March 19, 2018

Kashmir: From Srinagar, a new crop of militants who kill and die in the name of religion, not politics

From Srinagar, a new crop of militants who kill and die in the name of religion, not politics

Urban militancy has been slow to pick up and now reveals new ideological leanings.

India: Ram Rahim’s ‘vision’, presence still looms large over Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana

The Hindu

Ram Rahim’s ‘vision’, presence still looms large over Dera

Entrance to the Dera Sacha Sauda in Haryana’s Sirsa wears a deserted look. (Below) The principal termed the image of two airplanes on the glass façade of Saint MSG Glorious International School “Guruji’s vision”.  

Business will be back to normal, perhaps even better, once he is back, his followers tell Hemani Bhandari in Sirsa

Over six months have passed since Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was sentenced to jail on charges of rape. The once deserted streets of Dera Sacha Sauda are slowly limping back to life. On a sunny afternoon, students, staffers and shopkeepers can be seen making their way inside slowly.
Wearing light brown suits with white dupattas, girls walk out of Shah Satnam Ji Girls School after writing an exam. They are followed by teachers.
“We were told in the first week of September that the school will reopen soon. Our parents were scared initially as it was the middle of the session but everything is fine now,” says a Class XII student.
Educational institutions inside the Dera premises reopened on September 18, 2017, after the 22-day curfew was lifted on September 13, 2017.
Though ‘Pitaji’ is still in jail, his “vision and preaching” continue to find a place inside Dera’s schools and colleges. Mr. Singh’s life-size posters with “Papa Coach #1” written on them are hard to miss.
Talking about the image of two airplanes on the glass façade of the school, Saint MSG Glorious International School Principal Poonam Insan calls them “Guruji’s vision”.
“He never wanted brain drain. He wanted to give the children the same educational standard as students are given abroad,” says the 35-year-old.
Ms. Insan, who has been a Dera devotee since childhood, claims “the powers of Guruji saved her life once”.

 The principal and 10 others went for sightseeing in the hills above Manali when their vehicle met with an accident. ‘Pitaji’ was in the hotel at the time of the incident. She claims “a stone prevented the vehicle from rolling down the valley”.
“All of us escaped unhurt. No one could believe it. How should we not treat him like our god?” she says.
Ms. Insan’s colleague Vipin, who is sitting next to her, recalls a play based on a similar incident enacted by students a couple of months ago
Mr. Vipin claims the protagonist was a man diagnosed with blood cancer and that “city doctors had given up on him a few years ago”. He says, “The man approached Guruji, who gave him prasad. A few days later, his blood group changed and he is absolutely fine now.”
Claiming that students have the freedom to believe or not believe in ‘Guruji’, the Principal adds, “We have a lot of teachers and students who are not devotees of Guruji. For instance, if we celebrate Gandhi Jayanti, it does not mean we ask students to become Mahatma Gandhi. It is their choice.”
At the exit, where phones and cameras of “outsiders” are confiscated, a worried parent asks the security guard if police vehicles are doing the rounds.
Sab theek hai na? Koi darne wali baat to nahi hai [Is everything all right? Is there anything to be scared of?],” says a mother who has come to drop off her daughter’s belongings at the school.

(From left) Shah Satnam Ji Speciality Hospital inside the Dera has seen a drop in the number of patients and staff members since August 2017. Shah Satnam Ji Girls School, like other educational institutions inside the premises, reopened on September 18, 2017, after the 22-day curfew was lifted on September 13, 2017. (Right) Mahi Cinema and Mall.  


