Rohit Kumar's Views

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Posts Tagged ‘Mahatma Gandhi

‘Impossible to practice politics without corruption’

leave a comment »

Said Kumaraswamy expressing his anguish, as his efforts to bring “corrupt practices” of the Yeddyurappa-led BJP government did not yield expected results

JD(S) State President H D Kumaraswamy, who has been levelling corruption charges against Yeddyurappa, said it was impossible to practice politics without corruption. “The two (politics and corruption) have become two sides of the same coin these days,” he said. Kumaraswamy said, he was trying his best to curb the “immoral” practice of corruption. He however admitted that he accepted donations from the people for the sake of his party.


Trying his best: Kumaraswamy said he was trying his best to curb corruption. He, however, admitted that he accepted donations from the
people for the sake of his party.

Reflecting upon today’s political scenario in the country, Kumaraswamy said, “If Mahatma Gandhi was alive today, he would have either fallen prey to corruption or would have shunned politics itself.” He asked people of the state to follow Anna Hazare as a role model and come forward to lead a movement against corruption. “There is a dire need for a person like Anna Hazare in Karnataka to fight against corruption.”

He expressed anguish that his efforts to bring “corrupt practices” of the B S Yeddyurappa-led BJP government to the fore had not yielded the expected results, despite producing records to substantiate his allegations.

Kumaraswamy claimed that JDS would emerge victorious in the bye-elections to the three assembly constituencies held on April 9 while BJP will be forced to eat humble pie.

Congress leaders in funds row

leave a comment »

Maharashtra Congress chief Manikrao Thakre is in trouble for his reported conversation with party leader Satish Chaturvedi over the collection of money for the Sevagram rally to be addressed by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Friday. The rally is being organised as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 125th anniversary of the party’s foundation. Sevagram in Wardha district has been chosen the venue for the rally as Mahatma Gandhi had stayed there in the 1930s during the freedom struggle.

Thakre and Chaturvedi, a former minister, were caught on camera discussing the fund collection for making the arrangements for the rally. The two leaders reportedly made some critical remarks against state Chief Minister Ashok Chavan.

Though the episode has embarrassed the party, it is not going to cast any shadow on the rally. “The rally is on. Soniaji is coming to address the meeting. There’s great enthusiasm among the people,” state party spokesperson Hussain Dalwai said. But the episode has given Thakre’s detractors a handle to attack him with redoubled vigour and the calls for his removal as CM have grown louder.

Sections within the faction-ridden state unit, especially those owing allegiance to former chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and state Revenue Minister Narayan Rane, have already upped the ante against Thakre. “He should be replaced immediately. The party has suffered a lot during his tenure and the factions have grown,” a leader close to Deshmukh camp said. But Thakre camp is unmoved. “These are frustrated and defeated people. Some of them have been badly defeated in the last polls. They take out their frustration by attacking Thakre,” said one of his close aides.

Thakre along with other state unit chiefs are likely to be replaced during the organisational restructuring that will be completed before the All India Congress Committee session in Delhi on November 2.

During the visit, Gandhi is going to send a strong message to the warring groups to close ranks and work for strengthening the party so that it can contest the 2014 assembly polls on its own. The differences between the two factions had surfaced during the recent organisational polls in the state.

Fire in the Hole

leave a comment »

How India’s economic rise turned an obscure communist revolt into a raging resource war.

The richest iron mine in India was guarded by 16 men, armed with Army-issued, self-loading rifles and dressed in camouflage fatigues. Only eight survived the night of Feb. 9, 2006, when a crack team of Maoist insurgents cut the power to the Bailadila mining complex and slipped out of the jungle cover in the moonlight. The guerrillas opened fire on the guards with automatic weapons, overrunning them before they had time to take up defensive positions. They didn’t have a chance: The remote outpost was an hour’s drive from the nearest major city, and the firefight to defend it only lasted a few minutes.

The guards were protecting not only $80 billion-plus worth of mineral deposits, but also the mine’s explosives magazine, which held the ammonium nitrate the miners used to pulverize mountainsides and loosen the iron ore. When the fighting was over and the surviving guards rounded up and gagged, about 2,000 villagers who had been hiding behind the commando vanguard clambered over the fence into the compound and began emptying the magazine. Altogether they carried out 20 tons of explosives on their backs — enough firepower to fuel a covert insurgency for a decade.

Four and a half years after the attack in the remote Indian state of Chhattisgarh, the blasting materials have spread across the country, repackaged as 10-pound coffee-can bombs stuffed with ball bearings, screws, and chopped-up rebar. In May, one villager’s haul vaporized a bus filled with civilians and police. Another destroyed a section of railway later that month, sending a passenger train careening off the tracks into a ravine. Smaller ambushes of police forces on booby-trapped roads happen pretty much every week. Almost all of it, local police told us, can be traced back to that February night.

The Bailadila mine raid was one of India’s most profound strategic losses in the country’s protracted battle against its Maoist movement, a militant guerrilla force that has been fighting in one incarnation or another in India’s rural backwaters for more than 40 years. Over the course of the half-dozen visits we’ve made to the region during the past several years, we’ve come to consider the attack on the mine not just one defeat in the long-running war, but a symbolic shift in the conflict: For years, the Maoists had lived in the shadow of India’s breakneck modernization. Now they were thriving off it.

Only a decade ago, the rebels — often, though somewhat inaccurately, called Naxalites after their guerrilla predecessors who first launched the rebellion in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari in 1967 — seemed to have all but vanished. Their cause of communist revolution looked hopelessly outdated, their ranks depleted. In the years since, however, the Maoists have made an improbable comeback, rooted in the gritty mining country on which India’s economic boom relies. A new generation of fighters has retooled the Naxalites’ mishmash of Marx, Lenin, and Mao for the 21st century, rebranding their group as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and railing against what the rebels’ spokesman described to us as the “evil consequences by the policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization.”

