Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Supreme Court, Gandhi and the RSS

Oh what a tangled web we weave
when first we practice to deceive
Sir Walter Scott

The Supreme Court recently took up a PIL challenging a statement made by Rahul Gandhi alleging that the RSS killed Mahatma Gandhi. (Rahul Gandhi was then reported to have amended his statement, and the RSS demanded an apology. A comment sent to me by a friend indicates that Rahul Gandhi did not amend his statement although the media tried to present it as such. It appears that he had said "RSS people" killed Gandhi and he stuck to that statement throughout. It seems the SC assumed that he had held the RSS collectively responsible. They asked him to apologise. When the Court record showed the original statement to be different, the SC backtracked. By then the media had taken off with its sensationalism).

With due respect, I think the Court erred in admitting this PIL. Was it a cognisable offence for Mr Modi in 2014 to have held the Congress responsible for the partition of India? Historical debates are not matters for courts to decide. Nor is the so-called Sangh Parivar facing a criminal trial. The trial is taking place in the minds of the people of India - and the world. We will never have forensic evidence of such crimes. Hitler never left a paper trail for the Holocaust but is there any doubt as to his responsibility for it? These matters must be left to public debate. Some may prefer to make sweeping accusations; but thoughtful persons need to reflect on the likelihood of these accusations. We can weigh the circumstantial evidence, and come to our own conclusions, but historical debates cannot be adjudicated in court. 

Let us begin with the latest interventions to the debate on what the SC calls 'collective denunciation'. The BJP has asked whether the Congress Vice President would accept the allegation that the grand old party was involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “If Rahul Gandhi’s logic is taken to a logical conclusion, then can we say that the Congress is responsible for the massacre of Sikhs in this country? In 1984, we are aware that Congress leaders were involved in massacre of Sikhs. But if we say that the Congress was responsible and it was a part of the Congress’ conspiracy, will Rahul Gandhi accept this?” said BJP leader Sudesh Verma. (See: RSS distributed sweets...Congress)

It is typical of Indian ideologues to reduce all serious matters to a partisan dimension. All of us are not camp-followers of a party. The short answer to this question is yes, the Congress was indeed responsible for the 1984 carnage. Not only by virtue of the principle of command responsibility, but by virtue of the involvement of top leaders, and acts of omission and dereliction of duty. If there is any room for doubt as regards the question of 'conspiracy' or deliberate policy, this can and should be debated; and there are many pieces of evidence that indicate that the national political leadership allowed the carnage to take place.

Is it a secret that the BJP itself has harped on about Congress responsibility ever since 1984?

Howsoever we understand the creeping criminalisation of the Indian political system, would it not be sheer idiocy to assume that that the decisions that result in massacres and assassinations are recorded in forensic evidence prior to their being carried out? Is it not a well-known fact that whereas lesser functionaries may get caught (and they often do their work with the assurance of being protected) - the criminals at higher levels are rarely even indicted, let alone punished? And is it not true that in the aftermath both of the violence in 1984 and 2002, (not to mention a host of other incidents) the criminal justice system was grievously compromised in matters of the registration of FIRs, the recording of evidence and the decision to prosecute persons holding executive authority in the state?

On the matter of the PIL, here are some of the Supreme Courts' reported observations: “To say Godse killed Gandhi is one thing but to say RSS killed Gandhi is different…you have gone way ahead in making the statement…you cannot make collective denunciation,” said the bench… (it) said freedom of speech is not crippled by upholding the validity of the criminal defamation law, but it had to be ensured that there is not anarchy. “We have upheld the defamation law. The purpose of the law is to obey law so that there is harmony rather than anarchy…your freedom is not crippled or cut. Everyday a writer, a politician will say something and you must have great magnitude to swallow. The purpose of the law is not to turn people into litigants. Purpose of law is that people obey law. Peace and harmony should prevail rather than chaos,” the bench said.

The bench also asked (RG's lawyer) Raval to show how Rahul’s statement served any public good and how it was not a matter of trial since his act was immune under the law on criminal defamation. “History is the greatest enemy of privacy. Over the years, attempts have been made to enter the lives of historically eminent personalities to give a new dimension…criticism of government is one thing and criticism of a historical figure is another thing. Your statement has to meet the test of public good,” said the bench.

Some of these observations are unexceptionable. But are these standards symmetrically applied? Collective denunciation is exemplified by epithets such as 'Babar ki aulaad' and references to Muslims as 'haraamzade'. Defamation is also involved in the frequently aired allegation that Nehru was responsible for the death of S.P. Mukherjee. During the 2014 electoral campaign, Narendra Modi attacked the Congress for 'the sin of partitioning India'. Was this not collective denunciation? 

