(For private circulation only)
(A perioical devoted to : Rights, Advocacy, Justice, Action towards Peace and Love
P R A J A L
"Prashant", Hill Nagar, Near Kamla Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad 380 052
Tel: 0091 79 27449744 / 27455913 Fax: 0091 79 27489018 Email: [email protected]
No. 3 November 2004
It’s Children’s Day today, and it’s also the third day of the Diwali Festival, which is traditionally celebrated as “Bhai-Bhij”, and tomorrow, at the conclusion of the Holy Month of Ramzan, we celebrate the Festival of Eid; on this Sunday (the second-last Sunday before the end of the Liturgical
Calendar of the Catholic Church) we observe “India Communications Day”.
Yes…it is a whole series of Festivals marked with the holiday spirit...but then, there are under currents – very strong ones – as all is not “well” in Gujarat, and in several parts of the country. Just last month, Gujarat went to town announcing the longest dance festival on earth at its Navratri bash. The tragedy is that at the main venue, of this State-sponsored extravaganza, one could see the heavy armoured vehicles of the Rapid Action Force, trying “to provide security” for those who wanted to revel. An irony indeed ! The spontaneity and the freedom which should mark any festival is lost in the clutches of hate and viciousness that have been unleashed by the tentacles which would rather destroy than create, which would rather strangle than set free.
These last eight months, since we brought out the last issue of PRAJAL, have indeed been tumultuous for us. We have continued to make a mark as a Centre committed to upholding the Secular character of our Constitution, and with the cherished values of truth and justice.
We continue to champion the cause of the victims of the Gujarat carnage and we have effectively responded to the immediate relief and rehabilitation of the victims of the floods which ravaged South Gujarat in the month of August. We have joined representations to the UPA Government and at the same time condemned the volte-face of Zahira Sheikh when she has done a turn-around on Teesta Setalvad and the Citizens for Justice and Peace, who have been consistently fighting her cause.
We have researched the Std. VIII Social Science Book of the Gujarat State Textbook Board making the School Board to sit up saying that they would make amends...
So, this issue of PRAJAL is a bumper-double-issue coming as it were, after a long gap. We continue to thank all who in any way have been of support to us in our quest for a society based on justice, truth, human rights and peace.
Finally, we would like to make the message we sent out to many of our friends for this festive season, your very own too :
THE HEART OF LOVE
THE LIGHT FOR TRUTH
THE COURAGE FOR JUSTICE
THAT THERE IS AN “ ALI ” IN DIWALI
A “ RAM ” IN RAMZAN
LET’S STRIVE FOR A MORE HARMONIOUS,
IN THE NEW YEAR !!!
for DIWALI and EID !
n The Prashant Parivar
Zahira Symbolizes Flaws in Prosecution Process
by : Anil Dharker
Who, or what, is Zahira Sheikh? Is she victim, heroine or mercenary? It’s a tangled story, so she could be all of these at different times, or some of these at the same time... But if her case is confusing, it’s only because everything that happened in Gujarat in February-March 2002 is topsy-turvy.
To start with, what we call “the Gujarat riots” weren’t riots at all. What took place was a state-sponsored pogrom against Muslims, planned by state-level politicians, executed by mobs led by local politicians while the police either stood by or participated in the mayhem. The indifference of law-enforcing agencies to record FIRs, collect evidence or protect witnesses was so obvious that the Supreme Court had to take the unprecedented step of transferring cases out of Gujarat.
If that seemed like a victory for justice, it was short-lived because to prosecute a case, you need a prosecution. The prosecution, in this case, is the state of Gujarat and its various agencies, and in many instances, they should really be the defendants. Which is why when Zahira changed her testimony yet again recently, to say that she couldn’t identify the accused in the Best Bakery trial, she did so in the beaming presence of the Vadodara Collector as well as the Vadodara Commissioner of Police, two gentlemen who forgot they were part of the prosecution! How do you prosecute when the prosecution seems keen to sabotage the case? There’s only one way: You try and bypass official agencies as much as possible.
It was this awareness that guided the actions of Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), an NGO of which I am a part. Immediately after the Gujarat violence CJP had FIRs registered and evidence recorded. A Citizens’ Tribunal was appointed to record evidence of the affected people. Headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Krishna Iyer, and including other retired high court justices, the tribunal collected evidence from over 1,500 witnesses and victims. The tribunal’s report is blood-curdling and damning, especially about the participation or connivance of officials and politicians in what happened.
Unfortunately, this report is not official. Which is why the CJP petitioned the Supreme Court as early as April 2002 to get a high-level investigation into the Gujarat massacres starting with Godhra, before the evidence was destroyed. Sadly, that plea has become part of the court’s backlog of cases. Will justice ever prevail in any of the cases in Gujarat? While the Best Bakery case has got all the attention, CJP has been responsible in launching 18 other cases dealing with incidents in places like Naroda and Sardarpura, once ordinary names which have now become associated with horror. Teesta Setalvad, CJP’s secretary, now needs protection because of the many threats on her life, while the CJP’s hands-on man in Ahmedabad has been under protection for over a year.
CJP’s funds are low (contrary to what Zahira believes) and it continues to function only because of emergency infusion of small sums from friends and well-wishers. Most of all, the range of forces out to subvert justice is formidable. Zahira stayed in Mumbai happily for a year, moving freely, even making three unescorted trips to Vadodara. But just before she was to testify in court, came her volte-face, turning her erstwhile friends into sudden foes and her erstwhile foes into protective friends. Her new “friends” now give her “protection” of the kind chief ministers give their captive MLAs before the head-count to prove their majority.
