An Indian Reads the Constitution of Pakistan

I scanned (not machine based) the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan [As modified up to the 30th March, 2017] today. I just wanted to see how an Islamic state deals with its minority, at least in theory. What I read there was not only interesting but also worthy of attention and praise. The minds that framed the constitution wanted to give the best possible most democratic system to the nation and to find its roots in Islam. Their wish was to remain faithful “to the declaration made by the Founder of Pakistan, Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah, that Pakistan would be a democratic State based on Islamic principles of social justice”. The preamble makes it clear:

 

… it is the will of the people of Pakistan to establish an order;

Wherein the principles of democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice, as enunciated by Islam, shall be fully observed;

Wherein the Muslims shall be enabled to order their lives in the individual and collective spheres in accordance with the teachings and requirements of Islam as set out in the Holy Quran and Sunnah;

Wherein adequate provision shall be made for the minorities freely to profess and practise their religions and develop their cultures;

Wherein shall be guaranteed fundamental rights, including equality of status, of opportunity and before law, social, economic and political justice, and freedom of thought, expression, belief, faith, worship and association, subject to law and public morality;

Wherein adequate provision shall be made to safeguard the legitimate interests of minorities and backward and depressed classes; [Italics mine]

 

 It’s a good piece, but the parts I have italicized deserve a second reading.

  • Tolerance, social justice etc. have been guaranteed in the “holy land” based on the guiding light of the Holy Quran.
  • Muslims will order their lives following the one book.
  • The constitution guarantees provisions for saving minority religion and culture and safeguard their legitimate
  • It also guarantees the fundamental rights including freedom of thought, faith; worship etc. albeit subject to law and public morality.

 

In the preamble itself one can read its various self-contradictions.

 

  • Words like “democracy, freedom, equality, tolerance and social justice” are from English language and belong to the stream of thought that developed since the Enlightenment in the West. Any attempt to trace them backward into a book that belongs to the seventh century A.D. will not get streams of thoughts that lead to the modern Enlightenment concepts. So, basing the interpretation of English words on an Arabic Quran is doubly irrational, as they are two different languages, originating in two different cultures and times.
  • The single assertion right in the beginning of the constitution that Muslims (i.e. each Muslim) will live life as Quran spells it out, makes two things clear. First, that Muslims are homogeneous in molding their life on what Quran stipulates. And then, no dissent will be tolerated.
  • Safeguarding the legitimate interests of the minority underlines the idea of legitimacy that the state gets to define. It simply means that an element of subjectivity has been inserted so that the state gets to shape the lives of the minority in any way it pleases to.
  • The fundamental rights are guaranteed with a proviso. Even here the element of subjectivity and interpretation are introduced, giving the state final decision making power. Because of the elements of subjectivity, the decisions made by the state will be virtually unchallengeable in various Pakistani courts of law, as they have to uphold the constitution and follow it too. There’s a vicious cycle here, right in the preamble of the nation built on the logic of religious antagonism.

 

After reading the preamble I went through the content and read the sections and articles I was interested in. The second article declares that “Islam shall be the State religion of Pakistan”. The twentieth article begins with the proviso “Subject to law, public order and morality”:

(a) every citizen shall have the right to profess, practice and propagate his religion; and

(b) every religious denomination and every sect thereof shall have the right to establish, maintain and manage its religious institutions.

As I underlined earlier, in practice the proviso in the beginning actually nullifies the good intent. History proves me right.

 

The twenty-first article prohibits a practice that comes directly from the history of various Islamic reigns, even in India. It’s actually against jajiya:No person shall be compelled to pay any special tax the proceeds of which are to be spent on the propagation or maintenance of any religion other than his own”.

 

The very next article is relevant to the contemporary India. I don’t know how Pakistan managed to keep the promise made, but if it did, then it ensured that no “person attending any educational institution shall be required to receive religious instruction, or take part in any religious ceremony, or attend religious worship, if such instruction, ceremony or worship relates to a religion other than his own”.

I have taught in public schools in India and have known others who have taught or studied in schools run by specific religious organizations. I have seen many students attending the ceremonies of dominant community, participating in ritual steps and reciting their mantras. A secular India has failed to do what an Islamic Pakistan promises in its twenty-second article.

 

The constitution assumes that all Muslims of Pakistan will follow the Holy Quran. There’s no alternative for them but to follow the “Islamic way of life”. Again, high degree of subjectivity can be found in the language of the thirty-first article:

 

(1) Steps shall be taken to enable the Muslims of Pakistan, individually and collectively, to order their lives in accordance with the fundamental principles and basic concepts of Islam and to provide facilities whereby they may be enabled to understand the meaning of life according to the Holy Quran and Sunnah.

(2) The State shall endeavour, as respects the Muslims of Pakistan,—

(a) to make the teaching of the Holy Quran and Islamiat compulsory, to encourage and facilitate the learning of Arabic language and to secure correct and exact printing and publishing of the Holy Quran;

(b) to promote unity and the observance of the Islamic moral standards;

 

 The first clause posits that there’s a definite meaning of life that a whole nation of Muslims may be taught through a couple of great books. It presumes that the teachers and the students will reach same conclusion regarding life and living, time and again, following the same set of instructions. It also presumes that the level of understanding of all Muslim learners will be equivalent. If it does not presume that, there’s no way a whole nation can be made to lead a holy life. The reality of Pakistan shows it clearly. 2.b posits that there’s a definite moral standard that’s Islamic. There are two hidden assumptions here, that there’s a non-Islamic moral standard and that somehow it is not good for Muslims.   

 

 The thirty-sixth article makes a very theoretically elevating claim: “The State shall safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of minorities, including their due representation in the Federal and Provincial services”. The minority in Pakistan is persecuted and marginalized. There’s no way that they are given their due representation in various state services.

