8/24/2013

CRPP Statement on arrest of JNU student Hem Mishra

COMMITTEE FOR THE RELEASE OF POLITICAL PRISONERS
185/3, FOURTH FLOOR, ZAKIR NAGAR, NEW DELHI-110025



24/08/2013

Condemn the Arrest of Student and Cultural Activist Hem Mishra
by the Maharashtra Police!
Release Hem Mishra Unconditionally!

It was on the evening of 23rd August that we at the CRPP received a call from a common friend about the alleged arrest of Mr. Hem Mishra, a JNUite and cultural activist. It was disclosed from an anonymous number to Mr. Shamsher Singh Bisht that Hem Mishra has been arrested by the Gadchiroli police. Mr. Shamsher Singh Bisht was told by the caller to inform Hem’s family. Apart from this there was no information as to where he was arrested and in which police station he was kept.
After a whole day’s effort through lawyers and journalist friends finally in the evening of the 24th the DIG Rajendra Kadam admitted to the media that Hem Mishra was arrested on the 23rd morning and was produced before the court on the 24th evening to be remanded to police custody for 10 days. All these looks clean. But when one digs deeper it is evident that Hem Mishra has been incommunicado for the last four days or so. It is again self explanatory that he has been picked up much earlier by the Maharashtra police and has shown the arrest only on the 23rd to fit to the rule book. The possibility of Hem being tortured in these days cannot be ruled out given the track record of the police. While his friends and lawyers were trying to trace down the whereabouts of Hem, the local media was abuzz with the arrest of a Maoist/Naxalite with two alleged couriers of a certain Narmada, a Maoist leader. Except a few diligent journalists the media was taken in by the sensational news provided by the police. As usual the police officials were soon to tell the media, once they admitted his arrest, that they got incriminating stuff from Hem. But beyond that hyperbole of a statement the same officials kept mum on what this incriminating material that they had seized from him! The police further claims Hem to be a courier for the Maoists from Uttarakhand! And further to add meat to the story they claim that he was arrested at a very sensitive place between Aheri and Etapally which is a stronghold of the Maoists. Anyone who is conversant with the modus operandi of the police in these regions or for that matter anywhere given their illustrious record of impunity will vouch that the arrest has happened somewhere else and it has been shown in this region deliberately.
Given the sensation driven reporting in a sizeable section of the media the natural curiosity is that why Hem Mishra has in the first place been to this area? Anyone who knows Hem Mishra—as testified by his friends—recalls a person sensitive to the issues confronting the adivasis of Central and Eastern India as well as someone who would find himself on the side of the masses of the people. A cultural activist he has been active in JNU and outside singing for the cause of the adivasis, against Operation Green Hunt, against the increasing instances of impunity of the state. He has been active in the student politics on JNU campus and elsewhere as an activist of the Democratic Student’s Union. As an executive member, Hem Mishra has also been part of the efforts of the CRPP to provide legal aid and in the larger campaign for the release of the political prisoners.
Given his sensitivity to people’s issues, Hem has been an avid traveller often venturing into different regions of the subcontinent that normally don’t attract others. He has also been part of several fact finding missions to record the plight of the people under the scourge of the fascist violence of the state and other private business interests out to loot and plunder the land and resources of the people. He was very impressed with the work undertaken by Dr. Prakash Amte and his family in Gadchiroli and had often expressed his wish to visit the place. Perhaps he also had this wish to look for some alternate means of medication for the persisting pain in his left hand after two complicated surgeries, albeit huge financial difficulties, to get some relief for a physical disability. The arrest and then framing up of Hem Mishra is a tell tale case of any person in the subcontinent to find himself/herself at a potentially “sensitive” place to be incriminated by the security/intelligence agencies as per their whims. And it is difficult for any other common sense to prevail where one can still refuse to accept the hysteria and frenzy of the ideology of the so-called ‘war against terror’ and believe with conviction that a person can still go to these places and s/he has their right to not be incriminated or harassed. The lawlessness of the law in these regions comes out in the ugliest fashion when someone from the urban centre gets framed by the security agencies. Otherwise the everyday life of the people in these regions has several such untold stories to tell, abound with miseries.
The arrest and framing of Hem Mishra is a step further from the security forces/intelligence agencies to further trample on the rights of the people who have been raising their voices against the worst kinds of miseries they have been subjected to by the state and its forces in the name of growth and development. Perhaps Gadchiroli is the only district which is administered by no less than 40 plus IAS/IPS officers. All claims of the state to bring the government and the administration to the people have only resulted in more and more arrests, intimidation, torture, rape and loot. The arrest of Hem shown at such a “sensitive” area where the atrocities of the state on the people are the maximum is also an indicator of things to come. Anyone who raises their voice in support of the people in these regions will also be subjected to the same treatment. Only a massive mobilisation of public opinion against such vindictive and incriminating conduct of the state can push back this grand design of the Indian State to build a Garrison State.
We strongly demand the unconditional release of Hem Mishra.

In Solidarity,

SAR Geelani
President

Amit Bhattacharyya
Secretary General

Rona Wilson

Secretary, Public Relations  

8/22/2013

Assassination of an Activist


Who Killed Dr. Narendra Dabholkar?