Hospital hit

While educational institutions remain largely untouched by accusations against Mr. Singh save for approximately 10%-20% students dropping out because of “societal pressure and fear”, the hospital inside the Dera premises has been affected adversely.
With plush green lawns on both sides of the entrance and a rather small reception, the hospital wears a deserted look. Doctors have quit due to non-payment of salaries and very few patients come in these days, making it difficult for the hospital to run.
Over 1,000 patients would come in daily at Shah Satnam Ji Speciality Hospital before August 2017. Now, the hospital gets barely 100-150 patients.
A staff member says most patients at the hospital comprised outstation devotees and labourers who lived here. “The labourers left the Dera due to lack of work and many devotees either stopped coming here due to fear or because they no longer have faith,” he said.
Acting Chief Medical Officer Gaurav Aggarwal claims to have taken a 75% pay cut because the accounts are seized and the only source of cash flow is the money paid by patients.
“We had a staff of 50 doctors. It has reduced to 20 now. Some left because any association with the hospital would not look nice on their CV and the others because of salaries,” he says, adding that for the first three months after August 2017, doctors and staffers were not paid a penny.
He adds that the number of staffers has come down from around 500 to about 200. The hospital can admit just 50 patients at present as opposed to 300 earlier because of lack of funds.
A woman staff member claims she earned ₹10,000 per month for maintaining a doctor’s ledger but now her salary has come down to ₹7,000. However, she does not want to leave because of her “faith”.
“I have been living here for the past 10 years. I support my two sisters, a brother and mother. I am satisfied with whatever little I get. Once Pitaji is back, everything will be back to normal,” she says.
The teaching staff too has taken a pay cut. In fact, some of them are not being paid at all. A teacher said, “The teaching and non-teaching staff of the educational institute have all taken a pay cut. Some of them have also volunteered to work without pay.”
Most people working for the commercial units of the Dera are being paid in cash because the accounts are seized.
“At the hospital, schools and colleges, the staff members are paid in cash with the help of accountants in each commercial unit,” says a hospital staff member.


Impact on business

The impact of ‘Guruji’s’ incarceration can be seen outside the hospital, schools, colleges and shops. In place of the scores of autorickshaws parked to ferry people inside and outside the Dera premises earlier, barely a handful remain. The autorickshaw drivers were among the worst hit after the August incident.
Ankit, an autorickshaw driver who claims he is not a devotee, says his monthly income has dipped from ₹2,000 to ₹500 per day.
“There used to be lakhs of visitors before he was arrested and hundreds of autorickshaws. Now you will only find 20-30 in the area because there is no work,” he says.
Shopkeepers and restaurant managers on the premises have similar tales to tell.
Sitting inside his empty shop, 39-year-old Naresh who sells watches in ‘Sach Market’, says the shop remained closed for three months after the incident and his earning have been meagre ever since.
“The streets used to be full of people then. Now you hardly see 10-15 of them on a daily basis,” he says.
The manager of a medical shop, however, says his business is recovering. “For the first few months, the income per month was a couple of thousands but it is better now,” says 29-year-old Kuldeep.
Manager of Kashish Restaurant, 44-year-old Ramesh says he was forced to lay off nearly 10 people because of the meagre sum the revolving restaurant has been making over the past three months since it opened.
However, all shopkeepers claim they are not paying rent to the Dera management. “The entire area belongs to the Dera. We used to pay rent but now that there is no income we are not paying rent. They have not asked for rent either,” says Mr. Naresh.
All of them unanimously claim that they are holding on because “business will come back to normal and will become even better once he is back. That’s what we all hope will happen”.
Mr. Singh’s arrest has had a visible impact on the number of devotees who used to visit the Dera religiously to attend the sessions they call ‘naam charcha’.


Footfall of devotees

As opposed to thousands and lakhs of people who used to visit on weekdays and Sundays respectively, the number has reduced to a couple of hundreds and thousands.
Inside the main Dera where ‘Pitaji’ used to give sermons, an old woman wearing a light grey suit sits on a chair next to the loudspeaker broadcasting a message recorded by him.
Lost in her own world, the presence of a few hundreds others does not bother her. A middle-aged woman sitting on the floor says, “Auntiji comes every day and sits here for hours even though the naam charcha is only for one hour in the afternoon.”
Only a couple of hundred more people attend the session now. Staff members in the meditation hall claim the number used to increase to 15,000 to 20,000 on Sundays because ‘Guruji’ used to deliver a sermon every Sunday.
“For few months after August 25, people stopped coming. Those who still have faith have started coming back,” says a 36-year-old at the checking counter, who makes sure no one enters with a phone, camera, weapon or recording device.
As the sun starts to set and streets of the Dera look abandoned, there are “loyalists” who still put up in the residential area.
“Why will we go leaving our ‘Guru’ behind?” says a 71-year-old resident of Shah Satnam Pura, a residential colony mostly inhabited by staff members of commercial units in the Dera.
A resident of Rajasthan, he recalls being asked whether ‘people still live there [in the Dera]?’
Disappointed and annoyed at the question, the man responded in the affirmative. “People think the Dera has shut down completely and no one lives here anymore. But we will never leave even though we were practically forced to do it by the Army and the police in the last week of August,” he says.