Although it has gotten little attention outside South Asia, for India this is no longer an isolated outbreak of rural unrest, but a full-fledged guerrilla war. Over the past 10 years, some 10,000 people have died and 150,000 more have been driven permanently from their homes by the fighting. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a high-level meeting of state ministers not long after the Bailadila raid that the Maoists are “the single greatest threat to the country’s internal security,” and in 2009 he launched a military surge dubbed “Operation Green Hunt”: a deployment of almost 100,000 new paramilitary troops and police to contain the estimated 7,000 rebels and their 20,000-plus — according to our research — part-time supporters. Newspapers run stories almost daily about “successful operations” in which police string up the bodies of suspected militants on bamboo poles and lay out their captured caches of arms and ammunition. Many of the dead are civilians, and the harsh tactics have polarized the country.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way — not in 21st-century India, a country 20 years into an experiment in rapid, technology-driven development, one of globalization’s most celebrated success stories. In 1991, with India on the brink of bankruptcy, Singh — then the country’s finance minister — pursued an ambitious slate of economic reforms, opening up the country to foreign investment, ending public monopolies, and encouraging India’s bloated state-run firms to behave like real commercial ventures. Today, India’s GDP is more than five times what it was in 1991. Its major cities are now home to an affluent professional class that commutes in new cars on freshly paved four-lane highways to jobs that didn’t exist not so long ago.

But plenty of Indians have missed out. Economic liberalization has not even nudged the lives of the country’s bottom 200 million people. India is now one of the most economically stratified societies on the planet; its judicial system remains byzantine, its political institutions corrupt, its public education and health-care infrastructure anemic. The percentage of people going hungry in India hasn’t budged in 20 years, according to this year’s U.N. Millennium Development Goals report. New Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore now boast gleaming glass-and-steel IT centers and huge engineering projects. But India’s vast hinterland remains dirt poor — nowhere more so than the mining region of India’s eastern interior, the part of the country that produces the iron for the buildings and cars, the coal that keeps the lights on in faraway metropolises, and the exotic minerals that go into everything from wind turbines to electric cars to iPads.

If you were to lay a map of today’s Maoist insurgency over a map of the mining activity powering India’s boom, the two would line up almost perfectly. Ground zero for the rebellion lies in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, a pair of neighboring, mostly rural states some 750 miles southeast of New Delhi that are home to 46 million people spread out over an area a little smaller than Kansas. Urban elites in India envision them as something akin to Appalachia, with a landscape of rolling forested hills, coal mines, and crushing poverty; their undereducated residents are the frequent butt of jokes told in more fortunate corners of the country.

Revenues from mineral extraction in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand topped $20 billion in 2008, and more than $1 trillion in proven reserves still sit in the ground. But this geological inheritance has been managed so disastrously that many locals — uprooted, unemployed, and living in a toxic and dangerous environment, due to the mining operations — have thrown in their lot with the Maoists. “It is better to die here fighting on our own land than merely survive on someone else’s,” Phul Kumari Devi told us when we visited her dusty mining village of Agarbi Basti in June. “If the Maoists come here, then we would ask their help to resist.”

The mines are also cash registers for the Maoist war chest. Through extortion, covert attacks, and plain old theft, insurgents have tapped a steady stream of mining money to pay their foot soldiers and buy arms and ammunition, sometimes from treasonous cops themselves. The result is the kind of perpetual-motion machine of armed conflict that is grimly familiar in places like the oil-soaked Niger Delta, but seems extraordinary in the world’s largest democracy.

This isn’t just an Indian story — it’s a global one. In the wake of Singh’s economic reforms, foreign investment in the country has grown to 150 times what it was in 1991. Among other things, India has opened up its vast mineral reserves to private and international players, and now major global companies like Toyota and Coca-Cola rely on mining operations in the heart of the Maoist war zone. Investors in the region claim that the fighting is taking a toll on their businesses, and Bloomberg News recently estimated that some $80 billion worth of projects are stalled at least in part by the guerrilla war, enough to double India’s steel output.

But in our visits to the region and dozens of interviews there — with miners and politicians, refugees and paramilitary leaders, cops and go-betweens for the guerrillas — we found a far more complex reality. Mining companies have managed to double their production in the two states in the past decade, even as the conflict has escalated; the most unscrupulous among them have used the fog of war as a pretext for land grabs, leveling villages whose residents have fled the fighting. At the same time, the Maoists, for all their communist rhetoric, have become as much a business as anything else, one that will remain profitable as long as the country’s mines continue to churn out the riches on which the Indian economy depends.

The first sign you see as you leave the airport in Jharkhand’s capital city of Ranchi welcomes you to the “Land of Coal,” and indeed, mining underlies every aspect of life here. Seams of coal are visible in the earth alongside the rutted roads that connect the jungle hamlets. Travelers learn to anticipate mines not by any road signs, but by the processions of men pushing bicycles heaped with burlap sacks full of coal: day laborers who pay for the opportunity to scrape the stuff out of thousands of off-the-books mines and sell it door to door as heating fuel, for perhaps a few more dollars a day than they would make as farmers trying to eke out a living from Jharkhand’s depleted soil.

India’s coal country was mostly passed over by British colonists until they discovered its mineral wealth in the late 19th century and built the obligatory handful of dusty frontier towns and roads necessary to take advantage of it. Today the region bears the obvious scars of a hundred-odd years of heavy industry. The damage is most visible at road marker 221 of Jharkhand’s main north-south highway, about 40 miles outside Ranchi, where a freshly paved patch of asphalt veers sharply west and snakes up a smoky hill through the village of Loha Gate and into an ecological disaster zone. Shimmering waves of heat, thick with carbon monoxide and selenium, waft through jagged cracks in the pavement large enough to swallow a soccer ball. A hundred feet below, a massive subterranean coal fire, started in an abandoned mine, burns so hot that it melts the soles of one’s shoes. The only vestiges of plant life are the scattered hulks of desiccated trees. Like the legendary coal fire that destroyed Centralia, Pennsylvania, this blaze could easily smolder for another 200 years before the coal seam is finally burned through.

