The Indian Express – Don’t misuse money bills, consult Rajya Sabha more: Manmohan Singh in Parliament

By Express Web Desk, New Delhi – India, 18 November 2019. On Monday, the former Prime Minister had criticised the government for the tanking economy and for its “juvenile” shutting off of economic data.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, former prime minister Manmohan Singh said the role of the Upper House must not be undermined, and it should be allowed more time to study and debate Bills.

“In the 16th Lok Sabha, only 25% Bills were referred to committees as compared to 15th and 14th LS. Regardless of what the other House does, it is crucial for our House to form select committees to ensure Bills received go through detailed scrutiny,” Singh said.

The Congress MP from Rajasthan said misuse of the Money Bill provision should be avoided. “We have seen instances of misuse of the Money Bill provision by the Executive, leading to the bypassing of the Rajya Sabha on important matters. Those on the Treasury benches must ensure this is avoided,” Singh said.

“If not for the efforts of our first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the Rajya Sabha would have been reduced to a mere revising House, relegated to a secondary position in the functioning of our democracy. He ensured the closest cooperation between the two Houses, and if that cooperation is not maintained, it will affect the working of our Constitution,” the former PM added.

Singh said the Rajya Sabha was a council of states, and hence it was all the more important that its voice was heard on the crucial issues of the day. “Converting Jammu and Kashmir to a Union territory has far-reaching consequences. The government should consult the council of states before such drastic measures can be considered by the House,” Singh said.

Earlier in the day, the former PM and former finance minister had come out with withering criticism of the NDA government on the state of India’s economy. Blaming the country’s tanking growth on the government’s “mala fide unless proven otherwise doctrine of governance”, Singh wrote in The Hindu that there was a spirit of distrust and helplessness around, which was stifling economic activity.

Singh also criticised the government for “hiding” economic data. “Shooting down messengers of bad news or shutting off economic reports and data is juvenile and does not behove a rising global economic powerhouse.

No amount of subterfuge can hide the performance and analysis of a $3-trillion market economy of 1.2 billion people. Economic participants respond to social and economic incentives, not diktats or coercions or public relations,” he said.

The former PM warned of more difficult times ahead unless corrective measures were taken, including stitching together the social fabric of the country. “Continued increase in inflation combined with stagnant demand and high unemployment will lead to what economists term as ‘stagflation’, a dangerous territory from which it becomes very hard for large economies to recover,” he said.

Singh also said India’s economy was slowing down at a time “when there is a unique and opportune moment in the global economy for India to capitalise”.

He urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to “set aside his deep-rooted suspicion of industrialists and entrepreneurs and nurse us back to a confident and mutually trustworthy society that can revive the animal spirits and help our economy soar.”

Don’t misuse Money Bills, consult Rajya Sabha more: Manmohan Singh in Parliament – CBI books Amnesty International India for violating FCRA; Amnesty terms it as India’s revenge for exposing excesses in Kashmir

Sikh24 Editors

New Delhi – India, 15 November 2019. About half-a-dozen sleuths of CBI today conducted a raid at Amnesty International’s offices in Delhi and Bengaluru during the morning hours and carried out searches till evening hours. After this, the CBI booked Amnesty International for violating the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.

Reacting to the CBI’s action, the Amnesty International India has said that it is being targeted for speaking out against human rights violations in the country.

“Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India” reads a statement by Amnesty International India.

“Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent,” it added.

Amnesty International India is accused of bypassing the FCRA by floating a commercial entity in the name of Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd, which received Rupees 360 million in foreign funds.

CBI books Amnesty International India for violating FCRA; Amnesty terms it as India’s revenge for exposing excesses in Kashmir  

The Print – Modi’s new citizenship law will rip open the wounds of Partition

Muhammad Ali Jinnah would be proud of Narendra Modi.

Shivam Vij

New Delhi – India, 18 November 2019. Political language,” said George Orwell, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” That would be a fine description of how the Narendra Modi establishment sells its disastrous policies.

It is certainly the case with the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2019, likely to be a law in a few weeks. According to Prime Minister Modi, “There are many children of Maa Bharti who have faced persecution in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. We will stand with those who were part of India at one time, but got separated from us.”

The claim is that the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB) will somehow finish the unfinished business of Partition. On the contrary, it will only rip open the wounds of Partition.

Maa Bharti’s disowned children

Partition became necessary because there were two different visions of what India should be like after independence. One vision was based on the two-nation theory, the idea that Hindus and Muslims are two separate “nations”. (Wonder why the two-nation theory never saw the Christians, Parsis, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains and Bahai as separate “nations”. The logical end should be an eight-nation theory, if not more).

The other vision was that nationhood is not a religious construct. It is geographical. From Peshawar to Puducherry, we were one people united by shared geography and history. We were united in our diversity.

It was this difference of opinion that led to Partition. Pakistan saw itself as a Muslim nation. It didn’t matter that west and east Pakistanis would be separated by nearly 1,700 kilometres of Indian land mass. India saw itself as a secular country that respected all faiths equally. And the country itself did not have a state religion, unlike Pakistan.

This is why Mahatma Gandhi was busy stopping Hindu-Muslim riots that were meant to drive out Muslims into Pakistan on either side. The father of the nation, as also the government of India, was committed to ensuring that Muslims can stay peacefully as equal citizens.

In other words, all the people of this land were the children of “Maa Bharti”, no matter what religion they followed. But Narendra Modi now wants to separate some of “Maa Bharti’s” children from her: Muslims.

If you are a Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian in present-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, you will soon be able to walk into India illegally, or overstay your visa, and become an Indian citizen in six years.

To exclude Muslims from this privilege, just because they are the “majority” community in these countries, is to say that Muslims are not the children of “Maa Bharti”.

What about Ahmadis whom Pakistan considers part of a separate sect and who are possibly far more persecuted than Christians and Hindus? Given that the founding place of the Ahmadiyya sect is in Indian Punjab, Ahmadis make a good case to be included in CAB.

Making Jinnah proud

Defenders of the CAB say it does not make India a Hindu state, because it also welcomes Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians. Yet, it does exclude the religion of the majority in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. PM Modi must explain why Muslims in these countries are not the children of “Maa Bharti”.

In practice, the new idea of religion-based citizenship will encourage large-scale migration of people from these three countries into India, reminding us of the wounds of Partition. Since the largest religious minority in Pakistan and Bangladesh are Hindus, most beneficiaries of the CAB will be Hindus.

Simultaneously, the so-called, pan-India National Register of Citizens will target Muslims who are unable to prove their grandfathers were Indian. They will be stripped off their citizenship and put in detention camps. This is worse than the two-nation theory. This is a systematic legal design for the persecution of just one religious minority in India, Muslims.

Hindus come in, Muslims get out. That is the message of CAB and pan-India NRC, when seen together.