What compelling reason made her do a complete flip-flop, so much so that she has earned the wrath of her community, and her neighbours in Vadodara have burnt her effigy? We don’t have to be rocket scientists to figure out who are the potential beneficiaries of her changed testimony. But her advisors have probably miscalculated: How much credibility does Zahira have now? And they have overlooked the brave workers at the Bakery who have already testified, given eye-witness accounts of the horrific happenings and identified a considerable number of the accused.
Whatever happens, these cases bring up much wider questions going beyond what happened in Gujarat. We already have the example of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 which killed in excess of 2,000 people and resulted in not a single conviction in 20 years! Gujarat was worse because official connivance was open and unchecked. If the state is the criminal, who will book the state? You cannot expect NGOs to do the job every time. In any case, isn’t the delivery of justice an essential duty of any government? Even with a Congress-led government in Delhi, there has been no change in the attitude of either the home or the law ministry, no sense of urgency in pursuing the cases.
In this vacuum, do we then need an autonomous organisation, which is well-funded and dynamically led, which can suo moto take up cases anywhere in India? It will need to be flexible in its approach, taking the initiative when it can, cooperating with NGOs when it can’t. It will need access to an independent investigative agency (like a new, improved CBI). And it will need the clout to stop state agencies from interfering in its cases. Sounds like a lot? It probably is. But who will deny that we need something like this?
( The Times of India 11 th November 2004)
by : Shiv Visvanathan
Let me begin autobiographically. Any autobiography is a statement of bias, location and expectation. It valorizes storytelling, over-analysis and attempts to combine both in some framework of reflectivity. When the investigation into the Gujarat riots shifted to Bombay, I sighed with relief. It was a sigh of relief for democracy and a salute to the courts and to the NGO who had kept an issue alive. The sadness of Gujarat was not merely the tragedy of violence, it was the sadness of silence, the sadness of a story left untold. The witness was allowed to complete her story, the law was to proceed with its interrogation and between interrogation and storytelling, democracy and justice were breathing.
When the media reported how the witness, a woman, identified the perpetrators in court, one sensed the drama of the moment. Justice had reached a turning point. When the same media reported that the witness had retracted, I realized that justice had turned into an unending serial. What one confronted was not the professional witness who litters our lower courts, but the revolving witness, who by changing her mind changes history and marks all the characters around her.
When the witness turns hostile, the needle of suspicion points in other directions. When Zahira Sheikh accused Teesta Setalvad of monitoring, sequestering or being indifferent to her, one immediately faces three questions. First, one confronts the ambiguity of victim as witness. The victim becomes marked by the violence of the event (the riot), but also by the violence of the aftermath. The event which began as rape, murder, humiliation, now becomes an opportunity for publicity and mobility. It becomes convertible into money, to currency beyond the fact of compensation.
What adds to this ambiguity is Narendra Modi’s statement that NGOs should be audited, examined and evaluated. A new public space for rumour, suspicion and speculation is created. We have the entry of a third term: the NGO as middlemen, as representative and agent of civil society.
The details seem sordid. The media report that Sheikh observes that money was floating into the NGO coffers because of her presence. She demands a house and money for her bakery in Mumbai. By locating herself as source, she also defines herself as beneficiary. The question is no longer of justice or witness, but of individual opportunity.
Expectedly, some NGOs resent the fact that Setalvad has monopolized the victim. Like Sheikh, they see missed opportunities. Suspicion magnifies rumour when one of the perpetrators alleges that Setalvad has threatened him. Setalvad now appears as a manipulative coercive ogre. Strangely, the innocence or laziness of rumour in public space seems to confirm some modicum of suspicion.
We confront a distressing situation. A crisis of the legitimacy of the State, police and party has been deftly turned into a crisis of the NGO. We have an allegedly wounded state as represented by the CM, a confusing witness and an ambiguous NGO. There is no mention of Setalvad’s courage, dedication or professionalism. It’s almost as if Setalvad and NGOs are on trial. How do we, especially those of us who saw activism as a testimony and a testament for democratic society, confront this?
Let us begin with the obvious as the obvious sometimes eludes debate. There are good and bad NGOs, like good and bad cops, politicians, bureaucrats. Every time we confront a corrupt politician, we don’t question the possibilities of politics. It makes dialogue impossible. Secondly, and critically, it is time society and politicians realize that there has been – and will continue to be - an internal critique among NGOs about their current role. The writings of Bunker Roy, Aruna Roy, Harsh Sethi and Madhu Kishwar testify to this. The quality of critique is relentless and the nature of reflection profound. One also realizes that NGO leaders can be more impervious to criticism than any political leader.
We mustn’t, however, lose the main point: that NGOs have created a new sphere, a zone that’s still fragile, an area where the vulnerable tribal, women, peasant or minority can raise their voice. The NGO has sought to raise their voice. The NGO has sought to protect voices, amplify, represent and preserve them. The NGO has been listener, storyteller and representative of this new voice that party politics and trade unions failed to articulate. This is a major contribution to democracy that no cynicism can destroy.
Yet the NGO and this space are doubly vulnerable. Activism, for all its noise and community, is a lonely affair. Second, it is subject to the market for funds, either from government or international agencies. The consumption of activism sometimes determines its style. Third, there’s an ambiguity in the relationship between victim and the NGO. They are bound together and both feel that the other owes them an un-payable debt. The activists feel that they have protected the victim and their memories, while the victim feels that activists turn possessive, even monopolistic, given the fund-driven nature of the NGO market.
