over to the CID, which functions directly under the Home Ministry — Shah and Modi — and was batted to several police officers, who either diluted the evidence under political pressure or were transferred if they failed to comply. And so the case straggled on. Finally, dismayed by the obfuscations, Sohrabbudin’s brother Rubabuddin petitioned the Supreme Court, which handed the case over to the CBI in January 2010, with a directive to uncover the “possibility of a larger conspiracy”.

Since then, the skeletons have been tumbling out. On 29 April, the CBI arrested Ajay Chudasama, DCP (Crime) and Joint Commissioner of Police, who has 197 complaints of extortion and harassment against him. Chudasama features in another TEHELKA story, in which a Muslim boy who admits to being part of a terror conspiracy speaks of the officer forcing him to implicate innocents (8 August 2009). Alarmed by Chudasama’s arrest, the state CID arrested several other officers to prevent the CBI from taking them into custody. But the truth had begun to spill.

So no matter how much the BJP tries to blunt the issue, Shah and Modi face a minefield of evidence and uncomfortable questions. And there are many new developments they need to fear. First of all, there is a battery of disgruntled and complicit police officers now willing to turn approver or prosecution witness. IGP Geeta Johri is one of them. Handed the case twice, she is an example of the complex ways in which Modi and Shah seem to have weighed in on officers handling the case. Johri was forced to go along when ex-CID chief OP Mathur allegedly tampered with Shah’s call records. She filed a secret note to the Supreme Court complaining of “political pressure.”

Despite this, Johri changed course and was later chastised by the Supreme Court for “not conducting the investigation in a fair manner”. Now the CBI is set to make her a witness when she returns from London on August 8. Johri should have much to reveal. For instance, when she and fellow officer VL Solanki asked GC Raigar, ADGP CID, for permission to interrogate Tulsi Prajapati, they were fobbed off till Prajapati was shot a week later.

Another officer thwarted in the line of duty was DGP CID Rajnish Rai, who arrested killer cops DG Vanzara, Rajkumar Pandyan and Dinesh MN in 2007. When he sought to put them through narco analysis, he was swiftly sidelined. He is now on study leave.

Damagingly, a CID note to the CBI talks of “uncalled for restrictions on the movement of officers” and of how “progress in the investigations was communicated to the accused persons allowing them the opportunity to influence witnesses”. It also speaks of how Rai’s arrests were frowned upon by the “political dispensation”. As a “consequence”, it says, the government issued an order dated 27 March 2007 stating that Raigar would henceforth oversee the case.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Amit Shah: Who’s this ??

Amit Shah's fall has dented his boss Narendra Modi's eligibility to some day lead non-Congress centrist parties at the Centre. The Ahmedabad based leader has been handling senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani's elections year after year in Gandhinagar constituency. He is an important member of Chief Minister Narendra Modi's core group. He is one of the important people who helped Narendra Modi build his image as a strong politician after he became chief minister in 2001. He has been given credit for the prevention of any major bomb blasts in Gujarat. He is, obviously, a shrewd politician. But his ability to read the intractable Indian voter's mind successfully is what has made the difference for his and his party's political fortunes in Ahmedabad. He is a 24/7 politician. Other than talking for ten minutes or so everyday to his recently deceased mother whom he revered passionately, he played politics -- sometimes dangerously -- round the clock. Grassroots politician and ace manipulator of people and events, Shah, 46, is now disgraced. With the Central Bureau of Investigation filing a chargesheet against him, he will now have to defend himself for a lifetime, both inside and outside the court.

There is not an iota of doubt in the minds of political observers that the Congress party has orchestrated the event from behind the scenes. No doubt the CBI is under the shadow of the central government. Despite this, Shah and the BJP do not have any convincing argument to claim that the case, now known as the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, is a political humbug. But, the most shocking thing for his supporters is that today it is not Hindutva or his so-called communal action that is under the scanner. Shah is branded as a murderer and extortionist today. There are some 20 evidences against him in the chargesheet and some are likely to stand in a court of law. There are some businessmen who have given evidence that Shah demanded money from them after the fake encounter of Sohrabuddin. Some businessmen have alleged that Shah told them that during the police inquiry into Sohrabuddin's activities, their names were linked with his operations. They allege that they paid Shah to remain out of the investigation. Also, how the police murdered Sohrabuddin's wife Kausarbi with the help of poisonous injection is shocking, if true. Details ranging from the medical shop where the poison was bought to how her body was disposed is now documented in the chargesheet. The weakest link in the BJP's arguments is that a large part of the investigation of the Sohrabuddin case was conducted by Gujarat cadre police officer Geeta Johari, who was sidelined by Shah. Shah had been accused of transferring police officers who were not conducive to him. He was also micro-managing the ministry. People have often seen him talking to junior police officers.