There are at least 80 coal fires like this burning in Jharkhand, turning much of the state’s ground into a giant combustible honeycomb. A fire ignited in 1916 by neglectful miners near the city of Jharia has grown so large that it now threatens to burn away the land beneath the entire community, plunging the 400,000 residents into an underground inferno. One mine just outside Jharia collapsed in 2006, killing 54 people.

Coal mining and armed rebellion have long gone hand in hand in what is now Jharkhand, both dating back to the mid-1890s, when the British began extracting coal from the area and Birsa Munda, today a local folk hero, launched a tribal revolt to regain local control of resources. The British quelled the uprising with a massive deployment of troops, but the resentment festered. India’s government after independence proved a poor landlord as well, with decades of mining disasters — more than 700 people were killed in them between 1965 and 1975 alone — and a corrupt, nearly feudal government that made what was then the state of Bihar notorious in India as the country’s most poorly run, backward region.

By the 1990s, fed-up residents campaigned to carve Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh into their own jurisdictions. The politicians behind the movement argued that the people who lived in the shadow of the mines were the least likely to benefit from them, the spoils instead accruing to large out-of-state corporations and venal government officials in distant capitals. In 2000, India’s Parliament acquiesced, forming new states that then-Home Minister L.K. Advani declared would “fulfill the aspirations of the people.”

But statehood only enabled the rise of a new cast of villains. Absentee political landlords were replaced with home-grown thugs who exploited the new state government’s lax oversight to build their own fiefdoms. Madhu Koda, one of Jharkhand’s former chief ministers, is awaiting trial on allegations he siphoned $1 billion from state coffers — an astonishing 20 percent of the state’s revenues — during his two-year tenure. Mining operations, fast-tracked without regard for environmental or safety concerns, expanded at an alarming rate and are now projected to displace at least half a million people in Jharkhand by 2015.

The blighted landscape has proved to be fertile ground for the Maoist insurgency’s renaissance. In the 1960s and 1970s, the Maoists’ predecessors in the Naxalite movement had waged a bloody revolutionary campaign across rural India, only to mostly fade away by the early 1990s. The Maoists who have picked up the Naxalites’ banner in recent years are different, and the contours of their rebellion are hard to pin down.

These fighters claim to be led in battle by an elusive figure called Kishenji, who depending on whom you ask is either a one-legged, battle-hardened Brahmin, a 1960s-era radical with a Ph.D. from New Delhi, or simply a moniker used by anyone within the organization who wishes to sound authoritative or confuse the police. The guerrillas shun email and mobile phones and rarely communicate with the world beyond the jungle, mostly via letters ferried back and forth by foot soldiers. Over several years of attempted correspondence, we received only a few missives in return. All were written in an opaque style full of the sort of arcane Marxist jargon that the rest of the world forgot in the 1970s.

Today’s Maoists maintain the radical leftist politics of their predecessors and draw their civilian support from the same rural grievances — poverty, lack of justice, political disenfranchisement. But they are less an organized ideological movement than a loose confederation of militias, and many of their local commanders appear to be in it for the money alone. They wage war sporadically across a 1,000-mile swath of India, operating without a permanent base, relying on the tacit support of villagers to evade the police and paramilitary forces that hunt them, and periodically raiding remote police stations for resupplies of arms and ammunition.

But the rebels’ primary revenue comes from the region’s mines. Where the Naxalites used to congregate in areas with longstanding conflicts between landowners and laborers, Maoist strongholds now tend to pop up within striking distance of large-scale extractive operations. Such mines cover vast areas and are difficult to secure, making them sitting ducks for well-armed insurgents. “Most of the mines in this state are in the forests, so we are easy targets,” says Deepak Kumar, the owner of several such mines in Jharkhand. “The only way to stop the attacks is to negotiate.”

Kumar comes from a long line of Jharkhandi robber barons. In the 1980s, he used his mining camps as staging grounds for stalking the region’s near-extinct Bengal tigers. Today he owns a series of profitable but (by his own admission) illegal coal mines, hidden in the palm forests. Legal mines extract ore with giant machines that carve craters to the horizon; Kumar’s are more like secret caves, the coal dug out of deep tunnels with pickaxes by day laborers working for $2 to $3 a day. He told us his revenues run about $4 million a year, typical for off-the-books operations in a state where less than half of raw materials are extracted legitimately.

On July 4, 2004, Kumar was closing out the day’s accounts in his makeshift office at one of his mines when seven female guerrillas carrying automatic rifles broke down his door, forcing him into the forest at gunpoint. They marched him to a riverbed, where they stopped and held a gun to his head. “I thought I was going to die,” he recalls. Instead they demanded $2.5 million for his ransom.

Through the night, the Maoists marched him barefoot over crisscrossing trails, until they happened across a police patrol that was searching for him. Kumar escaped in the ensuing gun battle. But after he returned to work several weeks later, Maoist negotiators knocked on his door and let him know he was still a target. So, Kumar told us, he quickly hashed out a business arrangement with the rebels: In exchange for their leaving his operation alone, he would pay them 5 percent of his revenues.

The protection money, like the small bribes Kumar says he pays to the police to avoid troublesome safety and environmental regulations, has simply become another operating cost. Kumar says that every mine owner he knows pays up, too. By his back-of-the-envelope approximation, if the other estimated 2,500 illegal mines in the state are doling out comparable kickbacks to the rebels, the Maoists’ annual take would come to $500 million — enough to keep a militant movement alive indefinitely. “It works like a tax,” he says with a Cheshire grin, “just another business expense and now everything runs smoothly.”

