April 26, 2018

Kerala youths were drawn into violent protests over the Kathua case by anonymous WhatsApp calls

Kerala’s WhatsApp hartal
Kerala youths were drawn into violent protests over the Kathua case by anonymous WhatsApp calls made by shadowy forces with ulterior motives
N. P. CHEKKUTTY reports
The Kerala police are now investigating an unusual incident of a public hartal [shutdown strike] called by unnamed forces, that triggered huge violence in many parts of the state a few days ago over the rape and murder of the eight year girl from the Bakharwal community in Jammu. The hartal took place on April 16, Monday, immediately after the auspicious occasion of Vishu, the Hindu new year’s day, April 14.
Hartals are quite common here [in Kerala].  The latest count suggests that more than 200 hartals have taken place in recent years. They are generally organised by political parties, communal organisations, professional and trade bodies, and other groups. On such occasions, people normally keep indoors to avoid moving around. Outbreaks of violence are stray and generally kept under control by the authorities.
But the April 16 hartal was unusual: it was planned and executed by a few individuals using WhatsApp and it caused a serious eruption of violence and damage to public and private property. It also provoked a clamp down of prohibitory orders for a few days by the police in a number of towns and cities in the northern parts of Kerala, such as the municipal towns of Tanur, Tirur and Parappanangadi in Malappuram district and the city of Calicut in Kozhikode district.
Violence was reported from almost all the northern districts and, according to local media reports, more than 2,000 cases have been registered by the police and around 1,000 youngsters rounded up and put in jails in districts like Malappuram, Kozhikode and Kannur. 
The incidents are unusual in many ways and call for a serious study of the impact of social media platforms in a communally volatile region like Malabar where a major flare-up of violence  erupted. The police have now established a pattern to the incidents of violence and it appears they were engineered with a view to triggering a communal conflagration in a state known for good relations among Hindus and minority Muslims and Christians.

"It was not surprising that the mischief-mongers could play havoc in the brief intermission of 48 hours when the daily newspapers were away from the scene"

The second aspect that emerges from the way things played out is the significance of traditional mainstream newspapers in upholding and maintaining the values of social unity, based on the principles of secularism and communal peace.  It was not surprising that the mischief-mongers could play havoc in the brief intermission of 48 hours when the daily newspapers were away from the scene.
A third aspect is the failure of the visual media, despite the presence of more than half a dozen news outlets (focused largely on sensation and trivia) in identifying the rumblings in the aftermath of the sensitive developments over the Kathua crime at the national level earlier in the week and countering the communal propaganda on social media in order to protect people from scandal mongers and their divisive tactics.
April 14th being Vishu holiday, no morning newspaper printed in Kerala had come out the next day and hence there were no reports on the plans already afoot for the next day’s hartal. The police intelligence department and the round-the-clock news channels in the region also failed to take note of it on Sunday.
In fact on Monday, the day started rather normal despite rumours of violence in some places, but soon unruly crowds took over the streets, stoning shops and buses and in a short while it was a complete shut-down in many northern towns. It was only then the police swung into action, chasing away the trouble-makers and persuading shoppers and bus operators to remain in business, that calm returned.
The WhatsApp messages came from a few groups such as Justice for Sisters and Voice of Youth, purportedly demanding justice for the Kathua vicitm. Originally, the social media group set up on April 14 was named after the Bakharwal Muslim girl, but was changed later when the Delhi High Court’s notice to some news organisations against naming the victim became known.
The messages called for a hartal in protest and once the public response became prolific, separate groups were set up for various districts, managed by a team of super admins who issued instructions as voice messages. The police have found a series of voice messages that called for a second round of violence all over the state, issued after the hartal on April 16 evoked a response mainly in the northern Malabar districts.
The voice messages called for direct attacks against the police and seem to have been intent upon a serious breakdown of law and order as well as damage to amiable social relations among the various communities.
It is still not clear what really prompted the five young men now under arrest to set up the social media groups and call for a hartal and violence. Was it just a prank or a deliberate attempt on the part of some evil forces to divide people and foment violence?
An answer might be available only after the inquiries are over. It is officially acknowledged that of the five youths under arrest, the leader, Amarnath Baiju, 21, of Kollam district, has been associated with the RSS until a few months ago, while the others, all from Thiruvananthapuram district, were also linked to various Sangh Parivar outfits. But so far there is no evidence that this was part of a larger conspiracy, as is being alleged by certain sections in the media.
Hence, the real question is how far social media platforms are in a position to dictate public affairs in a state like Kerala, known for its high levels of political activity, deep penetration of mainstream media including the highly influential morning newspapers, and a vigilant civil society alert to the need to raise its voice against the forces of bigotry and violence.

