Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Silencing dissent and sowing hate in India

A recent report from India’s Intelligence Bureau demonizing non-government organizations (NGOs) and several activists including a Catholic priest -- the late Father Thomas Kocherry -- was a precursor of more direct action to come. All were accused of working against Indian national interests. 
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took immediate action, ordering Greenpeace, which it had targeted as the prime culprit in delaying if not preventing big money projects in tribal areas, to obtain permission before trying to seek any funding from overseas. That is not to say that the previous Congress government did not use the notorious Foreign Contribution Act to punish NGOs in Tamil Nadu. 
The initiatives that suffered included a Catholic diocese, for supporting a local people’s movement against a nuclear power plant at Koodamakulam. Critics said the federal and state governments wanted the plant not so much for the electricity it would produce but for the political gains it could bring Congress and the AIADMK party that ruled the state. The risks posed by the Russian-made reactor could be overlooked in the name of development. 
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government in New Delhi differs in a critical area from its Congress predecessor. The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government led by Manmohan Singh was pilloried for its inertia, its corruption and its inability to control inflation. But it had a human face that changed the lives of the rural poor through a slew of welfare programs that did reduce the pain of poverty a little. Above all, it did not seek to divide people along the lines of religion or egg them on into violence. 
Modi’s government carries a deadly political baggage that seeks to do just that, polarize communities, pitting the majority faith against religions that it brands as alien. In the mineral rich and heavily forested tribal belt that extends from Jharkhand to Madhya Pradesh and beyond, including much of Chhattisgarh and Odisha, this polarization has almost totally wrecked unity among people against exploitative and environmentally destructive industrial and mining projects. 
By attacking ethical NGOs empowering people on the one hand and unity in people’s movements on the other, the government has opened the doors for exploitation by crony capitalists. This can be seen in a move in June by several village councils in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region to ban entry of Christian workers, and prevent Christian worship, in their areas. It was prompted by the hardline Hindu groups such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Akhil Bharatiya Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram. 
The village council diktat is that only Hindu religious workers will be allowed into village areas in the tribal belt. This is of course entirely illegal, and violates the constitutional provisions of freedom of expression and movement. The coercive methodology of branding every tribal as a Hindu, and make him or her oppose Christians, injures the secular nature of society and the peace that has existed there for such a long time. 
Such bans on a particular faith and the frictions they breed can so easily lead to violence against religious minorities. Memories of the extreme violence in Kandhamal in 2007 and 2008, which had its roots through such indoctrination and communalisation, are still fresh, and the struggle for justice for the victims still continues in the courts. 
The state government of Chhattisgarh and the federal authorities in New Delhi must therefore act urgently to stem this explosive evil while there is still time. 
John Dayal is the general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government's National Integration Council.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Polinomics: Dissent is now a crime

The report of the Intelligence Bureau on the “impact” that non-government organisations have on India’s “development” is a case of extreme paranoia on the part of a section of the country’s establishment. This section believes that those who are opposed to their notions of development — which include the proliferation of nuclear energy and widespread use of genetically modified organisms in agriculture — are not just anti-national but also acting at the behest of foreign powers who do not want India to develop.
Interestingly, many of those opposed to the activities of foreign-funded civil society organisations as well as those who actually run such NGOs belong to the country’s elite. One group which spares no effort in extolling the virtues of foreign direct investment, also conjures conspiracies when it comes to ascribing motives to those who speak up for those displaced by mining, irrigation and industrial projects. The first group firmly believes that growth is the mantra for the country’s economic problems. The other section espouses environmentally-friendly policies and believes that inequalities must come down if sustainable development is to take place.
The two groups represent contrasting worldviews. To use simplistic catch-phrases, one is Right-wing, neo-liberal and market-friendly while the other is Leftist, Luddite and emphasises redistribution before growth. One believes that encouraging the private sector is the best way forward while the other is in favour of government-sponsored welfare schemes for the poor. Both sections want to engage with the West and the rest of the world, but on different terms.
The current debate on the role of NGOs is reminiscent of the polarised discourse on Christian missionaries who “convert” tribals and poor Hindus by “alluring” them. The anti-missionary viewpoint can be found in the books written by Arun Shourie, including one entitled Harvesting Our Souls. The contrary view is that if the Indian elite have been less than fair to society’s underprivileged, why should they grudge the activities of those (including missionaries from India and abroad) who have tried to organise the poor. Many missionaries are perceived as activists. One such individual named in the IB report is Thomas Kochherry, who fought relentless to safeguard the interests of Kerala’s traditional fisherfolk and who passed away recently.
By criticising NGOs allegedly opposed to the “Gujarat model of development”, the IB — which one of the world’s oldest internal security agencies — may have sought to please Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In fact, one paragraph in the report seems to have been inspired (if not plagiarised) from a speech that Mr Modi made in September 2006 during the launch of a book with a rather revealing title: NGOs, Activists and Foreign Funds: Anti-Nation Industry.
On that occasion, Mr Modi had lashed out against those he described as “five-star activists” by remarking: “Funds are obtained from abroad; an NGO is set up; a few articles are commissioned; a PR (public relations) firm is recruited and, slowly, with the help of the media, an image is created. And then awards are procured from foreign countries to enhance this image. Such a vicious cycle... no one in Hindustan dares raise a finger, no matter how many the failings of the awardee...”
Mr Modi is in illustrious company. His predecessor Manmohan Singh was suspicious of NGOs using foreign funds who were opposed to the establishment of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant. Dr Singh and former agriculture minister Sharad Pawar were both opposed to NGOs who were resisting field trials for genetically-modified food crops. In January 2013, speaking at the centenary session of the Indian Science Congress in Kolkata, Dr Singh described the issues of nuclear energy and GM foods as “complex issues” that “cannot be settled by faith, emotion and fear but by structured debate, analysis and enlightenment.”
The tone of the IB report is not very different from the raving and ranting against an unseen “foreign hand” during the Emergency regime of Indira Gandhi between June 1975 and March 1977. It was during this period that the government enacted the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, which was amended during the second UPA government in 2010. While there are more than a million NGOs operating in the country, roughly 50,000 are currently registered under the FCRA. After the law was amended, the permission granted to some 4,000 NGOs to receive foreign funds was revoked.
It is nobody’s case that all foreign-funded NGOs are run by bleeding-heart activists who only have the welfare of the deprived and the indigent on top of their minds. There is no dearth of people who abuse their association with international civil society groups to go on expensive junkets across the world and live a rather good life. Such individuals can be found across different strata in Indian society. If anyone, including those who run NGOs, is found to be violating the law of the land, the law should be strictly enforced against such people and organisations.
But why is the voluntary sector being targeted at present? The IB report appears to have been written and deliberately leaked with a specific purpose — to create an atmosphere that would encourage some in the government to come down hard on dissenters and those whose views and activities they don’t like. It’s as simple as that.
This writer’s name figures in the IB report for having produced and directed a 45-minute documentary film in English and Hindi entitled Coal Curse/Koyla Ya Kala Shaap in 2013 which was financially supported by Greenpeace India. Both versions of the film are available for free viewing on YouTube. The film juxtaposes the Coalgate scandal (which was, incidentally, highlighted by the ruling party) with the larger socio-political and economic issues surrounding the use of coal. It includes a case study of the Singrauli region in central India, often described as the country’s “electricity hub”. The film argues that what represents an investment opportunity for both public sector and private corporate entities is a “resource curse” for local populations whose livelihoods have been devastated together with the ecology of the region. It is a separate matter altogether that I have been writing about and making documentary films on this subject for many years now.
In conclusion, one must assert that there are always certain exceptions to the rule and no action will ever be taken against particular NGOs. These are the now-defunct National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi and the nearly-90-year-old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. There are also two other organisations that have received funds from foreign sources (including the Vedanta corporate group) whose activities are unlikely to be scrutinised by the ministry of home affairs, under which the IB operates. These are the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

