Gujarat-Carnage Haunts Modi, As Police Defy Him!

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, TMO

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD:  Irrespective of the legal turns and time that the case of suspended police officer Sanjeev Bhatt takes, related developments have once again brought several crucial issues to the forefront. The most important of these is the role of politicians and police during the 2002 Gujarat-carnage. Bhatt was arrested last month (September 30) for apparently daring to accuse Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for the carnage that is viewed as a dark page in Indian history of secularism. Bhatt has been accused of allegedly forcing his junior, a police constable, K.D. Pant to file a false affidavit in support of his claim that he attended the February 2002 meeting, during which Modi allegedly asked the police to go slow against the rioters. This meeting was held on February 27, 2002 just hours after burning of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra.

Bhatt is not the first police officer to have taken a stand against Modi government’s role during the 2002-phase, when Muslims were brutally targeted by right-winged, extremist elements. Several officers, who took a similar stand earlier, were transferred and/or suspended and adverse entries were made in their annual confidential reports. The state government suspended Bhatt on August 8 on charges of misconduct and for going on leave without official sanction. The hard truth, however, is that Bhatt claimed this year in April that he was present at the meeting (February 27, 2002) when police had been asked to be “soft” towards rioters by Modi. Bhatt apparently is being taken to task by state government for raising his voice against the role of Modi and his associates in 2002.

Without deliberating on role of Modi government during Gujarat-carnage, which has never been a closely guarded secret, Bhatt’s arrest demands focus on the role of policemen. Bhatt’s arrest and shunting of few other police officers who have tried to dutifully live up to their responsibilities and respect for the Indian Constitution raises the question:–  Do politicians such as Modi expect the state police to be guided by what they dictate? In such cases, what happens to their commitment towards the Constitution, the security of the people and spirit of Indian secularism?

Legally, the state government and police are expected to provide security to the people. Had they really showed some respect towards their official commitment, the Gujarat-carnage may have never taken place. This also implies that the role of Modi, his government, saffron brigade and the police, who followed the former’s command during the Gujarat-carnage was equivalent to violating the country’s constitutional spirit and the legal system. By taking law into their own hands, they virtually violated and abused the law, by letting rioters target the Muslims.

Against this backdrop, if Bhatt is trying his hand at seeking legal help against those responsible for inciting Gujarat-carnage, he certainly cannot be accused of committing any crime. Even if Bhatt was not a police officer, as an Indian citizen, he has the right to seek legal help, to ensure action against those allegedly responsible for inciting and encouraging communal violence against Muslims. But his arrest suggests that state government is still bent on abusing the legal system.

Sadly, the Modi government and all police officers are not as conscientious about their legal duties and responsibilities as Bhatt, several activists and others give the impression of being. It still cannot be forgotten that in 2002, quite a number of policemen posted in Gujarat chose to act at the apparent command of Modi government. They remained mute, turned their backs and symbolically kept their eyes closed as extremists brutally targeted Muslims. This definitely demands paying greater attention to negligence shown by the state government and the police in 2002. By going “slow” and being “soft” towards rioters, as allegedly commanded by Modi, the police remained passive supporters of communal elements indulging in riotous behavior.

Against this backdrop, some attention must be paid to tension having gripped India last year in September. There prevailed the apprehension that a judicial decision over Ayodhya-case may provoke communal fire in the nation. However, the governments at the center and states, particularly Uttar Pradesh played a responsible role in not allowing any communal tension to simmer. Equal credit must be given to police for keeping a strict watch and prevent any tension from taking form of communal violence. They played the role they are constitutionally bound to.

Certainly, had similar responsibility been displayed in Gujarat, the communal carnage could have been avoided. However, as is well known, the political intention behind the gruesome tragedy was to provoke the same. Officers like Bhatt are playing their part in revealing the facts they apparently are aware of.  Bhatt’s decision followed by his arrest has also made his colleagues question the action taken against him by the Modi government. The Gujarat Police Officers’ Association has expressed its support for Bhatt. In an emergency meeting, held earlier this month, 35 members of this association passed a resolution to support Bhatt. Three members visited Bhatt’s residence and conveyed their support to his wife. This move is viewed as first one to be taken in defiance of actions taken by Modi against police officers who have raised their voice, legally, against his government’s role in Gujarat-carnage. Clearly, the police officers are against being used as pawns by the likes of Modi.  It is hoped that the move taken by Bhatt and his supporters will prove to be an effective warning and prevent further abuse of the country’s law and order system.

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Advani & Modi Face Legal Scanner

April 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

NEW DELHI:  Ironically, two dark communal spots on India’s global image have hit headlines nearly at the same time and in a similar pattern. One refers to demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on December 6, 1992, which was followed by nation-wide riots targeting Muslims. The other is the 2002-Gujarat carnage, when thousands of Muslims were attacked and killed in Gujarat by violent mobs of Hindu extremists. Legal cycle has cast shadows on the role played by two key politicians of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in both the cases. L.K. Advani is under scanner for having incited mobs for demolition of Babari Masjid. Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been questioned for nearly 10 hours for his role in 2002-carnage (March 27).

Legal and political questions holding Advani responsible for the Ayodhya-issue and Modi for Gujarat-carnage may have still remained under the wraps, were it not for the role played by several women. Yes, the Ayodhya-ghost has raised its head again to haunt Advani primarily because of the detailed testimony given by a senior lady officer, Anju Gupta before a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Rae Bareli, Uttar Pradesh (March 26). Modi was summoned by a Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in Gandhinagar, Gujarat, following a petition filed by Zakia Jaffrey. Zakia’s husband, Ehsan Jaffrey (former legislator) was among more than 50 people burnt to death in the Gulbarga Society massacre of February 28, 2002.

In her petition, Zakia alleged that Modi, his government and administration had helped rioters during the Gujarat-carnage. She is still hopeful of the guilty being punished. On Modi being summoned by SIT, Zakia said: “I expect justice from God and Supreme Court, because it won’t let injustice happen. Since, it is Supreme Court it has been doing justice for years. I’m sure that the Supreme Court will deliver justice.”

By finally appearing before the SIT, Modi has defied speculations being circulated about his trying to escape law. He may have to appear before SIT again and also before the Supreme Court, as the case is pending there, sources said. To a degree, while Modi has silenced his critics he has provided his political colleagues some reason to express appreciation for his appearing before SIT and face such a long question-answer session. Of course, what Modi has faced before SIT is no match for what thousands of Muslims across Gujarat went through for several months in 2002. Just as the dead cannot be brought back to life, the wounds left by that carnage cannot be healed by whatever amount of compensation is handed over to survivors and even if Modi faces grilling sessions for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, that Modi finally faced the SIT certainly indicates that he has been to a degree forced to bow before the Indian legal process, primarily as the widow of one of the victims decided to knock at the doors of justice. 