‘Supplies cut’

There were no food supplies, water or electricity for nearly a month during curfew, recalls the 71-year-old’s wife. “No one was allowed to come inside and go out. The temperatures were soaring and we all used to sleep in the lawns outside. Neighbours helped each other with food and water. It was a very difficult time but no one budged,” she says, adding that it is business as usual now.
“The police still come and harass people, question them and pick them up,” alleges the couple.
Pointing at the photograph of Mr. Singh, the residents end the conversation at, “We don’t care about anything. Earlier he used to bless us from Sirsa. Now he blesses us from Rohtak”.

India - Bihar: A procession of BJP, RSS and Bajrang Dal workers — led by Union MoS Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son sparks communal clashes in Bhagalpur

Rally led by Union MoS Ashwini Kumar Choubey’s son sparks communal clashes in Bhagalpur
Choubey, Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, said: “Is it wrong to talk about Bharat Ma? Is it a crime to say Vande Mataram?"

Written by Santosh Singh | Bhagalpur | Updated: March 19, 2018


India: The rise in the number of communal incidents targeting Muslims in Gujarat Village

After Repeated Communal Violence, a Gujarat Village Stands Polarised

The rise in the number of communal incidents targeting Muslims has happened after a local unit of the Bajrang Dal was established, villagers in Chhatral say.


March 18, 2018

India: Hindu Mahasabha's Hindu new year calendar refers to Mecca as Macceshwar Mahadev temple and certain mughul monuments as hindu temples

The Times of India

Hindu Mahasabha's calendar refers to Mecca as Macceshwar Mahadev temple, Taj as Tejo Mahalaya
Anuja Jaiswal | TNN | Updated: Mar 18, 2018, 21:49 IST

AGRA: The Hindu Mahasabha, Aligarh, on Sunday released a controversial Hindu New Year calendar in which seven mosques and monuments from the Mughal era, including the Taj Mahal, and the holy Muslim site of Mecca, have been referred to as "Hindu temples".
While Taj Mahal has been referred to as "Tejo Mahalaya temple", Mecca has been called the "Macceshwar Mahadev temple". Similarly, Madhya Pradesh's Kamal Maula Mosque has been referred to as "bhojshala" and Kashi's Gyanvyapi mosque has been called the “Vishwanath temple", Qutab Minar "Vishnu Stambh", Jaunpur's Atala mosque "Atla devi temple" and the demolished Babri Masjid in Ayodhya as "Ram Janam Bhoomi".

"We have organised 'hawan' rituals on the auspicious New year of the Hindu calendar and resolved to make this country a Hindu Rashtra," said Hindu Mahasabha national secretary Pooja Shakun Pandey.

She said that she hoped that the government will accept their demand and declare India a Hindu nation.

She said that Muslims had plundered Hindu religious heritage sites and had turned them to mosques by changing their names accordingly.

"They should now have to give these back to Hindus and we will restore their original names, as mentioned in the new calendar," she added.

She said that all names mentioned in the calendar have been verified by historian BP Saxena, a retired professor from the history department of Varshney College, Aligarh.

Saxena claimed that facts can prove beyond doubt that these seven religious heritage sites belong to Hindus.

He said that if there is any controversy, excavations should be conducted, just like in the Ram temple case, and evidence will be there for all to see.

However, the move has not gone down well with Muslims.

Imam-e-Eidgah Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahli, who is also an executive committee member of the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB), said that these claims are baseless. He said that dubbing the holy site of Mecca a Hindu temple is meant to hurt the sentiments of Muslims and is against the spirit of secularism.

"These people are unnecessary spoiling the communal atmosphere by making such claims and action should be taken against them for spreading hatred," he said.