HRD: It’s not Hindu Resource Development

The Modi government seems to believe that a change should be brought in school curriculum by re-working the text books that NCERT brings out. To this effect the ministry of human resource development, it appears, is taking steps. According to reports in the media, lessons from Vedas and Upanishads will be incorporated in the text books to educate the student community about ancient Indian civilisation and culture. There is not just one view of ancient India. The so-called Vedic view is nothing but the Brahminic view.
No one should have any objection if those sections of Vedas and Upanishads which focus on human equality in the realm of spiritual systems of India are included in the text books. But along with such portions from Vedas and Upanishads, the egalitarian teachings from the Buddhist Suthas and Pitakas, and Jain theories of non-violence should also be included. Equally important are the materialist discourses of Charvakas, which injected the earliest rational thinking among our ancestors. The Dalitist narrative of ancient India, which focuses a great deal on production and science, is also extremely relevant to the discourse of development today.
Ancient India, for example, was known for producing scientific tools and instruments that enhanced the country’s productivity. The Vedas and Upanishads don’t just ignore the production process and its contribution, but in certain sections negated “production” as pollution. Labour classes were the lower castes, and that’s why they were invisibilised in these text written by the brahmins.
For a comprehensive view and understanding of ancient India, it must be studied from the point of view of dignity of labour. And the contemporary development debate has to be linked to the question of dignity of labour even in ancient times because our under-development is closely associated to the notion of indignity of labour in Indian civil society.
For example, the earliest pot and brick was made in ancient India. The Indus Valley Civilisation was built on the advanced skills of brick making and pottery. But those who make bricks and pots today are considered to be people of “neech jati” by Vedic pundits. Even the secular, academic understanding holds a similar opinion of labour. Today a Vedic pundit is not one who respects the brick and pot maker, but one who bathes several times if a potter touches him/her. School children, who need to be part of the contemporary developmental discourse, should know that treating production as pollution is a socially constructed wrong. Such a spiritual, social notion hampers development.
One of our glorious ancient heritages is the shaving blade (or, the barber’s knife). If the clean shaven faces of Hindu divine figures like Rama and Krishna are any indication, by Kritha and Dwpara yuga India had created what was, perhaps, the sharpest blade in the ancient world. At a time when no nation in the world seemed to know about it, Indian ironsmiths were hammering shaving blades and surgical knives that made advancements in other fields possible.
Realistically, a definite time frame of when the blade/knife was invented and used could be drawn from the timeline of Jain and Buddhist schools, both of whom had the compulsory practice of shaving their head, including for female monks.
We also have enough evidence to show that Indian leather technology was also very advanced in ancient times. But leather technocrats began to be treated as untouchable by the Vedic forces and the situation has not changed to date. Is it not necessary to deconstruct a mindset that still exists, not just of our school going population, but also the teachers themselves?
The present set of NCERT books were prepared when Prof. Krishna Kumar was the director. They adopted a so-called secular approach to rewrite the text books, to undo the communal overtones introduced under the supervision of Dr Murali Manohar Joshi, the National Democratic Alliance’s HRD minister. But the so-called secular view isn’t without its inherent prejudices. A friend of mine had taken a children’s book I had written on dignity of labour, Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land: Dignity of Labour in our Times, to Prof. Krishna Kumar, who, it appears, looked at it with disdain. Nothing was incorporated.
The so-called communist scholars claim that they are champions of labour, but they too refuse to understand that religion and caste in India are real. When a religion treats the labouring castes as impure, naturally the indignity of labour becomes the essence of the nation. Does not this situation need to change? How can it change without incorporating a heavy dose of dignity of labour in our schools?
Yet another important aspect of ancient Indian life that needs to come into text books is the food culture. No social group in ancient India was vegetarian — not even the Jains and Buddhists. Now the Vedic pundits and Hindutva forces are hegemonising vegetarianism, ignoring plural choice based food cultures, particularly meat eating. This will be an exercise in exceptionalism which no nation can suffer. If Mr Modi’s development model is couched in vegetarianism, future Indians will suffer from huge nutrition deficiencies.
Any selective teaching of ancient India is harmful because a multi-cultural, modern society cannot be connected to any one set of values. If a government takes a position on religious ethics, it cannot be partisan. If text books need to contain some aspects of Vedas, the Bible, Quran and Guru Granth cannot be left out. Rewriting what India studies and learns cannot be driven by Hindutva nationalism.
If God and religion are universal, the core books of all religions are also universal. It is a different thing that one religion has more following and another has less. India, thus, cannot treat Hinduism as the only Indian religion.
HRD minister Smriti Irani should not commit the same mistake that Dr Joshi committed by converting the ministry of human resource development into the ministry of Hindu resource development. Let the Prime Minister keep a watch, as he, hopefully, knows the difference.
The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

