'Modern Day Nero' Left Free to Fiddle by Supreme Court; 'Good' Muslims, 'Bad' Hindus and the India They Want
India reopens Kabul embassy with ‘Technical Team', Siachen vet warns against Agnipath, govt warns itself against more free rations, tax cuts, conflict squeezes Ladakh nomads livelihood, new Odia rap
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Snapshot of the day
June 24, 2022
“India has a historical and civilisational relationship with the Afghan people,” the government said as it re-established India’s diplomatic presence in Taliban-run Kabul by deploying a “technical team” in the embassy there.
Narendra Modi will now be hoping his ‘historical relationship’ with the anti-Muslim killings which took place in Gujarat in 2002 when he was chief minister can finally be put behind – and that he can ask for a glass of water without being reminded of this unpleasant episode. On Friday, the same Supreme Court which, in 2004, had compared him to a modern day Nero – “looking elsewhere when … innocent children and women were burning, and … probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be protected” – said there was no need to register a case against Modi for the violence. Its ruling came on an appeal by Zakia Jaffri, whose husband was killed by a mob in Ahmedabad on March 1, 2002 while the police took its time to arrive. While exonerating Modi, the judgment warns of action against the petitioners (see below).
The Supreme Court has adjourned till June 29 its ongoing hearing into the charge that the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh is illegally demolishing the homes of Muslims. The court had warned UP to ensure it acts within the law but news has now emerged of fresh notices for demolition being issued against several people in Saharanpur. This is the same town where the police filmed themselves torturing Muslim young men in custody.
Social media users from pockets of Rampur in UP claim that Muslim voters were not allowed inside booths in yesterday’s by-poll to elect a Lok Sabha MP. Police have acknowledged these complaints but insist it was part of “crowd control” and there was no “bias”.
Western pressure remains on India about human rights and the treatment of religious minorities under the Modi government: the US Congress has listed a resolution, “Condemning human rights violations and violations of international religious freedom in India.’’ There’s little chance of it being passed, but it is among a series of statements about India’s domestic turmoil over mainly religious issues. A week later, a US Congressional hearing will be held on Islamophobia, in which India is expected to figure prominently, thanks to BJP spokespersons’ comments about the Prophet.
Moved by Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, the resolution says, “Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, Adivasis and other religious and cultural minorities’’ are being targeted in India. Its co-sponsors are Rashida Tlaib, James McGovern and Juan Vargas. McGovern is Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, which will hold the hearing on global Islamophobia on June 30.
The White House spokesperson was asked at the regular briefing: “Does the White House have any comment on the Indian authorities demolishing the homes of people who have been protesting the derogatory comments made by Indian authorities against the Prophet Muhammad? They’ve been having their homes destroyed by bulldozers in recent weeks. Is there any chance that the President will be pressing the Indian leader to protect Muslim minorities in India [when the two meet virtually during Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel]?” Her answer:
“So I don’t want to get ahead of what the — the President’s schedule. We will have more in the upcoming days on exactly what the President is going to be doing on that trip… He has no problem talking to leaders about humanitarian rights, about freedoms, about the importance of democracy… I can’t speak to, specifically, what’s going to be on the agenda and what their conversation is going to be.”
Droupadi Murmu filed her nomination papers for President, accompanied by Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. In Maharashtra, the political crisis continues with no immediate denouement in sight, though Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s back is still pinned firmly to the wall by Shiv Sena rebels.
Urban Indian consumers cut spending on apparel, fuel, and eating out over the last six months due to inflation, a YouGov survey showed. Most said their cost of living is up ― 46% said it was “a lot” and 33% said it has gone up “a little”.
Bean counters in the Finance Ministry’s Expenditure Department have warned against extending free food rations beyond September, or making major tax cuts. In March, the government decided it would keep the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) running till September, which means the subsidy needed increases to about Rs 2.87 lakh crore. Another six-month extension would make it nearly Rs 3.7 lakh crore. “In particular, it is not advisable to continue the PMGKAY beyond its present extension, both on grounds of food security and on fiscal grounds,” the department said in an internal note. It said recent decisions like free ration extension, increase in fertiliser subsidy, re-introduction of subsidy on cooking gas, reduction of excise duty on petrol and diesel and cut in customs duty on edible oils and various inputs have created a serious fiscal situation.