The condition in Gujarat makes this even more difficult. There are activists like Setalvad and Cedric Prakash, Shabnam Hashmi with tacit support from the Congress, and finally the shadows of Action Aid, who, idealistic and courageous, still have to capture the nuances of local politics. They need to negotiate locally with the Congress and the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat. What’s occurring now is a split between the politics of peace (read: stability) and the politics of justice. One can read this more poetically as the split between the politics of memory and the politics of forgetting. At the local level, these are complex issues, where ideals and the tactics have to forge a compromise. What NGOs do in a hurry is to simplify issues. Chess gets confused for checkers.
Achyut Yagnik shrewdly observes that by competing against each other, NGOs have failed to create local coalitions. In fact, they tend to be impatient, with the local and the grassroots levels accusing them of doing little or nothing. Yet, the NGO is right in saying the judiciary at the local level did little; that one had to appeal to the nation to create the space for justice.
This inner failure to understand the politics makes the NGO vulnerable to the cynicism of party politics.
One must insist on the need for the NGOs’ courage and politics. They are irritants, but necessary. To drown them in suspicion or gossip is to destroy the politics of democracy in Gujarat. The NGO channelises voices in the wilderness to communities of protest.
The tragedy of Zahira Sheikh’s statement seen in tandem with Modi’s ‘editorial’ is that it creates a double vulnerability - the vulnerability of the victim as a witness and the vulnerability of the NGO as listener, community and voice for the vulnerable. No accusation of naiveté or impropriety can rob them of this achievement. Any attempt to do this is foolhardy in the long run. Democracy and Gujarat owe them a debt, a debt they can only repay through critical hospitality.
(The Hindustan Times November 6, 2004)
Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those
who should have known better;
the silence of the voice of justice
when it mattered most;
that has made it possible
for evil to triumph
THE INDIAN PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN :
Verdict 2004 is indeed a momentous one as the people of India literally voted out the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.
The verdict is significant on two counts : it is an outright rejection of a terrible lie called “India shining” foisted on the country by spin doctors, shrewd manipulators with the hoopla and hype of a media campaign; secondly, it was also a verdict against the communal and fascist policies of the NDA Government which sought to divide the country on religious lines.
Gujarat is a case in point. The brutal massacre of over 2000 Muslims in 2002, the marginalisation and the ghettoisation of the minorities by a State Government (which is comparable to the regimes of Hitler and Milosevic) had the blessings of the Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the others of the NDA Government.
In December 2002, when the Gujarat State went to polls on the blood of hundreds of innocent people, Narendra Modi was returned with a thumping two-third majority. Genocide seemed to have become the strategy in their lust for power. Most of Gujarat remained mute spectators, as the State continued to be enveloped in modern-day fascism.
Thanks however to the Supreme Court. “ Your rajdharma is to punish offenders and bring the guilty to book. If you can’t, you quit .”, Chief Justice, V. N. Khare of the Supreme Court of India proclaimed as he castigated the Gujarat government on September 12, 2003 while hearing the Best Bakery case. Some months later, on April 12, 2004 while delivering the Best Bakery case judgment, Justices Doraiswamy and Pasayat minced no words when they stated “The modern day “Neros” were looking elsewhere when Best Bakery and innocent children and women were burning, and were probably deliberating how the perpetrators of the crime can be saved or protected”.
The Modi Government has indeed been indicted not merely by several from all walks of life including well-known International Human Rights organizations but also by the highest court of the land. The stunning defeat of the BJP in Gujarat is a sure indicator that in the Lok Sabha election of 2004. Modi Government has lost the moral authority to rule. All the time, in his arrogance, he boastfully claimed that he would win all the 26 seats for the BJP; winning just 14 (and that too some with the slenderest of margins) is indeed a massive blow to Modi and his government. He has always boasted that 50 million people of Gujarat were behind him but in these elections, he has been unable to muster just 5 million of those votes.
Whilst another Government will soon sit in power to govern the country from New Delhi, it is imperative that they take a stand against fascist governments like that of Gujarat. There is enough of evidence including that from the Supreme Court to highlight the fact that the ordinary citizen of this State cannot be guaranteed his/her freedoms, security and even
justice. There has been an abominal failure on the part of the judicial system of the State which has been made impotent by those in power. All this warrants the dismissal of this Government and the imposition of article 356 of the Constitution.
Yes, the people of India have spoken…and at last… at least some people of Gujarat have spoken. Finallya “ feel good ” factor seems to be emerging. However, India will Shine only when the perpetrators of the Gujarat carnage have been brought to justice. For this, the people of India need to act, beginning with the people of Gujarat...
14th May 2004 - Fr. Cedric Prakash s.j.
Election results on 13th May brought a little Sunshine all around us….
To CELEBRATE CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT AT THE CENTRE,
on 19th May – PRASHANT together with other friends like Aman Samudaya, CFD, ACF, SANCHETNA, Sahr-Waru, etc. organized an informal get-together….
About 100 people from all walks of life met at our premises…. Mr. Vithalbhai Pandya and Batuk Vora besides other friends gave us inputs on the past and present scenario and what we, as Secular organizations and people should do in the future to help this much needed “change” to last. It was emphasized that the “change” is not enough….it has to last, and to last, the New Government will have “to put its hands and head together and work to preserve the secular fabric of our country” and for this to happen, we will have to constantly be on our toes …. the road ahead of us is therefore tough and long …. to tread this road will be harder still but we will not lose hope….we shall overcome….Peace and Justice will be ours !! The Supreme Court has given us hope (see our last issue), the Indian People have given us hope….we will not lose this HOPE !!
The paramount duty of the newly elected Government of India is to take all measures possible to reclaim and defend the secular and democratic foundations of India. These were under unprecedented threat during the last NDA government in the centre as well as the BJP government in the state of Gujarat. Indeed, Gujarat was the crucible of Hindutva politics and continues to be wounded by the genocide and wanton refusal of the state government to ensure justice and healing. Therefore, the test case of the secular resolve of the new UPA government will be its ability to take resolute and often difficult decisions to restore justice and hope to the people of Gujarat.