Indian Christians struggle for legitimacy

The Christian community, barring pockets of influence in Kerala and the northeastern states, has never been seen as relevant to Indian political discourse. Official census statistics put Christian numbers at 2.3 percent of the population. It was always a small number, far behind Muslims whose population is variously estimated from 13 to 15 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. It is not just the minuscule numbers that impact on the social, economic and political fortunes of the Christian community. 
Their dispersal across India is very skewed, with the small northeastern states of Mizoram, Nagaland and Meghalaya having a Christian majority, and the tribal areas of central India between at 2 to 4 percent. Goa at 27 percent and Kerala with 19 percent are the other major concentrations. The southern states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra also have sizeable populations, especially among Dalit Christians. But the population in the rest of the country would be invisible if not for the spires and crosses of the various churches that dot the skylines. This geographic demography has major political implications for the community, which reflects in their abysmal strength in parliament and state legislatures. In fact, in most north Indian state legislatures, there are no Christians at all. 
In the national Lok Sabha, or Lower House of parliament, the number of Christians has been steadily declining. There were said to be less than 10 Christian members in the Lower House after the last general election. Contrast this with the other small minority, the Sikhs, who represent about 2 percent of the population. The Sikhs are concentrated largely in the Punjab, where they constitute the dominant social and economic groups, and all but monopolize political power. Because of Punjab's proximity to Delhi, they also wield tremendous clout with the national government. Muslims have traditionally been politically important, although economically they are among the most backward in the country. Though their numbers too have declined in parliament, their concentrations in a large number of parliamentary constituencies have made political parties woo them assiduously. 
The right wing Hindu nationalist groups, particularly the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, calls this "vote bank politics" presuming Muslims to be some sort of a pocket borough for the Congress Party and such socialist groups as the Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal. Bharatiya Janata leaders have consistently accused Congress of pandering to Muslims, describing it as "minority appeasement". In political battles, the party and its associated cadres of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh have used this argument to polarize the people and consolidate a collective Hindu response, alienating Muslims in the recent electoral campaign. The Hindu consolidation was a major factor in the rout of Congress, despite the populist policies and development programs during its 10-year rule. 
The new government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has in a way tried to wave an olive branch, if only to soothe fears among religious minorities from emboldened Hindu fundamentalist groups, who have already started shouting for an extremely nationalistic agenda that includes dismantling personal laws of Muslims, and the construction of a Ram temple at the disputed site of the Babri mosque in the holy city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Modi has tried to reach out to Muslims without alienating his core group of supporters. In his inaugural speech in the Lok Sabha, Modi said, "If one organ of the body remains weak, the body cannot be termed as healthy. We are committed to this. We don't see it as appeasement. We have to do focused activity to change lives of Muslims; they cannot be left behind in development." Modi did not mention the Christian community in his long speech. He has not appointed a Christian minister to his cabinet. His party has not indicated that it even knows about the needs of the community, whose tribal, Dalit and rural poor are among the most deprived segments in Indian society. 
An utter lack of unity among the Christian community and Church leadership is a major reason that the community has not been able to assert its rights within the government. The Congress regime was also guilty of ignoring Christians. Barring a few cronies among the Congress leadership, the community found little representation in government or the development discourse. The Congress turned its face from the long standing demand of Dalit Christians to constitutional rights given to those professing other faiths. Congress governments passed several anti-conversion laws in the states. And although the perpetrators were members of the notorious Sangh Parivar groups, Congress governments did little to check the persecution of Christians and violence against churches and pastors in many parts of the country. 
The Christian leadership is yet to fully understand the long term implications of the Bharatiya Janata Party coming to power. There is little discussion or reflection on the political changes the country has seen. It will have to hone its tools of advocacy to make some space for itself in the national development discourse. Above all, it would perhaps have to participate more fully in grassroots political processes, training its youth in civil rights, and aligning itself with civil society. There is little it can do by itself. 
John Dayal is the general secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government's National Integration Council.
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Does V.D Savarkar's Portrait Deserve To Be Hung And Eulogized In The Parliament?

By Shamsul Islam

30 May, 2014

On May 28, 2014 Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi and his ministers turned up to pay tributes to ‘Veer’ Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. It is astonishing. This ‘Veer’ submitted not one but five (in 1911, 1913, 1914, 1918 & 1920) mercy petitions to the British rulers. The two comprehensive one of 1914 and 1920 are being reproduced so that real character of ‘Veer’ Savarkar is known by all.

Sardar Patel, the first home minister of India, held Savarkar responsible for murder of the Father of Nation. In a letter to Jawaharlal Nehru dated February 27, 1948 he wrote, “It was a fanatical wing of the Hindu Mahasabha directly under Savarkar that hatched the conspiracy (to kill Mahatma) and saw it through”.

It is further to be noted that he openly helped the British war efforts during the World War II at a time when Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was trying to liberate India militarily from the British rule. Savarkar believed that Manu Code should be law of the land. He remained a diehard believer in Casteism, Racism, and imperialism throughout his life. He called it Hindutva.

If a person with such a despicable background is regarded as a hero of the nation then who can stop Mohammed Ali Jinnah from claiming this status?


Petition from V D Savarkar (Convict No. 32778) to the Home Member of the Government of India, dated the 14 th November, 1913 .

I beg to submit the following points for your kind consideration:

(1) When I came here in 1911 June, I was along with the rest of the convicts of my party taken to the office of the Chief Commissioner. There I was classed as "D" meaning dangerous prisoner; the rest of the convicts were not classed as "D". Then I had to pass full 6 months in solitary confinement. The other convicts had not. During that time I was put on the coir pounding though my hands were bleeding. Then I was put on the oil-mill - the hardest labour in the jail. Although my conduct during all the time was exceptionally good still at the end of these six months I was not sent out of the jail; though the other convicts who came with me were. From that time to this day I have tried to keep my behaviour as good as possible.

(2) When I petitioned for promotion I was told I was a special class prisoner and so could not be promoted. When any of us asked for
better food or any special treatment we were told "You are only ordinary convicts and must eat what the rest do". Thus Sir, Your
Honour would see that only for special disadvantages we are classed as special prisoners.

(3) When the majority of the casemen were sent outside I requested for my release. But, although I had been cased (caned?) hardly twice or thrice and some of those who were released, for a dozen and more times, still I was not released with them because I was their casemen. But when after all, the order for my release was given and when just then some of the political prisoners outside were brought into the troubles I was locked in with them because I was their casemen.

(4) If I was in Indian jails I would have by this time earned much remission, could have sent more letters home, got visits. If I was a
transportee pure and simple I would have by this time been released, from this jail and would have been looking forward for ticket-leave, etc. But as it is, I have neither the advantages of the Indian jail nor of this convict colony regulation; though had to undergo the
disadvanatges of both.

(5) Therefore will your honour be pleased to put an end to this anomalous situation in which I have been placed, by either sending me
to Indian jails or by treating me as a transportee just like any other prisoner. I am not asking for any preferential treatment, though I believe as a political prisoner even that could have been expected in any civilized administration in the Independent nations of the world; but only for the concessions and favour that are shown even to the most depraved of convicts and habitual criminals? This
present plan of shutting me up in this jail permanently makes me quite hopeless of any possibility of sustaining life and hope. For
those who are term convicts the thing is different, but Sir, I have 50 years staring me in the face! How can I pull up moral energy
enough to pass them in close confinement when even those concessions which the vilest of convicts can claim to smoothen their life are denied to me? Either please to send me to Indian jail for there I would earn (a) remission; (b) would have a visit from my people come every four months for those who had unfortunately been in jail know what a blessing it is to have a sight of one's nearest and dearest every now and then! (c) and above all a moral - though not a legal - right of being entitled to release in 14 years; (d) also more letters and other little advantages. Or if I cannot be sent to India I should be released and sent outside with a hope, like any other convicts, to visits after 5 years, getting my ticket leave and calling over my family here. If this is granted then only one grievance remains and that is that I should be held responsible only for my own faults and not of others. It is a pity that I have to ask for this - it is such a fundamental right of every human being! For as there are on the one hand, some 20 political prisoners - young, active and restless, and on the other the regulations of a convict colony, by the very nature of them reducing the liberties of thought and expression to lowest minimum possible; it is but inevitable that every now and then some one of them will be found to have contravened a regulation or two and if all be held responsible for that, as now it is actually done - very little chance of being left outside remains for me.