In 2006, Johri, on the instructions of the then director general of police P C Pande, formed a team and sent it to Hyderabad and other places to investigate how Sohrabuddin was killed. The Supreme Court had ordered the DGP to conduct an inquiry. She build the case and before Shah could influence the probe she sent it directly to Supreme Court. Till then, Shah was not within the ambit of the investigation. Later, activists alleged that Shah favoured Johri and she allegedly tried to change the track of the investigation. Only then was the case given to the CBI. Johri was made the commissioner of Rajkot.

The turning point came for Shah when, under legal advice from senior lawyers, the Gujarat government accepted before the Supreme Court that the Sohrabuddin encounter was fake. It was unprecedented. From that day, none of Modi's and Shah's political strategy seems to work. Some believe that Shah and Modi might have thought that the matter would end with the acceptance of 'guilt' and the Sohrabuddin chapter would be closed after the arrest of few officers. Shah's calculation must have been that he had absolute power under Modi's rule. He found all the organs of democracy in New Delhi biased and anti-Modi. His arrogance due to political success and his miscalculation about the functioning of bureaucracy and the police force during a crisis has proved to be wrong.

He underestimated the power of men and women in khaki and his total lack of judgment about the Supreme Court's influence over the cases before it has led him to his fall. Unfortunately, this case will neither deter the men in khaki from misbehaving nor make people like Shah understand that there is nothing above upholding constitutional propriety in independent India. This case doesn't seem to send a correct signal because today's India is divided. There are a large number of Indians today who oppose the cruel and totally unacceptable murders of Sohrabuddin, Kausarbi and Tulsi Prajapati but don't want to question the killing of Maoists in a suspicious manner by the security forces.

In the end, the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case has turned into an ugly war between the Congress and the BJP. At the end of the day, with Shah's fall, his boss Modi's eligibility to some day lead non-Congress centrist parties at the Centre has shrunk. Here lies the real win for the Congress, as this will play as an advantage for its future leadership. It is the saddest moment for the country that the proven fake encounter case will remain more political and less about the principles of upholding the ethos of the Indian Constitution, which doesn't give men in khaki any power to kidnap and kill a good, bad or ugly Indian.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Gujarat: Making of a Fascist state

By: Ram Puniyani

Abdul Shakeel Basha, known popularly as Shakeel to his friends, has been arrested on 17th June 2010, on various charges. The major charge is that he along with his other friends was planning to start a Maoist revolution in Gujarat. Shakeel is 13th amongst the activists who have been arrested on similar charges. Activists who have been arrested on the charge of being Naxalites are Avinash Kulkarni, Bharat Pawar, Makabhai Chowdhary, Jayaram Goswami and others who have been working in different parts of Gujarat, particularly amongst the tribal and workers for their economic rights. There has been no news of any violence in the areas where they have been working. One knows Shakeel has a long record of working for communal harmony, justice for Gujarat violence victims, and housing for street children amongst other issues. ‘Peace issues’ has been his concern during last few years.

Apart from Shakeel the work of most of these activists, arrested by Gujarat police, has been within the confines of Indian Constitution, struggles based on the ‘rights as citizens’, as weaker sections of society. The major violence witnessed by Gujarat has been the one of sectarian type, the one directed first against Muslim minorities and then Christian minorities. On the contrary, the work of some of these activists has been to promote communal harmony, which has been a hindrance to spread of divisiveness being promoted by the likes of Swami Aseemanand of VHP, an RSS affiliate, who is currently absconding for his linkages with the perpetrators of Ajmer terror attack.