A group of concerned citizens and organizations, from both within and outside Gujarat, gathered on 1st June 2004 at PRASHANT, Ahmedabad, on June 2nd at Godhra, and the same day at Baroda to draw up a charter of demands form the Government of India for justice and healing in Gujarat. A summary of our demands to the UPA government is
as under :
Legal Justice :
1. The UPA government should support the recommendations of the Amicus Curiae in the
Supreme Court [Writ Petition (Cri) No.109 of 2003] which proposes that, a retired judge of the Supreme Court and a retired police officer of impeccable credentials should be empowered to (a) re-examine all cases of closure, acquittal and bail related to cases registered in relation to the post-Godhra carnage; (b) if they find prima-facie miscarriage of justice at the stages of FIR, investigation, prosecution and trial, they should be empowered to order and supervise reinvestigation and / or retrial; and (c) monitor all ongoing investigation, prosecution and trial.
2. Special Courts should be constituted to hear cases of rape and violence against women.
These courts should have only women judges, public prosecutors and lawyers, and should
conduct all its hearings in camera.
3. Repeal of POTA with retrospective effect, and cancellation of all POTA charges in Gujarat, in recognition of the painful fact that the state government openly misused this draconian Act to victimize exclusively members of the minority community, with very little genuine evidence. Attempts by the Gujarat government to pass a POTA-like law should be firmly resisted by the central government.
4. The UPA government should institute a Special Judicial Commission to enquire into the Godhra incident, because the people of India have the right to know the exact facts behind the fire in the S6 compartment of the ill-fated Sabarmati Express on 27th February, 2002
Compensation & Rehabilitation :
5. UPA should announce a compensation package based on the most progressive features of the compensation packages that were announced for the survivors of the Kaveri riots, 1984 riots and others. While formulating this package , it should be borne in mind that this was not a riot but a genocide executed with state complicity. Supervision of fair and timely implementation of this revised package should be entrusted to a Commissioner appointed by the Central Government.
6. A generous package of soft loans for housing and livelihoods should be given to all affected families.
7. For rehabilitation colonies that have been established through non-government initiatives
(because of the total inaction of the State Government) recognition and regularization in order to make them eligible for land title, electricity, water supply, approach roads, primary schools, etc. For families still unwilling to return to their original homes because of fear, government should establish new settlements at suitable locations consented to by the affected families, and ensure basic facilities.
8. For victims whose properties were destroyed and had taken bank loans against these
properties, bank loans should be waived as was done for the Kutch earthquake.
9. There has always been a precedent adopted by most governments in independent India to
rebuild places of religious and cultural importance when these have been destroyed in communal violence. This healing precedent should be applied to the nearly 700 places of
worship and cultural importance destroyed in the post-Godhra carnage. Particularly important is the rebuilding of the symbols of Gujarat syncretic culture like the Mazar of Wali Gujarati [Shahibaug, Ahmedabad]
Accountability & Preventive Measures :
10. UPA government should establish a machinery to ensure prosecution of all civil and police officers, who failed in their duties to prevent and control the violence, to protect the victims, and to extend relief and rehabilitation.
11. Similarly it should institute legal measures for the prosecution of the Chief Minister and other cabinet colleagues, for planning, instigating and abetting the carnage, and refusing to perform duties for relief and rehabilitation.
12. Enquiry by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court into the allegations of deliberate partisanship in the appointment and conduct of public prosecutors and judges in the post Godhra trial cases.
13. There were a few police officers who performed their duties with exemplary fairness and courage, during the carnage. They were subsequently penalized by the state government with punishment postings. Such officers should be identified and rewarded.
14. A special group should be set up in the Home Ministry to monitor and take appropriate action
against all individuals and organizations that preach or provoke hatred amongst people of different faiths.
15. The UPA should enquire into the systematic manufacture of hatred against minorities through textbooks and ensure their immediate replacement with liberal and secular educational material, which actively promote values of secularism, equity, respect for all faiths, and democracy.
16. The National Human Rights Commission, National Minorities Commission and National
Commission of Women should be strengthened to give them more powers to effectively intervene in situations like Gujarat, and safeguards introduced to ensure the appointment only of people of the best secular credentials and integrity to these positions.
17. In order to prevent recurrence of open state abetment of communal violence, abdication of responsibilities for relief and rehabilitation, and subversion of the justice system, the UPA
government should undertake codification and passage of a national law. This law should
delineate the statutory duties and accountability of the Government to prevent communal violence, protect victims and organize relief, compensation and rehabilitation, and lay down strong penalties for failure to perform these duties. Likewise, there should be a specific law to prevent and penalize strictly hate crimes, including, speeches, writings and mobilizations.
This Charter of Demands has been taken up with the Central Government and is being closely followed-up by our friends in and around Delhi.
Bashing up NGO and Human RightsActivists
in the land of the “Mahatma”continues….
On 25 th June 2004, PRASHANT joined GUJARAT JANANDOLAN and various NGOs, Trade Union and Civil Liberties Organizations for a massive Dharna in front of the Town Hall in Ahmedabd to voice their protest against the violation of Human Rights and the Rights of the workers and farmers.