In the end may I remind your honour to be so good as to go through the petition for clemency, that I had sent in 1911, and to sanction
it for being forwarded to the Indian Government? The latest development of the Indian politics and the conciliating policy of the
government have thrown open the constitutional line once more. Now no man having the good of India and Humanity at heart will blindly step on the thorny paths which in the excited and hopeless situation of India in 1906-1907 beguiled us from the path of peace and progress. Therefore if the government in their manifold beneficence and mercy release me, I for one cannot but be the staunchest advocate of constitutional progress and loyalty to the English government which is the foremost condition of that progress. As long as we are in jails there cannot be real happiness and joy in hundreds and thousands of homes of His Majesty's loyal subjects in India, for blood is thicker than water; but if we be released the people will instinctively raise a shout of joy and gratitude to the government, who knows how to forgive and correct, more than how to chastise and avenge. Moreover my conversion to the constitutional line would bring back all those misled young men in India and abroad who were once looking up to me as their guide. I am ready to serve the government in any capacity they like, for as my conversion is conscientious so I hope my future conduct would be. By keeping me in jail nothing can begot in comparison to what would be otherwise. The Mighty alone can afford to be merciful and therefore where else can the prodigal son return but to the parental doors of the government?

Hoping your Honour will kindly take into notion these points.

( Sd. ) V.D. Savarkar,
Convict no. 32778.

[The above ‘Mercy Petition' has been reproduced from RC Majumdar's book PENAL SETTLEMENTS IN ANDAMANS (pp. 211-214) published by the Department of Culture, Government of India in 1975.]



The 30th March 1920 .



In view of the recent statement of the Hon'ble Member for the Home Department to the Government of India, to the effect that "the Government was willing to consider the papers of any individual, and give them their best consideration if they were brought before them"; and that "as soon as it appeared to the Government that an individual could be released without danger to the State, the Government would extend the Royal clemency to that person," the undersigned most humbly begs that he should be given a last chance to submit his case, before it is too late. You, Sir, at any rate, would not grudge me this last favour of forwarding this petition to His Excellency the Viceroy of India, especially and if only to give me the satisfaction of being heard, whatever the Government decisions may be.

I. The Royal proclamation most magnanimously states that Royal clemency should be extended to all those who were found guilty of breaking the law "Through their eagerness for Political progress." The cases of me and my brother are pre-eminently of this type. Neither I nor any of my family members had anything to complain against the Government for any personal wrong due to us nor for any personal favour denied. I had a brilliant career open to me and nothing to gain and everything to loose individually by treading such dangerous paths. Suffice it to say, that no less a personage than one of the Hon'ble Members for the Home Department had said, in 1913, to me personally, "... ... Such education so much reading,... ... .. you could have held the highest posts under our Government." If in spite of this testimony any doubts as to my motive does lurk in any one, then to him I beg to point out, that there had been no prosecution against any member of my family till this year 1909; while almost all of my activity which constituted the basis for the case, have been in the years preceding that. The prosecution, the Judges and the Rowlatt Report have all admitted that since the year 1899 to the year 1909 had been written the life of Mazzini and other books, as well organised the various societies and even the parcel of arms had been sent before the arrest of any of my brothers or before I had any personal grievance to complain of ( vide Rowlatt Report, pages 6 etc.). But does anyone else take the same view of our cases? Well, the monster petition that the Indian public had sent to His Majesty and that had been signed by no less than 5,000 signatures, had made a special mention of me in it. I had been denied a jury in the trial: now the jury of a whole nation has opined that only the eagerness for political progress had been the motive of all my actions and that led me to the regrettable breaking of the laws.

II. Nor can this second case of abetting murder throw me beyond the reach of the Royal clemency. For ( a ) the Proclamation does not make any distinction of the nature of the offence or of a section or of the Court of Justice, beyond the motive of the offence. It concerns entirely with the Motive and requires that it should be political and not personal. ( b ) Secondly, the Government too has already interpreted it in the same spirit and has released Barin and Hesu and others. These men had confessed that one of the objects of their conspiracy was "the murders of prominent Government officials" and on their own confessions, had been guilty of sending the boys to murder magistrates, etc. This magistrate had among others prosecuted Barin's brother Arabinda in the first "Bande Mataram" newspaper case. And yet Barin was not looked upon, and rightly so, as a non-political murderer. In my respect the objection is immensely weaker. For it was justly admitted by the prosecution that I was in England, had no knowledge of the particular plot or idea of murdering Mr. Jackson and had sent the parcels of arms before the arrest of my brother and so could not have the slightest personal grudge against any particular individual officer. But Hem had actually prepared the very bomb that killed the Kennedys and with a full knowledge of its destination. (Rowlatt Report, page 33). Yet Hem had not been thrown out of the scope of the clemency on that ground. If Barin and others were not separately charged for specific abetting, it was only because they had already been sentenced to capital punishment in the Conspiracy case; and I was specifically charged because I was not, and again for the international facilities to have me extradited in case France got me back. Therefore I humbly submit that the Government be pleased to extend the clemency to me as they had done it to Barin and Hem whose complicity in abetting the murders of officers, etc., was confessed and much deeper. For surely a section does not matter more than the crime it contemplates. In the case of my brother this question does not arise as his case has nothing to do with any murders, etc.

III. Thus interpreting the proclamation as the Government had already done in the cases of Barin, Hem, etc. I and my brother are fully entitled to the Royal clemency "in the fullest measure." But is it compatible with public safety? I submit it is entirely so. For ( a ) I most emphatically declare that we are not amongst "the microlestes of anarchism" referred to by the Home Secretary. So far from believing in the militant school of the type that I do not contribute even to the peaceful and philosophical anarchism of a Kuropatkin or a Tolstoy. And as to my revolutionary tendencies in the past:- it is not only now for the object of sharing the clemency but years before this have I informed of and written to the Government in my petitions (1918, 1914) about my firm intention to abide by the constitution and stand by it as soon as a beginning was made to frame it by Mr. Montagu. Since that the Reforms and then the Proclamation have only confirmed me in my views and recently I have publicly avowed my faith in and readiness to stand by the side of orderly and constitutional development. The danger that is threatening our country from the north at the hands of the fanatic hordes of Asia who had been the curse of India in the past when they came as foes, and who are more likely to be so in the future now that they want to come as friends, makes me convinced that every intelligent lover of India would heartily and loyally co-operate with the British people in the interests of India herself. That is why I offered myself as a volunteer in 1914 to Government when the war broke out and a German-Turko-Afghan invasion of India became imminent. Whether you believe it or not, I am sincere in expressing my earnest intention of treading the constitutional path and trying my humble best to render the hands of the British dominion a bond of love and respect and of mutual help. Such an Empire as is foreshadowed in the Proclamation, wins my hearty adherence. For verily I hate no race or creed or people simply because they are not Indians!