Former MLA from Aligarh, Zamirullaha Khan said, "There is no difference between Pakistan’s Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and these people who just want to harm the country." He said that this was an attempt to create fissure between the two communities.

He alleged that this was being done on the direction of the government, as it believes in the policy of divide and rule.

Many among Indian diaspora in US communal, casteist: Professor

The New Indian Express

Many among Indian diaspora in US communal, casteist: Professor
By Express News Service  |   Published: 16th March 2017 05:27 AM  |  
Last Updated: 16th March 2017 05:27 AM  |   A+A-   |  
Bandana Purkayasta presents her paper on Intersectionality at the Council for Social Development in Hyderabad on Wednesday | Vinay Madapu
HYDERABAD: The Indian diaspora in the Unites States may seem like a united lot of migrants who moved to a foreign land. However, when you look closely, a number of them are communal, casteist and have been agents propagating violence, consciously or unconsciously.  
This is one of the aspects that came out as part of the public seminar held at the Council for Social Development (CSD) where Bandana Purkayastha presented her paper, Intersectionality : Which Margins? Which Context?   Professor of Sociology and Asian and Asian-American Studies, and head of Sociology department at the University of Connecticut (UCONN), her work on how the concept of intersectionality, which broadly takes into consideration, race, class, gender, sexuality and nation and how all these  factors impact violence among migrant population in US.
Discussing her findings, the professor started from defining the various spaces where people are susceptible to violence, from home, in a domestic setting to across countries and borders.
“The spatial context of immigrants and violence is constantly changing spatially. State sponsored violence that includes extreme surveillance, deportation and incarceration is one of the reasons. Increase of the use of technology, where virtual spaces are actually real, has blurred borders and there is constant surveillance. Migrants hardly have rights and they are not even in the position to exercise them,” the professor said. 
Vasanth Kannabiran, activist and writer, bringing together the context of Purkayastha’s findings in the Unites States with the Indian diaspora in the country, said, “The most castiest and communal lot have been playing a major role in manipulating what is happening in the country. Mushrooming of Hindu funding organisations to propagate religious causes and ‘nationalist’ ideas that promote one ideology is an example of this violence.”
Purkayastha concurred, adding that some students in the Unites States were looking for funding for all sorts of activities. “There is no purpose for them to look at the source of the funds and they pump in so much money in the name of ideologies which are being redefined as the only ones that primarily stir violence.”
Kalpana Kannabiran, director, CSD said that in the Indian context, intersectionality often expresses itself in the form of those people who, in the name of a vague understanding of a nation create violence.

March 17, 2018

RSS schools are breeding grounds of extremism that threaten peace in South Asia


RSS schools are breeding grounds of extremism that threaten peace in South Asia

Godse, the killer of Gandhi, belonged to RSS, the right-wing extremist organization of India.Since then, the ideology of RSS has been involved in bringing together and turning the minds of a huge number of Indians into extremists.
With its headquarter in Lucknow, serious questions regarding its source of funding remain unanswered.Hundreds of schools in Pune, Bangalore and West Bengal are being run by RSS and thousands of children and youth are being taught in these schools.
Many of its regional leaders have been involved in lynching incidents of low caste Hindus and Muslims, forced conversions and threatening Bollywood actors.Artists from Pakistan have been threatened and barred by RSS from performing in India many times.
In a first, the government of West Bengal has requested to shutdown around 130 schools run by RSS.The government of West Bengal received complaints against 520 schools, 492 of which are under observation. 125 RSS run schools in North Bengal did not acquire any “No Objection Certificates”.
There are inputs regarding these schools that they are teaching students how to carry sticks and use them.Stick wielding can’t be allowed in schools, whether it’s an RSS school or some other school.There are some norms and values to groom young children and way of teaching.
Teaching and training in these schools are based on Hindutva extremism which is being proved disastrous for India. What was once a secular country, has now turned into a Hindutva Republic and these schools are adding more to the trouble.
There are thousands of children all around India that are part of these RSS run schools and being taught same syllabus that comprises of extremism and a whole generation is being raised to implement the RSS ideology, which is not only a problem for the people of India but also a threat to peace in South Asia.