With the nationwide beginning of operation ‘green hunt’, the targeting of Naxalites/Maoists, the Gujarat police, not to be left behind has targeted the activists working within the confines of constitutional limits. Gujarat has never been known to be the work area of Naxalites/Maoists anyway. This has been an area where the followers of RSS have been calling shots from last two decades in particular and trying to convert it into ‘ideal Hindu state’. Gujarat has also been boasted as the ideal Hindu state, particularly since the violence against minorities became intense. The anti Muslim offensive culminated in Gujarat carnage of 2002. After 2002, there was a sustained attack on Christians. This is the violence which is the marker of Gujarat.

One never heard of any Naxalite violence and there are no criminal cases against most of the activists who have been arrested. As such through the intense media propaganda, social activists have been defamed to the extent that Medha Patkar was attacked physically for her campaigns to protect the rights of tribal. Strong propaganda against ‘activists’ in general is part of the norms prevalent in Gujarat.

The sequence of the political events in Gujarat is very revealing. First the sectarianism comes up; various factors promote this communal divide. This leads to the massive anti Muslim pogrom on the pretext of Godhra train burning. Then on the plea that Christian missionaries are converting the gullible Adivasis, anti Christian violence is unleashed. This runs parallel with the aggressive conversion of Adivasis into Hinduism under the garb of ‘Ghar vapasi’. Through Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, through swamis and associates identity issues are projected in the Adivasi areas. The result of all this is the overall suspension of the concept of Human rights and demonization of social activists. As such whatever little is there in the name of social activism has been dwarfed under the shadow of communalization of social space and communal violence.

Due to these anti minority attacks, minorities have been relegated to second class citizens. The culmination of this is the formation of Muslim ghettoes in urban areas and intimidation of Christians in Adivasi areas. Along with this, the concept of ‘Swarnim Gujarat’ (Golden Gujarat), a heaven for investors is advertised through media. In tandem with this the rights of workers and tribal are being suppressed to ensure that the industrialists can have their sway to make big money. As Ratan Tata put it, industrialists have to be in Gujarat. And so Anil Ambani and others of their ilk project Narendra Modi as the ideal Chief Minister, the future Prime Minister of India. The inference is emerging that anti minority pogrom has effectively been undertaken to create a ‘smooth’ atmosphere for the industrialists. After subjugating minorities and the democratic values the illusion of ‘development’ has been manufactured.

Narnedra Modi has been compared to Hitler times and over again. Through his anti Jew, anti Communist tirades Hitler created the ‘ideal’ atmosphere for the big industrialists. It seems Modi has taken Gujarat on the same path. First he has ensured the suspension of human rights through anti-minority pogroms, then demonized the social activists and now whatever little activity prevailed for democratic rights of the marginalized, is being done away with. The human rights workers, working in the Constitutional framework are being dubbed as Naxalites and are being put behind the bars. The idea is to smoothen the path for big industrialists. The arrest of workers for human rights issues is like laying the red carpet for the reckless growth of industries, trampling on the interests of the deprived sections of society. What is hidden below the red carpet is the very concept of a welfare state, a secular state, a state with the concept of human rights of all. One is also reminded of the RSS ideologue M.S. Golwalkar writing in his book ‘Bunch of Thoughts’ that Muslims, Christians and Communists are the internal threat to Hindu nation. It seems following his advice first the Muslims, then the Christians and now the social activists (communist substitutes) are being targeted as Naxalites.

The happenings in Gujarat show us the deeper designs of the political class of the country, who are executing industrialization without a human face, industrialization on the bodies of the marginalized sections. Hitler did precisely the same. In the short term it seems very rewarding but surely one knows from History that once the violation of the concepts of democracy goes too far, the results are not very pleasing. Hitler refused to learn it in his life, that’s why he had to put a bullet in his head. Germany kept toeing his line, that’s why it faced the ruin after the temporary graphs showing economic prosperity!

One reaffirms that those believing in ‘violence as a means for social change’ have no place in the democratic system. In turn, one must learn that democracy is doomed in a state which does not let the peaceful social movements to exist!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sangh Parivar's Terror Plot Exposed

With all the startling revelations coming out as a cascade, it will be strange if for the larger interest of the security of India Indresh Kumar and other high ranking RSS chiefs are not put behind prison bars for the sole reason that RSS never stops its execution of its closely guarded plans which can potentially change Indian polity. Such is its cultural nationalism nurtured over the years that it does not want the Muslim minority, perhaps also other minorities, to exist in the country.