Calls by politicians to clamp down on the Maoists’ extortion racket ring hollow as long as the politicians themselves are running the same sort of scheme — and in Jharkhand, they often are. Shibu Soren, a former national minister for coal and chief minister of Jharkhand until he was removed from office in May, has been tried for murder three times, though he was ultimately acquitted. (The crimes’ witnesses had a habit of disappearing, or turning up dead.) Last year, local newspapers exposed a case in which two henchmen of another local politician assassinated a children’s development aid worker, reportedly because he refused to pay the obligatory 10 percent kickback of his dairy goods after receiving a government contract. What they would have done with 3,000 gallons of milk is anyone’s guess.

“If you want to be somebody in Jharkhand, just kill an aid worker,” T.P. Singh, a Jharkhand correspondent for the Sahara Samay cable network, told us. A large man with a thick mustache, a TV-ready cocksure grin, and a penetrating stare, Singh is the network’s crime and corruption exposé king, and a celebrity in the region. He plays the role of the TV cowboy to the hilt, right down to the ubiquitous ten-gallon hat he was wearing when we met him at the local press club in the Jharkhandi mining city of Hazaribagh to ask about the dangers of reporting on powerful people in a land with no effective laws.

“You know how I get those boys to respect me?” Singh replied. “With this.” He reached into the waistband underneath his knee-length kurta and pulled out a Dirty Harry six-shooter, loaded and ready for action. A former Maoist turned politician, sitting on a couch across from Singh awaiting an interview, nodded his solemn approval.

The act is part bluster, but also part necessity. Many of Singh’s media compatriots in Jharkhand have been killed, kidnapped, or threatened with death by the Maoists, miners, politicians, or all three at some point in their careers. In some areas, local law enforcement has simply ceded authority to government-sanctioned civilian militias, which are often accused by locals of pillaging even more rapaciously than the Maoists — and contributing to the fighting by arming poor villagers. The most feared among them is Salwa Judum, secretly assembled by the Chhattisgarh government in 2005 to fight the Maoists; its 5,000-odd members patrol the state armed with everything from AK-47s to axes. Some roam the forest with bows and arrows.

“The Maoists have been killing locals for years,” Mahendra Karma, the founder of Salwa Judum, told us. “But when [Salwa Judum members] kill Maoists or Maoist supporters, all of a sudden people shout the word ‘human rights.’ There should be no double standard. If we kill a Maoist, then how is that a violation of human rights?”

Karma has the thick frame and round face of a heavyweight boxer a decade past his prime. When we met him in his office, far from the fighting, in Chhattisgarh’s capital of Raipur, he was flanked by armed guards. Above his desk was a life-size portrait of Mahatma Gandhi.

Karma founded the militia in 2005, when he was opposition leader in the state parliament. In the years since, he has presided over his district’s descent into a war zone, as the Maoists and Salwa Judum have taken turns torching villages and raping and killing hundreds of people each year in a spiral of revenge attacks. Some villages have been attacked more than 15 times by one side or the other. Salwa Judum members are also accused of extracurricular killing to settle personal scores, even dressing the bodies in Maoist uniforms to cover up their crimes.

When we met, Karma was happy at first to talk about the militia. But when our questions turned probing, his mood soured. Finally, rising to his feet and jabbing his finger into our chests, he shouted, “These questions you ask have come from the Naxalites — you are the men of the Naxalites!” In Chhattisgarh, Karma’s rage could easily amount to an extrajudicial death sentence. We were on the first flight back to Delhi.

It was just as well because by that point our attempts to contact anyone in the Maoist rebel camps had yielded next to nothing. After leftist author Arundhati Roy paid a visit to the Maoists this year, the Indian government reinterpreted its anti-terrorism laws to make speaking favorably about the rebels or their ideological aims — including opposition to corporate mining — punishable by up to 10 years in prison. This has made the Maoists’ civilian allies cagey about dealing with outsiders, and the already reclusive fighters even more difficult to reach. After months of sporadic contact with the Maoists’ liaisons, exchanging handwritten notes with couriers who arrived at our Ranchi hotel in the middle of the night, we made a breakthrough: Finally, a rebel spokesman by the nom de guerre of Gopal offered the prospect of visiting a Maoist camp. It would involve being whisked deep into the jungle on the back of a motor scooter and then camping out there for several days, waiting for the rebels to make contact, blindfold us, and take us the rest of the way to their outpost. We were ready to do it, but monsoon rains and a Green Hunt military offensive eventually scotched the plan.

Since then, the Maoists have kept busy. In addition to the May bus explosion near Bailadila that killed 35 people, the passenger-train derailment that same month killed almost 150 people, bringing total casualties to more than 800 so far in 2010 alone. The central government has responded by dispatching even more military resources to the area.

In a sense, however, India has already lost this war. It has lost it gradually, over the last 20 years, by mistaking industrialization for development — by thinking that it could launch its economy into the 21st century without modernizing its political structures and justice system along with it, or preventing the corruption that worsens the inequality that development aid from New Delhi is supposed to rectify. The government is sending in Army advisors and equipment — for now, the war is being fought by the Indian equivalent of a national guard, not the Army proper — and spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects in the districts where the Maoists are strongest. But it hasn’t addressed the concerns that drove the residents of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand into the guerrillas’ arms in the first place — concerns that are often shockingly basic.

In the town of Jamshedpur we visited Naveen Kumar Singh, a superintendent of police who can boast of a string of hard-won victories over the Maoists, which include demolishing training camps, confiscating weapons, and racking up a double-digit body count. But Singh is also responsible for winning his district’s hearts and minds. When we stopped by his office, 10 petitioners were lined up in front of his desk. They were mostly poor men and women from rural areas, their clothes dusty from long bus rides. One woman in a purple sari arrived with a limp, leaning heavily on her son’s shoulders. She asked Singh for help moving forward a police investigation into the car that hit her. Everyone in the room knew that without his signature on her crumpled forms, nothing would happen.