 

The one thing that I loved in the constitution of Pakistan, and that is sadly absent in Indian constitution is the provision of the “Vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister” in article ninety-five. There’s also a “Vote of no-confidence against Chief Minister” in article one hundred and thirty-six. These two provisions are in addition to one found in Indian Constitution, that of the Removal [or impeachment] of President. The details of article ninety-five are as follows:

  

(1) A resolution for a vote of no-confidence moved by not less than twenty per centum of the total membership of the National Assembly may be passed against the Prime Minister by the National Assembly.

(2) A resolution referred to in clause (1) shall not be voted upon before the expiration of three days, or later than seven days, from the day on which such resolution is moved in the National Assembly.

(3) A resolution referred to in clause (1) shall not be moved in the National Assembly while the National Assembly is considering demands for grants submitted to it in the Annual Budget Statement.

(4) If the resolution referred to in clause (1) is passed by a majority of the total membership of the National Assembly, the Prime Minister shall cease to hold office.]

 

Articles 95 and 136 are definitely missing from the constitution of India. Of course they can be misused, but there absence means loss of all accountability at the highest offices of either country or state. No democracy can afford it, and India has suffered a lot due to the complete lack of control over elected heads of nation and states.

 

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan has all the elements of an adequate code but it suffers from its basic premise: a state run on the basis of a religion. Somehow my modern (read Western educated) mind cannot accept this. I am a firm believer in a non-Indian and non-Nehruvian kind of secularism for states. The moment state and religion are mixed, a disaster is born. Before we go looking for another case of such mixing and subsequent disaster, we need to look at a modern, democratic, secular constitution, i.e. the constitution of India.

  

The Constitution of India (As on 9th November, 2015), declares boldly and clearly in its preamble:

 

WE, THE PEOPLE OF INDIA, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a SOVEREIGN SOCIALIST SECULAR DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC and to secure to all its citizens: JUSTICE, social, economic and political; LIBERTY of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship; EQUALITY of status and of opportunity; and to promote among them all FRATERNITY assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the Nation…

 

India is a secular state, and at least theoretically, keeps the running of the state away from religion. I only wish that the spirit of our constitution was followed after 1950. Somehow, the politicians found ways to circumvent the written and unwritten texts and wrote India in their own image. The twenty-eighth article covers the ground somewhat similar to the ground covered by articles 20-22 in the Constitution of Pakistan:

 

(1) No religious instruction shall be provided in any educational institution wholly maintained out of State

funds.

(2) Nothing in clause (1) shall apply to an educational institution which is administered by the State but has been established under any endowment or trust which requires that religious instruction shall be imparted in such institution.

(3) No person attending any educational institution recognised by the State or receiving aid out of State funds shall be required to take part in any religious instruction that may be imparted in such institution or to attend any religious worship that may be conducted in such institution or in any premises attached thereto unless such person or, if such person is a minor, his guardian has given his consent thereto.

 

The first clause of the thirtieth article is a short and simple, “All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice”.

 

The forty-fourth article is committed to the cause of equality:

“The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of India”.

This article, along with article 370 has been invoked umpteenth number of times by one party or the other in the recent past. They are polarized over the actual application of the spirit of article 44. As religion has been poiliticized in India, justice is not equal for all. Even in the court of law, Hindus and Muslims are treated differently in a secular nation.

 

Article 51A is about the fundamental duties of an Indian and some of them need to be quoted in full:

 

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

 

Although contemporary India is far from realizing the goal, the very commitment to the promotion of harmony while acknowledging the diversity, including religious, is something theoretically impossible in an Islamic Republic run on the basis of lines from a set of books or their interpretations. The composite culture of India stands strongly against the monologic cultural stream of Pakistan. Finally, there’s no way the constitution of Pakistan can allow any attempt at reforming the directive force behind it. How can the Holy Quran or allied texts be reformed? After reading sections of the Constitution of Pakistan, I felt that Dr. Ambedkar et. al. had done a wonderful job, until I read M. S. Golwalkar’s Bunch of Thoughts:  

 

Our Constitution too is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No! Some lame principles from the United Nations Charter or from the Charter of the old League of Nations and some features from the American and British Constitutions have been just brought together in a mere hotchpotch. 

It sent me searching for the directive principles and fundamental rights he had in mind. More about that in my next blog.

 

 

 

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Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Regulation of Livestock Markets) Rules 2017 and Id al Azha (Bakrid) in India  

The Press Information Bureau of the government of India made it clear in 2017 that:

The basic purpose of the [PCA] Rule is to ensure welfare of the animals in the cattle market and ensure adequate facilities for housing, feeding, feed storage area, water supply, water troughs, ramps, enclosures for sick animals, veterinary care and proper drainage etc.”

(http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=162195)

The PCA Rules do not ban ritual sacrifice of animals other than that of cattle. It defines cattle as “bulls, bullocks, cows, buffalos, steers, heifers and calves and includes camels”. It only stipulates that it should be done at “registered abattoirs and follow certain guidelines, but in the case of most ritualistic animal sacrifices these rules are not followed”.

(https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/government-body-to-campaign-against-animal-sacrifice-ahead-of-bakrid/story-w0XILNNpO6g90it0mzcPhL.html)

The recent talks of ban on animal sacrifice originated from a comment of Mr. S. P. Gupta, the Cahriman of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI):  “If anyone does animal sacrifice, that is punishable, no animal is exempted… People are not aware, they link it to religion, but this is not a religion thing. In no religion can you kill animals.” (https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/government-body-to-campaign-against-animal-sacrifice-ahead-of-bakrid/story-w0XILNNpO6g90it0mzcPhL.html)

As the board is under the Government of India so Mr. Gupta’s statement carries weight. Bakrid/Id al Azha is on August 21/22 this year. Muslims have voiced concerns regarding the intention of the comment.