After all the Orwellian trickery, CAB and NRC are basically a way of accepting the two-nation theory. The 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is the perfect time to do this. Muhammad Ali Jinnah would be proud of Narendra Modi. It is as if the Partition is still taking place.

Some more Orwellian trickery

Incidentally, the text of the proposed CAB does not say anything about Partition, persecution, leave alone “Maa Bharti”.

If the idea is that someone should be given citizenship because they are facing religious persecution, then they should be asked to prove they were facing persecution. That is how, often with the help of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, western countries grant citizenship to refugees.

For instance, after CAB becomes law, the Bhandara family in Pakistan, who happen to be Parsis, could walk into India and become Indian citizens. Are they “persecuted” in Pakistan? Not at all. They are part of the Pakistani high society, owners of the Murree Brewery.

Wouldn’t they love it if one of their family members could become an Indian citizen and start Murree Brewery’s operations in India?

So, the idea that CAB is for “persecuted” religious minorities in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh is media spin meant to fool us. The text of the law says no such thing, because the real intention is perhaps not to help persecuted minorities in the three countries. The real intention is to import lakhs of Hindus so that the BJP may play vote-bank politics with them.

On another note, can anyone explain what Afghanistan has to do with Partition? It was not a part of India in 1947. It was never a part of British India. We have always been told that Partition divided India into two countries, India and Pakistan, and a part of Pakistan later became a third country, Bangladesh. So, if CAB is about Partition, what is Afghanistan doing here?

And if Afghanistan can randomly qualify, why not Myanmar? Myanmar (then Burma) was a part of British Indian Empire until 1937. How about giving Indian citizenship to persecuted minorities in Myanmar?

Over 7 lakh Rohingya Muslims have been forced to flee to Bangladesh due to ethnic and religious persecution. If an Afghan-Christian from Herat is the offspring of “Maa Bharti”, why is a Rohingya Muslim from Arakan not a child of “Maa Bharti”?

If Afghanistan is included because of the RSS’ idea of Akhand Bharat, why not Sri Lanka? Just because Tamil-speaking Hindus from Sri Lanka aren’t really going to help the BJP win elections in Tamil Nadu?

There are other issues with CAB. Does India really need more people, given it is already one of the world’s most populous countries? And what about security issues? CAB offers a very convenient route for agencies to send spies to India and get them Indian citizenship in just six years.

None of this means India should not give citizenship to refugees. What we need is a comprehensive refugee law that determines how many refugees India can absorb as citizens every year, and the basis for such citizenship should not be religion or nationality. It should be humanity, in keeping with the spirit of the Indian Constitution.

Modi’s new citizenship law will rip open the wounds of Partition

The Tribune – Jammu & Kashmir administration shifts 34 political prisoners from hotel to MLA hostel

Srinagar – Jammu & Kashmir – India, 17 November 2019. As Srinagar reeled under harsh winter conditions, the Jammu and Kashmir administration on Sunday shifted all 34 political prisoners, lodged at the Centaur Hotel since 05 August, to the MLA Hostel as the facility lacked proper heating arrangements, officials said.

The winter chill took a toll on the health of the detenues, National Conference, PDP and People’s Conference leaders and prominent social activists, and the security personnel guarding them.

They were lodged at the hotel on the bank of the scenic Dal Lake on 05 August when the central government announced its decision to abrogate Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union territories.

Kashmir Valley, including Srinagar City, was reeling under winter chill and witnessed the season’s first snowfall earlier this month.
The seat of administration in the newly created Union territory has moved from Srinagar to Jammu for the winter months.

The administration carried out required modification of rooms in the MLA Hostel on Maulana Azad Road in the heart of the city to accommodate the political prisoners. It has been declared as a subsidiary jail by an order of the J-K home department.

Among the political prisoners are Sajjad Lone of People’s Conference (PC), Ali Mohammad Sagar of National Conference (NC), Naeem Akhtar of the PDP and former IAS officer Shah Faesal.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti was on Friday shifted to a government accommodation in the city from a tourist hut located at the foothills of Zaberwan range, officials said here.

The move was necessitated as the approaching winters and frequent power cuts made it difficult to stay in the hut which was converted into a jail after she was detained on 05 August this year.

According to the officials privy to the development, Centaur Hotel, owned by the Indian Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), has submitted a bill of nearly Rs 3 crore to the home department for over 100 days of boarding and lodging of the detenues.

The administration has, however, rejected the claims of Centaur Hotel and argued that the facility was converted into a subsidiary jail on 05 August and therefore, government rates would be paid.

The rates sanctioned by the administration would be around Rs 800 per day as against Rs 5,000 charged by the hotel, the officials said.

The Wire – Why Sikhs don’t see Khalistan terror through Kartarpur Corridor as a serious threat

For Sikhs rejoicing at the fulfilment of a long-awaited desire, it is painful to suggest that they will fall for Pakistani sponsored propaganda.

Chander Suta Dogra

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 16 November 2019. Just as Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular, the world over, were celebrating the opening of the Kartarpur corridor and it was being hailed as the strongest peace move thus far in India-Pakistan relations, fears have been raised in India about the possibility of Pakistan misusing the open access corridor to revive the separatist Khalistan movement in Punjab.

If there are those who see in the Kartarpur corridor a similarity with the ‘fall of the Berlin wall’, an equal number, especially from the strategic circles, say that ‘India has fallen into Pakistan’s trap’.

They say the Pakistan army, which pushed for the opening of the long-standing demand of a corridor, and completed the project in double-quick time because it wants to re-ignite the fires of terrorism in Punjab with the help of expatriate radical Sikhs.

That may well be true. But it would be unrealistic to assume that Punjab will soon be inundated with Sikhs who return from Kartarpur with subversive intent.

This part of the story does not take into account the deep aversion to Khalistan and terrorist violence that has taken root in the hearts and minds of Sikhs after the unrest which ravaged Punjab in the 80s and 90s.

Consider this: As pilgrims began filing into the historic Kartarpur Gurudwara when it opened for the Sikhs of India, their attention was drawn to a glass-encased bomb – a remnant from the 1971 India-Pakistan war – placed strategically on a pillar. A plaque on it stated:

“Indian Air Force dropped this Bomb during 1971 at Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Sri Kartarpur Sahib with the aim to destroy it. However, this evil design could not be materialised due to blessing of Waheguru Ji (Almighty Allah). The said bomb landed into Sri Khoo Sahib (Sacred Well) and this Darbar Sahib remained unheart (sic). It is pertinent to mention that this is the same sacred well from where Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji used to get water to irrigate his fields.”

Some stopped to read the words. But Indian journalists reported that most devotees did not take kindly to what they saw as blatant anti-India political propaganda. Devotees from across the globe seemed unanimous in the thought that there should be no ‘dirty politics’ in the name of the Guru.

Some even wanted the offending bomb display to be removed. There were also reports of posters of prominent Sikh separatists such as Bhindranwale and General Shubeg Singh being put up near the shrine in the days preceding the opening of the corridor. These were removed when India protested.

