March 28, 2017

Spreading Communal Propaganda - Lessons from Rwanda genocide tell us to worry about hatred on WhatsApp

Indian Express

The Message Is The Medium
Lessons from Rwanda genocide tell us to worry about hatred on WhatsApp.

Written by Sushant Singh | Published:March 28, 2017

The fake messages, hate videos and mean jibes that we get on WhatsApp and other digital forums cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant.
“The graves are not yet full.” This was the slogan broadcast on the privately-owned Radio-Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLMC) during the worst modern-era genocide: In 1994, about 800,000 Tutsis were killed in 12 weeks by the Hutus in Rwanda. The genesis of the genocide lay in Rwandan colonial history but the trigger and direction was provided by the media, particularly the radio. It became a powerful weapon to incite and direct the Rwandan genocide.
Twenty three years have passed hence, and India is miles away from Rwanda, but the lessons offered then hold great relevance today. The fake messages, hate videos and mean jibes that we get on WhatsApp and other digital forums cannot be simply dismissed as irrelevant. Put together, this narrative of animosity portends dangerous times as part of a larger project of “Hatriotism”.
From early 1990, anti-Tutsi articles and graphic cartoons had begun appearing in the Kangura newspaper. In June 1993, the RTLMC began broadcasting in Rwanda. The radio station was rowdy and used language of the street — like any other popular radio station, there were disc jockeys, pop music and phone-ins. It was designed to appeal to the unemployed, the delinquents and the gangs of thugs in the militia. As Linda Melvern, a British journalist, noted, “In a largely illiterate population, the radio station soon had a very large audience who found it immensely entertaining.”
The transcripts of RTLMC’s broadcasts are available in Duke University’s International Monitor Institute. A lot of attention has since been focused on the radio station’s efforts to direct the extermination — broadcasts told people to “go to work” and everyone knew that meant get your machete and kill Tutsis. But what has escaped greater scrutiny is the manner — by demonising the Tutsis and encouraging hate and violence — in which the radio station prepared the ground among the people of Rwanda for genocide.
The transcripts reveal RTLMC’s efforts to claim authority over the telling of Rwandan history whereby the hardline Hutu extremists exercised a monopoly over the truth. These encounters with the truth provided the basis on which genocide became justified. “Slavery” is a term repeated through the transcripts, with guests on the radio station recalling the state of Hutu slavery during colonisation. Drawing on such a vocabulary, the radio broadcasts characterised the Rwandan genocide as a slave rebellion. The RTLMC was, Hutus came to believe, helping them unpeel the layers and discover their true history, as opposed to the one told by the colonisers and the local elite.
If radio was a powerful medium then, where you only needed a transistor and a few batteries, we have the smart phone and WhatsApp today. The plethora of hate messages we get on WhatsApp mirror the phenomenon of the RLTMC, a concerted attempt to fabricate a newer version of history. Slotted amidst entertaining GIFs, videos, memes and jokes, these crude stories of hate, vitriol and victimisation provide the justification for political action. Some of us find these tales — that Nehru died of AIDS or there is a satellite tracking chip in the new Rs 2000 note — absurd but that is essentially how they work. It is akin to the Nigerian 419 scam with deliberately implausible emails which maximise the scammer’s efforts by entrapping only the most gullible, a kind of self-selection. When fake WhatsApp tales make it to top television news stories, we know that the most gullible include those who should know better.
Technology is value-neutral and what makes WhatsApp popular also makes it more dangerous than the radio or platforms like Twitter and Facebook. Unlike them, it is a targeted mass-broadcast. The platform has made it extremely easy and swift to disseminate hate-messages, by allowing people to record and spread audio and video messages among a select group. At the push of the button, these passion-inciting messages are passed on to the selected people, with the highly inflammable raw emotions in them intact.
In the past few years, several instances have come to light where communal clashes are being planned or instigated through false videos circulating on WhatsApp. The police acknowledged that WhatsApp groups were used to incite the Muzaffarnagar riots in UP in the run-up to the 2014 elections. The gau rakshaks, the Jat agitators, and protestors in Kashmir also take advantage of WhatsApp groups to organise themselves. The government has responded by banning internet in such instances, making India the global leader in imposing internet blackouts. That is a tactical solution which prevents immediate violence. But the graver challenge of creating a fertile environment of hate, round-the-clock, by distorted story-telling continues unabated.
It is not just the poor and semi-educated who are taken in by the alternative narrative of political propaganda on WhatsApp. The educated elite are equally guilty. It is a reminder of what Fergal Keane, the renowned BBC journalist noted about the killers who participated in the Rwanda genocide: “A few gave the appearance of being truly psychopathic individuals. The mass of others were ragged and illiterate peasants easily roused to hatred of the Tutsis. Perhaps the most sinister people I met were the educated political elite, men and women of charm and sophistication who spoke flawless French and who could engage in long philosophical debates about the nature of war and democracy. But they shared one thing in common with the soldiers and the peasants: They were drowning in the blood of their fellow countrymen.”
Rwanda gives us a warning. Only if we would care to heed.