Two things are definite from the PCA Rule 2017. The first one is that no animal that belongs to the category of “cattle” can be slaughtered in India. The second one is that all slaughtering should take place in licensed “registered abattoirs” following certain guidelines to prevent cruelty and harm to animals. Yet, there’s nowhere in the document that all animal sacrifice of any kind of animal is prohibited/punishable. Mr. Gupta and PETA say that it’s actually illegal sacrificing any animal in any way in India. Moreover, Mr. Gupta passed a sweeping remark about no place of animal sacrifice in any religion. That remark can be easily proven wrong with reference to the Holy Bible, and Quran-Sharif, and also with reference to the prevalent practices all over the world.

Although ritual animal sacrifice is a part of Id al Azha/ Bakrid celebrations, as far as the PCS Rule is concerned, the sacrifice cannot be legally performed on streets or at someone’s place. Moreover, it has to be an animal not in the category of cattle and then, the actual sacrifice ought to be performed at an abattoir.

In some quarters Muslims ask: “Why this sudden ban and why cattle?” A partial reply may be that the stipulation for animal slaughter at registered abattoirs only is for the purpose of health, hygiene and prevention of cruelty to animals. The category of animals that cannot be slaughtered may have something to do with majority popular sentiments. This article is not about the validity of the logic behind defining that category. It’s about ban of ritual animal sacrifice at personal level.

I think that there’s a precedent of the same practice in UAE. In Abu Dhabi the Municipality prohibited it. It issued directives for the “public to avoid slaughtering their sacrificial animals in houses, streets or public squares. An immediate fine of Dh500 shall be slapped against violators and the animals shall be confiscated. Municipal patrols will regularly be walking around to spot violators since this results in adverse health and environmental risks”.

(https://www.khaleejtimes.com/nation/uae-announces-eid-al-adha-holidays-for-public-private-sectors)

“The slaughter of animals in homes and public spaces is prohibited at all times to safeguard public health and the environment, said Khalifa Al Romaithi, head of public health administration for the municipality”.

(https://www.thenational.ae/uae/officials-warn-people-against-slaughtering-animals-at-home-1.26515)

A call in the name of health and hygiene will always appeal to modern minds. Instead of direct confrontation, I think that both the government agencies and people must find out a solution keeping in mind the reality of our times.

 

 

 

 

 

The Pigstory

Disclaimer

Although the speaking pigs may remind you of Animal Farm, and it’s an intentional bow to the master, the story is not inspired from anything other than reality.

Story

Once upon a time, not a very long time ago there lived a pig in a small sty. Other pigs called that  pig PiggyOne and it was a very uncommon pig as it did not walk on all fours, but had learnt to walk on its hind limbs only.  It had learnt that from its human masters. That was not the only thing that it had learnt from them. PiggyOne did not like pigs wallowing in filth and eating excrement. He was all for civilization, purification and beautification. He tried to influence the other pigs with his oratory, especially on Sundays. He would stand on his hind limbs and grunt majestically:

Piggies and Piggimen,

Lend me your ears. For I am here to educate you. I’m here to talk of our glorious past, fallen present and, if you listen to me, a glorious future to come. Long time ago, when all these men that we call our masters were barbarians, we pigs had grand civilizations and pigginations. Although we did not write their accounts, and its only written human account was later mistakenly consumed by some of our own brothers, believe me when I say, that we wallowed in oceans of milk and honey once and we were the kings of the world. Then came men, in supplication first. We gave them space to live and they sowed the seeds of hatred among us. They taught some of our pigginations to wallow in mire and feed on unhealthy things. When the pigs of milk and honey variety tried to show the pigs of mud and excrement variety that they were led astray, they faced vehement, sometimes violent opposition. They tolerated it for a long time, as the mudpigs were their brethren, but one day, a milkpig stood up [Here PiggyOne stood up to emphasize the epochal event] and declared that the mudpigs had to mend their ways, or else they’d be made to do so. That was the day when the seeds of our division were sown. 

[PiggyOne took a pause to assess audience reaction and found it favourable.] I don’t say that we can go back to our milk and honey past. Those days are gone. I say that we can at least become clean in our habits and take the name of waterpigs. For that, we must convince the confirmed mudpigs of the benefits from our way of living. I don’t say that we should apply force or violence to change the habits of the dirty mudpigs among us. etc.

After his speech, all the pigs would go back to their old habits. Not a single pig changed its mud pit habit. Not a single pig, except two. The young PiggyTwo and PiggyThree were staunch supporters of the “Waterpig Movement”. They had been trying to convince everyone to change their ways for over a year, but they had failed miserably.  

 

 

Command/Superior Responsibility Made Easy

What is Command Responsibility or superior responsibility?

As the name suggests it is the responsibility of those in command of the security forces or at the helm of a civilian state or system for what happens under their command in their area of control. It is technically defined as a binding:

“under which a commander incurs certain legal responsibilities for the acts of his subordinates.” (http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol25/iss1/3)

In simpler words, CR means that the appointed or elected group leader is responsible for the actions of the group. Here the term group may mean a battalion, a city, the whole army, a state or a country, and the group leader may be a Major, a general, a Police Commissioner, a Chief Minister or a Prime Minister.

For this responsibility to actually exist there should be a definite system with ordered ranks, known and acknowledged hierarchy and head, and an established chain of command. There is no case of this responsibility to exist when the subordinates did not know, accept or acknowledge the position and power of their superior/commander. There are two types of command/superior positions: de facto and de jure. A de jure commander/superior is a person in the position of legal authority, i.e. authotity on paper. A de facto commander/superior is the person in-charge on the ground, in reality. Both the cases fall under the purview of CR.