Ironically, though there never has been any doubt about Advani’s role in Ayodhya-case and that of Modi in Gujarat-carnage, till date both have appeared to remain almost unapproachable even for the long arms of law and justice. The SIT summons has broken this myth for Modi just as that of Anju Gupta’s testimony for Advani. Earlier, Advani had been discharged on the plea that charges against him were based on mere suspicion. Anju’s testimony has totally changed the legal situation. She was then posted as Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) in Ayodhya and was in charge of Advani’s security.

During her testimony, Anju claimed that Advani “looked euphoric” as he declared in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that a temple would be built at the site of the demolished mosque. “Advani not only looked euphoric but also declared before the huge crowds at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 that the Ram temple would be built at the disputed site in the temple town,” she said. He “gave quite a provocative speech for which he was applauded by his other party colleagues and the crowds,” she said. Recalling what she saw on the day, Anju said: “There were at least 100 persons present on the dais along with Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Vinay Katiyar, Uma Bharti, Sadhvi Rithambara, Ashok Singhal, S.C. Dikshit, and I remember their faces so distinctly that I would be able to still recognize at least 80 of them.” “There was so much excitement among the crowds that they distributed sweets after the mosque was pulled down,” she said.

Undeniably, neither the Ayodhya-case nor the Gujarat-carnage can be expected to conclude soon. It may take a fairly long time, before the hearings, counter-hearings, arguments and related processes reach the stage of judgments being pronounced. The final stage, if ever reached, may still be checked by filing of more petitions, special petitions and so forth. Nevertheless, at least, BJP leaders are finally forced to acknowledge and accept that they cannot escape law forever: -17 years have passed since the demolition and eight since Gujarat-carnage. The ones responsible for those communal phases have been forced to be on the defensive, though late but definitely! 

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Gujarat Carnage: Modi Summoned!

March 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/AHMEDABAD: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is in news again, but not for the reasons he or his party associates appreciate. Eight years after Gujarat-carnage, in which of thousands of Muslims in the state were killed and/or injured, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) has summoned Modi. Created by Supreme Court in March 2008 to probe into 2002-Gujarat riots, the SIT has summoned Modi to appear before it on March 21. Modi, if he appears before the SIT, is expected to face questions over the murder of Congress legislator Ehsan Jaffrey. He and more than 50 other Muslims were killed by extremist Hindu rioters in Gulbarg Society, a residential complex in Ahmedabad (February 28, 2002). Modi and at least 60 others have been blamed and criticized for not doing enough to check the communal violence and protect the state’s Muslim citizens.  

“Yes, we have summoned Mr. Modi,” R.K. Raghavan, SIT head said. “On 21 March, we will ask him a few questions. Then we will send a report to the Supreme Court,” he said.

The Supreme Court is taking action on a petition filed by Jaffrey’s widow, Zakia. In her petition, she named Modi and 62 others, alleging that they conspired to “let Hindus vent their anger” after the Godhra-incident. The Godhra-incident refers to fire on Sabarmati Express, in which around 60 Hindus died. While fire’s cause was said to be an accident, extremist Hindu groups alleged that it was started by Muslim protestors because of which they reacted leading to Gujarat-carnage, with Hindu rioters targeting Muslims.

Following Zakia’s petition, the Supreme Court directed SIT to probe the alleged role of persons she had named as responsible for the riots, including Modi and 62 others. Though it is not clear, whether summoning of Modi will lead to any judicial action against him or not, according to Zakia: “I have not slept properly ever since the incident. Now, he (Modi) will also have sleepless nights.” “I hope justice will be given to us. It has been a long journey. I am very happy that Modi has been summoned,” she said.

Elaborating on the petition filed against Modi, Zakia’s son Tanveer Jaffrey said: “This is a step to file an FIR (First Information Report) against Modi. Until an FIR is filed you cannot say where the investigation will lead to.” Tanveer is hopeful, that “this will open up other cases too.”

“The summoning should have happened long ago as the chief minister of Gujarat and his government presided over the worst ‘pogram’ against minorities in independent India,” Congress party spokesman Manish Tewari said in New Delhi. The Congress felt that it would be appropriate for Modi to resign as chief minister.

The Congress in Gujarat has not yet too made too much noise about Modi facing summons. Justifying the cautious stand taken by his party, Gujarat Congress spokesperson Arjun Modhvadiya said: “The SIT must have strong evidence to issue a summon. We hope that the team carries out further investigations in right earnest and bring him to justice.” Modhvadiya, former leader of Opposition in the State Assembly, also voiced demand for Modi’s resignation inside and outside the House.  Modi should tender his resignation on “moral grounds,” he said as the summons were based on Supreme Court’s directives and on the basis of evidence collected by SIT.

Dismissing Congress demand for Modi’s resignation, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said: “The summons to Modi by SIT are a part of the legal process which shall be dealt with as per the process of law.”

The BJP is considering legal options to save Modi from facing a tough legal battle. “What our strategy is something that we don’t want to discuss on camera. But it takes long term planning in such cases,” Gujarat government spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas said. The Congress was “day dreaming,” by thinking that Modi would resign following the summons, Vyas said. “The party may wish for anything but there is no reason for Mr. Modi to quit,” he said.

Survivors of Gujarat-carnage are fairly pessimistic on whether summoning of Modi would spell any major development in speeding action against the rioters. “What we are going to witness on March 21 is a high-voltage drama when the chief minister appears before the SIT to respond to allegations leveled against him by various witnesses. That is it. It is going to be an eyewash,” according to Mukhat Ahmad, a riot victim-turned-rights activist.

Dismissing the summons as a “hype,” a senior officer said: “What can deposition achieve? The SIT is not in a position to interrogate, grill anyone or Modi. Can it force him or anyone to say something that one chooses to hide? So what will this achieve except create a hype?” Asserting that Zakia’s petition cannot force legal action against Modi, analysts said: “There is no direct evidence against Modi.” A chief minister cannot be held as directly responsible as, they said: “There are no constitutional or legal liabilities on the CM or the political head of the state in a riot-like situation. The direct-action duty lies on the police head and local officers of the disturbed area.”

Nevertheless, all are waiting for March 21. Will Modi face the summons? If he does, what will be developments? Or will he seek a change in the date, citing some prior engagement, and thus evade the March 21 summons! 