-SUBHASH GATADE





“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
- Albert Einstein

Words have an uncanny ability of impinging on the receiver with clinical detachment. It is upto the receiver to unpack them or try to derive meaning out of them. It is still difficult to get over the sense of grief and shock one experienced when one received the news of the assasination of renowned rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar on the streets of Pune on Tuesday 20 th August.
For Punekars - residents of Pune - Omkareshwar temple on the banks of rivers Mula-Mutha happened to be the place where the dead are taken for last rites. It was a strange coincidence that  Dr Dabholkar, was on his morning walk near Omkareshwar bridge when assailants riding on a motorcycle fired at him from close range, two of which hit him in the back of his head and he immediately fell on the ground. He was rushed to Sasoon hospital where doctors declared him dead. Police found a photograph and a cheque in the name of the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti (ANS- Committee for the Eradication of Superstition) from his wallet . Perhaps after his walk he was planning to go to the office of 'Sadhana' - a magazine he was editing for the last eighteen years - as has been the practice whenever he use to be in Pune.
Spontaneous demonstrations have been reported from different parts of Maharashtra. And in his hometown Satara thousands came out on the streets to pay tribute to this 70 year young man who was loved and respected for his campaign against superstition and self-appointed godmen. A bandh call has been given by all political parties in Pune on Wednesday to protest the premediated murder of Dr Dabholkar.
It was only last night that he was on a channel (Sahyadri) discussing the role of the caste panchayats and the way they have made life miserable for many people. The panel discussion was taking place in the backdrop of a murder of a girl by her own father one Kumharkar in Nashik- on the instruction - of the caste panchayat as she had dared to marry outside the boundaries of caste. Intervening in the discussion Dr Dabholkar was telling how they had recently organised a conference to promote intercaste marriage and have released a manifesto on the same issue.  Looking at the fact that couples who go for intercaste marriage face tremendous problems at the hands of the communities they belong he was suggesting that special measures be taken by the police to protect them. Little could anyone had premonition that it is going to prove his last such panel discussion.
A multifaceted man - a medical doctor by training, writer-editor by aptitude and a campaigner by choice - he was a leading light of the rationalist movement and was engaged in fighting superstition and black magic through the organisation he led 'Andhashradha Nirmoolan Samity' with a network of its 200 branches spread in Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka. Very few people would remember today that he was an accomplished Kabaddi player in his college days and won medals for the Indian team then. Although he started his social life by taking up medical practice he soon got attracted towards the 'One Village, One Well' campaign initiated by well known socialist leader Dr Baba Adhav. The work to eradicate superstition was more than two decades old.
In one of his writeups on the theme entitled 'Rationality Mission for Success in Life' wherein he 'aims to encourage the participants to follow four action plans to begin with and thereby bring the desired change in the society' he had said :
The age old superstitions consisting of traditions, rituals, mind boggling procedures require money, labour and time of the individual as well as society. The modern society can’t afford to waste these valuable resources. In fact the superstitions ensure that the poor and downtrodden will remain in the same state forever and ever without giving any opportunity to come out of poor conditions. Let us take a pledge not to follow any of the superstitions and waste the resources. We will collectively oppose the authorities who spends tax payers money on the festivals and ceremonies like Kumbh Mela, temples/mosques/church maintenance, local festivals etc and allocate the funds for infrastructures like water, power, communication, transport, health-care, primary education and other welfare and development activities.

Tributes have been paid to him by political leaders, social activists from all walks of life. No doubt, it was a preplanned murder, meticulously planned to the last detail.The police has formed eight teams to track down the actual murderers and one should expect that they would be able to make a breakthrough in the near future. The police said they would also scrutinise allegations that he had received threats from extremist groups such as Sanatan Sanstha and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti. According to his family members he received threats often but refused to seek police protection. His son Hamid said “He thought this was a struggle to end ignorance, and he did not need weapons to fight it,”
Who might have killed Dr Dabholkar ?
Many possibilities exist.It is true that he did not have any personal enemies but his relentless work to fighting superstition, must have created a band of adversaries, who would have wanted to see him dead. Status quoists forces within politics also did not feel comfortable with his work.
A measure of the resistance offered by all such elements to the work he and his organisation had undertaken can be had from the fact that for years together a anti-superstition bill called 'Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifice and other Inhuman Evil Practices and Black Magic'  put forward by them is pending before the Maharashtra assembly - the only one of its kind in India. There was a strong opposition from Hindu extremists’ organisations and Warkaris to the bill, but Dabholkar was determined to get the bill passed and he stated that he was not against anybody's faith, but was against superstition. It was barely two weeks ago that Dabholkar had criticised chief minister Prithviraj Chavan at a press conference in Pune for not tabling the draft legislation in the recently-concluded monsoon session of the state assembly.
Without getting entrapped in the argument of defining faith and blind faith the proposed bill talks of tackling most common superstitions prevailing in Maharashtra.The list included, to perform Karni, Bhanamati, to perform magical rites in the name of supernatural power, to offer ash, talisman, charms etc. for the purpose of exorcism and to drive out evil  spirits or ghosts, to claim possession of supernatural powers and to advertise this claim,to defame, disgrace the names of erstwhile Saints/ Gods, by claiming to be there reincarnation and thus cheating the gullible and God-fearing simple folks, to perform so called black magic and spread fear in society. Such practices would be made an offence under this act and to serve as a deterrent it is proposed to provide for a stringent penalty and punishment, making such a practice a cognizable and non-bailable offence. The Bill also provides for the appointment of vigilance officers to detect and prevent such offences and collect evidence against the offenders. The idea is that it will help to prosecute the offenders effectively.
Now that the leading campaigner for this bill is dead, and looking at the dilly dallying going on for all these years, one does not know what will be the future of the bill.
In the end, it was late seventies when I had the opportunity of listening to him at a study camp of 'Vishamata Nirmulan Samity' - a loose coalition of organisations, individuals working for social change then, in Pune for the first time. One still remembers the passion with which he spoke then. Perhaps it was this passion for broader social transformation which never deserted him that he could sustain many odds which were an integral part of the work he had undertaken as a mission for life.
As has been rightly said his untimely death has been a severe blow to the rationalist movement in this country. This movement, which is facing tremendous challenges with the ascendance of rightwing forces in the society, has lost one of its commanders today. And it is a loss to everyone concerned with progressive change in India. It remains to be seen how all of us together are able to turn the tremendous grief which has come our way into new determination and resolve to fight the forces of ignorance, irrationality and reaction - a cause celibre for which Dr Narendra Dabholkar lived and died.





8/13/2013

डॉ. धर्मवीर पर मित्ररंजन का मूल लेख यहां पढ़ें

रविवार 11 अगस्‍त के जनसत्‍ता में मित्ररंजन का एक लेख छपा था ''गढ़े हुए तथ्‍यों का तूमार'', जिसमें डॉ. धर्मवीर के लिखे की आलोचना की गई थी। यह लेख जनसत्‍ता में संपादित कर के छापा गया था। इसका मूल लेख हम अविकल नीचे दे रहे हैं जो एक संक्षिप्‍त टिप्‍पणी के साथ मित्ररंजन ने जनसत्‍ता को प्रेषित किया था। (मॉडरेटर) 