For millions of Sikhs worldwide, the opening of the Kartarpur corridor is the fulfilment of a long-awaited desire to pay respects at the last resting place of Guru Nanak Dev. Just four kilometres from the border and visible on clear days, the historic shrine was taken away from India in 1947 when a line was drawn to partition the country.

For almost seven decades, devotees on the Indian side peered longingly through binoculars at the shimmering gurdwara. To be able to pray and feel the ambience at the holy place is therefore a deeply emotional and reverential experience for all those who are making the pilgrimage today.

So when it is suggested that opening the corridor could pave the way for the return of dark days, most not only scoff at the predictions, but feel the suggestion that Indian Sikhs will fall for Pakistani sponsored propaganda is painful.

The average Punjabi is acutely conscious of the political games being played in the name of the Kartarpur corridor and is wary of being drawn into a quagmire that could potentially disturb the route.

Professor Balkar Singh is a respected Sikh scholar and the director of the World Punjabi Centre in Punjabi University, Patiala. He was among the first to walk across the corridor and pay obeisance at Kartarpur.

Says he, “It is quite obvious that political entities in India and Pakistan, the Pakistani Army included, are all playing politics in the name of the Kartarpur corridor. The security establishment in Delhi is raising the bogey of Khalistan, and some elements in Pakistan may actually try to foment trouble in ham-handed ways.”

He added that the bottom line is that the community is not in any danger of being misled now. “We have suffered huge losses of life and property in the past. Khalistan has no present and no future, so why will anyone permit those bad days to return?”

This is also why recent attempts by expatriate radical Sikh organisations like Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), allegedly sponsored by Pakistan’s deep state, to hold a ‘Referendum 2020‘ on seceding from India has not had an impact. SFJ’s posters on a referendum, seen on the Pakistani side for a while, were largely ignored by Indian Sikhs.

The separatist Khalistan ideology has few takers in Punjab today. The few fringe organisations who claim to be its proponents are finding it hard to survive in an atmosphere where the very word has become anathema for the majority.

As Gurpreet Singh, president of the Kendri Singh Sabha, points out, “Residual fragments of Khalistanis are not even 1% of the population now. Even at the height of militancy, only about 5% of Sikhs subscribed to the ideology.

The talk of reviving the movement is just a bogey drummed up by those who wish to exploit Sikh sentiments for their own politics. To even imagine that patriotic Sikhs will fall for the blatant propaganda being conducted by a section of the Pakistani establishment is hurtful.”

If anything, the desire to keep it going is reason enough for Sikhs to desist from falling for Pakistani propaganda. The fear in Sikh circles today is that the beauty of the gesture from both countries that has come at a rather difficult time in India-Pakistan relations could be marred by the politics over Khalistan.

The Sikh world would rather see the shadow of Khalistan far removed from their holy shrines and many are decidedly uncomfortable that pilgrims to other gurdwaras in Pakistan like Nankana Sahib gurdwara and Panja Sahib have been subjected to anti-India propaganda in the past.

“Kartarpur gurdwara should not be allowed to be used as a platform for Khalistani forces because that is not the purpose of this corridor,” said Gurpreet Singh.

Voices like his are growing. The use of Sikh religious holy places like the Golden Temple in Amritsar for separatist politics in the past brings up bitter memories of its destruction during Operation Bluestar. Memories that the community has put behind.

In July, India shared with Pakistan its concerns about pro-Khalistan elements promoting anti-India activities in a detailed dossier which listed events between 2016 and 2019 that were orchestrated by Khalistani elements.

India pointed out that the four annual Indian Sikh Jathas who visit important gurdwaras in Pakistan every year under a bilateral protocol to visit religious shrines have been regularly subjected to anti-India propaganda during their visit.

Former Pakistan army chief General Mirza Aslam Beg was quoted as having said, “Pakistan army and the government should create trouble for India through Khalistan movement, it is the only way to teach India a lesson.”

But if elements in Pakistan are seeing an opportunity to foment trouble in Indian Punjab through the Kartarpur corridor, Indian politicians are not averse to using it to play with Sikh politics.

One of the first to oppose the Kartarpur corridor is Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, heading a Congress government. At the opening ceremony in Dera Baba Nanak, he warned Pakistan against misusing the corridor to “destabilise Punjab“.

Many see his opposition to the corridor as an attempt to hold the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) responsible for exposing Punjab to trouble.

The political acrimony between the two sides, and its potential implications are being watched with growing unease by the Sikhs. It is well known that one-upmanship between the two parties was one of the reasons for the birth of the terrorist phase in the past and a repeat in any new avatar will be strongly resisted by the community.

Sikh politics is largely that of a minority versus the majority, always a tempting trope for ambitious parties. With the benefit of hindsight, community leaders now want Sikhism to be left alone.

Away from the machinations of unscrupulous politicians on both sides of the border. This only means that the onus of maintaining the sanctity of the Kartarpur corridor and allowing the initiative to thrive and grow in a conducive atmosphere lies with responsible elements in both India and Pakistan.

Chander Suta Dogra is a journalist and author.

This article is utter nonsense: 1) There is no Khalistan terror threat, but there is a strong pro Khalistan movement amongst diaspora Sikhs, who want to campaign in a peaceful manner for Khalistan. The supporters of this movement love India as much as I do, but they are fed up with subsequent Indian governments who have shown no respect for minorities. 2) When I lived in Panjab I met many Sikhs who would prefer greater autonomy or independence of Panjab. 3) The government and its agents keep saying that the Khalistan movement is minuscule, but they seem to be afraid of this minuscule movement. 4) Pakistan propaganda would have no effect on Sikhs if basic demands of the Sikhs like the rewriting of article 25 of the constitution were implemented.
Man in Blue

PM Imran Khan’s message for Narendra Modi: Justice leads to peace – Injustice breeds anarchy

Faizan Bangash & Sher Ali Khalti

Kartarpur – Panjab – Pakistan, 10 November 2019. With the opening of Kartarpur Corridor in Pakistan, the Sikh community in India has been provided easy and direct access to Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, the final resting place of Guru Nanak Devji.

Gurdwara Darbar Sahib, situated in Kartarpur (Shakargarh, Narowal), is the second holiest place for the Sikh community.

While inaugurating the Kartarpur Corridor here on Saturday, Prime Minister Imran Khan termed it a gift for the Sikh community all-over the world, especially those living in India, from the people and Government of Pakistan. He welcomed thousands of Sikh pilgrims from India in Pakistan and urged Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the Kashmir issue through dialogue.

Urging his Indian counterpart to give justice to Kashmiris, PM Imran said prosperity in South Asia region was only possible if Kashmir issue was resolved. “It’s just a beginning; let’s hope the relationship between India and Pakistan becomes like it should have been,” added the PM. The premier said Narendra Modi must know that justice brings peace and hatred causes chaos in a society.