A commander or superior acts in two capacities: as an individual person and as a person in-charge of other persons. It’s the logical corollary to the idea of lionizing commanders for the victory of their army, or of praising state-heads or leaders for what their party, country or state has achieved. When they get all the praise and many rewards on praiseworthy things done collectively by those under their command hierarchy, they also deserve all the blame and punishment that comes their way for the wrongs done by those under their command hierarchy.

  • The most obvious and easy to prove case of CR is direct involvement in an action, either when a commander/superior performs certain actions or when they give direct instructions for the performance of some such action (direct CR). It’s called direct criminal liability.
  • Then, there’s CR for actions of subordinates not directly ordered by the commander/superior. It’s called imputed criminal responsibility.
  • There are two possibilities in this case- either the commander/superior knew that the subordinates were performing that action or they did not.
  • If they knew yet let it happen, then they are definitely responsible, i.e. the superior-subordinate relationship and knowledge element are present with inaction element.
  • If they knew and tried their best to prevent it from happening, then they are only partially responsible.
  • If it happened without their knowledge then they are not directly involved, but as it happened on their watch and they were expected to know and to control those under their command, they are indirectly responsible for the act. They cannot simply declare innocence from all guilt because of their ignorance of what was being done by those under their command. It was their duty and responsibility to know that.

 

“The fact that any of the acts… was committed by a subordinate does not relieve his or her superior of criminal responsibility if he knew or had reason to know that the subordinate was about to commit such acts or had done so and the superior failed to take the necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators thereof”.

(Greg R. Vetter, Command Responsibility of Non- Military Superiors in the International Criminal Court (ICC), 25 Yale J. Int’l L. (2000). Available at:

http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol25/iss1/3)

It is the ‘had reason to know’ part where the maximum force of CR is. It simply means that a commander/superior is guilty even if ignorant of the crimes committed by their de jure/ de facto subordinates, when it was supposed to be their duty to know and prevent such crimes. The only exception is when they did not have the ‘”material ability to prevent and punish the commission of these offences”’ (quoted from http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjil/vol25/iss1/3)

 

The Bhagalpur Genocide, October 1989

“No Riot Can Last for More than 24 Hours unless the State wants it to Continue”-  Vibhuti Narain Rai, IPS to Teesta Setalvad

(http://caravandaily.com/portal/no-riot-can-last-for-more-than-24-hours-unless-state-wants-it-ex-top-cop/)

Bhagalpur-riots

(Source: http://caravandaily.com/portal/bihar-polls-will-bhagalpur-forgive-congress-for-89-riots/)

How was the October 1989 violence in Bhagalpur genocide?

Article II of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines genocide as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

Out the death toll of more than 1000, 93% were Muslim and they were eliminated methodically by mostly Hindu antagonists: individuals in their personal capacity, police in its criminal avatar and political parties of anti-Muslim leanings. Therefore, Bhagalpur 1989 was genocide and the one factor that had played a pivotal role in the genocide was the administrative system and the police. Whereas, in a civic society, at least they ought never to be communalized.

Ideally, even politics should not be communalized, but in India, all of them are heavily divided on the lines of religious communities. After the 1980 genocide in Moradabad, where the police and the PAC actually played an active role in the elimination of the minority community, it was the turn of Bhagalpur. When the miniscule proportion of Muslim men in the police forces tried to stop the violence, they had to give way to the majority of the force that was Hindu. Although Mr. Nitish Kumar blamed Congress for the riots, as he blamed BJP for 2002, the witnesses and enquiry commissions tell a different version of the story. The N N Singh Committee Report “report recommends action against 125 IAS and IPS officers”. (https://scroll.in/article/747650/the-forgotten-riot-how-bhagalpur-1989-left-a-memory-trace-in-bihar-politics)

“The Bihar police did not just participate in the carnage of Muslims, but also prevented armed forces sent to contain the riots from doing their job. They misled both the army and the Border Security Force (BSF), who were heavily dependent on them for information about the prevailing situation, which resulted in the anti-Muslim violence spreading to rural areas of Bhagalpur”. (http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/bhagalpur-1989-bihar-police-massacre

The report mentioned that the Superintendent of Police Mr. K S Trivedi was one big reason behind the riots. “The carnage took place when the Congress was in power in Bihar and its veteran leader Satyendra Narayan Sinha was Chief Minister. When Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi visited Bhagalpur during the riots, he ordered the immediate transfer of SSP Dwivedi. This triggered protests from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and other Hindu right-wing groups, forcing Rajiv to revoke his transfer order. The vehement protests against Dwivedi’s transfer, by Hindu fundamentalist groups, should have come as proof of the officer’s complicity in the carnage. Instead, the government buckled under pressure and let him continue. Even today, survivors emphasise that had the transfer of Dwivedi not been revoked, many lives would have been saved”. (http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/bhagalpur-1989-bihar-police-massacre)

“According to the PUDR report, 93% of the dead were Muslim”. (https://scroll.in/article/747650/the-forgotten-riot-how-bhagalpur-1989-left-a-memory-trace-in-bihar-politics)

The police actively participated in the riot. There are eye witness accounts of officers leading mobs to systematically eliminate Muslim population from various localities. (Engineer, Asghar Ali).

An eyewitness recounted bitterly later, ““The ones who were supposed to protect us (police) were the ones involved in butchering us,” 

(http://caravandaily.com/portal/bihar-polls-will-bhagalpur-forgive-congress-for-89-riots/)

 

1000 persons were killed in the genocide and 800 were reported untraceable. Out of the 886 riot cases registered 557 were withdrawn, 329 charge sheets were filed, 274 persons were convicted, 100 sentenced to life imprisonment. (https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/states/story/19700101-1989-bhagalpur-riot-case-verdict-invites-recriminations-about-delayed-justice-787535-2005-05-30)

Here’s one case to show the kind of cruelty human beings can show and how that destroys the life of the survivors.