Indresh Kumar is a member of the central committee of the RSS in charge of the Muslim minority affairs. The RSS cannot allow Muslim to exist as they want, equal to their fellow compatriots. Make no bones about it with the RSS because they are so cussed that they would continue their sophistry believing that you can fool all the people all the time, at least in India.

Serving Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit wanted to kill Indresh Kumar and according to his Abhinav Bharat constitution decimate Muslims because they would not be eligible for the Hindu Rashtra he had visualized. Purohit and Indresh Kumar have the same goal. Telling more than this according to the formula of truth of Albert Camus is a lie. To be precise, intended killing of Indresh Kumar is a lie, a white lie, planted to mislead. For, their aim is not mutual destruction. Both have the Hindu Rashtra in their hearts.

Even if it is believed for an argument that Purohit and Shyam Apte of Pune had given a gun to one Alok and the Kolkata Hindutva activist Tapan Ghosh on April 11 or 12, 2008, to kill Indresh Kumar; their desire to purge India of Muslims and other minorities does not change. Nor does their capability to wreck havoc in altering the political map of the subcontinent, change.

Truth also is the revelation that the medical doctor did want to kill the vice president Hamid Ansari at Jamia Millia in 2007. Creating anarchy is the hidden agenda of the RSS because it is the most secretive and hence most dangerous organization existing in India. Anarchy would lead to the kind of Hindu Rashtra Purohit and RSS envisage. What is the proof that they submit themselves to the Constitution of the Republic of India? When Allan Octavius Hume founded the Indian National Congress in 1885, the viceroy Lord Duffin called it seditious. Indresh Kumar’s secret meeting and conversation with all those involved in Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca masjid and Samjhauta express blasts constitutes just that. It is matched by Purohit’s parleying with the Israeli officers seeking recognition and help and diplomatic immunity once the Hindu Rashtra comes into existence. Purohit was busy in recruiting youths into his organization Abhinav Bharat when he was posted at Deolali camp of Nasik, February to September 2005. Does this not constitute sedition, he a serving officer of the Indian army with a hidden Constitution to replace the Constitution of the Republic of India!!

Abhinav Bharat had 5000 members across the country then. What has the military thought of the 5000 that the lieutenant colonel had taught and trained? What has the Maharashtra government done about KP Raghuvanshi inviting Purohit to teach and train the Anti Terrorism Squad officers? What has the government of India thought of Praveen Togadia who according to Purhot was actively engaged in the founding and financing of Abhinav Bharat? Why did Togadia want to know from Purohit as to who was investigating the Nanded blast of 2006? What have the investigating agencies done to know why the VHP chief of Maharashtra, one Prashant Hartalkar, was prying into this matter and under whose instruction? Does the Constitution of India allow all such anti-constitutional goings on?

The government of India has shown no interest in the only Hindu majority country in the world after India, Nepal. Is this also pseudo secularism for it has not shown any awareness let alone publishing any white paper on the matter recorded by Sudhakar Pandey regarding how Pandey also instructed Purohit to contact Dr R P Singh over the telephone in August 2007. Dr Singh had told “Purohit that Indresh had “sold off Hindus in Nepal”. This had fetched Indresh Kumar Rs 3 crore rupees. The money was floated by the ISI. When Purohit conveyed this to Togadia that doughty heart specialist from Gujarat acknowledged that he already knew about it.

So the question, whether the government of India knew it?

The most wonderful thing for the government of India to know is: how come the RSS and Abhinav Bharat slept over the fact that Malegaon was a rich mine for communal violence till SIMI and the Muslims blew themselves up on September 8, 2006 and only then Abhinav Bharat followed suit on September 29, 2008. (But the itinerary of Togadia shows another direction. He met Purohit in the house of a Nasik VHP leader Vinayak in February 2006, just months before first terrorist attacks in Malegaon. In December 2006 Purohit called upon Togadia in a Mumbai hotel and told him about the details of Abhinav Bharat. Togadia had informed Purohit in March April 2007 of the people who had given funds for Abhinav Bharat. In August-September 2007 Togadia gave Purohit 2 lakh rupees donation for Abhinav Bharat. Then on August 2, 2008 again shortly before the second terrorist attack in Malegaon Togadia and Purhit met. This time Togadia was not happy with Purohit for breaking up the Madhya Pradesh unit of VHP. Thus Togadia and Purohit acted in tandem around the time of both the bomb attacks in Malegaon.)