तर्कहीन लेखन और थोथे बौद्धिक प्रदर्शन के नाम पर येनकेन प्रकारेण स्त्रियों की अस्मिता और पूरे वजूद पर निरर्थक प्रहारों का मौका खोजते रहनेवाले डॉ धर्मवीर ने प्रेमचंद की कहानी बालक का विश्लेषण करते हुए एक बार फिर अपनी कुंठित मनोग्रन्थि का परिचय दिया है। ऐसा वे प्रेमचंद की ही कहानी कफ़न के सन्दर्भ में स्वसृजित काल्पनिक तथ्यों का सहारा लेकर कहानी का नया पाठ प्रस्तुत करते हुए पहले कर चुके हैं। विगत दिनों प्रकाशित प्रोफेसर तुलसी राम की चर्चित आत्मकथा मुर्दहिया का विश्लेषण भी उन्होंने कुछ इसी तर्ज पर किया है जिसमें वर्णित कटु सामजिक यथार्थों, भारतीय सामाजिक संरचना में हाशिये की ज़िंदगी जीता दलित-वंचित समाज और उसे बनाये रखने के लिए जिम्मेदार मनुवादी वर्णव्यवस्था के खांचे में कैद पितृसत्तात्मक-सामंती ढांचे की पड़ताल और उससे टकराने व तोड़ने के कारगर हथियारों की खोज के बजाय वे महिलाओं के खिलाफ अपना विषवमन जारी रखते हैं। धर्मवीर जी की नजरों में दुनिया की हर दूसरी स्त्री नैतिक पतन का शिकार है। ऐसा वह अपनी आत्मकथा मेरी पत्नी और भेड़िया  में पहले ही कह चुके हैं। मानसिक पंगुता से ग्रस्त और स्वनिर्मित बौद्धिक श्रेष्ठता के दर्प से आत्ममुग्ध ऐसे व्यक्ति के बारे में क्या कहा जाये! पर इससे भी बड़ा सवाल ये है कि तथाकथित लोकतान्त्रिक उदारता को पल्लवित पुष्पित करने के नाम पर एक बड़े अखबार के नामचीन संपादक महोदय भी क्यों इन ‘मौलिक विचारों‘ को जगह देने पर तुले हैं? क्या आधी दुनिया के चरित्र हनन में उन्हें भी आत्मतोष प्राप्त हो रहा है? 

खैर, इस पर एक संक्षिप्त टिप्पणी। आगे धर्मवीर जी का वक्तव्य और प्रेमचन्द की कहानी भी संलग्न है।

प्रेमचंद के बहाने एक मूढ़मगज का आत्मालाप 


प्रेमचंद रचित बालक कहानी पर ४ अगस्त, २०१३ के जनसत्ता में मतान्तर में लिखी डॉ. धर्मवीर की टिप्पणी देख कर कुछ बातें साझा करना जरूरी लगा।

पहली बात तो यह कि धर्मवीर जी कुछ ऐसे ज्ञानी व्यक्ति हैं जो किस्म-किस्म के संदेहों के दलदल में फंसे हैं (पहले भवसागर में डूब-उतरा रहे हैं, लिखना चाहता था पर उनके लिए दलदल शब्द ही ठीक है जिससे बाहर निकलने की कोशिशों में आदमी धंसता जाता है और ये महाशय तो खैर अपने बनाये चैखटे से बाहर निकलना ही नहीं चाहते)।

जनसत्‍ता में छपे संपादित अंश 
अगर इस मर्मस्पर्शी कहानी में वो नवजात बालक के प्रति निरक्षर कहे जाने वाले नायक का अतुलनीय स्नेह नहीं देख पाते, अगर इस पितृसत्तात्मक समाज द्वारा रचे गए नियम-कानूनों से मजबूर और क्रूर हमलों से घायल गोमती देवी सरीखी स्त्रियों की वेदना नहीं समझ पाते और उसके प्रति गंगू के निश्छल प्रेम को मन की गहराइयों से महसूस नहीं कर पाते और इसमें भी वो तथाकथित जारकर्म की बू सूंघ लेते हैं तो उनके दिमाग की दाद देनी पड़ेगी। गंगू के मालिक का मानस तो कहानी का अंत आते-आते बदल जाता है पर धर्मवीर जी हमेशा की तरह इस कहानी में भी फेंटा बांध कर स्त्रियों की नैतिकता और शुचिता की खोज परीक्षा में लगे रहते हैं। अचरज नहीं कि धर्मवीर जी ने अपनी जिस लेखनी और अप्रतिम मेधा का परिचय अपनी जीवनी (मेरी पत्नी और भेड़िया) में दिया है और मानसिक दिवालियेपन व स्त्री विरोधी कुंठाओं से लबरेज हजार पृष्ठों की उनकी जिस ‘अनमोल कृति‘ को अविकल छापने का अद्भुत साहस वाणी प्रकाशन ने दिखाया है (इन विचारहीन मौलिक असहमतियों को जगह देनेवाले थानवी साहब भी ऐसे साहस के मामले में कोई अपवाद नहीं हैं जो आजकल अपने अखबार में लोकतान्त्रिक उदारता के नाम पर अनर्गल प्रलापों को चुन-चुन कर जगह दे रहे हैं), उस विचारहीन ठस मौलिकता की छाप उनकी तमाम मीमांसाओं में मिलती है।

कफ़न कहानी का जो कुपाठ धर्मवीर जी पहले ही पेश कर चुके हैं वो तो अपनी मौलिकता और स्वसृजित अनोखे तथ्यों की वजह से साहित्य के क्षेत्र में मील के पत्थर के रूप में दर्ज हो ही चुका है। अपने काल्पनिक तथ्यों के सहारे सामनेवाले पर सुदर्शन चक्र चलाकर उसको मटियामेट कर देने के भ्रम में जीते धर्मवीर जी ने कुछ ऐसा ही कारनामा अपनी पत्रिका बहुरि नहीं आवना के जनवरी-सितम्बर २०११ के अंक में प्रोफेसर तुलसी राम जी की आत्मकथा मुर्दहिया की विवेचना में भी किया है जब वे उनकी माँ की चारित्रिक नैतिकता पर आक्षेप लगाने की कोशिश में सारे तर्कों और तथ्यों को सर के बल खड़ा कर देते हैं। यहां वे पितृसत्तात्मक सोच से उपजे पिता के आधारहीन संदेह और उसके बिना पर किये जा रहे माँ के निरंतर उत्पीड़न के खिलाफ़ विद्रोह पर उतारू बालक का साहस व आक्रोश नहीं देखते। वे यह भी नहीं देख पाते कि मुर्दहिया के लेखक का जीवन जिस पीड़ा, जिन अमानवीय कठिनाइयों से होकर गुजरा है वह केवल उस लेखक की कहानी नहीं कहता बल्कि अपने वक्त और समाज का एक जीवंत चित्र प्रस्तुत करता है।