"The leader, Amarnath Baiju, 21, of Kollam district, has been associated with the RSS until a few months ago, while the others, all from Thiruvananthapuram district, were also linked to various Sangh Parivar outfits"

Looking at the political affiliations of the hundreds of people arrested, it is clear they belonged to various political parties. Most of them are Muslim youths, affiliated to, among others, the Muslim League, the CPM, the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), the Congress party, etc. Some are with no known political affiliations.
It is likely that they came out into the streets genuinely infuriated by the terrible violence perpetrated on the little girl. Going by the pattern of violence that copied the style of street protests in West Asia, such as tyre bonfires, they seem to have been influenced by the political protests based on identity/ethnic politics.
Asked about the irony of Muslim youths being drawn into the streets by anonymous calls made by shadowy forces with ulterior motives, a Muslim community leader said the media images of the Kathua violence evidently had a deep and emotional impact on the youngsters who had taken it not only as a rape of a child, but as a deliberate assault on a community.
This incident shows the extreme levels of social disturbances the social media can play in societies with complex communal patterns. Recently, a New York Times report (Where Countries Are Tinderboxes and Facebook a Match, NYT, April 21, 2018) on the havoc played by Facebook in South Asian countries had referred to instances of communal riots and attacks on minorities in countries like Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
The report pointed out that in countries where institutions are weak or undeveloped and where there is a history of communal tensions, such societies are especially vulnerable. The authors pointed out that social media posts that tap into primal emotions like anger or fear seem to produce the highest engagement with social networks where such content proliferates.
Kerala, however, cannot be dubbed a place with weak institutions or a fragile history of communal peace. It has a strong history of social cohesion, a vibrant civil society, a vigilant media and a strong political establishment. And yet a few youngsters with a smart phone were able to play havoc with its social fabric.
This calls for serious introspection by society and for appropriate action to strengthen a responsible approach to the dissemination of ideas and information on the part of the mass media.
N P Chekkutty is  a senior journalist and political commentator based in Calicut.

India: A Muslim and a Hindu thought they could be a couple. Then came the ‘love jihad’ hit list | Annie Gowen

Washington Post, April 26, 2018

Ramiz and Lisa, who asked that their last names not be used because of a Facebook threat against Muslim and Hindu couples in India, are an interfaith couple in India’s eastern city of Kolkata. (Annie Gowen/The Washington Post)

KOLKATA, India — The 21-year-old Hindu college student was having a quiet breakfast with her mother when her phone pinged with a terrifying message. Her name was on a hit list.

She and her Muslim boyfriend had been targeted publicly on Facebook along with about 100 interfaith couples — each of them Muslim men and their Hindu girlfriends. She immediately called her boyfriend to warn him.

The Facebook post included instructions: “This is a list of girls who have become victims of love jihad. We urge all Hindu lions to find and hunt down all the men mentioned here.” At least two followers heeded the call.

The phrase “love jihad” is meant to inflame dark fears that Muslim men who woo Hindu women might be trying to convert them to Islam — a prejudice that the Hindu right has tried to stoke for nearly a decade. But use of the term has spread on social media with the rise of the Hindu nationalist party of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a time when religious hatred is growing on Facebook in India, its largest market.

Facebook is facing rampant criticism that hate speech spread on the platform has fueled ethnic and religious violence in Asia, in places such as Burma and Sri Lanka.

During his appearances before Congress April 10-11, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the company was “working” on a way to remove hate speech within 24 hours of its appearance and adding dozens of new Burmese-language content monitors.

“It’s clear now we didn’t do enough” to prevent the platform from being “used for harm,” Zuckerberg said in his statement.

But the company has said little about its prevention efforts in India, its largest market of more than 240 million users.

The list of Hindu-Muslim couples was posted by Satish Mylavarapu, a mild-looking sales and marketing manager in Bangalore who propagates militant Hinduism to thousands of followers in Facebook groups and elsewhere.

“It’s a matter of Muslims taking over our blood and taking over our wombs — the wombs that would give Hindu children,” he said.

Highly motivated Hindu extremist “volunteers” across India assembled the list by meticulously plotting the locations of mosques and girls schools and colleges around the country and combing young women’s profiles for photos or posts that would link them with Muslim men.