( b ) But if the Government wants a further security from me then I and my brother are perfectly willing to give a pledge of not participating in politics for a definite and reasonable period that the Government would indicate. For even without such a pledge my failing health and the sweet blessings of home that have been denied to me by myself make me so desirous of leading a quiet and retired life for years to come that nothing would induce me to dabble in active politics now.

( c ) This or any pledge, e.g. , of remaining in a particular province or reporting our movements to the police for a definite period after our release - any such reasonable conditions meant genuinely to ensure the safety of the State would be gladly accepted by me and my brother. Ultimately, I submit, that the overwhelming majority of the very people who constitute the State which is to be kept safe from us have from Mr. Surendranath, the venerable and veteran moderate leader, to the man in the street, the press and the platform, the Hindus and the Muhammadans - from the Punjab to Madras - been clearly persistently asking for our immediate and complete release, declaring it was compatible with their safety. Nay more, declaring it was a factor in removing the very `sense of bitterness' which the Proclamation aims to allay.

IV. Therefore the very object of the Proclamation would not be fulfilled and the sense of bitterness removed, I warn the public mind, until we two and those who yet remain have been made to share the magnanimous clemency.

V. Moreover, all the objects of a sentence have been satisfied in our case. For ( a ) we have put in 10 to 11 years in jail, while Mr. Sanyal, who too was a lifer, was released in 4 years and the riot case lifers within a year; ( b ) we have done hard work, mills, oil mills and everything else that was given to us in India and here; ( c ) our prison behaviour is in no way more objectionable than of those already released; they had, even in Port Blair, been suspected of a serious plot and locked up in jail again. We two, on the contrary, have to this day been under extra rigorous discipline and restrain and yet during the last six years or so there is not a single case even on ordinary disciplinary grounds against us.

VI. In the end, I beg to express my gratefulness for the release of hundreds of political prisoners including those who have been released from the Andamans, and for thus partially granting my petitions of 1914 and 1918. It is not therefore too much to hope that His Excellency would release the remaining prisoners too, as they are placed on the same footing, including me and my brother. Especially so as the political situation in Maharastra has singularly been free from any outrageous disturbances for so many years in the past. Here, however, I beg to submit that our release should not be made conditional on the behaviour of those released or of anybody else; for it would be preposterous to deny us the clemency and punish us for the fault of someone else.

VII. On all these grounds, I believe that the Government, hearing my readiness to enter into any sensible pledge and the fact that the Reforms, present and promised, joined to common danger from the north of Turko-Afghan fanatics have made me a sincere advocate of loyal co-operation in the interests of both our nations, would release me and win my personal gratitude. The brilliant prospects of my early life all but too soon blighted, have constituted so painful a source of regret to me that a release would be a new birth and would touch my heart, sensitive and submissive, to kindness so deeply as to render me personally attached and politically useful in future. For often magnanimity wins even where might fails.

Hoping that the Chief Commissioner, remembering the personal regard I ever had shown to him throughout his term and how often I had to face keen disappointment throughout that time, will not grudge me this last favour of allowing this most harmless vent to my despair and will be pleased to forward this petition - may I hope with his own recommendations? - to His Excellency the Viceroy of India .

I beg to remain,


Your most obedient servant,

( Sd. ) V.D. Savarkar,
Convict no. 32778.
[Available in the National Archives of India ]

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Narendra Modi must take steps to protect India's religious minorities from attack

Religious minorities in India have not forgotten the waves of communal violence that killed thousands in the previous decade, and neither have human rights organisations.

As India gets used to a new party and a new leader at the helm, there are concerns that religious minorities will find themselves the losers of the sea change.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) claimed a historic victory in the general election earlier this month, taking over half the seats in the Lok Sabha, the Indian parliament's lower house.

But Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) says the party has close ties to the Hindu nationalist group Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which views the Christian and Muslim minorities as threats to national integrity.

The RSS gave Narendra Modi its strong backing in the run-up to the election and Release International notes with equal concern that many of the Hindu extremists who have carried out repeated attacks on India's Christian minority belong to the far-right group.

Modi is the former chief minister of Gujarat State, where around 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were killed in communal violence in 2002. Modi was head of the state during this time and has never managed to shake off accusations of complicity, including that he ordered police not to intervene in the attacks.

In 2008, Hindu nationalists killed more than 120 Christians and forced some 50,000 people from their homes in Odisha state.

Modi's rise to power coincides with an increasingly hostile climate for Christians in some parts of India, with seven states now having anti-conversion laws in place. Release warns the laws have curtailed church activities and that even in states that do not have them, pastors have been accused of "forcible conversion".

The president of the National Congress of Indian Christians, CA Daniel, predicts this trend will only grow with the BJP leading the country.

He told International Christian Concern after the BJP's election win that Christians were "not safe" under the party.

"There will be stringent rules and legislation restricting Christians and the exercise of the freedom of faith," he said.

The dust is settling after the BJP's landslide victory, but the concerns remain. The All India Christian Council has said that the rhetoric so far has "provided little reassurance that security and freedom for Christians and other minorities would be high on the list of priorities for the new administration".

And CSW is calling upon the incoming government to adopt measures that will promote freedom of religion and belief.

It is asking the BJP to make good on its election manifesto promise to preserve the culture of minorities, protect their sites, and "facilitate the setting up of a permanent inter-faith consultative mechanism to promote harmony and trust, under the auspices of religious leaders".

CSW's Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, "We urge the incoming Indian administration to actively promote and defend the right to freedom of religion or belief for India's diverse communities.

"We continue to advocate for the implementation of the recommendations made in the 2008 of the former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, including the need for the authorities to take quick and effective measures to protect members of religious minorities from any attacks and to step up efforts to prevent communal violence.

"Efforts to work towards the introduction of a comprehensive framework to deal adequately with the consequences of communal and targeted violence should continue. We also continue to call for the establishment of an effective framework for the protection of human rights defenders across the country."