समाज के वर्गीय ढांचे में सबसे निचले पायदान पर खड़े हर तरफ से तिरस्कृत दलितों-महादलितों की आर्थिक-सामाजिक स्थितियों और नितांत दुरूह हालात में जीवन जी लेने भर की उनकी मनोदशा के विकास साथ-साथ पुरुषवादी दंभ से भरे इस समाज में स्त्रियों के प्रति सदियों से जारी दुव्र्यवहार की भी झलक दिखलाता है, उसी समाज में जिसकी सदासहिष्णुता के हम गीत गाते नहीं अघाते। पर अजीब बात है कि मुर्दहिया जिस बड़े कलेवर को समेटता है उसमें भी धर्मवीर को एक ही काम नजर आता है - विभिन्न पात्रों के जैविक खानदान और संततियों की खोज। यही काम वो कफ़न में भी करते नजर आते हैं। उन्हें ये नजर नहीं आता कि प्रसववेदना से छटपटाकर मरती बुधिया के प्रति घीसू-माधव की घोर निष्ठुरता का चित्रण करते हुए प्रेमचंद ने बड़ी बारीकी व अंतर्मन को झकझोर देनेवाली कलात्मक संवेदना के साथ भारतीय सामाजिक संरचना में जाति एवं लिंग के स्तर पर मौजूद संस्थाबद्ध उत्पीड़न की उलझी हुई गांठों को खोल कर रख दिया है। घीसू और माधव समाज के उस तबके से आते हैं जो सदियों से गरीबी और अभाव में जीने को मजबूर है। उनकी छाया भर से उच्चवर्णी समाज अपवित्र हो जाता है। आज इक्कीसवीं सदी में भी उनकी आर्थिक-सामाजिक-राजनीतिक भागीदारी व बुनियादी हक जैसे सरल सवाल पर वह बौखला उठता है। घीसू और माधव दमन व शोषण पर आधारित इसी घोर असंवेदनशील सामाजिक व्यवस्था की उपज हैं जिसने उनकी सारी मानवीय संवेदनाओं को पत्थर कर डाला है। बुधिया भी उसी दलित समाज का हिस्सा है, जिसे स्त्री होने के कारण पितृसत्तात्मक वर्चस्ववादी हमले का दोहरा अभिशाप झेलना पड़ता है।

दरअसल, वह सामाजिक मानवीय मूल्यबोध व मर्यादा से रहित आत्माभिमान खो चुके एक ऐसे उत्पीड़ित चरित्र के उत्पीड़न की शिकार है, जिसका संवेदना के हर स्तर पर अपने आप से भी विलगाव हो चुका है। बहरहाल इसमें कोई संदेह नहीं कि ये वो कृतियाँ हैं जिन पर तमाम बहसें हो सकती हैं पर ये दलित-वंचित समाज के पैरों में मनुवादी वर्णव्यवस्था और पुरुष वर्चस्व वाले सामंती ढांचे द्वारा खूब सोच समझ कर डाली गयी बेड़ियों का पर्दाफाश करती हैं इसमे संदेह नहीं। ऐसा कहते वक्त हम इस तथ्य से भी आंख नहीं मूंद सकते कि लैंगिक आधार पर उत्पीड़न का ढांचा दलित समाज के भीतर भी उतना ही गहरा है। लेकिन दलितों की वैचारिक रहनुमाई का ढिंढोरा पीटनेवाले धर्मवीर जी शायद कुछ खास चश्मा पहन कर चीजों को देखते-समझते हैं। दलितों की असली समस्याओं से दूर आत्ममुग्ध वैचारिकी से ग्रस्त किसी और लोक में विचरण करते हुए वो हर चीज का उत्स जारकर्म और हल उसके निराकरण में तलाशते फिरते हैं। दरअसल, अपनी पुस्तक सामंत का मुंशी में प्रेमचंद की रचना की चीर-फाड़ करते हुए बुधिया को मरते हुए छोड़ देने बल्कि एक तरह से उसकी हत्या की हिमायत करते हुए धर्मवीर खुद ही अपनी आपराधिक संवेदनहीनता व पितृसत्तात्मक सामाजिक ढांचे को बरकरार रखने के प्रति अपने गहरे अनुराग को बेनकाब कर देते हैं।

दूसरी तरफ, इस किताब की शुरुआत में जब वे कहते हैं कि मेरे लिए यही मुख्य बात है कि प्रेमचंद कायस्थ थे। भारत के जातीय वातावरण में किसी लेखक की जाति जानने से उसके साहित्य को समझने में काफी मदद मिलती है। सही मूल्यांकन के लिए साहित्यकार की पैदाईश जानने से लाभ ही लाभ होते हैं तो वे समाज में व्याप्त गैरबराबरी व जातिगत संरचना पर प्रहार की हर कोशिश को झुठलाते हुए सामंती ढांचे के पुरजोर हिमायती के रूप में नजर आते हैं। यह न केवल समाज की जड़ मान्यताओं और जातीय पदानुक्रम के रूप में स्थापित मानवनिर्मित ढांचागत असमानताओं को तोड़ने के लिए साहित्य, कला व सामाजिक आंदोलनकारी गतिविधियों जैसे विभिन्न स्तरों पर जारी प्रगतिशीलता के विभिन्न आयामों के प्रति उनकी नासमझी व कूपमंडूकता को दर्शाता है बल्कि साहित्य के प्रति उनकी सीमित समझ और किसी रचना के मूल पाठ को गायब कर अपने गढ़े हुए तथ्यों (जमींदार द्वारा बुधिया के गर्भवती होने का काल्पनिक प्रसंग) के जरिये साहित्यिक समाज में घुसपैठ कर विवादों के केंद्र में बने रहने और उसके जरिये शोहरत बटोरने की खतरनाक प्रवृत्ति को भी रेखांकित करता है।

सेवासदन, प्रेमाश्रम, रंगभूमि, गबन, गोदान सरीखे उपन्यासों व सैकड़ों कहानियों में अलग-अलग भावभूमियों की सहज व्याख्या करते हुए ह्रदय की कोमलतम संवेदनाओं को छूते और तकरीबन हर सामायिक सामाजिक राजनीतिक मुद्दे पर टिप्पणी करनेवाले प्रेमचंद किस परंपरा के वाहक हैं ये साबित करने की जरूरत नहीं। मतान्तर दूसरी बात है और असहमति के नाम पर पाठकों को कूड़ा स्नान कराना और बात ... बहरहाल, फेसबुक पर अमर नदीम जी ने ठीक फरमाया है कि ऐसे विश्लेषणों की जगह किसी कूड़ेदान और गटर में ही हो सकती है।
धर्मवीर जी, अपनी हास्यास्पद उलटबांसियों का प्रक्षेपास्त्र चलाने की जगह अगर कुछ सार्थक लेखन कर सकें तो बेहतर होगा अन्यथा ईदगाह और गोदान के लेखकों का तो कुछ नहीं बिगड़ेगा पर अपनी इस लेखनी के साथ आप तो भेड़ियों की जमात में ही जगह पा सकेंगे।

8/11/2013

WHERE ARE THE EMILE ZOLAS' OF OUR TIMES!