“Mohammed Javed lost 12 members of his family when the riot hit Parbatti, a mixed neighbourhood in Bhagalpur town. He had just managed to escape and had no idea what had happened to his family for the next five days. His pregnant wife left a day earlier but she passed away five years ago of illness.

Nasim Khan (60), his father, Bibi Jahana (48) his mother, his elder brother Feroze Khan (30), brother Shourab (28), his youngest brother Babbar (13), sisters in law, Ruksana (22) and Ishrat (22), and his nephews and nieces, Khusnodi (12), Aurangzeb (8), Tinku (6), Shabnam (1) and Gudiya (3), were all found dead in a well, and the bodies and parts of bodies were taken away by the BSF”. (https://www.countercurrents.org/iqbal040115.htm)

Not only the police, but also the local media and various communal organizations were held responsible for the genocide. They propagated hatred and rumors through their reports and speeches. (http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/bhagalpur-1989-bihar-police-massacre)

The common slogans of the rioters and processions were:

“Baccha baccha Ram ka, baaki sab haraam ka” (We are all children of Ram, the rest are illegitimate)

“Jai Ma Kaali, Tartapur karo khaali” (Hail mother Kaali, evacuate Tartapur[eliminate Muslims]), “Apman ka badla lena hai Babar ki santanon se” (We’ll avenge our dishonor from Babar’s progeny). (Engineer, Asghar Ali. “Bhagalpur riot Enquiry Commission Report”. Economic and Political Weekly, July 15, 1995).

It’s natural that after all that Professor Farooq Ali of TNB College, Bhagalpur asks, “How can we trust a police and administration which played a dubious role in the riots?”

(https://www.indiatoday.in/magazine/states/story/19700101-1989-bhagalpur-riot-case-verdict-invites-recriminations-about-delayed-justice-787535-2005-05-30)

In fact it may be added to his question, “And how can we trust either the secular or the communal parties when neither did anything to get us full and unadulterated justice even three decades after the incident?”

 

Justice Denied (Probably) Forever, not just Delayed: The November 1984 Sikh Genocide

wall of dead

While reading through a large amount of data and reports available on the 1984 Sikh Genocide in India that started on 1 November 1984, I found out a few things appear again and again.

As against the official naming of the event as anti-Sikh riots, people called this bloody page of history massacre, pogrom, holocaust, and finally genocide.

Affidavits and FIR’s are full of details of how the various levels of Congress (I) leadership first incited and then led organized masses to mass murder the members of the Sikh community.

There was a method in the murders. Sikh men, yes not vary coincidentally the majority of those murdered were men, were first attacked with blunt objects, especially hit at the head, then either kerosene was poured over them and they were set on fire or burning tires were put around their neck. Males, even the elderly and children, were not spared. Fire was used extensively, probably because it not only ensures that the victim finally dies, but also erases identifying physical markers.

The Sikh women were gang raped, repeatedly and sometimes their secondary sexual organs were damaged. They were seldom killed, although the rapists did not spare even children.

Various Sikh religious symbols, viz. gurudwaras and Guru Granth Sahib were defiled.

A methodical economic murder of the community went parallel to the physical murder as shops and houses were looted, burnt, looted and burnt.

The whole pattern makes it clear that it was no spontaneous outburst of sorrow and rage over the murder of the beloved “Indiraji” but a planned and well executed genocide.

sikh_genocide31

State machinery was used in a definite pattern to carry out the genocide, e.g. to transport a large number of butchering mobs to the spots of killing DTC buses were used. Kerosene was supplied form ration shops in various areas, Sikhs were identified using the official voter’s list and the whole party structure was working in tandem against the Sikhs.

At first, even when it was clear to the then Home Minister Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, that the situation was not under control, the army was not called. Even when it was called, it was not allowed to function properly as neither was it given clear orders nor cooperation from the local police.

The whole opposition remained frozen while the genocide went on. Concerned citizens did everything on their own; no party came to stand against the marauding mobs.

From the same set of data and reports I found out something disturbing about what happened after the Indian Army somehow controlled the situation after the first three days of the genocide.

The police tried their best, first not to register an FIR, then not to name influential Congress persons in those FIR’s as the murderers or planners, and finally to make the case as weak as possible.

Various Congress leaders and functionaries tried their best to silence the witnesses.

Many Congress leaders who were blamed for planning and encouraging, even declaring rewards and providing all kind of logistic and legal support to the murderers, were given promotions and better positions in the years to come.

For the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, the assassination of his mother was a national tragedy, and the small number of persons who were killed in the genocide was only a minor speed break in his journey to the second term in his office.

The ruling party at centre and in most of the states shielded the culprits of the genocide, even the opposition parties failed to raise their voice against the powers and for the Sikh people.

During the genocide and immediately after it, Congress(I) leaders used their clout to get those arrested on various charges released, and with police complicity the FIR’s and witness statements were diluted.

Even when the matter reached the court, all ploys were used to stall the legal procedure.

Most of the culprits went unpunished, for lack of evidence and action, even today.

The following big names mentioned in witness statements in various FIRs and affidavits were never punished: Mr HKL Bhagat, Mr Babu Ram Sharma, Mr. Sajjan Kumar, Mr lalit Makan, Mr Jagdish Tytler, Mr Sukhan Lal Sood, Mr Jagdish Tokas, and then there were various minor functionaries of Congress(I). Many of them were given promotions and seats in various assemblies or the parliament.

