We Need You More Than Ever Today – A Tribute to Mukul Sinha: Harsh Mander

Guest post by HARSH MANDER

Two events altered his life forever. The first was when he witnessed a supervisor disrespectfully berating and kick a junior employee, which transformed a young apolitical physicist, who was passionately devoted to fundamental scientific research, into a tireless trade-unionist. The second – seeing his beloved adopted city Ahmedabad burn with tumultuous hate violence for many weeks in 2002 – thrust him into the heart of many battles against state power malevolently exercised against people of minority faiths. When Mukul Sinha succumbed to a particularly deadly stream of cancer in the summer of 2014, just weeks before Narendra Modi was swept to power, the country lost one if its bravest, most forthright voices for justice.

Raised in the railway enclave of the small district town of Bilaspur in Chhattisgarh where his father served, the young man had clearly worked out his chosen career as a scientist. After graduating in physics from IIT Kanpur, his elected life pathway seemed neatly laid out for him when, in 1973, he was accepted for his doctoral studies in plasma physics in the prestigious Physical Research Laboratory (PRL) in Ahmedabad. Founded in 1947 by the legendary Vikram Sarabhai, this apex space research institute undertakes fundamental research in physics, space and atmospheric sciences, astronomy, solar physics and planetary geo-sciences. This was where India’s first space satellite was born. It was a cloistered intellectual world, separated it seemed by light years from the turbulent life of fighting injustice which Mukul was to ultimately choose. Continue reading “We Need You More Than Ever Today – A Tribute to Mukul Sinha: Harsh Mander”

Statement Against Continued Harassment of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and others

The following is the text of a statement issued in Banaras on the 3rd January 2015, by a number of intellectuals 

In Support of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and others

We are deeply shocked and outraged by the continuing attempts of the Modi government and the Gujarat police to somehow implicate the human rights lawyers and activists, Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand along with three victim survivors of the state sponsored carnage in Gujarat in 2002 on patently trumped up charges.

This is another attempt to derail justice particularly Zakia Jafri’s appeal which is now before the Gujarat High Court where she has accused the then Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi, the home minister of Gujarat along with 59 others which include top politicians, civil servants of conspiracy for mass murder and other serious crimes.

It is extremely significant that the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court, Mr. Raju Ramachandran  has told the apex court there was enough prima facie evidence to prosecute Shri Modi. Continue reading “Statement Against Continued Harassment of Teesta Setalvad, Javed Anand and others”

Remembering Adv. Mukul Sihna: Mahtab Alam

Guest post by MAHTAB ALAM

On 12th of May, while I was still trying to cope with the sad demise of noted human rights lawyer Advocate PurushothamPoojary, from Mangalore in Karnataka, I was informed of yet another loss. But this time, the loss was more personal and tragic. “Mukul Sinha passed away,” informed a friend who was calling from Delhi. The news shook me to the core and for a few hours, I went numb with disbelief and was unable to respond properly. In fact, it is still difficult for me to talk of him in the past tense.

Dr. Mukul Sinha, a physicist by training, a trade unionist and human rights activist by passion, and a lawyer by practice, succumbed to lung cancer in Ahmedabad, the former capital of Gujarat. His diagnosis with cancer was revealed to us a year ago. But the news had to be kept under wraps as it would ‘unnecessarily concern’ his distant friends and well-wishers. In the last one year, while he had almost stopped participating in public functions, he was very active on social media, especially Twitter. Continue reading “Remembering Adv. Mukul Sihna: Mahtab Alam”

Lessons for the Saner Segments of the Margins: Ravi Sinha

Guest Post by RAVI SINHA

The margins just got bigger. Many among those who customarily inhabit the centre have been pushed to the periphery. They are not my concern. There are analyses galore about why and how this has happened. I am not going to add one more to those. Margins exist on all sides. They encircle the political mainland from left and from right. Some might say there are no margins on the right. Everything on that side is mainstream. In any case, I will have little to say about the margins on the right.

My concern is with the left-side margins that now harbour the entire Left, although it is perhaps too soon for much of the traditional Left to acknowledge that. They are not likely, in any case, to listen to those of us who have spent a lifetime on the margins – partly because of our own follies and frailties but also because we have refused to succumb to the unsavory demands of the times. It is, after all, not our fault that we are born in a valley of historical time where the descent on the slopes of past glories has already come to an end and the ascent to the future ones is yet to begin. Continue reading “Lessons for the Saner Segments of the Margins: Ravi Sinha”

The Modi Mandate – A Belated Response to S Varadarajan: Pradip Datta

Guest post by PRADIP KUMAR DATTA

Siddharth Varadarajan’s article raises some very important dilemmas before Modi which is really a rehearsal of the development versus welfare debate now bound to be exacerbated with the runaway capitalism that Modi promises to unleash.