Courtesy: By Mustafa Khan-

Monday, July 12, 2010

Hindu terror: The Malwa Connection


Most names figuring in the investigations of the 2007 bomb blasts in Ajmer, at Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, and in Malegaon hail from Madhya Pradesh's Malwa region.'s Krishnakumar Padmanabhan traces the common thread that could have brought these men together.

What started as minor skirmishes between two groups vying for power seven years ago in a small Madhya Pradesh cantonment town was the beginning of the phenomenon that is now spoken about as Hindu terrorism.

Recently, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Rajasthan Anti-Terror Squad made a string of arrests from in and around Indore and established that the 2007 bomb blasts in Ajmer and Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid were the handiwork of the same group of people.

At least three of the accused in the bomb blast case were charged with the murder of a tribal leader from the Congress party in 2003.

As like-minded men began coming together and plotting heinous attacks, the Madhya Pradesh establishment turned a blind eye. Investigators now say the perpetrators found haven in the Malwa region of Madhya Pradesh, as they wreaked havoc in other parts of the country.

In 2003, towards the end of Digvijay Singh's tenure as chief minister in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress party had strengthened its hold in its traditional areas — the party base, the minorities, and the Adivasis.

In Malwa's tribal belt, Pyar Singh Ninama, a local tribal strongman, was the party's face among the Adivasi population. Around that time, accusations began to trickle that Christian missionaries were stepping up efforts to get more Adivasis into their fold. Around that time a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Sunil Joshi, was 'sent' as the Mhow pracharak from Gujarat, where it was said the heat was on him following the 2002 riots.

In Mhow -- an acronym for Military Headquarters of War -- the Sangh Parivar was virtually a family. The most active among them were Lokesh Sharma, his cousin Jitender Sharma -- from the RSS and Bajrang Dal respectively -- and Devendra Pandya, who were working to spread Hinduism in adjoining tribal areas.

On the other hand, Ninama, a converted Christian, was seen as nudging his fellow tribals towards Christianity. The two groups were soon at loggerheads and in one of the ensuing clashes, Pandey's choti (tuft) was allegedly cut off. In apparent revenge, three people including Ninama and his son, were brutally killed.

Cases were filed against Lokesh Sharma, Sunil Joshi, Ramesh Sharma, a businessman from neighbouring Pithampur, and 10 others. While most of them are still in jail and the case is before the court, Lokesh Sharma and Joshi were never caught.

Here is where the seeds of what is now seen as Hindu terror were sown.

Investigations by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Anti-Terror Squads of Rajasthan and Maharashtra have revealed that the lynchpin was Sunil Joshi, who was murdered in December 2007.

That case is still unsolved. While initially, the Students Islamic Movement of India was suspected, later, there were murmurs that his Hindu rivals could have murdered him.

Lokesh Sharma is accused of planting the bomb in Ajmer.

Locals say soon after the Ninama murder case, Joshi's stock rose among hotheaded youngsters.

In the assembly election that followed a couple of months after Ninama's murder, the Congress party was voted out, and the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power.

Around this time, some local residents claim Joshi and Lokesh Sharma began to be seen in public quite often.

"Digvijay Singh had often spoken about how the violent activities of the Hindu groups was fast turning to 'terrorism'. He said he had evidence that they were gaining bomb-making capabilities. But then he was voted out at a crucial juncture," says Manohar Limbodia, a veteran journalist.

With what was seen as a friendly BJP government, Joshi began to operate quite openly, mobilising support.

"Joshiji was someone who would say one death from our side should be avenged with five from the other side. The youngsters liked him and his approach a lot," a Bajrang Dal activist in Mhow recalls, speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report.

As it was becoming evident that Joshi was going down an aggressive path, the RSS publicly distanced itself from him.

"Though the RSS distanced itself from the likes of Joshi, we could see that he had the support from within the organisation and also local BJP leaders. Joshi and his group could not have operated without strong support," a businessman, familiar with the Sangh Parivar in Dewas, where Joshi was murdered, says, again speaking on condition that he would not be identified for this report.

Soon after the Ninama murder case, the police defused a bomb at the venue of a Muslim congregation in Ghansipura, Bhopal, which they now allege was planted by the same group behind the terror attacks.