Sikh bodies at New Dlhi stn

In 2012 the police said that out of total 442 convictions in Delhi courts, 49 were life imprisonment and 3 imprisonments for more than 10 years. 6 police officers were punished too. How justice was denied in a pre-planned manner can be understood by one instance. Out of 56 cases against 225 named persons in five police stations of S-W Delhi there were only 3 convictions. In 30 cases the accused were acquitted and 21 cases were sent as untraced, i.e. not enough evidence to go for the trial. Two trials were pending.

(https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/442-convicted-in-various-anti-sikh-riots-cases-delhi-police/story-q0FgrQOGxmgW8JtPJOB9uL.html)

It’s clear from the various contemporary researches and reports that the widows of those murdered in cold blood had given the names of the murderers, from the local Bhangi or Dhobi who joined forces with the outsiders, Jaats and Gujjars, to the small time criminals and Congress(I) persons. There was no dearth of witnesses or evidence against the criminals of the genocide in 1984. A well-known set of tactics was followed to save the accused. First, no FIR was registered. Even when it was registered it was done under lighter sections or the witnesses’ statement was made weaker while recording. Hearings were postponed. The names of witnesses were leaked and they were intimidated by the powerful criminal-politician front. Over three decades from the genocide in which nearly 3000 persons were murdered officially in Delhi, (The exact number is 425 according to Congress(I), 2733 according to Ahuja Committee and 2800 according to BJP http://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/coffee-break/1984-this-week-when-congress-taught-tolerance-to-the-world.html) the number of punished is equal to nil as is clear from the following detailed quote:

“In 2013, the then Minister of State for Home, Mullappally Ramachandran, in his reply to a written question told the Lok Sabha that in Delhi 650 cases were registered in which 3,163 persons were accused and out of these 2,706 have been acquitted. Only 442 were convicted and 15 were still facing trial in 2013.

In December 2014, Modi government set up a panel to examine the pending cases of the anti-Sikh riots. In February 2015, the panel recommended that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) should be formed. The SIT closed 241 cases out 293. In August 2017, Supreme Court set up a panel to examine and scrutinise these closed cases.        

(https://newsclick.in/33-years-after-1984-sikh-massacre-where-justice)

“…it would appoint a supervisory committee comprising two of its former judges to vet if the investigation into 241 anti-Sikh riots cases was properly conducted before they were closed by a Special Investigation Team (SIT)”.

(http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/1984-anti-sikh-riots-sc-forms-body-to-examine-sit-decision-to-close-199-cases/article19502305.ece)

Additional Sources:

http://www.pucl.org/Topics/Religion-communalism/2003/who-are-guilty.htm

https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/10/29/india-no-justice-1984-anti-sikh-bloodshed

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/10/india-justice-30-years-congress-sikh-goldentemple-20141030142222751433.html

https://www.ensaaf.org/pdf/reports/kristallnacht.pdf

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/1984-anti-sikh-riots-sc-forms-body-to-examine-sit-decision-to-close-199-cases/article19502305.ece

http://www.discoversikhism.com/sikh_media/genocide_gallery.html

https://www.newsone.tv/trending-stories/india-orders-fresh-inquiry-historic-sikh-massacre

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/gurgaon-and-pataudi-32-years-later-they-called-my-family-out-burnt-them-alive-2884398/

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/boys-of-tilak-vihar-are-seen-as-useless-i-dont-blame-them/

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2014/02/pictures-delhi-widow-colony-20142381643420910.html

https://mha.gov.in/sites/default/files/Nanavati-I_eng_0.pdf

http://www.discoversikhism.com/sikh_genocide/widow_colony.html

http://www.discoversikhism.com/sikh_genocide/responsibility_for_genocide.html\

https://www.dailyo.in/voices/1984-sikh-massacre-indira-gandhi-delhi-modi-government-amnesty-international-india/story/1/20327.html

https://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/government/petition-with-supreme-court-demands-probe-into-anti-sikh-riots1984-in-kanpur

https://amnesty.org.in/news-update/thousands-call-justice-victims-1984-sikh-massacres/

https://www.nytimes.com/1989/09/07/world/new-delhi-journal-the-sikh-s-hour-of-horror-relived-after-5-years.html

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8306420.stm

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kejriwal-distributes-higher-compensation-to-kin-of-1984-riots-victims/article7829793.ece

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/delhi/1984-anti-Sikh-riots-Life-imprisonment-for-three-2-escape-with-3-year-jail-term/articleshow/19955369.cms

https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi-news/442-convicted-in-various-anti-sikh-riots-cases-delhi-police/story-q0FgrQOGxmgW8JtPJOB9uL.html

 

The Nellie Genocide, 18 February 1983: The First Reported Genocide in post-Independence India

bhawan singh nellie

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide defines Genocide in its Article II:

“…[G]enocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group”.

(From http://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/genocide.html)

2191 Muslim Bangladeshis were murdered in a span of six hours (roughly starting at 8 a.m.) in Nellie, Assam on 18 February 1983. That means a mind boggling 365 murders in every 60 minutes, i.e. 6 murders per minute or 1 murder every 10 seconds. It takes an efficient professional butcher nearly that much time to slit the throat of a small bird and throw it aside to bleed to death. Common men, like you and I, people who go to offices, cultivate their crops, work on a computer or drive auto rickshaws, can never attain that level of efficiency in human butchery. We are simply not trained for it. Neither do we have the stamina to hack, slash and pierce through human flesh and bones for a long stretch of time. How many able bodied men are needed to butcher 2191 human beings in nearly 6 hours? The question excludes the time taken to strategically lead those to be butchered to a spot where the murders can be efficiently carried on. Even the state or central government would agree that the obvious answer is, more than 1.

