The Print – Netaji’s grandnephew Chandra Bose dropped as Bengal BJP V-P for ‘speaking up against CAA’

Chandra Kumar Bose says Modi a tall leader but BJP has become a machine to win polls, topple governments.
Bengal BJP says he was dropped with 2021 elections in mind.

Madhuparna Das

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 02 June 2020. Bose had been vocal against the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by Narendra Modi’s government, and wrote multiple letters to the PM and Home Minister Amit Shah to offer citizenship to all persecuted communities from neighbouring countries, and not isolating Muslims to be kept out.

Speaking to ThePrint, Bose said he was dropped as an office-bearer for “going against the party line” on the CAA, but the BJP leadership said that he was politically “irrelevant” and “embarrassing the party routinely”. However, he remains a member of the party.

Bose said he was not consulted before being shunted out, nor was the decision communicated to him personally. He had attended a video conference with central leaders 10 days ago, after Cyclone Amphan struck Bengal, and said he received no indications that he would be dropped.

On speaking out against the CAA, Bose said he would always prefer to have faith in his ideology than blindly following the party line.

“Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a tall leader, but the party that has spread too much everywhere now, and has just become a machine to win elections and topple governments. They are not looking at issues sensitively,” he said.

“How can they segregate Muslims like this? What kind of politics is that? If the whole country erupted in protest, including all the universities, IIMs and IITs, there is something really wrong.

It needs to be addressed. But it seems my suggestions did not go down well with the central leaders,” said the 59-year-old information technology entrepreneur.

Bose alleged that he received no response to his letters, which is when he chose to speak to the media about his opinions and also opened up on social media.

“My point was simple. I just requested the government to drop the names of religions and maintain that citizenship would be given to all persecuted communities.

Anyway, not many Muslims from Pakistan would seek citizenship here. There was no need to identify and isolate one particular community,” Bose said.

“This is the same as Mamata Banerjee polarising people and practising vote-bank politics. Everyone does that, including the Congress. I joined the BJP to work on inclusive growth of people, and I made it clear to Modiji and Shahji.

BJP ideology is opposite to Netaji’s

Bose was pragmatic about why the BJP took him into its fold and made him its state vice-president.

“The BJP is just a platform for me. I never had any political background. Why did they induct me in the first place?

It was not me they inducted; it was Netaji’s lineage. So, now, it is not an insult to me but to Netaji,” he said, but ruled out quitting the BJP immediately.

“It is the party’s decision, and I have accepted it. I will try to meet Modiji and Shahji. Modiji has done a lot for Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose.

But he also needs to understand that only building statues and naming institutes after him does not serve the purpose of paying tribute to his sacrifices,” Bose said.

“They need to follow his ideology too, and the BJP’s ideology is diametrically opposite to his. Just using Netaji’s name cannot win them elections, they need to address issues.

Just badmouthing Mamata Banerjee will not earn them people’s faith, they need to highlight what good we have done for the people,” he added.

Family name doesn’t matter, nobody above the party

The state leadership of the BJP, meanwhile, seems to have no difference of opinion on dropping Bose as vice-president.

And speaking to ThePrint, Bengal BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said while he had taken note of Bose’s dissension, he insisted the decision was based on who could help the BJP win the 2021 elections.

“I know he had been making comments against the party and its decisions, but I do not want to say (that was the reason for his ouster).

The party has given positions to those it needs for winning the 2021 assembly elections. There are many people who were shuffled. We will give them other important tasks according to requirements,” Ghosh said.

Asked about the optics of dropping a member of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s family, Ghosh stated: “Families do not matter to the BJP, work does. Family matters in the Congress; we do not believe in such things.”

A vice-president of the BJP who spoke anonymously added: “Chandra Bose was not adhering to party rules for long.

At a time when Amit Shahji says that we will give our lives for the CAA, he was going on commenting against the legislation.”

The vice-president further added: “Nobody takes him seriously in the party. He never worked in the field. Following Netaji’s ideology does not mean wearing his uniform once in a year and chanting ‘Jai Hind’ slogans.

“Netaji never spoke of secularism; it was brought by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s. All these statements he is making, do not make sense.