He said a leader was the one who brings people together and doesn’t divide them to get their votes through spread of hatred. “When I was elected as the prime minister, I told (Narendra) Modi our biggest problem is poverty.

I told him that if we open our borders, mutual trade will eliminate poverty,” Imran Khan said while addressing the people of both countries at Kartarpur Corridor. He called upon Indian premier to give justice to the people of occupied Kashmir.

Imran said, “Eight million people in occupied Kashmir are being treated like animals. They have been brought under forcible rule of 900,000 Indians troops.” He warned Modi to end injustice as such decisions bring chaos.

He urged the Indian premier to give justice to the people of occupied Kashmir and liberate the Subcontinent. He said the problem of occupied Kashmir had gone beyond a dispute over territory and became a human rights issue.

Once justice was done to Kashmiris and their right to self-determination was given to them, situation of the entire region would improve. “Look at Germany and France, both countries fought wars and killed thousands. Today, their borders are open and trade has brought progress to the region.”

Imran Khan said that justice was only reflected in society of human beings and urged the Indian PM to rid the region of the dispute of Kashmir. The PM also recalled the role of great African statesman Nelson Mandela for playing the role of a leader for his country and uniting the people.

Appreciating the teachings of Baba Guru Nanak Devji in his speech, he said: “There is humanity in the philosophy of Guru Nanak. Humanity is what separates human beings from animals. Our God also talks about humanity and our Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent as a blessing for all mankind.”

The PM congratulated the government officials and ministers over swift and on-time completion of the Kartarpur Corridor project. He said, “I learnt a year ago about the value of Kartarpur Sahib. This is the Madina for the Sikhs of the world.”

He said that the Frontier Works Organisation (FWO) and other departments and ministries concerned worked diligently and completed the project in just 10 months. He said he did not know fully how efficient and capable his government was.

Addressing the ceremony, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said it was a historic moment for Sikhs. “Imran Khan has created history with Kartarpur Corridor; Kartarpur has been opened for Sikhs from all over the world,” he added.

The foreign minister congratulated the Sikh all over the world on opening of the Kartarpur Corridor and welcomed the Sikh pilgrims present at their holy site. He said, “The doors of Kartarpur Sahib are open for the Sikh community.”

The foreign minister said “we need to see today who was sowing the seeds of hatred in the region”. He congratulated Prime Minister Imran Khan on the opening of the historic corridor.

Qureshi said, “09 November was also the day when the Berlin Wall fell, which changed the map of Europe”.

The foreign minister said, “If the Kartarpur Corridor can open, then the LoC’s temporary closure can also be ended.”

He said that the way the doors of Kartarpur have been opened, the doors of Srinagar’s Jama mosque should also be opened so that Muslims could pray the Friday prayers there.

Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was also forced to thank Prime Minister Imran Khan over opening of the Kartarpur Corridor. Speaking at an event, Modi said Prime Minister Imran had understood the emotions of the Indian people. “I would like to thank the prime minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, for understanding the sentiments of the people of India,” he said.

He said that it had become easier for Sikh pilgrims to go to Guru Nanak’s Gurdwara because of the corridor. “I would like to thank the authorities in Pakistan who helped create this corridor in a short span of time,” he said.

“Imran Khan has made history,” said Navjot Singh Sidhu at the inaugural ceremony of Kartarpur Corridor. He termed it an ointment on the wounds of people who witnessed bloodshed during the Partition.

He called Imran Khan the ‘king of hearts’. He said Alexander the Great had won hearts of people because of fear, while Imran Khan won hearts of people by promoting peace.

He thanked Imran Khan for taking a bold step. He said for the first time in the history, boundaries between the two countries have been dismantled. “No one can deny the contribution of Imran Khan,” said Sidhu and sent Munna Bhai MBBS’s hug for Modi.

He demanded opening of borders so that people could have their breakfast in India, their lunch in Lahore and then return to their homes in India after completing their trade and business tasks.

Former Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Chief Minister of Indian Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh, Bollywood actor and Indian parliamentarian Sunny Deol, Panjab CM Sardar Usman Buzdar, Panjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar and other noted figures were also present on the occasion.

Sikh Yatris from different cities of India including Amristsar, Ambala, Patiala, Jalandhar, Gurdaspur, Chandigarh, Delhi as well as from different nations like Canada, USA, France, England, Sweden were present at the inauguration ceremony.

While expressing their views, Yatris unanimously hailed the project and expressed the hope that further relaxation would also be given to them so that they could visit Panjab as per their will.

Besides, the Sikh community members from Pakistan including former MPA Ramesh Singh Arora, sitting MPA Mahender Pal Singh and others also lauded the role of Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in successful completion of the project.

Federal Minister for Religious Affairs and Interfaith Harmony Pir Noorul Haq Qadri also addressed the ceremony.

He said the inauguration of Kartarpur Corridor was the greatest message of peace after the Partition in 1947. He said the prime minister had fulfilled his commitment to provide access to Sikh community to visit their holy shrines.

He said while being in Baghdad, Baba Guru Nanak used to visit the shrine of Imam Musa Kazim daily which gave a message of harmony as he had devoted his life for peace and harmony.

The Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh said by opening of Kartarpur Corridor, the 70-year old demand of Sikhs had been fulfilled for what they were thankful to both the governments. – 550th Prakash Purab: Activists demand re-building of historical Gurdwara demolished by Hindu mobs in 1984

By Sikh24 Editors

Haridwar – Uttrakhand – India, 13 November 2019. The Supreme Court verdict in the Babri Masjid Case might have favoured Hindus, but the bench’s citing of Guru Nanak’s visit to Ayodhya has reignited the demand of the Sikhs to rebuild a historical Gurdwara that was demolished in 1984 by Hindu mobs.

Sikhs are asking that if Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s visit to Ayodhya can be an important factor in the Supreme Court ruling, then why not use the same sources used by the Supreme Court and allow re-building of historical sites associated with Guru Nanak’s life, which were demolished by mobs in 1984.

Gurcharan Singh Babbar, who has led the campaign to seek re-building of Gurdwara Gyan Godri Sahib organized a nagar kirtan to the site, but he was arrested at the border. He was allowed to visit the site but under escort. Babbar has been vocal about getting the demolished site re-built, however, till date the local administration has not provided any cooperation.

During the fourth ‘Udaasi’, the founder of the Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Dev Ji visited Haridwar and shared a message of humanity there. Gurdwara Gian Godri Sahib was established in the memory of Guru Nanak Sahib’s valuable teachings at Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar.

The Gurdwara was demolished in 1984 and later the site was taken over while carrying out the beautification project of the Ganga River.

Gurcharan Singh Babbar expressed frustration while speaking with Sikh24. “First they demolished the site, then they illegally occupied and now they want us to file a case. It shouldn’t be like that,” he said while talking about the historical site of Guru Nanak’s visit to Haridwar.

“We are ready to face arrests, but we want the entire world to know that the Uttrakhand police arrested a nagar kirtan,” he said.