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Bollywood Scores: Shahrukh Khan Wins

February 18, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: By not simply rallying unitedly in favor of Shahrukh Khan-starrer: My Name Is Khan, but doing so with an amazingly zeal, Bollywood-team set the stage for film-fans across the world to head for theatres screening the movie. So much so, one got the impression that with Shahrukh as their “captain,” the Bollywood-team  was on the “pitch” to give Shiv Sainiks a thorough drubbing. A similar message was conveyed by headlines stating: “Khan scores, Sena misses,” “MNIK wins, Sena loses,” “Khan hits, Sena in pits,”…. Of course, Bollywood team was compelled to display this posture against shrill calls raised by Shiv Sena activists. The latter protested against release of MNIK primarily because Shahrukh had earlier questioned absence of Pakistani cricketers in Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. Questioning Shahrukh’s “support” for Pakistani players, Shiv Sena issued a diktat saying that theatres must not release the movie- MNIK.

Initially, there were speculations that multiplexes in Mumbai would follow Shiv Sena’s diktat. There were also apprehensions that screening of the movie in Mumbai and other parts of the country would incite violence and create tension. But Shiv Sena’s protest failed to win people’s support even in Mumbai. When 35 of 40 theatres in Mumbai decided to go ahead with the movie’s release (February 12), they received an enthusiastic response from moviegoers. The movie was screened in all theatres in Maharashtra the following day. Though some stones were thrown on Friday at Fun Republic, no damage was caused. Besides, security was tight at all theatres, particularly in Mumbai to check potential violence from Shiv Sena members. 

What stands out is the “secular unity” displayed by movie goers across the world, even in Gujarat. Despite saffron brigade having warned against its release in Gujarat, the movie ran to packed houses in most parts of the state.  The message simply conveyed was that people are in no mood to let saffron brigade and/or its associates decide their movies’ choice. Nor are they convinced by Shiv Sena questioning Shahrukh Khan’s “nationality.” Rather as displayed by their turning out in huge numbers to view the movie, they have asserted that they cannot be taken for a ride by such diktats. In fact in several parts of the country, Shahrukh’s fans displayed their anger against Shiv Sena’s protests by burning effigies of Shiv Sena leaders.

Clearly, MNIK has provided the movie-fans across the world an opportunity to convey their message. The Mumbai-people defied Shiv Sena’s call, asserting that this party has little significance for him. The noise made by certain Shiv Sena leaders in recent past about their Maratha-identity has also received a big blow by the support displayed by the public here for Shahrukh Khan-starrer. Not surprisingly, Shahrukh’s wife, Gauri who watched the movie at Fun Republic with her daughter, said: “Everyone should watch the movie. Shahrukh’s very happy that everyone has come out supporting him.” Admitting that her husband was “very sad” earlier, but was “happy” at the response received, she said: “I think the best way would be to say Jai Maharashtra. We love Mumbai and Shahrukh is really excited.” Guari is co-producer of the movie, directed by Karan Johar.

Interestingly, the Hindi movie with English title, strikes a note of appeal for Pakistani viewers too. It is the first movie, starring Shahrukh Khan, being screened in Pakistan, since the government allowed Indian movies here two years ago. The crowd’s interest here rests partly on the movie’s title and partly on it having aroused a protest from Shiv Sena over Shahrukh’s comments regarding Pakistani cricketers. Also, they support the movie’s message regarding Muslims being labeled as terrorists and being discriminated against in United States after September 11, 2001 attacks.  The movie does not divide the people. Aiming to bridge the post – 9/11-divide, the movie’s hero wants to meet the US President so that he can tell him: “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist.”  This particular message, apparently, has people across the world put their regional as well as cultural differences in the background, as it appeals to them emotionally and they understand its underlying meaning. The movie in this context has taken a major step towards bridging the communication gap, which has kept practically the whole world fairly confused and almost at the loser’s end.  The secular, peace-loving and also religious people are against innocents being targeted as suspect terrorists for no fault of theirs. It is time, a Muslim’s religious identity ceased to be linked with terrorism simply because he/she happens to be a practicing Muslim.

With the title saying it loudly and assertively, My Name Is Khan, it is hoped the diplomatic message carried by it is understood by the powers it is addressed to. The raving reviews won by the movie, in addition to raking in millions on the very first day of its screening clearly states that the message has clicked with the people across the world. Bollywood has scored not just against Shiv Sainiks at home but also in taking a lead in successfully conveying the message till date being avoided by Hollywood!

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Aamir Khan Adds Gandhian Touch To His Campaign In Gujarat

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

NEW DELHI/MUMBAI:  Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan has certainly taken a lead over politicians where his publicity campaign for his latest movie, “3 Idiots” is concerned. He has literally gone to the people, mingled with them and then surprised them by revealing his real identity. The silent message sent by this style of campaigning cannot be missed. The message stands out by the actor giving minimal importance to religious, regional as well as other socio-economic differences which are in contrast highlighted prominently by politicians when they try reaching out to the common people for their votes. This does not imply that the star has seldom given importance to communal tactics of Indian politicians. In fact, he earned a strong criticism in several quarters for having earlier criticized Chief Minister Narendra Modi for Gujarat carnage and supporting the Narmada Bachao Andolan (movement). Soon after Aamir criticized Modi in 2006, activists supporting Modi started persuading theater owners in Gujarat not to release his movies- “Fanaa” and “Taare Zameen Par.” They also demanded an apology from Aamir for his “anti-Gujarat” stand on NBA and his “anti-Narendra Modi” remarks. The actor had since stopped visiting Gujarat and had also refused to change his opinion on the two issues- NBA and Gujarat-carnage.

To a question on his stand, Aamir had said: “I had said that people killed in Godhra and its aftermath were not Hindus or Muslims for me. They were Indians, and whoever was responsible for the carnage was anti-Indian and anti-national. If that was the reason for this (ban on his movies), so be it.” On the financial losses that the ban spelt, accepting that they would be “huge,” he said: “And what about people losing their land and houses? I think that is a far bigger, deeper issue.” When questioned on whether he would apologize for his stand, he replied: “What should I apologize for? What wrong have I done? I am happy and proud of what I did.”

Against this backdrop, the nature of Aamir’s recent visit to Gujarat, the first since he faced the backlash, stands out. The actor apparently deliberately selected Lok Niketan Vinay Mandir, a small school in Palanpur village, about 135 km from Ahmedabad in Banaskantha district. The school is run on Gandhian principles, where the students weave their own khadi uniform. Wearing a black T-shirt and jeans, the actor entered the school at around noon last Thursday (December 17). Initially, nobody recognized him, but when they did, the teachers and students were pleasantly surprised. After a discussion with the school principal, Aamir interacted with students from class seventh to tenth. He heard a student sing a song, talked to students about their dreams, played cricket with them and also shared food from a girl’s lunch box, cooked by her grandmother. When a student showed Aamir, the star’s photo that he kept in his pocket, he picked him up and kissed him. He gifted the school two golden rings, two cricket balls, six tennis balls, one volley ball, two footballs and four tickets of the film premier with air tickets. The school felicitated him with a khadi garland.