The meeting passed the following Resolutions:
1. That the UPA Government should immediately repeal POTA retrospectively resulting in the withdrawal of charges under POTA against all those who have been booked under POTA so far. The meeting also declared that the propaganda made by the political forces that POTA helps in preventing “terrorism” is absolutely hollow and is neither legally nor morally tenable. Firstly POTA is not a detention law like NSA and therefore POTA cannot be “used” for preventing any act of terrorism. POTA like Indian Penal Code merely redefines the offense of “Terrorism” as contained in TADA; and POTA like TADA can be used only after the commission of the act. Experience all over India shows that no real terrorists are ever booked under POTA and only innocent persons or political opponents like VAIKO are victimized under POTA. In Gujarat, almost all the persons booked under POTA are innocent Muslim boys. Secondly, those forces who are now supporting POTA led by BJP had themselves fought against the enforcement of TADA at the height of Punjab and Kashmir “terrorism” and therefore they have no moral right to criticize the demand for the repeal of POTA.
2. The meeting further resolved to support the struggle of the workers against the archaic contract labour system that was nothing but a bonded labour system. The menace of this anti-labour system was growing day by day primarily due to the policies of Globalization and their local agents to intensify the exploitation of labour and therefore must be abolished by the enactment of a law.
3. The meeting fully supported the struggle of the Farmers of Gujarat who are also under a grave attack on the economic front due to the hefty hike in all the input price of farm-inputs including electricity charges. The meeting demanded that the Government should
agree to the withdrawal of the increase in the electricity charges as demanded by the farmers.
4. The meeting condemned the growing instances of attack on the democratic rights of the social organizations and their activists including the recent attempt by the Government to build up a case to impound the passport of Father Cedric Prakash of PRASHANT. The meeting declared that such attacks on voluntary organizations are against the basic tenets of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution and shall not be tolerated. The meeting further demanded that the so called inquiries into the affairs of the voluntary organizations by the Charity Commissioner must stop immediately.
5. The meeting expressed serious concern over the claim of the Gujarat Government regarding the growth of “terrorism” in Gujarat. The meeting was of the opinion that an in-depth and impartial inquiry was required to go into the reasons for the “growth of terrorism” in Gujarat specially since Gujarat was free from any form of terrorism till as late as 2002. The growing cases of “encounters” in Gujarat was also a matter of grave concern and the meeting was of the view that CBI should be handed over the investigation of all the cases of “encounters” in Gujarat and a Central Commission having experts on its Panel must determine the question of the growth of terrorism in Gujarat urgently for proper remedial actions.
6. The meeting also decided that in case the UPA Government fails to repeal POTA retrospectively, all the organizations participating in the Dharna would go to Delhi to effectively represent the case and if necessary hold a Dharna at Delhi.
Convenor, GUJARAT JANANDOLAN.
“Man’s dearest possession is life.It is given
to him but once, and he must liveit so as to
feel no torturing regrets forwasted years, never
know the burning shame of a meanand petty
past; so live that, dying he mightsay: all my
life, all my strength were givento the finest
cause in all the world - the fightfor the
More than 800 youth and other citizens from all walks of life gathered at the Loyola School auditorium on 1st July, 2004 to pay tribute to Vasant and Rajab who were martyred in this city on July 1st 1946.
Vasant (a hindu) and Rajab (a muslim) - both close friends - laid down their lives to protect a Harijan family in the aftermath of the Rath Yatra which saw a major communal flare up.
The highlight of the programme was the release of a calendar-poster which was specially designed on the lives of Vasant and Rajab. Immediately after the programme more than 500 of the youth present spread far across the city and other parts of Gujarat to distribute 20000 of these calendar-posters and thus to spread the message of communal harmony and
A magnificient dance drama was performed by the Darpana Academy which focused on the growing violence and stressed on the need for communal harmony and peace.
Songs on communal harmony, messages from Mr. Prakash Shah, Ms. Shabnam Hashmi, Ms. Zakhia Jowher and Fr. Cedric Prakash were among the other items of the programme. This communal Harmony day in tribute to Vasant and Rajab was jointly organized by ANHAD, PRATHAM, PRASHANT, YOUTH FOR PEACE and DARPANA..
Fr. Cedric Prakash was one of the representatives of the Society of Jesus at the World Parliament of Religions which was held in Barcelona, Spain from 7th to 13th July 2004.
The Parliament which was the fourth gathering since its inception in Chicago in 1893 brought together hundreds of leaders, scholars, theologians and others to deliberate on the theme “Pathways to Peace : The Wisdom of Listening, the Power of commitment”.
Fr. Cedric addressed the Parliament on “RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM AND VIOLENCE : A CHALLENGE TO INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE”. We give here an extract of his talk….
“In the context of my own reality and of the experience I have had with the victims of hate and violence, I take courage to propose the following as concrete responses to ensure meaningful inter-religious dialogue and ultimately lasting peace in Gujarat and other parts
of India and the world :
1. Let truth prevail :
Any attempt to hide the truth, deny it or sweep it under the carpet will only widen the chasm instead of creating bridges of peace. The Upanishads very clearly help us to pray :
From darkness to light
From death to immortality….”
Truth is essential for reconciliation, for forgiveness, for love and ultimately for peace. Besides, we should not be afraid of the truth. We need to learn lessons from history; but from a history that is not tampered with, one which is based purely on factuality.
Even Lord Buddha, just before his death, exorted his disciples who has assembled around him, to “be lamps to yourselves…..hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Hold fast as a refuge to the truth…..”.
2. Let inter-faith dialogue flourish at the grass-roots :
For too long, religion has been the monopoly, and at the mercies, of those who “control” religion. Ultimately, religion is peddled, religion becomes business, religion becomes a tool for power and political opportunism. We have seen it in Gujarat, we see it in so many different parts of the world. True religion is only about a lived and shared faith-experience. A faith experience which transcends the narrowness of dogmas and rules, of regulations and fundamentalism. Faith is about ordinary people accepting others as they are and for what they are; being able to see the image and likeness of God in another human-being. We must therefore be able to encourage inter-faith experiences at the grassroots wherein people can come together to share their commonalities, their joys, their sorrows, their hopes. To be able to share their goods, their faith with another, and ultimately, that this faith will help build a world which has been transformed by Love and Peace.