March 27, 2017

Jagdeep S. Chhokar: Past efforts at out-of-court resolution of Ayodhya dispute have been non-starters

The Indian Express - March 27, 2017

Sentiment And Justice
Past efforts at out-of-court resolution of Ayodhya dispute have been non-starters

Written by Jagdeep S. Chhokar

It is neither possible nor advisable to disregard the Supreme Court of India since Article 141 of the Constitution says, “The law declared by the Supreme Court shall be binding on all courts within the territory of India,” and also because the authority, and responsibility, for interpreting the Constitution rests with the Court. One will not be presumptuous to tell the Supreme Court what it should have done, but one hopes respectful disagreement is possible. And it is respectful disagreement that the Chief Justice of India’s offer, or suggestion, for mediation in the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue — actually “case” — evokes.

Without going into the merits of the “case”, the following needs reiteration. A newspaper reports that there have been nine attempts at mediation, starting in 1859. It seems the colonial administration erected a fence to demarcate places of worship for the two groups, but the arrangement did not last long as a case was reportedly filed in 1885.

The “case” in which the CJI made his latest observations consists of a set of appeals against a judgement of the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on September 30, 2010, in which the high court ordered a three-way division of the supposedly d isputed site. These are not the only cases arising out of the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue. Criminal cases are going on in Lucknow and Rae Bareli.

While the primary responsibilities of the judiciary are to interpret the law, uphold the rule of law, and to adjudicate legal disputes, mediation is most certainly a legitimate and laudable objective. This is even more so when there are “issues of sentiments and religion” as the CJI rightly observed. However, he also made an extremely significant observation: “The court should come in the picture only if you cannot settle it”.

Even if we overlook the British attempt of the 19th century, there have been attempts in the more recent past to resolve the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid issue. Three of these have been made by the most appropriate elected official of the country: The prime minister. In 1990, Chandra Shekhar attempted a resolution after the existing mosque was partially damaged by some miscreants. The talks failed. Then P.V. Narasimha Rao made another attempt at resolution after the demolition of the mosque by setting up a commission in 1992. This commission plodded on for 17 years and submitted its report in June 2009, which has not been made public.

Then Atal Bihari Vajpayee set up an Ayodhya Cell in the PMO in 2002, and appointed a senior party official to hold talks with Hindus and Muslims. There have been no public reports on the outcome of those efforts. Despite these failures, attempts at resolution have continued. There have been five subsequent attempts, two by the courts, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court on July 26, 2010, and the Supreme Court on September 23, 2010, and three by the litigants, on February 24, 2015, on April 10, 2015, and on May 31, 2016 — all to no avail. Given this list of failed attempts, what could be the reason to hope that an out-of-court settlement of this long-running dispute is possible now?

One possible reason for the hope could be that, in the assessment of the Supreme Court, the country’s social environment has changed substantially from what it was during the period between 1990-92 and 2015-16. Given the inherent diversity in the country, there are many different views on this. One can only hope that the highest court has kept this diversity in mind while making this suggestion, and more importantly, it continues to be mindful of its primary responsibility to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law.

The other possible reason stems from an apprehension of a possible dilution of the commitment to the rule of law in preference to “issues of sentiments and religion”. It is true that law is meant to serve society and not the other way round but then, there are lawful, or constitutional, ways of making or amending laws. “Circumventing” the law is different from shying away from taking decisions. If an issue is considered to be beyond judicial adjudication in the considered judgment of the highest court, then it would be better if this is said in clear terms.