Earlier, when questioned on his plans against his ban of his movies in Gujarat, Aamir had replied: “There are many avenues I could take recourse to. There is the legal option, I could seek help from the film industry and the various film associations, but on this issue I want the people to decide. The people should decide if this is the kind of political party they want.” Criticizing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for using “brute force,” with “no value for human life,” he had said: “In life, nothing is in our control. The maximum we can do is to do what we believe is right. I strongly believe that each one of us has to fulfill our karma, to do what he or she feels is right. The BJP should do what it feels is right, the people of Gujarat and India should do what they feel is right.”

Undeniably, Aamir’s visit to Lok Niketan school was a part of his two-week nation-wide campaign to promote his movie. Among the other places, the actor has suddenly turned up at, include Kolkata (West Bengal), Jaipur (Rajasthan), a remote village in Madhya Pradesh, Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) and an unknown village near Faridkot in Punjab. The subtle message conveyed by his deliberately including a Gujarati-school run on Gandhian principles cannot be missed. He still remains hopeful and optimistic that secularism and Gandhian principles cannot be easily defeated even by communal atrocities, such as the Gujarat-carnage. While at the school, Aamir said that he wanted to “try and imbibe Gandhian values.” This was apparently his style of making people aware about the importance of Gandhian principles. A visit to the small school was not binding on the star. If he wished, he could have stayed out of Gujarat even now. But he did not. Rather, as is evident, he planned his Gujarat-visit to let the school run on Gandhian principles hit the headlines and gain substantial media coverage. The move has given his old critics (Modi-supporters) virtually no time or even reason to question his “campaign.”  

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Vande Mataram Fatwa: Hardly Controversial

November 12, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service India Correspondent (MMNS)

NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding all the reservations and bias, they entertain against each other, several groups representing extremist sections of Indian Hindus and Muslims may be blamed equally for needlessly making noise over their stand on the Indian national song- Vande Mataram. The controversy hit the headlines with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), a Muslim organization issuing a fatwa against recitation of Vande Mataram, as according to them several stanzas were against their religious principles. The JUH issued the fatwa at its 30th general session held at Deoband (November 3). It did not take long for extremist Hindu groups, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Shiv Sena, Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal to immediately protest against the JUH-fatwa. Several leaders associated with saffron brigade also labeled as not singing the Vande Mataram as an act of treason.

Clarifying his stand on the issue, Minority Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid questioned both the JUH-fatwa and the saffron brigade’s stand on it being compulsory for all Indians, including Muslims, to sing Vande Mataram. “During the independence movement, all national leaders, including leaders of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Hind Hind sat together and resolved that some stanzas of Vande Mataram would be treated as the national song and would be sung voluntarily. Nobody was forced to sing it and this is something which was there in the resolutions of both JUH and the Congress party,” Khurshid said. Just as there was no need for JUH to raise the issue again, as it had been already settled earlier, no individual could be forced to sing the song, he said. “I don’t know why this issue is being raised again,” he commented.

Vande Mataram, song was a part of the novel written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay called Anand Math, published in 1882. When India achieved independence in 1947, it was expected to become the national anthem. Objections raised by Muslim leaders, led to the song (Jana Gana Mana Adhinayak Jaya), written by Rabindranath Tagore become the national anthem.

Considering the fact that issue was resolved several decades ago, there was no reason for any fatwa against it. It would have been different case altogether, had JUH issued the decree in response against any of their members or associates being forced to sing the song. Similarly, the protest raised by extremist Hindu groups would have carried some relevance were the JUH-fatwa legally or morally binding on the entire Indian Muslim community. Or if the fatwa was suggestive of their showing disrespect to the national song. In this context, Vande Mataram is not the only national issue over which controversies have been raised time and again. Officially, though Hindi is India’s national language, it is not binding for government work across the country. Each state uses its regional language, with Hindi being the official language of less than 10 states. Bengali is West Bengal’s official language, Tamil of Tamil Nadu, Marathi – Maharashtra, Gujarati – Gujarat, Telugu – Andhra Pradesh and so forth.

The key point here is that the decision of various states of not using Hindi as their official language is not regarded as an act of treason and/or their showing disrespect to the national language. So why should questions be raised regarding the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram? Just as all Indians cannot be forced to use only Hindi, why should hue and cry be raised if some individuals or even groups decide not to sing Vande Mataram? It would have been a different case altogether, if the same was suggestive of such national symbols being abused.

Besides, it is indeed surprising that a lot of noise has been made over JUH-fatwa. One organization’s fatwa has prompted critics to say that it reflects the backwardness of Indian Muslims, their suffering from leadership crisis and their life being still being confined to dictates of their clerics. These points would have had some credibility if JUH was representative of the entire Indian Muslim community. It is not. The error lies in the critics confining their approach to analyzing issues linked with Indian Muslims only to their stereotyped approach, strongly suggestive of the negative bias they still hold against the country’s largest minority community. Just as neither the BJP, VHP, Shiv Sena or any extremist organization linked with saffron brigade or known to project its Hindutva-agenda, be held as representative of the entire Indian Hindu community, no Islamic group – even if claims to – be regarded as the voice of all Muslims in India. The error lies in assuming a few select groups to represent one whole religious community. How can the regional, religious, casteist and other ethnic factors the Indian people across the country are divided into be ignored? This is strongly reflected by numerous political parties, spread across the country. Difference in political culture from north to south, east to west and from state to state also stands marked by the dress, language, even the variety in food, used by Indians. It is indeed amazing, that while making noise against the JUH-fatwa on Vande Mataram, the critics virtually ignored facts such as that organization does not represent the entire Indian Muslim community and singing it is not binding on all Indians, just as using Hindi as the national language is not. The issue, hardly controversial, has been made to appear as such by noise raised over it!

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BJP’s Political Strategy: Singh’s Expulsion

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) India Correspondent

NEW DELHI: It is still too early and too simplistic to view the internal crisis faced by the BJP as a sign of the party heading towards a collapse. In the last week the BJP has been hitting headlines over expelling senior party leader Jaswant Singh and the resignation of party activist Sudhendra Kulkarni. The party expelled Singh for his book, Jinnah: India, Partition, Independence in which Singh claims Mohammed Ali Jinnah was not solely responsible for partition and the formation of Pakistan. In Singh’s opinion, Jinnah has been unnecessarily blamed for this, as India’s first PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Home Minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel were also responsible. Taking strong exception to the stand taken by Singh, at its brain storming session in Shimla, the BJP decided to expel him August 19. And before the dust over the issue had settled, Kulkarni announced his decision to break his ties with BJP.