“You cannot defend such a sick love,” Mylavarapu said. “This too is a kind of terrorism.”
'This has never happened'

The young couple’s romance began in the online space that would be its unraveling. They met in 2016 through a student Facebook group for the Communist Party, which is active in some parts of India. He was immediately enchanted by her blue eyes — contact lenses — and her earrings — silver circles with a likeness of Che Guevara that she made herself.

Their relationship soon blossomed in real life, and they met in Kolkata’s tea stalls or along its lovers’ riverbank promenade, Prinsep Ghat, holding hands and even kissing.

“We don’t believe in religion. We believe in humanity,” said Ramiz, a 26-year-old English honors student, sitting in a coffee shop with his girlfriend at his side. “So there is no question of conversion.” Because of the threat, Ramiz asked to be identified by only his first name and his girlfriend by her family nickname, Lisa.

Yet tension was unavoidable in a deeply traditional society riven by caste and religion. His parents, a clerk and a social worker, grudgingly accepted their relationship, although they made it clear they prefer a Muslim daughter-in-law; Lisa’s mother lent her support only if Ramiz gets a good job.

Meanwhile, conservative Hindu groups supporting Modi’s powerful Bharatiya Janata Party began pushing into areas in India’s east and south traditionally dominated by other languages and regional parties, including the couple’s home state of West Bengal.

In recent days, West Bengal has been roiled by riots between Hindus and Muslims that followed sword-waving devotees marching in honor of Lord Ram — a Hindu deity who is not normally worshiped in the region. At least four people died.

The couple, upset over the perceived threat that the Facebook hit list posed to India’s secular ideals, filed a complaint with the Kolkata police’s cyber division in February, saying they had been subjected to death threats.

“This has never happened in West Bengal,” Ramiz said. “Bengal is very beautiful — our society, our culture. This is the place of poets. We don’t believe in this kind of thing.”

Facebook took down Mylavarapu’s threat page a few days after his Jan. 28 post caused an uproar on social media, but took longer to track and remove hundreds of duplicate versions posted by others.

Civil society groups have charged that Facebook has not acted quickly enough in such instances to curb the hate speech that inflamed tensions throughout Asia, including Muslim-Buddhist riots in Sri Lanka and Burma’s exodus of more than 850,000 Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh. Facebook was dubbed the “beast” in that crisis by a United Nations monitor.

In India, a March study by the Observer Research Foundation, a think tank based in New Delhi, showed that religion is increasingly used as a basis of hate speech on Facebook, a jump of 19 to 30 percent between 2016 and 2017.

“I don’t think Facebook has a clue how to monitor hate speech,” said Maya Mirchandani, a senior fellow who co-wrote the study. She said that more proactive text monitoring systems are not in place, including among its rapidly growing non-English speaking audiences.

“Maintaining a safe community for people to connect and share on Facebook is absolutely critical to us,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement. “We have policies that prohibit hate speech and credible threats of harm, and we will remove this content when we’re made aware of it.”

Fringe group's mission

About two weeks after they filed the police report, Ramiz said he was coming home in the evening when two men grabbed him, roughed him up and tore his shirt collar. “Why did you report us?” they hissed, he said. And, “why are you dating a Hindu girl?”

Ironically, the couple have been dealing with relationship problems in the new year; Lisa, who works part time at an event management company, wanted Ramiz to get a job, saying he was spending too much time smoking and talking politics with his friends.

“She wants somebody perfect, perfect, and I am not,” he said.

“We’re still very good friends,” Lisa said. “I’m not sure if we’re in a relationship at the moment.”

This was the type of tension that Mylavarapu had hoped to provoke when he posted the list of names. He has been using Facebook to promote an extremist Hindu agenda since 2012, according to the Indian data and fact-checking website Boom Live.

Before Mylavarapu was banned from Facebook “indefinitely” in February, he was the administrator of at least two Facebook pages, including “Extreme Hinduism — The Only Way of Survival” (11,000 members), and a member of “Rearming Hinduism” (156,000 members), the Boom analysis showed. He remains active on Twitter.

He said in one post his favorite boots are made of “pure sunni skin,” a reference to the Sunni branch of Islam. In another, he urged Hindus to keep swords in their homes for protection and practice killing goats and chickens to get used to the sight of blood.

He warns of “love jihad,” which until recently had been generally thought of as fearmongering and given little credence by police and courts.

But the idea that Muslims may be actively working to convert Hindus figured prominently in the recent debate over the case of a woman in the southern state of Kerala who converted to Islam and married a Muslim over the objections of her family.