It was an improvised device with explosive material stuffed in metal pipes, connected to a mobile phone. The bomb was set to explode when the mobile rang, but the police defused it in time.

Had that bomb exploded it would have been the first attack of Hindu terror in the country.

How did those who came together in Mhow establish contact with foot soldiers like Ramji Kalasangra (who allegedly made the bombs used in the Ajmer and Mecca Masjid attacks) and Sandeep Dange (who is alleged to have 'facilitated' the others in executing the blasts) on the one hand and alleged masterminds like Colonel Prasad Purohit and sadhvi Pragya Thakur on the other hand?

"The RSS has many organisations," says Deepak Joshi, son of former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kailash Joshi and the BJP legislator from Hatpipliya, Dewas. "There are also different kinds of people. First, there are the RSS members. Then there are people who might be involved in the RSS's activities without being members. Then, there are people from sister organisations like the ABVP (Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad), Bajrang Dal, etc. Finally, there are people who believe in the ideology but are not associated in any way with any organisation. There are about five or six RSS events in a year where all the four kinds of people come together. Since they are all from the region and had extremist leanings, that is how these people must have met."

Explaining how various people could have gotten to know each other, he says he had met Pragya Thakur about 10 times. "She has sat in the exact place where you are sitting. The connection between her and me is that we are both from the ABVP. She was very aggressive from those days, and I did not make any efforts to know her better," he adds.

But he shies away from dubbing the phenomenon as Hindu terrorism.

"It is not organised to begin with," he says, "And it does not have the sanction or approval of an organisation like the RSS."

He accepts that the likes of Sunil Joshi did have support at the local level.

"When the police said Sunil Joshi was in hiding, I had met him at an event. He told me he was being framed," says the BJP MLA. "In small places, it is not difficult to meet and get to know people. In Madhya Pradesh, a lot of BJP politicians owe their career to the RSS. And some of them may have shared beliefs with people like Sunil Joshi. In the end, such politicians end up using these people for their personal gains."

How did the Malwa region become the hotbed for Hindu terror?

The Malwa region is predominantly tribal. Indore, which is the biggest city in the region, does not have much of an Adivasi presence. But Dhar is 75 percent Adivasi, Jhabua is nearly 100 percent Adivasi. Balwani, Khargon and Khandwa are 50 percent Adivasi.

The Hindus form the second biggest community. They comprise Malis from Rajasthan, Jats, Thakurs, Baniyas and Brahmins.

"More than the composition, the reason the region has been the hotbed of radical Hinduism is because of the leaders," says Limbodia. "Nagpur may be the seat of power for the RSS, but Malwa is the front. RSS stalwarts like Khushabhau Thakre, Pyarelal Khandelwal and Suresh Soni hailed from the Malwa region and shaped the RSS philosophy. That way, this region is the cradle of the RSS."

"It is not just Hindu terror," says Kamil Seher, a hotel owner in Pithampur, an industrial area. "The Pithampur-Dhar region was the base for SIMI. They used to train there. Before that, the Dawood Ibrahim gang used to be active here. Now the Maoists are also entering this region. Why, some time ago, even an LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) soldier was arrested from a Pithampur factory, where he was working as a gunman for the owner."

"If you are working in a factory, and you bring in someone from your village to stay with you, how would we know if he is a criminal or not?" asks Seher.

He alleges that though the likes of SIMI leader Safdar Nagori were arrested, those who were pumping money and were the brains of the outlawed organisation got away.

"If with an organisation like SIMI, money power and clout could work, how will anyone be able to get close to the top of the Hindu terror hierarchy, if it exists?" he asks.

While the official RSS line is that those arrested are not part of the organisation, it is reported to be helping the accused's families and has arranged for lawyers to fight their cases.

"The RSS arranged for lawyers in Ajmer and Hyderabad to take up my brother's case," confirms Jitender Sharma, Lokesh Sharma's cousin. "I am thankful to the organisation. But at the same time I understand why they want to distance themselves in public. There is a Congress government at the Centre, and all the three states where the terror charges have been filed are also ruled by the Congress, which wants to link the RSS with terrorism. For the Congress, the RSS is the biggest enemy, not the BJP. They want to finish off the RSS."

Jitender's version of what happened is different.