On Minority Rights and State Violence

Subhash Gatade


Each one has his reasons: for one, art is a flight; for another, a means of conquering. But one can flee into a hermitage, into madness, into death. One can conquer by arms. Why does it have to be writing, why does one have to manage his escapes and conquests by writing? Because, behind the various aims of authors, there is a deeper and more immediate choice which is common to all of us.
What is Literature? Jean Paul Sartre

It is difficult to start when you are among an august gathering of masters and students of a subject you are not much aware of and are asked to say something to them. Today I find myself in that unenviable situation.
Let me admit here that when I received the information of the seminar I was really very excited to learn that scholars of literature would be focusing themselves on human rights, an issue which demands urgent attention from every thinking and concerned human being. But when the question of joining the debate arose, I was really in two minds. In fact, I was bit reluctant to come here for two simple reasons. 
Firstly, being a left activist for larger part of my social life, I have been more accustomed to address public meetings on specific issues or share my ideas on a particular theme among activist circles. There have not been very many occasions when I had the opportunity to come to such gatherings.
Second reason was very personal. The moment my daughter came to know of this invite she advised me to be extra careful with my English pronunciation.
So with due apologies to you all in advance – who might have harrowing time listening to my English for next couple of minutes – here I begin.
II.
Not some time ago I came across information of an unusual book ‘Writer’s police’ written by Bruno Fulgini, an employee at the French Parliament, whose job was to scan old files at the office of the Paris police. What he found interesting in the two hundred year old police files that beyond criminals and political figures, there were files on writers and artists as well. In fact, this book provides details of the way in which great writers of late 18th century who were living in Paris at that time were kept under surveillance by the then rulers of France.
It was clear to these protectors of internal security of a tottering regime that the renowned literati then, might be writing fiction, but their sharp focus on the hypocrisy of the aristocrats or the livelihood issues of ordinary people was adding to the growing turmoil in the country. They knew very well that they might be writing fiction for the masses but it is turning out to be a sharp political edge that hit the right target and is becoming a catalyst for change. History bears witness to the fact that all those meticulous efforts put in by the police to curtail the free flow of ideas proved futile and how French revolution of those times emerged as a beacon of hope for thinking people across the world.
Or take the case of the novel 'Uncle Tom's Cabin' or, Life Among the Lowly, an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel "helped lay the groundwork for the Civil War". Details of the popularity of the book can be had from the fact that it was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible.
Looking back we gather that the strength of the novel lies in its ability to illustrate slavery's effect on families, and to help readers empathize with enslaved characters. Writing in the 1950s, poet Langston Hughes called the book a "moral battle cry for freedom." According to legend, Abraham Lincoln greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe in 1862 by saying "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."
To be very frank, I have never been a student of literature but I am really amazed by the power literature can wield over people, prompting Lenin, leader of the first Socialist Revolution, to call Leo Tolstoy ‘Mirror of Russia’s Revolution’ or Premchand, a doyen of Urdu-Hindi literature, still being revered by writers and revolutionists alike more than 75 years after his death.
And when I read these details and try to comprehend literature’s immense capacity to ‘look into future’ I sincerely hope and wish that it is high time that it reassumes that role in these dark times.
III
Yes, these are really dark times, especially if we are ready to look beyond the neon signs and the glitter and all the talk of economic growth one witnesses around us. Growing pauperisation and marginalisation of a majority of the people coupled with the oppression of communities because of their specific identities is a fact which cannot be glossed over now. Minorities of various kinds - ethnic, racial, religious etc - are really having a tough time the world over. Aided and abetted by the people in power in very many ways they are being forced to eke out a living in difficult circumstances.
Coming to this part of South Asia situation looks really grim. The upsurge/emergence of majoritarianism is evident everywhere. Not a day passes when one does not hear of attacks under various garbs on victim communities. A notable aspect of the unfolding dynamic is that victim community here seems to be metamorphosing into perpetrator community in neighbouring region.
Not some time ago it would have been difficult to believe that self-proclaimed upholders of Mahatma Buddha’s doctrine would metamorphose into ‘Bin Laden’s of Burma.’ Perhaps you might have read a story in the 'Guardian' or a similar story in 'Time' about Wirathu, the Buddhist Monk, chief of a monastery of 2,500 monks, whose sermons have instigated fanatic Buddhists to attack Muslim neighbourhoods. The plight of the Rohingya Muslims in Mynamar being subjected to untold misery by majoritarian Buddhists is for everyone to see.
Cross the borders of Mynamar, reach Bangladesh and one witnesses a different scenario. Here the Chakmas - mainly Buddhists, Hindus and Ahmadiyas– a sect among Muslims - seem to be on the receiving end of the Islamic zealots. Few months back Human Rights Watch had published details of its report about the violence undertaken by fanatic Islamists against Hindus - which included burning of their houses or attacking their business establishments - in the aftermath of the 'War Crimes Tribunals' verdicts against few senior leaders of the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami. Although the people in power here as well as the judiciary and large section of the masses have consistently opposed their machinations but there is a danger that with the coming elections for the Parliament situation may turn for the worse.
Neighbouring Pakistan represents a case where growing Islamisation of the polity has led us to a situation that not only Christians and Hindus and Ahmadiyas but Shia Muslims also seem to under increasing attack, with no solution seeming to be in sight. There use to be time when Islam as practiced in Pakistan revered its Sufi legacy but it has given way to a situation where all such composite traditions are under increasing attack. Renowned Pakistani scholar and human rights activist Pervez Hoodbhoy calls it the ‘Saudisation’or ‘Wahhabisation’ of Pakistan. There are suicide bombings at Sufi shrines or passenger buses are stopped and Hazara Muslims are singled out and killed. Schools are being bombed because they allow girl students to study. We have all been witness to the use of law of blasphemy which is used to target non Muslims and the martyrdom of Salman Taseer, the then governor of Punjab (Pakistan), who had demanded repeal of this antihuman law.
Maldives, an important part of SAARC process is also moving on similar lines.
Sri Lanka, which remained in the news for decades because of the Tamil insurgency, is today catching headlines because of the activities of the Sinhala Buddhist extremists who are in connivance with the ruling dispensation there. The infamous BBS (Bodu Bala Sena) floated some time back has attacked Muslim business establishments, compelled removal of mosques from 'sacred areas' and stopped marketing of 'halal' meat from shops which Muslims prefer because of religious reasons. Much like Mynamar here also Buddhist monks seem to be leading this anti-Muslim campaign.
India which calls itself as the biggest democracy in the world is no exception to this dynamic.
IV
Situation as it exists today as far as issue of minority rights is concerned, is qualitatively not very different from our neighbouring countries. Dr Ambedkar’s caution at the time of adoption of constitution more than sixty years back, that with the system of one person one vote we are entering the phase of political democracy but it will be still a big challenge to usher us into system of one person one value – real social democracy, still rings true.
The actual situation on the ground vis-à-vis minority rights is visible through many studies and social phenomenon. The first and foremost seems to be the incidence of communal riots. To understand the gravity of the situation one can have a look at some old figures related to communal conflicts. ‘Study by the Bureau of Police Research and Development, a Union Home Ministry body, says that between 1954 and 1996, almost 16,000 people lost their lives in 21,000 incidents of rioting, while over one lakh were injured. Only a handful have been held accountable.’(Communal Riots, India Today, July 21, 2003).And we should not forget that these are 'official' figures; the actual numbers must be much larger.
One still remembers the anti-Sikh carnage after the assassination of Prime Minister Ms Indira Gandhi when Sikhs came under attack at national level (1984) and officially more than a thousand were killed in the capital of the republic itself by putting burning tyres on their bodies or similar brutal methods. Everybody knows that it was no spontaneous violence, it was an organised, systematic violence which was led by leaders of the then ruling party namely Congress. There have been reports of commissions starting from the first one brought out by 'Citizens for Democracy' which categorically blamed leaders of Congress Party for the carnage.
Would anyone today believe that Delhi, capital of the great democracy called India, was witness to the killings of around 1,000 innocents merely 29 years ago and today, ten enquiry commissions and three special courts later, merely three people have been found guilty of killing the hapless 1,000 Sikhs and the actual planners and masterminds of this genocide are still roaming free.
There is no doubt that unless and until we are able to punish the real perpetrators and ringleaders of this violence against Sikhs, it would provide a 'rationale' for the Hindu Hriday Samrats of our times who unashamedly packaged the 2002 violence against minorities in Gujarat in their infamous 'action-reaction' thesis.
Every sane person would agree with Tarun Tejpal, editor ‘Tehelka’ about three particularly disturbing things about Gujarat 2002. 'The first that the genocidal killings took place in the heart of urban India in an era of saturation of media coverage', 'The second that the men who presided over the carnage were soon after elected to power not despite their crimes but because of them' and 'the fact that there continues to be no trace of remorse, no sign of penitence for the blood-on-the hands'.
A question naturally arises whether every sensitive, humane, justice loving person / formation on this part of the earth is ready to take this further humiliation with folded hands or is ready to break asunder the carefullly maintained conspiracy of silence. Would it be correct on our part to hold the carnage as an act of few 'psychotic killers', a 'product of few crooked minds' and leaving the RashtriyaSwayamsevakSangh and its affiliated organisations - who planned and executed it - intact?
Looking at the fact that today the very act of riot making has reached what Paul R Brass likes to call 'institutionalised riot systems' stage in the country, we should be wary of searching for the element of spontaniety in any riot. One needs to emphasise this again and again because what we witness today is the continuous denial of justice to riot victims claiming 'spontaneity' to such mayhems.
Commenting on this aspect, Supreme Court lawyer, Ms Indira Jaisingh, had raised a pertinent point : ‘Our legal system has failed to answer the question : what is the constitutional and personal responsibility of the head of state for mass killings’ And she had recommended : ‘Apart from holding all those who committed the acts of killing liable, we also have to hold liable people in positions of power, who not only failed to prevent the killings, but encouraged by hate speech, justified it as an understandable response.”(Ref: 1984 in the Life of a Nation, Indian Express, November 1, 2004)
One is reminded of the whole debate when one finds that it has been more than 30 years that Nellie massacre occurred and the perpetrators of this violence still remain unpunished. It was February 18, 1983 when armed mobs attacked and killed more than 1,800 Muslims (unofficial claims : 3,300 ) across 14 villages in Assam's central district of Nagaon in a span of mere six hours. The attackers of this worst case of religious-ethnic cleansing in independent India engaged in such brutal violence on the pretext that the victims were illegal migrants from Bangladesh. The report of an inquiry commission – Tiwary Commission - which was submitted quarter century ago still lies unattended. And there seems to have unfolded an unwritten consensus between the ruling and the opposition parties in Assam not to revisit the killings in the said massacre.
V