The RSS is now taking umbrage at being accused of Gandhi's assassination. Why so?
कुमार प्रशांत - तो राष्ट्रीय स्वंयसेवक संघ ने एक बार फिर गांधी से दो-दो हाथ करने का मन बनाया है 

Is our memory so short that we have forgotten how its votaries were speaking just 2 years ago? In 2014, many members of the Hindutva family (some in the BJP/ RSS) in sheer joy at the BJP's electoral victory let the cat out of the bag by deifying Godse. In fact its Kerala mouthpiece carried an article wishing that Godse had killed Nehru. Here are some of their statements:

Read more about the deification of Godse here The Abolition of truth सत्य की हत्या

And when it comes to objectionable utterances, are there not innumerable statements by persons associated with the "parivar' (and others) that do not 'meet the test of public good'? A recent article cites some historians on this matter, their view being that the RSS did not kill Gandhi but created an ideology against him. The certitude with which they make this claim is in my view, unhistorical. The article also cites the RSS efforts to cleanse itself of this long-standing accusation. The 'Sangh Parivar' has never been sure of what public stance to take on Mahatma Gandhi. Amongst their own flock, they are vitriolic, but in deference to the global admiration of the man, they want to 'claim' him - if even as a symbol for the Swachh Bharat campaign. 

As for their attitude towards historical truth, here are details regarding the Parivars attempt to censor Gandhi's collected works under the the first NDA government (1998): Brazen attempt to 'revise' Gandhi's Collected Works. Hundreds of deletions and changes were noticed by scholars and Gandhians in India and around the world, who viewed them as an insult to scholarship, and demanded an end to attempts to play with historical documents. Read the history of the controversy. Tridip Suhrud, director of Sabarmati Ashram, wrote a detailed analysis of this shameless behaviour in EPW in November 2004. It was only after the defeat of the NDA that the fraudulently 'revised' edition was withdrawn, in 2005.

Historians are not judges in a court of law. Nor is the so-called Sangh Parivar on trial, save in the minds of the people of India - and the world, for that matter, because Gandhi remains a popular figure the world over. (A BBC poll in 2000 put Gandhi at the most popular man in the millenium - not once but twice, and that too before Leonardo da Vinci and Jesus Christ). Its a battle of the spirit that is unfolding. The courts are not the proper place for these issues. They should be left to public debate, as should the historical assessment of say, the partition of Palestine; Irish republicanism, the Stalinist era; or the policies of Mao Zedong.

Criminal deeds are not planned nor minuted in formal meetings - the very idea of committing a crime entails (most of the time) a desire to get away with it. Since the RSS is not under trial, and we have no way of either punishing the organisation (if it were to be found guilty) nor compensating it for the bad press they have received (if it was not), we are left with historical judgement, that is all. Such judgements can serve only the purpose of sharpening public awareness. People are free to debate, criticise and reject them. It all depends on memory, available evidence and methods of reasoning.

It will never be settled in court.

As for the evidence available, here is an extract from a CID 'source' report dated 27 Dec 1947 of a secret meeting of RSS members in Delhi on December 8, 1947, addressed by 'Guruji' Golwalkar. Golwalkar is quoted by him as saying: "The Sangh will not rest until it had finished Pakistan. If anyone stood in our way we will have to finish him too, whether it was Nehru government or any other government. The Sangh could not be won over. They should carry on their work. Referring to Muslims he said that no power on earth could keep them in Hindusthan. They shall have to quit this country. Mahatma Gandhi wanted to keep the Muslims in India so that the Congress (may) profit by their votes at the time of election. But, by that time, no a single muslim will be left in India. If they were made to stay here, the responsibility would be Government’s, and the Hindu community would not be responsible. Mahatma Gandhi could not mislead them any longer. We have the means whereby such men can be immediately silenced, but it is our tradition not to be inimical to Hindus. If we are compelled, we will have to resort to that course also." (See Bharat Bhushan - RSS chief Golwalkar threatened to kill Gandhi - 1947 CID report)

Three weeks after this sinister meeting, there took place the January 20 Gandhi murder attempt.
And ten days after that, Gandhi was dead.

The RSS is fond of citing Patel in contraposition to Nehru. Now whereas in his February 27, 1948 letter to Nehru (vol 6 of Selected Correspondence, edited by Durga Das) Patel exonerated the RSS, he also held that "it was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy and saw it through" (p 56). If Patel was correct in his assessment of the RSS, will they concede that he was correct in his belief in the guilt of their hero V D Savarkar? Or do they wish to have their cake and eat it too? (Incidentally, Justice Jeevan Lal Kapur's opinion, expressed in the findings of the Commission of Inquiry, was this: "All these facts taken together were destructive of any theory other than the conspiracy to murder by Savarkar and his group"). In the same letter, reflecting on the problem of identifying RSS members, Patel wrote "in the case of secret organisation like the RSS which has no records of membership, no registers etc., securing of authentic information whether a person is an active member or not is a very difficult task.." (p 57)

The fluctuating positions of the Sangh on the Mahatma appear to be tactical. The impression left by their utterances is always (to me at any rate), that of persons who cannot distinguish cunning and cleverness from truthfulness and wisdom. They never seem to understand that Akhand Hindustan and Hindu Rashtra are incompatible ideals, that the achievement of the one automatically rules out the attainment of the other. Gandhi knew this instinctively. Speaking about those who combined communal hatred with slogans of Akhand Hindustan, he remarked: There is nothing in common between me and those who want me to oppose Pakistan except that we are both opposed to the division of the country. There is a fundamental difference between their opposition and mine. How can love and enmity go together? 