3.Let justice be done :
Justice has to be done. Those who have been responsible for crimes against humanity must be brought to book expeditiously because justice delayed is also justice denied. For the victims, inspite of the suffering and the trauma that they have been subjected to, they must be able to feel that their suffering is not in vain. The courts must seem to be impartial and then after that, forgiveness and love should be the mainstay. Very often, injustice begets more hate and more violence. As Pope John Paul II in his message for the World Day of Peace 2004 says : “for the establishment of true peace in the world, justice must find its fulfillment in charity. Certainly law is the first road leading to peace, and people need to be taught to respect that law. Yet one does not arrive at the end of this road unless justice is complemented by love. Justice and love sometimes appear to be opposing forces. In fact they are but two faces of a single reality, two dimensions of human life needing to be mutually integrated. Historical experience shows this to be true. It shows how justice is frequently unable to free itself from rancour, hatred and even cruelty. By itself, justice is not enough. Indeed, it can even betray itself, unless it is open to that deeper power which is love”.
4. Let security be ensured :
A great democracy like India with fundamental freedoms guaranteed by a secular Constitution must ensure that every citizen is able to feel secure in any place they choose to live in. Security can never be ensured by gun-totting policemen or guards, neither can it be ensured by “black cats” or “biting dogs”. Security is a state of mind, in a society where hate, violence and rancour does not have any place. It is the possibility that a citizen gives himself / herself to be able to accept, accommodate and respect a fellow-neighbour even if the other person comes from a different religious or cultural background. It is the comfort, space we need to create to protect the rights of others while safeguarding our own. It is ultimately a responsibility by which each one of us as citizens can stand up to those who dare terrorize or intimidate others. The train blasts recently in Spain is a classic example of how a whole society can be crushed by violence.
5. Let civil society stand up and speak out fearlessly :
If we want peace, we need to stand up and speak out for the conditions and environment which will create that peace. Gujarat is a good case once again of how too few have had the courage of coming out and speaking out. Those who have dared, have either been branded as “anti-nationalist” or “unpatriotic” and have been intimidated and hounded. These few however, will never give-up. What is essential is that several others join in this movement if we truly believe in creating a world which is peaceful, based on just and harmonious relationships.
IV. CONCLUSION :
For months on, I was haunted by the terrible images of Muslims being brutally massacred and burnt alive in their homes and on our streets….. religious places were desecrated and whole areas laid waste….one great tragedy was the heinous murder of my friend Eshan (meaning compassion and balance) Jafri. His secular credentials could not be questioned by any-body and in some of the meetings I sat with him, he always took a stand for the poor and the helpless. Anybody who has any heart will recoil in horror at the way he was done-in. That day I took a stand : I would do all within my capacity to make known the horrors of the Gujarat genocide and to bring to justice those who are responsible for it. Only then will peace come and I will not rest till then !
I sincerely hope that this World Parliament of Religions with the lofty theme “ Pathways to
Peace , The Wisdom of Listening, The Power of Commitment.” will not peter down to mere rhetoric or cosmetic statements. It is good being here but once the euphoria of this jumboree….ends then each one of us has to go back to a reality to listen, to commit ourselves to fight hate and violence at every level.
We definitely need peace. Peace at every level of society : individually, in the family, in the larger society, in our country and in the world. We have to make this peace possible because it is possible. We should also ensure that the horrors of nazism do not revisit us because of our silence or fear. This parliament can tell the world that “enough is enough”. The Gujarat carnage has been a blot on mankind….and so have the other carnages/conflicts/violence….we should never allow these to happen again…..we should ensure security and justice for every single citizen in of the world; irrespective of religion, nationality, race or colour”
FR. FRANCIS PARMAR !!!
VISITORS TO PRASHAT :
Some of our visitors during this period were :
• Harsh Mander, Activist, New Delhi
• Nitya Ramakrishnan, Lawyer Supreme Court, New Delhi
• Arvind Rajagopal, New York
• Suzanne Kroger, Amsterdam.
• Shivit Bakrania, Birmingham University
• Rashida Abuwala, Student, New York
• Meenakshi Ganguly, Human Rights Watch, Bombay
• Veronica Villasenar, Mexico
• Fr. Charles Borges s.j., Prof. of History, USA
• Scott Ticknor, US Consulate
• Neel Patel, Unversity of Florida
• Robert Gerzsany, Hungary
• Githa Hariharan, Writer, New Delhi
• Savio Carvalho, Oxfam, Tajikistan
• Celia Garcia, Spain
• Ram Puniyani, Writer & Social Activist, Mumbai
• Henning Marxen and Benjamin Bandenbuseh, Mainz
• Liliane and Fernand Ries, Luxembourg
• Team of 6 Members of the South Asian Peoples’ Commission for the Rights of Minorities :
Rumman Hammed, Vinni Malhotra, Nasir Aslam Zahid, Chanaka Gunathunga, Beshwa
Maenalf and Shirani G. de Fontgalland
• Fr. Juan Miguel Arregui, Jesuit Provincial of Loyola, Spain
• Iban and Edurne, Spain
• Thomas Verghese, Canada
PRASHANT CALLS FOR IMMEDIATELY
WITHDRAWAL OF GUJARAT STATE
STANDARD VIII SOCIAL SCIENCE TEXT BOOK
At the start of the current academic year (June 2004), the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks, Gandhinagar, published a new Social Science Textbook for Std. VIII.