Since coal stocks began to fall in August last year — and the government prioritised power units for coal supply — the non-power sectors of steel, aluminium, iron, paper, cement, etc, have been suffering for almost a year with a 33% fall in supply. In April, 96 rakes of coal were supplied to industries daily. This was reduced to 93.4 in May, and only 86 in the first half of June. Two-thirds of this is expensive imported coal.
India’s crude oil imports from Russia have jumped over 50 times since April and now make up 10% of all imported crude. The figure was just 0.2% before the Ukraine war. As much as 40% of the volume has been bought by private refiners ― Reliance Industries and Rosneft-backed Nayara Energy.
The Confederation of All India Traders, 70 million strong, has urged Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman not to green-light recommendations made by the Group of Ministers (GoM) constituted by the GST Council, without consulting traders. It opposed the recommendation to tax unbranded food grains at 5%. CAIT also said that textiles and footwear should be taxed at 5%, and argued that taxes on bread, cloth and housing would directly burden 130 crore people who are already struggling with inflation.
Once more, with feeling, the rupee yesterday closed at its all-time low of 78.32 against the US dollar.
Children have been hit hard by changes brought on by the abrogation of Article 370, a report by the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir has noted. In its ‘Special Report 2022’, the forum comprising Justice AP Shah, former Chief Justice of the Madras and Delhi High Courts, Gopal Pillai, former home secretary and other judges, activists and lawyers highlighted violations of human and child rights. Detentions and the lack of opportunity have led to a sharp deterioration in mental health.
The 270 km Jammu-Srinagar national highway, Kashmir’s only all-weather surface link with the rest of the world, remained closed for the third consecutive day yesterday due to landslides triggered by heavy rains, at nearly three dozen places in Ramban and Udhampur.
The Bureau of Outreach and Communication (BOC) — the advisory body on media strategy under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting — will now be known as the Central Bureau of Communication, following a gazette notification issued Tuesday. This change was made for “maintaining uniformity and streamlining” the vocabulary of the state and central divisions.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike had proudly announced that they had spent Rs 23 crores to fix roads for PM Modi’s visit to the city. Three days on, new asphalt is peeling off like paint. TV9 Kannada also showed part of the road caved in. PM Modi travelled this stretch, repaired for Rs 6 crore, on Monday. After a spell of rain, it caved in.
‘But what about the Assam floods?’ Cartoonists have taken apart the journey of a large number of Shiv Sainik MLAs to Surat then Guwahati, and resort politics. The BJP’s ‘invisible’ hand, too, finds reference.
SC says those who wanted Modi probed had ‘ulterior design’, should be prosecuted for ‘abuse of process’
Cynics may be forgiven for not expecting the Supreme Court to reopen the probe into Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujarat killings but its vehemence in denouncing the petitioners – Zakia Jafri and Citizens for Justice and Peace (an NGO run by Teesta Setalvad) – for their exertions over two decades will raise eyebrows:
“While parting, we express our appreciation for the indefatigable work done by the team of SIT officials in the challenging circumstances they had to face and yet, we find that they have come out with flying colours unscathed. At the end of the day, it appears to us that a coalesced effort of the disgruntled officials of the State of Gujarat alongwith others was to create sensation by making revelations which were false to their own knowledge. The falsity of their claims had been fully exposed by the SIT after a thorough investigation. Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for last 16 years (from submission of complaint dated 8.6.2006 running into 67 pages and then by filing protest petition dated 15.4.2013 running into 514 pages) including with the audacity to question the integrity of every functionary involved in the process of exposing the devious stratagem adopted (to borrow the submission of learned counsel for the SIT), to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design. As a matter of fact, all those involved in such abuse of process, need to be in the dock and proceeded with in accordance with law.
Casteist abuse in private space OK in Karnataka?
The Karnataka High Court has ordered that the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act can be invoked only if casteist abuse is used in a public place. It quashed a case upon finding that abusive language was used in the basement of a building. “Hurling of abuses is clearly not in a place of public view or a public place for the Act to be attracted,” the court said.
Siachen vet Bana Singh warns against Agnipath
Honorary Captain Bana Singh, Param Vir Chakra awardee and an army legend, has said the country would have to “pay a huge price” for the Agnipath scheme, which would “destroy” the military and benefit Pakistan and China. “The four-year contractual Agnipath scheme will ruin and destroy the Indian Army. It should not have been implemented at all,” Singh, 73, who retired as a subedar major but has been given the honorary rank of captain, said, “Such radical decisions cannot be taken in a democracy without consulting all stakeholders and military veterans, who know a lot about soldiering as they have fought wars on the ground. It has never happened before… It’s like a dictatorship — like ‘I have taken the decision and it has to be implemented’. It’s might is right.”
His tweet criticising the Agnipath scheme created a stir but he removed it after “I started getting phone calls”. Popularly known as the “Siachen hero”, Singh had in June 1987 led an assault to capture Pakistan’s strategic Quaid-e-Azam Post at an altitude above 21,000 feet, in which six Pakistani soldiers were killed. It was renamed ‘Bana Post’ and Singh received the Param Vir Chakra in 1988. The mission finds mention even in Pakistani defence reviews, which describe it as “bravery beyond comparison”.
As if to prove Singh’s point, Agnipath inductees will not be eligible for the special forces, which will recruit only those who join as permanent cadre after serving four years as Agniveers.
Conflict squeezing Ladakh nomads
Nomads in Ladakh say their lives and livelihoods are threatened by continuing military tensions, reports Tarushi Aswani. The Changpas living in Dumchele, Demchok, Chumur, Tsaga La, Koyul and Loma say they are losing access to shrinking grazing lands. The people of Chushul say they are at risk of death, by war or by starvation. “Before the (2020) clash happened, we travelled beyond Gurung Hill (a mountain near the LAC) and spent days there herding cattle. But the Indian soldiers now forbid us even from land under Indian control. When we ask for our grazing rights, they accuse us of being traitors. In such a situation, it is very difficult to survive,” said Namgyal Phuntsog, 49, of the Changpa tribe.
Ishey, 43, of Chushul recalled an incident in December 2019, months before Indian and Chinese forces accused each other of incursion, leading to the deadly Galwan Valley clash. Chinese civilians and PLA soldiers intercepted herders on their way to grazing lands in Dumchele and asked them to return to Chushul and Tsaga La. They say it became the trigger for the tensions that began in April next year: “It began in 2019 December – the Army, the locals, the nomads, everyone knew it was going to grow as a conflict.” Ishey said even after the India-China War of 1962, herders were allowed to move beyond Rezang La towards Mukhpari and Khaplang. “We are told that those grazing lands are under Chinese control now. But they are not Chinese areas, they are the areas of my ancestors,” he said.
Manipur-Myanmar fencing halted
Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh announced yesterday that border fencing work on the disputed areas with Myanmar between BP 80 and 81 had been stopped. Recently, a fact-finding team of the United Committee Manipur (UCM) found that fencing work was in full swing without any objections from India, though it would take away 1-3 km of Manipur’s land. The UCM protested, but work was on near Moreh-Namphalong towns of India and Myanmar. However, it had to be suspended following Myanmar’s complaints of encroachment.
The Long Cable
Good Muslims, Bad Hindus and the India They Want
When a minority community is mocked, marginalised and attacked, its liberals cannot even let off steam. In an elected autocracy, they organise seminars to which not many come, or write articles that one newspaper may publish. In television talk shows, they are shouted down by the anchor and a fiery opponent. Most of them prefer discretion to valour and keep their heads down.
A few liberal Muslims start singing tunes from the official hymn sheet. They advise common Muslims to show self-restraint. Some blame the earlier secular governments for maltreating their community. This conduct entitles them to enter the official 'good' category and get co-opted by the hostile establishment.
A desperate intellectual now seeks a remedy that could worsen the disease.
Hasan Suroor, a liberal progressive Indian Muslim journalist-author based in London, has written Unmasking Indian Secularism, a book suggesting that India should be declared a Hindu nation that guarantees equal status and rights to all communities.
Suroor conjures up a quick solution of “a new Hindu-Muslim deal” to be struck by transplanting the British model of a Christian country with equal rights for all its citizens belonging to different faiths. There, the Queen is the Defender of the Faith, and the House of Lords begins its proceedings with a Christian prayer.
Of course, Suroor ignores the stark difference between Britain and India when it comes to its citizens’ sense of identity and attachment to their religion. Britain’s Christian majority is happy to see disused churches being sold and converted into temples and mosques. British political parties know that Lord Jesus would not get one extra vote for them. Unlike Lord Ram, he can perform no political miracle. There are no divine players in British politics.
In India, toxic propaganda and polarisation have so impacted the Hindu psyche that bigotry will not come down if India is declared a Hindu nation. The plight of Muslims may even worsen. There is much in the name of a nation.
Suroor is so affected by the utter helplessness of his community – experienced personally by him during his visits to India – that he has lost all hope in the so-called secular India. Yet, the path commended by him is a slippery slope. The weaker party should expand the possibilities for the “best alternatives to a negotiated settlement”. Defeatist arguments weaken the negotiating strategy of the weak by reducing possibilities rather than expanding them.
Let us assume India is declared a Hindu Rashtra with the complicity of “good” Muslims. That gesture of goodwill would be taken as that community’s defeat.
Muslim surrender will weaken the hands of those Hindus who are imbued with Hindu principles and seek a benign and tolerant multicultural state reflecting the absorptive spirit of India. A wave of triumphalism will sweep the nation amid a deafening drumbeat by the Sangh Parivar activists. Their slogan “Ayodhya is only a teaser; the real film will follow” will become a victory cry.
Nothing prevents indoctrinated Hindutva activists from asking for more, testing ever-shifting goalposts as per the blueprint laid out by Savarkar and Golwalkar, the Hindutva ideologues.
If Suroor’s suggestion gets implemented, the Sangh Parivar would have realised its dream – one that is not shared by most Hindus. Contrary to Suroor’s hope, majoritarianism would expand its power and glory. Narendra Modi would have added one more feather in his cap. His narrative thrives on an ever-expanding list of enemies who thwart the great march forward – minorities, human right activists, the left, liberals, intellectuals, students, farmers, and environmentalists.
Modi’s devotees may want him to rule forever but the political marginalisation of Muslims cannot last. Muslims are a significant minority and a very large section of Hindus feels very discomfited with what is going on. In a democracy, a minority is not as powerless as it is presumed. The Hindu right-wing, a minority, demonstrated that sustained groundwork with missionary zeal in the age of social media can give it transformative power. In America, “a backward, oligarchic, misogynist minority is trampling the rights and the will of the majority” and it can hold the nation to ransom.
In India, the Muslim community can counter political marginalisation by rejecting its devious and divisive leaders bought over by the BJP. Indian capitalists may realise that communalism is not actually good for business. The common man may find that communalism makes him jobless. Experts will point out that communalism is bad for the blossoming of the individual’s and nation’s potential.
The consequences of the forces unleashed touching ever new constituencies, closer and closer to home, may awaken a larger section of Hindus to the havoc played with their society and nation. This may lead to a moral awakening. The hope lies in some iconic leader calling the bluff and presenting a credible alternative narrative of living and letting live – celebrating life, development, and diversity – promising economic opportunity, freedoms and dignity.
A saturation point or even a tipping point may come, causing a political setback to the BJP, making the violent mobs powerless, deprived of help from government officials, police and the lower judiciary. Once the tide turns against the ruling party, the process of auto-correction will start. Civilisational values will assert. Courts, community meetings and inter-faith discourses cannot make much difference. The problem was created by politics and its solution lies in politics.
