The Hindu – Gujarat riots: Supreme Court to hear Zakia Jafri’s plea after 4 weeks

New Delhi – India, 15 January 2019. The Supreme Court on January 15 said it would hear after four weeks a plea by Zakia Jafri challenging the clean chit by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) to then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in connection with the 2002 Godhra riots.

Zakia, the wife of Ehsan Jafri, an ex-MP who was killed in one of the worst incidents during the riots, has challenged the Gujarat High Court’s October 5, 2017, order rejecting her plea against the SIT’s decision.

The matter came up for hearing before a bench of Justices A M Khanwilkar and Ajay Rastogi, and the counsel appearing for the petitioner said they have circulated a letter seeking an adjournment of the hearing.

“You are asking for four weeks and we are giving you four weeks. List the matter after four weeks,” the bench said.

https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-to-hear-after-4-weeks-zakia-jafris-plea-against-clean-chit-to-modi-in-guj-riots/article25998649.ece

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The Statesman – 1984 anti-Sikh riots: Supreme Court notice to CBI on Sajjan Kumar’s plea challenging Delhi H C order

The Delhi High Court on December 17 convicted Sajjan Kumar and sentenced him to life imprisonment in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

New Delhi – India, 14 January 2019. The Supreme Court on Monday issued a notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on an appeal filed by former Congress leader, Sajjan Kumar challenging the Delhi High Court verdict convicting and sentencing him to life imprisonment for criminal conspiracy to commit murder in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Ashok Bhushan and Sanjay Krishan Kaul sought a response from the probe agency and posted the matter for hearing after six weeks.

Sajjan Kumar had on December 31 surrendered in Delhi’s Karkardooma Court and was sent to the Mandoli jail in east Delhi.

Earlier on December 21, the high court had dismissed Sajjan Kumar’s plea which sought more time to surrender. Kumar had moved an application before the Delhi High Court seeking 30 days to surrender, saying he had to settle family affairs.

The Delhi High Court on December 17 convicted Sajjan Kumar and sentenced him to life imprisonment in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, describing the mass killings as “crimes against humanity”.

The case relates to the killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984, and burning down of a Gurudwara in Raj Nagar part II during that period.

Reversing the acquittal order of the trial court, the high court held him guilty of the crime and ordered him to surrender.

Besides Kumar, Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar were also sentenced to life imprisonment. Kishan Khokkar and former legislator Mahender Yadav were sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The 1984 riots followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984. Hundreds of innocent Sikhs were killed, mainly in Delhi.

According to reports, over 3000 people were killed in the riots in and outside Delhi.

https://www.thestatesman.com/india/1984-anti-sikh-riots-sc-notice-cbi-sajjan-kumar-plea-challenging-delhi-hc-order-1502724501.html

The Hindustan Times – Citizenship Bill plunges Assam into political uncertainty ahead of LS polls

As protests rage in Assam against the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, the BJP insists there is no danger to its government.

Utpal Parashar

Guwahati – Assam – India, 13 January 2019. The Asom Gana Parishad’s (AGP) withdrawal of support BJP-led government in Assam last week in protest against the Bill has triggered political uncertainty and fuelled speculations about new political equations.

The BJP on Sunday played down an offer from the Congress to support Assam chief minister Sarbanabda Sonowal if he forms a breakaway government in the light of a massive public opposition to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill.

The Congress sees an opportunity for a comeback in the current political turbulence and has urged Sonowal to quit the saffron party along with MLAs loyal to him.

“It’s an old offer. Sonowal himself and many BJP MLAs have said in the past that they will never support any cause which is detrimental to Assam or Assamese people.

Since a large section in Assam is opposed to the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Sonowal along with his supporters should quit the BJP,” said senior Congress leader Debabrata Saikia.

“We are willing to support a Sonowal-led government, from within or outside, if the chief minister takes up our offer,” Saikia, who is leader of opposition in the Assam assembly, added.

The BJP has 62 seats in the 126-member assembly while coalition partner Bodo Peoples’ Front has 12. The AGP has 14 MLAs, the Congress 24 and All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has 13.