He has become politically irrelevant. Holding an important position, he had been routinely embarrassing the party. The BJP is a regimented party. Nobody is above the party here.”

The Print – ‘Never seen such devastation before’: CM Mamata Banerjee says Amphan has completely destroyed Bengal

Cyclone Amphan causes massive destruction across at least 7 districts. Twelve dead, damage to public property pegged at over Rs 1 lakh crore. CM Mamata has urged Modi government for help.

Madhuparna Das

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 21 May 2020. Cyclone Amphan Wednesday ravaged several parts of West Bengal, including capital Kolkata, killing at least 12 people. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said she had never seen in her lifetime this level of devastation as she requested the Narendra Modi government at the Centre for “help”.

In a live video session hours after the cyclone made landfall and affected at least seven districts, the CM said she was “shocked” to see such a massive disaster. She stressed the cyclone’s “unexpected scale” several times during the session.

Banerjee said 99 per cent of South 24 Parganas district has been wiped out, adding several structures of the newly-constructed secretariat building have been damaged too. Among the 10-12 killed was a 13-year-old girl, said the CM.

However, the casualty figure will be much higher in districts, especially in the coastal areas, said a senior official, who didn’t wish to be named, adding that details about the loss of lives are being ascertained. The communication channels were lost and information was not reaching the state secretariat, the official added.

The extent of damage, particularly the loss of public property, is over Rs 1 lakh crore, Banerjee said at the state secretariat, Nabanna. “I would urge the Centre to help us out and refrain from doing politics.

We were suffering from an economic meltdown following the outbreak, and somehow dealing with the reverse migration. With the cyclone, the state is now completely destroyed.”

She camped at Nabanna Wednesday night, as did all senior officials. Banerjee said many more people would have lost their lives had the government not evacuated nearly 5 lakh people in the last two days. She requested the villagers not to leave the relief camps now.

The government had earlier opened a control room with two dedicated numbers to help people “fight Amphan”.

‘Damage worse than coronavirus crisis’

The situation in West Bengal is “grim” and Cyclone Amphan has caused “unthinkable damage” across some south Bengal districts including Kolkata, the CM said. “It is a devastation I have not seen in my life. Nearly 99 per cent of South 24 Parganas, one of the districts where the cyclone hit, has been wiped out. The damage to the state is worse than that it suffered due to coronavirus,” she said.

“Communication across districts has been cut-off. Roads and bridges have been destroyed. Administration needs to reach those places. However, no communication is possible now. It will take at least 4 to 5 days for the government to understand the extent of damage and estimate the cost,” said Banerjee.

“We repaired the embankments and the bridges in South and North 24 Parganas districts just six months back, after Cyclone Bulbul hit us. Now we have to rebuild again. This time, the cyclone did not touch Odisha, and our Bangla is bearing the brunt,” she said.

Kolkata battered

Cyclone Amphan, which was initially classified as a ‘super’ cyclone but downgraded to ‘extremely serious’ later, destroyed several parts of West Bengal, with the state capital among the worst hit.

At least 1,000-odd trees got uprooted across different thoroughfares and in localities, causing immense damage. At least two people have been confirmed dead, a wall collapsed on a woman and her son in south Kolkata. In Howrah, a 13-year-old girl died after a portion of a house fell on her. A middle aged woman was killed in North 24 Parganas as a flying object hit her fatally.

Large parts of the city are still in dark as many transformers exploded during the storm surge. Most of Kolkata remains heavily inundated as the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) struggles to pump the water out.

“We have all our units working. There are at least 36 teams present in KMC, while all boroughs have separate teams. It is a damage that looks manageable now. (But) It will take time,” said Deputy Mayor Atin Ghosh.

Around early evening Wednesday, the city witnessed wind speeds of close to 130 kmph, which later went down to 105 kmph. Heavy-to-very-heavy rainfall led to waterlogging across many localities, said a senior official of the meteorological department.

Power outages too were reported from across the city.

According to weather experts, this is one of the major cyclonic storms to have passed through Kolkata in decades. The last time the city was majorly affected by a cyclone was when it was hit by the “the tail” of Aila in 2009. During last year’s Cyclone Bulbul, the city escaped any major damage.

