The Hindustan Times – Hindutva mobs flex muscles against Muslims. Sikhs, Christians should speak up before it’s too late

India’s religious minorities have always been suspicious of Hindutva, aware that one day they could be on the receiving end of its intolerance. That day is arriving faster than they realise.

Sunny Hundal

29 April 2017. As right wing forces flex their Hindutva muscles and use them against Muslims across the country, Sikhs and Christians will be watching in worry. But the time for them to speak out is now, not when the mob comes for them. By then it will be too late.

Sikhs know this better than any other religious minority in India. The state-directed genocide in 1984 showed that Indian politicians rarely face charges for stirring up hatred against non-Hindus. But what is at stake here for Sikhs isn’t just their own safety but the protection of an important principle.

If you are born into a Sikh family, like myself, chances are you have been taught about the sacrifice of Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji. In 1675 a group of fearful Hindu pundits approached the Guru to ask for his help against the Mughal king Aurangzeb, who wanted to forcibly convert them to Islam.

The Guru had a challenge for the king. If he could convert him to Islam then the Kashmiri pandits would follow. But, of course, Aurangzeb was unsuccessful and Guru Tegh Bahadur paid for his principles with his life.

The ninth Guru of the Sikhs wasn’t taking the side of Hindus against Muslims, he died to defend the right to practice religion without intimidation. But his sacrifice was more than just a lesson for Sikhs, it was also an example. Guru Tegh Bahadur wanted Sikhs to protect others from such intimidation too.

This is why the growing number of incidents of violent cow-vigilantism should matter to Sikhs, Christians and other minorities. While many Hindus pretend that Muslims are being targeted only for violating the law and ignoring their sentiments, it is clear this is a lie.

In numerous cases, Muslims have been murdered merely on a vague suspicion of eating beef or transporting cows, without evidence. Hindus caught committing the same crime have been let go.

Cows should be protected through democratic means, not mob justice. This is no better than Pakistanis murdering Hindus on suspicion of ‘blasphemy’. In headlines around the world, Indian politicians are seen as caring more for the safety of cows than women.

Of course Hindus have the right to worship the cow and protect it from harm if they believe it is holy. And as a vegetarian, I also believe eating meat is wrong (as do many Sikhs). So in principle I actually agree with the gau-rakshaks.

But this is no more than a campaign of hate and intimidation against a religious group. This is Hindutva’s way of striking at Pakistan. The cow vigilantes hate Aurangzeb and all he stood for, but they have become him.

Sikhs, Christians and others should see it as a warning. The Hindutva movement needs to keep creating controversies to polarise the nation. Like a parasite it will grow by consuming its victim and then moving to the next one.

A famous European quote comes to mind. After the Second World War a German priest spoke of his regret in not opposing Hitler earlier. He wrote: “First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out, because I was not a Socialist.” Then they came for the Trade Unionists and the same happened. Then the Jews. “Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”

India’s religious minorities have always been suspicious of Hindutva, aware that one day they could be on the receiving end of its intolerance. That day is arriving faster than they realise.

Sunny Hundal is a writer and lecturer on digital journalism based in London

The views expressed are personal – Pardon to Sirsa Chief: Sukhbir Badal Denies Allegations by Giani Gurmukh Singh

Sikh24 Editors

Amrtitsar Sahib-Panjab-India, 29 April 2017. Former Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Badal on April 28 paid visit to the sanctum sanctorum Sri Harmandr Sahib along with his wife Harsimrat Badal. He was accompanied by his security personnel.

Interacting with media after paying obeisance at Sri Darbar Sahib, Sukhbir Badal refuted the allegations leveled by former Jathedar of Takht Sri Damdama Sahib Giani Gurmukh Singh of compelling the Takht Jathedars to grant pardon to Sirsa cult chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim.

He said that he never interfered in SGPC or religious affairs of the Sikhs affairs.

Taking on the Congress led Punjab government for failing in delivering onto pre-poll promises, Sukhbir Badal said that the Congress was monopolising the liquor and grain trade in Punjab by overpowering their legislators. He claimed that the law and order situation in Punjab was deteriorating day by day in Punjab.

Sukhbir further said that the Congress had made promise to the Punjab masses of waiving farmers’ debts, raising old age pension to Rs. 2,000 and government job in every household in its poll manifesto but the government has still not fulfilled even a single promise.

Sukhbir Badal taunted that the Congress leaders were behaving like a starved lions who cross every line to satisfy their appetite. He said that the Congress leaders were looting Punjab like they were sure that they will not get back to power later.