In addition to Gurcharan Singh Babbar, Karnataka born professor, Panditrao Dharenavar also visited the site and raised awareness of the historical Gurdwara. Professor Dharenavar currently teaches Punjabi while living in Chandigarh. He has made the propagation of the Panjabi language his life mission.

Dharenavar recited Sri Jap ji Sahib ji at Har-ki-Pauri in Haridwar and demanded the local administration to re-build the Gurdwara. He held banners while campaigning about the history of Gurdwara Gyan Godhri Sahib.

“I have also written a letter to Chief Minister of Uttarakhand to take steps to rebuild Gurdwara Gyan Godri,” he told Sikh24. “Sikh Sangat of the world is celebrating Sri Guru Nanak Dev’s 550th parakash celebration by visiting Karatapaur and Sultanpur Lodhi but I visited Haridwar and recited Sri Jap Ji Sahib.”

Panditrao, assistant Professor in post graduate government college Sector 46 Chandigarh has been reciting Sri Jap ji Sahib at Har-ki-Pauri every year on the auspicious occasion of Kartik Poornima, the prakash day of Sri Guru Nanak Dev ji.

Panditrao Dharenavar is originally from Karnataka but learned Panjabi so well that he has penned down 12 books in Panjabi and translated Sri Jap ji Sahib into the Kannada language of Karnataka. He told Sikh24 that he is committed to get the historical shrine re-built and for that he will visit the site every year.

Obviously the Sikh claim on the site where Gurdwara Gyan Godri was is based on facts, and not on fables about Gods.  But why are we so keen to maintain ‘historical’ gurdwaras in areas where there is only a small Sikh population ?
If we were to have a Gurdwara at all the places where our ten Gurus ever preached we would have loads of real estate without sangat !
Man in Blue

550th Prakash Purab: Activists Demand Re-Building of Historical Shrine Demolished by Hindu Mobs in 1984

Pieter Friedrich – Ayodhya: A symbol of rule of lawlessness

The verdict set a precedent for legitimizing a Mafia-style approach


“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever,” wrote George Orwell.

Published by The Polis Project, 14 November 2019. Nineteen Eighty-Four is not only the title of Orwell’s dystopian novel, but also the year that the future changed forever for the Republic of India. The events of that year reverberated around the world once again on 9 November 2019 when the Supreme Court of India issued a judgment in a land dispute.

For decades, India’s courts kicked around various lawsuits filed by plaintiffs asserting their right of ownership to a disputed property in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

The Supreme Court’s final ruling came thirty years after the Hindu nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), categorized by the USA Central Intelligence Agency as a “religious militant organization”, laid at the site a foundation-stone for a temple [mandir] to the Hindu deity, Ram. The land belonged, the court ruled, to the infant god Ram.

Since the infant did not appear in court to take possession of his property, control passed into the hands of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas, a VHP-controlled trust.

Yet rather than entrusting the Nyas with building a Ram Mandir (temple), the court ordered the Central Government to create a new trust to ensure construction. Thus, India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) apparently entered the temple-building business.

Because what began in 1984 is of monumental consequence to the present, we must peer back into the past.

In October 1984, as the ruling party in New Delhi organized a massacre of Sikhs that shook the nation to the core, the communal fuse lit by the VHP was already burning.

In April 1984, the Hindu nationalist group launched a campaign which would eventually fundamentally alter the political landscape of India. The VHP set out to gain control of the alleged birthplace of Ram, which they claimed was located in Ayodhya. They wanted to build a Ram Mandir, but faced one key challenge.

The Babri Masjid, a mosque, had stood on that location for nearly 500 years.

Before they could build, the VHP had first to destroy. So they started laying the groundwork.

In October 1984, they founded a youth wing called Bajrang Dal (also now categorized by the CIA as a “religious militant organization”) and began drumming up public awareness and support for the campaign by organizing rath yatras (chariot processions) to Ram janmabhoomi (Ram’s birthplace) in Ayodhya.

Meanwhile, Ram Lalla, the infant deity, filed a lawsuit demanding the title to the land where the mosque stood. In July 1989, an Uttar Pradesh High Court recognized Ram Lalla as a legal entity and approved a former judge turned VHP executive to represent the deity. The god himself was, in the eyes of the courts, laying claim to the site.

By October 1989, the movement had generated riots in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, and Bhagalpur, Bihar, that claimed the lives of well over a thousand people, mostly Muslims.

Then, on 9 November 1989, the VHP escalated the issue by laying a foundation-stone for the proposed temple on a plot of land just opposite the mosque. “To the fundamentalists, the communal bloodbath of the last few months matters little,” wrote journalist Pankaj Pachauri a few weeks later.

“Ashok Singhal, general secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), makes it clear that no amount of blood-letting will stop his cadres from constructing the Ram temple at the controversial site which includes a 16th century mosque.”


The religious demand had already become a political one.

The BJP was formed in 1980 by pracharaks (full-time workers) of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) paramilitary as a political arm to advance the RSS’s Hindu supremacist agenda. In June 1989, the BJP formally joined the VHP’s campaign. Religion and politics are always a volatile and inevitably explosive mix, this time was no different.

BJP President L K Advani led the charge in 1990.

Setting out from Gujarat on a Ram rath yatra, Advani rode in a minibus mocked up as Ram’s chariot. Heading for Ayodhya, he plotted a circuitous 10,000 kilometer route across the heartland of the Indian subcontinent.

Flanked at times by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a member of parliament, and Narendra Modi, a RSS pracharak, he was trailed by thousands of kar sevaks (activists) from the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal, and other groups.

As reported by News18, “Modi was the architect of Advani’s yatra plans.”

The procession halted in multiple cities per day so Advani could deliver rousing speeches. His remarks were apparently over-stimulating, his swelling body of itinerant followers killed scores of Muslims along the way.

The day before he was scheduled to enter Uttar Pradesh, Advani was arrested. With the icon of the movement behind bars, anti-Muslim riots erupted in several states, leaving hundreds dead.

In Ayodhya, VHP activists surrounded and surged towards the Babri Masjid, attempting to demolish it as they erected a saffron flag atop its dome. Police intervention left approximately 20 people dead. “This episode reinforced the champion-of-Hinduism image that the BJP had been trying to acquire,” wrote political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot.

It also set the stage for the drama to be fully played out.

In 1991, the BJP campaigned on a pledge to build a Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, calling it “a symbol of the vindication of our cultural heritage and national self-respect.” They fell short nationally but rose to power in Uttar Pradesh. With the state government in the BJP’s hands, the Babri Masjid soon came tumbling down.

On 6 December 1992, hundreds of thousands rallied around the mosque to listen to speeches by the then BJP President Murli Manohar Joshi, MP Uma Bharti and Advani. Sparked by their fiery rhetoric, an activist or two burst past police, climbed up the mosque, and once again planted a saffron flag atop it. A firestorm ensued.