The ruling party insists that Sonowal ditching the BJP is unthinkable.

“Saikia’s offer is completely hypothetical. Sonowal is a mass leader who knows that the Bill is going to benefit the people of Assam in the long run. He is not hungry for power and there’s no question of him leaving BJP to join hands with Congress,” said BJP’s Assam unit chief Ranjit Dass.

The Bill which seeks to grant citizenship to Hindus, Parsis, Sikhs, Christians, Jains and Buddhists from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was passed in the Lok Sabha last week and is expected to come up for voting in Rajya Sabha in the next session beginning on January 31.

Fears of threat to indigenous populations from immigrants from Bangladesh due to passage of the Bill has led to protests in all seven states in the region and some BJP allies have threatened to follow the AGP if the amendment is passed in Rajya Sabha.

Amid the turbulence, the AGP on Saturday gave indications of joining hands with the BJP again if the saffron party withdraws the Bill in the interest of Assam.

“It seems highly improbable that the BJP would backtrack on its support to the Bill now. But if they do, we may reconsider our earlier stance. Otherwise there’s no question to supporting them again,” said AGP president Atul Bora.

The former minister in the Sonowal cabinet denied speculations that AGP might form an alliance with the Congress or AIUDF. Bora also refused to comment on whether his party will contest Lok Sabha polls alone or join an alliance.

“We are not thinking on those lines at all at the moment. Our aim now is to join forces with the people of Assam and those groups who are opposing the Bill,” he said.

The BJP said it is open to welcoming AGP if the regional party gives up its opposition to the Bill.

“Both BJP and AGP are united in our opposition to the Congress. Our party is committed to passing the CAB in parliament. But if AGP wants to join us again, without any pre-conditions, we will welcome them,” said Dass.

In another development, opposition by tribal groups in the state to the Centre’s move to grant scheduled tribe (ST) status to six more communities has turned a volatile situation even more fraught.

On Friday, the Coordination Committee of Tribal Organisations in Assam (CCTOA) had called a 12-hour shutdown across the state in protest against the Centre’s move to give ST status to Tai Ahoms, Muttocks, Morans, Adivasis, Koch Rajbongshis and Chutias.

The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill is wrong because it is based on the religious or ethnic background of refugees. Hazaras from Balochistan and Afghanistan and Rohingiyas from Myanmar are genuine refugees, just like Hindus and Sikhs from Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Man in Blue

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/citizenship-bill-plunges-assam-into-political-uncertainty-ahead-of-ls-polls/story-WaexZI6r2AboAPZ94dpp1K.html

The News – Grieving mother urges govt to bring home jailed son from India

Karachi – Sindh – Pakistan, 12 January 2019. A mother has put forth an appeal before the government of Pakistan to bring back her son who has been behind bars in India since over a decade over fake cases.

Inhabitant of the North Nazimabad area of the metropolis, Zubaida Khanum revealed to Geo News that her son Muhammad Fahad was held by authorities across the border over fake cases upon his visit in 2006 to meet his grandmother.

Moreover, Khanum protested that authorities in Pakistan had put no serious determinations in bringing her son back home in spite of several charges on Fahad getting dropped over the lack of evidence.

It was further revealed that Fahad is presently tangled in one case only, however due to the police officer who filed the case, failing to appear before the court, the unlawful sentence is being elongated.

“I want the government of Pakistan to launch efforts to free Fahad. It will be 13 years since he was given jail sentence. It has been long, I want to see him now,” she had stated.

https://www.thenews.com.pk/latest/417931-grieving-mother-urges-govt-to-bring-home-jailed-son-from-india

The Telegraph – Sabarimala: ‘Women’s wall’ could play formative role in future politics

BJP-RSS efforts to subvert the law, evidently to create disorder so that the BJP can step in, should be firmly stopped.

The Editorial Board

Sabarimala – Kerala – India, 08 January 2019. Change may happen in spite of prejudice. Not that the taking over of the issue of temple entry by a political agenda in Kerala is a mark of change.

Yet one memorable event, which could become a formative element in Kerala’s, or the country’s history, emerged out of the resistance that followed the Supreme Court’s direction last September to lift the ban against the entry of women of reproductive age into the Ayyappa temple at Sabarimala.