Dawn – Why they lynched Mashal Khan

Pervez Hoodbhoy

Op/Ed, 29 April 2017. The mental state of men ready and poised to kill has long fascinated scientists. The Nobel Prize winning ethologist, Konrad Lorenz, says such persons experience the ‘Holy Shiver’ (called heiliger Schauer in German) just moments before performing the deed.

In his famous book On Aggression, Lorenz describes it as a tingling of the spine prior to performing a heroic act in defence of their communities.

This feeling, he says, is akin to the pre-human reflex that raises hair on an animal’s back as it zeroes in for the kill. He writes: “A shiver runs down the back and along the outside of both arms.

All obstacles become unimportant … instinctive inhibitions against hurting or killing disappear … Men enjoy the feeling of absolute righteousness even as they commit atrocities.”

While they stripped naked and beat their colleague Mashal Khan with sticks and bricks, the 20-25 students of the Mardan university enjoyed precisely this feeling of righteousness. They said Khan had posted content disrespectful of Islam on his Facebook page and so they took it upon themselves to punish him.

Finally, one student took out his pistol and shot him dead. Hundreds of others watched approvingly and, with their smartphone cameras, video-recorded the killing for distribution on their Facebook pages. A meeting of this self-congratulatory group resolved to hide the identity of the shooter.

Much of the Pakistani public, tacitly or openly, endorses violent punishment of suspected blasphemers.

Khan had blasphemed! Until this was finally shown to be false, no proper funeral was possible in his home village. Sympathy messages from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition leaders such as Bilawal Bhutto came only after it had been established that Khan performed namaz fairly regularly.

Significantly, no protests of significance followed. University campuses were silent and meetings discussing the murder were disallowed. A demonstration at the Islamabad Press Club drew about 450, a miniscule figure against the estimated 200,000 who attended Mumtaz Qadri’s last rites.

This suggests that much of the Pakistani public, whether tacitly or openly, endorses violent punishment of suspected blasphemers. Why? How did so many Pakistanis become bloodthirsty vigilantes? Evening TV talk shows, at least those I have either seen or participated in, circle around two basic explanations.

One, favoured by the liberal-minded, blames the blasphemy law and implicitly demands its repeal (an explicit call would endanger one’s life). The other, voiced by the religiously orthodox, says vigilantism occurs only because our courts act too slowly against accused blasphemers.

Both claims are not just wrong, they are farcical. Subsequent to Khan’s killing, at least two other incidents show that gut reactions, not what some law says, is really what counts. In one, three armed burqa-clad sisters shot dead a man near Sialkot who had been accused of committing blasphemy 13 years ago.

In the other, a visibly mentally ill man in Chitral uttered remarks inside a mosque and escaped lynching only upon the imam’s intervention. The mob subsequently burned the imam’s car. Heiliger Schauer!

While searching for a real explanation, let’s first note that religiously charged mobs are also in motion across the border. As more people flock to mandirs or masjids, the outcomes are strikingly similar.

In an India that is now rapidly Hinduising, crowds are cheering enraged gau rakshaks who smash the skulls of Muslims suspected of consuming or transporting cows. In fact India has its own Khan, Pehlu Khan.

Accused of cattle-smuggling, Pehlu Khan was lynched and killed by cow vigilantes earlier this month before a cheering crowd in Alwar, with the episode also video-recorded.

Minister Gulab Chand Kataria declared that Khan belonged to a family of cow smugglers and he had no reason to feel sorry. Now that cow slaughter has been hyped as the most heinous of crimes, no law passed in India can reverse vigilantism.

Vigilantism is best explained by evolutionary biology and sociology. A fundamental principle there says only actions and thoughts that help strengthen group identity are well received, others are not. In common with our ape ancestors, we humans instinctively band together in groups because strength lies in unity.

The benefits of group membership are immense, access to social networks, enhanced trust, recognition, etc. Of course, as in a club, membership carries a price tag. Punishing cow-eaters or blasphemers (even alleged ones will do) can be part payment.

You become a real hero by slaying a villain, ie someone who challenges your group’s ethos. Your membership dues are also payable by defending or eulogising heroes.

Celebration of such ‘heroes’ precedes Qadri. The 19-year old illiterate who killed Raj Pal, the Hindu publisher of a controversial book on the Prophet (PBUH), was subsequently executed by the British but the youth was held in the highest esteem.

Ghazi Ilm Din is venerated by a mausoleum over his grave in Lahore. An 8th grade KP textbook chapter eulogising him tells us that Ilm Din’s body remained fresh days after the execution.