On March 8, India’s Supreme Court upheld the woman’s right to choose her faith and partner. But India’s National Investigation Agency, which investigates and prosecutes terrorism, is continuing its investigation into the case, saying it has seen an “organized effort” by Muslim activists linked to the Islamic State to convert Hindus, a spokesman said.

Mylavarapu is associated with a fringe Hindu group called Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, whose members revere the assassin of Mohandas “Mahatma” Gandhi, whom they blame for the bloody 1947 partition that created the nations of India and Pakistan.

“He’s a staunch Hindu and he’s functioning because of our support,” said the group’s state president, N. Subramanya Raju. “If there is any threat from a jihadi, we will protect his life.”

Mylavarapu said volunteers are continuing their online research into Hindu-Muslim couples — and will hold on to the data they find until the next good opportunity. He said many of those on the original list have already split up.

Mylavarapu said he relishes the demise of these relationships.

“We succeeded,” he said in a tweet. “Their deceptive love could not withstand the pressure we created.”

Kalpana Pradhan in Kolkata and Swati Gupta in Bangalore contributed to this report.

Annie Gowen is The Washington Post’s India bureau chief and has reported for The Post throughout South Asia and the Middle East since 2013. Before going to India, she was a member of The Post's social issues team covering wealth and inequality.

April 25, 2018

“Countries of Particular Concern” in U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) 2018 Annual Report

USCIRF Releases 2018 Annual Report, Recommends 16 Countries be Designated “Countries of Particular Concern”

April 25, 2018
USCIRF Releases 2018 Annual Report, Recommends 16 Countries be Designated “Countries of Particular Concern”  
Washington, D.C. –  Today the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its 2018 Annual Report, documenting religious freedom violations and progress in 28 countries during calendar year 2017 and making recommendations to the U.S. government.
“Sadly, religious freedom conditions deteriorated in many countries in 2017, often due to increasing authoritarianism or under the guise of countering terrorism,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “Yet there is also reason for optimism 20 years after the passage of the International Religious Freedom Act. The importance of this foundational right is appreciated more now than ever, and egregious violations are less likely to go unnoticed.”
A key component of the report is USCIRF’s recommendations of countries for designation as “countries of particular concern,” or CPCs, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). CPCs are governments that engage in or tolerate systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of religious freedom.      
In its 2018 report, USCIRF recommends 16 countries for CPC designation: 10 that the State Department so designated in December 2017—Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan—and six others—Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam.
The report also includes a second category, USCIRF’s Tier 2, for countries where the violations meet one or two, but not all three, of the elements of the systematic, ongoing, egregious test. In its 2018 report, USCIRF places 12 countries on its Tier 2: Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia, and Turkey.
In addition, the report contains USCIRF’s recommendations of “entities of particular concern,” or EPCs, a designation created by the 2016 Frank R. Wolf International Religious Freedom Act for non-state actors committing systematic, ongoing, egregious violations. The act defines a non-state actor as “a non-sovereign entity that exercises significant political power and territorial control; is outside the control of a sovereign government; and often employs violence in pursuit of its objectives.” Based on their conduct and control of territory in 2017, USCIRF recommends three groups for designation as EPCs in 2018: the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria; the Taliban in Afghanistan; and al-Shabaab in Somalia.
“In its second year, the Trump Administration should build on stated commitments to elevate religious freedom as a priority in our foreign policy and national security strategy by vigorously implementing IRFA, the Frank Wolf Act, and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act to pressure egregious violators,” said Chairman Mark. “USCIRF also urges the administration to prioritize seeking the release of religious prisoners of conscience abroad, and to work closely with international partners in efforts to promote freedom of religion or belief for all.”   
To read the full USCIRF 2018 Annual Report visit http://www.uscirf.gov/reports-briefs/annual-report.
To interview a Commissioner please contact Media@USCIRF.gov or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs (ISix@USCIRF.gov  +1-202-786-0606).
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs (ISix@USCIRF.gov +1-202-786-0606).