That event was the amazing 385-mile long ‘wall’ created by women, between three-and-a-half million and five, — in order to take a pledge of gender equality on January 1.

It was not a spontaneous move, certainly, but the result of mobilization by the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which heads the state government.

Also, most important in the temple-entry context, not all the women supported the court’s directive or were interested in whether or not they would be allowed to see Ayyappa while they were still of reproductive age.
Yet what was striking was their conscious participation in a pledge of equality, many men too had turned out in support of their women, and the sense that what they did that day might make the way easier for their daughters.

This alone is the glimmer of change in an environment of renewed violence that has caused at least one death and more injuries, much property damage and targeted attacks on the houses of political leaders mostly by stone- and bomb-pelting mobs purporting to be the defenders of tradition.

The violence began with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and others calling a hartal after two women entered Ayyappa’s temple and the chief priest felt compelled to purify the holy space.

While the CPI(M)-led government accuses the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party for organizing the violence, and the Congress accuses the CPI(M) for failing to stop the BJP from doing so, certain issues demand attention.

One, the clash of religious faith and equality of rights should not be obscured by political chicanery but be resolved with fairness and diplomacy.

Two, the BJP-RSS’s efforts to subvert the law and blackmail the judicial process, evidently to create enough disorder so that the BJP can step in either as party or as government in the Centre, should be firmly stopped. Not just the state government, but all stakeholders in equality, freedom and the rule of law should collaborate in this.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/sabarimala-temple-entry-women-s-wall-could-play-formative-role-in-future-politics-in-kerala-and-india/cid/1681106

India Today – Sikh youth killing: Thirty panch, sarpanch resign en masse in Pulwama

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – Pakistan, 10 January 2019. Following the killing of a Sikh youth by unknown gunmen in Tral, 30 panch and sarpanch have resigned in the Pulwama district of South Kashmir.

The slain youth, who was identified as Simranjeet Singh, was the brother of a newly elected sarpanch.

According to All Parties Sikh Coordination Committee (APSCC), “About 30 in number, all Sikhs who recently won panch and sarpanch elections in South Kashmir, have resigned en-masse in view of security concerns, following the killing of a Sikh youth in Tral area of South Kashmir.”

The APSCC said that some people with vested interests were trying to harm the centuries-old communal harmony in the Valley.

However, the authorities have not accepted their resignations yet.

In the last panchayat election that was held in 2011, more than two dozen elected panchayat members were killed by militants following which at least 148 panchayat members resigned.

Approximately 25,000 panch and sarpanch have been elected in the recent panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir, held in the end of 2018.

“It is now the responsibility of the government to provide us security as millitant outfits have already threatened those who participated in the panchayat polls,” an elected panch, on condition of anonymity, said.

https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/sikh-youth-killing-30-panch-sarpanch-resign-en-masse-in-pulwama-1427573-2019-01-10

Dawn – ‘They have burnt Mummy and Papa’: What happened to the children of Shama and Shahzad Masih?

Couple who was lynched over blasphemy accusations left behind three young children, one of whom witnessed the horror.

Xari Jalil

Kot Radha Kishan – Kasur District – Panjab – Pakistan, 10 January 2019. Do you remember the ill-fated Shama and Shahzad Masih, the Christian couple from Kasur’s Kot Radha Kishan district in a brick kiln village called Chak 59?

The husband and wife, who was pregnant at the time, were falsely accused in 2014 of blasphemy, then lynched by a mob who first paraded them naked and then set them on fire.

Four years have passed since that terrifying ordeal.

As their legacy, the couple left behind a woeful tale of mob brutality, of the extreme misuse of the country’s controversial blasphemy laws, and even the question of the cruel treatment meted out to brick kiln workers who are modern day ‘slaves’.

But they also left behind three little children, who have now moved to the city, away from the horrors of the dusty, smoky brick kiln where their parents once worked.

Remembering Shama and Shahzad

Ten-year-old Suleman, the eldest of the three, was the only one to have seen what happened to his parents on that cursed day. His relatives, who are now the guardians of the children, say he was utterly shaken and deeply affected by the tragedy.

