Scroll.in – Interview: Sikh-American activist Valerie Kaur is fighting hate with revolutionary love

The founder of the Revolutionary Love Project shot into the spotlight with an inspirational New Year’s Eve speech

On New Year’s Eve, Valarie Kaur, a documentary filmmaker and civil rights activist based in Los Angeles, California, delivered a moving speech at a historic African-American church in Washington DC. In her speech, she spoke of the dark times ahead and how instead of leading to despair, this could be an opportunity for change.

This speech was actually the message of the Revolutionary Love Project, an initiative she launched in autumn of 2016. This movement and her New Year’s Eve speech, Kaur said, arose from her distress about the increase in hate violence during the US presidential election campaign. Kaur wrote in an email to Scroll.in:

“Last year, distraught by the rise in hate violence during the election season, I had a moment of personal crisis. I left my job at Stanford Law to reflect on what’s missing in our movement. Through reflection, I realised that what we most need aren’t new policy solutions but a different way of fighting for them.

Political tactics are not enough: No number of policy wins will end what the Southern Poverty Law Center has called the era of “enormous rage”. If anything, conventional organising tends to mirror the kinds of demonisation, suspicion, and distrust that we seek to oppose.

We need new ways of fighting for our values and seeing people who are different from us [racially, religiously, and politically] as sisters and brothers whose destinies are tied with ours. We need a new ethic.

I reflected on the only thing that has ever created change in the communities I have served, it always came down to one question. Is love present here? Whenever hurt people received love from their communities, it emboldened them to respond, in turn, with love.

They would rise up to help heal their family or change the culture of a place, even a policy. But whenever people were left alone with their pain, their isolation bred loathing and more destruction. I began writing and thinking and speaking about love – as a revolutionary force.”

The project has coordinated 100 film screenings and dialogues, and urged people to vote during the elections. After the inauguration of Donald Trump as president in November, it also joined forces with movements such as One Billion Rising, to end violence against women, and the Women’s March on Washington, a worldwide movement for women’s rights and against the Trump presidency that took place on January 21-22.

Kaur is now writing a book about Revolutionary Love. In an email interview, she talks about growing up as a Sikh in America and of her activism.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

Question: The story of your grandfather, how he traveled from Punjab to California by steamship 100 years ago, was arrested and jailed for months by immigration officers, and struggled to make a life in America, is incredibly moving. Was this story a part of your life as you were growing up? How did it influence you?

I grew up with stories of my grandparents and ancestors, and these stories made me feel connected to my Sikh faith and American heritage. My grandfather’s story showed me what it meant to be an American, to love our neighbours as ourselves, even in dangerous times. That’s when our love becomes revolutionary.

Question: As a Sikh in America, how has the country changed for you and the people you know in the last few years? Has the nature of the fear begun to shift as well?

The current crisis in hate violence in America is only the latest chapter in an epidemic that began more than 15 years ago in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. Since then, a new racial category of the “Muslim terrorist” has become embedded in the American racial landscape.

Sikhs, Muslims, Arabs, and South Asians are part of that racial category. Every time the government targets our communities, it emboldens people to act on their stereotypes against us.

Since the current president rose in power, his rhetoric and now policies consistently punish our communities. It’s no surprise that hate crimes against our communities has now skyrocketed.

On February 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla was murdered by a gunman in Kansas who said “get out of my country” before he opened fire. His murder appears to be the first fatal hate crime since Trump’s inauguration.

I was devastated by the news and flashed back to 15 years ago when Balbir Singh Sodhi became the first person to be murdered in a hate crime after 9/11. Like Balbir Uncle’s murder, Srinivas’ murder is not an isolated incident.

It’s part of a larger climate of fear, hate and vitriol, and foretells more violence to come. My solace is that millions of people are politically awakened now like never before and ready to stand in solidarity with us and other communities in harm’s way.

Question: There is a perception of Indians as the “good minorities” who do not speak up for the rights of other communities in danger. Do you think this is accurate and is it changing now?

When I became an activist 15 years ago, there were few other South Asian Americans who were pursuing this path. For most of my college years at Stanford University, I was the only Sikh undergraduate I knew who was not studying medicine. That’s changed.

In the years since 9/11, we have seen a new generation of South Asian Americans rise up and pursue careers in law, politics, business, media and advocacy. Today I’m proud to be part of coalitions of South Asian Americans who are on the front lines of fighting for social justice.