How many persons were punished for the Nellie Genocide? ZERO.

nellie mass graves

That it was not a spontaneous outburst of hatred is clear from the message sent on 15 February from Nugaon Police Station:

 “INFORMATION RECEIVED THAT LAST NIGHT ABOUT ONE THOUSAND ASSAMESE PEOPLE OF SURROUNDING VILLAGES OF NELLIE ARMED WITH DEADLY WEAPONS ASSEMBLED AT NELLIE BY BEATING OF DRUMS (.) MINORITY PEOPLE ARE IN PANIC AND APPREHENDING ATTACK AT ANY MOMENT (.) SUBMISSION FOR IMMEDIATE ACTION TO MAINTAIN PEACE.”

(From: https://scroll.in/article/829682/why-was-assams-nellie-massacre-of-1983-not-prevented-despite-intimations-of-violence)

It was the culmination of a series of causally related events.

A large number of Bangladeshi Muslims and Hindus migrated to Assam before and after 1971.

Their names became a part of the electoral role.

The All Assam Student Union (AASU) campaigned to protect the rights of the outnumbered Assamese people.

They demanded that all the outsider Bengali names struck off the list.

The central government declared the dates for voting and went on the process unconcerned.

Then AASU declared a boycott of the election.

As the Caravan Magazine puts, the Bengali Muslims of Nellie went to vote on 14 February 1983.

There lies the immediate reason for the attack. (http://www.caravanmagazine.in/vantage/thirty-two-years-later-nellie-massacre-remains-all-forgotten)

The next night was 15 February, when the message given above was sent.

No action was taken.

In the morning of 18 February, mainly the members of the Tiwa tribe attacked 14 villages in the area with mostly their traditional weapons and carried out what was clearly genocide.

“[T]he All Assam Students Union (AASU) is believed to have played a very active part in the massacre”. (From India Today magazine, 15 March 1983)

That there was the hand of AASU in inciting the tribals cannot be ruled out. Narayan Radu Kakati, chairman of the Tiwa Autonomous Council, meant to offer constitutional protection to the tribals, concurs: “Our people had no clue to the killings. It just happened as part of a larger conspiracy”.

http://archive.indianexpress.com/storyOld.php?storyId=58700

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi went to visit the area on 22 February 1983.

According to a contemporary NY Times report she blamed the student union for the genocide, gliding over the fact that it was her vote bank politics and her decision to press on with the election schedule that had resulted into the genocide. The report states that even on 22 February, voting was going on in areas where it could not be conducted earlier due to violence.

When asked why she did not halt the voting process and tried to address the concerns of the agitators with the immigrant problem, she said that violence had “ been happening [t]here since 1980” (From: https://www.nytimes.com/1983/02/22/world/mrs-gandhi-on-a-tour-of-assam-blames-agitators-for-massacre.html)

She refused to take the moral responsibility of the genocide. (https://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/02/22/Prime-Minister-Indira-Gandhi-appealed-today-for-an-end/6175414738000/)

In response to a question about her delayed response to the genocide that actually increased the intensity of violence she said, “One has to let such events take their course before stepping in”. (From: https://scroll.in/article/829682/why-was-assams-nellie-massacre-of-1983-not-prevented-despite-intimations-of-violence)

Indian National Congress won the election. It got 91 out of 109 seats.  (http://www.elections.in/assam/assembly-constituencies/1983-election-results.html)

In an election that was mostly boycotted by the Assamese people, Indira Gandhi “… drew most of her support from the immigrant population which defied a call from Assamese militants for a boycott”. (From: https://www.upi.com/Archives/1983/02/22/Prime-Minister-Indira-Gandhi-appealed-today-for-an-end/6175414738000/)

Hiteshwar Saikia was sworn in as the CM on 27 February 1983. There was INC government both at the centre and in the state, yet no action was taken against those responsible for the genocide. Detailed FIR’s were filed by the survivors who could identify the long time neighbours turned murderers who had butchered whole families on 18 February. The centre and the state intervened in many ways to prevent justice from being done. Out of 688 cases “… charges were filed in 299 cases, and the remaining 389 cases – or 56% of cases – were summarily closed even before the virtual amnesty that followed from the Assam Accord”. The charge sheets were “… fairly detailed – certainly, detailed enough to ground proceedings, had the State been willing.

Once the Assam accord was signed, the Assam government withdrew cases that were not summarily closed already. Not only the police and prosecution, but the courts as well mechanically accepted a political mandate to close all cases, and failed to apply a judicial mind to the facts of each case, before deciding whether or not it deserved to be closed”.

(Chopra et. al. from https://idl-bnc-idrc.dspacedirect.org/bitstream/handle/10625/49277/IDL-49277.pdf?sequence=1)

The Government of Assam appointed “The Commission of Enquiry on Assam Disturbances, 1983” that’s popularly known as the Tiwari Committee that gave its report on the genocide in 1984. The report was not made public. No action was taken against anyone.

The pattern was repeated. 1 year later, another genocide happened and then, 5 years after that another. Congress was at the helm both at the centre and state. 18 years later genocide happened again with BJP both at centre and state levels. But these genocides will be covered in other posts. 

 

Welcome to the Land of Easy Deaths and Cheap Lives

This is India. Human lives are regularly and often lost due to state negligence. Media reports it for two days (that’s the exact span). Posts are shared on social media, Government ‘expresses grief’ and that’s that. I researched a couple of cases in which people, even infants, had died due to someone’s (read a government’s servant’s, or contractor’s) negligence. I found a very disturbing pattern emerging out of what happens after that.

A. Children died atAdani Foundation-run G K General hospital in Kutch:

“As per the data shared by hospital on May 25, out of a total of 777 infants, born in the hospital as well as those admitted from outside, between January 1 and May 20 this year, 111 could not survive, a mortality rate of 14 per cent”.