Poonam, who was just two years old at the time, had fallen down. Quick to act, their maternal aunt had picked her up and the other two children and had fled the scene before the mob turned on them.

The wooden slippers that bonded labourers wear while working lie near the spot where Shahzad and Shama Masih were burnt alive in Rosa Tibba village, Kot Radha Kishan.

“Suleman had bad dreams for a long time. He would often wake up screaming for his parents,” says Shama’s father, Mukhtiar Masih, who now has full custody of the three.

Even now the children are a little apprehensive when meeting strangers.

As if to prove a point he turns to them and asks blatantly “You remember Mama and Papa?” The children nod.

Something stirs in them. Suleman goes to the the cupboard, climbs to the top most shelf and takes out a banner with photographs of his deceased parents. It is the only picture he has of his father.

The media has been publishing the wrong picture of the couple. The woman in this picture is Shahzad’s niece, who is alive and well.

“That’s him, that’s my father,” he says pointing to the picture of a thin, gaunt man, with a mustache and the trace of a stubble on his face.

“Ae Mama ni ai (This isn’t Mummy),” says Sonia, her face falling slightly, as she looks at the woman. All three children speak only in Punjabi.

The media has erroneously been using a picture of Shahzad and another girl, captioning them as pictures of the couple. But the woman in the photo is Shahzad’s niece, who is alive and well.

Ironically, it was the cruel end of their parents that helped break the shackles of bonded labour for the children.

Today, Suleman, 10, Sonia, 8, and Poonam, 6, go to school and try to live their lives like ordinary children, but forever haunted by the brutality of the day their parents were lynched.

A helping hand

The rehabilitation of these children would not be possible without the help of a small organisation working in Lahore known as the Cecil Chaudhry and Iris Foundation (CICF). Named after the veteran air-force hero Cecil Chaudhry and his wife, the organisation is run by their daughter Michelle Chaudhry.

Out of the several that flocked to help after the couple’s murder in 2014, CICF was the only one that stayed aboard and continues to help the children to this day.

CICF organised a protest rally in order to demand Justice for the ill fated couple.

“At first we gave them counselling because they were so afraid they would not go to anyone at all,” says Michelle Chaudhry.

“Later we helped them enroll in our school in Youhanabad. We gave them uniforms, stationery, literally everything that parents give their children. There was no one else.”

She says Suleman is now slowly gaining momentum, but despite everything, even now there are times when he goes into a daze.

“We have tried our best to help him emotionally and otherwise. He is doing much better, but because he actually witnessed the incident it is inevitable that he recalls it from time to time.

“They are all progressing well,” adds Michelle. “The other two children were only two and four years old, so they do not remember the loss of their parents as such.

But when we first saw them, Sonia kept repeating the same sentence from time to time “Mummy papa nu saar dita” (they have burnt Mummy and Papa). Even for us, handling this was a heart-rending ordeal.”

Picking up the pieces

In school, the children are doing well.

“They have been getting top grades in class,” says Alyssa, who works in CICF.

“We are really very proud of them. And no one should be fooled by their shyness! These kids can be rowdy”.

“Suleman in school is one of the naughtiest boys around,” she says affectionately, glancing at him do his work. “He loves performing on stage.”

It is reassuring to see them get their academic life on track, but as time passes, the children’s needs will have to be reconsidered and this will pose to be an even bigger challenge for Michelle.

“They are people not a project,” she says. “If we took responsibility for them, we should continue with it.”

Right now the house they are living in is the property of the church, and has been given to them. It is not in their name.

“In any case we will be sending them to a boarding school eventually,” says Michelle, without taking the name of the school. “We want to groom them as much as possible. It has taken them four years to be accustomed to city life, but even now, they do not have the know-how that they should.”

This boarding school run by foreigners is located a little out of the city and Michelle is certain it will be good for Suleman.

“We are thinking of sending Suleman first as he is the eldest,” she says. “The girls are too little right now.”

Michelle says that she has to keep reminding people of them. “It’s only been four years and still people have more or less forgotten the incident, but I have to keep reminding them of the children. We get some donations which help.”