Of course we cannot prove beyond all reasonable doubt that the RSS ordered the murder. Neither can anyone prove with certainty that it did not. And that's the plain truth. We will never have forensic evidence of these crimes, we simply have to weigh the circumstantial evidence. The fact that Godse had left the RSS is not evidence (and Gopal Godse had other things to say on this); because organisational formalities mean nothing to ideologically committed cadre - aside from 'plausible deniability'. Could it not also be the case that their perverted sense of patriotism and as loyal sanghis they did their best to save the leaders? I repeat, the courts are not the proper place for these issues. The first step towards historical and political reconciliation is the acknowledgement of wrongdoing. That goes for all shades of the political spectrum. The word-play taking place today is nothing but a labyrinth of deceit.

I am reminded of an insight of the German philosopher Karl Jaspers: "Truth - the word has an incomparable magic. It seems to promise what really matters to us. The violation of truth poisons everything gained by the violation." The longer Indians choose to play with the truth about the murder of Mahatma Gandhi, the longer will communal hatred continue to poison the political system.

For more facts and opinions on the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, see:
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: Inquiry Commission Report (1969)
The Abolition of truth

Book review: In the name of the father
RSS tradition
 of manufacturing facts to suit their ideology
सत्य की हत्या

Friday, August 26, 2016

Rahul Pandita: Kandhamal is still a ticking time bomb

On the night of 7 June this year, suspected Christian fanatics broke into a small Hindu temple in Daringbadi in Odisha’s Kandhamal district. The 'Ma Bana Durga' temple, which the locals say was at least 50 years old, was just a shrine under a tree till two months earlier when a proper brick-and-mortar structure was created around it. 

On 22 June, the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) organised a public meeting at the site of the broken shrine. A priest performed the puja, as people from the neighbouring villages began to pour into the site. They examined the damage, particularly standing for long in front of a portrait of the Goddess Durga, painted on the wall of the temple, now broken into pieces. “There is no doubt that the Christian missionaries did this,” said Minaketan Sahu, who had come to the site from a neighbouring area. “They are the ones who killed Swamiji, and now they have done this,” he pointed at the rubble.
This was the second time the shrine/temple had suffered damage; earlier also, in 2007, when clashes erupted between two main ethnic groups of Kandhamal – the Panos (a Scheduled Caste community, a majority of them converted to Christianity) and the Kandha tribals (most of them converted to Hinduism), the shrine was vandalised…

As Saraswati retired to his room that August evening eight years ago, at 7.45 pm, Simachal Patra, one of the ten constables deployed by the Odisha Police for Saraswati’s security, heard the sound of footsteps outside their tent in front of the ashram. The two other constables present in the tent at that time had eaten their dinner, and Patra was about to eat. One constable had ventured out after borrowing Patra’s cellphone, to speak to his family. None of the policemen carried any firearms.
As Patra stuck his head out, he saw two men standing outside. One of them was carrying a gun, and it was pointed at Patra. When he looked to the side, Patra saw a group of armed men entering the ashram.

Around 20 masked men, wearing black uniforms, kicked the gate open and headed straight towards Saraswati’s quarters, opening fire. As he heard the gunshots, Saraswati locked himself in the bathroom adjacent to his room and started shouting in Odia: “Save me, save me!” The gunmen broke into his room and killed two of his associates: Ma Bhaktimayi and Kishore Babu. Then they tore through the bathroom door and fired at Saraswati.

Another associate of Saraswati, Baba Amritananda, was shot dead in the adjacent room. One of the guardians of a girl student who happened to be in the guest room, Puranjan Gaunta, was killed as well. Outside, the gun was still pointed at Patra’s head. Then he saw a group of men running towards the main road shouting in Odia, “It is done, it is done!” At this moment the man holding Patra hostage threw a letter towards him, asking him to give it to reporters. And then he also ran into the street. A local reporter who reached Jalespata soon afterwards says he can never forget what he witnessed inside Saraswati’s quarters. “There was blood all over and it smelled; it was as if I had entered an abattoir,” he recalled.

The killers had pumped several bullets into Saraswati’s body. They had also cut his Achilles tendons and his wrists. A devotee who reached there and saw Saraswati’s body was so overwhelmed with anger that he hurled a brick at the then Kandhamal police chief, Nikhil Kanoria.

The police was quick to blame the Maoists for the brutal murder. As Saraswati’s body was taken for cremation from Jalespata to Chakapad, a distance of 150 kilometres, emotions ran high. Immediately afterwards, riots broke out in which at least 39 Christians lost their lives while their houses and churches suffered large-scale damage. In October 2013, seven people -  all of them Christians - and a Maoist leader, Pulari Rama Rao,were sentenced to life imprisonment for their role in Saraswati’s killing. Two other Maoist leaders - both in jail now - Dunna Keshav Rao alias Azad and Sabyasachi Panda are also accused in the case….

The tribes of Kandhamal: In Odisha, the Kandha is the most prominent tribe, the biggest in terms of numbers as well. In present-day Kandhamal district, the scheduled tribes constitute 53.6 percent of the population. There are 44 tribes in Kandhamal, 10 of them represented by only one person each. The Kandhas are the biggest community and by far outnumber the rest of the tribes. They speak the Kui language that does not have a script.