“We saw them break through the first police barrier,” said journalist Mark Tully, who was an eyewitness. “The police did not seem to resist them at all, I saw this sight of a police officer pushing his way through his men so that he could run away faster than the men. And the police just deserted.”

Given free rein, activists swarmed the mosque. Armed with crowbars, pickaxes, sledgehammers and their bare hands, they tore apart the structure in a matter of hours, subsequently erecting a makeshift temple in its place and installing a statue of Ram Lalla.

Then came the pogroms.

Witnesses told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the police in Ayodhya were either absent or participating when mobs of hundreds roamed the streets in the pre-dawn hours of 7 December, beating, sometimes lynching, Muslims and burning their homes and businesses.

“This was not just some mindless and wanton destruction of human life and property by the kar sevaks in order to sustain the high they had achieved only a few hours ago by razing the Babri Masjid to the ground,” one eyewitness stated. “On the contrary, they worked to a carefully crafted plan.”

The flames of violence fanned across the land and were still burning bright when the new year dawned.

“The violence of the 1992-93 riots following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on 6 December 1992 exceeded anything India had yet experienced since Partition,” wrote Jaffrelot. Thousands, perhaps up to 3,000, died. Most were Muslims.

In the wake of the violence, the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, collectively known as the Sangh Parivar (family of organizations), were all briefly banned, but their willingness to embrace brutality as the means to the end they desired had already set the tone for the anthem the Hindu nationalist movement continues to sing.

For Muslims, the destruction represented what international relations expert Dibyesh Anand called a “poetics of fear” where “minority Muslims have no option but to accept their subjugation or face further violence from the awakened Hindu nation.”

For Hindu extremists, however, it was what sociologist Prema Kurien defined as “a watershed event in the history of the Hindu nationalist movement” which “propelled the BJP and its Sangh Parivar affiliates into the limelight.”

As HRW reported: “The campaign to build a Ram temple at the site of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, which was hugely successful in cultivating a national Hindu vote bank, helped catapult the BJP into power in the early 1990s.”


During the 1998 national elections, the BJP declared its commitment to facilitating construction of a “magnificent” Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. The party emerged victorious with Vajpayee as Prime Minister. Advani was tapped not only as deputy prime minister but also as Home Minister (tasked with law and order) while MM Joshi was made minister of Human Resource Development (tasked with education).

All three were RSS men.

Vajpayee was 15 years old when he joined the RSS in 1939, a year before M S Golwalkar took over as the second and longest-serving leader of the paramilitary.

It was the same year that Golwalkar published his infamous manifesto, We or Our Nationhood Defined, in which he proclaimed: “Ever since that evil day, when Moslems first landed in Hindustan, right up to the present moment, the Hindu Nation has been gallantly fighting on to shake off the despoilers.”

He declared that “we, Hindus, are at war at once with the Moslems” who “take themselves to be the conquering invaders and grasp for power.” The “cause of our ills,” he insisted, was the day that “the Moslems first tread upon this land.”

Yet Golwalkar saw a glimmer of hope, claiming that the Hindu “is rousing himself up again and the world has to see the might of the regenerated Hindu Nation strike down the enemy’s hosts with its mighty arm.”

In 1947, as India was about to become independent from the British Empire, Golwalkar visited the maharajah of the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir to pressure him to expand his militia.

His visit came within weeks of a pogrom against Muslims in Jammu in which the maharajah and the RSS collaborated to wipe out tens of thousands, or more. That was the year that Vajpayee became an RSS pracharak.

Despite growing up immersed in the Islamophobia of the RSS, Vajpayee’s administration was generally moderate.

The BJP, unable to win an absolute majority in the 1998 elections, was forced to form a coalition with other parties. Consequently, Jaffrelot explains that it “reverted to its moderate line, discarding the manipulation of religious symbols for political purposes in favor of touting more legitimate issues such as national unity and economic independence.”

The party “put on the backburner contentious issues” such as the pledge to construct Ram Mandir, as well as its promise to abolish Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, which provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

Everything changed with the advent of Modi.

After assisting Advani’s Ram rath yatra, Modi swiftly advanced up the BJP hierarchy. In 1998, he was rewarded with a national position as organizing secretary of the BJP. By October 2001, political wrangling in Gujarat ended in his appointment as the state’s Chief Minister.

Almost immediately, the Ayodhya conflict engulfed Gujarat. Ten years after the Babri Masjid was destroyed, Modi earned the ignominious appellation of Butcher of Gujarat.

On 27 February 2002, a train filled with VHP activists was returning from Ayodhya to Gujarat when someone pulled the emergency cord. The train stopped, it was allegedly set upon by a mob of Muslims, and several coaches caught fire. Fifty-nine Hindus, mostly women and children, died in the blaze.

Modi responded by immediately (and without evidence) declaring it an act of terrorism perpetrated by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. In a televised event, the dead were removed from the train as Modi ordered their charred corpses to be transported, uncovered, for 100 kilometers from Godhra to Ahmedabad. The dead were handed over to the VHP, which then paraded the bodies through the streets.

On 28 February, the Sangh Parivar initiated a statewide pogrom against Muslims.

As reported by HRW, the attacks “were planned, well in advance of the Godhra incident, and organized with extensive police participation.” Over three days, the Sangh slaughtered thousands.

“The groups most directly responsible for violence against Muslims in Gujarat include the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Bajrang Dal, the ruling BJP, and the umbrella organization Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh,” reported HRW. Leaflets distributed by the VHP vowed to kill Muslims in the same way as the Babri Masjid was destroyed.

Overseeing it all was Modi, a fact repeatedly revealed by whistleblowers like BJP State Minister Haren Pandya and Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence Sanjiv Bhatt as well as participants in the pogrom who were caught fingering the chief minister on camera in a 2007 sting conducted by an Indian magazine.

VHP chief Ashok Singhal, the architect of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, reportedly described the Gujarat pogrom as a “successful experiment which will be repeated all over the country.” He lauded entire villages “emptied of Islam” as a “victory for Hindu society.”

Then, in 2003, Singhal denounced Prime Minister Vajpayee for supposedly being “the only person in the BJP and Sangh Parivar opposed to the Ram temple movement.”

“The destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, and the anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 are two spectacular events that have been etched into the memory of Hindu nationalists as symbols of the awakened Hindu nation,” wrote Anand. “These are held out as the prime illustrations of the Hindu nationalist awakening.” The election of Modi was the culmination of that awakening.


The BJP was voted out of power in 2004, but returned with a roar in 2014 after Modi campaigned on his identity as a Hindutvavadi, an adherent of Hindutva, the religious nationalist political ideology of Hindu supremacy which guides the Sangh.

Modi’s first term as prime minister was marked by a sharp rise in anti-minority violence but little in terms of advancing the Sangh’s political goals on a national level. Rather, he focused on consolidating his power and stacking his cabinet with RSS men.