‘Never seen such devastation before’: CM Mamata says Amphan has completely destroyed Bengal

The Telegraph – On pogroms

How the night of broken glass was planned and executed
Kristallnacht 09/10 November 1938

Samantak Das

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 28 February 2020. At about 9:45 on the morning of Monday, 07 November 1938, 17-year-old Herschel Feibel Grynszpan, a stateless, unemployed Jewish refugee, living in Paris with his uncle under the perpetual fear of arrest, walked into the German embassy on 78, Rue de Lille, in the fashionable Seventh Arrondissement, and asked to meet the German ambassador to France to whom, he said, he had to hand over an important document.

Since the ambassador had just gone out for his morning constitutional, the duty clerk asked Grynszpan to meet the relatively junior diplomat, Ernst von Rath, instead.

Grynszpan walked into Rath’s office, called him a “filthy Boche”, pulled out a revolver he had bought earlier that morning, and shot him five times in the stomach to, as he had written in a postcard to his parents that was found in his pocket, protest against, and bring to the world’s notice, Nazi Germany’s persecution of 12,000 Jews.

He made no attempt to escape when the police came for him. The German Führer, Adolf Hitler, sent his personal physician, Karl Brandt, to tend to the grievously wounded Rath, who, in spite of the best efforts of German and French doctors, died two days later.

News of Rath’s death reached Hitler in Munich, where he was celebrating the 15th anniversary of the abortive Beer Hall Putsch, along with other functionaries of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, better known as the Nazi Party, among whom were present the minister of propaganda, Paul Joseph Goebbels, and the Gestapo chief, Heinrich Müller.

After discussing matters with Hitler, Goebbels made a fiery speech to a group of veteran stormtroopers, urging them to avenge Grynszpan’s hideous act in the guise of “spontaneous demonstrations”; telephone calls were made across Germany asking for many more such “spontaneous” actions to take place against Jews.

Later, shortly before midnight on November 9, Müller sent a telegram to all police units across Germany telling them that “in shortest order, actions against Jews and especially their synagogues will take place in all of Germany. These are not to be interfered with”.

Between then and the following day, November 10, 1938, hundreds of synagogues were severely damaged or totally destroyed; about 7,500 Jewish businesses ransacked, looted, and/or burnt; at least 91, possibly more, Jews murdered; and an uncountable number of Jewish homes, hospitals, schools, cemeteries, and so on attacked.

The perpetrators were often the neighbours of those they killed, looted, attacked, or harmed in other ways. Obedient to the orders of their boss, Gestapo chief Müller, the police arrested some 30,000 Jewish men between the ages of 16 and 60; to accommodate them, facilities at the concentration camps of Dachau, Buchenwald, and Sachsenhausen were expanded.

When synagogues were put to the torch, firemen stood by, following explicit instructions not to interfere unless, of course, neighbouring “Aryan” buildings were threatened.

The night of November 9-10, 1938, has earned a permanent place in the history of human infamy as “Kristallnacht”, (literally “crystal night”, sometimes rendered as “night of broken glass”), referring to the millions of shards of shattered glass that littered the streets where Jewish homes, schools, synagogues, shops, buildings, and so on had been damaged or destroyed.

Kristallnacht, also known as “Pogromnacht” or “the November Pogrom”, is generally acknowledged as the first pogrom in Nazi Germany.

The online Encyclopaedia Britannica tells us that the word “pogrom”, which came into English from Russian via Yiddish, originally meant “devastation” or “riot” and was “usually applied to attacks on Jews in the Russian Empire in the late 19th and early 20th centuries”; it is now used to describe “a mob attack, either approved or condoned by authorities, against the persons and property of a religious, racial, or national minority”.

It is possible to argue that Kristallnacht gave birth to a new kind of pogrom, which was both a culmination of events (sporadic attacks on, and sustained propaganda against, Jews, accompanied by the passing of anti-Jewish laws by the German State) as well as the inspiration for a new cycle of ruthless anti-Jewish measures (fining the Jewish community for the damage caused by the events of Kristallnacht, preventing German Jews from claiming insurance, barring them from theatres, making Jews travel in separate train compartments, and so on) leading to the formulation of the “final solution”, the total extermination of all Jews from the face of the earth.