But it raises another important question. Can we simply forget the past and get on with the future? Can we join the futurist chorus of Modi and his Thatcherite – Reaganite followers? Can an electoral mandate, even one as powerful as this, remove permanently the memory of 2002?

The immediate analogy comes with the anti Sikh riots followed by the 1984 verdict. 1984 returns every election to haunt the Congress even after they have made a Sikh prime minister for 10 years. Some historical memories are very stubborn and refuse to leave off the haunting of the future. It is not as if there have not been many riots. But only some riots achieve a historically emblematic status that remove them from the realms of simple memory alone. Some events become symbolic rallying points and they invite an excess of documentation, of witness testimonies, of cultural representations, all of which memorialize and fix them in chronology as a rupture in time that can never quite be bridged by the stitchings or blurrings of popular oral memory alone. In such events the archive becomes memory. Continue reading “The Modi Mandate – A Belated Response to S Varadarajan: Pradip Datta”

Bittersweet Gujarat: Reena Patel

This is a guest post by REENA PATEL

I looked around the room and my gaze was met with the kohl lined eyes and stares of bewilderment and distrust. My heart pounded as I listened to three Muslim women describe their latest attempt to find their father and brother after they disappeared in the riots. They were speaking to Rahidbhai* from a local NGO who was accompanying me into the Ahmedabad relief colonies for the first time. Why was I so scared? Why was my heart pounding? The eldest woman of the home disrupted my thoughts, she asked me for my name. I looked around and looked at Rahidbhai, who looked back uneasily. “Mera naam Reena hai.” I said, almost choking on the words, knowing what the next question would be. “Aap ka surname kya hai?” The room grew thick with silence. “Patel.”

As far back as I could remember, I was taught to regard Muslims differently from the rest of the general population. My parents, both from Surat, Gujarat moved and met in the United States in their twenties. They both lived in England and spent time in Gujarat, and had families that were deeply involved in the Gujarati community. My brother and I were born in Long Beach California. I went to Gujarati school on Sundays, went to every function, picnic, and cultural show put on by the Leuva Patidar Samaj in Southern California. Many of my family members were apart of the organization. In fact, my great grandfather Vallabhai Patel was one of the first Patels to land upon the shores of the United States, now estimated at a population of over 140,000. We went to religious camps that were meant to teach us about Hindu ideology, handed out saffron prayer books and modeled how to become ideal Hindu men and women for our communities.

Continue reading “Bittersweet Gujarat: Reena Patel”

Should only Minorities be Worried over Mr Modi? Sanjay Kumar

(Photo Courtesy : ibnlive.in.com)

Guest Post by SANJAY KUMAR

By stealth, wealth, and media barrage a phalanx of powerful interests is trying to create a public opinion favourable to Mr Narendra Modi. It appears the entire privilegenstia of the country, the super rich capitalists, professional elites, entrepreneurs of the religion, top bureaucracy, including retired army men and police, upper castes, media pundits, even NRI academics, are united in their enthusiasm for Mr Modi. From Ratan Tata to Ramdev, people have been told how the man is the only saviour of a country in crisis. What exactly do this bunch of rich and privileged, but discontented people hope from Mr Modi as PM is important for the future of the country. The moot point here is the difference between declared intentions and actual motives. Perhaps even more important is the response of Mr Modi’s political opponents, because that indicates the kind of resources the country can fall back upon when confronted with the reality of him in power. The moot point here is a lack of understanding of the significance of the usual, non-Modi type politics for ordinary Indians. The stakes are high indeed. Far from what the phalanx and its ideologues claim, it is actually this politics which is their target, and which they wish to change under Mr Modi.

The most prominent charge leveled by Mr Modi’s opponents is that he is communal and divisive, and will alienate minorities. From Mr Lalu Prasad to Prof Amartya Sen, that appears to be the chief misgiving. If the charge against Mr Modi is so framed, then by implication it also appears to be asserting that if there had been no Gujarat 2002, Mr Modi and the kind of politics his party represents will be as good or bad as any other party politics. Are minorities’ misgivings about Mr Modi’s the only fact that the rest of Indians should worry about? Is the hesitation of minorities about him the only legitimate concern that may stop the man from reaching the PMO? Continue reading “Should only Minorities be Worried over Mr Modi? Sanjay Kumar”