The PREFACE to this Textbook states “in continuation with the new national syllabi, prepared by N.C.E.R.T., the Gujarat State Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board has framed new syllabi. These syllabi are approved by the Government of Gujarat”…..And further, ….. “The Board has taken necessary care to make this Textbook error free and useful…..”.
The CONCEPT note to this Textbook states “Adopting the national curriculum in the context of the educational policy of the Government of Gujarat, with the curriculum prepared by the NCERT as the focal point, keeping in mind the special conditions prevailing (sic) in Gujarat, combining the principles of both the subjects namely, Social Studies and Social Reconstruction, preserving the core of the curriculum, in all its aspects, a course of studies has been prepared for Standard 8 without diluting in any way the national curriculum. This curriculum has been divided into three units or sections”.
PRASHANT (the Ahmedabad-based Centre for Human Rights Justice and Peace) has just conducted a research study on this Textbook. The research study shows that this new Textbook for Std. VIII is replete with factual inaccuracies, historical distortions, manipulative statements, unscientific matter and above all is highly discriminatory.
PRASHANT calls for the immediate withdrawal of this Textbook.
Here are some points from the Textbook to reinforce this demand :
• The front-cover of the book has the portraits of 17 people. The normal procedure should have been that somewhere in the inside-cover, these 17 people should have been identified. This is not done. If one goes back to chapter 5 of the book, one may conclude that these are supposedly portraits of freedom fighters of India. However, Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel do not find any place on this cover.
• The map of India on the back-cover is indeed very confusing. One does not know whether it is a physical map or a political one. Some physical features are clearly marked and some political. One is left wondering whether Pakistan is part of India or whether areas in Kashmir are part of Pakistan.
• In the Sectional Background 2, Unit I, (pg. 3) the following is stated : “Stories of revolutionaries who became martyrs to free their motherland have been included so that the children develop self-respect, patriotism and national character”.
• The very first chapter, The Rise of the Modern Age is flawed. The section on The Ancient Age begins with the sentence : “There are differences of opinion about the time of the Ancient Age” (pg. 4). What time ? What differences ? Does the Indus Valley Civilization belong to the Ancient Age of India?
• In the very same chapter, one is not informed of the time-line. Is it A.D. or B.C. ?
• Aurangzeb’s role is heavily one-sided (being demonized) whereas Shivaji is made into a “real hero” for : “At a very young age, Shivaji came into contact with a powerful Guru named Ramdas. He gave Shivaji lessons in the protection of Brahmins and cows, patriotism and guerrilla warfare. With his inspiration, Shivaji organized the Marathas.” (pgs. 11- 13).
• When talking of Social Results (pg. 24), the caste system is conveniently forgotten. This is further reflected on pg. 212 when one talks of India’s Foreign Policy (no. 3) Opposition to Racialism and Colour bar.
• Minorities are demonized several times in the Textbook eg. pgs. 37 Social and Religions Causes and pg. 193 “making full use of Muslim fanaticism”.
• The Textbook is full of Historical inaccuracies and conjectures eg. pg.41 “The government published a report saying that Tatya Tope was hanged to death on April 18, 1859. But from a number of other sources, we come to know that Tatya had managed to escape and some other person was hanged to death in his place. It is believed that Tatya spent the last year years of his life at Navsari.”. It is surprising indeed that the authors in a History Textbook have to resort to a “number of other sources” which are not identified or specified; and
to use words like “it is believed” speaks of a total lack of History.
• Veer Savarkar is glorified (pg. 43 and pg. 70).
• Vir Birsa Munda, a Tribal Leader (pgs. 44 and 53) who fought against the British and Indian exploiters is hardly given his due. In the Gujarati edition (pg. 53), he is referred to as a Vanvasi, a term which Adivasis greatly resent because it is very derogatory.
• Historical dates change from one edition (English) to another (Gujarati) eg. on pg. 43, (English) we have “Another Namdhari group assaulted the town of Maler Kotla on January 15 1892 with the object of getting possession of the treasure.” The same incident takes place on 15 January 1872 in the Gujarati edition. Which of these editions is right ? Again statements like this seem to give legitimacy to acts like robberies and murders !
§ “A camp was opened in Germany to give military training to the youth, who were trained in the use of making bombs, to burst them and handling weapons. ” (pg. 56). This statement literally lays to rest that India’s struggle for independence was non-violent. It does not highlight the fact that a tiny group of Indians received training from the Nazis of Germany. This statement legitimizes terror and terrorist activity.
§ With regard to the non-cooperation movement (pgs. 60 and 61) The Textbook highlights negative aspect.
One really does not understand the meaning of this negative aspect.
§ The Textbook is at pains to state that “The remains of Shyamji Krishna Varma and his wife were brought to India and were installed at his native town of Mandavi in Kachchh with full honours on September 4, 2003.” (pg. 55). But compare this to
pg. 178, Agricultural Productivity when the statistical data provided for India’s production of rice and of wheat was that of 1983 !……..full 21 years ago !!!
§ In the chapter (18) on INDIAN SOCIETY MARCH TOWARDS TRANSFORMATION ( sic ) pg. 157 and following is full of howlers :
- “Thus, man formed the society to conquer the best peaks of action and thinking ! Now let us understand ‘Transformation’ And in the very next sentence :
- You are now acquainted with this word ‘transformation’ (pg. 157).
- In early days people took meals seating on a small wooden seat, known as
patla. Today, meal is taken at a dining table. In a party, buffet system has
become popular (pg. 157).
- Human life style also changes and so also his thoughts (pg. 158)
- Group marriages are collective changes (pg. 158).