The modern pogrom is thus both an end and a beginning: the end of a cycle of relatively minor attacks on a targeted community (which may be physical as well as otherwise), and the beginning of a new, State-sanctioned and sponsored, and efficiently discharged, series of violent assaults (accompanied by legislative measures to hinder or wholly prevent any kind of remedial action), often culminating in genocide.

It is worth noting a few other features of modern pogroms.

First, the sustained demonizing of the targeted minority community, and the labelling of members of that community as posing a threat to the integrity and identity of the majority community (which is often conflated with the identity and integrity of the nation); such demonizing is carried out over a significant span of time by a variety of actors, both State and non-state, using various channels and forms of communication before, during, and after, the actual physical assaults on persons and property belonging to the targeted community.

Second, the naming and shaming of those members of the majority community who challenge, protest against, or question the need for, the violence unleashed on the targeted community, and, often, the social and/or professional ostracization of such individuals, which might include the enactment of laws, rules, or regulations banning such protests or challenges; if such protesting individuals are government functionaries, they may be transferred, suspended, prosecuted, or, in extreme cases, imprisoned.

Third, the support of the State, either through silence, inaction, overt or covert incitement to violence, and, perhaps most importantly, the labelling of violence against the targeted community as spontaneous retaliation against acts committed by a member or members of the minority community (see the story of Herschel Grynszpan recounted earlier), beyond the best efforts of the State to control it.

Fourth, the deployment of what the noted political scientist and long-time scholar of India, Paul Richard Brass, calls “diversionary tactics” which, in his words “are essential to the production and reproduction” of “mass collective violence”.

The process of diversion begins, Brass reminds us, with mislabelling, where a more extreme form of violence is labelled, either by its perpetrators, or supporters, or even scholars, as a lesser form. “Pogromists insist that the violence that has just occurred is nothing more than a riot.

Genocidal acts are labelled by their perpetrators as merely spontaneous revenge and retaliation by justly and excusably outraged members of a group, acting spontaneously against an ‘other’ group whose members have misbehaved.”

Finally, when a pogrom is underway, the silence of those who are at some distance from it, whether physical, intellectual, or emotional, and who refuse to take cognizance of the action and the discourse around it becomes complicit in the downplaying, and ultimate justification, of such violence. A pogrom, which some might insist is nothing more than an ordinary riot, can quite easily turn into genocide.

The author is professor of Comparative Literature, Jadavpur University, and has been working as a volunteer for a rural development NGO for the last 30 years.

The Telegraph – States can’t say no to CAA but can go against NRC, NPR: Shashi Tharoor

He said that states have hardly any role in granting citizenship as it is given by the federal government

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 23 January 2020. Senior Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said that bringing in resolutions against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is more of a “political gesture” by the states as they hardly have any role in granting citizenships.

In an interview to PTI, the lawmaker said that in the implementation of the National Population Register (NPR) and the proposed nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC), the states will play a vital part as it will be their officials who will conduct the exercise because the Centre doesn’t have the required manpower.

“That’s more of a political gesture. The citizenship is given by the federal government only and obviously no states can give citizenship, so it has nothing for them to implement or not implement,” Tharoor said.

“They (the states) can pass a resolution or go to the court but in practice what can they do? The state governments can’t say they won’t implement CAA, what they can say is they will not implement NPR-NRC as they will have a crucial role in it,” he added.

Tharoor’s party colleague Kapil Sibal raised a storm last week by saying there is no way a state can deny the implementation of the CAA when it has already been passed by Parliament. Later, he termed it “unconstitutional” and clarified there was no change in his stance.

Panjab, where the Congress is in power, passed a resolution against the CAA last week. It also supported a similar move by the Left government in Kerala. In West Bengal as well, Tharoor’s party has been demanding an anti-CAA resolution, which will be brought in by Mamata Banerjee’s government on January 27.

The Congress has hinted that it may pass similar resolutions in other states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh where it is in power.

Maintaining that the Supreme Court not directing a stay on the Citizenship Amendment Act has “not at all diluted” the protests against it, Tharoor welcomed the top court’s decision to set up a five-judge constitution bench.