Click here for source

Monday, July 08, 2013

Religious fervor's part in India's next election

While much of the Kedarnath temple in Uttarakhand state is under mud deposited by the recent devastating floods, a new wave of “temple politics” has well and truly begun in the country.
 The self-styled “Iron man” of India and prime ministerial hopeful, Narendra Modi, was the first to step forward, saying the Gujarat government would repair or rebuild the temple, a revered site among India’s one billion Hindus.
 Uttarakhand chief minister Vijay Bahuguna immediately rejected Modi's offer, and also refused offers of help by other Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, saying that the Uttarakhand government, although impoverished, was fully capable of restoring the temple to its former glory.
 The temple attracts over a million pilgrims and tourists between May and June, before the July monsoons - which came a fortnight earlier this year - make the mountain journey too treacherous.
 Bahuguna’s fear that a rival political party will take credit for restoring the temple is well founded. Religion, of which temples of all sorts are the core, has been a major driving force in sub-continental politics well before independence.
 The freedom struggle and Mahatma Gandhi’s presence could not dilute the religious undertones in the body politic, first manifesting in the division of Bengal long before freedom came.
 Independence from Britain was itself preceded by the partition of the subcontinent into a truncated Hindu-majority, yet secular, India and a new Muslim Pakistan amidst mass displacement and bloodshed between the two religious groups in which more than a million people may have been killed.
 It was not surprising therefore that one of the major cultural acts of independent India’s first government on Nov 12, 1947 was to order the reconstruction of the Somnath temple in Gujarat, which had been repeatedly razed by Muslim invaders. The last time was by Mahmud Ghazni in the 11th century, but it became a symbol of foreign domination of Indian soil and its ethos.
 Sardar Patel, a close associate of Gandhi who consolidated the new Indian state by incorporating more than 500 former principalities – sometimes through military action – led the project.
 Somnath has since become the venue for the launch of many a political movement, including the Bharatiya Janata Party.
 The sole voice of dissent for Somnath’s reconstruction came from the then prime minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru, who correctly saw it as an attempt at Hindu revivalism.
 India is not a theocracy, thanks mostly to men like Nehru, but this “principle” of reversing “historic wrongs” has been a recurring political theme for Hindu groups such as the BJP wanting to make India a Hindu nation.
 Once in a while, the Congress Party also finds its leadership susceptible to what can be called temple politics.
 The BJP, however, remains the main practitioner of this political art of rousing religious tempers through temples.
 Its patriarch, former deputy prime minister Lal Krishna Advani, launched the BJP revival in the late 1980’s by demanding the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya replacing a Muslim mosque that was seen as a hated symbol of Moghul rule, and was allegedly built on the ruins of the birthplace of Lord Rama.
 Advani’s demands eventually led to Hindu zealots demolishing the mosque, resulting in a bloodbath in Mumbai and elsewhere. The party has since then kept the political fires burning by focusing on mosques in Varanasi, Mathura and several other Hindu holy places.
 The BJP is not the only party pandering to religious sentiments. In the Punjab and the Delhi-Haryana region, the Akali Dal is a Sikhism-centric political party.
 Muslims too have their religious political fronts in states such as Assam, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala.
 In Kerala state, Muslim political parties are part of the ruling alliance. The Neo-Buddhists have also formed political parties, especially in Maharashtra, but they do not have the same religious fervor as the others.
 Christians do not have a political party as such, but at least one party, again in Kerala, is understood to be reflecting the aspirations of Syrian Christians in the region.
 These parties have no real ideology other than exploiting the faith of their respective communities.
 Barring a vague belief in capitalist economics and an assertive regional chauvinism, they are still far away from envisioning a socio-political uplift of the people.
 They, by definition, have no concern for people other than their own co-religionists. For want of a genuine political, social and economic agenda, they pander to the lowest common denominator, fueling religion as the main source of identity, overcoming classical stratifications of caste and class, in their own pursuit of political power.
 Ironically, India’s election code specifically bans the use of religion in elections. This law is routinely broken. Almost no one complains, because almost everyone banks on religion to win an election.
 John Dayal is the general-secretary of the All India Christian Council and a member of the Indian government’s National Integration Council.
Source - UCAN

Monday, October 13, 2008

GCIC updates

Radicals clean up burnt houses and churches to destroy the proof of attacks on Christians in Orissa.

Monday, 13 October 2008

ORISSA: GCIC sources found out that, another saddest act of Sangh parivar activists have come to notice that in Kandhamal, in the absence of the Christians when they are either in the forests, relief camps or out of Kandhamal now, these radicals have started cleaning up the Christian's burnt, destroyed and broken houses and Churches completely and even digging out the foundations of the same from the ground, filling the pits again and making it a plain surface probably with the following bad intentions.
It is also reported that they have even wiped out, removed the demarcation lines of the Christian farmers cultivated lands and distributed among themselves by now and they are actively still on that job even by forcibly collecting the harvests for which they had not sowed ever.

The intention behind this was;
To acquire those landed properties of Christians by fraudulent means.
ii) To show that there was neither any Church nor any Christian houses before which were attacked and burnt.
iii) To minimise, reduce density of their damages and nature of attack which are coming to the National and International knowledge.
iv) To destroy the proofs of their attacks which monuments certainly do testify now of their brutality, hatred only against the innocent Christians which establishes their motives of attack.
v) To grab the properties of Christians, and I am also worried and afraid that tomorrow they may construct Hindu temples on the lands where Churches or Christian houses were there which have been their regular practice throughout the Country and can not be ruled out.

Decomposed dead body recovered and two suicide deaths reported at Kandhmal, Orissa

Sunday October 12, 2008

ORISSA: A decomposed dead body was recovered by the Police at Simanbadi village under Daringbadi PS, in a well inside the PH Department Rest House on October 12.
The dead body was of a tribal namely Birupakhya Majhi. He was a daily labourer and staying in a village called Patangi under Birikuti Panchayat.

Two other suicide deaths are also reported from our GCIC sources in Kandhamal Yesterday. Both of them are women whose names are; Mrs. Rajni Digal (30) of Jarigipada village under Pabingia Panchayat and Phiringia PS/Block and Miss Manasi Mallik (16) of Khajuripada, Phulbani.
The CM of Orissa has gone to New Delhi for two days to attend the National Integration Council Meeting called by the PM of India to deliberate on security for minorities and communal amity. Few electronic Medias have taken bytes as GCIC's comment on this issue.

Protest rally verses peace rally in Kandhamal, Orissa

Monday, 13 October 2008

PHULBANI: Main opposition Congress on Sunday organised a peace rally in this district headquarters town of Kandhamal district and appealed to people belonging to all sections of society to restore peace in the region.
According to the News paper The Hindu, more than 2,000 party workers from different parts of Kandhamal and adjoining areas participated in the peace rally, which started from near the Mahatma Gandhi statue.
Holding placards with messages of non-violence and peace written on them, the men and women went round the town seeking restoration of communal harmony.

Pradesh Congress Committee president Jayadev Jena led the peace march. A number of senior leaders of the party including former Railway Minister K. C. Lenka, former Minister Jagannath Patnaik, and former Union Ministers Srikanta Jena and Bhakta Charan Das also participated.

Many leaders and workers of the party’s women and youth wings also participated in the peace march.

Meanwhile, former Minister and leader of Samruddha Odisha Panchanan Kanungo blamed the State government for not taking action against those converting Christians into Hinduism in the aftermath of the killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati.

Mr. Kanungo, who participated in peace rallies organised by different opposition parties in Phulbani during the past two days, also demanded those who had put up flags on damaged churches should also be brought to book, he added.

In a statement, SUCI leader Sambhunath Naik said the situation in Kandhamal was yet to become normal as sporadic incidents of violence were continuing in the interior areas.

Pointing out that situation was not likely to improve in the near future, Mr. Naik suggested that peace committees should be formed at village-level and later similar committees could be constituted in block and district level.In another development, activists of Swami
Lakshmanananda Saraswati Shradhanjali Samiti staged a demonstration in Bhubaneswar demanding immediate action against those who allegedly hatched a conspiracy to eliminate the Swami.