Reacting to the BJP’s decision on expelling him, Singh said: “I didn’t think that the party is so narrow-minded, so nervous about Jinnah and Patel to get so riled at what I have written. I have a feeling, which I voiced also, that perhaps my former colleagues had not really read the book when they passed the sentence.”  On Kulkarni’s resignation, Singh said: “He (Kulkarni) has been persuaded to resign.”

Claiming that his resignation from BJP had nothing to do with Singh’s expulsion, Kulkarni said that he had decided to resign earlier. “I have, after 13 years of being a full-time activist of BJP, decided to end my active association with the party. I continue, however, to be its well-wisher,” he said. “I have concluded that I cannot make any meaningful contribution to the party anymore, as I have ideological differences with it as it stands today. I want to have the freedom to express my views and be sincere to my convictions. At the same time, I respect the discipline of the party and, therefore, I have stepped out,” Kulkarni said.

The ironical similarity between what led to Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation cannot be de-linked. If Singh faced the ire of hardcore party members because of his book, Kulkarni also faced their wrath on account of several points he made in recent articles. Kulkarni, a journalist, strongly criticized the manner in which former cabinet minister Singh was expelled from the BJP at its Shimla conclave. Earlier, following the BJP’s defeat in Lok Sabha polls, Kulkarni was highly critical of the party’s election campaign strategy, hate speeches of Varun Gandhi–and he also blamed Sangh Parivar for its interfering in BJP functions.

Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation are also suggestive of both being made to walk out of the party because the hardcore party members, strongly associated with the saffron brigade, felt uncomfortable with their writings, which went against the code the BJP is expected to adhere to. There is also the possibility of the entire political drama having been deliberately staged to judge the reaction that it would have on the people, political circles and in the media. There is no denying BJP leaders having acknowledged that its negative image has contributed to its defeat in Lok Sabha polls. The internal report deliberated on at the Shimla conclave listed projection of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as future PM, and Varun’s hate speeches as responsible for the BJP’s poll debacle. Ironically, neither Singh nor Kulkarni have been accused by the party or its allies as responsible for their poor performance in the parliamentary elections. Amid this backdrop, Singh’s expulsion and Kulkarni’s resignation may well be a short-term political strategy being worked upon to study whether the BJP would gain from distance from the views in their writings. Or whether it is time that the party stepped out of its dependence on extremist views entertained by Sangh Parivar and gave greater importance to views such as those projected by Singh and Kulkarni.

Now, Singh’s expulsion is being linked primarily only with his views favoring Jinnah. What has been sidelined is that Singh has also pointed fingers at Nehru, holding him more responsible than Jinnah for the country’s partition. This amounts to Singh painting a negative image of the Congress party, regarding the partition.

Singh’s expulsion from the party has attracted more attention to his book. It is to be watched as to for how long does this political drama last and whether it has been deliberately staged as an attempt to project a dark side of the Congress’ past to the country. If this is the real political plan, than Singh and to a lesser degree Kulkarni are being used as pawns by the BJP against its rival- the Congress. Only time will tell as to what strategy is BJP trying its hand at to gain a political edge over the Congress in the near future!

11-36

Indian Voters’ Shrewd & Stunning Verdict

May 21, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-05-20T124442Z_01_DEL200_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-ELECTION-SUPPORT

PM-elect Manmohan Singh (R) addresses the media next to Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi (L) after their meeting with President Pratibha Patil in New Delhi May 20, 2009.  India’s Congress party-led coalition has the support of 322 lawmakers, Singh said Wednesday, giving it a clear majority in a new government.     

Reuters/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI:  Definitely, the average Indian voter has proved to be far more intelligent than sharp political analysts and key political parties probably envisaged him/her to be. The electoral verdict spells a return to power of not just the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) but also a defeat of controversial as well as highly sensitive communal issues raised by certain politicians. Besides, the poll verdict also indicates the major role that can be played by average Indian voter’s decision of not being taken for a ride by the tall promises spelt out by politicians in the fray. Not surprisingly, while the Congress leaders are celebrating their return to power with a massive lead over their rivals, the others are pondering are what could be responsible for their dismal performance. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance has won 261 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha, with it being only a few seats short of the magic number-272 needed to claim majority. National Democratic Alliance trails behind with 157 seats, the Third Front – 59 and Fourth Front securing only 27. While the Congress in UPA has bagged 205 seats, the BJP has managed only 116. The left front bloc in Third Front has won just 24. In the Fourth Front, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) has failed to win a single seat, with its own leader Ram Vilas Paswan suffering defeat, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)’s score has fallen to four, while Samajwadi Party (SP) has managed to win only 23.

Compared to 2004 results, while Congress has gained more seats, most parties have fallen significantly short of what they gained earlier. In 2004, Congress won 148, the SP-30, RJD-23 and the left bloc – 61. The BJP has gained marginally as it won 110 seats in 2004. The performance of Congress in Uttar Pradesh has been phenomenal, where while in 2004 it could not win even 10 seats, this time it has bagged 21. Crediting party leader Rahul Gandhi for improving the Congress’ score in UP, Jyotiraditya Scindia said: “All credit goes to Rahul Gandhi for single handedly reviving the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. What worked was the combination of Manmohan Singh’s policies and Rahul Gandhi’s thrust on party cadres and youth.”

It is also held that SP lost Muslim votes to Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) by having aligned with Kalyan Singh, who as the then UP chief minister is held responsible for demolition of Babari Masjid in Ayodhya (December 6, 1992). There is also the view that by reaching out to Kalyan, SP managed to attract votes of Dalits and Yadavs and thus could win 23 in UP. Revival of Congress together with SP’s political strategy prevented a substantial chunk of votes from Brahmins, Muslims as well as Dalits going to BSP. The BSP leader, UP Chief Minister Mayawati was apparently banking on winning around 50 percent of seats from UP, which sends 80 legislators to Lok Sabha.  It has won 20, increasing its 2004-score by just four seats.

Congress has also gained, with its Trinamool Congress (TC) winning 19 seats in West Bengal. In Andhra Pradesh, the Congress has won 33, Maharashtra- 17, Rajasthan-20, Kerala-13, Madhya Pradesh –12, Gujarat- 11 and Delhi- 7. The BJP has managed to win 19 in Karnataka, Gujarat -15, Madhya Pradesh- 16, UP-10, Maharashtra – 9 Rajasthan- 4, and 12 in Bihar, where its key ally Janata Dal-United has won 20 seats.

Interestingly, neither Congress nor of any its old allies have fared well in Bihar. Differences over seat sharing with Congress in Bihar, prompted RJD, SP and LJP to float the Fourth Front, that has secured only four seats. There is a view, that common Biharis, including the Muslims, have been “taken for a ride for too long by tall promises made RJD and LJP leaders. So they decided to teach them a hard lesson in these elections.” With RJD’s own score confined to four, that of LJP – zero, in addition to this being a hard hit for their political image, both the parties have lost the numerical importance they earlier held for UPA.