“This Act by naming religions in relation to citizenship has violated the Constitution. But at least the five-judge constitution bench will hear all the arguments and look into the merits of it. That’s the only way we can resolve the fundamental disagreement,” he said.

“There are only two ways this law can be struck down, one, if the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional and strikes it down and second, if the government itself revokes it. Now, the second option is not viable as the BJP would never accept its mistakes,” said the Thiruvananthapuram MP who was in the city to take part in the Tata Steel Kolkata Literary Meet.

He said the protests are largely spontaneous and if the government makes it clear that no religion is being targeted then many would lose their reason for protesting. However, the diplomat-turned-politician said the government needs to do much more than just removing the religion clause in the CAA.

“It needs to say we will not ask questions about place of birth and citizenship and will not prepare the NRC,” he said. On the country’s Opposition, Tharoor said their unity has never been easy in Indian politics as many parties may have a similar stand at the Centre but may differ in the states.

“In my opinion, it would be simply better to present a united front to the nation rather than a divided front,” he said, asserting that no one should feel threatened by the Congress.

Asked about the Gandhi family and the role of the present leadership in reviving the party, Tharoor said the Congress is more than a family, and it is not only a major mass movement but also a set of coherent ideas.

“Yes, when we ask people to vote for Congress, some vote for the family, some vote for individuals, but above all they vote for a certain set of principles and convictions,” he said. Tharoor said the Congress stands for inclusiveness and is the only viable and reliable alternative to the “divisive politics” of the BJP.

“We have just lost the national elections. We have a four-and-quarter year to go before we can prove our qualities on the national stage. In the meantime, there are state elections. So there will be a constant opportunity for referendum against the BJP’s non-performance,” he said.

The Telegraph – Anti-CAA protests: Amartya Sen lays stress on the importance of opposition unity

He further said that even in the absence of opposition unity, protests can continue

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 14 January 2020. Days after demanding that the amended citizenship act be scrapped, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has stressed the importance of opposition unity to carry out any protest for a cause. However, he said even in the absence of opposition unity, protests can continue.

The economist was talking to journalists in Kolkata over the countrywide CAA-NPR-NRC protests. “For any kind of protest, opposition unity is important. Then protests become easier. Unity is important if the protest is for a proper cause,” Sen told journalists on Monday night.

“But even if unity is not there, then that doesn’t mean we will stop protesting. As I said, unity makes protest easier but if unity is not there still we have to move on and do whatever is necessary,” Sen said. Earlier, speaking at Nabanita Deb Sen Memorial Lecture, the economist said viewing oppositional reasoning as quarrelsome would be a big mistake.

“It is necessary to emphasise the subtleties of the innovative forces of the opposition… We need to know more about what I am protesting about. The head must also join with the heart in protest,” Sen said in his speech. “When there seems to be a big mistake in the Constitution or human rights, there will surely be reasons to protest,” Sen said.

Deb Sen, who passed away at her Kolkata residence last November, was the economist’s first wife. A few days ago, Sen, who has been critical of the Narendra Modi-led Union government, said the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Act should be scrapped.

“I think the CAA must be scrapped because it cannot be an act. That’s the job of the Supreme Court to see whether what was passed in Parliament can be legally attached to the Constitution,” the Nobel laureate had said. – Kashmir has been turned into a graveyard, says CPI(M) leader released from detention

Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami asked the public to ‘rise in protest against the oppression of people in Kashmir’.

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 05 January 2020. Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Friday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party at the Centre of turning Kashmir into a “virtual prison” and a graveyard, PTI reported.

Tarigami, who addressed the foundation day programme of party newspaper Ganashakti in Kolkata, called on the public to “rise in protest against the oppression of people of Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370 and 35A of the Constitution”.

Tarigami was placed in detention following India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status. However, he was allowed to move out of Kashmir for medical treatment following a Supreme Court order in September.

The Narendra Modi government had detained many Kashmiri politicians, including three former chief ministers, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti, since 05 August.

Tarigami also dismissed the Centre’s claim that not a single bullet had been fired since the security lockdown. He said there was no longer any need to fire bullets as Kashmir had been turned into a “graveyard”.