Sounds far-fetched? Surely not as far-fetched as the idea that a Hindu rashtra will safeguard the rights of India's Muslims.
The current toxic ecosystem must end for the flowering of a pluralistic culture that accords protection and dignity to a minority. Its status and security cannot be secured by any artificially negotiated “deal”.
There is no “official” dress code for IAS officers, although they are urged to dress “appropriately”. Recently, the Patna High Court pulled up Bihar IAS officer Anand Kishor, for appearing in court in a crisp, formal white shirt. The judge cavilled that he had not buttoned his collar and was not wearing a coat. Having failed to deliver justice in most cases, this is what the law is reduced to.
Prime Number: 56 lakh?
NDTV has audited the tourism boost that the Shiv Sainik MLAs are delivering to Assam. Seven days' tariff for the rooms in Guwahati's Radisson Blu hotel adds up to Rs 56 lakh, according to sources at the hotel and local politicians. Plus, food and other services are estimated to cost at Rs 8 lakh a day. The cost of chartered flights and other transport is not included.
“Northeast India will be the engine of India’s growth in the 21st century,” PM Modi had said in February. But now that deadly landslides and floods have killed at least 130 people in the northeast, the silence is deafening.
Op-Eds you don’t want to miss
The Modi government is scraping the barrel to find the next CDS and it’s an insult to the military hierarchy, writes Lt Gen HS Panag (retd). “It seems CDS eligibility has been tweaked to pick a specific retired Lt Gen or Army commander. The spin of ‘deep selection’ to find the ‘meritorious’ is just a charade.”
Badly written, wrongly interpreted and obfuscatory at best, key parts of India’s anti-defection statute actually allow lawmakers to violate the law, writes PDT Achary, making the case for urgent reform.
Zoya Hasan writes that it’s clear from recent Indian experience that rights without participation in public institutions have been largely ineffective.
High prices to farmers generally don’t spike retail food prices. It is the greed of middlemen, including agri-business giants, which results in price manipulation, writes Devinder Sharma.
Justice K. Kannan, a former judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, has written a rejoinder to senior advocate Sriram Panchu’s article which had questioned the propriety of sitting Supreme Court judges seeking land allotments for a mediation centre they were setting up.
Transition to green energy requires a strategy for low-emission growth of sectors of the economy. India must come to grips with sectoral issues in decarbonisation, where critical financing support is needed, writes RR Rashmi.
G Ravi Prasad and Harish Damodaran write that India cannot sustain the current cost of fertiliser imports and needs to cap its consumption of urea, DAP and MOP.
Even if OPS manages to brave the storm through legal intervention, the leadership troubles may not end as the episode has yet again exposed the lack of support for him in the AIADMK, writes Shabbir Ahmed.
Ashutosh Bhardwaj writes that history that’s being rewritten under the present government is not merely to eulogise some leaders, but also, and more worryingly, to condemn several chapters of the past.
The BCCI has made a record windfall with its auction of lPL broadcast rights. But can Viacom18 and Disney make money, asks Shuchi Bansal.
Bharatanatyam was deliberately separated from Sudra bodies in the 1930s by upper caste cultural nationalists. But since the 1990s, upper caste dancer-scholars have begun impersonating the Sudra dancer as part of their work addressing the ’30s reinvention, writes Nrithya Pillai.
India’s blind admiration for sages hurts its democracy, writes Sarveshwar Sipoy.
National Award winning actress Divya Dutta in Zuni, the award winning short film that has made waves. Dutta was last appreciated for Sheer Qorma.
Over and Out
Sarfaraz Khan celebrated his Ranji Trophy final century “in Sidhu Moosewala style”, and dedicated the ton to the murdered singer, apart from his Abbu.
For his American debut, Sabyasachi Mukherjee wants to be seen as a sort of Indian Ralph Lauren, reports the New York Times. “He sold the idea of good American living to middle-class Americans,” Mukherjee said, “and I’ve sold the idea of good Indian living to middle-class Indians.”
Odisha rapper Dule Rocker’s latest track has dropped and it’s a cracker, on the Constitution.
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