On the same day, thousands of Hindu tribal women consisting a large number lodged a strong protest against indiscriminate arrests (which they call) by the Police at places called Sarangagada, Gochhapada, and Lubasingh of Phiringia block of Kandhamal demanding immediate release of their men who are Sangh Parivar activists. They blocked the Police station of Sarangagada. These tribal women conducted this rally against the State Government and District Administration. The protest rallies organized everyday by the Sangh
Parivar through their tribal lady wings is obviously spreading hatred and tension by delaying the process of Peace restoration works which are becoming futile for 268 times in the District.

Their men attacked the Christians and accordingly victims lodged FIR against them and when Police started arresting them after pressure from all corners, these women instigated by the Sangh Parivar Supremos and masterminds started to hinder in all the active, constructive works of the State Government and the District. Administration are creating tension and division in the society to damage the peace process, security system (they strongly demand withdrawal of CRPF through their tribal leader Lambodhar Kanhar and during these protest rallies).
It has been observed that anytime any attempt is made for uniting people from all sections of the society in Kandhamal through Peace process, Sangh Parivar spoils, shatters the same which is really a matter of concern now when everybody are craving for Peace and social harmony.

Please contact GCIC for details. www.

Devil's advocate Interview of Naveen Patnaik by Karan Thapar

Please click here to go to the IBN site to view the video and for the transcript

Has the Orissa government failed to protect the Christian community? Karan Thapar asked this to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Karan Thapar: Nearly 50 days have passed since the killing of Swami Laxmananda Saraswati and yet Christians remain in fear for their lives. There are still reports of people being killed and houses being destroyed. Are you unable or unwilling to restore order?

Naveen Patnaik: As a matter of fact for the last eight or nine days there have been no violent incidents in Kandhamal district at all.

Karan Thapar: But they have moved to the next Boudh district. On Wednesday, 10 houses were destroyed and on October 3 a hundred houses were burnt down.

Naveen Patnaik: Well, it wasn’t as many numbers as that. Let me explain to you that in the forested area next to Kandhamal—this has just happened virtually on the border of the Kandhamal district (and) into the district of Boudh.

Kandhamal district is a hilly area, a heavily forested area and difficult to police at normal times because the villages are small, remote and far from each other.

There has also been a very long-standing problem between tribals of the area and scheduled castes and other persons.

Karan Thapar: Your critics say that you are using sociology as an excuse. No matter what the ethnic divisions maybe, the killing of Christians—some would call it a massacre—is simply not justified. You have not stopped it.

Naveen Patnaik: I can only tell you that it is most unfortunate that this communal violence has taken place. Of course, it has to condemned by all of us.

Karan Thapar: Can you say you have done everything you could to control the violence or will you concede that mistakes have been made and perhaps at times you have not been as tough as you should have been?

Naveen Patnaik: The communal violence began after the night of August 23 when the Swamiji was killed. Before that there has been a long-standing ethnic divide between two castes in that district.

Karan Thapar: Absolutely. Let’s take the events as they happened after the night of August 23.

Within 24 hours you permitted (Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader) Praveen Togadia to take a funeral procession of the Swamiji’s body through almost 150 km of your state, knowing that this would inflame passions and provoke. This is exactly what it did. Can you concede that was a mistake?

Naveen Patnaik: Firstly, Togadia was in no procession at all. The Swamiji and he are both members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. He (Togadia) went just to attend the funeral and as far as the procession is concerned, action has been taken at the district level. The Superintendent of Police has been suspended.

Karan Thapar: But the point is that procession was almost a replica of what happened in Gujarat in 2002. You knew that from experience that it would inflame passions and lead to violence. Why was that procession not stopped? Why was it permitted in the first place?

Naveen Patnaik: I repeat again that the Swamiji was killed on the night of August 23. The procession began—it was a very, very volatile situation. You do understand that we had asked the Centre for many more forces, which didn’t come till five days later.

But whatever mistakes were made as far as the procession is concerned, it could have turned much more violent and action was taken against certain people concerned.

Karan Thapar: Your Deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha speaking on the Network18 programme ‘War of Words’ said perhaps permitting that procession was a misjudgement. Would you concede as much?

Naveen Patnaik: Action has been taken against certain people for that procession to have taken place and let me tell you that as far as the violence is concerned more than a thousand people have been arrested—whether they are individuals, belonging to groups or even to fundamentalist organisations.

Karan Thapar: Many of those arrests have actually happened in the last week and not earlier.

Naveen Patnaik: I am sorry but you are wrong there. Arrests have been taking place from the very beginning of the violence.

Karan Thapar: You are also the Home Minister of the state, which means that you are doubly responsible for the police. How do you account for the fact that perhaps for the first three-four days police stood by, permitting the VHP to attack Christians.

Even when an Orissa bandh (shutdown) was declared, you may not have had sufficient force from outside the state but you didn’t even redeploy the force you had within Orissa.

Naveen Patnaik: The forces were redeployed as quickly as they could be. You must remember it was an all-state bandh for that particular bandh on August 25, but we did deploy the forces. As much (forces) as we could keep in Kandhamal district we did.

Karan Thapar: Did you move forces to Kandhamal?

Naveen Patnaik: Of course we did—very much so. As far as the state government is concerned we did move forces. If we had adequate forces why do you think we were requesting the Central Government, asking them to send forces. Which they did after five days.

Karan Thapar: Let me give you an example of what people consider the incompetence of the Orissa Police force. ‘The Hindu’ reports that handwritten eyewitness accounts of the killings naming the alleged killers were sent by registered post to Balguda police station and the envelopes were returned with the following messages written on them: ‘addressee refused, have returned back’.

What sort of police force hands back such evidence and such material?

Naveen Patnaik: Let me tell you as far as the violence is concerned, the Crime Branch of the Orissa Police is investigating all those matters and we have also called for a judicial enquiry. All those who are found guilty stringent action will be taken against them.

Karan Thapar: The point is that Sabyasachi Panda, head of the local Naxalite force, who has admitted that he was responsible for the killing of Swami Laxmananda, has also revealed that the People’s Liberation Army left behind two letters at the Swamiji’s ashram accepting responsibility and that your government suppressed the letters.

Those letters could have defused the situation. Why did you suppress them?

Naveen Patnaik: That is absolutely incorrect. Why should the police suppress the letters? There is a police investigation and there is a judicial enquiry. Three persons have been arrested for the killing of the Swamiji. The Crime Branch is investigating the matter; let them get to their finding. I am sure they will get to the truth.

Karan Thapar: You are laying a lot of stress on the process the police is going through. Let me then ask you a simple question about the nun who was raped in Nuagoan (village in Kandhamal). How do you account for the fact that for one month your police took no action? For 38 days they were incapable of collecting the medical report.

It seems to the world outside that your state acted when ‘The Hindu’ had broken the story.

Naveen Patnaik: As far as the crime against the nun is concerned, it is a shameful and barbaric crime. The moment we came to know about this the officer-in-charge (of the local police station) was suspended. Persons have been arrested for that crime.