India: BJP and the slow saffronisation of India | Snigdha Jain

The Week, 25 April 2018

BJP and its Hindutva politics―the slow saffronisation of India

How far would BJP go to establish a truly Hindu rashtra?
How far would BJP go to establish a truly Hindu rashtra? Representational Image | Reuters
Saffronisation is not a novel concept to Indians, and has, in fact, seeped into the national conscience. The majority that the Bharatiya Janata Party enjoys at the Centre has often been blamed for its fascist policies ever since the Narendra Modi government assumed power in 2014.
The Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), whose founders idealised protection and encouraging Hindu training to form a Hindu rashtra (Hindu nation), is seen as a major force driving the BJP's brand of politics. And, for the first time, a group of people have demonstrated in favour of the assailants in the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in Jammu & Kashmir's Kathua claiming that the investigation against them was unfair. Some of the lawyers backed by several Hindu nationalist groups enforced a 'Jammu bandh' and tried to prevent the police from filing the chargesheet in Kathua court. The group at the forefront of the protest called ‘Hindu Ekta Manch’ is backed by BJP leaders Lal Singh Chaudhary and Chander Prakash Ganga—both ministers in the state’s PDP-BJP government.
This is not a one-off incident that has put the BJP in a spot. Hindutva politics plays a bigger hand in the BJP's rise to power and the blind support of Modi's followers.
Here are a few stimulating patterns observed across the country ever since the BJP assumed power:
Violence against minorities
September 28, 2015: Mohammad Akhlaq was attacked by a mob, dragged out of his house in Dadri and killed on suspicion of keeping beef and consuming it.
June 22, 2017: Fifteen-year-old Junaid was stabbed to death by a mob that attacked him and his brothers aboard a train. The mob hurled religious insults and called the brothers “beef eaters” and “anti-nationals” before killing Junaid.
June 29 2017: A mob beat up and killed Asgar Ansari, a 45-year-old Muslim trader in the eastern state of Jharkhand, for allegedly carrying beef in his car. Three days earlier, a Muslim dairy owner, Usman Ansari, was beaten up and his house set on fire; a cow carcass was reportedly found near his house.
According to an IndiaSpend analysis, since 2010, 97 per cent of beef-related violence took place after Modi government came to power.
narendra-modi-janak-bhatt PM Modi has mostly chosen to speak very less when it comes to atrocities against minorities | Janak Bhat
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015 and 2016 showed that the number of crimes reported against dalits had risen from 38,670 to 40,801, with Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan―states ruled by the BJP―with most instances of crimes against people belonging to Scheduled Caste. Over the decade to 2016, crime rate against dalits rose by 25 per cent―from 16.3 crimes per 100,000 dalits reported in 2006, to 20.3 crimes in 2016.
Many cases of atrocities against dalits were reported. Here are a few that instigated widespread protests across the country:
August 15, 2016: Four dalit men, who were skinning dead cows in Una of Gir-Somnath district in Gujarat, were beaten up with sticks and iron pipes and flogged publicly. State-wide protests were seen in the following months seeking justice to the victims and highlighting the need for upliftment of dalits.
March 29, 2017: The rape and murder of 17-year-old Delta Meghwal, a dalit girl from Barmer, Rajasthan. She was the first dalit girl from the village to have pursued higher education.
May 7, 2017: A dalit groom, Prakash Bansal, was allegedly beaten up for “daring” to take a decorated car to his wedding venue at Deri village in Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh.
September 30, 2017: Five dalits were beaten up during the Vijayadashami procession in Gagur, Karnatka after their entry into a temple was barred by upper caste members and violence broke out.
Once every two years in March, the painful ritual of ‘sidi’ takes place as part of Udusalamma Devi Jathra Mahotsav in Hariharapura near Bengaluru. Dalits are made to pierce their flesh using metal hooks and then tied to a wooden pole.
Open hostility to minorities
August 2014: Yogi Adityanath, before he became chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, had sparked a controversy when he openly threatened violence against Muslims. Following the Modi wave at the Centre, Adityanath had said, “If the other side does not stay in peace, we will teach them how to stay in peace the language that they understand.”
November 20, 2017: Nityanand Rai, BJP MP from Bihar, openly threatened to chop off anyone’s finger that points at Narendra Modi in criticism.
November-December 2017: The Karni Sena in Rajasthan led a campaign of violence and destruction, alleging that the period drama Padmavati (later changed to Padmaavat) directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali maligned the Rajput pride. The group assaulted the filmmaker, indulged in vandalism of public property, carried out violent protests and even attacked a school bus full of children. Surajpal Amu, a senior BJP leader from Haryana offered a bounty of Rs 10 crore on the heads of Bhansali and actor Deepika Padukone. Amu, also the party's chief media coordinator threatened to break the legs of Ranveer Singh, who plays the role of Alauddin Khilji in the movie.
In an undated YouTube video, Yogi Adityanath allegedly tells Hindu supporters to marry a hundred Muslim women for every Hindu woman marrying a Muslim.
bjp-flag-file-photo File photo
Pro-Hindutva laws
In 24 out of 29 states, cow slaughter is prohibited or have strict regulations while there are no such restrictions on animal trade of goat or sheep. In some states such as Gujarat, the government has introduced a law that makes cow slaughter punishable with life imprisonment!
In May 2017, the environment ministry imposed a ban on the sale and purchase of cattle for slaughter at animal markets across India, under Prevention of Cruelty to Animals statutes. However, the ban was later suspended by the Supreme Court in July the same year.
Emboldened by such state support, pro-Hindutva or right wing groups are unleashing violence targeting Muslims in the name of gau raksha or cow protection.
Redefining nationalism
In 2016, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student group affiliated to the RSS, instigated violence and assaulted students and teachers in Delhi University's Ramjas College in protest of an invitation to Umar Khalid, a JNU student accused of being “anti-national”. The current scenario is no different as having an opinion or expressing an opposing view is seen as “anti-national”.
‘Love jihad’ is one of the tools used in the religious warfare propagated by the BJP ministers openly. In the wake of the Hadiya case, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath had referred to love jihad as a “dangerous trend” and had raked up the issue during his visit to Kerala a few months ago.
In another instance, BJP workers along with the police had crashed a wedding of a Hindu girl and a Muslim boy in Ghaziabad. The workers, accompanied by other Hindutva organisations―Shiv Sena, RSS and Bajrang Dal―created ruckus at the wedding.
At this point, the BJP is simply pandering to the needs of the pro-Hindutva groups in the hopes of building a Hindu rashtra.
The BJP as a party is sustained by the promotion of Hindutva politics and ideologies. Without it, the BJP barely has anything to bring itself to power in 2019.