There are very many ways in which India is presented and projected to the outside world. For some it happens to be the biggest democracy in the world, while for others it is one of the fastest growing economies of the world, which has now 'arrived'.
But rarely does anyone talks about its being a 'land of mass crimes' where the perpetrators of such crimes have always gone unpunished. None of the opinion makers talk about the unholy alliance between politicos, mafiosi and the law and order machinery which has emerged down the years where the art of 'invisibilising mass crimes' is being perfected. And the targets of such mass crimes are - mainly the religious minorities or people on the lowest rung of social matrix or the toiling masses of the country.
Would anyone believe that the 'first' massacre of fourty two Dalits -mainly women and children - in independent India at Kizzhevanamani (Tamilnadu, 1969) by the local upper caste landlords went unpunished with a specious argument on part of the judiciary that ' these are upper caste people and it is impossible to believe that they would have gone walking to the dalit hamlet'.
Even a cursory glance at the 60 plus year old history of post-independent India makes it clear that neither the killing of around 42 dalit women and children in Kizzhewanamani( Tamilnadu, 1969) nor the cold blooded murder of 42 Muslims in Hashimpura ( UP, 1986) ; neither the killling of around 1,800 people ( majority of them Muslims, (Bombay 1992) nor the massacre of scores of Dalits in Kumher ( 1993, Rajasthan) ; have been punished till date. One can just go on giving statistics about similar cold blooded mass killings which took place in different parts of the country. In fact, in areas like north east or Kashmir, draconian laws like Armed Forces Special Powers Act are in operation for decades which has given impunity to the security forces, where killings of innocents under fictitious pretext has become a routine matter. One can refer to the recent report of the Santosh Hegde Commission appointed by the Supreme Court to look into specific instances of encounter killings in Manipur and what it has to say about them. It is not for nothing that Ministry of Home Affairs and Manipur government have joined hands and appealed to the Supreme Court to debunk the report. Very few people would like to admit the fact that Kashmir happens to be world’s highest militarized zone and thousands of innocents have lost their lives during last two decades.
It would also enlighten you about the manner in which such mass crimes or crimes against humanity are rationalised or legitimised by the powers that be, where a Prime Minister of a country has no qualms in commenting after massive carnage of capital's Sikh community led by his own party people that "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes". Or the chief minister of a state shamelessly discovers Newtonian 'action-reaction' thesis to cover up crimes of his own Parivar (‘family’)people.
Intellectuals who are quite enamoured about the tolerance inherent in 'our great culture' and the sense of inclusiveness would rather be shell-shocked to find that how the ordinary, peace-loving people themselves are ready to 'metamorphose overnight' into murderers and rapists of their own neighbours on a small pretext. All the orgy of violence and their 'joyous participation' in it is then followed by a conspiracy of silence where nobody is then ready to talk the truth. Bhagalpur in Bihar which had become such a site of violence in 1989 where officially over a thousand people had been slain, most of them Muslims, is still remembered for a particular incident. In Logain village, 116 Muslims were massacred, buried in a field and cauliflowers grown over their bodies.
Undoubtedly the biggest violators of minority rights – including their right to exist – are the state and the rightwing majoritarian organisations but does not it have societal legitimacy?
It is worth noting that in a country which talks of the greatness of the apostle of non-violence, one type of violence is considered not only 'legitimate' but is sanctified as well. Violence against dalits, women and other oppressed sections of the society has received religious sanction from times immemorial and the onset of modernity has not changed the broad picture. India could be said to be the only country where a widow is burnt alive on the dead husband's pyre. If earlier new born daughter was killed in some brutal manner today parents employ sex selective abortion - thanks to the developments in technology. It is not for nothing that India is the only country in the world where we have 33 million missing women.
Interestingly imprints of many such customs and hierarchies which had their genesis in the Hindu religion is visible in religion as it is practiced by others as well. Caste discrimination in Islam, Christianity or Buddhism which could be unimaginable outside is very much visible in the life-worlds of people owning allegiance to these faiths.
The scenario needs to be drastically changed if India wants to emerge as humane society. It is a challenge before every one of us. If people of the subcontinent resolve that 'the biggest democracy on the face of the earth' should not henceforth be remembered as a 'land of mass crimes' then it can happen soon.
An important component to make it happen is that all the justice and peace loving people and formations compel the Indian government to formulate suitable domestic legislation to comply with international legal norms as far as UN Convention on Genocide is concerned. It need be underlined here that India has signed the said convention way back in 1959 but there is still absence of suitable domestic legislation to not only prevent and punish genocide, but also designate a tribunal for the trial of those charged under the same act which has created a strange situation where the ability of the Indian criminal justice system to dispense justice - when it comes to mass crimes - seems to be in grave doubt.
It is worth emphasising that the said Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (in article 2) defines genocide as:
...any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
One can easily gather that if genuine democracy loving persons are able to overwhelm the powers that be on this issue, we can easily do away with the stigma of covering up of mass crimes or metamorphosis of riot organisers or murderers into respectable politicians.
VI
We should never lose sight of the fact that communal violence may be the worst manifestation of the assault on minority rights but multiple layers of discrimination exist. A cursory glance at the findings of the Sachar committee report about social, economic and educational condition of Muslim community which was presented before the Parliament on 30 th November 2006 is disturbing to say the least.
Apart from Muslim communities lagging behind in education and government employment and their continuing deprivations at various levels, it had highlighted two important facts : The status of Indian Muslims are below the conditions of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and the overall percentage of Muslims in bureaucracy in India is just 2.5% whereas Muslims constitute above 14% of Indian population. It had also given multiple suggestions to be adopted to ensure equity and equality of opportunities to Indian Muslims in residential, work and educational sector.
It is disturbing to note that in actual practice nothing is being done. e.g. latest report from National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) tell us that while there are more cops in India now but the share of Muslims has fallen further. (Indian Express, 6 th August 2013)
VIII
Recently you all must have read about the expose by Ashish Khaitan (gulail.com) documenting the 'Secret Files prove what Muslims have suspected all along: the State is knowingly prosecuting the innocent on terror charges'.  While it received better coverage in the regional (especially Maharashtra) or Urdu media, the national media rather overlooked what Mr Khaitan has tried to prove by unearthing ".[i]nternal documents from more than half a dozen anti-terror agencies that show that the State has been knowingly prosecuting innocent Muslims for terror cases and keeping the evidence of their innocence from the courts." He has investigated "three terror cases—the 7/11 train blasts, the Pune German Bakery Blast and the 2006 Malegaon Blasts—and found that twenty one Muslims were tortoured, humiliated and sent for trial on the basis of bogus evidence. Later when the incontrovertible evidence emerged of their innocence it was either brushed aside or tailored to mislead the courts."
One can cite n number of examples from our recent history where members of the minority were put in jail or charged with complicity in terror acts which were committed by the Hindutva terrorists. May it be the case of Malegaon 2006 bomb blast or the Mecca Masjid bomb blast or the Samjhauta Express bomb blast – many such acts which were the handiwork of the RSS activists were initially blamed on them. It is true that without the connivance of a section of the state machinery with majoritarian elements it would not have been possible to do so.
The investigating agencies suspect involvement of Hindutva activists in as many as 16 major explosions across the country.  For laypersons, it may appear that such terror attacks organised  in different parts of the country is the handiwork of some disgruntled, rogue elements belonging to RSS, Sanatan Sanstha, Sri Ram Sene, little known Arya Sena or similar organisation who yearn to make India a Hindu Rashtra. Nothing can be farther from the truth.
A careful look at the unfolding dynamic makes it clear that this 'terror turn' is a very carefully drafted strategy by the Hindutva formations which had decided to slowly to move from their prime strategy of ‘terror of riot’ to ‘terror of bomb’. They discovered that the older strategy was no longer paying rich dividends at the pan-India level, and the new strategy was more appropriate and was more beneficial for the reactionary political project of building fascism.
One can see it as a result of two processes – one national and the other international. The universal condemnation of the Hindutva brigade for aiding and abetting Gujarat carnage 2002 definitely forced the Parivar to revisit the politics of riots. There was growing realisation that engineering communal riots would not pay the desired political dividends but would rather nullify the political gains accrued through communal politics. Another factor which favoured this new modus operandi of the Hindutva brigade pertained to the ‘new common sense’ foisted on the people by United States post 9/11. The ‘war against terror’ launched under its aegis had strong overtones of undue targeting of a particular community and its religion namely Islam.
IX
There are moments when one finds oneself in a hopeless situation – a situation every peace and justice loving person in this part of the globe would have confronted with in the year 2002 when all of us who had been witness to Gujarat carnage with due complicity or alleged neutrality of the state functionaries.  Thanks to 24 7 TV, it was the first televised riot in independent India.
If India would have signed the genocide convention, the perpetrators of the violence or the people whose alleged complicity made the riot happen could have been put behind bars for their crimes against humanity. All the talk of passage of time and establishment of peace today cannot not blind us to the fact that justice has still not been done there.
Look at the changed times. A gentleman – who in the eyes of many made the ‘riot’ happen as the modern day Nero – has metamorphosed into a ‘Development Man’ today and his old and new band of admirers want to see him as next highest custodian of the country’s destiny. One would not be surprised if the electoral dynamic in this country unfolds itself in such a manner that this gentleman may be pushed to the centre-stage of Indian politics. All our efforts, yearnings, aspirations for a more inclusive, more tolerant, more just and more peaceful country as well as society may be given a boot at least for the time being.
Should we prepare ourselves for this eventuality and surrender ourselves to our ‘destiny’.
Definitely  not.
It would mean surrendering basic principles of democracy at the altar of majoritarianism. We should never forget that democracy connotes two other features in addition to rule of majority : protection of rights of minority ways of life and opinions, and, even more crucially, the legal possibility that the political minority of today can win electoral majority in the future and thus peacefully change the government.
It was 2001 when Norway witnessed killing of a African-Norwegian teenager, Benjamin Hermansen by one of those neo-nazis, the first such killing in the nation’s history. What happened next would be unimaginable to anyone from this part of the globe. The very next day tens of thousands of Norwegians were on streets of Oslo demanding justice for the teenager and hold your breath, the Prime Minister of the country Jens Stoltenberg was leading the procession who sent out a powerful message : “This is not our way ; we shall not tolerate racial crimes in our society“. In less than a year, a five-judge bench ruled the two attackers -Joe ErlingJahr and Ole Nicolai Kvisler -were guilty and sent them to jail for a 15-year term. ( Ref: ‘Interpreting Secular Delusions’, Javed Anand, Asian Age, 2nd August 2013)
“This is not our way...“