“How much freedom we got after [Union Home Minister] Amit Shah repealed Article 370,” Tarigami remarked sarcastically. “He says everyday there has been no firing and the situation is peaceful. You have made Kashmir a graveyard. What is the point of firing then?”

Tarigami said former Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik had said there were no plans to revoke the Union Territory’s special status, but pointed out that it was suddenly announced in Parliament. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader accused the government of violating the spirit of Constitution.

“Some people feel surprised how CAA [Citizenship Amendment Act] and NRC [National Register of Citizens] can come all off a sudden,” he said. “It is not, it was all in their mind, part of their agenda. Today it is Kashmir, tomorrow it can be somewhere else.”

The Citizenship Amendment Act, approved by Parliament on 11 December, provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities in Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014.

The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. At least 26 people have died so far in protests against the Act. The National Register of Citizens is a proposed exercise to list undocumented immigrants. It was conducted out in Assam last year, leading to the exclusion of 19 lakh people, or 6% of the state’s population.

The Telegraph – MEPs’ visit to Kashmir: Modi’s assault on the sovereignty of Parliament

While opening Kashmir’s doors to international evaluators, he has chosen to deny this right to Indian party leaders

Editorial Board

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 31 October 2019. The veneration of guests is an Indian tradition. But Narendra Modi and his government seem to have taken the mantra of ‘atithi devo bhava’ a bit too much to heart. Twenty Over 20 members of the European Parliament, the bunch was carefully pruned to include mainly right-wingers, had been invited to Kashmir to assess the situation on the ground.

The guests, evidently, have reciprocated the warmth of the hosts, parroting the Centre’s rhetoric in spite of the terror attack that took the lives of migrant labourers from Bengal. The issue, though, is not about such orchestrated harmony. The blatant double standards adopted by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government as well as its convoluted strategy on a region as sensitive as Kashmir merits serious examination.

By extending an invitation to an unofficial delegation of foreign dignitaries, a professed ‘international business broker’ was given precedence over the external affairs ministry in arranging the meeting, Mr Modi, it can be argued, has contradicted his assertion that developments in Kashmir are an internal matter only. If this was indeed the case, what was the need for an assessment from visitors from Europe?

Opening up an internal matter to the scrutiny of lawmakers from the Continent could, in fact, strengthen the shrill voices demanding international arbitration on restive Kashmir. Could the BJP’s capitulation be attributed to the hostile international reactions to the prolonged lockdown in the Valley?

After all, the human rights situation in Kashmir had made it to Congressional hearings in the United States of America.

Moreover, a fair appraisal of the prevailing situation must include the people of Kashmir as a stakeholder in the dialogue. Interestingly, the invitation to a Liberal Democrat lawmaker was withdrawn when he insisted upon his right to engage freely in Kashmir.

What is unacceptable and shocking is that while opening Kashmir’s doors to international evaluators, Mr Modi has chosen to deny this fundamental right to leaders of Indian political parties. Should not this hypocrisy be seen as an assault on the sovereignty of Parliament, the repository of the will of a democratic people?

This discrimination is, in fact, worthy of legal scrutiny. Each of these transgressions on the part of an elected government is indicative of an inertia in policy. This is only to be expected when narrow ideology begins to colour the strategic vision. The BJP is not being careful with its narrative on Kashmir. That could explain this public relations disaster.

The Hindu – Intellectuals who wrote to PM ‘anti-nationals’: BJP

Special Correspondent

Kolkata – West-Bengal – India, 27 July 2019. A day after a group of eminent citizens wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention in cases of lynchings, West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh dubbed the signatories of the letter as “sycophants” and “anti-nationals”.

“If these sycophant intellectuals, who are writing to the Prime Minister, have any shame left they will first protest against lynchings in Bengal. People are being beaten up for chanting Jai Shri Ram in Bengal”, Mr Ghosh said on Thursday.

On Wednesday night, Mr Ghosh said that the intellectuals who wrote to the Prime Minister were acting as “stooges of Opposition parties out to malign the BJP government”.

“They are anti-nationals”, he said.

Forty-nine people including well-known filmmakers like Mani Ratnam, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Aparna Sen and actors like Soumitra Chatterjee and Kaushik Sen signed the letter dated 23 July.