Conceding defeat, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley said: “We accept voters’ mandate with full respect. If we have an overall view of the trends, then we see that we have performed below our expectations as we had expected our tally to improve from the last elections.”

Accepting that Congress has performed better than expected, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: “The CPI-M and left parties have suffered a major setback in these elections. This necessitates a serious examination of the reasons for the party’s poor performance.” “The Congress and its allies have succeeded all over the country. They have done well on the platform they provided to the voters,” he said. Ruling out the option of left supporting the Congress-led UPA, Karat said that they would sit in the opposition.

“Our expectations have not been fulfilled, we admit. Congress is in a position to form the government. Let them form it,” Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary A.B. Bardhan said. On prospects of left supporting the Congress, Bardhan said: “Why should they need our support? They don’t need our support. We will sit in the opposition and fight for the cause of the poor.”

Poor performance of BJP and the left bloc is also attributed to both groups suffering from a leadership-crisis. During these elections, while BJP was devoid of its chief campaigner – former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, the left bloc had to manage without Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) comrade Jyoti Basu. Both have retired from politics due to health reasons. In West Bengal, unlike in 2004, when CPI-M won more than 20 seats, this time it has got only 9, while its rival TC’s score has increased from one to 19.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav holds BJP-candidate Varun Gandhi’s “hate speeches” and projection of Modi as future prime minister responsible for NDA’s dismal performance. “It may be right or wrong or he (Varun’s) might have denied, but his statement has caused immense damage. His statement was unconstitutional. It was against the country’s unity and must have affected the polls,” Yadav said. Terming projection of Modi as prime minister as a political mistake, Yadav said: “It was a factor. When the issue had come up, it created confusion among the people’s mind. Since the NDA had already declared a Prime Ministerial candidate (L K Advani) unanimously, the issue should have been dismissed immediately.”

Yadav’s comments suggest that in addition to its own campaign, Congress has fared well because of wrong strategies pursued by rivals in the fray. While politicians have yet to figure out causes of their defeat, the voter has shrewdly declared his verdict- giving all in the race to ponder over where did they fail. Undeniably, had Congress checked the seats won by BJP and its NDA-allies in states like Karnataka, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, it may have been able to form a single-party government. Though the Congress has fared well, it still has to deliberate on what prevented voters from extending it greater support!

11-22

Varun In Jail: His Communal Strategy For Political Gains Misfires

April 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2009-03-28T151939Z_01_PIL17_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-GANDHI-ARREST

Policemen clear the way for the police van in which Varun Gandhi, great-grandson of India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and scion of a family dynasty, is sitting after he was arrested in Pilibhit, in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, March 28, 2009. Police in northern India on Saturday arrested Gandhi over allegations he made inflammatory comments against Muslims. 

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI: Political drama and media-hype raised over highly communal and inflammatory remarks allegedly made by Varun Gandhi while campaigning in Pilibhit as the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) candidate for Lok Sabha polls carry a far more significant message than apparent. Undeniably, a primary motive behind the entire drama staged by Varun and his political patrons is to push him and the party into political limelight. Besides, Varun allegedly made provocative comments targeting the minority communities (including Muslims and Sikhs) to create a polarization of votes along religious lines in Pilibhit to attract the majority Hindu community to BJP’s side. Clearly, Varun tried his hand at the old-tainted communal card, which had incited public to the stage of riots over Ayodhya-issue, pushing BJP to the center stage as a national party from late 1980s onwards. The political novice apparently remained oblivious of the hard reality that the Indian voter has matured a lot over the past two decades. It cannot be ignored that 2002 Gujarat-carnage played a major role in pushing the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government out of power in 2004 elections. The anti-incumbency factor played a key role in helping Congress return to power, leading the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. Varun has also given little importance to the hard reality that BJP does not have as strong base in UP as it did earlier, which is responsible for Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati winning the state assembly elections in 2007 with a sweeping majority.

The situation would have been different were the national and/or UP government led by BJP. There is no denying that with her eye on capturing the prime ministerial position, UP Chief Minister Mayawati has no intention to agitate the minority community in UP and elsewhere. Hype raised by Varun’s political colleagues over his arrest and charges framed against him have ironically not played the part they probably aimed for. Nothing else can be a stronger indicator of this than the fact that neither Varun’s comments nor the subsequent developments aroused any communal frenzy to the stage of riots in Pilibhit. Yes, law and order in Pilibhit was put to risk when Varun allegedly made the inflammatory comments and when he courted arrest. The clash, the day he courted arrest (March 28) was between the saffron brigade activists and the police. This certainly defeats the logic exercised by Varun and his supporters to try inciting communal frenzy in Pilibhit.

If Varun assumed that by courting arrest for a few hours or days, he would return to the political field as a hero for his radical supporters, he has been proved wrong. This is marked by UP government slapping the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against Varun, which can keep him behind bars till elections are over. Thus, dismissal of the case filed against him on violating model code of conduct and grant of bails on other charges slapped on him spelt only a minor relief for him (March 30). He was granted bail on sureties of Rs 20,000 each in two cases – one related to allegedly causing breach of peace through inflammatory speeches and the other on charge of violating prohibitory order. The NSA was invoked against him the preceding day (March 29) for making inflammatory speeches at public meetings at Dalganj and Barkhera in Pilibhit on March 7 and 8 and for giving an aggressive speech at the court gate on March 28, because of which his supporters turned violent and clashed with the police. The decision to charge him under NSA was taken at a high level meeting, presided by Mayawati. Clearly, this move signals that BJP’s rivals in UP seem prepared to counter attempts made by Varun and his supporters to incite communal frenzy for gaining political mileage by polarization of votes along religious lines.

A three-member advisory committee, comprising of one acting High Court judge and two retired judges, has been set up by Allahabad High Court to examine whether the NSA imposed on Varun is correct or not. The committee is expected to submit its report in three weeks. Till then, Varun cannot appeal against the NSA, which means that the political novice may have to contest polls from behind the bars.

While BJP leaders, including Varun’s mother Maneka have strongly criticized invoking of NSA, majority of other party leaders think otherwise. Blaming Congress and BSP for conspiring against Varun, Maneka said: “Misuse of such powerful laws is unjust to Varun and to the country. The BSP and Congress are desperate for votes. They put pressure on the authorities.” BSP’s key rival in UP, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav considers the NSA against Varun as a “tactic” of BJP and BSP to “generate sympathy” towards him. “If the BJP-BSP are not having any sort of tacit understanding, then why was Varun not arrested before the road-show?” he asked.