I was reminded of this incident when noble laureate Dr Amartya Sen, recently came under attack from the neo-Nazis here for saying that he would not prefer Modi as the new prime minister of India because under his regime minorities would not be safe. Most of us missed out the soul-searching statement of the Noble laureate: “I felt that as a member of the majority community it is my duty, not merely my right, to speak up about the concerns of the minority. We often forget that as members of the majority.“
The growing hollowing out of democracy before our own eyes should become our concern.
The key to defend rights of minority is we inculcate basic values of democracy and attempt wholeheartedly so that we usher us into a regime where there is clear separation of religion and politics. Secularism of the state and secularization of the civil society should become our key concern.
Friends ask me why you insist on deepening of democracy and strengthening of secularism. The only simple reason is that the moment we lose these polestars the day is not far off when we can follow in the footsteps of our neighbour which decided to have religion as the basis of nationhood and is said to be imploding today under various internal contradictions.
X
Where should one look for new resources of hope when one finds oneself surrounded by a maddening crowd who wants Nero as their leader.
Nothing but literature. Literature has always prepared a people to take on the Goliaths, awakened them from their deep slumber to tell them that they are the new Davids.
I would like to end the presentation with an anecdote from French History which is known as the 'Dreyfus Case'
It was early eighteen nineties when a young Jewish military officer called Dreyfus was arrested supposedly for ‘treason' and was sent to St Helena. Captain Dreyfus was caught while he was playing with his young son in the house. The police people had made such a watertight case against the officer that it seemed that everything was lost.
But incidentally the legendary French writer Emile Zola came to know about his case and wrote a series of articles in the newspapers (titled ‘J’ accuse meaning ‘I accuse!’) explaining the Jewish officers innocence and the way he was framed by the powers that be.  He exposed how the people who have fabricated the case against Dreyfus ‘hated jews’. Suddenly the move to release Dreyfus gained such a momentum that within a short time the government was forced to release him.
Is not it high time that with likes of Dreyfus in jail on fabricated charges of terrorism in this part of the globe or minority communities increasingly under attack,  masters and students of literature rise up to the occasion today and yell ‘J accuse’.
(Invited Lecture at a seminar on ‘Literature and Human Rights’ organized by Department of English, Pondicherry University, 7-8 August 2013. )