In recent times, backed by the formidable power of the state, Hindu India and Islamic Pakistan have vigorously injected religion into both politics and society. The result is their rapid re-tribalisation through ‘meme transmission’ of primal values.

A concept invented by the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, the meme is a ‘piece of thought’ transferrable from person to person by imitation. Like computer viruses, memes can jump from mind to mind.

Memes containing notions of religious or cultural superiority have been ‘cut-and-pasted’ into millions of young minds. Consequently, more than ever before, today’s youth uncritically accepts the inherent morality of their particular group, engages in self-censorship, rationalises the group’s decisions, and engages in moral policing.

Groupthink and deadly memes caused the lynching and murder of the two Khans. Is a defence against such viral afflictions ever possible? Can the subcontinent move away from its barbaric present to a civilised future? One can so hope. After all, like fleas, memes and thought packages can jump from person to person.

But they don’t bite everybody! A robust defence can be built by educating people into the spirit of critical inquiry, helping them become individuals rather than groupies, and encouraging them to introspect. A sense of humour, and maybe poetry, would also help.

The writer teaches physics in Lahore and Islamabad.

The Indian Express – Supreme Court advice to Centre, Valley protesters: Take two steps back, talk

A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar also remarked that it would be appropriate if “both sides take two steps back” and “address core issues”.

An important core issue is the future relationship between India and Jammu & Kashmir
If this cannot be discussed discussions are useless
Man in Blue

Utkarsh Anand

New Delhi, 29 April 2017. The Supreme Court Friday observed that peace will perhaps remain elusive in the Kashmir Valley if issues of “secession” are raised while stones are pelted, and schools and colleges remain shut.

A bench led by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar also remarked that it would be appropriate if “both sides take two steps back” and “address core issues”.

“If you keep throwing stones, and close schools and colleges, how will talks happen? You first talk. But if you are suggesting secession, nothing will happen. Talks have to be within the framework of the Constitution,” remarked the bench, also comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul.

The bench said that “one cannot clap without both hands” and that it could issue some orders, including suspension of use of pellet guns by the armed forces, if the J&K Bar Association could make sure there would not be any violent protests nor would harm be caused to anyone through stone-pelting.

The court asked the Bar Association to take “one positive step” to defuse the crisis. “The students must return to schools and colleges as education can empower them,” observed the bench.

Meanwhile, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi ruled out any dialogue between the central government and separatists raising issues of “Azadi” and “secession” in the Valley.

He submitted that the government was firm that it would speak only to legally recognised stakeholders and not those who call elections as state terrorism.

On being asked by the bench as to what could bring peace in the Valley, the AG said that it was not possible to withdraw security forces or tie their hands since national security was at stake in the border state.

“The government would come to the negotiation table only if legally recognised stakeholders participate in the dialogue and not with the separatist elements who rake up the issue of accession or Azadi in Kashmir,” he said.

The law officer was responding to a demand raised by the Jammu and Kashmir Bar Association to prohibit the use of pellet guns in the Valley.

Rohatgi objected strongly to an argument made by the counsel for the Bar that the government was not holding talks with Hurriyat leaders, who were detained perpetually.

“What is going on? Bar is talking about Geelani and separatists? They have said it ten times while arguing that we should release them. I am making it very clear that the government would absolutely not entertain into any talks of ‘Azadi’ with these leaders,” he said.

Rohatgi also reproached the Bar for terming the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India as “controversial” and elections in the state as “rigged”.

At this, the bench asked the Bar members to play a crucial role and suggest who could talk with stakeholders in the state and the central governments to chalk out the way forward.

“This is (going to create) history. You can play a role and you will be remembered for times to come,” the bench told the counsel for the Bar as it fixed May 9 as the next date of hearing.

Supreme Court advice to Centre, Valley protesters: Take two steps back, talk

The Tribune – NRI ‘thrashed, shot at’ by girlfriend’s father in Sirhind

Our Correspondent

Fatehgarh Sahib, 28 April 2017. An NRI was allegedly shot at by his girlfriend’s father at the latter’s residence in Sirhind today.

Germany-based Gurjit Singh (26), a resident of Pathan Majra, Patiala, sustained a bullet injury in the thigh. He was admitted to the Civil Hospital here and later referred to Rajindra Hospital, Patiala.

Gurjit said he was having an affair with Sukhpreet Kaur for the past seven years and had transferred Rs 8 lakh into her bank account.

He wanted to marry her, but her family members were against the match.

The NRI said he was called by the girl to her residence today to resolve the matter, but her father beat him up and fired at him. He said the girl’s family called the police and accused him of trespass. Cops admitted him to the hospital.