The Kandhas are nature-worshippers and believe in a sacred place they call 'Penu Basa'; the earth is worshipped as a goddess and is called 'Darni Penu'. In the course of time, a majority of the Kandhas adopted Hinduism as most of its practices diffused well with tribal culture. In the old times, the Kandhas are known to have practiced human sacrifice or 'meriah' to appease their gods. The ritual was first discovered by the British in 1835. They tried to stop it by convincing the community elders to substitute it with buffalo (kedu) sacrifice. But after it prevailed, the British under the then assistant collector, Major-General John Campbell, had to use force, which did not go well with the Kandhas. So they revolted against the British administration. From 1836 till 1853, the British are said to have rescued over 1,800 children before the Kandhas could sacrifice them as meriahs.

According to a research paper by AM Pradhan in the Odisha Review, the Baptist Mission Society established its first church in 1920 at Kumbharikupa. The missionaries opened schools in which the mode of instruction was the Kui language, and church officials were given their titles in Kui as well. The Bible was translated in Kui and, according to Pradhan, the Roman Catholic Church published a Kui book Kristo Dharma Kata, which describes the ritual procedures in the Church.

While many Kandha tribals converted to Christianity, the community that the Church could attract the most was the Panos. The scheduled castes constitute 15.8 percent of the population in Kandhamal. There are 93 SC communities in Kandhamal — eight of them represented by only one person each, while 26 have less than a hundred members. 

Panos is the largest SC community; according to anthropological studies, they are a community of weavers who migrated from the Vizagapatam (Visakhapatnam) area of the erstwhile Ganjam Hill Tracts Agency (then part of Madras Presidency in British India). They could speak in Odia and quickly adopted the Kui language as well. At first, they worked as labourers and weavers for the Kandhas. But, soon, they became indispensable to Kandhas as a bridge between them and outsiders. 

The Kandhas were unable to communicate with traders or government officials since they knew no other language. The Panos acted as interpreters for them and began to conduct business transactions on their behalf. In his 1909 book, Caste and Tribes of Southern India, Edgar Thurston, the then superintendent of Madras Museum, writes: “They (Panos) live on the ignorance and superstition of the Khonds (Kandhas) as brokers, pedlars (peddlers), sycophants and cheats. In those parts where there are no Odias, they possess much influence, and are always consulted by the Khonds in questions of boundary dispute.”

But in spite of enjoying this influence, the Panos were treated as an inferior caste by the Kandhas. The anthropologist, Barbara M Boal, who worked extensively in the area, writes: “The Konds (Kandhas) for their part being self-limited to the only honourable occupations of agriculture, hunting, and war, have always found them (Panos) quite indispensable for the proper carrying out of Kond ritual and in the provision of certain necessities of life. They also deal as tradesmen and at the time of death in the village they fulfill specific functions which are taboo to the Kond.”

In Kandhamal, in those times, there used to be a saying: “Kandha raja, Panos mantri” (Kandha is the king, while the Panos is his minister). With the advent of Christian missionaries, a large number of Panos got converted to Christianity. It meant a lot to them when they could be in a Church and sit next to a ‘converted’ Kandha. Association with the mission also meant access to education and facilities including medical ones.

The ethno-religious cauldron: By 1969, however, Saraswati had arrived as an alternative. He could not match the Church's funding, but a mix of welfare and Hinduism proved to be a big lure. The missionaries looked down upon various cultural practices and rituals and urged people to discontinue these; but Hinduism offered no such resistance, except to beef consumption.

The Church was worried, and to counter Saraswati, it began the practice of outcasting Christian converts who showed a renewed interest in Hinduism. They would be barred from taking part in community events such as ‘Prabhubhoji’ (the holy feast). With the arrival of Pentecostals, the war intensified and turned aggressive. It was a turf war in a true sense, between Christian missionaries and Saraswati. The bait was welfare – food, education, and healthcare; in other words a better life – that should have been provided for by the State. But in the absence of the State, Kandhamal became a breeding ground for ethno-religious hatred.

The Odisha Scheduled Areas Transfer of Immovable Property (By Scheduled Tribes) Regulation 2 had came into force in 1956, to control and check the transfer of immovable property (read land) by Scheduled Tribes. But land that belonged to the Kandhas and other tribes continued to pass into the hands of non-tribals.

According to the Odisha government, a large number of cases of illegal land alienation by “trickery and unfair means” are pending against the Panos. Till 31 October, 2015, 22,798 cases of land grabbing were detected in Kandhamal, according to Odisha government figures.

It is not only the Panos who indulged in this land grab. Other communities, including the 'caste' Hindus did it as well. But there were other factors that deepened the fault lines between the Kandhas and the Panos. The Kandhas felt that the Panos were asserting themselves more due to their association with the Church. Also, constitutionally, the Panos being a scheduled caste have reservation advantages. But once they converted to Christianity, the Panos no longer enjoyed reservation. The Kandhas allege that the Panos hide their Christian identity and continue with their scheduled caste (Hindu) identity to reap benefits from both sides.

Also, many cases have been reported where the Panos get fake caste certificates to pass off as scheduled tribes in order to grab government jobs meant for the STs. According to government figures, there are 1,48,895 Christians in Kandhamal. But the Kandhas say the number will be more since many Christians are still pretending to be Hindus (both Panos and Kandhas).
Since 1970, the Kandhas have been protesting against possession of their land by non-tribals. These protests turned violent from 1985 onwards, including riots in 1987...

