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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 42, New Delhi, October 3, 2020

Letter to the Readers – Mainstream, Oct 3

Friday 2 October 2020


October 2 was the 151st birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi stood for truth but the leaders who are steering his country today stand for lies, all day every day.

A court has just whitewashed the crimes of leading figures behind the demolition of the 15th-century mosque in Ayodhya. The Special CBI Court in Lucknow pronounced its judgement in the —28-Year-old — Babri Masjid Demolition Case acquitting all the 32 prime accused, including the top BJP leaders L K Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati, Kalyan Singh and members of Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Shiv Sena and other organisations of the Sangh Parivar, Vinay Kaityar, Sadhvi Rithambhara, Champat Rai, Nritya Gopal Das, Satish Pradhan, Acharya Dharmendra Das among others. “They have been acquitted for lack of evidence,” defence lawyer KK Mishra told the press after the ruling. This acquittal is a ’black day’ for the Indian judiciary. The Court ruling says there was no pre-meditation, the demolition men were anti-social elements and not ‘ram bhakts’, (which means that the prime accused mentioned earlier were not part of the demolition squad).

The ruling sends a very clear message that if you are associated with a mob which is part of the ideological project of Hindutva you will not be punished for your crimes. It is shameful that after 28 years of investigation the court has not found anyone responsible for a crime on which reams have been written, there are videos, there are news reports, photos. All the evidence presented has been deemed insufficient by the court and the men who organised the Rath Yatra campaign and mobilised for the Ram temple frenzy and gave incendiary speeches have all been let off. There is something very seriously wrong with the investigating and prosecuting agencies.

The Liberhan Commission of Inquiry, which spent 17 years investigating the demolition, had very clearly rejected the claim of a spontaneous riot on December 6 1992. Last year, the five-judge Supreme Court bench adjudicating the Mandir-Masjid title dispute dubbed the Babri Masjid destruction a “serious violation of the rule of law”. In an interview to the Indian Express on September 30, 2020, Justice Manmohan Singh Liberhan categorically stated: “I found it was a civil conspiracy. I still believe in it. From all the evidence produced before me, it was clear that the Babri Masjid demolition was meticulously planned … I remember Uma Bharati categorically took responsibility for it. It was not an unseen force that demolished the mosque, human beings did it.” The Liberhan Commission, set up in 1992 to probe the Babri Masjid demolition, had, in its report submitted in 2009, pointed to the involvement of senior RSS and BJP leaders, including LK Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Uma Bharati and connivance of the then UP government. They “either actively or passively supported the demolition”, it said. Justice Liberhan asserted: “My findings were correct, right, honest and free from fear or any other bias. For posterity, it is a report that will provide an honest account of what took place and how. It will be part of history.”

The Babri Masjid Demolition case verdict delivered by the CBI court in Lucknow on September 30th said: "If the accused have merely given an inciting speech only on that basis the person cannot be pronounced guilty." [However, the student activist Umar Khalid or Dr Kafeel Khan from Gorakhpur were arrested for ’merely’ giving a speech, which the government considered inciteful]. The court seems to advance the same theory peddled by the RSS that it was a spontaneous act and their was no conspiracy. Contrary to what the Liberhan Commission had found. So no one has been punished in the CBI special courts verdict. Acharya Dharmendra Das one of the 32 acquitted persons in the Babri Masjid Demolition case said after the ruling was delivered: “Kashi & Mathura still awaiting". This is a clear indication that the ruling is a further encouragement to the Hindutva right to proceed to target and possibly destroy other locations having finished their job at Ayodhya. The truth lies in tatters. Men of the Mob have won. They stand emboldened today to further damage the foundations of this secular republic.

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The world-renowned human rights organisation Amnesty International has halted its India operations due to continuing harassment and ’reprisal’ from the Government of India. There has been sustained assault on Amnesty — in 2016 a Sedition case was filed by the ABVP – the student wing of the Hindu-Right. In 2018 the Enforcement Directorate raided the organisation and its bank accounts were frozen. In the same year there was a Ministry of Home Affairs Inspection and notices were issued by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. There was a raid by the CBI in 2019. It is a matter to deep concern that an organisation working on civil liberties and human rights should have to stop its activities of monitoring human rights violations in India due to such pressure. Many other prominent civil society organisations in India are facing harassment by the government. The new FCRA bill has further tightened the screws on the NGOs.