8/07/2013

Urgent Appeal to NHRC against arrest of Mr. Kanwal Bharti, Dalit Rights Activist and Writer

06 August 2013

The Chairperson
National Human Rights Commission
Faridkot House, Copernicus Marg,
New Delhi, PIN 110001
Fax No. 23384863
E-Mail: covdnhrc@nic.in, ionhrc@nic.in, jrlawnhrc@hub.nic.in

Dear Sir,

Sub: HRD Alert - India - Urgent Appeal for Action – Uttar Pradesh: Arrest of Mr. Kanwal Bharti, Dalit Rights Activist and Writer - Reg  

Greetings from Human Rights Defenders Alert - India!

HRD Alert - India is a Forum of Human Rights Defenders for Human Rights Defenders. It endeavours to initiate actions on behalf of Human Rights Defenders under the or with security concerns.

We are now writing to express our grave concern regarding the arbitrary arrest of Dalit Rights Activist and writer Mr. Kanwal Bharti for writing articles criticizing the Chief Minister of the north Indian State of Uttar Pradesh, Mr. Akhilesh Kumar Yadav, in the matter relating to suspension of an IAS (Indian Administrative Sevice) officer Durga Shakti Nagpal. Mr. Bharti is charged under sections of 153/295 A of IPC, which deals with the “Provocation with intent to cause riot” and “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”. 

About the Human Rights Defender under attack:

The activist-writer Mr. Kanwal Bharti is a prominent human rights defender based at Rampur town of Uttar Pradesh. He has often written against the local dominant politicians and at length on the issues concerning Dalits and other marginalized communities. He is a well known Hindi poet and writer too.   

The Perpetrators:
Local Police and the State

Date and Time of Incident: On 6th August 2013, Morning.

Place of Incident: Mr. Bharti’s residence.

Source of Information: Phone call from his son and FaceBook post of activist Mr. Vidya Bhushan Rawat (vbrawat@gmail.com)

Incident:
On 29th July 2013, the UP government suspended an IAS officer Ms. Durga Shakti Nagpal on the charges of allegedly ordering demolition of a Mosque’s wall. However, this ploy to label the suspended IAS officer communal for demolishing the wall of a mosque fell flat on its face when Uttar Pradesh’s Waqf Board (waqf, also spelled wakf, is, an inalienable religious endowment in Islamic law, typically donating a building or plot of land or even cash for Muslim religious or charitable purposes. The donated assets are held by a charitable trust) said that Nagpal did not order the demolition of the wall of the mosque being built in Greater Noida’s Kadalpur village last month. As per TV reports a member of Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board, Kadir Khan Jayswal, the wall was demolished at the orders of the sand mafia. Jayswal said that the board members visited ground zero and spoke to the locals and found that Ms. Nagpal had done nothing to mar the sentiments of Muslim community in the area. It is widely believed that Ms. Nagpal was suspended because of her strict action against the sand mafia. Mr. Bharti has been exposing this attempt of the state government to silence the IAS Officer through his writings. He was picked by local police today (6th August) morning without any warrant and was not allowed to speak to his friends and relatives. He was granted bail later on in the day and has been charged under sections of 153/295 A of IPC, which deals with the “Provocation with intent to cause riot” and “Deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs”.

Appeal:

We, therefore, urge you to immediately take necessary steps to ensure that:

• The conduct of the local Police, which is contradictory to their obligation to uphold and protect the rights of the citizens, is investigated and departmental action is initiated against them.
• The false charges foisted against the human rights defender is withdrawn immediately without conditions.
• All necessary measures are taken to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Mr. Kanwal Bharti
• All human rights defenders in India are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions, including judicial harassment in all circumstances.
• Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by India is guaranteed

Looking forward to your immediate action in this regard,

Yours sincerely,
Henri Tiphagne
Honorary Working Secretary
Human Rights Defenders Alert - India

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