- When people used to meet earlier, they wished each other saying Ram Ram
and by shaking hands. Today, people enjoy their meeting by speaking
Namaste. Is it not a change ? (pg. 158).
• In chapter 19 GLOBAL PROBLEMS : 1….The less said, the better ! Just two
- Absence of electric power results into blackout (pg. 168).
- Valuables should not be left back in the house (pg. 169)…. that’s when
there is an earthquake !
• In chapter 21 entitled GLOBALIZATION, HUMAN RIGHTS AND TERRORISM IN THE CONTEXT OF INDIA(pg. 187) Liberalisation, Privatization, and Globalization (LPG) seems to be glorified.
And well, “Globalization means the bonding of the whole world with a single thread, thus becoming one unit of the entire world or the coming together of all the
countries of the world .! (sic) (pg. 187, 88).
• In the Human Rights section (pg. 188), the background states “From the time a person is born as a human being he has certain rights….” .
• In the section on TERRORISM (pg. 194), “ the attacks on the Akshardham and the Raghunath temple” find mention but the demolition of the Babri Masjid and the Gujarat Carnage of 2002 are very conveniently forgotten.
• The UNICEF Office is not far from the office of the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks. Yet, UNICEF expanded is spelt out as (pg. 205) “The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund” instead of The United Nations Childrens’ Fund !
• And on pg. 220, the children are taught that “The LTTE assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India in a terrorist attack.” !!! (well, Rajiv Gandhi was not the PM
• The Textbook, in short, is :
- distorted in its History
- manipulative in its statements
- very gender insensitive
- discriminates against minorities, Adivasis and Dalits
- replete with howlers, spelling mistakes, grammatical errors
- demands that the VIII students indulge in activities which are far beyond their age or capacity
The mind of any student using this Textbook will tend to become more warped than educated; more prejudiced, about others, than open; more unscientific than scientific.
PRASHANT therefore calls for the immediate withdrawal of this Textbook.
Further, we also want to highlight the fact that the Textbooks of Stds. IX and X of Social Studies still have a very anti-minority bias; and Hitler continues to be glorified in it (std. X).
The Karmayogi calendar sent out by the Gujarat Higher Secondary Board is also very highly discriminatory. The diverse and pluralistic traditions of the country hardly find a place.
Education in Gujarat is truly in the doldrums !!!
During the last seven months, we have been involved in various programmes, locally, nationally and internationally. Some of the significant ones were :
- SAPI Meeting (in continuation of the WSF) in Delhi (1st to 4th April 2004)
- RESISTANCE 2004 Meeting in Delhi (4th April 2004)
- Seminar for 300 Delegates of Kunkuri, Raigadh - POLITICAL COMMUNALISM THREAT
– CHALLENGE TO THE CHURCH (5th to 6th April 2004)
- Reception held for YOUTH AMAN KARWAN in collaboration with ANHAD and YOUTH 4
PEACE (10th April 2004)
- Centre for Development meets at PRAHANT for a whole day to mobilize Dalit and other
Youth (12th April 2004)
- Social Awareness Programme in Hansol for selected delegates of the Ahmedabad
Diocese (14th and 15th April 2004)
- IGSSS meeting in Delhi (17th April 2004)
- Inauguration of the Regional Theologate in Sevasi (12th June 2004)
- Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace meeting in Bangalore (26th and 27th June 2004)
- Workshop on “Building Communal Harmony in the changed context” at Fireflies,
Bangalore (27th June2004)
- Western Region (CBCI) Social Communications Coordinators Meeting in PRASHANT
(17th July 2004)
- Panel Discussion - “Introduction to Tribal Languages of South Gujarat” organized by Katha - Xavier’s Centre for Translation, Ahmedabad (24th July 2004)
- Diocesan Think Tank meeting in Prashant (24th July 2004)
- Farewell programmes at the British and French Embassies in Delhi (27th and 28th July 2004)
- Seminar on “Rebuilding Justice and Hope in Gujarat : The Agenda Ahead” - New Delhi – organized by Janandolan, Citizens Initiative and Anand (29th July 2004)
- National Activities at the Regional / Diocesan level” (4th - 6th August 2004)
- New Socialist Movement 2nd Anniversary celebration at Prashant (9th August 2004)
- Hotline Board meeting, Bangalore (28th August 2004)
- LCP Workshop in Delhi (1st and 2nd September 2004)
- IGSSS Meeting, Delhi (3rd September 2004)
- SVD Seminar, Bombay (12th - 13th September 2004)
- Justice, Peace and Development commission Meeting, Goa (14th - 16th September 2004)
- IGSSS Extra-ordinary GB Meeting, Delhi (24th September 2004)
- South Asian Peoples’ Commission for the Rights of Minorities - Meeting with the Commission in Ahmedabad (29th September 2004)
- Asian Jesuit Identity Workshop, Delhi (1st to 6th October 2004)
- Talk at Hamdard University, Delhi “Struggling for Justice in Gujarat” (4th October 2004)
- Dharna organized by Janandolan at Ahmedabad-demanding Repeal of Pota with Retrospective effect (7th October 2004)
- Meeting with Dignitaries of Foreign Affairs Office, Dept of State DRL Bureau, Washington and Bombay at Ahmedabad (13th October 2004)
- Panel Discussion on “Good Governance”, Nehru Foundation, Ahmedabad (16th October 2004)
- Diocesan Think Tank meeting at Ahmedabad (21st October 2004)
- Jesuit Alumni Association Congress at Loyola College, Jamshedpur (29th to 30th October 2004)
- Meeting with Mr. Eduardo Faleiro (MP) on the “Situation of Christians in Gujarat”
(4th November 2004)