Sukhpreet’s family alleged that Gurjit had been harassing her on the phone since long and had recently uploaded her objectionable photos on social media. They had filed a complaint with the police, following which Gurjit and his brother Harsimran were booked under Section 66-A of the IT Act and Sections 354D and 384 of the IPC on April 18.

They alleged that he entered their house this morning, wielding an iron rod, and tried to force the girl to accompany him. Her father opened fire in self-defence, the family claimed.

Alka Meena, SSP, said a case had been registered against Gurjit under Section 452 (trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint) of the IPC on the complaint of the girl’s family. She said the police had also received a complaint from Gurjit’s family. “We are investigating the matter,” the SSP added.

The Hindu – Dhingra report leak an act of vendetta: Congress

Party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi cites two Punjab and Haryana High Court injunctions against publication

Special Correspondent

New Delhi, 28 April 2017. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi on Friday accused the central government of leaking the Dhingra Commission report, saying it was “blinded by power and steeped in vendetta.”

News reports based on the Justice S N. Dhingra report accuse former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra of wrongdoing in land deals in Haryana.

Mr Singhvi pointed out that as Mr Vadra had not received any summons from the Dhingra Commission to depose before it, he could not be accused of anything till his personal testimony had been taken.

In the case of Mr Hooda, he said, that though the latter had received letters from the Commission, none of them was an 8(b) notice, as is legally mandated. In fact, when Mr Hooda pointed out all this to the Commission, it had responded by saying it would not be sending an 8(b) notice.

He said there were two court injunctions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, dated November 23, 2016 and April 26, 2017, blocking publication of the contents of the Dhingra report. “These are selective opportunistic leaks,” he stressed.

According to a news report published in The Economics Times, the Dhingra Commission is said to have concluded that Mr Vadra had made unlawful profits of Rs 50.5 crore from a land deal in Haryana in 2008.

The Commission was set up by the Khattar government in May 2015 to look into the grant of licences for change in land use in four villages of Gurgaon, including the licence granted to the Vadra-owned Skylight Hospitality.

The Statesman – India hopes Pakistan expedites visas for Jadhav’s parents; seeks his health certificate

Statesman News Service

New Delhi, 27 April 2017. India on Thursday stuck to its position that Kulbhushan Jadhav had been awarded death sentence by a Pakistan military court on ‘baseless’ charges while Islamabad claimed that the former Indian Navy officer had been tried for espionage in a ‘transparent manner’ in accordance with the law of the land.

Amid anxiety in India about the well-being and whereabouts of Jadhav, MEA spokesperson Gopal Baglay hoped at a media briefing that Pakistan would grant visas to Jadhav’s parents so that they could go to the neighbouring country and follow with the authorities the petition by his mother seeking the Pakistan Government’s intervention for his release and the appeal to be filed to the appellate court to initiate the process to get his conviction overturned.

The spokesperson said the visa applications of Jadhav’s parents needed to be expedited so that they could take further steps to secure justice for him. In response to a question, he said India awaited Pakistan’s response on his parents’ request.

The petition and the appeal on behalf of Jadhav’s mother were handed over by Indian High Commissioner Gautam Bambawale to Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad on Wednesday since he has 40 days’ time to go in appeal as per the law of Pakistan.

On Pakistan’s contention that Jadhav’s trial was fair and transparent, the spokesperson said India had not been officially informed anything about it. India was not aware who defended him before the military court or if he was provided a lawyer at all.

Jadhav’s health was causing great concern to the entire country since he had been in the ‘illegal’ custody of the Pakistani authorities for over a year now. India had also sought his medical certificate from the Pakistani authorities.

The spokesperson said the government and Jadhav’s family would explore every option available to secure justice for him.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said the military court’s ruling in Jadhav’s case was based on specific evidence and the trial was conducted in a transparent manner.

Dawn – Muzzling Kashmiris

On Wednesday, India aligned itself with the likes of some of the most repressive regimes in the world.

Op/Ed, 28 April 2017. Faced with escalating violence in India-held Kashmir, the local government, a coalition of the PDP and BJP, banned social media networking sites, including Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp, for one month “or until further notice” in the valley.

The ‘justification’ given for the move was that the services were “being misused by anti-national and anti-social elements” and that they were being suspended “in the interest of maintenance of public order”.

There is no mystery as to what has triggered this ban: a number of shocking videos and photographs have emerged in recent weeks showing Indian soldiers inflicting brutality and humiliation on the local population.