“It is an uncertain future, but we are with them all the way,” says Alyssa.

The reality is that Michelle has been paying for everything out of her own pocket.

“We are not getting any formal donations from anywhere,” she says. “We have to make sure that these children get their food, their clothes, their medical expenses, everything. It’s all done by us.”

Justice served

According to one version of the story making rounds, the trigger point was when eight months pregnant Shama began to question the status of their **peshgi**, which she argued with the contractor, had already been paid. Peshgi is a kind of ‘earnest payment’ that labourers pay to take a loan; this often keeps them indebted to their employers. Peshgi is a system of bonded labour.

It was the same contractor who then lured the couple on the pretext of talking and locked them up in his office.

On the directions of the kiln owner, he told the neighbourhood cleric that Shama had been caught burning some Quranic verses. In reality they had been burning some documents that belonged to Shahzad’s recently deceased father who was a faith healer (aamil).

The cleric made an announcement that they have committed blasphemy, and within half an hour a mob of hundreds had collected at the kiln. The mob pulled the couple outside the locked room, and dragged them to the flames of the brick kiln.

Some reports say that it is unclear whether the couple had been alive when they had been burnt. But one thing is certain: there was nothing left of them to bury.

The case dominated national news and sparked a global outcry. A top Vatican official described the lynching as a “humiliation for all of humanity”.

The case was instantly sent to an anti-terrorism court (ATC), and a total of 103 people were charged. In November 2016, five men were sentenced to death, including Yusuf Gujjar the kiln owner, sentences that are currently under appeal in the ATC, while 10 others were given varying jail terms for playing a supportive role in the killings.

The same court also acquitted 93 suspects in the case in 2016.

The lawyer for the family Riaz Anjum said that the five people who were awarded the death sentence were involved in dragging, beating and burning the couple.

https://www.dawn.com/news/1456442/they-have-burnt-mummy-and-papa-what-happened-to-the-children-of-shama-and-shahzad-masih

The Hindustan Times – AGP withdraws support to BJP in Assam over Citizenship Bill

The announcement followed AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta’s statement here that the party would withdraw support to the government in the state if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in passed by Lok Sabha.

Sadiq Naqvi

New Delhi – India, 07 January 2019. The Asom Gana Parishad on Monday pulled out of the BJP-led coalition in Assam against a controversial bill that seeks to give citizenship to minorities of Bangladesh, party chief Atul Bora announced after meeting Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

The AGP’s exit, however, does not present any immediate danger to the survival of the Sarbananda Sonowal-led BJP government. The BJP has 61 MLAs in the 126-member Assembly and enjoys the support of the Bodo People’s Front (BPF) which has 12 MLAs.

“We made a last-ditch attempt today to convince the Centre not to pass the Bill. But Rajnath Singh told us clearly that it will be passed in Lok Sabha tomorrow. After this, there is no question of remaining in the alliance,” Bora said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday had said his government will try to get the Bill passed in Parliament soon. “It (the Bill) is connected to the emotions and lives of people.

It is not for the benefit of anyone but a penance for the injustices done in the past,” Modi said at a rally in Assam’s Bengali-speaking Barak Valley, where voices demanding the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill are the loudest.

The assurance had riled the AGP which prompted the party’s leadership to reach Delhi to meet Home Minister Rajnath Singh. AGP leader and former chief minister Prafulla Kumar Mahanta had warned that the party would withdraw support to the state government if the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 is passed.

In December last year, Bora had written to BJP chief Amit Shah about the AGP’s reservations on the Bill and had said that it will make the Assam Accord “meaningless”.

“Our alliance with the BJP was based on the Assam Accord ansd other issues crucial to the state. The Centre had violated the understanding by introducing the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill 2016 in Parliament,” read the letter.

The AGP chief had urged Shah to intervene and said his party will never support the obnoxious Bill.

The Bill seeks to amend Citizenship Act 1955 to grant Indian nationality to people from minority communities, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians, from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after six years of residence in India instead of 12 even if they don’t possess any proper document.