"I was with the Bajrang Dal and Lokesh was with the RSS. Under Digvijay Singh, Hinduism was under attack. So we tried to get a case filed against him. But it is not easy to get the police to file a first information report against the state's chief minister. So we indulged in chakka jams (blockades), and jail bharo protests on a small scale. The state police had marked us from that time. There were a lot of small cases (filed) against us. But we are not people who will get into hardcore criminal activities. At the most we would have stoned a few shops during bandhs," he says.

Though he does not criticise the RSS, Jitender does not have the same feelings about the BJP and its local leaders.

"Kailash Vijayvargiya, who is the BJP MLA for Mhow, has done nothing. He used Lokesh during elections and after that has turned a blind eye," he alleges.

Jitender is now fighting a lone battle to save his cousin.

"First he was implicated in the Ninama murder case. He lost five years of his life hiding from the police. Only last year he got married and his son was born this year. But he hasn't been able to see his son. We are poor people and now his family is struggling to make ends meet and also spend on the legal proceedings."

Though others do not buy the witch hunt theory, they agreed that the Congress party being in power at the Centre and the three states involved is the prime reason the case is moving at this pace.

"These people first surfaced in 2003," says journalist Manohar Limbodia. "After a few failed attempts, they executed their first attack in 2007. Wasn't four years enough for the state police to act? In fact, had any party but the BJP been in power in Madhya Pradesh, you might not be talking about a phenomenon called Hindu terror today."

"Even before the Ajmer blasts, they all met in a temple in Bhopal. What did the police do? After the blasts too, the Vasundhara Raje government (in Rajasthan) did not do anything," says Naveen Mali, a businessman and community leader in Mhow. "Only after (Congress Chief Minister) Ashok Gehlot took over did things start moving. True, it smacks of politics, but then something happened and something had to be done."

The Dewas-Indore belt was home for those accused in the terror cases.

"They thought they would be safe as long as they could strike in other states and hide here. They thought they were untouchable. They never expected the police from other states to come looking for them," says Limbodia.

Though Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad chief Hemant Karkare blew the lid off the Hindu terror phenomenon when he cracked the Malegaon blast case, it is the Rajasthan ATS, with its sweeps into border towns and midnight arrests, that has struck terror in the hearts of those hiding in the region.

"The Rajasthan ATS comes and picks up people for questioning and drops them back whenever it wants to. The local police is clueless. They come to know only when the Rajasthan ATS informs them as a formality about who they are taking away with them. Sometimes they don't even do that," says Seher about the arrests that the neighboring state's police have made in Pithampur.

"The Shivraj Singh Chauhan government (in Madhya Pradesh) is not very strong," says Jitender Sharma. "In Gujarat, (Chief Minister) Narendra Modi doesn't allow the ATS to touch anyone. But here, the ATS from other states walk in freely and pick up whoever they want to whenever they want."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Cow on contemporary political chessboard

By Ram Puniyani

Karnataka BJP Government has passed “Karnataka Prevention of Slaughter and Preservation of Cattle Bill 2010” (June 2010). There has been a strong opposition to this move from the civil society. Some of social activists point out that this piece of legislation is “communal in intent and anti-farmer in consequence”. There have been series of meetings to express the concern of people, especially those of dalits and farmers to this legislation. Some of them said that implementation of the bill in its present form will deprive citizens the freedom to choose their food. Mr. Girish Karnad the noted film personality asked “As long as their choice of food is not affecting others, why its consumption should be prohibited?” Others pointed out that the bill is trying to polarize the majority and minority communities through this bill. It was also pointed out that Gujarat, where such a law already exists, was a leading beef exporter in the country. The points made also indicated that the controversial anti-cow slaughter Bill, if implemented, would discourage farmers from rearing cattle and will lead to a shortage of milk.

It is not the first time that the debate around Cow slaughter bills, beef eating is taking place. When BJP led NDA was in power it went to the extent of appointing a committee to go into the matter and the committee concluded that cow protection should be made fundamental right and there is a need to constitute Central Rapid Protection Force to prevent cow slaughter, and also to invoke POTA to detain those smuggling cows! The cow obsession of BJP is a part of deeper agenda of targeting Muslim minorities as they want to Brahminize the society by creating situations where beef eating becomes a taboo for large sections of society.

