Politics Of Identity And Intolerance

Shivaji MaharastraOn fifth of June (2008) a group of followers of Shiv Sangram Sanghtan (SSS), led by a former MLC of Nationalist Congress party, attacked the house of editor of Loksatta, a prominent Marathi daily, Kumar Ketkar and tried to break open the house. They broke the glass panes, did other possible damage and smeared the house with coal tar, before leaving. Continue reading Politics Of Identity And Intolerance

Abusing Shivaji For Sectarian Goals

Ram Puniyani

ShivajiEarly February one teacher of prestigious Engineering College in Mumbai, VJTI, was beaten up by the staff of same college. The staff members belonged to the labor wing of Shiv Sena. The pretext was that the teacher had recited a poem, Mee Kadhi Risk Ghet Naahin, in which Shivaji figures as a reference point. Continue reading Abusing Shivaji For Sectarian Goals

Whither Justice – Trajectory Of Srikrishna Report

Ram Puniyani

Bombay Riots 1993The communal violence in India has been a festering sore on its body politic. Due to its peculiar nature, the crimes are not registered-investigated and guilty are usually not punished. The state while sloppy in these matters has been forced to appoint the inquiry commissions in to the violence, mainly due to public pressure. Most of the inquiry commissions have met with indifference from the political-administrative-legal system. The fate of Srikrishna Commission is no different. Its recommendations have not been honored so far. Continue reading Whither Justice – Trajectory Of Srikrishna Report

Bilkis Bano: The Face of Courage

Recently the special court in Maharashtra gave the first significant verdict related with the Gujarat violence of 2002.  12 persons were given life sentence for the gang rape of Bilkis Bano by Judge U.D. Salvi. It was highly reassuring to see the institution of judiciary finally standing up and delivering its duty in a very significant way.

But no less important was the courage, grit and determination shown by the victim Bilkis Bano. Continue reading Bilkis Bano: The Face of Courage

Malegaon Civic Elections: Surprise Or No Surprise?

Malegaon BlastMalegaon, also known as the Manchester of Maharastra because of its powerlooms and textile based economy, was rocked by bomb blasts last September in which more than 30 innocent lives were lost. More than 300 people were injured and as is generally the case in India, the victims still await for justice.

Civic elections were held recently for the 71 out of 72 seats in Malegaon recently. Newly formed Indian Muslim Congress Party (IMCP) pulled off a surprise by bagging 27 seats relegating Congress to the second position with 15 seats. IMCP was formed days before the elections by Mufti Mohammed Ismail, an influential cleric from the city and fought elections on the development plank. Mufti Ismail was also credited helping keeping peace in the volatile city after the bomb blasts last year.

The leaders of the IMCP or the Teesra Mahaz (Third Front), stitched together by Mufti Muhammed Ismael, had fought with development as their agenda. Ismael was among the local community leaders who have been credited with helping the police keep peace in the town after serial bomb blasts hit the town on September 9, 2006. [TwoCircles.net]

Unfazed by the fatwa issued against him by another local priest, Moulana Azhari, and the scorn heaped by stalwarts of the Congress and Janata Dal, Ismail pulled big crowds at his meetings in which he sought votes for his “third front” in the name of development. [Khabrein.info]

But is the IMCP victory all that surprising? A lot of Muslims in Malegaon were frustated by the lack of proper investigation in last year’s blast and that certainly went against the Congress which is in power at both the state and the centre. It also suffered in the civic elections in the town of Bhiwandi where Samajwadi Party pipped it to the second place with 17 seats.

Maulana Badruddin AjmalThe elections in Malegaon, however, raise some important questions. Is this a move towards formulation of a Muslim party in places where Muslims have a definite say in elections? Indian Muslims till now have had faith in the democratic and electoral process in India. By choice, they didn’t form a party of their own and more importantly, the influential clerics never involved themselves in politics. There have been exceptions in this regard and a relevant example would be the performance of Badruddin Ajmal and his party Assam United Democratic Front (AUDF) in last year’s Assam elections. But such dalliance have been few and far on the Indian political landscape. The very fact that Mufti Ismail projected his party as a third alternative (teesra mahaz), fought on the issue of development and was able to capture the imagination of the electorate shows that something is amiss with our bigger political parties. Also, have the clerics decided that they have had enough with the corrupt politicians and are now joining the electoral fray? More importantly, is this good for India?