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Welcome to Uttar Pradesh . . . the big macho nationalist police state in India run by a Saffron robed Hindutva hardliner. By all accounts, the Police here have crossed many red lines and is becoming law on to itself, no longer answerable to citizens. There are a hundred stories from encounter killings to the repeated use of national security legislation to lock up government critics. A BJP MLA from Unnao or a former Union minister from the BJP were hauled up for sexual assault only after much hue and cry from outside the State of UP. Now the latest is an incident in Hathras of sexual violence against a Dalit girl, who has died. Police did not file the gang rape FIR for almost ten days, probably because the perpetrators are upper-caste men. The incident happened in Mid September … the girl was finally admitted to the Safdarjung hospital in Delhi for treatment. The girl succumbed to her injuries. On September 30, 2020, the UP Police took the dead body of the 19-year-old young woman from Safdarjang Hospital in Delhi and bring it down to her village in Hathras at 1 am and then they burnt the body using petrol in the dead of the night at 2.30 am, the immediate family was not allowed to be present and were locked up in their home. 200 policemen were present in the village in the night. The hurried, secretive, cover-up like cremation by the Police, ignored the legitimate rights of the family over the body; and her right to the last rites due to her. Under what law did they do this? Since when do police do cremations as part of their duties in presence of District Magistrates?. The District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police ought to be charged under the SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 Act, but that is a long shot.

An authoritarian administration rules the place and they have now barricaded the village and are preventing the opposition parties from visiting the village that has been turned out of bounds. Section 144 has been imposed in Hathras, and it has been declared a corona containment zone. A Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Azad was being held in his home by the police to prevent him from visiting the village in Hathras. On October 1, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi along with scores of Congress party workers were stopped on the highway while they were headed to meet the rape victims family. They were arrested and held in Noida. Today the same happened with three TMC MPs who were not allowed into the village. The Police Chief has highlighted the forensic lab report saying the cause of death wasn’t rape; But the declaration made by the girl that she was gang-raped is of vital importance. They wield massive power and can influence the family. There are videos in possession of the media showing the District magistrate saying to the father of the girl that he can change his statement to the police. The Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High court has taken suo-moto notice and summoned the top officers of the police and administration to explain why the body was cremated in the dead of the night, the hearing is on October 12. Who knows what will happen? Maybe the girls family will be forced to say things in court that will let the administration off the hook.

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There is no end in sight to the uncontrolled rise of the Coronavirus pandemic across India. The official count is close to 6.4 million cases of infection with nearly 100,000 dead.

The Indian Council of Medical Research said on September 29 that close to 63 million people in India may have contracted Covid-19 — about 10 times higher than the official reported figures reported so far.

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André Vltchek the Soviet-born, American political analyst, journalist, and a filmmaker passed away on September 22 2020. In 2004 he had made a documentary film of the Indonesian mass killings of 1965–66 and in 2013 a film on the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Renowned Indian singer SP Balasubrahmanyam, who is said to have sung a record 40,000 songs passed away in Chennai on September 25 at the age of 74. He sang in 16 Indian languages had been awarded Padma Bhushan.

Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia, the renowned economist, former chairperson of ICRIER, one of India’s topmost think-tanks on the economy, a Padma Bhushan awardee, passed away on September 26 after her 10 month long battle against brain cancer. She worked on issues related to urbanisation and education. She had a PhD from MIT, and was author of an influential book ’Industrial Growth in India’. Dr Ahluwalia had also been a professor at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi

Jaswant Singh a prominent figure in the Vajpayee led NDA Government died on September 27. He had been India’s Minister of External Affairs, Minister of Defence and Minister of Finance.

The celebrated Argentinian Cartoonist Quino the creator of the satirical comic character ‘Mafalda’ died on September 30 at the age of 88. Quino will be widely remembered.
We pay our tributes to all of the above personalities.

October 3, 2020 – The Editor

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