The Kathua mindset: Divide between ‘Hindu’ Jammu and ‘Muslim’ Kashmir is spreading across India | Sagarika Ghose

The Times of India

The Kathua mindset: Divide between ‘Hindu’ Jammu and ‘Muslim’ Kashmir is spreading across India

April 25, 2018, 2:00 AM IST  in Bloody Mary | Edit Page, India | TOI
The gruesome rape and murder of an eight-year-old in Kathua took place in January. That it took three months for a court monitored investigation to be completed, that lawyers from Jammu sought to prevent the police from filing the chargesheet and a crowd mobilised by the Hindu Ekta Manch shouted slogans in support of the accused even as counter protests were held in the Valley, speaks volumes for the steadily deepening jagged fissure that now exists between a so called ‘Hindu’ Jammu and a ‘Muslim’ Kashmir.
The Kathua mindset has spread beyond Kathua. Criminalisation of politics has long been a feature of Indian public life, but the Kathua case has shown a politicisation of crime, by which the accused are “normalised” by creating a surreal social equivalence with other crimes. Social media, an echo chamber of society’s baser prejudices, has unleashed communal whataboutery on why the media is silent about a rape in Assam in which the accused is a Muslim. But is a Muslim Ekta Manch shielding the Assam accused? AUDF MP Badruddin Ajmal has condemned the rape.
The Kathua mindset is marked by a frenzied obsession with Muslims. Bakherwals, staunch loyalists of India when Pakistan raiders attacked in 1947, are viewed as “Muslim” nomads. Rohingyas are not destitute refugees fleeing tyranny, they are only Muslims. Demolition of the Babri Masjid is not seen as the criminal act it was but an act of historical vengeance against 500 years of Muslim rule during which certain temples were razed. Tipu Sultan was not a freedom fighter against the British, but only a Muslim king. Aurangzeb was not an emperor of India but a Muslim bigot whose memory must be erased.
This mindset leads to the law too sometimes becoming subservient to religious identity. In 2002, those accused of burning the train at Godhra were swiftly arrested under POTA. By contrast in murder cases during the 2002 riots state police were reluctant to act until a Supreme Court monitored SIT probe was set up. The culture of “encounter killing”, abhorrent in any civilised democracy, is often legitimised. Sohrabuddin was “encountered” allegedly because he was involved in criminal activity, but then why was his wife Kausar Bi also killed and why are witnesses in this case turning hostile?
Those accused of terrorism in the Mecca Masjid blasts have been acquitted and the prime accused Aseemanand is now planning to campaign for BJP in Bengal. In Gujarat, a former BJP state minister Maya Kodnani has now been acquitted by a high court in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre after being initially held guilty of instigating the mobs. These acquittals are not a moment for majoritarian muscle flexing but instead must lead to a thorough examination of continuing failures in police investigations, especially when governments change.
If there’s one lesson we must learn from Kathua it is the urgent necessity of strict equality before the law. The state must be and seen to be, rigorously neutral. Religious zealotry cannot be used to subvert the law. When the state is seen as weak and partisan the Kathua mindset gets emboldened. State agencies like police and law courts can’t have religious and political preferences and no maulvi or sadhu should be able to use religion as a weapon to influence the course of justice.
In the past there’s been a selective application of the law by “secular” dispensations too. Consequently there are gathering competitive demands for more inequality and preferential treatment. Victims of 1984 have struggled to get justice, Taslima Nasreen was not protected, progressive SC judgment in favour of Shah Bano was overwritten.