In the opinion of left bloc and the Congress, NSA against Varun is justified. “A very strong, tough message needed to be sent that no hate speech will be tolerated against any community and it has been sent,” Brinda Karat (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said.

“Those who break law to get votes, do divisive politics with open eyes…. They should have courage to face the law if they break it,” Congress party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said. On whether invoking NSA in Varun’s case was correct, he replied: “If the state government is of the opinion that there is a threat to public order, it (NSA) can be used…. Can there be more threat to public order?”

11-15

Muslims Lose Trust In Congress Party

October 23, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent

2008-10-17T080525Z_01_DEL35_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) arrives with security personnel to attend the opening day of the second-leg of the monsoon session of the Indian Parliament in New Delhi October 17, 2008.

REUTERS/B Mathur

NEW DELHI: Ironically, the questions raised over the role of the government, media and the police in the so-called “Batla House encounter” has pushed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh into an unenviable position. Cutting across religious differences, while Muslims have questioned his “silence,” many Hindus have wondered at how the Prime Minister who had threatened to quit office over the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal has chosen to remain quiet over innocent Muslims being targeted as “suspect” terrorists. Alarmed at Muslims being disillusioned with him and his party, Singh tried assuring them last week that his government was looking into every possible way of restoring confidence of minorities (October 18). He said this in context of the Batla House encounter as well as the series of attacks on Christians in Orissa and Karnataka. Considering that he gave this assurance to a delegation of Muslim leaders from his own party, the move was apparently deliberately planned to try and convince the Muslim community at large that they should not lose hope in his government. With assembly elections due in six states in the coming weeks and less than a year left for national elections, political parties in the race are trying their best to prop up their image among the voters.

The delegation had earlier called on Congress chief, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chief Sonia Gandhi. Among others, the members included Salman Khurshid, K. Rahman Khan, Mohsina Kidwai, C.K. Jaffer Sharief, Imran Kidwai (Congress minority department chief) and Anees Durrani (minority department secretary).

“The Prime Minister expressed concern over the incidents and said that he would look seriously into every possible way to restore the confidence of the minorities and that he will take a decision soon on the issue,” Khurshid said. Singh, however, did not give any commitment on whether he would pursue the demand made by several other Muslim delegations for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter.

Despite there being limited prospects of Singh’s “assurance” finding much favor among the Muslim voters, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders have not refrained from blaming his party and its allies from indulging in the game of vote-bank politics. While addressing a party rally in Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh), senior BJP leader L.K. Advani said: “The Congress and its allies are engaged in the dirty game of vote bank politics. This has turned out to be a greater evil for the country than the issue of terrorism” (October 18). The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate also said that the UPA government had no right to continue in power as it had “failed miserably” in checking terrorism. Asserting that as it is possible only for BJP to combat this menace, the country needs a government headed by it. “The country has seen enough of terror attacks. Now, it needs a party that can not only combat this, but also root out the menace,” Advani said.

The Indian Muslims at large along with regional parties, with a secular bent, particularly the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Samajwadi Party (SP), as developments suggest, have no inclination to give either Congress or BJP a chance to assume power in 2009 polls. The Batla House encounter followed by failure of the Congress-led government to take any constructive action in response to appeals and memorandums submitted by several leaders appears to have completely disillusioned the Muslim community. While they have lost trust in the Congress, they cannot afford to turn to BJP – which has played anti-Muslim card time and again.  ”Our youngsters have been killed in the name of terrorism. We had been associated with the Congress for decades, but now the same party has ditched us,” Akram (34), a resident of Okhla (Delhi), said. “We don’t want the Congress, but we don’t want the BJP either,” is the common comment made by Muslims of the area.

Lashing at the government for targeting only minorities, in its anti-terrorism drive, at a meeting of Muslim leaders, clerics and heads of Muslim organizations, Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Maulana Syed Ahmed Bukhari said: “The government should proclaim the definition of terrorism. Is fake encounter not terrorism? Is it not an act of terrorism to burn alive Muslims in Gujarat,” he asked. “Is it not the act of terrorism to burn villages, mosques and churches in different parts of the country? And if it is the act of terrorism, then what is the meaning of alertness of the government and its security agencies only on bomb blasts whereas it overlooks other incidents of terrorism?” (October 14).

Not surprisingly, amid this backdrop, the SP and BSP members are trying their best to cash on the opportunity and turn the Muslims in their favor. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, BSP-chief, Mayawati called an all-India convention to discuss problems faced by Muslims (Lucknow, October 13). She blamed the Congress for having failed to combat terrorism and also for not taking sufficient steps for development of Muslims. “After independence, the Congress has ruled the country for nearly 48 years. During this long span, it never implemented any of the welfare schemes it announced for Muslims or other minority communities,” she said. At the gathering, Mayawati announced allocation of financial schemes to help raise educational standards of Muslims, from school to the university level. “An Arabic-Persian university will be set up in Lucknow. Several primary schools, junior high-schools and government secondary schools will be established in Muslim-dominated areas,” she said.

Not to be left behind, SP leaders have kept reiterating their demand for a judicial probe into the Batla House encounter. The SP plans to reserve as many as 40 percent of its seats for Muslim candidates for Delhi assembly elections. Since the Batla House encounter, SP leader Amar Singh has visited Okhla several times and addressed gatherings there to convince the Muslim populace that they should support his party. In his opinion, “The Muslim community is realizing how depending on any other party is a suicide. Congress has only used them to come to power and during Mayawati rule Muslim youth have been arrested from her state.” The latter point refers to police having made several arrests in Azamgarh, after the Batla House encounter.

10-44

Delhi Rocked By Multiple Blasts

September 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS

 

2008-09-14T064742Z_01_DEL211_RTRMDNP_3_INDIA-ATTACK

The relative of a bomb blast victim mourns in New Delhi September 14, 2008. Police officers trawled slums and criminal hideouts in India’s capital on Sunday rounding up  suspects, after serial bombings in the city a day earlier killed at least 20 people and wounded nearly 100.    

REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

NEW DELHI: Multiple blasts rocked Delhi Saturday evening within 45 minutes leaving at least 20 dead and more than 90 injured (September 13). The first explosion occurred at Gaffar Market in Karol Bagh, North Delhi. This blast took place in a CNG (compressed natural gas) auto-rickshaw and was followed by a blast in the gas-cylinder kept on a scooter right behind it. The impact of the blast was such that the auto rickshaw (three-wheeler) was tossed up in the air by at least 12 feet and got entangled in the overhead electrical wires, according to eyewitnesses. Within minutes, blasts on Barakhambha road went off near Metro Station in Connaught Place (CP), Central Delhi. These were followed by twin blasts in Greater Kailash (GK)’s M-Block market (South Delhi), which was immediately shut down. While one bomb in GK was said to be placed in a dustbin, the other in a scooter.