The writer is former professor, dean, and director in-charge of IIM, Ahmedabad. Views are personal

India: Another Sacrifice At The Altar Of Religious Bigotry (Shamsul Islam)


Atheist H Farook's killing at Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) is another sacrifice at the altar of religious bigotry. Indian sub-continent is becoming the most dangerous zone in the world for scientific minded persons who naturally become atheist. Farook died for a cause and killers who claim that their truth is inalienable prove to be the worst cowards. It seems killer had no arguments/facts to counter Farook’s questions. BTW, did Farook and his thought take birth and develop without God’s consent?

Bhagat Singh, great martyr, whose 86th martyrdom anniversary falls on March 23, 2017, asked the theists few simple question: “Why your omnipotent God does not stop every man when he is committing any sin or offence? He can do it quite easily. Why did he not kill warlords or kill the fury of war in them and thus avoid the catastrophe hurled down on the head of humanity by the Great War? Why does he not just produce a certain sentiment in the mind of the British people to liberate India? Why does he not infuse the altruistic enthusiasm in the hearts of all capitalists to forego their rights of personal possessions of means of production and thus redeem the whole labouring community, nay, the whole human society, from the bondage of capitalism?”

Surely, if Bhagat Singh was alive today, would not have been spared by the theist butcher's dagger.

And if we contextualize these questions with the present times, it is going to an endless list. Why did omnipresent-omnipotent creature did not stop suicides of farmers (every 40 minutes one Indian farmer committing suicide since 1995) by providing them with sufficient water, good seeds and cheap loans? Why did God did not stop genocides of 1947, 1884, 1992, 1997, 2002 (to mention few), coach burning at Godhra, massacre of Dalits in different parts of the country? Why does not God appear to save helpless women from rapes and violence? Why does not God produce staple food from the Heavens when people in millions die of hunger? Why does not God ask seas/rivers to behave when millions of human habitations are destroyed by fury of floods and cyclones? Why does not God provide homes to all homeless, jobs to all jobless and medical facilities to all sick?

Once the above questions are responded, there are countless other questions to be put. Theists, please, come out with arguments to prove atheist wrong. The omnipresent-omnipotent institution of God should not look like so weak and vulnerable that one poster, sentence, poem, drama and painting can defame and damage its reputation.
Notably Hindutva organization which miss no opportunity to condemn ‘Islamic terrorism’ are in deep slumber on this killing.

India: Killing of an athiest in Tamil Nadu - reports in The Indian Express

The Indian Express 

Tamil Nadu youth killed for being an atheist, father says he too will become one

According to police, clues from Farook’s mobile phone, which was found at the murder spot, led to the arrests.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | Updated: March 27, 2017 12:50 pm

THE FATHER of H Farook, the atheist who was murdered in Coimbatore 10 days ago, allegedly by members of a Muslim radical group, has said that if his son was killed for his views, he too would become an atheist.

Speaking to The Indian Express, 54-year-old R Hameed said, “If the police version is true, that he was murdered by a radical Muslim group, then they killed my son using wrong interpretations of the Quran. The Quran is one holy book that insists on and allows the right of dissent since the time of the Prophet. If they killed him for being an atheist, I have decided to join his organisation and do what he did.” [. . .]


o o o

Demand to shut WhatsApp group reason for atheist’s murder, say police
Three investigation teams are on the lookout for four persons believed to have hacked to death the 31-year-old atheist activist on Thursday night near Coimbatore.

Written by Arun Janardhanan | Chennai | March 20, 2017

Police officers investigating the murder of H Farook have said his killers wanted the atheist to shut down a WhatsApp group that had about 400 Muslims members, mostly inspired by rationalist Periyar ideology. Three investigation teams are on the lookout for four persons believed to have hacked to death the 31-year-old atheist activist on Thursday night near Coimbatore.

Tamil Nadu police have said the four accused were well within the limits of Coimbatore’s suburbs. Police said Farook’s refusal to shut down the atheist WhatsApp group he ran for like-minded Muslims across various districts of Tamil Nadu and his visible stand in the social media declaring his decision to raise his children as atheists had angered the suspects.

The WhatsApp group, called Allahu Murdhath, has about 400 members from different Tamil Nadu districts. Many of the members are Muslims. The accused had demanded that Farook shut down the group. On Sunday, The Indian Express reported that one of the reasons that could have led to Farook’s murder was a photo the rationalist had posted in the WhatsApp group 15 days ago, in which one of his children was seen holding a placard with the handwritten slogan “Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai, Kadavul illai (No God, No God, No God)”.