If Akhilesh Yadav shielded Muslims accused in crimes, Yogi Adityanath is withdrawing cases against Muzaffarnagar riot accused. When Mamata Banerjee didn’t allow Moharram and Durga Puja processions on the same day she ended up feeding into the Hindu victimhood on which the Kathua mindset relies.
Why are the residents of Jammu calling for a CBI probe when the J&K police is investigating the case? Why is the same J&K police which is hailed when it takes on militants in the Valley suddenly not trusted to handle a case involving Hindu accused in Jammu? Additionally, would the residents of Jammu have protested as energetically on the streets if the accused was a Rohingya Muslim, or any Muslim for that matter?
The Kathua mindset also reveals itself in the fact that groups like the Bajrang Dal and Hindu Ekta Manch, once called the “fringe” are now quite mainstream, while their detractors are now the fringe. The chief executive of India’s most populous state is a Yogi who once headed the Hindu Yuva Vahini or a Hindu youth militia. Where bans on cow slaughter were once the demand of sadhus and religious bodies today the ban on beef is seen as a “nationalist” consensus. Murderers of a cattle trader in Alwar have got away as have those who attacked Dalit cattle skinners in Una; nor has there been a swift and vociferous condemnation of such heinous acts by the ruling political leadership.
To combat the Kathua mindset, there must be an open acknowledgement of the “secular” mistakes of the past, and the manner in which these mistakes are being imitated and maximised by the Hindutva brigade. There must also be a recognition that there is only one state religion that India can have, and that is the rule of law. Above all else, Kathua calls for a moral leadership, one that is not measured by election victories but by a triumph of compassion and humanity.

April 24, 2018

Letter to India's Home Minister NIA’s failure in securing the prosecution of perpetrators of bomb blast in Makka Masjid, Hyderabad in 2007

Shri Rajnath Singh,
Hon.ble Minister,
Ministry of Home Affairs,
Government of India,
New Delhi.

The Director General,
National Investigation Agency,
New Delhi.

The Deputy Inspector General,
National Investigation Agency,
Hyderabad Branch.


Sub: NIA’s failure in securing the prosecution of perpetrators of  bomb blast in Makka Masjid, Hyderabad in 2007. Request for immediate filing of appeal in higher court against judgment of lower court judgment for retrial/reinvestigation of the case for the sake of justice for the kin of victims – Reg.

It is a matter of great concern that a bomb was planted and exploded by terrorists in Hyderabad’s Makka Masjid on 18th May 2007 claimed lives of 8 innocent citizens and around 58 innocent citizens injured badly. All citizens of India were shaken up by this act of terror  and expressed their sympathy to the victims and anguish against the act.

Hyderabad city police registered an FIR in Hussaini Alam Police Station in 2007, the said case was handed over to the CBI on 9th June 2007 later the same case was transferred to the NIA (National Investigation Agency) on: 7th April 2011 with a hope that the government of India will provide justice to the victims through NIA.

On 16th April 2018 the IV Additional Metropolitan and Session judge (NIA special court) in Hyderabad delivered his judgment in the above case and acquitted to all accused in the case due to insufficient evidence provided by the NIA. This has shocked the citizens of Hyderabad as NIA failed to provide justice to victims in a terror case after a lengthy investigation of 11 years. This clearly shows the lack of preparation, commitment and dedication of the agency to fight against the terrorism.

We the concerned citizens strongly believe that the Government of India should adopt a zero tolerance approach to all acts of terrorism, thereby sending a clear message that terrorism is unacceptable in all its forms. The Government should also take practical steps to prevent and combat all kinds of terrorist acts. Those practical steps include a wide array of measures ranging from strengthening state capacity to counter-terrorism activities in the country.