Karan Thapar: You say the moment you came to know about it, but forgive me Chief Minister that is not true. The Superior General of the Missionaries wrote you a letter within 24 hours pointing out what had happened. The Archbishop of Cuttack says he personally met you and told you. (CPI-M leader) Brinda Karat has gone on record to say that she told you. You yourself, therefore, knew almost one or two days after the rape itself.

Naveen Patnaik: Let me clarify that the Archbishop has not spoken to me after the events began in Kandhamal after August 23.

Karan Thapar: What about Sister Nirmala (Superior General of the Missionaries of Charity), Brinda Karat?

Naveen Patnaik: Sister Nirmala’s letter is much later, and after that appropriate steps have been taken. Brinda Karat spoke to me about victims of the riots.

Karan Thapar: Are you saying to me that the claim made by these people in the Press is incorrect?

Naveen Patnaik: Let me be quite clear: the Archbishop has not met me at all. Brinda Karat did meet me and she told me of the problems of the victims in the violence-hit area.

Karan Thapar: But not about the raped nun?

Naveen Patnaik: Not about the raped nun. She spoke about the problems of the people there. I immediately, within half an hour, sent the local Collector to see to their problems.

Sister Nirmala’s letter came much later. In fact Sister Nirmala met me and she said she had faith in the government and in the steps she had taken. I have a letter from her but it came much later (after the rape).

Karan Thapar: Let me put to you what the church seems to have concluded about you. Two weeks ago, on this programme, the Archbishop of Delhi had this to say about you: Naveen Patnaik has not done even the minimum that is required to protect citizens.

In other words he is accusing you of almost dereliction of duty.

Naveen Patnaik: This is the first time I am hearing what you are saying about the Archbishop of Delhi. Let me make my point of view clear. From the very start of these horrible and shameful incidents of communal violence my government has taken whatever steps it possibly could to bring normalcy and peace back to that disturbed district. For the last week or more there has been normalcy and it has been brought under control.

Karan Thapar: You say you have taken every step to restore normalcy. In fact the truth is that reconversions to Hinduism, a flagrant violation of your own state laws, are openly happening in Orissa today and your government is doing nothing to stop them. Why?

Naveen Patnaik: We are against anything which is illegal.

Karan Thapar: But why are they not being stopped?

Naveen Patnaik: Registers are going to the victims—to sign whatever complains they may have.

Karan Thapar: Chief Minister, you are taking a very technical responsibility to a situation which requires urgent action. You are talking of registers—the newspapers are widely aware of the reconversions. You seem to be unaware of them.

Naveen Patnaik: Obviously, we have heard of that and we will do everything legal to stop all of this.

Karan Thapar: How quickly will you act?

Naveen Patnaik: We have taken steps. You do understand that there is lot of force in Kandhamal district to maintain law and order.

Karan Thapar: Do you know what they say in Delhi? They say Naveen Patnaik is taking sides, he seems to be siding with Bajrang Dal and VHP against the Christians which is why he is talking in technical terms. They say he talks of excuses and delays, he talks of conditions of roads which don't let him send the police force to Kandhamal, but he doesn't act.

Naveen Patnaik: When you say that, it’s completely incorrect because among the thousand people, roughly a thousand people who have been arrested, many of them belong to the organisations that you have just named.

Karan Thapar: You mean the Bajrang Dal and the VHP?

Naveen Patnaik: Yes.

Karan Thapar: The law of the land and Constitution continued to be violated in Orissa. If that violation continues in Orissa, and if you are not capable of stopping it, why shouldn't your government be dismissed?

Naveen Patnaik: We are making every effort to stop it. I don't want to make comparisons but there have been violent incidents and communal incidents in other parts of India. I don't see why the government of Orissa should be targeted.

Karan Thapar: Let me put it like this. You face perhaps the most serious challenge of the eight years and seven months you have been Chief Minister. Are you honestly up to it?

Naveen Patnaik: Let me tell you another thing. In the eight years and seven months you have mentioned, there have been two communal incidents in my state. One at the end of the last year in Kandhamal district and again to be repeated in Kandhamal now.

I told you earlier there are ethnic problems which took a communal turn after the killing of the Swami.

Karan Thapar: Before Kandhamal you were considered a modern, urbane and secular Chief Minister. After Kandhamal you are either considered incompetent or a puppet in the hands of the Bajrang Dal.

Naveen Patnaik: I would consider those points of view inaccurate. I have told you how the Government has tried to handle the situation, both strongly and with a great deal of sympathy and humanity as far as the victims are concerned.

Karan Thapar: You say you acted with sympathy. The Archbishop of Cuttack says the statement you issued after visiting Khandamal didn’t even mention a word about the Christians killed, the thousands of homes that have been destroyed and tens of thousands of people who have been rendered homeless and are living in refugee camps.

You didn’t have a word to say about them, he says.

Naveen Patnaik: Let me clarify that I went to Kandhamal for a very short while after these incidents began. I visited burnt homes, damaged churches and I went to refugee camps.

Karan Thapar: But why was there sympathy for them?

Naveen Patnaik: Of course there is sympathy for them, and I have made that clear from the very first day. Since August 23 I have been appealing for peace among the people. I have been as humane as one ought to be.

Karan Thapar: You know what the Christian community say about you. They say if there was one leader in the NDA who they thought would protect Christians it was Naveen Patnaik. They thought you have Western education and a broad Catholic outlook.

But in letting down the Christians you have actually betrayed your own values.

Naveen Patnaik: I feel I have not let down anyone in my state, whichever community they belong to. Every bone in my body is secular and I don’t think any of those bones have been damaged.

Karan Thapar: Your critics say you are scared of taking action against the Bajrang Dal and the VHP because he needs the Sangh Parivar’s support in the elections.

He has probably done a Faustian pact; he is deliberately turning a blind eye to what they are doing because he needs their support in the elections.

Naveen Patnaik: The BJD and the BJP have had an alliance for more than 10 years. In that period there have been a number of elections and we have remained the majority party by far.

Karan Thapar: But you do not have majority on your own.

Naveen Patnaik: You do understand the mathematics of seat sharing, but we are sanguine with our victories in any election.

Karan Thapar: Many people today are comparing you to Narendra Modi. Many people today are comparing Kandhamal to the Gujarat massacre of 2002, can you accept that?

Naveen Patnaik: I think that comparison cannot be made rationally by anyone.

Karan Thapar: Have you let yourself down? The world knows you as the modern, secular people. Today, as the Chief Minister, you are emerging as someone who is conniving with the Bajrang Dal to let the killings of Christians continue.

Have you let yourself down?

Naveen Patnaik: I have to repeat to you again that people, after these violent incidents, from that organisation have been arrested. My government is trying to bring peace and tranquillity back to the troubled area and will continue to work towards that. What some people may believe I cannot help that. My job is to see that peace, security and progress remain in the state.

Karan Thapar: Chief Minister, a pleasure talking to you.

Naveen Patnaik: Thank you.