Within six months of his reelection in May 2019, however, his government achieved the top two most controversial items on the BJP’s religious nationalist agenda.

In August, the Modi regime scrapped Article 370 and stripped Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state in India, of statehood. Boosting its troop presence by tens of thousands, instituting a communications blackout and mass-arresting the entire civil society, the BJP accomplished a full annexation of the previously mostly autonomous region.

Then, three months later, came the Ayodhya verdict.

Welcoming the verdict, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat declared: “The building of Ram Mandir will end a major issue of friction between Hindus and Muslims.” Top VHP executive Alok Kumar called it “one of the greatest judicial verdicts in the world.” Yet, implying continued friction, Kumar insisted that the “judgement is not the end of the story, it is the beginning.”

Friction remains over the impunity enjoyed by the Sangh after the devastation it wrought in Ayodhya.

Advani, Joshi, Bharti, and several others (including Mahant Nrityagopal Das, head of the Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas) are still facing criminal conspiracy charges for the role they played in instigating, perhaps even organizing, the destruction of the Babri Masjid and the pogroms that followed it. Yet no sentence was ever passed on anyone involved in the bloodshed of 1992-1993.

The Supreme Court’s verdict acknowledged that “the destruction of the mosque and the obliteration of the Islamic structure was an egregious violation of the rule of law.”

In 2003, however, journalist Saba Naqvi wrote: “No court can possibly give a verdict that hands over the disputed land to the very people who wantonly destroyed the Babri Masjid.” Yet the Supreme Court’s Ayodhya verdict did just that.

The verdict set a precedent for legitimizing a Mafia-style approach. If someone has built a house on land you want, first destroy their house. Then stage a massacre. Then ask the courts for a stamp of approval on the land-ownership demand.

The verdict represents that vision of the future in which a boot is forever stamping on a human face. “Always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler,” wrote Orwell.

“Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless.” The verdict sanctions those boot-wearers who exult in crushing the downtrodden. It codifies injustice.

Ayodhya is a symbol of rule of lawlessness.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

Discover more by him at – Ayodhya Verdict – What explains the silence among Muslim communities on the Ayodhya judgment?

Ipsita Chakravarty

Ayodhya – UP – India, 15 November 2019. “People had already decided that we will accept whatever decision the court makes. This is about respecting the court,” said the 45-year-old businessman in Varanasi. He was referring to the city’s Muslim community.

The court decision that had been accepted calmly was the ruling on the Ayodhya land title dispute, which paves the way for a Ram temple on the site where the Babri Masjid had been demolished. The Supreme Court had also ordered the allocation of five acres of land for a mosque in Ayodhya.

“It does not mean that we are happy with it,” the businessman said. It had been a property dispute but the court seemed to have no evidential basis for its judgment, and was there no other land to build a temple?

A young Muslim journalist based in Varanasi was more blunt. “We had expected that there would be a decision, not justice,” she said. “But we had not expected the judgment to go so much against us.”

There was no proof of a Ram mandir ever having existed on the site, she pointed out, and the Supreme Court had admitted that a mosque built by Babur had stood there. “The Supreme Court gave such a baffling judgment,” she said.

But if there is bitterness, both businessman and journalist also speak of keeping the peace, of not wanting “more damage to the country”.

The businessman preferred to dwell on how people from all faiths had been invited to a chhat puja on the ghats of Varanasi, how Eid-Milad-un-Nabi processions had passed off peacefully a day after the verdict.

An unquiet silence

With the November 9 judgment, the Supreme Court decided on an matter that has riven the political life of India post Independence. What began as a sullen legal dispute in 1949, when idols were smuggled into the inner sanctum of the mosque, became a communal flashpoint after 1992, when a Hindutva mob demolished the mosque.

Since then, the dispute has triggered riots that killed thousands, cut through the social fabric of villages across North India and poisoned political speeches, especially those of the Hindu Right. For close to three decades, Ayodhya has been a byword for polarisation in Indian politics.

The final judgment, decades in the making, has been read by many as serving majoritarian interests. Yet there have been few protests from the minority, whose claims to the site have been dismissed.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi rejected the offer of alternative land for a mosque, and has found growing support on social media. A few voices have urged a review petition.

But, on the whole, Muslim political and socio-religious leaders said the verdict in favour of a Ram temple had to be accepted. Even in North India, where Ayodhya resonates the most, Muslim communities took in the judgment with stoic calm.

Going by reports, Muslims in Ayodhya expressed sorrow and helplessness. In Old Delhi, Muslim shopkeepers were more worried about businesses that had struggled after demonetisation and a shrinking job market.

After years of contestation, what explains this lack of protest? There are no easy answers. But social scientists point to the place of the Babri Masjid in the Muslim faith, how the dispute figured in Muslim identity politics, the absence of a monolithic Muslim identity in India, as well as a growing majoritarian consensus.

Not a special mosque

“Babri was a mosque for us but not a special mosque,” said the businessman from Varanasi. “It is not like Muslims from all over the country came to pray there. For us, the important places are Mecca and Medina.”

The Babri dispute has always been a mix of the sacred and secular. For a section of Hindus, the site was the birthplace of Ram. For Muslims, it was consecrated ground. But it was not central to the faith, many argue.

“Babri wasn’t even a grand mosque like Jamia Masjid,” said Saeed Naqvi, journalist and author of Being the Other: The Muslim in India. “If you say Ramchander ji was born here and I say Prophet Muhammad was born here then we have a contest.”

Over the years, the Mughal-era mosque had paled in religious significance for Muslims. Even if the plot had been allotted to Muslims, the journalist from Varanasi explained, they would not have been able to pray there, the tenets of Islam said prayers could not be offered on disputed land.

Political scientist Hilal Ahmed even contends that Babri had become an “irrelevant mosque” for Muslims, especially after 1992. “The mosque or at least the structure of it, was demolished in 1992, hence, there is no mosque at all there on the disputed land,” he explained.

“On the other hand, there is a functional Hindu temple, which is open to all Hindus.

A Hindu can visit this temple, offer bhog to the deity and commemorate lord Ram’s birthplace on the site where Babri Masjid once stood. However, this is not the case with Muslims. A Muslim is not allowed to offer prayers on this land.

This legal restriction discourages the Muslims from asserting their religious claim on this site for regular namaz etc, as the Babri Masjid does not have any special religious status for Muslim communities.”

A secular debate

Rather, Muslim claims to the site have been rooted in questions of historicity and legality.

In his book, Muslim Political Discourse in Postcolonial India: Monuments, Memory, Contestation, Ahmed writes that the dominant Muslim position on the dispute hewed close to the “secular, objective” position: that there was little evidence to support the presence of a Ram temple on the site, the monument was a part of India’s national heritage, the dispute was not just a local issue but spoke to the rights of religious minorities in India.

Local Muslim narratives, Ahmed argues, connected legal and historical facts with myths and folklore.