Question: You had a particularly strong message claiming solidarity across different communities that face discrimination in the United States today. Is there any instance of building solidarity in the recent past that has particularly moved you?

In my 15 years, I have worked with many communities fighting on a wide range of issues, hate crimes, racial profiling, immigration detentions, solitary confinement, marriage equality, and internet freedom. In this work, I have discovered that our struggles are interconnected.

We are part of one broad movement for civil rights and human dignity. I believe it’s the old way to fight only for our own communities or causes. The future of our movements calls for deep solidarity.

I have seen this solidarity in the last few years, including at protests for Black Lives Matter, vigils at Standing Rock [by Native Americans against under-construction oil pipelines], and at the Women’s March.

I witnessed this solidarity up close in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Our multi-faith coalition along with Sikh advocates were able to secure lasting policy change on hate crimes.

When we organise together and raise a collective voice for social justice, we can create lasting policy and culture change.

Question: You also spoke of how this period of darkness might be the darkness of a womb, not of a tomb. How are you and others working to, as you say, “push”?

I launched the Revolutionary Love Project in order to support the broader movement. Revolutionary Love is the commitment to extend our will for the flourishing of others, our opponents and ourselves. Love is not a passing feeling but a commitment to action.

When we practise love in the face of fear or rage, then we can transform an encounter, a relationship, a culture, or a country: Our love becomes revolutionary. In this moment of political and moral crisis, millions of people have joined the movement for justice.

We will burn out if we run on fumes; we may even mirror the distress, hate and fear that we are resisting. But the ethic of love can ground our moral resistance and sustain our movement for months and years to come. I believe Revolutionary Love is the call of our times.

Together we drive calls to Congress, organise rallies and marches, and offer avenues for people to ground our activism in the ethic of Revolutionary Love. Today [on March 8] we held a general strike called a Day Without a Woman, where thousands of women went on strike with us.

People can learn more, sign the declaration and take action with us at
www.revolutionarylove.net

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Scroll.in – 1985 Air India bombings: Canada frees lone Sikh immigrant convict

Although the parole board has allowed Inderjit Singh Reyat to return to a normal life, it has barred him from undertaking any political activity.

The Parole Board of Canada has set free a Sikh immigrant from India who was convicted in the 1985 Air India bombings that killed 331 people. Inderjit Singh Reyat is the only person convicted in the case.

He was found guilty of making bombs that were stuffed into luggage and planted on two planes departing from Vancouver, and of perjury, reported AFP.

Although Reyat was released from prison a year ago, he was ordered to live in a halfway house. The parole board has now lifted that condition. Board spokesperson Patrick Storey told AFP that Reyat can now lead a normal life, “living in a private residence”. Reyat had been in jail for two decades.

However, his parole officer has already decided with whom he will live so that there is no chance of any “negative influence on him”. The parole board has also barred him from establishing any contact with families of the blasts victims. He cannot undertake any political activity and also has to undergo counselling.

On June 23, 1985, all 329 people aboard Air India Flight 182 were killed when a bomb in it exploded near the Ireland coast. The second bomb killed two baggage handlers in Japan’s Narita airport.

Investigators found out that Reyat had bought dynamite, batteries and detonators when he was working as a mechanic in Canada. Two others, Ripudaman Singh Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri, were also accused of conspiring the explosions.

However, they were acquitted because of lack of evidence. It was believed that the explosions were planned to avenge Operation Blue Star in Amritsar’s Golden Temple.

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Scroll.in – Election Commission orders re-polling at 48 stations in Punjab on 9 February

Several EVMs and Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail machines had developed a snag on Saturday, when the votes were cast.

Chandigarh, 8 February 2017. The Election Commission on Tuesday ordered repolling at 48 polling stations in Punjab on February 9 due to problems with the Voter-Verified Audit Paper Trail and Electronic Voting Machines on February 4, PTI reported.

The re-elections will be held at 32 polling stations in the Majitha, Muktsar, Sangrur Assembly segments and 16 stations in the Amritsar Lok Sabha constituency.

Punjab Cabinet Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Bikram Singh Majithia is fighting it out with Aam Aadmi Party candidate Sukhjinder Raj Singh and Congress candidate Himmat Singh Shergill from the Majitha seat.