According to an investigator, the assailants “did meet him and requested him once to stay away from anti-religious activities”. “There were both personal meetings and multiple phone calls from them as a request and a warning. He (Farook) ignored them and went ahead. Still, they… threatened him. Finally, it was his public statement of raising his children as atheists had provoked them. More than his rational arguments, they felt that taking such public positions using children was a threat to Islam,” said the officer.

[. . .]


Everyday Racism and Prejudice in India: Statement by Association of African Students in India (AASI) on 27 March 2017

[As student dies, five Nigerians are accused of cannibalism by locals, charged with murder (see news report). The incident happened in Greater Noida. The police arrest the African students and finaly releases them for lack of evidence. But these students face widespread racism in everyday lives in India. Here is a statement released on facebook on 27 March 2017]
Statement by The Association of African Students in India

The Association of African students in India is calling on the government of India to taking concrete steps to protect the lives and properties of all African students in India, and especially in Uttar Pradesh following the recent false allegations laid on five Nigerian students.
  • We are tired of the appeasement and promises made by the Indian government and therefore we will be taking stringent actions.
  • Failure to secure the lives of African students and to ensure maximum security in areas where African students live, we will write to the African Union to cut all bilateral trade with India.
  • We will ensure that all the local media houses in our respective countries get details of the growing racism which African students are facing in India.
  • We will ensure that a detailed report on the barbaric racism African students are facing in India is sent to the high levels of all African governments and heads of state.
  • We will ask African students in our respective countries to stop making India their study destination with immediate effect.
  • We will call for a nationwide protest inviting all international media houses.
Samuel T. Jack 
President (AASI)

India:All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF) wants the bust of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman removed from hostel and calls it 'anti-islamic'

The Hindu

‘Remove Mujibur Rahman’s bust from Kolkata hostel’
A white marble bust of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been installed at the Baker Hostel.Special Arrangement  

Minority body says Islam does not permit setting up of idols

Ahead of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India next month, minority organisation All Bengal Minority Youth Federation (ABMYF) has demanded that the bust of ‘Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman be removed from the government-run Baker hostel.


Calling it “anti-Islamic”, the ABMYF’s State general secretary Md. Quamruzzaman told The Hindu that “Islam does not permit setting up of idols. Baker Hostel being a hostel for Muslim students, we think the statue of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman here is anti-Islamic.”
A white marble bust of Mujibur Rahman is installed at the entrance to the museum on the hostel’s third floor. It was inaugurated by then Bangladesh Foreign Minister, Dipu Mani, in 2011.
The 110 year-old-Baker hostel, which is located in central Kolkata’s Janbazar area, was home to Mujibur Rahman from 1945 to 1946. The well-maintained statue and museum here stand in stark contrast to the dark and damp corridor of the hostel.
Mr. Quamruzzaman said the statue becomes “even more objectionable” as there is a large mosque inside the hostel premises. Claiming that he was also a resident of the hostel when the museum came up, he said that he was not aware of the statue until he saw media reports on the birth anniversary of Mujibur Rahman on March 17.

Not aware, says TMC MP

Trinamool Congress MP and minority leader Idris Ali, meanwhile, said he was “not aware of the matter.” The hostel authorities, too, did not offer a comment.
The ABMYF now plans to write to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. “We will write to the Chief Minister and communicate with Ms. Sushma Swaraj through email. We have also sought an appointment with Zaki Ahad, Deputy High Commissioner of Bangladesh,” said Mr. Quamruzzaman.

The anti-Muslim pitch - Beware India! You are being led into a civil war (Apoorvanand)

The Tribune, March 27, 2017

The anti-Muslim pitch


We need to recognise it for what it truly is

The signs: A sinister plan seems afoot, not just in UP, but across India.

BEWARE India! You are being led into a civil war. Or, you are already in it. This is not a rhetorical statement. In UP, slaughterhouses are being demolished, closed down forcibly, small mutton shops are being gutted. Livelihood of thousands is under threat, that too by the orders of the government which had promised to work for all. In Jaipur, a hotel owned by a Muslim is surrounded and attacked in daylight, its employees beaten up by a mob, hotel is evacuated, sealed, the owner is hounded, the police joins the marauders. Youth are being arrested for Facebook posts on the new CM in UP.