Kandhamal district is born: In 1994, the district was bifurcated. Though it had been called Phulbani since 1986, the Kandhas now felt that their ethnic identity did not come across fully with this name and that it should be changed to Kandhamal. The same year, conflict broke out between the Kandhas and the Panos after one of the Panos boys entered a temple. In the ensuing violence, 20,000 people from the Panos community had to leave their villages and take shelter in towns near police camps.

Succumbing to pressure, the name of the district was changed to Kandhamal on 13 October, 1994, and, according to the Odisha government, a special drive was launched in which 5,000 cases of illegal possession of the Kandha land by the SCs were resolved. The tension continued through the early 2000s. Disturbances were reported in the summer of 2002 in at least two panchayats of the Daringbadi block.

In 2007, two things happened. The Panos demanded ST status, arguing that they spoke the Kui language as well and hence their caste name be changed from Panos to Kui (since from 2002, the government had begun to use ‘Kui’ as a synonym for ‘Kandha’). This would have ensured that the Panos who convert to Christianity also benefited from the ST reservation (if a tribal converts to Christianity, he does not lose his ST status). In response, the Kandhas called for a “Kandhamal Bandh” on 24 and 25 December to protest against the demand of the Panos….

Maoists fish in troubled waters: Senior police sources say that the Maoists had predicted a massive unrest after Saraswati’s killings. They had hoped that it would help them receive a surge of recruits from the affected Christian families. The prominent Maoist leader, Sabyasachi Panda, according to these sources, had managed to convince 3,000 people to join the Maoist ranks. But at the last moment, due to the timely intervention of the district administration, these would-be recruits ditched Panda. Finally, Panda fell out with the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and was arrested in 2014.

The Justice AS Naidu Commission, which probed the 2008 riots in the aftermath of Saraswati’s killings, submitted its report to the state government in December last year. It has reportedly examined Panda, and Dunna Keshav Rao and Pulari Rama Rao. But the findings of the Commission have not been made public.

In Odisha, however, no matter with whom one speaks — whether government officials, police officials, or journalists — everyone is convinced that the Maoists were just a part of what they call “a larger conspiracy”. Some speak in hushed tones about the involvement of certain Christian leaders who had issued open threats to Saraswati just days before his murder. “You see, even Dunna Keshav Rao is a Christian,” said a senior police official, “I have no doubt that the Maoists were acting at somebody’s behest.”

Most people you speak to in Kandhamal and in Bhubaneswar have already made up their minds about who that ‘somebody’ is. In Kandhamal, meanwhile, the tribal leader, Lambodar Kanhar warns about how the situation in the district is turning explosive. “First of all, I am not a Hindu. We are tribals and the Panos are appropriating our land,” he says. Kanhar alleges that even their women are facing harassment at the hands of the Panos community. “The Kandhas are not willing to be mute spectators,” he says. “Next time there are riots, there will be mayhem.”

Eight Janmashtamis after (this year it is on 25 August) Laxmananand Saraswati’s chilling murder on that festive night of 23 August, 2008 – and the subsequent riots — the ethno-religious fault lines in the district are sharper than ever... Read the full article:  

see also

Samar Halarnkar - How India's justice system is giving in to the mob

In the centre of the counter revolution stood the judiciary. Unlike administrative acts, which rest on considerations of convenience and expediency, judicial decisions rest on law, that is on right and wrong, and they always enjoy the limelight of publicity. Law is perhaps the most pernicious of all weapons in political struggles, precisely because of the halo that surrounds the concepts of right and justice.. Franz Neumann, Behemoth: The Structure and Practice of National Socialism  p 27

I have, for the record, never been to Pakistan. I am acutely aware of how that nation's bleed-them-with-a-thousand-cuts policy works, how it has ended bleeding them instead and in the process changed their founding essence. I suppose that automatically makes me a nationalist.

But, here’s the thing: I am very keen to meet Pakistanis, and the few I have met make me eager to go there some day. Indeed, there is no country in the world I am keener to visit. My wife's old homeland lies there, and someday we will take up the offer made by a hospitable Pakistani to visit the old home towns of my in-laws and listen to qawwalis in the moonlight – under armed guard, of course. By now, you are thinking, this man is anti-national. File a sedition case.

This line of reasoning may sound ridiculous – to put it mildly – but that is how paranoid, insecure and angry people think, and there is every evidence Indians are beginning to nurture the same bizarre version of nationalism that has consumed Pakistan. As this process progresses, history and the world beyond tell us, the first thing to be sacrificed is the rule of law. The mob becomes the law.

Courting sedition: That is why a court in lush, prosperous Kodagu – a former princely state now integrated into Karnataka – will, instead of throwing it out, hear a petition on Saturday filed by a local lawyer, accusing former Congress MP and actor Ramya (real name, Divya Spandana) of sedition for, well, liking Pakistanis and their hospitality.

That is why Amnesty International India finds itself being investigated for sedition charges merely because it hosted an event where some in the audience shouted Kashmiri freedom slogans – never mind that the law and various interpretations of it emphasise that slogans can never be seditious unless accompanied by the threat of violence. 

Rahul Pandita: Kashmiri Pandits Don’t Have To Be Flag-Bearers Of The Indian State

That is why, earlier this week, when a mob in Palwal, Haryana, attacked a van suspected of carrying beef, the police intervened, and instead of checking if the meat was really beef, buried it because the mob demanded it, then stepped back to let them burn the van. As for the three men in the van – two of them Muslim – they were arrested, of course, and sent to jail. That is why all manner of recent atrocities have ended with the victims of criminality ending up as the accused.