The Bill has been opposed by a large section of people and organisations in the Northeast. The Congress, Trinamool Congress, CPI (M) and a few other parties have been steadfastly opposing the bill claiming that citizenship can’t be given on the basis of religion and that it is unconstitutional.

Those that are part of persecuted minorities should be granted political asylum
This bill gives special rights to specific groups fleeing Muslim countries
but denies those rights to Muslims fleeing a Buddhist country
Man in Blue

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/agp-withdraws-support-to-bjp-in-assam-over-citizenship-bill/story-G9eIWflICNuFAAfGTOh0GJ.html

Scroll.in – This novel gives faces and voices to the victims of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs

Radhika Oberoi’s ‘Stillborn Season’ marries multiple perspectives on the attacks against Sikhs to a fiction-writer’s imagination.

05 January 2019. A sacked construction worker scoops watery dal into his freshly washed hands and bites into the soggy food. While he eats, he recalls the rich chana dal and naan he was served at the gurdwara when he was at his hungriest. Famished and underpaid, he was always treated with kindness at the gurdwara by old sardars who served him hot food, recalling the teachings of Guru Nanak.

The goopy mess in his hands was mixed with the touch of dried blood from earlier. He continued to eat, because he was more hungry than he was guilty. And he knew it paid more to kill Sikhs rather than joining the mobs on the streets that could only proclaim that all sardars must die.

He would join the rioters who poured kerosene over Sikhs who dared to go out on the streets, collecting the odd body part that didn’t turn to ash, to present later to the party leader. He didn’t know how much the compensation was, but a life was worth at least a few hundred rupees.

Radhika Oberoi tells us his story, along with those of many others, after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Stillborn Season, a novel based on the 1984 anti-Sikh violence.

It is a compelling read, not least in light of the fact that, 34 years after the riots, Kamal Nath, who has been accused of instigating the mobs, has been appointed Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh. After he was sworn in, several members of the Sikh community and BJP have highlighted his participation in the killings.

Just hours before Nath formally took the oath as Chief Minister, Sajjan Kumar, another Congress leader was convicted by the Delhi High Court for his role in the riots and sentenced to life-imprisonment.

Multiple narratives

For the families of the victims, these outcomes have been bittersweet. However, justice comes not only in the form of verdicts and oaths, but also literature.

Oberoi, who worked as a journalist for several years, and got her post-graduate degree in Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia, UK, treats the massacre with a rare literary empathy.

Her novel, which is based in Delhi, where 2,433 alone died, blends the cityscape with the horrific violence that took place. The novel is neatly divided into two books with a prologue and epilogue. Oberoi’s writing style combines her finesse in prose writing with her experience in advertising and journalism.

The novel begins with the arrival of the Goodwill Ambassador from London, who is driven in a taxi by a Sikh man. He is in India to interview Indira Gandhi, not about her politics, though that does fascinate him, but about “the girl, who once attended St Mary’s Convent in a small town by the Ganges.”

However, by the time he sets up his interview, a crew member announces her assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards.

Oberoi writes: “This book is the result of a last-minute bid to get into the University of East Anglia’s first Creative Writing workshop in India, held in Kolkata in 2013.

A short story read and critiqued by a group of very bright people became the scaffolding for this enthusiastic but amateurish production.” Staying close to the nature of the short story, each chapter introduces a different character’s point of view, with Book I offering multiple narratives from right after the assassination.

In a block of flats in a posh area of South Delhi lives a professor from Delhi University, who worries about his newlywed Sikh couple neighbours. The couple escapes into a storage room once their landlord sees mobs prowling about the neighbourhood.

Major Budhwar, another resident of the building, who tends to his garden all day, worries about his friend Jaspreet Singh, who is confined to his room and no longer comes out for morning walks after curfew is declared.

Their granddaughters, Sweetie and Amrit, who are oblivious to the dangers around them play with paints in the cabbage patch. The lives of all such characters are blended perfectly into the narrative, giving voice to Sikhs, non-Sikhs, murderers, prisoners, business-owners, and frightened residents alike.