Young boys armed with nothing more than stones being shot, beaten and kicked, and perhaps the most widely circulated video of all, that of Farooq Dar, a young shawl-weaver tied to the hood of an army jeep as a human shield from stone-pelting locals while it patrolled Kashmiri villages on voting day.

India is using the oldest, and most feeble, pretext in the book, maintenance of public order, to suppress public dissent. This is not how a country that markets itself as “the world’s biggest democracy” behaves. This is how undemocratic states such as Saudi Arabia, China and Egypt wield control over their people.

As is the case in most rebellions, the protests roiling Kashmir are driven largely by the youth, the demographic that is most active on social media.

Burhan Wani, the young separatist leader whose assassination last year in July triggered the ongoing wave of unrest in the valley, also used such sites, an effective tool for organising mass uprisings and street agitation, to mobilise his fellow Kashmiris towards joining the resistance.

India has already done its utmost to prevent the issue from being internationalised by refusing the UN access to the area to investigate the excessive use of force by security personnel. The rights violations have become so egregious that respected voices in India itself are speaking out against them.

Instead of trying to address the underlying causes of the turmoil and growing disaffection, the state of India is now trying to further muzzle the people’s narrative, and seal off the valley from the outside world. It will not work.

As many other countries have discovered before, a people’s cry for justice cannot be silenced. The Kashmiris’ desperation will find a way out.

The Hindu – J&K suspends 22 social media sites

Peerzada Ashiq

Srinagar, 26 April 2017. With students’ protests and unrest showing no signs of letting up for second consecutive week in the Valley, the Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday decided to suspend 22 social networking websites and applications, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and WhatsAap, in Kashmir.

Invoking the Indian Telegraph Act 1885, the government said the ban will remain in force for at least one month.

According to State Home department, headed by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the internet service providers in Kashmir Valley have been directed “to stop transmitting any content on 22 social networking sites.”

“Over a period of time, an increasing trend was witnessed regarding the misuse of social media by the elements inimical to public order and tranquillity, thereby impinging on public safety, particularly in the Kashmir Valley,” reads the order issued by the home department.

Disturbed peace

Such elements, according to the Home department, were “transmitting objectionable contents to spread disaffection amongst the public against the State administration and security forces with a view to incite them to commit various offences at a large scale, causing damage to life and property and disturb peace and tranquility.”

It claimed these elements “extensively misused social media sites and instant messaging services for vitiating peace and instigating violence” during the 2016 unrest.

The ban comes at a time when several videos of rights abuse and of local militants were doing the rounds on the social media. Several students protests were also streamed live on the social media.

Ban opposed

The move, however, has come under severe criticism from several political parties and stakeholdersin the tourism sector.

“The ban denies people necessary access to prospective tourists. How will customers contact hotels and tour operators? It will ruin our business,” said Mushtaq Pahalgami, a hotel owner at Pahalgam.

National Conference (NC) president and recently-elected Member of Parliament from Srinagar Dr Farooq Abdullah said the communication blockade “would play havoc with the state’s economy and in turn, render thousands of youth unemployed.”

“The PDP-BJP Government is not only suppressing the people of the State through brute force but also persecuting them economically. The continued blockade of internet will seriously affect businesses and especially youth-oriented start-ups in the e-commerce sector,” said Dr. Abdullah.

Fresh clashes

Students on Wednesday again clashed with security forces in parts of Kashmir Valley. Around 13 students were injured.

Protesting against alleged “high-handedness of security forces against the student community”, fresh clashes led to closure of schools and colleges in Pulwama, Bandipora, Chadoora, Ganderbal and Shopian.

The students were protesting against an alleged police raid on Government Degree College Pulwama on April 15, which left over 50 students injured.

Last week, the authorities suspended the class work for a week after violent protests left over 50 students injured. There were fresh protests on Monday.

The PDP – BJP government takes action, but does not tackle the causes of the unrest
Man in Blue

The Times of India – EC bribery case: After 4 days of questioning, AIADMK leader T T V Dhinakaran arrested

New Delhi, 26 April 2017. Dhinakaran was called today for questioning at 5pm at the Crime Branch Inter State Cell office in Chanakyapuri and was arrested around midnight, Praveer Ranjan, joint commissioner of police (crime), said.

His longtime friend Mallikarjuna has also been arrested after being quizzed for the second day on the trot, he said.

Mallikarjuna had been accompanying Dhinakaran everywhere ever since Sukesh Chandrsekar, the middleman in the EC bribery case, was arrested, police said.

Dhinakaran had on Monday confessed to meeting Chandrsekar, assuming he was a high court judge.