Mob rule a slippery slope: When the mob dictates how the law will be implemented or discarded, societies start down a slippery slope. When the mob's motives are religion and/or nationalism, the moral high ground so vacated is almost impossible to regain.

We see that in Pakistan, where the police and judges, as a matter of routine, let off murderers who kill minorities on imagined blasphemies of Islam, slit the throats of their own daughters and sisters for what they believe to be the act of dishonouring families by exercising choice in marriage or life.
Further West, Turkey's rationality is fast slipping away, as a paranoid president uses vague and dubious laws to arrest journalists, judges and anyone who might not agree with him. This week in Turkey, a court ordered special issues of a socialist newspaper seized, the telecommunications regulator blocked access to two news agency websites and various editors and reporters were arrested and detained on either vague terrorism charges or held with no declared reason. 

To our east, Thailand uses its lèse majesté (injured majesty) law to imprison anyone considered to have insulted the king, which is why a man who insulted the king’s dog faces imprisonment (15 years), as does a taxi driver whose mocking of the king was recorded on a passenger's mobile phone, and an activist who dared cite research to question if a battle led by the king's 16th-century forefather had taken place.

In supposedly secular France, wearing a certain kind of clothing – let’s say it, Islamic clothing – is becoming illegal. The latest unreal case unfolded this week on a beach in Nice when armed police forced a woman to, well, unclothe, by removing the layer of her burkini that covered her head. In another case, a mother with children was made to take off her headscarf, as other beach-goers shouted “go home” and applauded the police. 

As internet memes pointed out, the French have no problem with a nun's habit or a full-body wetsuit (they might want to take inspiration from Scotland and Canada, where the police have approved the hijab as part of optional official uniform).

On the edge of anarchy: There are a few things in common in the cases and countries I mentioned. First, these are all supposed to be democracies with varying degrees of freedom. Second, these democracies are witnessing increasingly bizarre and illogical interpretations of criminality. Third, for whatever reason, the bizarreness is correlated with a decline in the democratic process. Fourth, that decline is clearly hastened as the justice system wilts in the face of the mob and its paranoia.

In India, it is rare that the police and courts side with the law and against the government of the day. Thus far, this has been made amply clear in places and among people on the fringes of what we could now describe as India’s “collective conscience”, which the Supreme Court once described as a reason to hang a man whose conviction appeared riddled with doubts. In the North East, Chhattisgarh and Kashmir, the Centre has almost never allowed the prosecution of security forces for murder, violating fundamental rights and other laws of the land.

When this collective conscience enters government policy, anarchy is just a step away. The Congress began this policy of appeasing the mob – opening the gates of the Babri Masjid, legislating its way past the rights of Shah Bano and millions of Muslim women – and dragged India to a point where the gates of hate can be forced open by anyone with an agenda and a backing mob.

Appeasing the mob: With the advent of the Bharatiya Janata Party, majoritarian mob rule is accelerating most visibly in the proliferation of vigilante organisations cloaked in religious rationale, from fighting “love jihad” to protecting the holy cow. Far from cracking down and sending a message that mob rule cannot prevail, police, courts and governments are increasingly either looking the other way or providing official sanction to the mob as the Maharashtra government has done by issuing volunteers with identity cards to monitor the beef ban. More than 2,000 applications, a large number from Hindutva groups, have poured in.

No good can come from Maharashtra's sanction to official vigilantism, which comes after the state tried to ban the consumption of beef, a move struck down by the high court. So, India is poised on that slippery slope. The courts will indicate, in the coming days, if they intend to hold firm or join the slide into the cesspit of paranoid nationalism. As for me, I'm off to befriend a Pakistani.

see also

The full, 11,350-word text of Neha Dixit's five-part investigation "Operation #BabyLift" on how the Sangh Parivar flouted every Indian and international law on child right to traffic 31 young tribal girls from Assam to Punjab and Gujarat to ‘Hinduise’ them.

Very short list of examples of rule of law in India
The Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi

Maajid Nawaz - The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism

I am a state school-educated Muslim and racial minority. I have been stabbed at by neo-Nazis, falsely arrested at gunpoint by Essex police, expelled from college, divorced, estranged from my child, and tortured in Egyptian prison, and mandatorily profiled. I’ve had my DNA forcibly taken at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 Laws, which deprive terror suspects of the right to silence at UK ports of entry and exit, among much else. I’ve been blacklisted from other countries. I am every grievance regressive leftists traditionally harp on. Yet their first-world bourgeois brains seem to malfunction because I refuse to spew theocratic hate, or fit their little “angry Muslim” box. Yet they talk to me about privilege, and non-fat lattes?... There is a natural fear among Europe’s left, that challenging Islamist extremism can only aid Europe’s far-right. But the alternative to this fear must not be to instead empower theocratic fascism. There is a way to both challenge those who want to impose Islam, and those who wish to ban Islam. It has not escaped me, nor other liberal Muslims, that while challenging Islamist extremism we must remain attentive to protecting our civil liberties...