The deserted hilltop in Ayodhya had been a site for Sufi worship, according to local folklore. The prayers of Sufi mystics had helped Babur win the Battle of Panipat against Sikander Lodhi, and so the victorious Mughal ordered the construction of a mosque on the spot.

Local histories also note the presence of Hindu bairagis who forced their way in and built a platform in the outer courtyard of the mosque but continued to worship there at the indulgence of the nawab of Awadh. The Hindu-Muslim unity of Awadh was only disrupted by the British, who created the dispute, according to the local narrative.

At least some of these ideas still endure in the former kingdom of Awadh. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims had lived together and fought together, said the businessman from Varanasi. “It was the British who created these divisions to get power,” he explained.

Both dominant and local Muslim positions sought negotiations in the domain of law. It was only briefly, in the 1980s, that these legal contestations entered the political domain, Ahmed argues.

The political Babri

The 1980s saw Muslim political responses shaped by an increasingly animated Hindu Right. In 1984, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad started an active campaign for the Ram temple and in 1986, the Faizabad district court allowed the mosque to be unlocked after decades.

With that, Babri entered a wider current of Muslim identity politics, Ahmed argues, becoming the symbol of a “collective Muslim resistance”.

The Babri Masjid Action Committee was formed soon after the gates were unlocked, Muslim parties such as the AIMIM as well as Muslim political and religious leaders joined in political mobilisations, mostly in North Indian cities.

It was a decade marked by other battles of identity, the Shah Bano case, which triggered a debate over Muslim personal law, and the Satanic Verses, the Salman Rushdie novel which incurred a fatwa.

The Babri case was folded into the demand for a law to protect the right to worship in other mosques. But the Muslim agitations could not prevent the performance of the shilanya, or stone laying, for a Ram temple in 1989. That same year, Ram Lalla Virajaman, the deity itself, represented by a “sakha” or “friend”, became a party to the title suit.

It proved to be an inflection point for Muslim identity politics around Babri. “The common Muslims, who were mobilised in the name of protecting the mosque, were always told that Babri Masjid was a political failure for them,” said Ahmed.

There was a victory of sorts in 1991, when the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act was passed, ensuring that the religious character of places of worship would be maintained as it existed on August 15, 1947. But while it boosted the legal proceedings, political mobilisations receded, especially after the demolition.

“All Muslim parties and groups decided to recognise the AIMPLB’s [All India Muslim Personal Law Board’s] High Power Committee as the core body to look after the legal case on Babri Masjid after its demolition,” said Ahmed. “The Babri Masjid Action Committee passed a resolution on December 1, 1993, to suspend all the agitational programmes and activities.”

Which Muslim politics?

In the decades after the demolition, the Ram Mandir became a core issue for the Bharatiya Janata Party and its Hindu nationalist project, which involved the attempt to construct a homogenising Hindutva politics.

It helped propel the party from two seats in 1984 to over 300 seats in 2019, Naqvi observes. But after the mobilisations of the 1980s, no such consolidated identity politics was visible among Muslim communities across the country.

Naqvi, for one, is indignant when asked about a “Muslim response” to the Babri dispute. Muslims in India were a diverse group, ranging across states, speaking different languages, with varying political impulses and responses.

Most Indian Muslims wanted social harmony, he said, it was a section of the religious and political leadership which kept Babri alive to stay relevant.

Besides, social scientists and writers point out, Muslim communities wanted to be identified as political subjects outside “Muslim issues”. But they had been boxed in, by socio-religious and political leaders from within the community and by the wider sweep of politics, even apparently secular politics.

“Muslims wanted jobs, security, entrepreneurial help. But what has the system imposed on them? Babri, Shah Bano, Satanic Verses,” said Naqvi.

Living in a majoritarian state

Beneath the quiet after the Ayodhya judgment, there is also a dry-eyed recognition of political realities. Even if the court had awarded the land to the Muslim parties, Naqvi says, they would never have been able to build a mosque their in the current climate of majoritarian bullying.

Some of the silence is dictated by fear. The journalist in Varanasi spoke of FIRs against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh who had criticised majoritarian policies or politics on social media. The businessman did not want to be named, “you know what the political situation is”.

It had created silences in personal relationships. “Even with Hindu friends, we don’t discuss the the mandir-masjid issue. We don’t want to ruin our relationship with them,” said the journalist.

As for protests, there was no space for the political articulations that were possible even a couple of decades ago. “Earlier, there were politicians who would listen to us. Now, no one will listen to us,” said the journalist.

The sense of political marginalisation was sealed with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech after the Ayodhya verdict. “He congratulated Hindus for the mandir but did he talk about Muslims even once? What are they getting?” she asked.

The Statesman – Foreign Funds case: Supreme Court asks Indira Jaising, Anand Grover to reply

New Delhi – India, 14 November 2019. The Supreme Court on Thursday sought response from NGO Lawyers Collective and its founding members Anand Grover and Indira Jaising on a plea by the CBI challenging the Bombay High Court order granting protection from coercive action against them in an alleged Foreign Contribution Act violation case.

A bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Aniruddha Bose and Krishna Murari issued notice to the senior lawyers and the NGO. The top court also refused to stay the Bombay High Court order.

The CBI had registered a case against Grover and the NGO over alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA) in the use of foreign funds received by Lawyers Collective.

The probe agency contended that the High Court had neither rendered any finding as to how the First Information Report or FIR registered against the accused parties was “unsustainable and bad in law” nor referred to any finding as to how the continuance of the investigation against the accused would be contrary to law.

Grover and Indira Jaising had approached the High Court in July seeking the FIR registered by the CBI against the NGO and them in June be set aside. The CBI registered the FIR following a complaint by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in May alleging violation of FCRA provisions.

While the FIR did not name Indira Jaising as an accused, the MHA complaint, which is part of the FIR, mentioned her name and made specific allegations against her.

The CBI alleged that the NGO received foreign funds between 2009 and 2015, but failed to disclose a major part of it. It said that Grover and Jaising used foreign funds for “personal benefits.”

According to the MHA complaint, during her tenure as Additional Solicitor General, Indira Jaising continued to draw remuneration from the NGO, the CBI said, adding that this came from foreign contributions received.

The petitioners also pointed out that the MHA complaint was based on an inspection report from 2016 that had pointed out a single violation of non-disclosure under the FCRA.

At the time, following the inspection report, the MHA had issued an order cancelling the registration of Lawyers Collective for receiving foreign funds.

This cancellation order was challenged in the High Court by the NGO in 2017, and is currently pending before a single judge, the petitioners said.

While granting interim relief, the division bench took note of the petitioners’ submission that the CBI’s act of filing an FIR on the basis of a two-and-a-half-year-old report, when the matter had reached the court, was questionable.

This is an attempt to stifle the voice of Human Rights lawyers, using an alleged violation of the Foreign Contribution Act.
Man in Blue

Foreign Funds case: SC asks Indira Jaising, Anand Grover to reply