BJP’s Rajindermohan Singh Chhina, Congress’ G S Aujla and AAP’s Upkar Sandhu have been fielded from Amritsar Lok Sabha seat.

The VVPATs used in the Majitha, Muktsar and Sangrur Assemblies and the EVMs used in the Moga and Sadulgarh constituencies were found to be faulty, Punjab chief electoral officer V K Singh told PTI.

The officer said that VVPATs will be used again in the repoll. “A total of 47 VVPATs will be deployed at the polling stations and sufficient numbers of machines have been kept as reserve,” Singh added.

A VVPAT produces a receipt with which the voter can verify if the vote actually went to the person for whom they voted on the EVM.

These machines are being used for the first time in Punjab at over 6,500 polling stations. However, on the polling day, 187 VVPATs had to be replaced.

The polling hours will be between 8 am and 5pm. The poll panel has ordered paid leave in the constituencies that will undergo a repoll on February 9.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted: ”Never has any election seen malfunctioning EVMs on such a large scale. Was it mischief done deliberately by or in collusion with EC?”

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Scroll.in – Sikh man alleges discrimination after Australian school denies his son admission for wearing turban

Authorities at Melbourne’s Melton Christian College said they would not allow any garment that is not part of the uniform

Melbourne, 18 January 2017. A school in Australia denied admission to a 5-year-old Sikh boy on the grounds that his wearing a turban did not conform with the institute’s uniform policy, reported PTI.

“It is disappointing that my son has been forced to abandon his religious practices and identity to access to an education in Melbourne’s Melton Christian College,” the boy’s father, Sagardeep Singh Arora, told SBS TV.

The family has approached the Victoria Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission, alleging discrimination against their religious belief. “It is immoral for a school to not allow students to practice their beliefs,” Arora said. Australia is home to more than 72,000 Sikhs.

Melton Christian College, however, stood by its position and said that school authorities will not allow any garment that is not part of the uniform.

“For 30 years, our children have been in classrooms and playgrounds, learning, growing, and playing side by side, wonderfully oblivious to their families’ extensive religious diversities. We acknowledge the disappointment that Sagardeep and his family feel,” said the school in its response to the commission’s notice.

The institute’s rule is in direct contravention of a landmark ruling in 2008, a private school in Brisbane had to revoke its uniform policy after it had forced a Sikh boy to cut his hair and remove his turban.

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Scroll.in – Lest we forget: What five eminent Sikhs and a former prime minister witnessed during the 1984 riots [pogroms]

As Sikhs were being massacred in Delhi after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Zail Singh stood by helplessly, Home Minister Narasimha Rao played cool.

On November 1, 1992, The Pioneer newspaper, then edited by the legendary Vinod Mehta, published a story that Amit Prakash and this reporter had stitched together.

Titled, 1984: The Price of Inaction Revisited, we based our story on the experiences of an eminent band of five Sikhs, the personal diary of I K Gujral, who was to later become India’s prime minister, accounts of police officers, and reports of inquiry commissions and civil rights groups.

The eminent band of Sikhs included two who are celebrated for their heroics in war, the country’s only Marshal of the Indian Air Force, Arjan Singh, and Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora, the hero of the 1971 Bangladesh war.

The other three were the noted writer Patwant Singh, diplomat Gurbachan Singh and Brigadier (retd) Sukhjit Singh, a scion of the Kapurthala royal family.

Of them, we spoke at length to Patwant Singh, Lt General Aurora and Arjan Singh, who is still alive. Gujral read out his diary entries to us. The story below is an abridged version of 1984: The Price of Inaction Revisited, written in the spirit which novelist Milan Kundera described as: “The struggle for power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”

October 31, 9.18 am: Indira Gandhi is shot

At 10 am, author Patwant Singh heard Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been shot at by her Sikh guards. Despite running a fever, he got onto his feet and asked his secretary to call Lt General Jagjit Singh Aurora, Air Marshal Arjan Singh, diplomat Gurbachan Singh, and Brigadier (retd) Sukhjit Singh, all of them prominent Sikh citizens of Delhi.

To Arjan Singh, Patwant Singh said, “We must make our positions clear: Assassinations can’t and should never be a solution to political problems.” Arjan Singh asked him to prepare a draft statement for the Press.