The failure of Government agencies to secure prosecution of perpetrators and thereby justice for victims of terrorism is a gross violation of various articles of The Constitution of India, Resolutions of SAARC convention and other International laws.

The Constitution of India states that: 

1.      “Article 14 - The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law and equal protection of laws within the territory of India.” As you can see, this right is reserved not just for Indian citizens but to 'any person' within the territory of India”
2.      Article 15 - The state shall not discriminate against people on the basis of religion, race, sex, place of birth or any of them.

3.      Article 21 - Deals with Protection of life and personal liberty.

4.      Article 51- The State shall strive for the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security, just and honorable relations between nations, respect for international law and treaty obligations, as well as settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

The SAARC convention (Suppression of Terrorism) Act 1993, - This Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism was signed on behalf of the Government of India at Kathmandu on the 4th day of November, 1987.

UN has passed several resolutions to combat terrorism to which the Government of India is a signatory.

We strongly believe that India as a major partner in the SAARC group of countries should play an important role to promote Peace, Harmony and combating terrorism. However failure of government agencies to secure prosecution of perpetrators of terrorist acts will send a wrong signal in International community about the India’s stand on fight against terrorism.

We feel common people especially minorities of the country are losing faith on the Judiciary and investigation agencies. It is thus the responsibility of Government of India to restore confidence of the community by providing justice as soon as possible as justice delayed is justice denied.

We would like to remind you that Section 21 (1) of National Investigation Agency Act 2008 provides 30 to 90 days time to file appeal against Judgment, Sentence and Order in the Honorable High Court.  There we demand that the Government of India should:

1.      Order NIA to file appeal against the judgment in the Honorable high court for the retrial/re investigation of the case.
2.      Issue orders for re-investigation of the whole episode. NIA has failed to investigate, produce evidence and hired an inexperienced public prosecutor due to which the case was resolved after 11 years.
3.      Instruct the high court to monitor complete investigation and trail of the case.
4.      Ensure innocent people should not face harassment during the course of investigation.

We hope the Government of India will take positive and immediate action in the matter as the real culprits are not punished till now and they victims of the dastardly act and their kin have not received justice till now.

Thanking You,

Social Activist

Bangladesh: Anti-Ahmadiyya rally of April 20, 2018

Dhaka Tribune

Anti-Ahmadiyya rally: Qadianis must officially be banned

Anti-Ahmadiyya rally: Qadianis must officially be banned
Khatme Nobuat members at an anti-Ahmadiyya rally at Jamiya Ramiziya Siddiquiya Madrasa field in Nasirnagar Sadar on Friday; April 20, 2018Dhaka Tribune

The speakers said Ahmadiyyas are disbelievers and non-Muslims

Khatme Nobuat speakers have said at a Friday rally that Qadianis must be officially banned by the government.
The event took place at Jamiya Ramiziya Siddiquiya Madrasa field in Nasirnagar Sadar. The two hour long mass rally against the Ahmadiyya sect ended peacefully within the given time set by the home ministry.
The pre-scheduled event started at 10 in the morning and ended by 12 pm.
The rally was presided over by Qawmi Olama Oikko Parishad President, Maulana Shamsuddin, and Allama Nurul Islam Olipuri spoke as chief guest.
Allama Muniruzzaman Shiraji, Maulana Waliur Rahman Hamidi, and others also spoke at the event.
Law enforcement officials deployed in Nasirnagar to avoid any unwanted incidents during an 
anti-Ahmadiyya rally on Friday; April 20, 2018 Dhaka Tribune
Junayed Al Hibibi, among others was present at the rally.
The speakers said Ahmadiyyas are disbelievers and non-muslims.  All of their activities must be stopped. They must be banned from all over the country or else there will be a strong movement across the country.
The environment of Nasirnagar was tense from Thursday.  827 police, two platoons of BGB, and one plantoon RAB, including plainclothes detectives were deployed there.
Chitta Ranjan Pal, additional superintendent of police (ASP) (Nabinagar circle), confirmed the news by saying the rally ended peacefully.
He said: “Large numbers  of law enforcement were deployed in Nasirnagar to avoid any unwanted incidents.”
Earlier on April 1, Qawami Olama Parishad called an Anti Ahmadiyya rally., Since permission was not given back then to hold the rally, a later date was fixed for April 20.
The Qawami Olama Parishad leaders said they would hold the rally in April at any cost. Later, to avoid violence, the home ministry allowed them two hours for the rally.