Targeting those signatories who are from West Bengal, the state BJP president said that they are scared to utter even a word against Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Mr Ghosh also alleged that Ms Banerjee was behind the initiative.

One of the letter writers “threatened”

Meanwhile, actor Kaushik Sen, one of signatories of the letter, told journalists in Kolkata that he has been “threatened by an unknown caller with dire consequences”.

Mr Sen said that the caller asked him that why he is “silent when Hindus are beaten up” and warned him to mend his ways or face dire consequences. The actor said that he had informed the police and other signatories about the development.

The Tribune – Shillong Sikhs get more time to submit papers

Tribune News Service

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 24 July 2019. Three cases slated to come up in the Meghalaya High Court on August 28 hold the key to the much-needed relief sought by the Sikhs of Shillong’s Harijan Colony, or Punjabi Lane area.

On Tuesday, the the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB) gave a fresh notice asking the residents to provide by August 30 the details about their residence in the locality. The prescribed format includes a column on the “period of stay” which has to be backed by “document of proof in support”.

“The Shillong Municipal Board has no right to ask us about the Harijan Colony. The Syiem (tribal chief) had given us the land. The colony does not belong to the SMB,” Gurjit Singh, secretary of the Harijan Colony Panchayat, said over the phone from Delhi. According to him, the settlement of Sikhs in Shillong dates back to the period before 1863.

Attempts, including a full-blown riot between the local Khasis and Sikhs last year, to evict the residents of Harijan Colony are a regular feature of the otherwise picturesque Meghalaya capital. The latest attack on the Punjabi Lane Sikhs came in the form of notices given to them by the SMB on May 31, asking the residents to prove by July 3 their ownership of the land or building they were staying in.

Tuesday’s notice is a continuation of the last notice. No resident of Harijan Colony complied with the May 31 notice. Following Tuesday’s notice, Gurjit Singh left for Delhi where he has been confabulating with Delhi Gurdwara Management Committee leaders and others and exploring various options, including legal options.

Court holds the key

Three cases will come up before the Meghalaya High Court on August 28:

  • A contempt plea filed by the Harijan Colony Panchayat against the SMB CEO for issuing a relocation notice disregarding a HC order
  • A review petition filed by state govt challenging the HC order which said the land ownership must be decided by a civil court first
  • A petition by Harijan Colony headman Billu Singh regarding a 1954 pact between the local tribal chief (Syiem) and SMB

The Telegraph – National Register of Citizens (NRC): A major storm is brewing

Even pro-BJP groups recognize that the registration exercise could end up condemning Indians to an appalling fate

Sanjoy Hazarika

Kolkata – West Bengal – India, 15 July 2019. The National Register of Citizens process in Assam ploughs relentlessly on. At the end of this month a full list is to be published, ostensibly of all Indians identified in the state. That is when the scale of misery and jubilation may be gauged. Yet that’s not the end of this long, complex journey.

A few days back, another list was published of one lakh persons who are to be left out of the list because they could not produce convincing documentation; this followed scattershot complaints by unidentified persons against some who were already on the NRC.

For those who do not make the cut on July 31, there is a longer battle in store, they will have to spend time, funds (invest in lawyers) and appear before quasi-judicial processes, the foreigners tribunals, to prove their nationality.

These courts, manned by lawyers without extensive judicial experience or deep knowledge of jurisprudence, are the first point of appeal followed by the state high court and finally the Supreme Court.

The Assam government had said it would add 400 FTs more to the current 100 (it later promised 1,000), but has it made the clear determination of whether the person is fully qualified for that office and can take a decision without fear or favour?

Many of us who have followed the long and tortuous journey of the NRC, and the earlier struggle between the 1970s-1980s by student groups and others for detection of foreign nationals (that is, the ubiquitous ‘Bangladeshi’), had pinned faith in a process that would create a list which would be clean, clear and correct.

Knowing the complexities of Assam, a simple land with deep divisions, this was perhaps a naive hope.

The ‘foreigners issue’, as the question of informal migration (largely from Bangladesh) is defined in popular terms in Assam, is a challenge that goes back to the time of Independence. However, critical perceptions about in-migration and demographic change precede that.