The five decided to meet at Patwant Singh’s 11, Amrita Shergill Marg residence at 3.30 pm. Their alacrity suggested they had a foreboding of what lay ahead. Arjan Singh said he would try to reach out to I K Gujral and invite him to their meeting.

The Gujrals were not at home. Unknown to Arjan Singh, Gujral and his wife were wending their way to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where Indira Gandhi had been taken after she was sprayed with bullets.

Gujral was once a member of what was referred to as Gandhi’s “Kitchen Cabinet”, but had fallen out of favour after he decided to oppose Sanjay Gandhi’s attempt to censor the Press during the Emergency.

About his visit to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Gujral wrote in his diary:

“Reached AIIMS at 12.30 pm. We were taken to the eight floor where her body had been laid. [Godman] Dhirendra Brahmachari emerged from one of the rooms and whispered to Maneka [Gandhi], ‘She is dead’. Later, at the exit on the ground floor, [Union Minister P] Shiv Shankar confirmed the news.”

Her death was not made official, perhaps because her only surviving son, Rajiv Gandhi, was away in West Bengal. President Zail Singh, too, was abroad. There was, after all, the issue of succession to sort out.

At 3.30 pm, the eminent Sikhs began to discuss Patwant Singh’s draft of the statement. There was disagreement only on one count: Should a caveat be entered against the possibility of a backlash against the Sikh community? Aurora’s was the only contrarian voice, he felt there was no sign to fear attacks against Sikhs.

He brought others around to his view. A call was made to The Indian Express editor George Varghese, requesting him to give their statement condemning the assassination of Indira Gandhi a prominent slot.

Perhaps Aurora would not have taken a contrarian position at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg had he known what was happening outside the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where a crowd had gathered. One man’s turban was snatched and burnt. A Sikh was dragged out of his car and beaten.

Before Rajiv Gandhi returned to Delhi at 4 pm, and Zail Singh an hour later, just about every person in Delhi knew that Indira Gandhi was dead. The rumour mill was India’s social media then.

October 31, dusk: Disturbances spread

When President Zail Singh visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, stones were pelted at his cavalcade. It was done, according to police sources, by supporters of a Congress metropolitan councilor who was subsequently assassinated.

This set off a competition among local Congress leaders. Sikhs and Sikh-owned properties in INA Market, Sarojini Nagar Market and South Extension in South Delhi were attacked.

Those at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg were oblivious to what had started unfolding on Delhi’s streets. At 6.30 pm, Arjan Singh’s car backed out of Patwant Singh’s residence and turned left from where Amrita Shergill Marg loops to join Lodhi Road.

At the T-junction, two men rushed to him. One of them warned, “Sardarji, don’t take this route. Danga [rioting] has started.”

Twenty-five minutes later, at 6.55 pm, President Zail Singh administered the oath of office to Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother as Prime Minister.

An hour or two after sunset, Deputy Commissioner (South Delhi) Chandra Prakash felt that the situation in Delhi was teetering out of control. He suggested to Additional Commissioner (New Delhi Range) Gautam Kaul that a curfew be imposed and the Army be called in. In a subsequent memorandum to the Union Home Ministry, Prakash wrote,

“Kaul turned down my recommendation stating that a meeting had already taken place sometime earlier in the Prime Minister’s house, where the Home Minister was also present, and a decision had been taken not to impose curfew and call out the Army at that stage.”

The Home Minister then was P V Narasimha Rao, who was to become Prime Minister seven years later. The Delhi Police reported to him. Chandra Prakash, ironically, was later indicted by inquiry commissions for failing to control the 1984 riots.

At night, the violence spread to North Delhi. A dry fruits shop was broken into and looted. However, the mob was dispersed and a police officer took the cash box into his custody.

Later, a string of timber merchant shops in Pili Kothi area in Central Delhi were set ablaze. The police found local Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party leaders instigating the mob.

November 1, forenoon: Planned carnage

Between 9 am and 11 am, mobs began to raid Delhi’s residential colonies where Sikhs were concentrated. Killings and rapes occurred, as did looting and burning.

The Delhi Police was paralysed. It seemed as if diabolical souls had kept awake the previous night scripting and choreographing the dance of death that Delhi watched helplessly, but also, at places, with cannibalistic ecstasy.