The desire to impose religion over society is otherwise known as theocracy. Being veterans of the struggle to push back against fundamentalist Christians, American liberals are well acquainted with the pitfalls of the neoconservative flirtation with the religious-right. How ironic, then, that in Europe it is those on the left—led by the Guardian—who flirt with religious theocrats. For in the UK, our theocrats are brown, from minority communities, and are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Islam is a religion like any other. Islamism is an ideology that seeks to impose any version of Islam over society. When expressed through violence, I call it jihadism. It is obvious to an American liberal that Christian fundamentalism must be made to respect personal choice. Likewise, it is as plain as the light of day to me—a Pakistani-British liberal Muslim—that any desire to impose any version of Islam over anyone anywhere, ever, is a fundamental violation of our basic civil liberties. 

But Islamism has been rising in the UK for decades. Over the years, in survey after survey, attitudes have reflected a worrying trend. A quarter of British Muslims sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo shootings. 0% have expressed tolerance for homosexuality. A third have claimed that killing for religion can be justified, while 36%  have thought apostates should be killed. 40% have wanted the introduction of sharia as law in the UK and 33% have expressed a desire to see the return of a worldwide theocratic Caliphate. Is it any wonder then, that from this milieu up to 1,000 British Muslims have joined ISIS, which is more than joined the Army reserves. In a case that has come to symbolize the extent of the problem, an entire family of 12 recently migrated to the Islamic State. By any reasonable assessment, something has gone badly wrong in Britain.

But for those who I have come to call Europe’s regressive-left how could Islamist tyranny—such as burying women neck deep in the ground and stoning them to death—possibly be anything other than an authentic expression of Muslim rage at Western colonial hegemony? For don’t you know Muslims are angry? So angry, in fact, that they wish to enslave indigenous Yazidi women for sex, throw Syrian gays off tall buildings and burn people alive? All because… Israel. For Europe’s regressive-left—which is fast penetrating U.S. circles too—Muslims are not expected to be civilized. And Muslim upstarts who dare to challenge this theocratic fascism are nothing but an inconvenience to an uncannily Weimar-like populism that screams simplistically: It is all the West’s fault. 

It is my fellow Muslims who suffer most from this patronizing, self-pity inspiring mollycoddling. And just as American Muslims, with some reason, fear becoming targeted by right-wing anti-Muslim prejudice, British Muslims are being spoon-fed regressive-left sedatives, encouraging a perpetual state of victimhood in order to score their petty ideological points against “the West.” In the name of cultural diversity, aspiration is being stifled, expectations have been tempered and because Muslims have their own culture don't you know,self-segregation and ghettoization have thrived. 

Finally, on July 20 the British Prime Minister David Cameron mustered the political will to deliver a comprehensive speech setting out the UK’s approach to tackling the long rising tide of theocratic extremism in our communities. At last, Cameron named and shamed the Islamist ideology as a major factor behind the rise of such extremism. As founding chairman of Quilliam—an organization that seeks to challenge Islamism though civic debate across political divides—I was proud to have played a role in advising Downing Street on some of the core messages for this speech. I did this despite my being a Liberal, and not a member of the Prime Minster’s Conservative party. I did this because extremism affects our national, not just party-political, interests.

The Guardian, it seems, was not happy. Rather than react by providing much beleaguered feminist, gay or ex-Muslims with a crucial platform—as one would expect from a progressive newspaper—they featured a doting interview with the UK front-leader for the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) complaining about the Prime Minster’s speech. HT wishes to resurrect a theocratic caliphate, in which—according to its draft constitution available online—they would execute “apostates.” They also believe in ISIS-style medieval punishments, such as stoning, amputations, punishing homosexuals, and approving of slavery in principle. I should know, for 13 years I was on the leadership of this group, serving five of those years as a political prisoner on its behalf in Egypt. 

But this is not new for the Guardian. As the UK media industry magazinePrivate Eye later noted, over the years the paper has provided column space to supporters of al-Qaida, including Bin-Laden himself. On 23 February this year, the paper published a column by the leader of HT’s Australian branch, Uthman Badar, in which he makes it clear that though HT does not support ISIS, “neither will we condemn them,” for to do such a thing would be “morally repugnant.” 

Indeed, 10 years ago the Guardian even had a member of HT on its staff as a trainee journalist. Dilpazier Aslam’s affiliation was exposed on the blogosphere after he wrote an equivocating piece on the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London. Amidst public outrage, the paper was forced to pay him £30,000 as severance, probably to avoid a hearing at which editors may have had to admit that they knew about his HT affiliations all along. Like the Daily Mail of old, which to its eternal shame appeased the rise of Nazism, the Guardian is blinded by its infantilizing approach to minority communities, promoting the most regressive of theocrats, simply to “stick it to the man.”  

And while the regressive-left have taken this approach with Islamist extremists, they have been simultaneously marginalizing that great political inconvenience, liberal Muslims. On July 21, a day after the Prime Minister’s speech, the Guardian G2 magazine’s commissioning editor Nosheen Iqbal wrote a glowing email to my office requesting an interview in order to discuss my “consistently dedicated work to combat extremism” and to build on the “momentum” of the Prime Minister’s speech so as to “flag up the crucial work being done behind the scenes.” Keen to engage the audience most hostile to liberal Muslims in the past, I was struck by the change of tone in this request, and felt that an opportunity to repair ties was at hand, so I agreed to the interview. 