I know what would be the reaction of many of my co-nationals. That the number of these incidents is insignificant when compared with the population of India. That Muslims can always change their food habits. Why are they stuck in the business of slaughterhouses, a cruel job? They can always find alternative ways to live. Why do they insist on eating beef, making their women wear burqa which makes them look strange and suspicious! That was the rationale behind the demand to double-check them when they come to the booths.

This is a war on the Muslims of India. It needs to be said in these very words. And the spread is wide. Thousands and thousands of Muslims in Assam are being evicted from their habitats in the name of preservation of forest lands and yet the national mind fails even to register it.

Just before the election, a 16-year-old Muslim boy is detained in a police station in Uttarakhand on the charge of abducting a Hindu girl, and is sent dead to his poor parents by the police. His murder at the hand of the state apparatus fails to make news. No cry of justice for him.

A Muslim student disappears from a university and all the media can do after five months is to discover that he had affinity for terrorists. It is not only the physical injury that hurts. It is not only a Muslim of UP who is feeling a prisoner of this nation called India. The message of the results was clear enough, but to make it stark, a man was put in charge of UP whose existence is defined by his anti-Muslim hatred. It is this insult which pains Muslims more.

It was humiliation not only for Muslim men, but Muslim women as well, when the media joined the BJP in claiming that they have taught a lesson to their men by voting for the BJP in the recent Assembly elections.

By closing down the slaughterhouses, the economic backbone of the poor Muslims is being broken. They are being forced to be slaves of the wishes of the state which itself is turning more and more Hindu with each passing day. The resolve to change the living style of Muslims could have been reported by the media two years ago, when the Home Minister asked the BSF to plug the gaps in the borders of India and Bangladesh, stop the transfer of cows to Bangladesh with the aim of making Bangladeshis forget their habit of eating beef. Can one miss the symbolism of this exhortation?

Let us not confuse it then by saying that it should not be narrowly seen as a Hindu-Muslim thing, that it is an attack on the syncretic culture of India. Let us also not compare with the attack on Adivasis in Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, or on Dalits across India. This is because, as my friend Shahnawaz explains, a news of the arrest of a bearded man in some distant land does make all bearded men suspect, fit to be arrested and even lynched. The feeling of the fear of living under this ‘legitimate suspicion’ is distinctly Muslim. And we have seen Adivasis and Dalits joining anti-Muslim alliances, politically and socially. Dalits can be made Hindu and Adivasis too, it is the Muslims alone which are the last stumbling block in the project of making India a Hindu land. And since it is impossible to eliminate them totally, they need to be effectively subjugated, confined to their ghettos and disempowered, so that Indian polity is not contaminated by the Muslim touch.

That we are so reluctant to speak the ‘M’ word is itself a proof of what has changed in India. And Muslims themselves have started pleading with parties not to utter their name for it may antagonise and infuriate Hindus.

As it is, the Christians have just disappeared from our consciousness. We lack the sensibility and empathy to realise the depth of disappointment, anger and frustration of Muslims. To most of us their fears sound hallucinatory. Muslims across India have suffered multiple displacements. They do not any longer resent being ghettoised even with popular consent. But now, their psychological displacement is getting complete. While observing their present being invisiblised, they also see themselves being monumentalised and their cries and shouts drown in the celebration of these syncretic pasts, Sufi music, Taj Mahal and Lal Quila. The celebration of Urdu looks so obscene when you realise that a paper in Urdu in your possession can land you in jail.

Let us record that the educated and the media reported and exalted the pious and hard lives of the hate-mongers and murderers, that they weaved stories of their love for the animals with a singular aim to humanise and legitimise their hatred of Muslims. Why do Mulsims fail to find place in such kind hearts? The fault must lie in them.

Let us put it on record that India was pushed into this war by its ruling parties, the governments that they created and fostered disaffection towards a large section of society and stoked violence against them. Let it be recorded that the finest minds of the educated youth who form our civil services and the police collaborated in this with the murderers. Let it be said that we went about our lives unperturbed when our neighbours were doubling with pain and not allowed to scream even for it would sound a sectarian cry.

It would be a long war and we would come out of it one day, with stories of the banality of violence and our shame of participating in it and mutilated bodies.

Victims are being blamed for forging victimhood; asked to free themselves of this imaginary cage. This duplicity would be noted in some distant time. We would not be there then. But let us stand witness to what is being done on our behalf and call it by its name. That much we can do at least.

The writer is a Professor of Hindi in Delhi University