Looking back

Book II is a retrospective account, presented mostly through eyes of Amrit, the granddaughter of Jaspreet Singh, both of whom survived the massacre. Working as a journalist, she recalls the stories her grandfather had told her, and sets out to bring these stories into print.

Despite her editor labelling the violence old news, she aims to write about these accounts, not in terms of statistical reports but real human stories, much as Oberoi does for her readers.

Amrit interviews old widows in Chandni Chowk, police officers on duty during the curfew, and brings up a tragic past, discovering their heart-churning attempts at getting justice.

The author ends her novel with a dreamlike interview between the late prime minister and Amrit. The interview, which takes place in Indira Gandhi’s residence, is not an attempt at tying up loose ends, or bringing a neat climax to a “plot-driven” novel, but to understand gently the grievances that always exist, in the lives of the murderers and the murdered.

Oberoi provides nuance to tragedy:

“The sound was close enough to make a nerve throb on Balbir’s forehead, like a siren portending doom. He could hear fabric being pulled out and torn apart…He should jump out of the cabinet now and die like a sardar, like the son of a sardar, and not a mouse caught in a trap.” [italics]

Her crisp sentences resonate the fear felt by the characters when the rioters take the street, wanting blood for blood.

Oberoi’s main achievement in the novel is not just that she doesn’t exaggerate or make a spectacle out of the massacre, but that she is able to separate herself from the narrative, and yet personalise it enough for the reader to feel a real sense of grief and relief on reading the book.

Stillborn Season: A Novel, Radhika Oberoi, Speaking Tiger.

https://scroll.in/article/906488/this-novel-gives-faces-and-voices-to-the-victims-of-the-1984-massacre-of-sikhs

The Telegraph – Tears that drowned temple thugs

Camerapeson Shajila Ali Fathima recounts how a BJP mob threatened to kill her if her video footage was shown

K M Rakesh in Bangalore

Bangalore – Karnataka – India, 05 January 2019. Shajila Ali Fathima, the cameraperson whose tears of agony on being attacked by Sabarimala vandals and resolve to complete her assignment in the face of a murderous BJP mob has moved the nation, vividly recalls several male voices baying for her blood if the visuals were broadcast.

“Like the other camerapersons, I was busy filming BJP workers ripping (possibly CPM) banners when they turned on us,” the 34-year-old Shajila who works for the popular news channel Kairali TV, told The Telegraph while recounting the horror in Thiruvananthapuram on Thursday.

The BJP workers had gathered outside the secretariat to enforce the shutdown organised by a Sangh parivar outfit to protest the entry of two women of childbearing age into the Sabarimala temple.

“I could hear several voices screaming at me, that I would be killed if the footage I had captured went on air. But I continued to film what was happening in front of me. Then several men began attacking every cameraperson around,” Shajila said over phone.

Shajila was among the many journalists who had rushed to the BJP protest site outside the state secretariat when they got information about an oncoming protest march of the party.

“I have been a cameraperson for almost five years, but I had never witnessed what I saw in the next 30 minutes,” she said.

“It’s as if they had pre-planned the attack on journalists since there were six to eight men around each one of us. When someone tried to snatch my camera, I held on with all my strength, but in the process sprained my neck,” Shajila said.

Then the camera stopped working. “That was when emotion overtook my resolve. I restarted the camera with some difficulty and began shooting again. By then I was crying,” she said.

That was when a photographer of a Malayalam newspaper clicked the picture of a teary-eyed Shajila holding her video camera to her eye and capturing the violence. The picture has since been shared widely on social media.

“I did feel a bit ashamed that I was crying while on duty. But somehow I couldn’t control my tears,” she said.

Advised to wear a cervical collar and rest for five days, Shajila wants to get back to work at the earliest.

The journalists at the spot have filed a joint complaint with police, who are yet to make an arrest.

Sangh parivar activists had assaulted about 100 media personnel over Wednesday and Thursday.

The Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram district units of the Kerala Union of Working Journalists had boycotted media conferences of BJP state president P S Sreedharan Pillai and general secretary K Surendran on Thursday.

The boycott has since been lifted after the duo apologised.

https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/tears-that-drowned-sabarimala-temple-thugs/cid/1680900?ref=top-stories_home-template