What I hadn’t seen was this same editor’s tweet, only a week prior, in which she made her dislike of me crystal clear. The resulting piece - conducted by David Shariatmadari - was nothing short of a character assassination. I have since responded in full to this hatchet job on my public Facebook page. Suffice to mention here that the article relied on no less than three anonymous hostile quotes, among countless other petty jibes and omissions of my actual answers. 

In fact, the piece was so bad that it appears to have violated the Guardian’s own editorial code on anonymized quotes. As was pointed out in the comment section, the Guardian reader’s editor has a policy on anonymous sources: they should “use anonymous sources sparingly (and)—except in exceptional circumstances—avoid anonymous pejorative quotes….the use of anonymous quotes is widespread within newspapers and is…particularly insidious when used to snipe at public figures in profiles.

Other journalists and bloggers responded with advicecriticismincredulityscolding, and even a lesson in recent history. But it was mockery that proved to be the Guardian’s Achilles’ heel. By focusing on my personality, fluency, dress and beverage tastes - instead of my ideas and “crucial work”- the paper opened itself up to attack by a cleverly put together and popular satirical and irreverent piece.  Satire has been a sanctuary historically monopolized by progressives, originally used as a discreet tool against Western religious fundamentalism. Of course, an authentic Muslim should not dress well, speak lucidly nor drink, of all things, a skinny flat white coffee. 

The real Muslim is scruffy. A credible Muslim can only be inarticulate, someone who requires an intermediary to ‘explain’ their anger, invariably through the prism of leftist ideological dogma. And if a Muslim does speaks for themselves, they must only do so when full of rage, obviously. 

How patronizing.  

As another blogger accurately noted in response, the problem begins when journalists and others seek out “community representatives,” or “credible Muslim voices” to fit into convenient boxes. This relies on so many assumptions that it is hard to know where to begin. Not all Muslims wish to express themselves in public through a communal religious identity. Identities are multiple, and some may wish to speak instead just as citizens in their professional capacity, through their political party, or their neighborhood body. 

Those Muslims who do speak through their communal religious identity are not homogenous. This particularly holds true because majoritarian Islam has no organized clergy, and no pope. The question of religious “representation” becomes particularly difficult to achieve as a result. And in its most extreme sense it is undesirable anyway, leading logically to nothing but ISIS-style bloodshed and theocracy. Muslim “credibility” is just as flimsy an idea to pursue doggedly. In fact, this is nothing but a variant of the African-American “not black enough” theme. Who decides whose “Muslim experience” is real, and whose is not? Is the credible Muslim only he who dresses in Arab robes, eats spicy food and drinks cava? And yet we then worry about profiling? 

The great irony is that, unlike many of today’s champagne socialists and shisha-jihadists my entire life has been a prototype of their archetypal aggrieved Muslim. Unlike the Guardian’s private school, Oxbridge-educated journalist David Shariatmadari, I am a state school-educated Muslim and racial minority. I have been stabbed at by neo-Nazis, falsely arrested at gunpoint by Essex police, expelled from college, divorced, estranged from my child, and tortured in Egyptian prison, and mandatorily profiled. I’ve had my DNA forcibly taken at Heathrow Airport under Schedule 7 Laws, which deprive terror suspects of the right to silence at UK ports of entry and exit, among much else. I’ve been blacklisted from other countries. I am every grievance regressive leftists traditionally harp on. Yet their first-world bourgeois brains seem to malfunction because I refuse to spew theocratic hate, or fit their little “angry Muslim” box. Yet they talk to me about privilege, and non-fat lattes?

There is a natural fear among Europe’s left, that challenging Islamist extremism can only aid Europe’s far-right. But the alternative to this fear must not be to instead empower theocratic fascism. There is a way to both challenge those who want to impose Islam, and those who wish to ban Islam. It has not escaped me, nor other liberal Muslims, that while challenging Islamist extremism we must remain attentive to protecting our civil liberties. We are born of this struggle, after all. Over the years I have opposed past UK government ministers on ethnic and religious profiling, opposed Obama's targeted killings and drone strikes and opposed Senator King in the UK Parliament over his obfuscation and justification for torture. 

I have been cited by the UK PM for my view that though Islamist extremism must be openly challenged, non-terrorist Islamists should not be banned unless they directly incite violence. I have spoken out against extraordinary rendition and detention without charge of terror suspects. I have supported my political party, the Liberal Democrats, in backing a call to end Schedule 7. It is due to this very same concern for civil liberties that I vehemently oppose Islamist extremism and call for liberal reform within our Muslim communities, for our Muslim communities. We believe civil liberties cut both ways, for and uponminority communities, and it is due to this same passion for human rights that my organization Quilliam put out this anti-ISIS video only a day after the Guardian’s unfortunate sting. We chose to let our work speak for itself.

But if the regressive-left has its way, why worry about medieval punishments conducted in Islam’s name, such as the lashing of Saudi bloggers like Raif Badawi? Let us not be Uncle Toms, after all. Israel is the real enemy. Keep it real, man.

see also
But let’s be clear: The ‘modesty’ of the burkini is dictated by men, too.
IHEU Freedom of Thought Report 2013: Death penalty for atheism in 13 countries.