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/adani-run-hospital-111-infants-dead-in-five-months-probe-ordered-5192237/

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/rajkot/health-dept-orders-probe-into-infant-death-at-gaims-in-bhuj/articleshow/64324543.cms

When a panel submitted its report this month, no lapses were found in the hospital infrastructure or administration:

https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/probe-panel-finds-no-lapses-in-infant-deaths-in-adani-run-hospital-118052901668_1.html

B. “290 children died at BRD Medical College in Gorakhpur in August 2017, of which 213 died in the neo natal ICU and 77 in the encephalitis ward”.

https://www.news18.com/news/india/gorakhpur-hospital-tragedy-boy-bleeds-through-nose-father-told-its-just-kachra-1490665.html

https://www.firstpost.com/india/gorakhpur-hospital-tragedy-live-60-children-died-in-5-days-up-govt-faces-flak-from-opposition-3921401.html

Just one person was held responsible for those deaths, was jailed and was later released on bail (his family claims he was a scapegoat):

https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/in-uttar-pradeshs-gorakhpur-dr-kafeel-khans-brother-kashif-jameel-shot-at-1865430

No concrete action taken till now. 

C. Varanasi Flyover Collapse, 15 May 2018.

https://www.ndtv.com/cities/varanasi-bridge-collapse-investigating-team-submits-report-suggesting-reasons-behind-the-structure-c-1865988

“Movement of heavy traffic, coupled with what amounts to negligence, led to the collapse of a part of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi last month, which cost 15 lives in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency”.

What’s being done?

D. Tuticorin, May 2018

“The police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence… police had to control the violence”

https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/dmk-s-stalin-accuses-police-of-atrocities-against-anti-sterlite-protesters-in-tuticorin/story-zk9wbYIrrHSpM7yN4bz2AK.html

E. On 31 March 2016 a steel span from the Vivekananda Flyover fell down.

The website of the Outlookindia puts the number of the dead at “about fourteen” common men (and women?). Ten officials of IVRCL were booked under the section 302 of IPC and sent to jail. Later section 302 was converted into section 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).

Two years, and nearly two months from the day of collapse, the IIT Kharagpur committee investigating the incident has not submitted its report.

No action taken. No one punished.

F. On 9 September 2007 in Hyderabad, two persons (anybody remembers their names?) lost their lives because of another collapsed flyover. Case under section 304A, and many other sections was filed against Gammon India Limited.

Eight persons were arrested after the detailed report of the technical committee in 2008. They were acquitted in 2016 as there was no evidence against them.

No action taken. No one punished. 

Our judiciary is overburdened and our legislature works more for the uplift of its members than for the nation. Therefore, the responsibility, no, duty, of protecting democracy, constitution and the nation falls on WE THE PEOPLE.

As citizens with voting rights in India, it’s our duty to perform the role of not mere observers but participants in doing right, good and just things only, and in ensuring that others do the same.

How will we do that?  

How many of us will do that?

 

Varanasi Flyover Collapse, 15 May 2018: One Month Later  

Nearly a month ago 15 persons had officially died in Varanasi. Normally, in a country like India that has a population over one billion up to hundred deaths due to the negligence or active agency of state organizations and forces does not remain news after a couple of days. I had hoped that as those deaths had happened in a very special place, our PM Mr. Modi’s constituency, quick and decisive action would be taken against those responsible.

It was with that hope that I followed the developments in the Varanasi Flyover Collapse of 15 May 2018 regularly.

To follow its presence in the public sphere, I contacted my friends there for any news, googled the string “Varanasi Flyover Collapse, 15 May 2018” every day for pieces of even one paragraph and searched on you tube for clippings of even 15 seconds. The news simply disappeared from the national print media within two days. It was followed up only in the newspapers from or for Varanasi, that too for less than a fortnight then it vanished from there. It was nowhere on electronic media just after a week from the accident.

The day the flyover had collapsed the images and videos, with blood and gore, were circulated widely on whatsapp, twitter and facebook. No, the persons sharing them and the persons typing their ‘heart-felt’ comments on them were not doing it for their innate sense of justice. They were doing it because they did not want to miss anything from the spectacle of death, and wanted to leave their mark on it too, something vandals do upon our national monuments all over the country. Just three days passed and the Varanasi Flyover Collapse disappeared from the social media without leaving any trace. The worst part was that even groups from Varanasi did not have even one post or image or line on those deaths.

Yesterday following my routine searches with relevant keywords, I stumbled upon two entries, one on CNBC News and one on NDTV. I thank them for the update. I am quoting the highlights from the reports on two websites. Their links are:

https://cnbcnews.in/news/187239/report-by-investigating-team-reveals-why-varanasi-bridge-collapsed

https://www.ndtv.com/cities/varanasi-bridge-collapse-investigating-team-submits-report-suggesting-reasons-behind-the-structure-c-1865988

“Movement of heavy traffic, coupled with what amounts to negligence, led to the collapse of a part of an under-construction flyover in Varanasi last month, which cost 15 lives in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency.

This was because cross beams that were meant to lock the girders had not been put in place, a team of technical experts investigating the matter found. This, they said in their report, weakened the structure and left it exposed to traffic vibrations and wind force”.

“’There is strong possibility that they (girders) registered some tremblings… the traverse displacement of the girders caused by external forces of movement of traffic and recent storms kept accumulating and they collapsed,’ read the report, accessed by news agency Presss Trust of India. The report was submitted to Principal Secretary, PWD, Sanjay Agarwal, today in absence of Mr Maurya, who is admitted to a Delhi hospital”.

“Varanasi Senior Superintendent of Police RK Bhardwaj said an inspection of the construction site about two months ago showed that the builders were not following safety measures like putting up proper barricades and laying out a service lane”.

“Mr Mittal — who was removed from his post during the term of the Akhilesh Yadav government following complaints and reinstated when the BJP came to power — had denied the charges. He continues remain the chairman of the UP Rajya Nirman Nigam, another high-profile state government organization”.