Assam now appears to be entering an uncertain period with little clarity on a fundamental question: will the list competently identify ‘foreigners’? Arguably some 29 million persons had made the cut last July but all hell broke loose with the announcement that nearly four million had not.

Of the latter, 3.2 million persons have petitioned for their inclusion and the issue has figured at international and national forums. Some of the stories which have emerged over the past year are worth repeating, for they cut across religious, ethnic and language divisions and point to major inaccuracies.

In case after case, a pattern has emerged showing a combination of poor judgment, problematic data, arbitrariness or just indifference that has harmed Indians.

A Kargil veteran who was marched into a detention camp and then released; a policeman who cannot vote since he has been proclaimed a foreigner; a 92-year-old man who has had to be carried into court to face trial; a woman who ended up in a detention camp when the police could not find the person they were looking for and just picked her up; prominent Gorkhas including a Sahitya Akademi winner find themselves in the excluded list.

In many cases, a mismatch of a letter in a name connecting them to either parent or grandparent was enough to bar them.

Most of the cases cited above, barring the Gorkhas, were people of Bengali origin, both Hindu and Muslim. It is not just about religion. The poor and vulnerable who cannot afford lawyers find themselves in this situation.

The NRC impact is spreading: other states are arming themselves with similar plans. Nagaland has started a 60-day exercise aimed at identifying the indigenous people (read members of 16 Naga tribes whose homes are in the state) and one anti-immigrant group has declared that the “indigenous” are those who are “Naga by blood”.

Does the definition of the indigenous in Nagaland includes mainland Indians, be they Assamese, Bengali (Hindus and Muslim), Marwari, Bihari or from other parts of this country?

It does not take a tarot card reader to see that a major storm is brewing. Many may not have predicted this when the NRC was given wings in 2016, after the Bharatiya Janata Party gained power in Assam. What has unfortunately happened is that the exercise in Nagaland and in parts of Assam could end up condemning Indians to an appalling fate.

Even pro-BJP groups recognize this. One said recently that it had procured 2.8 million signatures of people in Assam demanding an “error-free NRC”. It pointed out that the Supreme Court itself had suggested a pilot sample reverification of 10 per cent of the total number on the NRC but not issued orders for this. Its concern was that many Hindus of Bangla origin would be left out.

A recent citizen’s group which travelled across three districts in Assam found that many women, both Hindu and Muslim, have been declared foreigners because they did not have the documents to link them to their father, the crucial “legacy data” or family tree link in the NRC.

Prateek Hajela, the NRC state coordinator, has said that “inability to provide linkage documents appears to be the biggest reason why applicants couldn’t substantiate their claims”.

Indeed, from its very start, the NRC exercise has struggled with technical hurdles.

For one, the key base document for the NRC is its predecessor: the first and only NRC of 1951. Yet enumerators found that copies of this NRC were not available in three districts: Sivasagar, Cachar and Karbi Anglong.

So new data based on 16 parameters were developed for these district populations, 67 to 68 years after this initial exercise, based on electoral rolls and census data. Two separate systems of checks and cross checks have had to be created, quite different from each other. Is it surprising that there should be confusion?

The exercise is officially over on July 31. But there is no clarity on what happens to those out of the lists, will they stay at their homes and fight trials, will they have to move elsewhere, will those found as foreigners by FTs be sent to detention camps after a 120-period when appeals can be heard?

A Union minister of state for home affairs has told Parliament that a new manual for detention camps was being prepared with the following proposed facilities: “electricity, drinking water, hygiene, accommodation with beds, sufficient toilets with running water, communication facilities, provision for kitchen”.

The draft manual has been sent to all state governments raising questions about how long the Centre proposes to keep people at such sites.

This is aimed obviously at blunting criticism by some who have been released from detention camps in Assam after their Indian-ness was upheld. They describe conditions are appalling with scores packed into a single room and sharing a single toilet.

Exacerbating the issue is the fact that even those detected as Bangladeshis cannot be deported unless Bangladesh acknowledges them as its own, which it steadfastly refuses to do.

Governments are required to uphold Constitutional obligations, especially Article 21 of the Constitution, which proclaims that no one may be deprived of his life and liberty except by due process. In addition, there are India’s international commitments to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which does not recognize statelessness.

The author is international director of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative