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Madras HC directs TN Police to give permission to RSS march on Oct 2

23 Sep 2022

Madras HC

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu police to grant permission to the RSS to conduct a state-wide march and musical procession on October 2.

The single bench of the Madras High court represented by Justice G.K. Ilanthiraiyan orally directed the state police to grant permission to the RSS march by September 28.

A group of RSS functionaries had approached court stating that the Tamil Nadu police was prejudiced against their organisation and was sitting on their request for granting permission to the march.

The petitioners said that the RSS was planning to conduct marches accompanied by musical processions only in 50 spots across the state and that the RSS was a nationalist organisation.

They also informed the court that the march has to be held on October 2 as it is a Sunday closest to the foundation day of the organisation, September 27. They also claimed that the date was also chosen as it was Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday also and the RSS was conducting the programme nationally.

The petitioners said that the march was intended for promoting communal and social harmony.

The petitioners also stated that no participant will carry any arms and that no inconvenience would be caused to the general public due to the march.

The state government in its argument said that the organisation had not given the exact details of the spots where the programme would be organised and hence the police was yet to grant a decision.

The single bench of the Madras High Court orally directed the state police to grant permission before September 28 to the programme with reasonable restrictions.

The court also said that it would give a detailed order on the petitions later.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

Madras HC directs TN Police to give permission to RSS march on Oct 2

Madras HC

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Thursday directed the Tamil Nadu police to grant permission to the RSS to conduct a state-wide march and musical procession on October 2.

The single bench of the Madras High court represented by Justice G.K. Ilanthiraiyan orally directed the state police to grant permission to the RSS march by September 28.

A group of RSS functionaries had approached court stating that the Tamil Nadu police was prejudiced against their organisation and was sitting on their request for granting permission to the march.

The petitioners said that the RSS was planning to conduct marches accompanied by musical processions only in 50 spots across the state and that the RSS was a nationalist organisation.

They also informed the court that the march has to be held on October 2 as it is a Sunday closest to the foundation day of the organisation, September 27. They also claimed that the date was also chosen as it was Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday also and the RSS was conducting the programme nationally.

The petitioners said that the march was intended for promoting communal and social harmony.

The petitioners also stated that no participant will carry any arms and that no inconvenience would be caused to the general public due to the march.

The state government in its argument said that the organisation had not given the exact details of the spots where the programme would be organised and hence the police was yet to grant a decision.

The single bench of the Madras High Court orally directed the state police to grant permission before September 28 to the programme with reasonable restrictions.

The court also said that it would give a detailed order on the petitions later.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt denied temple entry over Kapoor’s 11-year-old interview about eating beef

Ticket sales for their upcoming movie through the roof even though some seers support Bajrang Dal, VHP for stopping them

08 Sep 2022

Ranbir Alia

On Tuesday, actors Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt were barred from entering the Mahakal temple in Ujjain after a large number of members of Bajrang Dal, and some reportedly even from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), gathered at the temple. The right-wing groups protested their presence at the temple and demanded that the couple not be permitted to offer prayers as Kapoor had claimed he was a beef eater and thus hurt sentiments of Hindus.

The crowd was chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and carrying placards that read, “Maas khaane waalon ko, joote maaro s**lon ko (Beat up meat eaters with shoes).” At one point, police had to conduct a mild lathi charge and physically remove some protesters who got too close to the couple’s car.

The couple who got married recently and are expecting their first child, had gone to the temple to seek blessings for their upcoming movie Brahmastra. They were reportedly denied entry due to Kapoor’s previous remarks about eating non vegetarian food including beef.

The controversy surrounds an interview Kapoor had given 11-years-ago to a TV channel, where he had said, “I am a mutton, paya, beef...red meat guy. I'm a big beef guy.”

Mahesh Pujari, a priest in the Mahakal temple told Times Now, “They had hurt the sentiments of Hindus on the subject of eating beef. Nobody is barred from coming to a temple, but since Hindus regard cows as our mother, the comments hurt sentiments. That is why Bajrang Dal protested.”

Now, Times of India reports that Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti (ABSS) general secretary Swami Jitendra Saraswati has hailed the Bajrang Dal and VHP for stopping the actor couple. “VHP and Bajrang Dal did a good job stopping ‘beef-eater’ Ranbir and Alia from entering the temple of the followers of Sanatan Dharma,” the publication quoted him as saying.

The right-wing trolls have been active on social media as well, with #Urduwood and #BoycottBrahmastra trending on Twitter. Many of them also posted images of scenes from Kapoor’s movies that they deem objectionable to Hindus.

 

 

And liberal voices on social media had this to say:

 

 

Meanwhile, the movie Brahmastra has garnered record ticket sales for its opening weekend.

 

 

 

Related:

The Kashmir Files: Calls for Muslim genocide ring out in cinema halls, hate brews outside

Hate Watch: Actor Sara Ali Khan trolled for visit Kedarnath temple

 

Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt denied temple entry over Kapoor’s 11-year-old interview about eating beef

Ticket sales for their upcoming movie through the roof even though some seers support Bajrang Dal, VHP for stopping them

Ranbir Alia

On Tuesday, actors Ranbir Kapoor and Alia Bhatt were barred from entering the Mahakal temple in Ujjain after a large number of members of Bajrang Dal, and some reportedly even from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), gathered at the temple. The right-wing groups protested their presence at the temple and demanded that the couple not be permitted to offer prayers as Kapoor had claimed he was a beef eater and thus hurt sentiments of Hindus.

The crowd was chanting “Jai Shri Ram” and carrying placards that read, “Maas khaane waalon ko, joote maaro s**lon ko (Beat up meat eaters with shoes).” At one point, police had to conduct a mild lathi charge and physically remove some protesters who got too close to the couple’s car.

The couple who got married recently and are expecting their first child, had gone to the temple to seek blessings for their upcoming movie Brahmastra. They were reportedly denied entry due to Kapoor’s previous remarks about eating non vegetarian food including beef.

The controversy surrounds an interview Kapoor had given 11-years-ago to a TV channel, where he had said, “I am a mutton, paya, beef...red meat guy. I'm a big beef guy.”

Mahesh Pujari, a priest in the Mahakal temple told Times Now, “They had hurt the sentiments of Hindus on the subject of eating beef. Nobody is barred from coming to a temple, but since Hindus regard cows as our mother, the comments hurt sentiments. That is why Bajrang Dal protested.”

Now, Times of India reports that Akhil Bharatiya Sant Samiti (ABSS) general secretary Swami Jitendra Saraswati has hailed the Bajrang Dal and VHP for stopping the actor couple. “VHP and Bajrang Dal did a good job stopping ‘beef-eater’ Ranbir and Alia from entering the temple of the followers of Sanatan Dharma,” the publication quoted him as saying.

The right-wing trolls have been active on social media as well, with #Urduwood and #BoycottBrahmastra trending on Twitter. Many of them also posted images of scenes from Kapoor’s movies that they deem objectionable to Hindus.

 

 

And liberal voices on social media had this to say:

 

 

Meanwhile, the movie Brahmastra has garnered record ticket sales for its opening weekend.

 

 

 

Related:

The Kashmir Files: Calls for Muslim genocide ring out in cinema halls, hate brews outside

Hate Watch: Actor Sara Ali Khan trolled for visit Kedarnath temple

 

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Karnataka: Sri Ram Sena Chief Vows to Observe Savarkar Utsav During Gauri Ganesh Festival

Sri Ram Sena members are also pressuring government officials to allow gauri ganesh celebrations at disputed Eidgah maidan in Chamrajpet.

22 Aug 2022

karnatakaPolice stand guard at Eidgah Maidan in Chamrajpet

Bengaluru: Sri Ram Sena leader Pramod Mutalik has declared that he would observe Savarkar Utsav during the Gauri Ganesh festival. Addressing a press conference at the state capital on Friday, he referred to Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as a revolutionary. He criticised Congress and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) for repeatedly insulting him.

The question of Savarkar popped up on August 15 when the SDPI cadre removed banners of Savarkar in Shivamogga city and attempted to replace them with posters of Tipu Sultan. The act resulted in clashes between SDPI and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers. Ultimately, the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and put restrictions in the city under section 144.

Starting with the ban on hijab in colleges, BJP and various Hindu groups have taken turns to stoke controversy and communal unrest in the state of Karnataka. In February of this year, the murder of Bajrang Dal worker Harsha in Shivamogga was seen as an outcome of the toxic, communal rhetoric brewing in the state for quite some time. Five Muslim men were arrested in connection with the case.

Sri Ram Sene Karnataka State working President, Gangadhar Kulkarni and Pramod Mutalik address media persons

Sri Ram Sena Karnataka State working President, Gangadhar Kulkarni and Pramod Mutalik address media persons

Weeks later, the Karnataka High Court ruled in favour of a ban on the hijab, emboldening Hindu groups to initiate a campaign against Muslim cultural and economic rights. Hindu groups attempted to enforce a boycott on Halal meat in the state. Following this, the Sri Ram Sena members in Dharwad attacked a watermelon seller for doing business outside a temple premises. Sri Ram Sena and Mutalik are based out of Dharwad. Meanwhile, Nupur Sharma’s statements incensed Muslims, further adding fuel to the fire.

On July 26, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru was murdered by two bike-borne men in Bellare town of Dakshina Kannada district. Hindu groups, including BJP workers, were incensed at the murder and blamed the top leadership of the BJP for using workers as cannon fodder. They blamed the Popular Front of India (PFI) and SDPI for Nettaru's murder. So far, five Muslim men have been arrested by police in connection with the case, and the investigation has been transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

In retaliation for Nettaru's murder, Hindu extremists murdered a man called Mohammed Fazil at Suratkal on July 28. Six Hindu men were arrested in connection with Fazil's murder. Mutalik was barred from entering Dakshina Kannada district when he attempted to travel to Bellare to meet Nettaru’s parents. The Mangaluru City Police briefly detained him and sent him back.

Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, a dispute raked up over ownership of a two-acre maidan at Chamrajpet. The Karnataka Waqf Board claims the property, whereas the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also claims the site. Muslims offer prayers at the site twice a year. Children use the site for the rest of the year as a playground. Hindu groups have been demanding that the site be opened up for the celebration of Hindu festivals as well.

Mutalik referred to Savarkar as a patriot and said that no Congress leader spent as much time in jail as he had. Addressing a press conference, he said, “Savarkar was the first person to refer to the 1857 rebellion as a war of independence. He wrote a book on this (The Indian War of Independence). Before that book was even published, it was banned in three countries. They feared that if such a book came out, it would bring a revolution to India. The British wanted to stem the feeling of patriotism and hence, jailed him for 11 years at the Kala Pani jail in Andaman. Today, Congress and Islamists are openly insulting Savarkar. For this reason, this year, at the Ganeshotsava festival, we will observe Savarkar Utsav.”

The Hindu organisation mentioned that in the context of celebrating Savarkar, they would screen a film, organise plays, quiz competitions, story competitions, and singing competitions based on the songs penned by Savarkar.

The organisation chief clashed with a few journalists when he stated that Kesari is the colour of patriotism. Journalist Ashik Mulki of News 18 challenged Mutalik on this point and asked him to explain how only Kesari could be the colour of patriotism. Mutalik replied, “When the British left India in 1947, a committee was set up to decide what should be the colour of the national flag. Nehru and Patel were also a part of this committee. It was decided that the national flag would be in Kesari colour. This decision was changed later. The flag colour of this nation’s religion is Kesari. The flag that sits atop the forts and temples of this land is Kesari. I never said that the national flag is Kesari; I said that the colour of patriotism is Kesari.”

When pushed to name the source of the claim regarding the Kesari flag in 1947, the working President of Sri Ram Sena, Gangadhar Kulkarni, said that the source is a book called, The Tragic Story of Partition written by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader HV Seshadri.

Later in the day, the organisation members met with Revenue Department officials and requested permission to hold a three-day celebration of the Gauri Ganesh festival at the disputed Chamrajpet Eidgah maidan. The proposed celebrations will begin on August 31 and culminate with Ganesh visarjan on September 2. Permission has not yet been granted.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Karnataka: Sri Ram Sena Chief Vows to Observe Savarkar Utsav During Gauri Ganesh Festival

Sri Ram Sena members are also pressuring government officials to allow gauri ganesh celebrations at disputed Eidgah maidan in Chamrajpet.

karnatakaPolice stand guard at Eidgah Maidan in Chamrajpet

Bengaluru: Sri Ram Sena leader Pramod Mutalik has declared that he would observe Savarkar Utsav during the Gauri Ganesh festival. Addressing a press conference at the state capital on Friday, he referred to Hindu Mahasabha leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar as a revolutionary. He criticised Congress and the Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) for repeatedly insulting him.

The question of Savarkar popped up on August 15 when the SDPI cadre removed banners of Savarkar in Shivamogga city and attempted to replace them with posters of Tipu Sultan. The act resulted in clashes between SDPI and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers. Ultimately, the police resorted to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd and put restrictions in the city under section 144.

Starting with the ban on hijab in colleges, BJP and various Hindu groups have taken turns to stoke controversy and communal unrest in the state of Karnataka. In February of this year, the murder of Bajrang Dal worker Harsha in Shivamogga was seen as an outcome of the toxic, communal rhetoric brewing in the state for quite some time. Five Muslim men were arrested in connection with the case.

Sri Ram Sene Karnataka State working President, Gangadhar Kulkarni and Pramod Mutalik address media persons

Sri Ram Sena Karnataka State working President, Gangadhar Kulkarni and Pramod Mutalik address media persons

Weeks later, the Karnataka High Court ruled in favour of a ban on the hijab, emboldening Hindu groups to initiate a campaign against Muslim cultural and economic rights. Hindu groups attempted to enforce a boycott on Halal meat in the state. Following this, the Sri Ram Sena members in Dharwad attacked a watermelon seller for doing business outside a temple premises. Sri Ram Sena and Mutalik are based out of Dharwad. Meanwhile, Nupur Sharma’s statements incensed Muslims, further adding fuel to the fire.

On July 26, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha member Praveen Nettaru was murdered by two bike-borne men in Bellare town of Dakshina Kannada district. Hindu groups, including BJP workers, were incensed at the murder and blamed the top leadership of the BJP for using workers as cannon fodder. They blamed the Popular Front of India (PFI) and SDPI for Nettaru's murder. So far, five Muslim men have been arrested by police in connection with the case, and the investigation has been transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

In retaliation for Nettaru's murder, Hindu extremists murdered a man called Mohammed Fazil at Suratkal on July 28. Six Hindu men were arrested in connection with Fazil's murder. Mutalik was barred from entering Dakshina Kannada district when he attempted to travel to Bellare to meet Nettaru’s parents. The Mangaluru City Police briefly detained him and sent him back.

Meanwhile, in Bengaluru, a dispute raked up over ownership of a two-acre maidan at Chamrajpet. The Karnataka Waqf Board claims the property, whereas the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) also claims the site. Muslims offer prayers at the site twice a year. Children use the site for the rest of the year as a playground. Hindu groups have been demanding that the site be opened up for the celebration of Hindu festivals as well.

Mutalik referred to Savarkar as a patriot and said that no Congress leader spent as much time in jail as he had. Addressing a press conference, he said, “Savarkar was the first person to refer to the 1857 rebellion as a war of independence. He wrote a book on this (The Indian War of Independence). Before that book was even published, it was banned in three countries. They feared that if such a book came out, it would bring a revolution to India. The British wanted to stem the feeling of patriotism and hence, jailed him for 11 years at the Kala Pani jail in Andaman. Today, Congress and Islamists are openly insulting Savarkar. For this reason, this year, at the Ganeshotsava festival, we will observe Savarkar Utsav.”

The Hindu organisation mentioned that in the context of celebrating Savarkar, they would screen a film, organise plays, quiz competitions, story competitions, and singing competitions based on the songs penned by Savarkar.

The organisation chief clashed with a few journalists when he stated that Kesari is the colour of patriotism. Journalist Ashik Mulki of News 18 challenged Mutalik on this point and asked him to explain how only Kesari could be the colour of patriotism. Mutalik replied, “When the British left India in 1947, a committee was set up to decide what should be the colour of the national flag. Nehru and Patel were also a part of this committee. It was decided that the national flag would be in Kesari colour. This decision was changed later. The flag colour of this nation’s religion is Kesari. The flag that sits atop the forts and temples of this land is Kesari. I never said that the national flag is Kesari; I said that the colour of patriotism is Kesari.”

When pushed to name the source of the claim regarding the Kesari flag in 1947, the working President of Sri Ram Sena, Gangadhar Kulkarni, said that the source is a book called, The Tragic Story of Partition written by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leader HV Seshadri.

Later in the day, the organisation members met with Revenue Department officials and requested permission to hold a three-day celebration of the Gauri Ganesh festival at the disputed Chamrajpet Eidgah maidan. The proposed celebrations will begin on August 31 and culminate with Ganesh visarjan on September 2. Permission has not yet been granted.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Independence Day: Right-wing ideologues march with bulldozers in New Jersey

Bulldozer has been at the center of controversy after authorities have demolished houses claiming that structures are illegal

15 Aug 2022

bulldozer

New Jersey: While Indians are celebrating Independence Day on August 15, right-wing ideologues in New Jersey were seen marching with bulldozers.

Photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh were also found on the bulldozers.

In India, bulldozers were in the headlines as authorities on various occasions used them to demolish homes and livelihoods claiming that they are illegal.

After a video of the march went viral on social media, Indian American Muslim Council tweeted, ‘Today, the Hindu right-wing in Edison, New Jersey marched with bulldozers, which have become a weapon in the hands of the BJP government to destroy Muslim homes and livelihoods’.

Reacting to the march, many Twitterati slammed the right-wing ideologue. One of them wrote, “I think we are all human be it Muslims or Christians we should be treated as one”.

Some other Twitterati’s reactions are

Bulldozer culture

In the recent past, Bulldozer has been at the center of controversy after authorities have demolished houses claiming that the structures are illegal.

The matter has even gone to courts including the apex court of the country.

The legality of the instant bulldozer action seems complex and full of intricacies even as experts differ on the issue.

Bulldozers have now become a symbol of Yogi Adityanath’s crackdown on alleged anti-social elements.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

Independence Day: Right-wing ideologues march with bulldozers in New Jersey

Bulldozer has been at the center of controversy after authorities have demolished houses claiming that structures are illegal

bulldozer

New Jersey: While Indians are celebrating Independence Day on August 15, right-wing ideologues in New Jersey were seen marching with bulldozers.

Photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh were also found on the bulldozers.

In India, bulldozers were in the headlines as authorities on various occasions used them to demolish homes and livelihoods claiming that they are illegal.

After a video of the march went viral on social media, Indian American Muslim Council tweeted, ‘Today, the Hindu right-wing in Edison, New Jersey marched with bulldozers, which have become a weapon in the hands of the BJP government to destroy Muslim homes and livelihoods’.

Reacting to the march, many Twitterati slammed the right-wing ideologue. One of them wrote, “I think we are all human be it Muslims or Christians we should be treated as one”.

Some other Twitterati’s reactions are

Bulldozer culture

In the recent past, Bulldozer has been at the center of controversy after authorities have demolished houses claiming that the structures are illegal.

The matter has even gone to courts including the apex court of the country.

The legality of the instant bulldozer action seems complex and full of intricacies even as experts differ on the issue.

Bulldozers have now become a symbol of Yogi Adityanath’s crackdown on alleged anti-social elements.

Courtesy: The Daily Siasat

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Teesta Talks: The RSS Doublespeak: Bhagwa for Itself and Tiranga for 'Others'

Sabrangindia 15 Aug 2022

Independence Day, August 15, 2017



While Muslims are the Target, it is the Constitution given by Dr B.R. Ambedkar that is in real danger under this regime

First published on August 15, 2017

Teesta Talks: The RSS Doublespeak: Bhagwa for Itself and Tiranga for 'Others'

Independence Day, August 15, 2017



While Muslims are the Target, it is the Constitution given by Dr B.R. Ambedkar that is in real danger under this regime

First published on August 15, 2017

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Low-key communalism? Right-wing groups 'compete' in Gujarat for anti-Muslim space

12 Aug 2022

CLASH

Noticing the emergence of a novel trend, a just-released report based on a fact-finding team's observations following its interaction in particular with Hindu and Muslim political activists, administrators and police officials, has claimed that a major reason why chasm between the two communities in Gujarat has lately reached new heights is, a veritable competition between Hindu right-wing groups and leaders to capture the existing communal space.

Titled "Hindu Right, Communal Riots and Demolitions: Emerging Pattern of Communal Riots in India", the report has been prepared against the backdrop of what it calls "low intensity" communalism which has characterised rioting in Gujarat in the recent past, especially after the 2002 communal carnage, one of the worst in Independent India.

Especially focusing on riots in two Gujarat towns, Himmatnagar and Khambhat, which took place on April 10, the day clashes broke also out in different parts of India on the occasion of Ram Navmi, the report points to how Ram Sena, Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) competed with each other to take out Shobha Yatra.

Suggesting that the pattern was not very different from West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, where similar processions were taken out, the report says, in Himmatnagar, a North Gujarat town, the "rivalry” between the Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad, founded by Pravin Togadia after he broke away from the VHP, and the VHP was instrumental in having more tensions after a second procession was taken out following the first one causing violence.

Prepared after on-the-spot interactions of a team led by Neha Dabhade of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and Hozefa Ujjaini of Buniyaad, Gujarat-based non-profits, the report observes, the second procession in Himmatnagar was “forcefully implemented”. In fact, one found that “there was a very visible sense of competition between Hindu right-wing groups for domination, visibility and reach out".

In their effort to gain support, the report finds the right-wing groups’ outlook towards Muslims "more radical and hardliner than the RSS." It insists, "It is important to understand the nuances in their ideology and objectives", wondering whether the RSS has complete control over these outfits, as they seemed to have been "allowed to some extent to act independently."
The report notes, "These outfits have been able to reach out and politically mobilize a cross section of society. Their strategies include popularizing the symbols of Ram and Hanuman, invoking pride through these symbols and promoting aggressive nationalism."

Especially referring to the Ram Sena, which played a major role during the riots in Khambhat, it says, the group used the "symbols and icons from the Adivasi or Dalit communities to reach out to them", even as ignoring caste hierarchy or Adivasi rights. The group just wants to reach out to the Adivasis to bring them under "one umbrella" in order to forge "one grand ‘Hindu’ identity."

Admitting that these groups were successful in their "competitive" strategy, the report says, "It is worth noting that the Hindu right is able to mobilize cross sections of society, especially Dalits and Vanjaras, who are a de-notified tribe. With different outreach strategies, the Hindu right is successful to mobilizing them and ensuring their participation in communal violence."
It notes, "Though the leadership of these organizations remains largely with upper castes, OBCs and Dalits are used as foot soldiers to perpetrate violence. This is significantly taking the focus away from caste-based discrimination and the rights of the Adivasis, given to them as protection in the Constitution."

Stating how political infighting and network of patronage further contributed to the communal clashes in Khambhat, the report reveals, political equations and rivalry between current MLA Mayur Raval and ex-MLA Sanjay Patel fuelled the tension in the Central Gujarat town and the nearby rural areas.

Suggesting that there was "a concerted effort to make Mayur Raval seem ineffective in controlling riots", the report says, communal tensions appeared to have been "used” as a medium at all levels -- grassroots like panchayat to state -- to “settle political scores".

Thus, "Mayur Raval, who is currently MLA from Khambhat, is perceived as cordial towards Muslims and as more neutral than Sanjay Patel, his predecessor. Raval doesn’t openly take sides or instigate hatred or violence against Muslims. Sanjay Patel is known for his more hardliner stand against the Muslims."

Though the leadership remains largely with upper castes, OBCs and Dalits are used as foot soldiers to perpetrate violence

 

In fact, "There is an apparent political rivalry between Sanjay Patel and Mayur Raval. Mayur Raval was offered the BJP candidature for MLA in 2017 instead of Sanjay Patel. It appears that Sanjay Patel is influential, and through his network of political patronage, emboldens Hindu right-wing organizations to act against Muslims and foment violence."

Sanjay Patel believes that the region requires a “strong” leader like him to "control" communal violence, the report says, adding, there was a clear effort to construct a narrative in Khambhat that a “weak” MLA being “soft” on Muslims is "ineffective in controlling riots and Muslim fundamentalism in Khambhat." Thus, there is a deliberate attempt through these riots to send this message to the Hindu electorate."

All this happened amidst what the report calls "low scale sub radar communal riots" in Gujarat after the large-scale outrage which shook India in 2002. Noting that since "the low intensity of violence" did not have "an eye-catching number of casualties", it regrets, these riots have gone almost gone "unnoticed" in the "national media".


However, it underlines, what is forgotten in the process is, "These sub radar riots have kept communal tensions simmering and silently but certainly created an anti-Muslim atmosphere marked by distrust and resentment towards the Muslims."

In Khambhat, the team mainly met additional commissioner of police Abhishek Gupta, sarpanch of Shakarpur (Khambhat taluka) Dinesh Balun, Muslim residents whose stalls were demolished, and Ram Sena leader Jayveer Joshi.


In Himmatnagar, it met, among others, residents of Ashrafnagar, Hasannagar, members of denotified tribe Vanjara and OBC Devipujak community, and Kanak Jhala, leader of the Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad. It also interacted with journalists and other prominent citizens.


During the “low intensity riots” in Himmatnagar, the report says, the Ram Navmi procession provocatively used slogans 'Hindustan mein rehana hoga toh Jai Shri Ram kehana hoga' when it reached the mosque, resulting in scuffle and pelting of stones, burning of 18 stalls, a dargah and two houses belonging to Muslims, and severe injury to a Muslim boy.

The violence, the report indicates, helped widen the divide between Muslims and Vanjaras, both of whom have been living in allotted houses to low-income groups under a 2011 housing scheme. Earlier living in a segregated locality, Vanjaras would have scuffles with Muslims, which were of non-communal nature. But during Ram Navmi the scuffles were sought to be given a communal colour.

"Some Muslims were arrested by the police and taken away. They were dropped back in the evening. Later, petrol bombs were thrown on the Vanjara households at around 10pm. The police was called again. It lobbed teargas on Muslim residents, “brutally beat up” Muslim women, arrested Muslim residents, including a doctor, detaining them for four days.


In Khambhat, similarly, the at Ram Sena-led Ram Navmi procession provocative slogans like “Topi valo ko bulvayenge, Dadi walo ko bulvayenge Jai shri ram jai shri ram” were prominent, followed by exchange of words and stone pelting, attack of destruction of Muslim properties by participants carrying ‘dangs’ -- thick wooden rods with saffron flags tied to them.

While the riots in both the towns saw tens of individuals, including cops, injured, only one person -- 57-year-old Kanhaiya Lal Rana -- lost his life in Khambhat, which escalated rioting.

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

Low-key communalism? Right-wing groups 'compete' in Gujarat for anti-Muslim space

CLASH

Noticing the emergence of a novel trend, a just-released report based on a fact-finding team's observations following its interaction in particular with Hindu and Muslim political activists, administrators and police officials, has claimed that a major reason why chasm between the two communities in Gujarat has lately reached new heights is, a veritable competition between Hindu right-wing groups and leaders to capture the existing communal space.

Titled "Hindu Right, Communal Riots and Demolitions: Emerging Pattern of Communal Riots in India", the report has been prepared against the backdrop of what it calls "low intensity" communalism which has characterised rioting in Gujarat in the recent past, especially after the 2002 communal carnage, one of the worst in Independent India.

Especially focusing on riots in two Gujarat towns, Himmatnagar and Khambhat, which took place on April 10, the day clashes broke also out in different parts of India on the occasion of Ram Navmi, the report points to how Ram Sena, Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) competed with each other to take out Shobha Yatra.

Suggesting that the pattern was not very different from West Bengal, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand, where similar processions were taken out, the report says, in Himmatnagar, a North Gujarat town, the "rivalry” between the Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad, founded by Pravin Togadia after he broke away from the VHP, and the VHP was instrumental in having more tensions after a second procession was taken out following the first one causing violence.

Prepared after on-the-spot interactions of a team led by Neha Dabhade of the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism and Hozefa Ujjaini of Buniyaad, Gujarat-based non-profits, the report observes, the second procession in Himmatnagar was “forcefully implemented”. In fact, one found that “there was a very visible sense of competition between Hindu right-wing groups for domination, visibility and reach out".

In their effort to gain support, the report finds the right-wing groups’ outlook towards Muslims "more radical and hardliner than the RSS." It insists, "It is important to understand the nuances in their ideology and objectives", wondering whether the RSS has complete control over these outfits, as they seemed to have been "allowed to some extent to act independently."
The report notes, "These outfits have been able to reach out and politically mobilize a cross section of society. Their strategies include popularizing the symbols of Ram and Hanuman, invoking pride through these symbols and promoting aggressive nationalism."

Especially referring to the Ram Sena, which played a major role during the riots in Khambhat, it says, the group used the "symbols and icons from the Adivasi or Dalit communities to reach out to them", even as ignoring caste hierarchy or Adivasi rights. The group just wants to reach out to the Adivasis to bring them under "one umbrella" in order to forge "one grand ‘Hindu’ identity."

Admitting that these groups were successful in their "competitive" strategy, the report says, "It is worth noting that the Hindu right is able to mobilize cross sections of society, especially Dalits and Vanjaras, who are a de-notified tribe. With different outreach strategies, the Hindu right is successful to mobilizing them and ensuring their participation in communal violence."
It notes, "Though the leadership of these organizations remains largely with upper castes, OBCs and Dalits are used as foot soldiers to perpetrate violence. This is significantly taking the focus away from caste-based discrimination and the rights of the Adivasis, given to them as protection in the Constitution."

Stating how political infighting and network of patronage further contributed to the communal clashes in Khambhat, the report reveals, political equations and rivalry between current MLA Mayur Raval and ex-MLA Sanjay Patel fuelled the tension in the Central Gujarat town and the nearby rural areas.

Suggesting that there was "a concerted effort to make Mayur Raval seem ineffective in controlling riots", the report says, communal tensions appeared to have been "used” as a medium at all levels -- grassroots like panchayat to state -- to “settle political scores".

Thus, "Mayur Raval, who is currently MLA from Khambhat, is perceived as cordial towards Muslims and as more neutral than Sanjay Patel, his predecessor. Raval doesn’t openly take sides or instigate hatred or violence against Muslims. Sanjay Patel is known for his more hardliner stand against the Muslims."

Though the leadership remains largely with upper castes, OBCs and Dalits are used as foot soldiers to perpetrate violence

 

In fact, "There is an apparent political rivalry between Sanjay Patel and Mayur Raval. Mayur Raval was offered the BJP candidature for MLA in 2017 instead of Sanjay Patel. It appears that Sanjay Patel is influential, and through his network of political patronage, emboldens Hindu right-wing organizations to act against Muslims and foment violence."

Sanjay Patel believes that the region requires a “strong” leader like him to "control" communal violence, the report says, adding, there was a clear effort to construct a narrative in Khambhat that a “weak” MLA being “soft” on Muslims is "ineffective in controlling riots and Muslim fundamentalism in Khambhat." Thus, there is a deliberate attempt through these riots to send this message to the Hindu electorate."

All this happened amidst what the report calls "low scale sub radar communal riots" in Gujarat after the large-scale outrage which shook India in 2002. Noting that since "the low intensity of violence" did not have "an eye-catching number of casualties", it regrets, these riots have gone almost gone "unnoticed" in the "national media".


However, it underlines, what is forgotten in the process is, "These sub radar riots have kept communal tensions simmering and silently but certainly created an anti-Muslim atmosphere marked by distrust and resentment towards the Muslims."

In Khambhat, the team mainly met additional commissioner of police Abhishek Gupta, sarpanch of Shakarpur (Khambhat taluka) Dinesh Balun, Muslim residents whose stalls were demolished, and Ram Sena leader Jayveer Joshi.


In Himmatnagar, it met, among others, residents of Ashrafnagar, Hasannagar, members of denotified tribe Vanjara and OBC Devipujak community, and Kanak Jhala, leader of the Antar Rashtriya Hindu Parishad. It also interacted with journalists and other prominent citizens.


During the “low intensity riots” in Himmatnagar, the report says, the Ram Navmi procession provocatively used slogans 'Hindustan mein rehana hoga toh Jai Shri Ram kehana hoga' when it reached the mosque, resulting in scuffle and pelting of stones, burning of 18 stalls, a dargah and two houses belonging to Muslims, and severe injury to a Muslim boy.

The violence, the report indicates, helped widen the divide between Muslims and Vanjaras, both of whom have been living in allotted houses to low-income groups under a 2011 housing scheme. Earlier living in a segregated locality, Vanjaras would have scuffles with Muslims, which were of non-communal nature. But during Ram Navmi the scuffles were sought to be given a communal colour.

"Some Muslims were arrested by the police and taken away. They were dropped back in the evening. Later, petrol bombs were thrown on the Vanjara households at around 10pm. The police was called again. It lobbed teargas on Muslim residents, “brutally beat up” Muslim women, arrested Muslim residents, including a doctor, detaining them for four days.


In Khambhat, similarly, the at Ram Sena-led Ram Navmi procession provocative slogans like “Topi valo ko bulvayenge, Dadi walo ko bulvayenge Jai shri ram jai shri ram” were prominent, followed by exchange of words and stone pelting, attack of destruction of Muslim properties by participants carrying ‘dangs’ -- thick wooden rods with saffron flags tied to them.

While the riots in both the towns saw tens of individuals, including cops, injured, only one person -- 57-year-old Kanhaiya Lal Rana -- lost his life in Khambhat, which escalated rioting.

Courtesy: https://www.counterview.net

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Booker Winner Geetanjali Shree's Event Cancelled in Agra After Complaint Against Her

"A man named Sandeep Kumar Pathak from Sadabad in Hathras district has filed the complaint against the writer. In the complaint, he has blamed Geetanjali Shree for alleged objectionable comments on Lord Shiva and mother Parvati," he said.

01 Aug 2022

GeetanjaliGeetanjali Shree. Photo credit: BBC
 

An event to honour International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree here on Saturday was called off by the organisers after a complaint was filed against the author alleging there are some objectionable comments about Indian deities in her novel. 

The felicitation event was to be hosted by cultural organisations Rangleela and Agra Theatre Club. 

"The event was called off due to a controversy over a complaint against the International Booker prize winner Geetanjali Shree," Anil Shukla, a functionary of Rangleela, told PTI

"A man named Sandeep Kumar Pathak from Sadabad in Hathras district has filed the complaint against the writer. In the complaint, he has blamed Geetanjali Shree for alleged objectionable comments on Lord Shiva and mother Parvati," he said. 

Spokesperson of the event Rambharat Upadhyay said that in his complaint, Pathak mentioned that the comments have "hurt the sentiments of Hindus".

In May, Shree became the first Indian author to win the International Booker Prize for her novel "Ret Samadhi", which was translated into English as "Tomb of Sand" by American translator Daisy Rockwell. 

Set in north India, "Tomb of Sand" is the tale of  80-year-old Ma, who insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.

Upadhyay also said Pathak had tweeted requesting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the DGP for an FIR against Shree.

Shukla said people are disappointed over the cancellation of the event.

Courtesy: Newsclick

Booker Winner Geetanjali Shree's Event Cancelled in Agra After Complaint Against Her

"A man named Sandeep Kumar Pathak from Sadabad in Hathras district has filed the complaint against the writer. In the complaint, he has blamed Geetanjali Shree for alleged objectionable comments on Lord Shiva and mother Parvati," he said.

GeetanjaliGeetanjali Shree. Photo credit: BBC
 

An event to honour International Booker Prize winner Geetanjali Shree here on Saturday was called off by the organisers after a complaint was filed against the author alleging there are some objectionable comments about Indian deities in her novel. 

The felicitation event was to be hosted by cultural organisations Rangleela and Agra Theatre Club. 

"The event was called off due to a controversy over a complaint against the International Booker prize winner Geetanjali Shree," Anil Shukla, a functionary of Rangleela, told PTI

"A man named Sandeep Kumar Pathak from Sadabad in Hathras district has filed the complaint against the writer. In the complaint, he has blamed Geetanjali Shree for alleged objectionable comments on Lord Shiva and mother Parvati," he said. 

Spokesperson of the event Rambharat Upadhyay said that in his complaint, Pathak mentioned that the comments have "hurt the sentiments of Hindus".

In May, Shree became the first Indian author to win the International Booker Prize for her novel "Ret Samadhi", which was translated into English as "Tomb of Sand" by American translator Daisy Rockwell. 

Set in north India, "Tomb of Sand" is the tale of  80-year-old Ma, who insists on travelling to Pakistan, simultaneously confronting the unresolved trauma of her teenage experiences of Partition, and re-evaluating what it means to be a mother, a daughter, a woman and a feminist.

Upadhyay also said Pathak had tweeted requesting Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the DGP for an FIR against Shree.

Shukla said people are disappointed over the cancellation of the event.

Courtesy: Newsclick

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Gauri Lankesh case: CCTV footage shared with counsel for the accused

Footage reportedly shows two men shooting at her; next date of hearing is August 8

21 Jul 2022

Gauri Lankesh

On Monday, July 18, the footage from two CCTV cameras outside slain journalist Gauri Lankesh’s house was shared with the legal team of the accused. The Special Public Prosecutor handed over the CDs to the defence counsel before Special Judge CM Joshi of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) Court, where the trial began on July 4.

The counsel for the accused had on July 8 told the court that they had not been given the footage yet. According to Times of India, the footage from September 5, 2017, shows two men park their motorbike and shooting at Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bangalore’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar. According to the chargesheet these two men have been identified as Parshuram Waghmare and Ganesh Miskin. Miskin is also accused of shooting at rationalist MM Kalburgi at his Dharwad home on August 30, 2015.

When hearings began on July 4, Judge Joshi had set some ground-rules according to which hearings will take place every second week of the month for five days. According to Hindustan Times, the court permitted all accused lodged in Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Central Prison and Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail to be made part of the trial through video conference. The court also permitted the advocates will to consult their clients over the phone or meet them physically.

As SabrangIndia had reported previously, Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavita Lankesh, who is a filmmaker and poet, made her statement before the special court on July 4, and said that just days before her murder, Gauri Lankesh had seen some men “loitering suspiciously” near her home in Bengaluru. She also said that it was she who discovered Gauri’s bullet ridden body in a pool of blood.

But the counsel for the defence wanted to spin an entirely different narrative. During her cross examination, Kavita was asked about family feuds instead. She was also asked about Gauri’s alleged “Naxalite connections”. At one point the defence counsel also mentioned Gauri Lankesh’s connections to the activists who have been dubbed the “tukde-tukde gang”, namely Jignesh Mewani and Kanhaiya Kumar. But this line of questioning was shot down by the court. The defence also tried to rake up Gauri Lankesh’s alleged connections with the Congress Party. But when asked to name the connections, it turns out at least two of the people named – Ramesh Jarkiholi and Pramod Madhwara – are now BJP leaders.

Brief background of the case

Journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was snatched away from friends, family and her fellow journalists when the fearless journalist was gunned down outside her home on September 5, 2017. Since then, 17 people have been arrested in connection with the case, and one accused is still missing.

The said incident came under the jurisdiction of Rajarajeshwari Nagar police station of Bangalore City and on the same day an FIR was registered under Sections 302, 120(B), 114, 118, 109, 201, 203, 204, 35 of I.P.C. and Sections 25(1), 25(1B), 27(1) of the Indian Arms Act, 1959 and Sessions 3(1)(i), 3(2), 3(3) and 3(4) of the COCA Act, 2000 (Order No.C.R.M./01/158/BC/2017-18 dated 06-09-2017 of the D.G. and I.G.P.) as Crime No. 221/2017. Gauri Lankesh’s sister, Kavitha Lankesh is the first informant in the case.

The Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) began probing the case. Two chargesheets were filed in the case. The primary chargesheet was filed against KT Naveen Kumar, a 37-year-old member of the Hindu Yuva Sena on May 30, 2018. On November 23, 2018 the supplementary chargesheet running into 9,235 pages was filed. 18 people have reportedly been named in the chargesheet. These include shooter Parashuram Waghmare, masterminds Amol Kale, Sujith Kumar alias Praveen and Amit Digwekar. It was in this chargesheet that the Sanatan Sanstha was mentioned for the first time.

The chargesheet also mentions 26 other people who were on a hit list of sorts. These are eminent journalists, educationists and intellectuals who are perceived to be anti-Hindu by the Sanatan Sanstha. These include Siddharth Varadrajan (Editor, The Wire), journalist Antara Dev Sen, JNU professor Chaman Lal, Punjabi playwright Atamjit Singh among others.

According to the Karnataka SIT, the plot to kill Lankesh was hatched a year before the assassination. Amol Kale, a former Hindu Janjagruti Samiti convener, allegedly hired killer Parshuram Waghmare. Waghamare was allegedly a member of the Sri Ram Sene. Kale took him to an isolated spot in Khanapur, Belgaum to practice using an air pistol. Waghmare allegedly did a recce of Lankesh’s house in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in July 2017. On September 5, he and another back-up gunman Ganesh Miskin arrived outside Lankesh’s house on a black motorcycle. Waghmare fired four times at Lankesh and the duo fled the scene.

However, the group responsible came together in 2010-11 suggesting that this was a wider conspiracy planned over a longer period aiming to eliminate more rationalists, journalists and activists. In a press release the SIT had said, “The investigation so far has revealed that all the 18 accused are active members of an organised crime syndicate. This syndicate was formed in 2010-11, under the leadership of Virendra Tawade alias Bade Bhaisaab. One former editor of ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ provided financial support to this syndicate. The members of this organisation targeted people who they identified to be inimical to their belief and ideology. The members strictly followed the guidelines and principles mentioned in ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, a book published by Sanatan Sanstha.” The statement further added, “In August 2016, in a meeting of the syndicate, the main members identified Ms. Lankesh as a “durjan” as told in the ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, based on her speeches and writings. They jointly hatched a conspiracy to murder her.”

The arrests

On March 2, 2018, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating Lankesh’s assassination made its first arrest, apprehending right-wing activist K. T. Naveen Kumar, of Maddur, who in 2015 founded the Hindu Yuva Sene. Kumar who reportedly confessed to Lankesh’s murder had previously been arrested in February 2018 in relation to a case involving illegal arms.

On May 30, 2018, when the SIT filed a 650-page chargesheet in the Lankesh murder case, KT Naveen Kumar was named in it. Kumar allegedly obtained the bullets that were used to kill Gauri Lankesh, and that he allegedly supplied logistical support to her killers and directed them to her residence and office in Bengaluru. It alleges that the bullets were from an ammunition store called Bangalore Armoury, and that Kumar purchased them around eight years ago. Syed Shabeer, who works at City Gun House in Kalasipalya, claimed to the SIT that he sold Kumar 18 bullets for Rs. 3,000 about eight years ago.

The SIT, in the chargesheet, stated, “The accused were angry with her for speaking against Hindu dharma, Gods of Hindu dharma and insulting Hindu dharma”. Kumar’s wife, Roopa C. N., gave the SIT a statement, which indicated that Kumar was associated with the Sanatan Dharma Sanstha, largely in 2017.

In late May 2018, the SIT arrested four more people with ties to right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha for a January 2018 conspiracy to kill K. S. Bhagwan. The four individuals also had ties to Sanatan Sanstha’s sister outfit, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), and were also connected to Kumar, in 2017 had attended multiple HJS meetings. The four individuals are named Amol Kale alias Bhaisab, an HJS activist from Maharashtra, Amit Degwekar alias Pradeep, a Sanatan Sanstha activist from Goa, Manohar Edave of Karnataka, and Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, an activist with Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS from Mangalore.

On June 11, 2018 the sixth accused in the case, Parashuram Waghmare, 26, was arrested. On Thursday, June 14, police reportedly interrogated Waghmare and the previously arrested Amol Kale. Waghmare had allegedly claimed that Kale instructed him to carry out the killing, and gave him a country-made pistol.

Sharad Kalaskar was arrested on August 10, 2018 by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) after a tip off from the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case. The ATS claims that Kalaskar was also one of the two gunmen who shot and killed Narendra Dabholkar in August 2013. According to the ATS, the weapon used to kill Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists was also procured and manufactured by Kalaskar.

A note on how to make bombs was also recovered from him. Kalaskar was arrested along with Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from the Nallasopara home of Raut who is the convener of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti. 20 crude bombs and two gelatin sheets were recovered during this raid. Meanwhile, Gondhalekar is a member of Shiv Shivapratishthan Hindustan, an organisation run by none other than Shambhaji Bhide, one of the two main accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

In July 2019, Uma Devi, wife of slain rationalist MM Kalburgi identified the gunman who shot her husband. Earlier the SIT had arrested Praveen Chatur, a Belgavi resident who had allegedly ferried this gunman in the Kalburgi murder. While police had initially suspected Amit Baddi, a friend of Ganesh Miskin, of being the biker, sketches prepared by police artists did not match eye witness descriptions. When the SIT probed the matter again, interrogation of Amol Kale pointed them towards Chatur. Chatur was also wanted in a petrol bomb attack on a theater screening Padmavat in Belgavi in January. He has now turned state’s witness in the Gauri Lankesh case. In his statement he has reportedly admitted to attending training camps in Jalna and Mangaluru.

Rishikesh Dewarkar was the last one to be arrested in the case so far. Dewarkar who also went by the alias Rajesh was arrested from Katras town in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand in January 2020. He had been on the run ever since the assassination and had been laying low, working at a petrol pump in Katras for several months under an assumed identity.

CJP assists Kavita Lankesh

In June 2021, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) assisted Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavita move a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court against an order by the Karnataka High Court dropping charges under Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) against accused Mohan Nayak, who is is a close associate of Amol Kale and Rajesh Bangera, two men who are key accused in planning and committing the assassination of Gauri Lankesh.

Nayak had approached the Karnataka high court for bail on grounds of the ruling dropping the KCOCA charges against him. He had contended that on April 2, 2021, the court had quashed the FIR in relation to offence under KCOCA and therefore he could not be charged for the offence under KCOCA. For this reason, he argued that the chargesheet against him should have been filed before expiry of 90 days from the date of his arrest and remand to judicial custody. Admittedly there was no chargesheet and hence he contended that he should be entitled to statutory bail under Section 167(2) of Cr.PC.

But on July 13, the High Court’s Single-judge Bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar ruled that Nayak cannot seek bail on the grounds that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a chargesheet against him, only on November 23, 2018, more than 90 days following his arrest on July 19, 2018, since the bail application was moved only after the chargesheet was filed.

Lankesh’s SLP, filed with CJP’s assistance, details the nature and extent of Mohan’s involvement saying that investigations had found that he had been “actively involved in providing shelter to the killers prior to and after committing the offence and has participated in a series of conspiracies, abetting, planning, providing logistics.”

The SLP further reiterated what the investigation agency has revealed, that they have collected sufficient evidence “to connect him with the case and establish his intimate nexus with the mastermind behind the entire event i.e., Accused No.1 Amol Kale and master arms trainer Accused No. 8 Rajesh D. Bangera who are part and parcel of an “organised crime syndicate” from its inception.”

On September 21, the matter was heard by a bench comprising Justices A.M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar. In October 2021, the SC restored KCOCA charges against Mohan Nayak.

Related:

Gauri Lankesh case: Why is the Defence harping on alleged “Naxalite connections”, family fued?

Gauri Lankesh case: SC restores KCOCA charges against Mohan Nayak

Gauri Lankesh case: SC reserves order on plea to keep KCOCA charges against accused

Gauri Lankesh case: SC to decide on keeping KCOCA charges against accused

Gauri Lankesh case: CJP assists sister Kavitha move SC

‘Meticulous’ investigation yet little headway in Gauri Lankesh murder case

 

 

Gauri Lankesh case: CCTV footage shared with counsel for the accused

Footage reportedly shows two men shooting at her; next date of hearing is August 8

Gauri Lankesh

On Monday, July 18, the footage from two CCTV cameras outside slain journalist Gauri Lankesh’s house was shared with the legal team of the accused. The Special Public Prosecutor handed over the CDs to the defence counsel before Special Judge CM Joshi of the Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) Court, where the trial began on July 4.

The counsel for the accused had on July 8 told the court that they had not been given the footage yet. According to Times of India, the footage from September 5, 2017, shows two men park their motorbike and shooting at Gauri Lankesh outside her home in Bangalore’s Rajarajeshwari Nagar. According to the chargesheet these two men have been identified as Parshuram Waghmare and Ganesh Miskin. Miskin is also accused of shooting at rationalist MM Kalburgi at his Dharwad home on August 30, 2015.

When hearings began on July 4, Judge Joshi had set some ground-rules according to which hearings will take place every second week of the month for five days. According to Hindustan Times, the court permitted all accused lodged in Bengaluru’s Parappana Agrahara Central Prison and Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail to be made part of the trial through video conference. The court also permitted the advocates will to consult their clients over the phone or meet them physically.

As SabrangIndia had reported previously, Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavita Lankesh, who is a filmmaker and poet, made her statement before the special court on July 4, and said that just days before her murder, Gauri Lankesh had seen some men “loitering suspiciously” near her home in Bengaluru. She also said that it was she who discovered Gauri’s bullet ridden body in a pool of blood.

But the counsel for the defence wanted to spin an entirely different narrative. During her cross examination, Kavita was asked about family feuds instead. She was also asked about Gauri’s alleged “Naxalite connections”. At one point the defence counsel also mentioned Gauri Lankesh’s connections to the activists who have been dubbed the “tukde-tukde gang”, namely Jignesh Mewani and Kanhaiya Kumar. But this line of questioning was shot down by the court. The defence also tried to rake up Gauri Lankesh’s alleged connections with the Congress Party. But when asked to name the connections, it turns out at least two of the people named – Ramesh Jarkiholi and Pramod Madhwara – are now BJP leaders.

Brief background of the case

Journalist and activist Gauri Lankesh was snatched away from friends, family and her fellow journalists when the fearless journalist was gunned down outside her home on September 5, 2017. Since then, 17 people have been arrested in connection with the case, and one accused is still missing.

The said incident came under the jurisdiction of Rajarajeshwari Nagar police station of Bangalore City and on the same day an FIR was registered under Sections 302, 120(B), 114, 118, 109, 201, 203, 204, 35 of I.P.C. and Sections 25(1), 25(1B), 27(1) of the Indian Arms Act, 1959 and Sessions 3(1)(i), 3(2), 3(3) and 3(4) of the COCA Act, 2000 (Order No.C.R.M./01/158/BC/2017-18 dated 06-09-2017 of the D.G. and I.G.P.) as Crime No. 221/2017. Gauri Lankesh’s sister, Kavitha Lankesh is the first informant in the case.

The Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) began probing the case. Two chargesheets were filed in the case. The primary chargesheet was filed against KT Naveen Kumar, a 37-year-old member of the Hindu Yuva Sena on May 30, 2018. On November 23, 2018 the supplementary chargesheet running into 9,235 pages was filed. 18 people have reportedly been named in the chargesheet. These include shooter Parashuram Waghmare, masterminds Amol Kale, Sujith Kumar alias Praveen and Amit Digwekar. It was in this chargesheet that the Sanatan Sanstha was mentioned for the first time.

The chargesheet also mentions 26 other people who were on a hit list of sorts. These are eminent journalists, educationists and intellectuals who are perceived to be anti-Hindu by the Sanatan Sanstha. These include Siddharth Varadrajan (Editor, The Wire), journalist Antara Dev Sen, JNU professor Chaman Lal, Punjabi playwright Atamjit Singh among others.

According to the Karnataka SIT, the plot to kill Lankesh was hatched a year before the assassination. Amol Kale, a former Hindu Janjagruti Samiti convener, allegedly hired killer Parshuram Waghmare. Waghamare was allegedly a member of the Sri Ram Sene. Kale took him to an isolated spot in Khanapur, Belgaum to practice using an air pistol. Waghmare allegedly did a recce of Lankesh’s house in Rajarajeshwari Nagar in July 2017. On September 5, he and another back-up gunman Ganesh Miskin arrived outside Lankesh’s house on a black motorcycle. Waghmare fired four times at Lankesh and the duo fled the scene.

However, the group responsible came together in 2010-11 suggesting that this was a wider conspiracy planned over a longer period aiming to eliminate more rationalists, journalists and activists. In a press release the SIT had said, “The investigation so far has revealed that all the 18 accused are active members of an organised crime syndicate. This syndicate was formed in 2010-11, under the leadership of Virendra Tawade alias Bade Bhaisaab. One former editor of ‘Sanatan Prabhat’ provided financial support to this syndicate. The members of this organisation targeted people who they identified to be inimical to their belief and ideology. The members strictly followed the guidelines and principles mentioned in ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, a book published by Sanatan Sanstha.” The statement further added, “In August 2016, in a meeting of the syndicate, the main members identified Ms. Lankesh as a “durjan” as told in the ‘Kshatra Dharma Sadhana’, based on her speeches and writings. They jointly hatched a conspiracy to murder her.”

The arrests

On March 2, 2018, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) investigating Lankesh’s assassination made its first arrest, apprehending right-wing activist K. T. Naveen Kumar, of Maddur, who in 2015 founded the Hindu Yuva Sene. Kumar who reportedly confessed to Lankesh’s murder had previously been arrested in February 2018 in relation to a case involving illegal arms.

On May 30, 2018, when the SIT filed a 650-page chargesheet in the Lankesh murder case, KT Naveen Kumar was named in it. Kumar allegedly obtained the bullets that were used to kill Gauri Lankesh, and that he allegedly supplied logistical support to her killers and directed them to her residence and office in Bengaluru. It alleges that the bullets were from an ammunition store called Bangalore Armoury, and that Kumar purchased them around eight years ago. Syed Shabeer, who works at City Gun House in Kalasipalya, claimed to the SIT that he sold Kumar 18 bullets for Rs. 3,000 about eight years ago.

The SIT, in the chargesheet, stated, “The accused were angry with her for speaking against Hindu dharma, Gods of Hindu dharma and insulting Hindu dharma”. Kumar’s wife, Roopa C. N., gave the SIT a statement, which indicated that Kumar was associated with the Sanatan Dharma Sanstha, largely in 2017.

In late May 2018, the SIT arrested four more people with ties to right-wing group Sanatan Sanstha for a January 2018 conspiracy to kill K. S. Bhagwan. The four individuals also had ties to Sanatan Sanstha’s sister outfit, the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (HJS), and were also connected to Kumar, in 2017 had attended multiple HJS meetings. The four individuals are named Amol Kale alias Bhaisab, an HJS activist from Maharashtra, Amit Degwekar alias Pradeep, a Sanatan Sanstha activist from Goa, Manohar Edave of Karnataka, and Sujeet Kumar alias Praveen, an activist with Sanatan Sanstha and the HJS from Mangalore.

On June 11, 2018 the sixth accused in the case, Parashuram Waghmare, 26, was arrested. On Thursday, June 14, police reportedly interrogated Waghmare and the previously arrested Amol Kale. Waghmare had allegedly claimed that Kale instructed him to carry out the killing, and gave him a country-made pistol.

Sharad Kalaskar was arrested on August 10, 2018 by the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) after a tip off from the Karnataka Special Investigation Team (SIT) which was probing the Gauri Lankesh murder case. The ATS claims that Kalaskar was also one of the two gunmen who shot and killed Narendra Dabholkar in August 2013. According to the ATS, the weapon used to kill Gauri Lankesh and other rationalists was also procured and manufactured by Kalaskar.

A note on how to make bombs was also recovered from him. Kalaskar was arrested along with Vaibhav Raut and Sudhanwa Gondhalekar from the Nallasopara home of Raut who is the convener of the Hindu Govansh Raksha Samiti. 20 crude bombs and two gelatin sheets were recovered during this raid. Meanwhile, Gondhalekar is a member of Shiv Shivapratishthan Hindustan, an organisation run by none other than Shambhaji Bhide, one of the two main accused in the Bhima Koregaon violence.

In July 2019, Uma Devi, wife of slain rationalist MM Kalburgi identified the gunman who shot her husband. Earlier the SIT had arrested Praveen Chatur, a Belgavi resident who had allegedly ferried this gunman in the Kalburgi murder. While police had initially suspected Amit Baddi, a friend of Ganesh Miskin, of being the biker, sketches prepared by police artists did not match eye witness descriptions. When the SIT probed the matter again, interrogation of Amol Kale pointed them towards Chatur. Chatur was also wanted in a petrol bomb attack on a theater screening Padmavat in Belgavi in January. He has now turned state’s witness in the Gauri Lankesh case. In his statement he has reportedly admitted to attending training camps in Jalna and Mangaluru.

Rishikesh Dewarkar was the last one to be arrested in the case so far. Dewarkar who also went by the alias Rajesh was arrested from Katras town in Dhanbad district of Jharkhand in January 2020. He had been on the run ever since the assassination and had been laying low, working at a petrol pump in Katras for several months under an assumed identity.

CJP assists Kavita Lankesh

In June 2021, Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) assisted Gauri Lankesh’s sister Kavita move a Special Leave Petition (SLP) before the Supreme Court against an order by the Karnataka High Court dropping charges under Karnataka Control of Organised Crime Act (KCOCA) against accused Mohan Nayak, who is is a close associate of Amol Kale and Rajesh Bangera, two men who are key accused in planning and committing the assassination of Gauri Lankesh.

Nayak had approached the Karnataka high court for bail on grounds of the ruling dropping the KCOCA charges against him. He had contended that on April 2, 2021, the court had quashed the FIR in relation to offence under KCOCA and therefore he could not be charged for the offence under KCOCA. For this reason, he argued that the chargesheet against him should have been filed before expiry of 90 days from the date of his arrest and remand to judicial custody. Admittedly there was no chargesheet and hence he contended that he should be entitled to statutory bail under Section 167(2) of Cr.PC.

But on July 13, the High Court’s Single-judge Bench of Justice Sreenivas Harish Kumar ruled that Nayak cannot seek bail on the grounds that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) filed a chargesheet against him, only on November 23, 2018, more than 90 days following his arrest on July 19, 2018, since the bail application was moved only after the chargesheet was filed.

Lankesh’s SLP, filed with CJP’s assistance, details the nature and extent of Mohan’s involvement saying that investigations had found that he had been “actively involved in providing shelter to the killers prior to and after committing the offence and has participated in a series of conspiracies, abetting, planning, providing logistics.”

The SLP further reiterated what the investigation agency has revealed, that they have collected sufficient evidence “to connect him with the case and establish his intimate nexus with the mastermind behind the entire event i.e., Accused No.1 Amol Kale and master arms trainer Accused No. 8 Rajesh D. Bangera who are part and parcel of an “organised crime syndicate” from its inception.”

On September 21, the matter was heard by a bench comprising Justices A.M Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar. In October 2021, the SC restored KCOCA charges against Mohan Nayak.

Related:

Gauri Lankesh case: Why is the Defence harping on alleged “Naxalite connections”, family fued?

Gauri Lankesh case: SC restores KCOCA charges against Mohan Nayak

Gauri Lankesh case: SC reserves order on plea to keep KCOCA charges against accused

Gauri Lankesh case: SC to decide on keeping KCOCA charges against accused

Gauri Lankesh case: CJP assists sister Kavitha move SC

‘Meticulous’ investigation yet little headway in Gauri Lankesh murder case

 

 

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Hindu Rashtra is the ‘antidote’ to anti-India propaganda, will be realised by 2025: HJS

The ongoing 6-day convention in Goa, June 12-18, has as many as 350 Hindutva organisations, including RSS, participating in the 10th such meet

15 Jun 2022

Convention in GoaImage Courtesy: hinduexistence.org

Even as India hurtles down the path of democratic majoritarianism, the solution is an out and out theocratic state, say the organisers of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Rashtra convention, that is currently being held in Goa at the Ramnathi temple in Ponda from June 12 to 18.

The Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) national guide, Charudatta Pingale stated that many Islamic nations have come together to oppose India over the statements made by Nupur Sharma and Al Qaeda has directly threatened to attack India.  Announcing that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2025, organisers have clearly chosen a date that falls on the centennial formation day of the aggressive Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Citing these recent examples of a diplomatic backlash India faced from Muslim countries over BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal's derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammed, the HJS said a 'Hindu Rashtra' was essential to give a befitting reply to such anti-India propaganda. News of this controversial convention was carried in The Goan and later in The Hindu and Deccan Herald newspapers.

He critiqued the fact that nobody questions those who deliberately insult the sentiments of Hindus by questioning the worship of Shiv linga as 'Fountain' or Hindu Guptanga (Shivlinga)'. "From this, it is clear why at least one nation of Hindus is needed in the world," Pingale argued.

Pingale was flanked at the press conference by Subhash Velingkar of the Goa Rajya Sanghachalak of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' organisation, the national spokesperson of HJS Ramesh Shinde, and the spokesperson of the militant Sanatan Sanstha, Chetan Rajhans.

The torch bearers of the aggressive organisation, Sanatan Sanstha (SS) have been charge-sheeted in the assassination of journalist-activist, Gauri Lankesh (2017) and other rationalists like Narendra Dabholkar (2013), Govind Pansare (2015) and MM Kalburgi (2015). In fact, in a controversial statement in 2020, the HJS had even dubbed rationalist Narendra Dabholkare an “Urban Naxal”.

This conference is a regular feature in Ponda, Goa and leading functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have lent their support to these year after year.

This year, a unique feature is the a 'Hindu Rashtra Sansad' (Hindu Rashtra Assembly) at which experts on Parliamentary and Constitutional matters, model administration of temples and education policies will deliberate on these matters in a Hindu Rashtra. The Assembly will be held for three days during the convention. Efforts will be made at the convention to decide the policy for the functioning of the Hindu Rashtra, Pingale further said.

Interestingly, the press conference was held at Hubballi (Hubli) in Karnataka on Thursday, June 9. Here, the state spokesman of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti - Mohan Gowda, State Secretary of Sri Ram Sene Gangadhar Kulkarni and Sanathan Samsthe’s Vidula Haldipur - said that over 1,000 delegates from across the country will participate in the seven-day convention. Gowda announced that delegates from America, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Nepal and other countries will also be participating in the convention. “The convention will also deliberate issues concerning Gyanvapi mosque in Kashi, Mathura Mukti Andolan, Places of Worship Act, the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits, the use of loudspeakers in mosques, hijab campaign, halal economy, among other issues,” he said.

Mohan Gowda launched a frontal attack at the statement of Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind had been reported to say that they will not allow any kind of meddling with the Shariat law on the pretext of Uniform Civil Code, adding that if Hindus did not like Muslims, they should leave the country. This was a highly condemnable, said Gowda, adding that Hindutva organisations will not remain silent.

Clearly HJS and the wider family are in sync with the policies adopted by the Modi 2.0 regime. Ms. Haldipur said that some positive developments such as abolition of Article 370 and the construction of Ram Mandir have happened due to pro-Hindu governments at the Centre and in the States, while attacks on Hindu processions and festivals have continued. “Even after 32 years of the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits, killings of Kashmiri Pandits have not stopped. The convention will deliberate on Hindu consolidation through awareness and strengthening the movement for Hindu Rashtra,” she said.

To a query on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on non-participation of the RSS in any further temple stirs, Gowda said that it was his individual opinion, but the Samiti will continue its efforts to get back temples that were forcibly converted into mosques.

To a query, Kulkarni said that Hindutva organisations will not tolerate being misused by people for the sake of them coming to power and irrespective of political support, the organisations will continue the agitation for Hindutva causes. If the BJP tried to use Hindutva organisations for its political benefits and disregard them after coming to power, the people will teach them a lesson in the next election, he said.

Related:

HJS dubs Narendra Dabholkar “Urban Naxal”
Ideology of RSS both hate ridden and supremacist
Hindu Rashtra convention planned in Bengaluru
Hate Speech: Is administering an ‘oath’ to make India a ‘Hindu-rashtra’ legal?
Gujarat:  Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad is stage for anti-Muslim abuse, trident distribution
6 Years After Narendra Dhabolkar’s Assassination, Masterminds Remain Free
Gunman in Kalburgi murder case also Gauri Lankesh murder accused?

Hindu Rashtra is the ‘antidote’ to anti-India propaganda, will be realised by 2025: HJS

The ongoing 6-day convention in Goa, June 12-18, has as many as 350 Hindutva organisations, including RSS, participating in the 10th such meet

Convention in GoaImage Courtesy: hinduexistence.org

Even as India hurtles down the path of democratic majoritarianism, the solution is an out and out theocratic state, say the organisers of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Rashtra convention, that is currently being held in Goa at the Ramnathi temple in Ponda from June 12 to 18.

The Hindu Janjagruti Samiti (HJS) national guide, Charudatta Pingale stated that many Islamic nations have come together to oppose India over the statements made by Nupur Sharma and Al Qaeda has directly threatened to attack India.  Announcing that India will be a Hindu Rashtra by 2025, organisers have clearly chosen a date that falls on the centennial formation day of the aggressive Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).

Citing these recent examples of a diplomatic backlash India faced from Muslim countries over BJP spokespersons Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal's derogatory comments against Prophet Mohammed, the HJS said a 'Hindu Rashtra' was essential to give a befitting reply to such anti-India propaganda. News of this controversial convention was carried in The Goan and later in The Hindu and Deccan Herald newspapers.

He critiqued the fact that nobody questions those who deliberately insult the sentiments of Hindus by questioning the worship of Shiv linga as 'Fountain' or Hindu Guptanga (Shivlinga)'. "From this, it is clear why at least one nation of Hindus is needed in the world," Pingale argued.

Pingale was flanked at the press conference by Subhash Velingkar of the Goa Rajya Sanghachalak of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' organisation, the national spokesperson of HJS Ramesh Shinde, and the spokesperson of the militant Sanatan Sanstha, Chetan Rajhans.

The torch bearers of the aggressive organisation, Sanatan Sanstha (SS) have been charge-sheeted in the assassination of journalist-activist, Gauri Lankesh (2017) and other rationalists like Narendra Dabholkar (2013), Govind Pansare (2015) and MM Kalburgi (2015). In fact, in a controversial statement in 2020, the HJS had even dubbed rationalist Narendra Dabholkare an “Urban Naxal”.

This conference is a regular feature in Ponda, Goa and leading functionaries of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have lent their support to these year after year.

This year, a unique feature is the a 'Hindu Rashtra Sansad' (Hindu Rashtra Assembly) at which experts on Parliamentary and Constitutional matters, model administration of temples and education policies will deliberate on these matters in a Hindu Rashtra. The Assembly will be held for three days during the convention. Efforts will be made at the convention to decide the policy for the functioning of the Hindu Rashtra, Pingale further said.

Interestingly, the press conference was held at Hubballi (Hubli) in Karnataka on Thursday, June 9. Here, the state spokesman of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti - Mohan Gowda, State Secretary of Sri Ram Sene Gangadhar Kulkarni and Sanathan Samsthe’s Vidula Haldipur - said that over 1,000 delegates from across the country will participate in the seven-day convention. Gowda announced that delegates from America, England, Hong Kong, Singapore, Nepal and other countries will also be participating in the convention. “The convention will also deliberate issues concerning Gyanvapi mosque in Kashi, Mathura Mukti Andolan, Places of Worship Act, the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits, the use of loudspeakers in mosques, hijab campaign, halal economy, among other issues,” he said.

Mohan Gowda launched a frontal attack at the statement of Maulana Mahmood Madani of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind had been reported to say that they will not allow any kind of meddling with the Shariat law on the pretext of Uniform Civil Code, adding that if Hindus did not like Muslims, they should leave the country. This was a highly condemnable, said Gowda, adding that Hindutva organisations will not remain silent.

Clearly HJS and the wider family are in sync with the policies adopted by the Modi 2.0 regime. Ms. Haldipur said that some positive developments such as abolition of Article 370 and the construction of Ram Mandir have happened due to pro-Hindu governments at the Centre and in the States, while attacks on Hindu processions and festivals have continued. “Even after 32 years of the massacre of Kashmiri Pandits, killings of Kashmiri Pandits have not stopped. The convention will deliberate on Hindu consolidation through awareness and strengthening the movement for Hindu Rashtra,” she said.

To a query on RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement on non-participation of the RSS in any further temple stirs, Gowda said that it was his individual opinion, but the Samiti will continue its efforts to get back temples that were forcibly converted into mosques.

To a query, Kulkarni said that Hindutva organisations will not tolerate being misused by people for the sake of them coming to power and irrespective of political support, the organisations will continue the agitation for Hindutva causes. If the BJP tried to use Hindutva organisations for its political benefits and disregard them after coming to power, the people will teach them a lesson in the next election, he said.

Related:

HJS dubs Narendra Dabholkar “Urban Naxal”
Ideology of RSS both hate ridden and supremacist
Hindu Rashtra convention planned in Bengaluru
Hate Speech: Is administering an ‘oath’ to make India a ‘Hindu-rashtra’ legal?
Gujarat:  Antarashtriya Hindu Parishad is stage for anti-Muslim abuse, trident distribution
6 Years After Narendra Dhabolkar’s Assassination, Masterminds Remain Free
Gunman in Kalburgi murder case also Gauri Lankesh murder accused?

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A Hinduism that is the mirror opposite of Hindutva

11 Jun 2022

First Published on: December 5, 2015



The making of “Ram Ke Naam”
 
In 1984 after her Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Gandhi, a revenge pogrom took the lives of over 3000 Sikhs on the streets of Delhi. Many killer mobs were led by Congress Party members, but some were led by the RSS and BJP as well. This is a fact forgotten by history but recorded in newspaper headlines of the day.  It was this massacre that set me on the to road to fight Communalism with my camera. For the next decade I recorded different examples of the rise of the religious right, as seen in diverse movements from the Khalistani upsurge in Punjab to the glorification of Sati in Rajasthan and the movement to replace the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya with a temple to Lord Ram.
 
The material I filmed was very complex and if I had tried to encompass it all into a single film, it would have been too long and confusing. Eventually three distinct films emerged from the footage shot between 1984 and 1994, all broadly describing the rise of religious fundamentalism and the resistance offered by secular forces in the country. “Una Mitran Di Yaad Pyaari/ In Memory of Friends”, the first film to get completed, spoke of the situation in the Punjab of the 1980’s where Khalistanis as well as the Indian government were claiming Bhagat Singh as their hero, but only people from the Left remembered the Bhagat Singh who from his death cell wrote the booklet, “Why I am an Atheist”.
 
The second film was “Ram Ke Naam/In the Name of God” on the rise of Hindu fundamentalism as witnessed in the temple-mosque controversy in Ayodhya. The third was “Pitra, Putra aur Dharmayuddha/Father, Son and Holy War” on the connection between religious violence and the male psyche. All three films tackled Communalism, but each used a different prism to analyse what was happening. “In Memory of Friends” highlighted the writings of Bhagat Singh suggesting that class solidarity was the antidote to religious division. “Father, Son and Holy War” looked at the issue from the prism of gender.
 
For this article, I will concentrate on “Ram Ke Naam”, the middle film of what became a trilogy on Communalism. While the film covers a two year span from 1990 onwards, the back story begins in the mid-1980’s when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and sister organizations of the Hindutva family (the Sangh Parivar) was searching for a way to capture the imagination of the Hindus of India who at 83%, constitute the real vote bank of this country.  A Dharam Sansad (Parliament of Priests) in 1984 (the year Indira Gandhi was killed and the Congress rode to power on a sympathy wave) identified 3000 sites of potential conflict between Hindus and Muslims that could mobilize the sentiments of Hindus and polarize the nation. The top three sites chosen were at Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. The Dharam Sansad decided to start with the Ram temple/Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Soon a nationwide village to village campaign to collects bricks and money to build a grand Ram temple in place of the Babri mosque began. The campaign went international as NRI’s chipped in from distant lands. By design or by remarkable coincidence, India’s state controlled TV channel, Doordarshan started to run a never-ending serial on the Hindu epic - The Ramayana (The story of Lord Ram). In those days there were few other TV channels and the whole nation was hooked onto mythology. These were the ingredients already at play when BJP stalwart L. K. Advani set out on his chariot of fire.
 
“Ram Ke Naam” follows the Rath Yatra of L.K. Advani who in 1990 traversed the Indian countryside in an air-conditioned Toyota dressed up by a Bollywood set-designer to look like a mythological war chariot. The stated objective was to gather Hindu volunteers, or “kar sevaks” to demolish a 16th century mosque built by the Mughal emperor Babar in Ayodhya and build a temple to Lord Ram in its exact location. The rationale for this act of destruction and construction was that Babar had supposedly built this mosque after demolishing a temple to Lord Ram that had marked the exact location of Lord Ram’s birth. This was justified as an act of historic redress for the many wrongs inflicted by Muslim invaders and rulers on their native Hindu subjects, a theme that runs through all Hindutva discourse like a flaming torch.
 
I started the film instinctively, shooting the Rath Yatra when it arrived in Bombay in 1990 and then following it through various segments of its journey. At many places the Rath passed through, it left a trail of blood as kar sevaks attacked local Muslims either for not showing due respect or just to display their might. By the end of its journey over 60 people had been killed and many more injured in the wake of the Rath.
 
Most of our shoot was done with a two-person crew consisting of myself with an old 16 mm camera and colleagues who accompanied me on different legs of the shoot. For the leg that eventually reached Ayodhya, Pervez Merwanji recorded sound on our portable Nagra. Pervez was a dear friend and a filmmaker in his own right, having just made his brilliant debut feature “Percy” which went on to win a major award at the Mannhein International Film Festival. Despite this he was not too proud to don the mantle of sound recordist on an unheralded independent documentary project like ours. It turned out to be the last film he would ever work on. Pervez contracted jaundice, probably during our shoot, seemed to recover, but then his liver failed him and he passed away never having seen the final edit of our film.
 
Our actual filming was staggered over a year and a half, and we were able to research as well as shoot in this period.  We learned that contrary to the theory that votaries of Hindutva were propagating that claimed that there was a temple underneath the mosque, the artefacts that archaeologists had originally found in digs in the vicinity had nothing to do with any temple. According to historians, in the 7th century at the location of present day Ayodhya, probably stood the Buddhist city of Saket.  We learned that the proliferation of Akhadas (military wings attached to temples) in Ayodhya had nothing to do with the long war to liberate the birthplace of Lord Ram as was being claimed by Hindutva ideologues, but owed their origin to the ongoing rivalry between armed Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects in the middle ages. Most importantly we learned that in the 16th century, the poet Tulsidas visited Ayodhya many times as he composed his famous Ram Charitra Manas, a text which converted the relatively obscure Sanskrit Ramayana into khadi boli, a form of Hindi, that popularized the story of Lord Ram for the ordinary folk of North India. Not only does Tulsidas never mention that a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram was just demolished by Babar, there is another telling fact. Until the 16th century the Rama legend was largely restricted to the few Brahmins who knew Sanskrit. It is only after Tulsidas’s Hindi version had spread that Ram became a popular god for the masses and Ram temples sprouted across the country. In other words in the middle of the 16th century when the Babri Mosque was built, it is highly unlikely that there were any Ram temples at all. Today Ayodhya is full of Ram temples and at least twenty of them claim to be built at the birthplace of Ram. The reason is obvious. Any temple that establishes itself as the birthplace of Ram gets huge donations from its devotees.
 
Some of this research is hinted at in the finished film but rarely made explicit as I felt that it would be more powerful for our film to rely on the logic of events unfolding before the camera in 1990-91 rather than become a theoretical and didactic treatise. Ideally I, or someone else should have made an accompanying booklet to point out the many footnotes and annotations that such a film really needs.



 
30th October 1990 had been declared by L.K. Advani as the target date for “Kar Seva” at the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Mosque site in Ayodhya. Pervez and I headed to Uttar Pradesh. We were trying to catch up with the Rath at some of its scheduled stops. The trains were already jam full. We squeezed into a Third Class compartment where we could barely sit on top of our luggage. We had got on a wrong train and it was impossible to get out! It turned out to be a stroke of luck as the train took us to Patna, Bihar where the Left front along with Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav were holding a huge anti-Rath rally at the Gandhi Maidan. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7XRvjYQOaI)
 
A.B. Bardhan of the CPI made a brilliant appeal to preserve India’s syncretic culture and Lalu Prasad Yadav gave a stern warning telling Advani to turn back from the brink. A few days later he kept his promise. Advani was arrested and the Rath Yatra finally came to a halt in Bihar.  Not so the kar sevaks who used all modes of transport to continue to head towards Ayodhya.
 
We caught a train back to Lucknow. There we spent almost 10 days trying to get permission to enter Ayodhya. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had vowed to protect the Babri Mosque and claimed that he had turned Ayodhya into an impenetrable fortress where not just kar sevaks but “parinda par na kar payega” (not a bird could fly cross). As it turned out in the end the only people who had difficulty getting into Ayodhya were journalists and documentarians like us.
 
We finally reached Ayodhya on the 28th of October, two days before the planned assault on the mosque. Here we met Shastriji, an old Mahant  (temple priest) who in 1949 had been part of the group that had broken into the Babri Mosque at night and installed a Ram idol in the sanctum sanctorum. From that day on, the site had become disputed territory as District Magistarate K.K. Nair refused to have the idols removed.  As “Ram Ke Naam” points out, K.K. Nair after retiring from government service went on to join the Jan Sangh Party (precursor of the BJP) and became a Member of Parliament.
 
Shastriji, the Mahant, was proud of installing the idols and a little miffed that everyone had forgotten his role. Hindutva videos, audios and literature had proclaimed that what happened in 1949 was a “miracle” where the god Lord Ram appeared at his birthplace.  Shastri was arrested and released on bail by the District Magistrate, K.K.Nair. Till the day we met him 41 years later, he had remained free.
 
We went across the Saryu bridge to Ayodhya’s twin city, Faizabad. Here we met the old Imam of the Babri Mosque and his carpenter son who recounted the 1949 story from their perspective. The District Magistrate had told them after the break-in that order would soon be restored, and that by next Friday they could re-enter their mosque for prayers. As the Imam’s son put it “We are still waiting for that Friday”.
 
As 30th October dawned and we made our way on foot to the Saryu bridge at Ayodhya, we could see that CM Mulayam Singh’s promise that no one would get through to Ayodhya was proving false. Already several thousands had gathered by the bridge, despite the curfew. There had been a small lathi charge while shoes and footwear were scattered all over the bridge. Busloads of arrested karsevaks were being driven away after arrest. What we did not notice at the time was that many of these buses would stop at a short distance and the kar sevaks would disembark to rejoin the fray. By the side of the bridge thousands were chanting at the police “Hindu, hindu bhai bhai, beech mein vardi kahan se aayee? (All Hindus are brothers. why let a uniform get between us?)”.
 
As the day progressed it was heartbreaking to those of us who knew that any attack on the mosque would rent apart the delicate communal fabric of the nation.. We had believed Mulayam Singh’s strong rhetoric that he would stop karsevaks long before they reached the mosque. What we saw on the ground was bewildering. Not only were thousands pouring in despite the curfew but at many places there was active connivance from the police and paramilitary forces. There was utter confusion. In the end some karsevaks did break through to attack the mosque but at the very last instance, the police opened fire. Some karsevaks reached the top of the mosque’s dome and tied their orange Hindutva flag. Others broke into the sanctum sanctorum where the idols were kept but police firing prevented the larger crowd from demolishing the mosque. In all 29 people, young and old, lost their lives.  Later BJP and VHP propaganda claimed that over a thousand had been killed and thrown into the Saryu river. The think-tank of Hindutva then initiated another Rath Yatra across the country carrying the ashes of their Ayodhya “martyrs”.
 
On the night of the 30th, in the sombre mood that the attack had spawned, we met Pujari Laldas, the court-appointed head priest of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Mosque site. Laldas was an outspoken critic of Hindutva despite being a Hindu priest and had received death threats. The UP government had provided him with two bodyguards. It is this wonderful interview of one of independent India’s unsung heroes that gives “Ram Ke Naam” its real poignancy. Laldas spoke out against the VHP pointing out that they had never even prayed at the site but were using it for political and financial gain. He spoke of the syncretic past of Ayodhya and expressed anguish that Hindu-Muslim unity in the country was being sacrificed by people who were cynically using religion. He predicted a storm of mayhem that would follow but expressed confidence that
this storm too would pass and sanity would return.
 
For “In Memory of Friends”, I had used a prism of class as seen through the writings of Bhagat Singh to speak of the Punjab of today. In reality, by the late 1980’s classical Marxist analysis and class solidarity were no longer exclusively effective tools in an India and a world where the ideas of the Left were losing out to consumer capitalism. The Soviet Union was collapsing and China was embracing state capitalism. The USA was the only super power left in the world, which itself was fragmenting into its religious and ethnic sub-parts. Yugoslavia disintegrated into internecine warfare. The USA with its ally, Saudi Arabia, stoked Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight Communism which in turn helped Kashmiri militants take up the gun. In Punjab, Sikh militants were rising and in Northern India, Hindu militants came into their own. For “Ram Ke Naam” the sane voice of the Hindu priest Pujari Laldas played the role that Bhagat Singh’s writings had done in my previous film. The Left antidote to Communalism was still present through the Patna speech of CPI’s AB Bardhan. But it was now joined by a liberation theologist in the form of Pujari Laldas. The violent reaction of upper caste Hindus to the attempt by Prime Minister V.P. Singh to implement a Mandal Commision report granting reservations to ‘backward’ castes, had led to upper caste Hindus embracing Hindutva and the Mandir (Ram temple) movement. This had not yet trickled down the Caste order. Wherever we went in UP, Dalits and “Backward Castes” spoke out against the Ram temple movement. This became the third spoke in the anti-Communal wheel.
 
The film was complete by late 1991. We had some hiccoughs and delays from the censors but finally cleared this hurdle without cuts. The film went on to win a national award for Best Investigative Documentary as well as a Filmfare Award for Best documentary. At the 1992 Bombay International Documentary Film Festival, Jaya Bacchan was head of the jury. “Ram Ke Naam” did not get a mention. Several critics commented that the film was raking up a dead issue as the Babri Mosque was intact and the film would unnecessarily give the country a bad name abroad. Later that month I attended the Berlin Film Festival with “Ram Ke Naam”. I learned to my horror that Amitabh and Jaya Bacchan, who were also guests at this festival, had told the Festival authorities that should not have selected such an “anti-India” film.
 
On the strength of our national award I submitted it for telecast on Doordarshan. Any government that actually believed in a secular India, would have shown such a film many times over so that our public could realize how religious hatred is manufactured for narrow political and financial gains. Widespread exposure may have undermined the movement to demolish the mosque. The BJP was not yet in power. Yet Doordarshan refused to telecast the film and I took them to court. 5 years later we won our case and the film was telecast, but the damage had long been done.
 
After the October 30 attack in 1990 and the death of 29 karsevaks, the BJP, which had been in coalition with VP Singh’s Janata Dal Party government at the centre, pulled out its support. Chandra Shekhar briefly came to power at the centre but quickly lost to Narsimha Rao’s Congress in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. In UP Mulayam Singh’s government gave way to a BJP government. One of its first steps was to have Pujari Laldas removed as head priest of the Ram Janmaboomi/Babri Masjid, and then to remove his bodyguards. Conditions were now ripe for the major assault.
 
On December 6, 1992 with the BJP in power in UP, and a strangely acquiescent Narsimha Rao led Congress government at the centre, the Hindutva brigade finally succeeded in demolishing the Babri Mosque. Pujari Laldas’s predictions of large scale violence in the region came true. The old Imam and his son from Faizabad I had interviewed were put to death on 7th December 1992. While Muslims were slaughtered across India, in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Hindu minority was targeted and temples destroyed. In March 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai organized by Muslim members of the mafia killed over 300 people. The chain reaction set into motion since those days has still to abate.
 
Back in 1991 our première had been held in Lucknow, capital of UP. Pujari Laldas came for the screening and asked for several cassettes of the film. When I asked about his own safety, he laughed and said he was happy that now his views would circulate more widely. As he put it, if he had been afraid, he would not have spoken out in the first place.
 
A year later, a tiny item on the inside pages of the Times of India noted-“Controversial priest found murdered.” Pujari Laldas had been killed with a country-made revolver. The newspaper article never told us that the real “controversy” was the fact that this brave priest believed in a Hinduism that is the mirror opposite of Hindutva.

A Hinduism that is the mirror opposite of Hindutva

First Published on: December 5, 2015



The making of “Ram Ke Naam”
 
In 1984 after her Sikh bodyguards assassinated Indira Gandhi, a revenge pogrom took the lives of over 3000 Sikhs on the streets of Delhi. Many killer mobs were led by Congress Party members, but some were led by the RSS and BJP as well. This is a fact forgotten by history but recorded in newspaper headlines of the day.  It was this massacre that set me on the to road to fight Communalism with my camera. For the next decade I recorded different examples of the rise of the religious right, as seen in diverse movements from the Khalistani upsurge in Punjab to the glorification of Sati in Rajasthan and the movement to replace the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya with a temple to Lord Ram.
 
The material I filmed was very complex and if I had tried to encompass it all into a single film, it would have been too long and confusing. Eventually three distinct films emerged from the footage shot between 1984 and 1994, all broadly describing the rise of religious fundamentalism and the resistance offered by secular forces in the country. “Una Mitran Di Yaad Pyaari/ In Memory of Friends”, the first film to get completed, spoke of the situation in the Punjab of the 1980’s where Khalistanis as well as the Indian government were claiming Bhagat Singh as their hero, but only people from the Left remembered the Bhagat Singh who from his death cell wrote the booklet, “Why I am an Atheist”.
 
The second film was “Ram Ke Naam/In the Name of God” on the rise of Hindu fundamentalism as witnessed in the temple-mosque controversy in Ayodhya. The third was “Pitra, Putra aur Dharmayuddha/Father, Son and Holy War” on the connection between religious violence and the male psyche. All three films tackled Communalism, but each used a different prism to analyse what was happening. “In Memory of Friends” highlighted the writings of Bhagat Singh suggesting that class solidarity was the antidote to religious division. “Father, Son and Holy War” looked at the issue from the prism of gender.
 
For this article, I will concentrate on “Ram Ke Naam”, the middle film of what became a trilogy on Communalism. While the film covers a two year span from 1990 onwards, the back story begins in the mid-1980’s when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and sister organizations of the Hindutva family (the Sangh Parivar) was searching for a way to capture the imagination of the Hindus of India who at 83%, constitute the real vote bank of this country.  A Dharam Sansad (Parliament of Priests) in 1984 (the year Indira Gandhi was killed and the Congress rode to power on a sympathy wave) identified 3000 sites of potential conflict between Hindus and Muslims that could mobilize the sentiments of Hindus and polarize the nation. The top three sites chosen were at Ayodhya, Kashi and Mathura. The Dharam Sansad decided to start with the Ram temple/Babri Mosque in Ayodhya. Soon a nationwide village to village campaign to collects bricks and money to build a grand Ram temple in place of the Babri mosque began. The campaign went international as NRI’s chipped in from distant lands. By design or by remarkable coincidence, India’s state controlled TV channel, Doordarshan started to run a never-ending serial on the Hindu epic - The Ramayana (The story of Lord Ram). In those days there were few other TV channels and the whole nation was hooked onto mythology. These were the ingredients already at play when BJP stalwart L. K. Advani set out on his chariot of fire.
 
“Ram Ke Naam” follows the Rath Yatra of L.K. Advani who in 1990 traversed the Indian countryside in an air-conditioned Toyota dressed up by a Bollywood set-designer to look like a mythological war chariot. The stated objective was to gather Hindu volunteers, or “kar sevaks” to demolish a 16th century mosque built by the Mughal emperor Babar in Ayodhya and build a temple to Lord Ram in its exact location. The rationale for this act of destruction and construction was that Babar had supposedly built this mosque after demolishing a temple to Lord Ram that had marked the exact location of Lord Ram’s birth. This was justified as an act of historic redress for the many wrongs inflicted by Muslim invaders and rulers on their native Hindu subjects, a theme that runs through all Hindutva discourse like a flaming torch.
 
I started the film instinctively, shooting the Rath Yatra when it arrived in Bombay in 1990 and then following it through various segments of its journey. At many places the Rath passed through, it left a trail of blood as kar sevaks attacked local Muslims either for not showing due respect or just to display their might. By the end of its journey over 60 people had been killed and many more injured in the wake of the Rath.
 
Most of our shoot was done with a two-person crew consisting of myself with an old 16 mm camera and colleagues who accompanied me on different legs of the shoot. For the leg that eventually reached Ayodhya, Pervez Merwanji recorded sound on our portable Nagra. Pervez was a dear friend and a filmmaker in his own right, having just made his brilliant debut feature “Percy” which went on to win a major award at the Mannhein International Film Festival. Despite this he was not too proud to don the mantle of sound recordist on an unheralded independent documentary project like ours. It turned out to be the last film he would ever work on. Pervez contracted jaundice, probably during our shoot, seemed to recover, but then his liver failed him and he passed away never having seen the final edit of our film.
 
Our actual filming was staggered over a year and a half, and we were able to research as well as shoot in this period.  We learned that contrary to the theory that votaries of Hindutva were propagating that claimed that there was a temple underneath the mosque, the artefacts that archaeologists had originally found in digs in the vicinity had nothing to do with any temple. According to historians, in the 7th century at the location of present day Ayodhya, probably stood the Buddhist city of Saket.  We learned that the proliferation of Akhadas (military wings attached to temples) in Ayodhya had nothing to do with the long war to liberate the birthplace of Lord Ram as was being claimed by Hindutva ideologues, but owed their origin to the ongoing rivalry between armed Shaivite and Vaishnavite sects in the middle ages. Most importantly we learned that in the 16th century, the poet Tulsidas visited Ayodhya many times as he composed his famous Ram Charitra Manas, a text which converted the relatively obscure Sanskrit Ramayana into khadi boli, a form of Hindi, that popularized the story of Lord Ram for the ordinary folk of North India. Not only does Tulsidas never mention that a temple marking the birthplace of Lord Ram was just demolished by Babar, there is another telling fact. Until the 16th century the Rama legend was largely restricted to the few Brahmins who knew Sanskrit. It is only after Tulsidas’s Hindi version had spread that Ram became a popular god for the masses and Ram temples sprouted across the country. In other words in the middle of the 16th century when the Babri Mosque was built, it is highly unlikely that there were any Ram temples at all. Today Ayodhya is full of Ram temples and at least twenty of them claim to be built at the birthplace of Ram. The reason is obvious. Any temple that establishes itself as the birthplace of Ram gets huge donations from its devotees.
 
Some of this research is hinted at in the finished film but rarely made explicit as I felt that it would be more powerful for our film to rely on the logic of events unfolding before the camera in 1990-91 rather than become a theoretical and didactic treatise. Ideally I, or someone else should have made an accompanying booklet to point out the many footnotes and annotations that such a film really needs.



 
30th October 1990 had been declared by L.K. Advani as the target date for “Kar Seva” at the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Mosque site in Ayodhya. Pervez and I headed to Uttar Pradesh. We were trying to catch up with the Rath at some of its scheduled stops. The trains were already jam full. We squeezed into a Third Class compartment where we could barely sit on top of our luggage. We had got on a wrong train and it was impossible to get out! It turned out to be a stroke of luck as the train took us to Patna, Bihar where the Left front along with Bihar Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav were holding a huge anti-Rath rally at the Gandhi Maidan. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7XRvjYQOaI)
 
A.B. Bardhan of the CPI made a brilliant appeal to preserve India’s syncretic culture and Lalu Prasad Yadav gave a stern warning telling Advani to turn back from the brink. A few days later he kept his promise. Advani was arrested and the Rath Yatra finally came to a halt in Bihar.  Not so the kar sevaks who used all modes of transport to continue to head towards Ayodhya.
 
We caught a train back to Lucknow. There we spent almost 10 days trying to get permission to enter Ayodhya. Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav had vowed to protect the Babri Mosque and claimed that he had turned Ayodhya into an impenetrable fortress where not just kar sevaks but “parinda par na kar payega” (not a bird could fly cross). As it turned out in the end the only people who had difficulty getting into Ayodhya were journalists and documentarians like us.
 
We finally reached Ayodhya on the 28th of October, two days before the planned assault on the mosque. Here we met Shastriji, an old Mahant  (temple priest) who in 1949 had been part of the group that had broken into the Babri Mosque at night and installed a Ram idol in the sanctum sanctorum. From that day on, the site had become disputed territory as District Magistarate K.K. Nair refused to have the idols removed.  As “Ram Ke Naam” points out, K.K. Nair after retiring from government service went on to join the Jan Sangh Party (precursor of the BJP) and became a Member of Parliament.
 
Shastriji, the Mahant, was proud of installing the idols and a little miffed that everyone had forgotten his role. Hindutva videos, audios and literature had proclaimed that what happened in 1949 was a “miracle” where the god Lord Ram appeared at his birthplace.  Shastri was arrested and released on bail by the District Magistrate, K.K.Nair. Till the day we met him 41 years later, he had remained free.
 
We went across the Saryu bridge to Ayodhya’s twin city, Faizabad. Here we met the old Imam of the Babri Mosque and his carpenter son who recounted the 1949 story from their perspective. The District Magistrate had told them after the break-in that order would soon be restored, and that by next Friday they could re-enter their mosque for prayers. As the Imam’s son put it “We are still waiting for that Friday”.
 
As 30th October dawned and we made our way on foot to the Saryu bridge at Ayodhya, we could see that CM Mulayam Singh’s promise that no one would get through to Ayodhya was proving false. Already several thousands had gathered by the bridge, despite the curfew. There had been a small lathi charge while shoes and footwear were scattered all over the bridge. Busloads of arrested karsevaks were being driven away after arrest. What we did not notice at the time was that many of these buses would stop at a short distance and the kar sevaks would disembark to rejoin the fray. By the side of the bridge thousands were chanting at the police “Hindu, hindu bhai bhai, beech mein vardi kahan se aayee? (All Hindus are brothers. why let a uniform get between us?)”.
 
As the day progressed it was heartbreaking to those of us who knew that any attack on the mosque would rent apart the delicate communal fabric of the nation.. We had believed Mulayam Singh’s strong rhetoric that he would stop karsevaks long before they reached the mosque. What we saw on the ground was bewildering. Not only were thousands pouring in despite the curfew but at many places there was active connivance from the police and paramilitary forces. There was utter confusion. In the end some karsevaks did break through to attack the mosque but at the very last instance, the police opened fire. Some karsevaks reached the top of the mosque’s dome and tied their orange Hindutva flag. Others broke into the sanctum sanctorum where the idols were kept but police firing prevented the larger crowd from demolishing the mosque. In all 29 people, young and old, lost their lives.  Later BJP and VHP propaganda claimed that over a thousand had been killed and thrown into the Saryu river. The think-tank of Hindutva then initiated another Rath Yatra across the country carrying the ashes of their Ayodhya “martyrs”.
 
On the night of the 30th, in the sombre mood that the attack had spawned, we met Pujari Laldas, the court-appointed head priest of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi/Babri Mosque site. Laldas was an outspoken critic of Hindutva despite being a Hindu priest and had received death threats. The UP government had provided him with two bodyguards. It is this wonderful interview of one of independent India’s unsung heroes that gives “Ram Ke Naam” its real poignancy. Laldas spoke out against the VHP pointing out that they had never even prayed at the site but were using it for political and financial gain. He spoke of the syncretic past of Ayodhya and expressed anguish that Hindu-Muslim unity in the country was being sacrificed by people who were cynically using religion. He predicted a storm of mayhem that would follow but expressed confidence that
this storm too would pass and sanity would return.
 
For “In Memory of Friends”, I had used a prism of class as seen through the writings of Bhagat Singh to speak of the Punjab of today. In reality, by the late 1980’s classical Marxist analysis and class solidarity were no longer exclusively effective tools in an India and a world where the ideas of the Left were losing out to consumer capitalism. The Soviet Union was collapsing and China was embracing state capitalism. The USA was the only super power left in the world, which itself was fragmenting into its religious and ethnic sub-parts. Yugoslavia disintegrated into internecine warfare. The USA with its ally, Saudi Arabia, stoked Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight Communism which in turn helped Kashmiri militants take up the gun. In Punjab, Sikh militants were rising and in Northern India, Hindu militants came into their own. For “Ram Ke Naam” the sane voice of the Hindu priest Pujari Laldas played the role that Bhagat Singh’s writings had done in my previous film. The Left antidote to Communalism was still present through the Patna speech of CPI’s AB Bardhan. But it was now joined by a liberation theologist in the form of Pujari Laldas. The violent reaction of upper caste Hindus to the attempt by Prime Minister V.P. Singh to implement a Mandal Commision report granting reservations to ‘backward’ castes, had led to upper caste Hindus embracing Hindutva and the Mandir (Ram temple) movement. This had not yet trickled down the Caste order. Wherever we went in UP, Dalits and “Backward Castes” spoke out against the Ram temple movement. This became the third spoke in the anti-Communal wheel.
 
The film was complete by late 1991. We had some hiccoughs and delays from the censors but finally cleared this hurdle without cuts. The film went on to win a national award for Best Investigative Documentary as well as a Filmfare Award for Best documentary. At the 1992 Bombay International Documentary Film Festival, Jaya Bacchan was head of the jury. “Ram Ke Naam” did not get a mention. Several critics commented that the film was raking up a dead issue as the Babri Mosque was intact and the film would unnecessarily give the country a bad name abroad. Later that month I attended the Berlin Film Festival with “Ram Ke Naam”. I learned to my horror that Amitabh and Jaya Bacchan, who were also guests at this festival, had told the Festival authorities that should not have selected such an “anti-India” film.
 
On the strength of our national award I submitted it for telecast on Doordarshan. Any government that actually believed in a secular India, would have shown such a film many times over so that our public could realize how religious hatred is manufactured for narrow political and financial gains. Widespread exposure may have undermined the movement to demolish the mosque. The BJP was not yet in power. Yet Doordarshan refused to telecast the film and I took them to court. 5 years later we won our case and the film was telecast, but the damage had long been done.
 
After the October 30 attack in 1990 and the death of 29 karsevaks, the BJP, which had been in coalition with VP Singh’s Janata Dal Party government at the centre, pulled out its support. Chandra Shekhar briefly came to power at the centre but quickly lost to Narsimha Rao’s Congress in the wake of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination. In UP Mulayam Singh’s government gave way to a BJP government. One of its first steps was to have Pujari Laldas removed as head priest of the Ram Janmaboomi/Babri Masjid, and then to remove his bodyguards. Conditions were now ripe for the major assault.
 
On December 6, 1992 with the BJP in power in UP, and a strangely acquiescent Narsimha Rao led Congress government at the centre, the Hindutva brigade finally succeeded in demolishing the Babri Mosque. Pujari Laldas’s predictions of large scale violence in the region came true. The old Imam and his son from Faizabad I had interviewed were put to death on 7th December 1992. While Muslims were slaughtered across India, in neighbouring Pakistan and Bangladesh, the Hindu minority was targeted and temples destroyed. In March 1993, bomb blasts in Mumbai organized by Muslim members of the mafia killed over 300 people. The chain reaction set into motion since those days has still to abate.
 
Back in 1991 our première had been held in Lucknow, capital of UP. Pujari Laldas came for the screening and asked for several cassettes of the film. When I asked about his own safety, he laughed and said he was happy that now his views would circulate more widely. As he put it, if he had been afraid, he would not have spoken out in the first place.
 
A year later, a tiny item on the inside pages of the Times of India noted-“Controversial priest found murdered.” Pujari Laldas had been killed with a country-made revolver. The newspaper article never told us that the real “controversy” was the fact that this brave priest believed in a Hinduism that is the mirror opposite of Hindutva.

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