Needless to say beef is amongst the cheapest sources of proteins for the poor, especially dalits and adivasis. Till just a couple of decades ago there were many communities who were preferring beef to other expensive protein rich food. At the same time the minorities, Muslims and Christians, for whom, beef is neither a taboo nor a compulsion, are being looked down on this pretext. Large propaganda campaigns are on through which minorities are being demonized around the issue of beef eating and cow slaughter. One recalls the incident of Jhajjer where 5 dalits were done to death on the suspicion of killing a cow and VHP’s Acharya Giriraj Kishore justified the event as saying that cow is so sacred for Hindus that killing of dalits does not matter. Similarly, Sheikh Rahman a cattle trader was killed in Orissa on the cooked up charge of selling cows for slaughter.

When Uma Bharati became the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister she converted her official residence into a sort of Goshala, (Cow Shed). Currently the products from cow dung and cow urine are being promoted as divine medicines to cure many ailments. Even patents have been obtained for drinks based on Cow urine. The practitioners of scientific medicine have all the doubts about efficacy of these, beyond placeboes, as no scientific study and trial of these has taken place. The procedures laid down to introduce a new drug in the market are not followed and through mushrooming chains, the cow products as medicine are proliferating in number day by day.

The ‘Cow’ seems to be the next emotive chariot which probably is being projected after the decline in the fervour for Ram Temple issue. One has no problems in respecting animals of one’s choice, but the fear is this is/will be further used as the issue to divide the communities. In our plural democratic society how can faith of section of one religious community dictate the policies of the state?

As such most of the propaganda that beef eating was brought to India by Muslims is a mere hog wash. Most of the serious researches into the sacred Hindu book, Vedas, show that Beef eating was a norm in Vedic times. Researches and studies by Mahmahopadhya Bharat Ratna Pandurang Waman Kane’s ‘Bhartiya Dharmgrantho Ka Itihas’ (History of Hindu Holy books), Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, “Did The Hindus Never Eat Beef?” in “The Untouchables Who were they and Why they became Untouchables (Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches vol.l7 (Government of Maharashtra, Mumbai 1990, first edition 1948 pp 323-328) and the contemporary Historian, D.N. Jha, The Myth of Holy Cow, all point out that beef was popular food in Vedic times. Swami Viveknand emphasizes the same point in a different way. While addressing a meeting at Shakespeare club, Pasedena, Californian, USA (Feb 2, 1900) he declared, “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu, who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it. (Vivekanand, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekanand, Vol 3, Calcutta, Advait Ashram, 1997) Similarly the major ideologue of Hindutva, Savarkar said that there is nothing sacred about cow, it is a useful animal.

After the advent of agricultural society, rise of Jainism and Buddhism the concept of non-violence came up in different forms and later after 8th century Brahmanism projected Cow as its icon. Since then Cow is the projected as sacred, as ‘mother’ and gradually large sections of Hindus started regarding her so. In deference to the sentiments of Hindus, most Muslims Kings prohibited cow slaughter. Babur in his will to Humayun writes, “Son, this Nation Hindusthan has different Religions. Thank Allah for giving us this Kingdom. We should remove all the differences from our heart and do justice to each community according to its customs. Avoid cow-slaughter to win over the hearts of the people of this land and to incorporate the people in the matters of administration. Don’t damage the places of worship and temples, which fall in the boundaries of our rule.”

Since the rise of communal streams during freedom movement the communalists have been resorting to all the tricks to rouse emotions around matters of faith. So killing pig and putting it in the mosque & cow slaughter issue have been resorted to times and over again. It was during freedom movement itself that we see that the apostle of peace and non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi, a total vegetarian offering beef to his Muslim guest. A story goes that when one of his Muslim friends’ son from South Africa visited him in Sevagram Ashram, it happened to be the festive day of Bakr Id. Gandhi offered beef to the boy, the boy in turn refused to eat beef saying that he will not have any non vegetarian food in the Ashram as the Ashram practices non violence. What a touching sentiment on both the sides. Respect others’ practices!

Today with the rise of communalism we need to recount the examples set by Gandhi in matters pertaining to community relations and the efforts to demonize and communalize by resorting to such symbolisms of cow or Ram Temple should be put aside to focus on the issues of living in peace and harmony in a plural society.