Hearing about the carnage, Gujral placed a call to Rashtrapati Bhavan. Zail Singh promptly came on the line. About their conversation, Gujral wrote in his diary:

“He sounded pathetic and pleaded helplessness. He requested me to visit different parts of Delhi and seek governmental assistance.”

Gujral called Delhi’s Lt Governor, P G Gavai, at 11 am. Gujral’s entry read:

“I suggested the Army should be called in. Gavai says it will cause panic. I replied, ‘You are talking of not causing panic, but the whole city is already burning.’”

However, another version claimed that Gavai had indeed asked for the Army to be summoned the previous evening but was overruled by the Home Ministry.

It corroborates Chandra Prakash’s memorandum, belying the recent claims of those who allege it was the Prime Minister’s Office, not P V Narasimha Rao, who was overseeing the affairs of Delhi in those traumatic hours.

Meanwhile, diplomat Gurbachan Singh had managed to secure a 12.05 pm appointment with Zail Singh. It was decided they would assemble at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg. When Aurora sat in his car at his New Friends Colony residence, his driver cautioned him against venturing out.

But the man who had brought Pakistan to its knees in 1971 was firm in his resolve, unmindful of a mob that had begun to surround a gurdwara there. They took another route out of New Friends Colony, counted among Delhi’s spiffy colonies, and then sped to their destination.

Just 15 km away, a mob had surrounded Gurdwara Sis Ganj in Old Delhi, where hundreds of Sikhs had taken refuge. The mob started to launch sallies from both the Chandni Chowk and Red Fort sides of the gurdwara. The jathedars (community leaders) in the gurdwara, too, got into position.

Separating the assailants from defenders was a small contingent of policemen led by Deputy Commissioner Maxwell Pereira. He ordered his men to fire. The mob dispersed. One person died, hundreds of lives were saved.

By contrast, a strong 500-mob was allowed to go on the rampage in Trilokpuri Resettlement Colony in East Delhi, where the first Sikh victim was a scooterist who was burnt alive.

A college lecturer sought the help of two police constables posted at a gurdwara in Block 36. They walked away. The gurdwara was attacked.

November 1, 12.05 pm: The President shrugs

The eminent group of five Sikhs trooped into Rashtrapati Bhavan for their appointment. They were agitated. They narrated to the President the horrific scenes unfolding on the streets of Delhi. Zail Singh heard them silently. Aurora suggested to the President that he should address the nation on radio and television.

Patwant Singh complained that Doordarshan was allowing the provocative slogans being shouted at Teen Murti House – where the body of Indira Gandhi lay in state, to filter through. The President remained mum.

Aurora suggested, “Why don’t you call the Army?” The President said he did not have the powers to do so. A livid Patwant Singh remarked, “When the nation is burning the President has to intervene.”

Arjan Singh coaxed Zail Singh to speak to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. To their shock, he replied, “He is too busy. When I go to Teen Murti House I will try to talk to him.”

The President suggested that they should speak to Home Minister Rao. A presidential aide was asked to put in a call to him, but was told that Rao was in a meeting.

The Cabinet Secretary was telephoned. An official came on the line. Aurora introduced himself. The official said, “General, it is too dangerous for a Sikh to venture out. I don’t know where the Cabinet Secretary is.”

Angry and disconsolate, they sat there with Zail Singh, wondering what to do next, when at 1.15 pm the President’s press secretary Tarlochan Singh rushed in with the news that the Home Ministry had decided to requisition the Army.

But the mobs were on a killing spree. Residential blocks in Jahangirpuri in North Delhi had already been gutted, hundreds of Sikhs massacred. Posh South Delhi colonies were not spared either. In East Delhi, the mob had moved from Block 36 to Block 32 of Trilokpuri.

Back from Rashtrapati Bhavan, Patwant Singh and Aurora were joined by Gujral at 11, Amrita Shergill Marg. The trio decided to barge in at the 9, Motilal Nehru Marg residence of Home Minister Narasimha Rao.

November 1, afternoon: Rao plays cool [bold]

The trio was amazed at how relaxed Rao looked. He told them, “The Army will be here in the evening.”

Lt General Aurora asked, “How will it be deployed?” An unflappable Rao said, “The [Army] Area commander will meet the Lt Governor for this purpose.”

Aurora shot back angrily, “You have called the Army 30 hours too late.”

He then advised Rao: “Your first task should be to set up a Joint Control Room to coordinate between the police and the Army.” Unflustered, Rao said, “I will look into it.” The meeting ended.

For a man who had been a minister for so long, it does, in hindsight, seem surprising that Rao would not have known the procedure that is followed when the Army is called to assist civilian authority.

Even as Rao played cool, five rows comprising 190 houses in Block 32 of Trilokpuri were reduced to ashes. Only five men survived. The estimated death toll: 450 dead. Women were raped and killed, a few abducted and taken to a nearby village.

In the evening, Army units began moving into Delhi. Unknown to Aurora, two soldiers were positioned at his residence in New Friends Colony by an Army officer who came to know that was where the hero of the Bangladesh war lived.

However, Aurora did not return home, persuaded as he had been by the Gujrals to spend the night at their place. Gujral recorded in his diary:

“Delhi is burning. There are reports of trains arriving with corpses. It is like 1947. Gen Aurora spent the night with us. The hero of 1971 could not sleep in his own house in Delhi.”

November 2, morning: The Army is in control

At the sight of the Army on Delhi’s streets, the marauders did not venture out in South Delhi, though the killing continued in Trilokpuri, Mongolpuri and other trans-Yamuna colonies. Two Indian Express reporters went to Police Control Room to inform them about the massacres in Trilokpuri. They were laughed out of the room.

The relative calm elsewhere in Delhi prompted people to inquire about the well-being of their relatives and friends. Patwant Singh was surprised to find commentator Romesh Thapar and Swedish Charge d’ Affairs Rolf Gauffin at his door. Gauffin said, “Delhi isn’t safe. We have come to evacuate you to the Embassy.” He turned down the offer.

For the next few days, men, women and students began to work in relief camps. Civil rights groups began to document eyewitness accounts to prepare their reports, which eventually named the leaders who spearheaded or incited mobs to attack Sikhs. Thirty-two years later, most of the masterminds of the attacks remain unpunished.

Postscript

Ten days later, Aurora, Arjan Singh and Gujral requested Congress minister Rajesh Pilot to arrange a meeting with Rajiv Gandhi. After waiting at Pilot’s residence for two hours, they received a message: “If you want to condole with Rajiv Gandhi, the meeting can be held immediately.”

To the messenger, Aurora said, “Obviously, we want to condole. But we also want to tell him about the misery the Sikhs had to undergo and about the necessity of punishing the guilty.”

The meeting was cancelled. The powerful were not willing to listen to the woes of the people. This was also true of the 1992-’93 Mumbai riots, and the 2002 riots in Gujarat.

Ajaz Ashraf is a journalist in Delhi. His novel, The Hour Before Dawn, has as its backdrop the demolition of the Babri Masjid.

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Scroll.in – Primary school teacher beheads Dalit man for ‘making flour mill impure’ in Uttarakhand

Police officials said the accused used a sickle to attack the victim, who had protested an insult against his caste.

Bageshwar, Uttarakhand, 7 October 2016. A primary school teacher in Uttarakhand allegedly beheaded a Dalit man for “using a flour mill and making it impure” in the state’s Bageshwar district, PTI reported on Friday.

Bageshwar Superintendent of Police Sukhbit Singh told the news agency that Lalit Karnatak attacked Sohan Ram on Tuesday, after the 35-year-old protested against an insult made against his caste.

Officials said Singh has been arrested and is being held at the Almora jail. The accused has been charged with murder under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act.

Ram had reportedly visited the mill to collect his wheat flour order, where the accused insulted his caste and later assaulted him with a sickle.

Villagers told PTI that members of the upper castes communities had passed an order warning Dalit families to use the mill only after the flour, meant for the deities, was prepared and they [upper caste members] had used it.

There has been a spate of incidents of violence against Dalits in the past few months, provoking protests across the country. Dalits all over Gujarat have been protesting for the past few months after four Dalit tanners were flogged on July 11 for skinning the carcass of a cow in Una.

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Scroll.in – Gujarat village tense after upper caste mob lynches Dalit man: The Indian Express

The violence took place while the victim, Rama Singrahiya was sowing seeds on a plot supposedly meant for cattle grazing.

A mob of 46 men from the upper caste Mer community lynched a Dalit man in Sodhana village, Gujarat on Friday, The Indian Express reported.

Police teams were sent to the village after the village’s Dalit residents gathered on the Pobandar-Jamnagar Road and other protest groups formed at a paan shop. The man’s family refused to claim his body and organised a dharna near the police superintendent’s office in Porbandar, demanding justice for the victim, Rama Singrahiya.

According to an FIR recorded with the Bagvadar Police, the mob beat up Singrahiya when he was trying to sow seeds in a plot of land they said was meant to graze cattle.

Singrahiya’s family claimed they had been cultivating that plot for more than a decade and that he should now be buried there. The upper caste village authorities have refused to allow this, alleging Singrahiya encroached the land.

The police said they had arrested Parbat Karavadra, Lakhu Mer and Nilesh Babar in connection with the crime.

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Scroll.in – A university in the US rejects $3 million donation from a group with Hindutva links

A committee set up after protests at UC Irvine has flagged the level of influence Dharma Civilization Foundation could wield and rejected two sponsored chairs.

Mridula Chari

Scroll.in, 22 February 2016. Following nearly three months of vigorous protests from students and faculty members, a committee at the University of California, Irvine, has voted to reject two endowed chairs sponsored by an American non-profit with links to Hindutva groups, and to review two more chairs coordinated by the same foundation.

Last year, the Dharma Civilization Foundation, whose trustees have close links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in India, and its American arm, the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, signed agreements with UC Irvine to endow four chairs.

The agreements stated that each chair would receive $1.5 million spread across five years. The holders of these chairs were to research and lecture on Vedic and Indic Civilisations, Modern India, Jainism and Sikhism at the university.

The faculty at UC Irvine’s school of humanities learned that their South Asianist colleagues had not been consulted about the endowment and were intimated only in December, several months after the agreements had been signed.

Since then, both professors and students have been protesting the lack of meaningful consultation and transparency in the process of signing these contracts.

The protests forced the university to set up a panel to review the agreements, and it is this panel which rejected two chairs, the Vedic and Indic Civilisation Studies, and Modern India studies. It has, however, recommended the chairs in Jain and Sikh studies for further review.

Against academic interference

While those against the agreements questioned whether due procedure had been followed in accepting these chairs, a significant concern was whether UC Irvine ought to associate at all with the Dharma Civilization Foundation.

The panel’s report flagged the level of control the foundation sought in exchange for the chairs:

“When comparing the publicly stated views and intents of the DCF with other community based donors, however, we find that the DCF is unusually explicit and prescriptive on appropriate disciplinary formations, what constitutes good or acceptable scholarship, and, indeed, what constitutes good or acceptable scholars”.

It cited the foundation’s circulated list of scholars that it thought were acceptable or not to scholarship on Hinduism, videos of its ideology and the foundation’s statements against UC Irvine faculty speaking out against it.

The report added:

“The committee deems the DCF’s statements targeting faculty based on race, ethnicity, religion, and nationality antithetical to UCI’s mission of creating a safe academic environment that is conducive to sharing and critically examining knowledge and values.”

It added that the foundation’s views were “inconsistent” with that of the UC Irvine’s “core values as a public university that fosters diversity, inclusion, toleration, and respect.”

Against academic interference

Endowed chairs at American universities are linked to a fund set up for the purpose of sponsoring the academic career of a scholar in perpetuity. These professors have tenure, which means they cannot be removed.

As these are permanent chairs, their occupants have the ability to shape the direction of academics in the space around it by attracting undergraduate and graduate students interested in that field.

The review committee found that the university had not adhered to its own policies in accepting the four gifts. As the number of chairs being accepted was equal to the number of existing chairs at the School of Humanities, the new chairs would have been able to significantly shape the course of academic thought there.

Given this, the committee found, the university administration should have held consultations to ensure that the chairs were “in sync with the school of Humanities and with wider scholarship on South Asia.”

The controversy over the endowments could have been avoided if the university had held “broader and more meaningful consultation with faculty stakeholders”, the panel said.

Georges Van Den Abbeele, Dean of the School of Humanities, said he has accepted the committee’s findings and promised to lend his support to its recommendations. In an email circulated to faculty in the School of Humanities, he said:

“As we continue working with external partners, I acknowledge the need to improve opportunities for widespread consultation, and take full responsibility for working with HEC, with the academic senate, and with our development operations to improve these processes as recommended in the report.”

Scroll.in has reached out to the Dharma Civilization Foundation for comment. This story will be updated when they reply.

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