Personally, I am against religion based parties in India but then as the BJP has shown, you can ignore two of the biggest minority groups in India and still rule over the destiny of 1 billion Indians for five years. Shiromani Akali Dal is a Sikh party and religion and politics are entwined in Punjab. So, does it helps if you are concentrated in a region, play communal politics and still be acceptable to the mainstream? Or can you be a party of only the majority group and still be fine? And when no political party in India is tackling the real issues of Indian Muslims namely poverty and education, is it really a bad idea to have someone who can fight for their rights and help address their genuine grievances?

Thoughts On Black Friday

Black Friday

Black Friday is a powerful movie. It is based on a book by S Hussain Zaidi and explores the story behind the Mumbai (then Bombay) blasts of 12 March 1993. The movie was well received by the critics but didn’t enjoy commercial success. Here is an excerpt from the rediff.com review:

The movie begins with a bang as the cacophony of Dalal Street’s hawkers and stockbrokers is stilled by the first of the 12 bombs going off at the Mumbai stock exchange. The terrifying silence after the explosion as the camera catches the blood-smattered aftermath sets you for a truly great reality cinema experience that rarely flags for nearly two and a quarter hours.

Some of the things that stood out for me in the movie are:

The Role of Police: It seems that the local police was complicit in atrocities against Muslim victims of the riots following Babri Masjid demolition. This has been the common thread in all the major riots in India. This has led to a lack of faith of Muslims in the sytem to give them justice or protect them at the first place. In the movie, Muslims fleeing Bombay were most afraid of the police than anybody else. Indian citizens in general tend to have more faith in the army than the local police to control riots. One of the reasons is that Indian army does not have communal ovetones. The other reason is that when they go out to control law and order situation in riot-hit areas, they are outsiders and don’t have a nexus with the local politicians and other criminals. However, when they stay too long at a place they seem to develop the police mentality as in Kashmir and Manipur. Another important fact is the absymally low percentage of Muslims in police force. All the policemen investigating the riots are non-Muslims. It becomes much easier for the rabble-rousers in the Muslim community to portay it as ‘us versus them’ battle.

Misuse of Religion: Religion has been used and abused by opportunists of every religion for personal and political gains. Be it jihad to justify acts of terrors or the harline Hindutva agenda, the gullible follower has been made to believe that he is doing a service to his religion by playing in the hands of opportunists. Tiger Memon lost his business, that too the smuggling business, and converted his personal revenge into a holy war for Muslims terrorized during the riots.

Complicity of the System: The unloading of the RDX was done with the complicity of customs officials and other government agencies. As long as they get their share of the deal, it is not a problem for them. It is unthinkable that arms and ammunitions can be smuggled into without the knowledge or involvement of government monitoring agencies.

Lack of Justice for Riot Victims: While the Bombay blasts have been investigated diligently and convictions have been obtained against the accused, the Shri Krishna Commision Report has not made much of a headway. The report that indicted top Shiv Sena leaders for murder and mayhem and was a ray of hope for victims of riots seems to have reached a dead end. Successive Democratic Front governments (Congress and NCP) have not done much in this regard and incidents such as these force Muslims to perceive the system as being against them. The erstwhile Sena chief-minister of Maharastra is on the record saying that he would prefer to resign than take any action against Bal Thackeray or Shiv Sainiks.

Use of Torture to Obtain Information: When Rakesh Maria, Additional Comissioner of Police and person at the helm of investigations of Bombay blasts, was accosted by reporters about the allege human rights abuse during interrogations, his response was that the people died during blasts were innocent and hence if a few innocents are caught during the process, it is price worth paying. Also, use of physical and psychological torture to obtain information from the arrested is something even a lot of Americans find acceptable including many in the current establishment. To expect higher standards in India on such issues will be too much of an ask. However, it certainly blurs the line between the terrorists and the people pursuing them.

Why Bal Thackeray Is Angry?

Bal ThackerayBal Thackeray is an angry old man. He has been out of power for more than 7 years in Maharastra, his party is in disarray, his trusted lieutenants have left him, his own nephew revolted against his authority. And he just turned 80. Shekhar Gupta of Indian Express interviewed him on this occasion on his program Walk the Talk. Bal Thackeray expresses his admiration for Hitler (he was an artist), Saddam Hussein (he killed only his own people), benevolent dictatorship (go figure), emergency (it was for nation’s good), Indira Gandhi (she was the best Indian PM), Sanjay Gandhi (much better than Rajiv) and Nathuram Godse (didn’t Gandhi really deserve to die?), Narendra Modi (he did not resign after the Gujarat genocide) at various points in the interview. He is anti-Mahatma Gandhi but without any convincing reason and of course anti-Muslims whom he considers guilty as a community because they can’t be proven innocent.

Bal ThackerayDuring the interview Shekhar Gupta never pursued a line of questioning and conveniently moved on to the next issue even when Thackeray’s responses were bizarre. Overall, Thackeray comes across incoherent (he contradicts himself), megalomaniac (he loves when people fear him), open-to-flattery (he is happy that none other than Amitabh Bacchan portrayed him in Sarkar) and hurt (because Suresh Prabhu was pocketing all the money and not giving to the party). My big concern is that such a person still holds the strings of power in Maharastra especially Mumbai and even his rhetoric can be inflammatory.

Some gems:

• When Modi was the chief minister, he had to make sure that every citizen under his rule was safe. That’s Raj Dharm. He failed in that. Do you agree?

What mistake has Modi made? Can you tell me? When you are attacked, you have to retaliate, you can’t keep quiet. Who started the riots first there in Ahmedabad? Who attacked whom? First came the Godhra incident, that was also equally cruel, ugly. Then came Ahmedabad. People then retaliated.

• Are you saying that Muslims started the riots in Ahmedabad?

Yes, certainly.

• But why do you say you are not a Gandhian? Do you have some disagreements with Gandhi?

Yes, I do.

• Tell us about them.

To understand me, you have to go back to 1948, or even before that. Have you ever thought of Godse’s action, why he decided to kill? He got annoyed, upset, very upset. Even after giving a chunk of our land to Muslims, you were giving Rs 55 crore to them. Godse thought that if this old man lives any longer then he will ruin the country.

• And you think Godse was right in thinking so?

You have to think. Wasn’t he?


• You are a cartoonist. When you wake up in the morning, what makes you laugh? Or cry?

Nothing makes me laugh or cry. The standard of journalism has gone down so much. The column writers make the most mischief.

• But in terms of what’s happening in your city and country, what makes you happy?

There are no happy incidents, only blasts and murders. Bangladeshi Muslims pouring in. Pakistanis wreaking havoc. How can you feel happy?

• But there is 9 per cent growth. Infrastructure is being built. Indian companies are buying firms overseas.

See, I don’t see anything to be happy about. It’s a horrible situation. It’s (India is) sinking.


• You wrote an editorial recently in Samna praising Saddam Hussein.

Yes I did, because I did not like it when Bush attacked Iraq. He had no reason to attack a foreign nation. Suppose tomorrow, Russia attacks America, will you tolerate that?

• How does that square with your suspicion of the Muslims?

Well, I don’t blame all Muslims, but it is difficult to make out which Muslim loves this country and calls India his own country and which doesn’t.

• But don’t you think the vast majority of Muslims here see themselves as citizens of India? There may be some black sheep, but they are there in all communities.

Find them then. I am requesting the good Muslims to remove the black sheep from among their people. Come ahead and do that. Whenever there is a riot or some such thing in the country, not a single Muslim comes forward to protest against it. In the border issue between Maharashtra and Karnataka, the Maharashtrian Muslims should speak for the state.


• OK, Shiv Shahi. Saddam’s method of governance or Hitler’s was not Shiv Shahi. But you have expressed admiration for both at different times.

Hitler did very cruel and ugly things. But he was an artist, I love him (for that). He had the power to carry the whole nation, the mob with him. You have to think what magic he had. He was a miracle.

Is India’s English Media Communal?


Four culprits with non-Muslim names were arrested near Andheri Railway Station, in suburban Mumbai, selling RDX explosives, apparently ‘stolen from Military base’ at Devlali. Since Gujarat communal riots, which is commonly believed to be whipped up by Hindutva extremists to reap political windfall, a similar attempt to destabilize the neighbouring state of Maharashtra is being observed in a continuous series of bombings and its blame instantly being put on Muslims to trigger another communal holocaust to rival Gujarat.

The famous commercial city of Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, is the prize booty in the political war game. Though the fight between the two opposing political groups, both Brahminical formations, very inappropriately branded as carrying two distinct banners — secular and Hindutva, is over power grabbing; the competition is staged in communal terms, where Muslim voters are the main bone of contention. Consequently, Muslims are constantly demonized specially by English newspapers, who had been the opinion makers in India, since last 100 years, including the British colonial phase. The communal bias of India’s English media is most glaring when it splashes headlines over unsubstantiated blame on Muslims or supposedly Pakistani terrorists, while putting down the gravity of bombing expeditions by Hindutva elements. Deliberately or inadvertently, they thus become partners in the crime of instigating communal strife. A case in point is the way the news of the arrest of the 4 non-Muslims caught near Andheri, openly soliciting clients for their stolen RDX explosive, is reported by The Times of India. If these culprits would have been Muslims, Times of India would have blazoned the news on the front page with multi-column headlines. As it happened, The Times of India had chosen to flash the news of Mumbai High Court verdict on Triple Talaaq as top front page news, but the news of the arrest of the 4 culprits selling RDX was relegated to page 3 at the bottom of the page. It needs no media expert to make out that the city editors of The Times of India, are trying to suppress the alarming content of the news where the guilt is clearly not committed by Muslims or Pak agents and even laxity of army authorities in such grave matter impacting internal security and communal harmony is now open to serious investigations.

It is most reprehensible that a premier newspaper of India is so blatantly playing communal games with news management, probably at the cue of other pressure groups that have no value for human lives and are bent on involving the city of Mumbai in a cycle of terrorist events, to gain upper hand in India’s future of hope that could turn into despair if they persist in their nefarious activities.

Yoga Class: Anti-Muslim Propaganda, No To Namaaz

Forty newly-appointed teachers were sent for Yoga training at Matoshri Upasna Vidyapith at Kharodi (Mumbai) by the Municipal Education department. Out of 40, 12 were Muslim teachers who were shown a Video CD during camp.

The CD contained extremely objectionable remarks about Islam. Later when they asked for permission to go out for Friday namaaz, the person-in-charge handed them over a form and asked to give an undertaking that they will not perform namaaz or any other Islamic prayer during their stay at the camp.

Astonished, the teachers spoke to higher officials and questioned the link between Yoga and anti-Muslim propaganda or not letting them go for namaaz. The senior officials called back the Muslim teachers from the camp the same evening. Later the issue rocked the Mumbai Municipal Corporation’s education wing meet.

The secretary of Education Committee Mohan Kandalgaonkar brought up the issue. He alleged that had the Muslim teachers created a scene there, they would have been labelled militants. The Deputy Municipal Commissioner Nande and other officials later apologised and it was unanimously agreed upon that in future Muslim teachers would not be sent on such camps unless officials hold talks with the organisers of the camp.

Though the issue was resolved later but the question arises that how those at the Yoga training class decided to stop Muslims from prayers in this democratic country. And it was when the group had a dozen Muslims and the entire episode occured in Mumbai, not in a faraway town.



Mumbai Blasts, Terrorism, And The World We Live In

Second time in our life time Bombay, also known as Mumbai, has been hit by coordinated serial bombing. Mumbai blast of 1993 was terrible and what we have here is even more scaring. Though the number of fatalities, as of writing this article, is less than 1993, it is still very high and the target was Mumbai’s railway network.

I am staying in Dubai but all my families and near-distant relatives are in Bombay. When I heard the news about these blasts and that it was all in the localities that my family/relatives stays I was shivering. I was on my way for Magrib Salat (namaz) and praying & hoping my families, relatives and friends are safe. The blasts where timed and synchronized for peak hours. I was thinking how many of my friends and persons I know might be traveling during this time. And eagerly hoping I don’t get to hear any personal bad news. During the next few hours I was able to get in touch with many and was lucky to know they are safe. But how many in Mumbai may not be that lucky today and would be grieving for their lost.

The blasts happened in Mumbai and 1000 miles away I was in grip of terror, fearing for the safety of my family. It was only after talking with them that I was relieved. And most of the non-resident Indians having their dear ones back in Mumbai may have gone through similar pains.

Continue reading Mumbai Blasts, Terrorism, And The World We Live In