A high alert was sounded in Delhi, neighboring areas and all major cities of the country. “An alert has been sounded in the wake of the series of blasts in Delhi caused by bombs,” a Delhi police spokesman said.

At least ten shops were damaged in GK. In Karol Bagh, parked cars and motorbikes were badly damaged. The worst affected was Karol Bagh with bloodstains on roadsides, abandoned shoes together with personal belongings and badly damaged cars as well as mangled motorbikes telling the gruesome details.

Ambulances were immediately rushed to affected areas and injured shifted to nearby hospitals.Bomb disposal squads were rushed to all affected sites, which were cordoned off and the traffic diverted. Security was beefed up at sensitive points, including Metro and railway stations with metal detectors being placed at major market areas.

Though a terrorist group – called Indian Mujahideen claimed responsibility for bomb blasts, Delhi police refrained from confirming this. “The Indian Mujahideen has claimed something but we are not very sure about it,” Delhi Police Joint Commissioner Karnail Singh said. “Whether it is Indian Mujahideen or anyone else, we want to arrest those behind it,” he said. Asserting that there was “no lapse in security,” Singh said: “We had no intelligence about the blasts.”

“A special team has been formed to probe the blasts,” Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal said.

The police claimed to have defused four live bombs, one near India Gate, another near Regal cinema and two at central park in CP.

Minutes ahead of serial blasts, an e-mail was sent to media organiztions stating: “Indian Mujahideen strikes back once more. Within 5 minutes from now… This time with the Message of Death, dreadfully terrorizing you for your sins.” The message from email id, al_arbi_delhi@yahoo.com, also said: “Do whatever you want and stop us if you can.”

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh strongly condemned the serial blasts and expressed grief over loss of lives. He appealed to the people to remain calm. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi described blasts as “dastardly” and an act of “cowardice”. Those behind the blasts will not spared and they have place in civilized society, she said.

President Pratibha Devisingh Patil, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Home Minister Shivraj Patil also condemned the blasts and appealed to the people not to panic. Condemning the blasts, Delhi Chief Minister Shiela Dikshit said: “We must keep calm and peace at this moment of hour otherwise those behind this sinister attack will get the impression that they have succeeded in their aim.”

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi claimed that he had alerted the Prime Minister more than a week ago about a possible terror strike in Delhi. Condemning the blasts, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, including L.K. Advani, Rajnath Singh and Modi blamed the government for not having heeded the “warning.”

Stating that “no words can suffice condemnation” of the blasts, former primer minister, senior BJP leader, Atal Behari Vajpayee said: “The explosions that rocked the city are part of the conspiracy to spread terror and unrest in the country which reflects frustration of the perpetrators of the dastardly act.”

A day after serial blasts, the toll of which increased to 21, uneasy calm prevailed in Delhi. Home Minister Patil chaired a high-level meeting to assess the security situation. National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan, Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrashekar, Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta, Director Intelligence P.C. Haldar and Delhi Police Commissioner Y.S. Dadwal, among others, attended the 90-minute meeting.

“The meeting was held to review Saturday’s incidents on basis of whatever information is available,” Gupta said. Without elaborating on specific measures that may have delved on at the meeting, Gupta said: “We have discussed various measures that may be needed not only in Delhi but other major cities… After each incident you gain experience.” The government will work on measures needed in a time-bound manner and try to develop some do’s and dont’s as precautionary steps on which the ministry would advise all states, Gupta said. The union home ministry is taking all measures to “fill up any kind of gap, strengthening the machinery, the system and processes,” he said. “All matters would be put at the highest level, wherever necessary, with respect to any particular decision,” Gupta said.

Refraining from giving any direct reply on who could be responsible for serial blasts in several cities within a short span of time, Gupta said at this point of time focus should be on the investigations going on. “Neither you (media) or anybody should say or do anything which creates unnecessary apprehensions or whips up any kind of panic,” he said.

While addressing another gathering, Patil said that the government was taking all possible measures to check terrorist incidents. “The terrorists are trying to spread fear and terror among people through their evil designs. We will not allow them to succeed in it,” he said. “A thorough probe will be conducted and those guilty will be punished according to the law,” he said.

It is noteworthy that authorities are exercising caution in not blaming any particular religious or organization for the Delhi blasts. Earlier in the week (September 10), a delegation led by Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, Maulauna Ahmed Bukhari met Prime Minister Singh questioning “double standards” exercised by Indian administration against terrorism, with Muslims being the main victims.

They demanded setting up of a judicial commission to probe into arrest of many Muslims as suspected terrorists, despite their being no substantial evidence against them. The judicial commission, they suggested, should have a proper representation of minorities to look into cases of those arrested from minority community in various terrorism-related cases, prior to judicial proceedings.

Besides, they blamed right-winged extremist groups, linked with saffron brigade- the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Bajrang Dal for playing a major role in organizing terrorist attacks in India. The Muslim delegation pressed on the Prime Minister the need for a high level inquiry into role of VHP and Bajrang Dal in recent blasts in the country.

Bukhari also drew Singh’s attention to only either “poor” or rising young, Muslims being dubbed as terrorists. “While the poor cannot afford to approach courts, for the educated youth an arrest as a terrorist spells end of his career and misfortune for his whole family,” Bukhari told this correspondent. “We also urged the Prime Minister to look into arrests of Muslims as alleged terrorists, who have been in jail for more than two years, without any charges having been proved against them,” Bukhari said.

Blaming administration for following double standards, Bukhari said: “Muslims are being harassed and arrested in the name of being masterminds in terror acts that occur in the country or for having relations with a banned organization without any evidence on one hand without any proof. On the other, no action is taken against activities of VHP and Bajrang Dal.”

Bukhari met the Prime Minister in continuation of a drive he has begun recently questioning indiscriminate arrest of Muslim youths as suspected terrorists despite there being no evidence to substantiate these charges. A few days ago, Bukhari sent a one-page letter to prominent Muslim organizations and institutions suggesting a nation-wide all-party meeting to form a consensus and strategy on the steps that should be taken when innocent Muslims are arrested in the name of war against terrorism.

Among those who have supported Bukhari’s proposal are rector of Darul Uloom Deoband Maulana Marghoobur Rahman, rector of Madrasa Mazahirul Uloom (wakf) Maulana Mohammad Saidi, and president of Tanzeem Ulama-e-Hind Maulana Ahmad Khizr. Maulana Arshad Madani and Maulana Mehmood Madani (a legislator) linked with Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH) have also responded positively to the proposal. It is to be pursued actively after the month of Ramadan, sources said.

10-39