But Singh looked bored and sifted idly through the woman’s handwritten papers. Finally, he waved his hand in the air and told her to go find more documents, ushering her back into the endless bureaucratic loop that is India’s legal system. Most of the others received similar treatment.

Later, we asked him what the police were doing to combat the Maoists. When the police go on missions now, he told us, they pass out literature to the mostly illiterate peasantry and staple on every tree slogans warning people away from Maoism. “We don’t only go into the forest to kill people,” he bragged. “We also hang posters.”

“Exterminating Muslims in India – the History of Spain revisited”

leave a comment »

Dalit Voice

Muslims ruled over Spain from 712 AD to 1492 AD for 780 years, yet today there are no Muslims in Spain though every aspect of Spanish life has a touch of Islam. Spanish language has many Arabic words, its music has an Arabic tone, its culture has more Arabic influence than the European, and proper nouns in Spanish often have the Arabic prefix al. From 1492, when the last bastion of Muslim political strength Grenada fell, the Muslims of Spain were on the decline and its culmination took place after 120 years when the last batch of Muslim die-hards left Spain in 1612. From that year, Islam vanished from the Spanish horizons.

A particular noteworthy point is that during this period of Islamic decline from Spain, the entire civilised world was ruled by Muslims. The Ottoman Turks had conquered Constantinople in 1553, and were ruling the entire Balkan Peninsula, Egypt was ruled by the powerful Mamiukes, Persia was at its political pinnacle under the Abbasi rulers, and India was ruled by the Moghals. Still Islam vanished from Spain and none of these great Muslim armies did anything to protect the Muslims of Spain. How Islam was ejected from Spain had been a subject of keen study by lndia’s Hindu Nazis in the 30s and 40s of this century. They studied this aspect to be copied in India and to counter this possibility, the Muslim leaders also studied this to prevent a repetition of the Spanish methods because Muslims (forming 11.35% of the population as per 1981 census) as lndia’s single largest minorities have become the biggest headache to the upper caste Hindus. But the present-day Muslims are totally ignorant of the history of Islamic decline in Spain and hence of the designs surrounding it.

Through this we intend to shed a little light on this subject so that the thinking section of the Muslims and their sympathisers may do some more research on this subject. As in India, Spanish Muslims had three categories: (i) the descendants of the original Arabs, (ii) descendants of Arab fathers and Spanish mothers and (iii) Christian converts to Islam. Immediately after the fall of Grenada many of the original Arabs to save their lives (not property, as they were not permitted to carry their wealth) left Spain to Tunisia and Morocco; many died on their journey by the attacking Christian hordes. Rest of the original Arabs who opted to live in Spain itself were subsequently branded ‘foreigners” (as in India) and destroyers of Spain. The other category of Muslims viz. the descendants of Muslim fathers and Christianmothers and converts from Christianity opted to live in Spain believing in the declaration of King Ferdinand that complete religious freedom would be guaranteed. (in India also, we are told that Muslims enjoy full religious freedom and minority rights). The attacks by Christian on their lives and property during the earlier years was pardoned as a temporary phenomenon.

Compare it with the development that took place in India after the partition (1947). But these attacks on Muslim life and property in Spain did not abate but continued for about 50 years with lesser intensity in a sporadic manner, just as it is happening in India today. In the earlier years, the Indian Muslims resisted and fought back. There were mini-battles in the streets, but gradually there were one-sided attacks and every time Muslims were the losers. Of late, the Hindu police itself is let lose to kill the Muslims in India.

While the organized Christian groups were committing such massacres, Ferdinand’s Govt, in Spain adopted the policy of eliminating Muslims from the services and adopting the following measures:-

Arabic was removed from administration,
schools attached to mosques were debarred from teaching academic and secular subjects like science, history, mathematics and philosophy. Only religious teaching could be imparted,
Lessons in history were faked by which the Muslim rule was dubbed as barbaric. Contribution of Muslims to the development of Spain was avoided,
Muslim houses were made objects of constant searching by police on allegations of arms hoarding and secret meetings,
Original Arab Muslims were projected as enemies of Christians and destroyers of Spain.
Christian converts were persuaded to reconvert to Christianity on the ground that their ancestors were forced to become Muslims and as there is no more coercion, they should revert to Christianity.
Muslims who were from Muslim-Christian parentage were branded as bastards and ridiculed and persuaded to revert to Christianity.
Marriages performed in the Islamic manner were directed to be registered with the judicial officers.
Islamic law was declared illegal. Every method followed in Spain is being experimented in India with better precision and timing.
Thus Muslims in Spain were made objects of ridicule, condemnation and continuous attack. Burning of Muslim houses and shops was encouraged to destroy their economy. Mock ceremonies of reconversion of Muslims to Christianity were held and publicized. In India, Hindu Nazis of all hues-Arya Samaj, Ramakrishna Mission, Vishwa Hindu Parishad etc,. are doing the same. The first two generation of Spanish Muslims adopted passive methods to save their religion by teaching Arabic to their children at home and mosques, and telling them orally about the realities but gradually they lost the zeal. When marriages were ordered to be celebrated only through Govt. agencies, Muslims in early stages performed dual marriages – one with the Govt. authorities and again privately in their homes in the Islamic manner. Gradually the second ceremony was given up as even such a private ceremony was banned.

During this period, Muslim masses gradually fell out of the grips of the Muslim leadership and Muslim elites started flocking to Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt where they were received with sympathy. Poor Muslim masses were left uncared for. This is exactly what is happening in India. The richer, English-educated Muslims are getting Brahminised. They have become imitators of upper caste Hindus as they live not in Muslim localities but in Hindu areas. The poor Muslims (they form 95% of the Muslim population) live in ghettos and being better followers of Islam, they are left high and dry. Hence they are getting killed in all anti-Muslim riots.

The seeds sown in the first half of the century in Spain started yielding results in the second half. There was no political leadership, no organization to protect Muslims and enlightened personalities to save the situation. Religious leaders knowing nothing but Islamic’ theology tried their best to save the situation, but against heavy propaganda by the Govt. agencies, lures and offers to reconverts, ignorance of Islamic values by the masses and sense of inferiority nurtured in the minds of Muslim masses were too big a force to be undone by the theologians. This needed a political leadership and an organization with arms to counter, but there was none. Those who spoke of invoking the help of Muslim powers of Turkey and Egypt were feared and exposed before the authorities (by the Muslims themselves) to be condemned. Without willing fighters, other Muslim powers could not help. Those who had settled in Turkey and Egypt advised the authorities there to desist’from such a thought as otherwise atrocities on Muslims of Spain would increase. An Ahmed Shah Abdaii was needed but th@’@ was none. And the Muslim masses joined the “mainstream” of Spanish life and the mullahs finding no job for their preaching gradually left Spain. And the last batch to leave Spain consisted of the diehard mullahs in 1612

In India also the political leadership of the Muslims became a tail of the Hindu parties led by the upper castes. Only the theological leadership like that of Moulana Hasan Ali Nadvi has tried to maintain the cultural identity of the Indian Muslims.

This “Spanish experiment” is being tried with greater energy and efficiency in India. Urdu, which is as Islamic in India as Arabic was in Spain, is being eased out. Muslims are voluntarily holding on to madrasas. English-educated richer Muslims are away from the Muslim masses. We saw this at the Tablighe Jamat International conference held in Bangalore (DV, March 15, 1985). They are not going to Muslim countries, but are taking refuge in their psychological and physical seclusion. Any move to organise them to protect the Muslim life and property is branded as communal. Any Muslim flirting, if not supporting the upper castes, is called a “nationalist Muslim”. The gulf between the Muslim masses and educated rich Muslims is widening every day. Mass killing of Muslims is considered something natural by the Muslim leadership itself. Whenever it is raised at international Islamic platforms such actions are called interference in the internal affairs of India. Muslims history is deleted from the syllabus. Names of Muslims who died for India are avoided. A great martyr who died for India like Tippu Sultan is unknown to youngsters, whereas the name of Tantia Tope, who fought not for India but for his pension, and Jhansi Laxmi Bai, who fought for her adopted son’s heirship to the throne, is brought on the lips of every Indian. No Muslim gets awards for his contribution to science, medicine, music, art or gallantry. Even those who fought from the ranks of the ruling Congress Party like Moulana Azad, Kidwai, Syed Mahmood, Humayun Kabir etc. do not have a road or extension named after them. But there are half-a-dozen in the names of each upper caste leaders in our towns and cities. History is being re-written. (“Falsifying Indian History”, DV editorial, April 16, 1985). Muslims are killed daily and their houses and shops burnt. The doors of the Army, police and administration are closed to them. And yet Muslim organizations to protect Islam are coming up like mushrooms. Everybody wants to protect Islam and nobody wants to protect Muslims. We are really worried.

A study of the Ruling Class policies reveals that it has great similarity with the one followed by Ferdinand and Isabelle in Spain. The only difference is that the Hindu upper castes are more sharp and sophisticated because of the limitations imposed in the 20th century by the checks exercisable by the United Nations Human Rights Charter and international public opinion.

The systematic and daily anti-Muslim riots resulting in loss of life and property, and above all the sense of fear in the hearts of every Muslim, elimination of the martial Muslims from the Defence, paramilitary and police forces and brahminising of these forces, closing the doors of appointments in Govt. services and public undertakings, Brahminisation of education and mass.media like radio, TV and advertisement, elimination of Urdu as official language from those areas which form the presentday States of Punjab, Haryana, UP, Bihar, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Maharastra, Andhra Pradhesh and Karnataka overnight in 1947-48, gradual closing of Urdu schools are all examples of positive anti-Muslim policies.

On the brahminical psychological warfare side comes the cries of Personal Law amendment, now diluted as common civil code, greatness of the Indian (Hindu) culture, projection of notorious anti-Muslim personalities like “Mahatma” Gandhi, B. G. Tilak, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Veer Savarkar, Lala Laipat Rai as heroes of India to belittle the contribution of Muslims for the development and progress of the country, re-writing of Indian history, describing Muslim professions like beef-selling as a sin and glorifying cow protection policies, introduction of mechanical slaughter of animals to throw out of job butchers, declaration of import and export business carried on by Muslims as smuggling are policies through which vulnerable Indian masses are misguided, resulting in a psychological anti-Muslim bias. Muslim electoral constituencies are divided horizontally and vertically so that they don’t have an effective voting power anywhere and thrusting upon them ultra-secular Muslim leaders who have started worshipping Hindu idols and such scenes being systematically televised. Unfortunately Muslim leaders, who are dejected with the Govt., repose much confidence in Hindu masses and hope to secure their help ignoring the fact that the poor Hindu (Dalit) masses are as much victims of such a propaganda. And as on this day only seeds are being sown. The harvest is yet to come. When the harvest reason comes, what will be harvested in India is repetition of Spain, unless the Muslims resort to counter measures soon.

It is high time the Muslim/ intelligentsia rises to the occasion to undo the repetition of the history of Spain in India. Islam has always been protected by the Muslim masses and not by the classes. Rich Muslims, who are not even 5% of the Muslim population (with minor exceptions) are joining the upper caste exploiters. They may talk of Islam but they have forgotten the fellow Muslims. Please note: religion does not protect its followers, but followers protect the religion. Remember if Islam has to be saved in India, Muslims have to be saved.

A Stain That Nirma Can’t Wash Away

leave a comment »

BRIJESH PANDEY TRACKS THE STATE SUPPRESSION OF PROTEST AGAINST A PROPOSED CEMENT PLANT IN GUJARAT. PHOTOGRAPHS BY VIJAY PANDEY


Sanguine demand Villagers of Doliya in Mahuva district display their identity cards with their name and address on one side and thumb impression in blood on another: We’ll give up our blood, not water

NINETY-THREE YEARS after it was built, a group of Gandhian protesters gathered at the iconic Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad. The date was February 25, 2010. In a development laden with irony, the police swooped down and whisked the protesters away in their vans. “Look at how the Gujarat government is treating us in the land of Mahatma Gandhi for non-violent and democratic protest,” lamented Chunnilal Vaidya, 92-year-old Gandhian. The rally, part of the Bandhara Bachao Samiti (Save Check-dams Movement), was called to protest the state government’s decision to hand over part of a water body to Nirma Industries to set up a cement plant.

But though replete with echoes of the Independence struggle, there is more to this issue than this specific catalyst for a people’s protest. After pulling out of Singur in West Bengal in the face of farmer protests, when Tata Motors chose to set up their Nano car factory in Sanand, Gujarat, the image of the state received a fillip as a favoured destination for industry. The whole process of acquiring land for factories, clearing the bottlenecks in a flash – no other state did what Gujarat claimed it could. Till the farmers of Mahuva, Bhavnagar district, erupted in anger. The story of procuring land for the cement plant, within the catchment area of a check-dam that had changed the whole agriculture scenario of the region, exposes another facet of this industrialisation – that of interests of farmers sacrificed at the altar of industry, and a blatant disregard for the ecology of the region.

Gujarat has a coastline of 1,600 km. Of this, Saurashtra alone has 765 km. Due to the use of river and ground water for irrigation, rising salinity is the biggest problem in the region, affecting potable water and agriculture. More than 10 lakh people in 534 villages were seriously affected by this problem. To tackle rising salinity, in 1980, the state government set up a dedicated unit called the Salinity Ingress Prevention Cell (SIPC) under the irrigation department, in collaboration with the World Bank and the Aga Khan Foundation

HOW THE PROTESTS TOOK SHAPE

1980
State forms advisory panel to check alarming increase in salinity from seawater flowing into coastal Saurashtra

2000
Samdhiyala check-dam is built. It turns out to be a success in controlling salinity, creating a reservoir of sweet water

2003
Nirma promises to build a cement plant in Bhavnagar district during the Vibrant Gujarat summit

2009
Four ministers close to Modi overrule a technical panel’s opinion to allow setting up of Nirma’s plant

2010
Police mercilessly attack a non-violent protest rally by villagers, badly wounding women and children

As per the recommendations of two separate high-level committees, the Salinity Control Division, Bhavnagar, construc – ted check-dams which store sweet water at the mouths of rivers. They provide drinking water for livestock and water for irrigation and, most importantly, stop ground water from turning saline. Between 1998 and 2002, the government transferred land to the SIPC, which constructed three check-dams. Work on a fourth check-dam is to be completed this year. In a welcome tale of developmentdone- right, the check-dams led to a revival of agriculture in the region. Where once farmers could barely raise one crop a year, they can now raise three.

GUJARAT IS THE LAND OF GANDHI, BUT THE WAY FARMERS ARE TREATED HERE WILL PUT EVEN A DICTATORSHIP TO SHAME

During the government-sponsored Vibrant Gujarat industrial promotion summit in 2003, Nirma Industries proposed two projects in Bhavnagar district: a 250 MW power project, and a 1 million metric tonnes per annum cement project. Nirma wrote to the collector of Bhavnagar asking for 268 hectares of land for their cement plant in the Mahuva taluka (division) of Bhavnagar area. It was these 268 hectares which prompted the protest. Official documents accessed by TEHELKA reveal that despite knowing that almost 100 hectares of the land demanded by Nirma was part of the Samdhiyala checkdam, the government cleared the project. Ironically, out of 268 hectares of land that Nirma had requested, 222 had been transferred to the SIPC in the 1980s to build check-dams, which were bearing results.

When the salinity control division objected to the construction of the cement plant in the catchment area, saying that it would restrict the natural flow of rainwater to the check-dam, Nirma demurred. On April 22, 2004, the Vice President of Nirma, VN Desai, wrote to the Bhavnagar Salinity Control Division, saying that it had contracted “Ahmedabad-based consultants SMPS to offer [a] technical solution”. The SMPS’ technical report is startling, for it reveals how the consultants appointed by Nirma themselves believe the cement plant might affect the catchment area of the Samdhiyala check-dam.

NIRMA REPLIES
‘WE APPRECIATE YOUR ENQUIRIES TO SPEAK TO THE MANAGEMENT OF NIRMA ON THE NEW PLANT STIR, BUT AS THE MANAGEMENT HAS ALREADY PRESENTED THEIR CASE TO THE COURT, THEY HAVE NOTHING ELSE TO SAY. WE WILL GET BACK TO YOU IF THERE ARE ANY UPDATES’

The report said: “Part of the land requested for the cement plant is overlapping with rainwater collection as a result of the Samadhiyala check-dam. If we get the land, we will deepen the existing sweet water reservoir for greater storage capacity…” Thus, the check-dam had achieved several benefits, including the control of salinity ingress, the harnessing and storage of rainwater – affording potable water to nearby villages and creating potential of irrigating a large area of land. To assess the possibility of re-acquisition of this land by the government so that it could be handed over to Nirma, the collector of Bhavanagar has asked the Executive Engineer (EE), Salinity Control Division, Bhavnagar to examine the possibility of the co-existence of the Nirma cement plant and the Samadhiyala checkdam without disturbing the benefits and storage capacity of the check-dam.

In reply, the EE wrote back that about 100 hectares of land that overlapped with that of the check-dam gets filled to the highest water level during monsoons, when the whole area is submerged under water. Despite this finding, in meetings with the collector on March 23, 2004, with the resident commissioner on April 13 and, further, on April 15 in the presence of Nirma officials, the government expressed their determination to find a technical way so that both the cement plant and the check-dam could coexist.

But it was not just water levels in the monsoon that the government attempted to leapfrog. In 2002, the High Court, in Sailesh Shah vs State of Gujarat, ordered the government to “protect, maintain and preserve all the waterbodies in the state” and stated that they would not be “alienated or transferred or put to any use other than as waterbodies.” In a brazen display of legal blindness, Advocate General Kamal Trivedi stated in 2007: “The revenue records of Pandhiyarka, Dodia and Vagar do not show any check-dam; the land is shown as pasture or government land. … [Thus} there can be no objection for its transfer to Nirma”.


When I took part in an anti-Nirma rally, I was beaten up mercilessly by the police. I fainted on the spot. I was lucky to survive
RANI BEN,
Doliya village

On the basis of this blithe evasion, the land transfer was expedited. But this infuriated civil society. Gandhian and foun der of Gujarat Lok Samiti, Chunnilal Vaidya states, “The conduct of the Attorney General is immoral and unethical.” In a letter to the Governor and the Chief Justice of Gujarat High Court, Vaidya points out the anomaly of the Advocate General Trivedi appearing for the Government of Gujarat, while Trivedi & Gupta – a firm started by Trivedi, in which his wife is a partner – appears for Nirma. Despite being ordered by the High Court in 2002 to notify all water bodies in the state within three months, they did nothing for eight years. And now, on the basis of the old revenue records, Trivedi is giving the advice that since no notification has taken place, it can’t be called a water body and, irrespective of the actual presence of water, would continue to be [termed] a wasteland. Despite repeated attempts, the Advocate General could not be reached for comment. Nirma, too, refused to comment.

‘WHAT COULD BE MORE UNETHICAL THAN NIRMA BEING DEFENDED BY A LAW FIRM OWNED IN PART BY THE STATE ADVOCATE GENERAL’S WIFE?’

IN 2008, the government instituted a “jan sunvai” (public consultation) on the project. “Even I, the MLA of the area was not called to put forward the people’s views,” says Mahuva MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria of the BJP. “The meeting was not publicised and the few villagers who came to know about it were threatened with dire consequences if they spoke up there,” adds Kalsaria. Little surprise then, that the residents of 15 villages of Mahuva taluka took to the streets in protest. They formed Mahuva Bandhara Khetivadi Pariyavaran Bachav Samiti (Mahuva Check-dam, Agriculture and Environment Protection Committee) and filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court.

In the face of these protests, Nirma offered to give back 54 hectares of the check-dam. Meanwhile, the government formed the Shelat Committee to assess the situation. Headed by the Advisor to the CM, the committee stated on August 20, 2009 that, “farmers will not have any benefit… because it is bounded on three sides by the plant and the mining lease area of Nirma. This area will be useful only to Nirma and nobody else”. The Shelat Committee also recommended that Nirma follow alternatives such as those suggested by the National Council for Cement and Building Materials (NCCBM) – that Nirma give up 100 hectares covered by the check-dam and build its cement plant on the remaining 168 hectares. Nirma rejected this advice.


During a protest rally, the police beat me so brutally that I was not able to walk for four days. Even now it is difficult for me to walk
SOTHI BEN,
Padiyarka village

Only briefly, fazed by the hurdle thrown up by the Shelat Committee, the Gujarat Government appointed a subcommittee of four ministers, which promptly bypassed the earlier report and accepted Nirma’s offer of giving back 54 hectares of to the check-dam. When TEHELKA spoke to Nitinbhai Patel, Water Resource Minister and a member of the sub-committee, he refused to comment, saying the matter was sub-judice.

But important though it is, there is even more to this story than one checkdam. As Saurashtra’s coast is rich in limestone – the entire area lies on limestone bedrock – it is little coincidence that the Nirma plant is the first of six mega cement factories planned in the area. The reason? Top quality limestone is one of the prime ingredients of cement. For tens of millennia, the limestone bedrock of Saurashtra has acted as a natural barrier against encroaching sea water. The Gujarat government recently petitioned the Ministry of Environment and Forests to lift the prohibition on mining within the sacrosanct Coastal Regulatory Zone for “special cases” – linguistic acrobatics for the greater good of vested interests.

‘Industrialists Have More Influence Over Modi Regime’

BJP MLA Kanubhai Kalsaria speaks to TEHELKA on why he has taken on his own party

You are a third-time BJP MLA from Mahuva and yet you have chosen to take on your own party against Nirma. Why?
The policy of the party is pro-industrialisation. I am not against it. If industry is set up on genuine wasteland then it’s fine. But here it is just the opposite. Initially I thought that I would be able to convince them – but I was wrong.

Unidentified people attacked you. Your party is neither listening to you nor allowing you to speak in the state Assembly. Why?
I don’t know how the Gujarat government is able to inflict such injustice on its farmers. I told Chief Minister Narendra Modi that I am ready to quit, but Nirma has to go. He just kept quiet.

Do you think industrial houses have a big influence over the Modi government?
Of course, they have a lot of say in the government. This project will make five people crorepatis but will decimate 5,000 families of farmers. Are we ready for this kind of development?

Why is the Modi government so ruthless when it comes to dealing with protests?
I am not able to understand why Modi has such a strict attitude. If what we are saying is true, then why is it not being accepted?

WRITER’S EMAIL
brijesh@tehelka.com

Written by rohitkumarsviews

March 9, 2010 at 10:36 am